Friday 24 October 2008

The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan

Eleven-volume fantasy saga set in an extraordinarily-detailed and vast medieval world embroiled in a struggle between the forces of light and the minions of the Dark One. The storyline revolves around Rand al'Thor, a grim young man endowed with massive magic powers, and some equally dour friends from his home village. They reluctantly get caught up in saving the world from the chaos being wrought by the "Dark Friends" working under cover everywhere from taverns to royal palaces. These locations and the vast cast of characters are described in painstaking and, often turgid, detail. But all this effort to create a believable world is undermined by contrived plot twists often brought about by seemingly arbitrary supernatural powers wielded by weird entities, such as the all-knowing Aelfinn who reside in another dimension.

Occasionally the pace quickens
Jordan goes to great lengths to give women a prominent role in the series, but after a couple of thousand pages or so, many of the heroines begin to merge into one - nearly all the females in the books seem to moan incessantly, fiddle with their skirts or fold their arms under their breasts. Occasionally the pace quickens as Jordan remembers to include some action and there is the odd gripping passage, such as the tense and atmospheric opening to the first book. A former military man, the author is at his best describing battles, skirmishes and bar room brawls in bloody detail. This still unfinished epic, which should have been half the length, needs a good editor. 5/10