A Memory of Light, the 14th and final installment in Robert Jordan’s massive fantasy tome The Wheel of Time is finally here. Tarmon Gai’don is finally here. The armies are marching for Shayol Ghul. The forces of the Dark and the Light will do battle. This is it. This is what all those thousands of pages have been leading up to. I should be ecstatic, elated–spitting out balefire in celebration. So then, why am I so bummed?
I still remember my introduction to Robert Jordan’s sprawling epic. I was in college when I saw some friend of a friend reading it. “What’s that?” I asked, intrigued by the cover (all good fantasy books have kickass covers–anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar). He told me the name, said it was book four in this extensive fantasy series. He’d let me borrow Book 1, Eye of the World, but warned I was embarking on a serious commitment.
I gave him my best screwface and sucked teeth. What dee ass? This cat was schooling me on fantasy epics? The kid who’d polished off Tolkien’s LOTR and Silmarillion by 7th grade? Who’d torn through Dragonlance novels like pamphlets? Who’d devoured both The Mallorean and The Belgariad with ease? Who’d completed the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs? Okay, so that last one wasn’t me, but you get the point.
Two things happened that day. One, dude never got his book back. Hey, not proud, but it’s what happened. Deal with it. Second, and related to why I housed this dude’s book, somewhere in the midst of reading Eye of the World, the geek-center of my brain exploded. I don’t have any recollection of what happened during the time it took me to tear through that near 800 pg monstrosity. Had I showered? Had I eaten? Did I miss classes? Who cared?!? I was hooked! I was lost in a world of channelers, Aes Sedai, Trollocs, Forsaken and the Dragon Reborn! Blood and bloody ashes, I was hooked!
Between then and now, I’ve gone through each book, which seemed to get longer and more detailed with every installment. Heck, I even went back and read the prequel New Spring. Yep, that’s dedication my friends. Thanks to the glossary (best. glossary. ever!), I was able to keep track of the shifting cast of characters and events over the years. How Jordan managed to keep up with all and create such a mind-boggling world, I have no idea. I suspect he used the One Power.
Not everyone however had my patience. Many people I knew gave up around book four or five. One even got to book eight before swearing off the stuff. The books were too damn wordy they said. The story rambled on, the plots within plots were confusing and necessary. No epic should ever be that long! And though I’m pretty certain they are ALL Darkfriends, they do have a point. Jordan filled up pages with words like he was bribing his editor to look the other way. I remember one book for clearing the 1,000 page mark–and we’re talking small print. He was so focused on detail and imagery, half a page could be spent describing on a well crafted table or the curl of a Murandian mustache. The cast of characters seemed endless, all parts of plots and subplots that at times veered far off from the main storyline. And man did it take long to finish. If The Wheel of Time were a kid, counting from the first book to today, he or she would be graduating college–with enough time for a double-major.
In fact, in a sad irony, Jordan’s epic was so long, it outlasted him. In 2007 Robert Jordan (whose given name was James Oliver Rigney Jr.) passed away from a heart disorder, leaving not only his friends and family but his millions of fans crestfallen. However he had a plan. A year earlier, upon learning of his diagnosis, Jordan began making preparations–creating lengthy notes for someone else to finish his work if the worst came to pass. The torch soon passed to fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, a long-time fan of the series personally chosen by Jordan’s widow, who set about completing the final books of the epic.
So now here we are at the finale. It’s hard to believe it’s actually arrived–like reaching the last chip in the bag. Just seemed as if it wouldn’t end, and somewhere in a stedding a set of Ogiers would continue churning out more books every few years to keep me immersed in this world. I’ve watched Rand, Egwene, Matt and Perrin grow from Two Rivers folk into men and women with the fate of the world in their hands; going to be hard to see them finally go.
Haven’t decided what I’m going to do with my copy of Memory of Light. Do I just dive in and read it all at once? Get it over with? Do I draw it out, maybe read a few pages a day, to savor the last moments? Or, if I’m feeling a little extra crazy, do I begin reading the entire series again and finally get to the finale sometime in…oh…probably 2040? Whatever the case, one thing’s certain–Ages may come and go as the Wheel turns, but this is the end of our peek into the Pattern.
So in honor of this moment, I bid a fond farewell.
Farewell Saidan and Saidar. Goodbye One Power. Goodbye flows and weaves and all such things. Goodbye channelers, tangreal and sa’angreal, oath rods and cuendillar. Goodbye ta’veren, wilders, sul’dam, a’dam and damane. You make all other magic systems look simple and wack.
