Gather ’round and let me tell you a story. At JordanCon2009, I got to sit in on an interview with Tom Doherty for Robert Jordan’s biography. He commented about how Jordan had expected the Wheel of Time to be only a trilogy, but even then Harriet and Tom knew that was not likely and had insisted on signing him for six books. Obviously, by The Dragon Reborn, the story was going to take longer than Jordan had expected. By Lord of Chaos, the last of the originally contracted books, it was clear Jordan was taking things to a whole new, and wonderful, level.
See, in prior books, there had always been “happy endings.” Yes, the heroes were beat up and a little worse for wear, but they had eked out a victory. The Eye was denied to the Forsaken, the Seanchan were driven back into the ocean, Callandor was drawn and Be’lal toasted, Asmodean was captured, and both Cairhien and Caemlyn were saved and Lanfear and Rahvin were slain (talk about the motherload of spoilers). But in Lord of Chaos, the supposed success of the heroes is exactly what the Shadow wanted. And that, my friends, is why I love it.
So, to jut off on a slightly (or completely) other tangent, Jordan was well known for his stance on the necessity of the struggle between Good and Evil. He was not a fan of moral relativism, even if he did paint in shades of gray often. There was always a pure black and a pure white. And while I am a moral relativist myself—as many a commenter over in Leigh’s re-reads may have noticed—I am still enthralled with the world Jordan painted. See, it was not just that he was portraying a world of Good vs. Evil, it was that he was portraying a world where the Evil could very likely win. In his own blog, Jordan said:
Take a step back and look at what the forces of the Shadow have wrought. The world and the forces of the Light are in bad shape. At this point, boys and girls, the Shadow is winning.
Lord of Chaos is where this feeling starts to become apparent. Case in point: the last line of the book, instead of being part of the “rumors carrying” theme Jordan was so fond of, or of the heroes in their victory, is Demandred gloating to the Dark One about how well he has done.
What’s more, beyond the “Point Shadow” end of the book, the villains now have several more arenas for fighting Rand. For the last two books, Jordan had been introducing us to more and more of the political intrigue and currents of his world, but I feel this is where it really starts to unfold. No longer can Rand afford to be a gallivanting hero who charges in head first (not that it stops him), or an influential wanderer who comes and goes and changes everything in his wake (not that he doesn’t try). He has three nations that he’s juggling, all full of people trying to backstab him. He has obligation after duty, and the dreaded List has begun. His descent into overstressed neurosis fueled by the taint on saidin is becoming apparent, and the world is spinning out with him. After all, the Dragon is one with the land.
Now add to it the introduction of Taim and the men-turned-into-weapons Asha’man, the start of Perrin’s struggle with his inner wolf’s blood-thirst, and the endless scheming of the Aes Sedai, both light and Black, and you have a novel of political intrigue and subterfuge that still delivers on action and bravado. Speaking of bravado, there is a healthy helping of Mat’s comic relief while still being an awesome hero to give us small breaks from the woes and trials of the Shadow’s assault. Most cleverly of all though, Jordan fooled a great many of us into thinking the Light won, when really it was all just a Xanatos Gambit.
Is Lord of Chaos my favorite book? Well, to echo my predecessors, my favorite book is all of them, but this one definitely ranks up there. So go forth, my jackdaw fools. Download an eBook or six. And try to not get too lost staring at the gorgeous covers.
Richard Fife is an aspiring writing, the Rick-Roller of the WoT Obsessed, and an occasional blogger. More of his ramblings on writing and storytelling, as well as some of his short stories, can be found at http://richardfife.com.