Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Eight Questions I Hope to Have Answered by The Great Hunt

What can you say about a series that spans 14 books, two authors, and over 20 years of publishing dates? The Wheel of Time supports a large and robust fanbase with its own yearly convention, and has been reread twice on Tor.com alone! Coming to the series for the first time as a new reader can be a daunting experience, and as a literary analyst, one definitely feels that there’s a lot to live up to. After all, fans have been analyzing these books forever, though there’s enough meat to the story to offer new discoveries even after many reads.

Given that there are another 13 books to go, I must accept that there are many questions I have about the world of The Wheel of Time—its logic, its systems, its people—that I may not get answers to for quite a while, yet. But keeping that in mind, there are a few things that I really am hoping to see when I start the next novel, The Great Hunt.

1. Point of View Changes: As many followers of the read have pointed out to me, most of The Eye of the World is from Rand’s point of view, with only a little bit seen from Perrin’s and Nynaeve’s perspective (and that tiny paragraph from Moiraine’s right at the end). This heavy imbalance, I have been assured, isn’t the case throughout the series, and I am quite excited to see the world through more characters’ eyes. Chapters from Moiraine’s perspective would be wonderful, and Lan’s too, for that matter. It would also be very interesting to see a few chapters from Mat’s head, if only to try to figure out how that trouble-prone brain of his works.

One of the joys for me in doing a read for this series has been trying to figure out all the mysteries of what is going on and predict future events, and spending time in the heads of characters with more knowledge than the young people from Emond’s Field will broaden the world for me and give a lot more clues about where the action is going; Moraine clearly has a Plan that no one else knows, and I’d love to get some more hints of that. It’s also fun for the audio books, which I have been listening to along with reading the hard copy, and have very much been enjoying. Having Kate Reading narrating the chapters from female characters’ point of view and Michael Kramer doing the chapters from male characters’ point of view really adds something to the experience of the changing perspectives of the novel, I think. Plus Reading has a nice sarcastic delivery which works excellently for Nynaeve, in my opinion.

2. New Characters: Of course this is a given, but going off of the point above, having new characters will also expand the reader’s understanding of the world of The Wheel of Time. So far, the background of the places that Rand and company have traveled has included people of different ethnicities and varied backgrounds, which adds a richness and a realism to the world, but it would be so much better to have some of those characters become more central to the story, and to have chapters that read from their point of view. I would like to learn more about Ogier for sure, in addition to seeing more of Loial it might be fun to meet some of his kindred, and maybe there will be other non-human characters who show up as well.

It’s interesting; in my very first post for the read, I talked about how questing stories start with either a child leaving home or a stranger coming to town (or both). But Rand and the others have already left home, they have become more worldly, and although they are still green in many ways, they have also had some experiences that are beyond what the most seasoned warriors and wisest Aes Sedai have experienced. No others in their time have walked in the Ways, or faced the Forsaken, or tampered with the cursed treasure of Mordeth and Shadar Logoth. And as their adventure continues, they will become more knowledgeable, more experienced, and more talented. Perhaps in time, they will be the mysterious and dangerous strangers coming into a small town, and we will see them through the eyes of a new innocent who is about to get swept up in the fight against the Dark One.

3. The Aes Sedai: I really want to know more about the Aes Sedai. Obviously that’s also coming, but I am just itching to understand more about this clearly complicated system of training and ordering female channelers. Right now terms and references are occasionally dropped without much context (is the Amyrlin Seat a place or a person? or both?) and there have been a lot of mentions of some kind of color coding by position; Moiraine belongs to something called the Blue Ajah, while the Red Ajah are involved with controlling and “gentling” men who show the ability to channel. I am very interested in learning more about the Ajah classifications and the politics of the Aes Sedai, and I suspect that those politics will have an effect on the plot going forward, probably to the detriment of Moiraine’s plans and possibly negatively affecting Rand, as politics in stories are wont to do.