Farewell Trollocs. You fit your always chaotic-evil title to the hilt–mindless, unrepentant, violent man-beasts who relish in killing and aren’t above putting people into a stew pot. Farewell Myrdraal. You guys scared the beejeezus out of me. Farewell to the rest of you Shadowspawn–Darkhounds, Draghkar, Hellhounds and Gholam, who made the stories frightful and lively. Farewell Forsaken, you ever-bickering, power hungry and conspiring trans-gendering immortal minions. Farewell Darkfriends–you guys suck, seriously.
Farewell Alefinn and Eelfinn. You guys are freakish and weird man. Sitting up in your bizarro nether-dimension, playing games of “Snakes and Foxes” all day, making up odd rules for people, wearing human skin. That sh*t ain’t cute. It’s why no one wants to come and visit.
Farewell Aes Sedai, with your plotting and scheming that only a Bene Gesserit could love. Strong, with complex personalities, power and sharp wits, you guys carved out an entire women’s world in a fantasy epic where you didn’t spend all your time talking about men–well, except maybe The Dragon Reborn. Nice that you respected same-sex gendered relationships, even if it was under the wincing term “pillow friends.” Big ups to the Blue Ajah–you were my favorites. Reds, never cared for you–but I respect your gangsta. Unfortunately, the Black Ajah did not turn out to be the “Soul Sistas” I was hoping for–but we shall speak no more of them. Farewell also to the Warders, with your steel gazes, shifting cloaks, bad-ass fighting skills and inappropriate semi-platonic intimate bonding.
Farewell Taraboners, Illianers, Andorans and other nations that I really can’t possibly remember or keep track. Tell the truth, you guys were way too “white bread” and it was the “exotics” from far off lands that I remembered most. So, farewell Windfinders (Atha’an Miere), with your strange Seafolk ways and matriarchal society. Farewell fierce veiled Aiel, you blonde and red-headed Berber-Fremen with Zulu-style fighting tactics and Japanese derived honor codes. Your strong female societies, Spear Maidens and Wise Ones, made me look the other way whenever I wanted to cringe at your “noble-savage” qualities. And yes, farewell to the great Seanchan Empire from across the sea. You guys took “exotic” to a whole notha’ level, like something out of an Orientalist painting (complete with a form of slavery) that would make Edward Said roll his eyes. Still, when it comes to the usually lily-white world of Eurocentric fantasy, your mash-up of Near Eastern, Asian and African cultures and *actual people of color* who weren’t one-dimensional “baddies” was a refreshing change. And did I mention the current Empress of the Seanchan is a black woman?
Farewell secondary characters. That includes you Siuane, and your endless anecdotes and quips involving fishing. Can’t forget you Birgitte–bet you’d make the best drinking buddy. Later Loial, my favorite bookish Ogier. Farewell Thom Merillin, you of the white whiskers. Goodbye Fortuna Athaem Devi Paendrag (Tuon), Daughter of the Nine Moons; a woman of color with power and authority in a Euro-fantasy novel is a rare thing. Goodbye Asha’man. Really was hoping to get one of those cool jackets one day. And good riddance White Cloaks–you zealots I won’t miss in the least. Hope you get lost somewhere in the Blight.
And finally, a big farewell to the big names. Later Lan, whose catch phrase should just be “man up.” Dude has enough testosterone to donate. Farewell Nynaeve–headstrong and quick to anger, you always had the time to give someone a good dressing down. Goodbye Elayne, congrats on the twins and the errr…polygamous relationship. I’m sure you Aviendha and Min gonna work that out. Welcome back and goodbye Moraine–you were, and will be missed. Goodbye Egwene. Able to deal with nearly any situation you were put in, you were easily one of my favorite characters. Wow! Amyrlin Seat! Come a long way from the Two Rivers. Which brings us to our favorite Ta’veren. Later Perrin Golden Eyes, you always had that quiet nobility to round out the group. Your wife kinda gets on my nerves. But we cool. My man Matt! With the wide hat, cocky attitude, half-spear, fox-medallion, foul mouth and love of gambling, you are the definition of “swagger.” You manage to get by any scrape, women dig you and you fall ass backwards into luck and money. You even end up married to the most powerful black woman in the saga! Only way you could’ve have been cooler is if they’d made you a brotha. Hate to see you go. Keep them mental dice tumbling.
And lastly, Rand al’Thor. Who would have thought a scruffy
nerf-herder sheepherder from the Two Rivers would’ve made it so big? Seems like just the other day you were destroying the Seanchan at Falme and learning how to wield balefire. You’re damn near Jesus Christ Superstar now. You haven’t always been my favorite character (remember that time you lost your hand and you became a real dick? yeah, didn’t like that), but you are the center of the story. Just hoping Lews Therin shuts up already and you manage to survive Tarmon Gai’don. Been a wild ride. Try not to break the world okay?
And last but not least, farewell Robert Jordan. Though you left us in 2007, only now does it feel final. Walk in the Light.