In my review of The Gathering Storm I told you that I felt like an addict finally getting a fix, but without all the negative connotations… reading is good for you, right? Anyway, seeing as how this is Wheel of Time week, I thought I would take a look of how Robert Jordan’s, and now Brandon Sanderson’s, epic series sinks its hooks into us and then refuses to let go. This is my answer, there are many like it, but this one is mine.
The principal, and I might add unique reason the Wheel of Time draws me in so expertly is because of what it omits. Strange you say!? Indeed, Robert Jordan was known for his almost blindingly detailed descriptions, often taking pages to portray the silvered edge of a broom handle. But hidden among, and contrasted with, this amazing profusion of detail is a surprising lack of subjective interpretation. In other words, the precursor to action, generally subjective thought, is almost entirely absent. An obstacle presents itself and the character acts, often leaving the reader to fill the subjective vacuum between obstacle and action. Now, there’s some pop-psychology for you! In short, one cannot help but become attached to Robert Jordan’s characters, for they are us – our motivations, hopes, and dreams become theirs. While this is often the case with good epic fantasy, Robert Jordan’s deliberate and specific literary mechanics push subjective appropriation to the extreme, and thus turn enchanted readers into frenzied word-gobbling addicts. To make my point, did it take any of you more than 12 hours to finish the 700 plus pages that make up The Gathering Storm [US][UK]? I didn’t think so…
There is a second, and more generic aspect of the Wheel of Time that remorselessly sucks us in. I call it the reading shivers. The shivers come over a reader at moments of epic epicness. Not a word, I know, but it captures the feeling adequately. The shivers mark the point where the brain is unable to process the excitement generated by the scene you are reading – it is just that good – and forces your body to react physically. Think Dumai’s Wells or the Fall of Manetheren, probably my two favorite moments of the whole series. Regardless, I have been chasing the dragon since Moiraine first told that fateful story of a doomed people, and have yet to recapture that same high… did I mention I am an addict?
Theses are by no means the only aspects of the Wheel of Time and Robert Jordan’s skill that make the series so compelling, but they are those that jumped out at me when contrasted with The Gathering Storm, for they are elements the latest installment lacked. So, my fellow addict, why do you keep turning the pages?
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