4 .The Horn: Okay, so from Thom I know a little bit about the Horn of Valere and the Great Hunt of the Horn; he told part of the gleeman’s chant about it, and he and Rand and Mat heard news about a Hunt being called in Illian, which apparently is where these searches are always organized. But given that Moriraine is now in possession of the Horn of Valere, why is the second book in the series called The Great Hunt? Presumably this is a reference to the Hunt going on in Illian. When Moiraine realized what it was, she said that it should be taken there immediately; that is going to have an effect on how the Hunt goes, for sure. Perhaps the Hunt is actually for something else? Hopefully they don’t lose the Horn or something, although plot-wise it would make a lot of sense that such a powerful weapon would be out of play for a while—it has to be saved for the last battle and that must go down in the final book.

5. Padan Fain/Mordeth: Speaking of loose ends left by The Eye of the World, what about Padan Fain locked up in Aglemar’s dungeon? I have a feeling that sneaky man is going to have a lot more tricks up his sleeve before this series is done; Moiraine is apparently unaware that Mordeth is in there somewhere too, and while Agelmar seemed unaffected by his slick words of temptation, I can’t imagine that everyone else in Fal Dara is going to be as resistant to Mordeth’s… let’s call it “charm.” What about the guards over him, or the people who bring him his food? Sooner or later, something is going to go wrong, or I’ll eat my hat.

6. The Shadar Logoth Dagger: We may also run into a similar problem with Mat’s dagger; a few commenters have let me know that the dagger will play a role going forward so I can’t claim clairvoyance there, but it is a pretty important and dangerous point that wasn’t taken care of by the end of the first book, so there has to be something more to it. Also, since Rand has his abilities and the threat of madness to deal with, and Perrin has his abilities and the fear of becoming distant from his human side to deal with, it makes a sort of parallel thematic sense to have Mat continue to have to deal with the dagger for at least a little longer. It’s going to keep drawing those Darkfriends, though, so watch out boys. Maybe Mat can master the power of the dagger, in some sense. Before Moiraine’s help he was merely getting subsumed by it, but it’s possible that a new relationship with its power could develop, and Mat might attempt to use it in a new way.

7. The Taint: So it seems pretty unlikely that Rand is going to go mad in the next couple of books (not impossible, but I would be surprised if that was the direction Jordan took us) so that means that the taint on saidin is going to have to be dealt with eventually. And since it is the Dragon’s fault the taint was placed to begin with, it makes sense that now that he has been reborn, he should figure out how to rectify the situation. I suspect the key lies in male and female channelers working together; it has been said multiple times in The Eye of the World that the achievements of the two sides working together are far greater than anything one side can do alone. Plus, we now know from the Eye’s existence that the taint can be filtered out, although in that example everyone involved died, so here’s hoping they can find a less lethal way.

Ideally they would get rid of the taint, but what if they only found a way to filter it off, creating clean pools of saidin that Rand (and any other male channellers) would have to go to in order to use the Power? Now I’m imaging Rand carrying around water skins of pure saidin and rationing his use of it. That would be a very interesting limitation on the Dragon’s power.

8. The Dragon reborn: And of course, when is Rand going to realize who he is? He doesn’t really have enough information to understand it yet (as I have been reminded by canny commenters) but sooner or later it will come up. Maybe at the end of The Great Hunt? Moiraine knows, so she can always tell him when she thinks the time is right, but I do wonder if it’s the sort of thing that the reincarnated Dragon is meant to realize for himself at a certain point. Perhaps he will have visions of his former lives, or discover their memories somehow? Or maybe it is through his abilities as a channeler that he discovers his true strength, and thus his true self? If that’s the case, it may take Rand a long time to realize his identity, since he’s going to be trying to avoid channeling.

For me, as for so many The Wheel of Time fans, epic fantasy is in my blood. My Dad first read me The Hobbit when I was in kindergarden, thus unknowingly setting me on a path that would lead me through the accepted greats of the genre and beyond. But somehow, I missed The Wheel of Time, and I am terribly, intensely excited to be rectifying that situation now. And perhaps even better than discovering the stories themselves has been the community I’ve discovered of people who love these tales and love talking about them; I’m very grateful for the warm welcome I’ve received on this site from the commenters!

Please stay tuned for another post next week, and start gearing up for the start of The Great Hunt. And until then, may peace favor your sword.

Sylas K Barrett was once a small country kid who moved to the big city, and now considers himself at least somewhat well traveled. Perhaps that is one of the allures of epic fantasy quests, it appeals to the wanderlust in all of us.

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