2014 Hugo Nominee Readthrough: The Wheel of Time

Alright, I figured I’d get the hulking elephant of the Readthrough out of the way first. “But Mountain,” you say “The Hugo nominees were only announced a week and a half ago! How could you have read all of the Wheel of Time?” Thanks for asking, imaginary reader! Well, to answer your question, I actually started rereading the series a few days before the nominees were announced, because I was predicting it would be on the ballot, and even I can only handle one behemoth fantasy novel per day. (It was one of two predictions for the shortlist I got right, the other being Ancillary Justice.)

First Time/Reread: Reread
Acquired: Owned

Other Nominees:
Ann Leckie: Ancillary Justice
Charles Stross: Neptune’s Brood
Larry Correia: Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles
Mira Grant: Parasite

Background: The Wheel of Time spans 14 novels, a prequel, two short stories, and a companion guide. It’s THE archetypal gargantuan fantasy series, before then, series like this simply weren’t done. The first book came out in 1990, the last in 2013. Thanks to a quirk of the Hugo bylaws, nominating the series as a whole was legal, since the last book was published in the correct year, and no previous volume had received a nomination. I personally first encountered the series in elementary school, when my dad gave me the first 8 books. When Robert Jordan died in 2007, his wife and editor Harriet McDougal chose the amazing (and, at that time, brand new) author Brandon Sanderson to finish the series.

Synopsis: The series takes place three thousand years after the Dark One and his most powerful servants, the Forsaken, were sealed away in the Pit of Doom in Shayol Ghul by the Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon. (Not actually a dragon. There aren’t any dragons in the series, except for on tattoos and flags. They’re fictional in a fictional world, woo!) In vengeance, the Dark One tainted the source of magic, driving all men who used it insane. (Though not the women.) The series revolves around the prophesied Dragon Reborn and his allies as the seals on Shayol Ghul weaken, and the Forsaken begin to escape. Obviously, a lot more happens from there on out.

Verdict: Rereading the Wheel of Time was pretty intense for me. I’ve been reading the books since I was ten, so I’ve bonded pretty strongly with the characters. Definitely pretty biased, but I absolutely love this series. Yes, there are some slower books. (Book 10, Crossroads of Twilight, is the notable offender), but reading through the series as a single work, it’s not nearly as noticeable as it was when I was waiting ages for each new book. Female characters in the series have received massive amounts of acclaim and criticism, though I personally think they’re great. The vast majority of them are strong, independent, intelligent characters with interesting flaws and strengths. (Gender relations are a bit wonky, but this is a series where women generally hold more power than men, especially politically, and it was written by someone who lived through the “war of the sexes” nonsense of the 70’s. Several countries and political bodies are ruled exclusively by women, and there aren’t any countries that can only be ruled by men. There are even several societies that are straight up matriarchies.) The magic system is absolutely fantastic, too. I think nominating the series as a whole might have been the best bet, here, since every book except the first is incredibly reliant on the others. There is no way to easily read a book in this series for the first time out of sequence and have it make sense. Nominating A Memory of Light, the last book, for the Hugo, would have been bizarre. The series expects you to ALREADY care for all the POV characters, and most of the side characters. That being said, it will be extremely tough for many people to fit the whole series into their reading schedules before voting ends. It’s a 12,000 page behemoth. Do I think it will win? It’s very likely. Do I want it to? Well, yeah. (Though I’m also really rooting for Ancillary Justice, I would not mind a tie between the two at all.) I still need to Warbound and Parasite, though. (I’m sorry, Charlie, please don’t hate me! I still loved Neptune’s Brood!) Would I recommend it? Absolutely, the series is fantastic, and a ton of fun.

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