Wheel of Time Conclusion: By Brandon Sanderson in Memory of Light

I initially came across Wheel of Time because I was looking for shounen, or youth, fiction/fantasy to busy my time with. The first 1-5 books seemed like a very good action packed adventure that told the epic heroic story of a protagonist battling greater and greater foes in pursuit of some long term goal. Then book 6-9 felt like the most interesting parts were about the protagonist and yet the protagonist was only suffering, not going anywhere. I felt increasingly the need to skip all other sections of the book that had no relationship to the protagonist, and that was more than 50% of the book in itself. It got a little bit too melodramatic and turned into a soap opera, which was an entirely different genre from shounen action. The American market doesn’t have genre names for such conventions which is probably why labeling Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was so hard for fans who started becoming disillusioned. It was fantasy, but that label had no meaning when it came to the shift that happened in the series. Because what readers were promised at the start isn’t what they got from the last half of the series… until Brandon Sanderson was selected by Jordan’s widow (and editor) to be Jordan’s estate inheritor: Sanderson inherited the authority to conclude the story that Jordan died before finishing.

Sanderson brought his own unique talents and vitality to the series, making it much more enjoyable. Of course I enjoy Brandon Sanderson’s books by themselves because I believe he is a very original thinker and creator of magical universes. But even still, I was so soured by the negative outcome of the WoT series so that, that I hesitated for several years before flipping through audiobook (public source) chapters and realized that Brandon Sanderson made things more interesting. All the annoying things were still annoying but because they didn’t take up 50% of the book, it was easy to skip them or not think about them. And all the interesting things that I wanted to happen, started happening. People often say that Robert Jordan had it all planned out in his mind, that every little detail would lead up to a final conclusion, and that was true. For a trilogy or 6 book series. But this wasn’t a six book series. People got greedy and extended the contract for more books. Ridiculous, really. That’s not how it should be in done. In Japan, they don’t “extend” the series by making the authors write “filler” in between books or chapters of an original story. They hire “other people” to write in “filler fan fictions” and let the author stay true to his created vision. If there is something the fans want more, they can buy it as an additional “fan disc” or “side story”. This American book publishing concept of extending a popular fantasy series from 3 books to 12 books or 6 books to 15 books, is pretty stupid. There’s a reason why editors told authors in the past to “cut down on the number of words in each book”. Because too many words interrupted the flow and got things tangled up. That applies to a single book. What happens when you tell a writer to “embelish” and write 6 more books than he planned, all the time the ending kept getting delayed until the 12, then 15th book came out? It would be a hell of “are we there yet” comments as fans had to wait years for the ending they were promised, but were never delivered. It’s like you’re loaning the book publishers money without them having to pay you a cent in interest for TEN YEARS.

I have rarely seen a writer of his caliber that also appealed to my aesthetic tastes and values. Truly a genius at the creative arts.

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4 Comments on “Wheel of Time Conclusion: By Brandon Sanderson in Memory of Light”

  1. Vandread Says:

    To elaborate a little, as a longtime WOT reader and one who has a bit more understanding of why the series is as long as it is.

    Robert Jordan would spend 2 years writing each book. Before Eye of the World was published he had written the first 4 books in their entirety and Tor released 1 book per year. By the time Lord of Chaos was released, he had no more buffer left and it took 2 years for A Crown of Swords to be published. His hardcore fans were distraught and wanted him to write faster, so he decided that to make his books come out every year he would have to shrink the amount of progress each book had so he could have time to write them.

    Even that was difficult for him as he just isn’t used to writing at that pace and he was getting older, as a result the books released (8-11) were a year apart but didn’t feel as good as anything prior, mostly because he spent half the time on each than he normally would have.

    His book count was never lengthened to meet a contract, he had an original outline that he has been following since the very beginning, which can be easily seen by the foreshadowing of events from book 1 that weren’t fulfilled until the later books.

    I’m glad Sanderson took up the books though, he is an author that can put out really great books every year, and as such he’s been able to return the series to the 1 year per book and the quality that Jordan was only able to achieve by spending 2 years per book.

  2. ymarsakar Says:

    While I don’t believe fans contributed as much to the 1 year schedule as the book publishing contract itself, I appreciate your perspective on this matter.

    Soon Sanderson will be able to work on the sequel to Way of Kings, which is what I’m mostly interested in seeing.

  3. Vandread Says:

    Fans had a lot to do with it. Harriet McDougal (RJ’s widow) was Tom Doherty’s top editor and someone he brought into the company from the beginning to be the top editor. She was Robert Jordan’s editor and then his wife, and was in charge of his contract. She knew very well it took him 2 years to write each book. Especially since she was married to him well before he started trying to write each book in a year.

    He has also stated that one of the reasons he tried to continue the every year publishing mark was because of the fans. If the fans hadn’t been so vocal about there being more than a year between the books then it would have been 2 years between each publication because Harriet gave him as much time as he needed between publications.

  4. ymarsakar Says:

    The only reason the fans wanted the books sooner was to gain closure or progress on the various plots that had been promised in the early works. Releasing the books earlier yet at the same time increasing the time for the plot to maturate, didn’t solve the problem. If the powers that be decided to give fans what they thought they desired, rather than what the fans needed, that’s an interesting decision but an erroneous one.

    The Harriet McDougal you are describing made the decision to release the books earlier through editorial structuring that set back the plot even more. This was neither what the fans needed nor what Robert Jordan needed to write the series. You are either telling me they made a decision based upon this and that this decision is either 1. wrong or 2. shortsighted at the very least. I don’t believe making such a decision purely on fan reactions was a good idea. So it still comes out as a decision that was accepted because it was economically better for the publishing company, with a line to convince people to back it by saying the fans also desired it.

    In the end, the fans didn’t get what they needed, the writer didn’t get what he needed to write, and the publishing company got more money out of the deal. That is the timeline we’re dealing with here. If people make such decisions believing the fans wanted it, then that’s an even more wrong decision on top of an already wrong decision to begin with. Unlike Mass Effect 3, the fans don’t decide how to write or co-author the series.

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