I’ve read a fair number of fantasy books, from the everlastingly classy Tolkien to the slap-a-level-twelve-paladin-and-a-sorceress-with-a-huge-rack-together-and-we-got-ourselves-a-novel R. A. Salvatore. Out of all the novels and series in the genre I have ever read, one of ones that left the biggest impressions has been Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I don’t know how to talk about it without using grand adjectives – it was epic, complex, and totally engrossing. It was the most remarkable work of fantasy I had ever picked up, except for dear old Tolkien. Each installment was 700 to 1000 pages long. These were heavy duty books to lug around, but I never once gave it a second thought. It was worth the extra poundage to have that book handy in case I had a couple extra minutes.
Then, Jordan screwed it up. Instead of telling his story, he started painfully dragging it out. Not just hundreds, but thousands of pages would go by without resolving any loose ends or furthering the story. I, for one, began thinking Jordan a greedy bastard and swore I wouldn’t buy or read a single one of his books until he finished the Wheel of Time (and I haven’t). I even prayed to dear sweet baby Jeebus for Jordan’s health and safety – it was taking him so long, I was afraid he’d up and die before finishing the series.
Well… that’s what he did. Turns out the poor guy had a rare blood disease that eventually took his life. Perhaps I should do my homework before I start railing against people so I don’t feel like a shit when something terrible happens to them. So, maybe Jordan had to milk his work for every penny for treatments. If so, I can’t blame him really. It’s still a damn shame what he did to the series.
When Jordan passed away this past September, he had been working on the final installment of the series. Internet rumors have it that he left behind extensive notes and his wife (who has been his editor for the life of the series) knows what he intended. So there’s hope for the finale.
A couple months ago, it was announced that an author had been selected to finish the last book – Brandon Sanderson. I’d never heard of the guy. Story goes, he wrote his first novel in college and got it to someone in the publishing world at a convention of some sort. That someone didn’t get around to reading it until after Sanderson had graduated college and moved on. The guy loved the manuscript and wanted to publish it, so he searched the internet for Sanderson until he found him on Facebook…or MySpace…or some social networking site. Let’s go with Facebook. I like Facebook best. And so began Sanderson’s writing career.
The anonymous (and possibly apocryphal) publishing guy liked it, and according to the cover, Orson Scott Card liked it, and this was the guy whose task it is to finally finish the Wheel of Time series, so it went on my List.
You know – it’s pretty darn OK! The rescue-the-fallen-Utopian-society premise was interesting, and the characters were reasonably engaging. It wasn’t a gripping page-turner all the way though, but it wasn’t bad. Especially for a first novel. There were some mildly intriguing twists and turns, but most of the book was fairly predictable. Considering my mild reaction to the book, it’s surprising that my only (albeit minor) disappointment is that it is a stand alone novel. The book spends a good deal of time setting up a moderately complex set of world issues. I didn’t think that these issues were at all resolved at the end – there’s PLENTY of room for expansion of the story. And I’d sure like to hear more about the class of monks that he revealed at the end. And how Elantris is rebuilt. And how an Elantrian and a regular person get along as a married couple…there could be interesting implications for their kids, after all. It’s a minor disappointment because I don’t feel a real desperate need to continue the story.
While I don’t know that I’d really recommend Elantris, I might check out some of his other works to see how Sanderson develops as a writer. After all, the real purpose for reading the book is to get an idea about Sanderson’s potential as the guy who’s going to finish the WoT. He’s written a number of books since Elantris, so I feel fairly justified in hoping that he has grown from a moderately talented writer to a very talented writer over the time that it took to write those books. I think he’s got a pretty good chance of doing the series justice. Good luck, Brandon! It’s a big task to take on, and I don’t envy you, but I’m glad you’re on the job!