Bewildering Stories

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Review: The new “Lord of the Rings”

by Eric S. Brown

Many years ago, the wheel of time began to turn for readers all over the world. Robert Jordan wrote his first novel in the now epic series that has captured the hearts and imaginations of this generation. That book was titled The Eye of the World and leapt into the New York Times Best sellers list and stayed there as has every book of The Wheel of Time to be released since. Like Tolkien, Jordan’s world is full of Ogier, evil wizards, and heroes, but unlike Tolkien’s work, Jordan’s work is not some fairy tale for children. No, Jordan’s tale is one of political intrigue, war, ever twisting plots, and the rising of a darker power that could not only destroy the world of his characters but their universe itself.

In the world of the Wheel of Time, all that was will be again and the wheel never ceases to turn. However, the fates the Wheel weaves can change and in so doing alter all of existence. A young man and two of his friends born in a remote village set out fleeing the clutches of evil and learn of the destiny that awaits this boy. He is the Dragon Reborn, the herald of change, and the only hope against the raising tide of darkness that threatens to engulf his world. He is feared and hated because men aren’t supposed to be able to “channel.” Men who wield magic all go mad or die, but not Rand Al’Thor, at least not yet. Rand raise to power conquering cities, winning followers to his cause, and playing a deadly game of dice with the White Tower. The White Tower of the Aes Sedai, a collective of women who can “channel,” are the ruling magical presence in the world of the Wheel and though they, too, realize the Dragon is their only hope, they have no desire to see him walk free. He is a weapon to be employed against the darkness, nothing more. Had they their way, Rand would be shackled away in the dungeons of their great city, Tar Valon, until the last battle. Fortunately, Rand is not easily shackled nor alone.

The White Tower itself has split into two factions and faces a civil war as new book of the Wheel of time opens. It’s rival, the Black Tower of the Asha’man (men who can channel) that was founded by Rand in attempt build forces against the Dark One also is turning its gaze towards upon the Aes Sedai. And a warlike race called the Seanchan return from across the oceans intent upon making the world their own.

As one can see, the plot becomes incredibly complex very quickly! And this barely touches the surface of all the things going in the books. But as deep and fun as the plot is, it’s Jordan’s characters that make the series come alive. Rand Al’Thor, a village boy, now the Dragon Reborn and savior of the world, facing a last battle in which it is foretold he will die even if stops the Dark One and his friends Perrin and Mat.

A lot people fall instantly in love with the character of Perrin. He worked for a blacksmith in the village that Rand grew up in. He isn’t the smartest lad in the world but he does have muscle and a sort of cunning. Like Rand, he too is more than he seems. He can talk to wolves, walk in dreams, and will play a part in the last battle. He grows up to become a lord in his own right as well a part of Rand’s armies.

Mat on the other hand, is a character that some love and some hate. He is arrogant, stubborn, and smart beyond his years. He grew in Rand’s village as the trouble maker and player of pranks. Now, he bares many secrets. He leads his own army called the Band of the Red Hand. He wants no part in the last battle but fate will surely lead him there. He does not “channel” like Rand, nor does he talk to wolves; Mat has inside his head the memories and knowledge of all the great military leaders of the Wheel. He carries an amulet around his neck, that cost him his “first” life, which protects him entirely from the “One Power” or magic. But most of all, Mat can alter fate. He is the luckiest man alive and that has ever been.

These three boys become men over the course of Jordan’s ten books and the fate of the Wheel rests with them all. Can they overcome the forces of the Dark One? That is what all of Jordan’s fans wish to know and Crossroads of Twilight, the tenth book of the Wheel of the Time, takes us closer to that answer. I have no doubt it will be, if it isn’t already, a best-seller. While these are not your father’s books of Hobbits and Elves, they are perhaps even more enjoyable, and if you miss out on them, you have missed the best modern fantasy has to offer. They have spawned Role Playing games, card games, video games and more just like the Lord of the Rings though I doubt they will ever become feature films due to the length of Jordan’s tale. And I will say it again, they are worth reading if you have any interest in fantasy or literature at all. So go forth and start with book one today.

Copyright © 2003 by Eric S. Brown