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The biggest problems with Jordan's books...and why he's a weak writer.

nixie

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I was emotionally invested with a number of Feist's characters, specially in the earlier books. Wish he'd handled death better, felt cheated with Locklear's demise among others.
I haven't yet emotionally bonded with anyone from WOT but I likely will the further I get into the series.
An author doesn't have to perfect, they can make mistakes as long as they spin a yarn that draws me in and makes me feel, doesn't matter if it's love or hate.
 

millymollymo

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Lafayette

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I can't add much hear except to say, about fifteen years ago I tried to read his first book. I understood that he was a great writer and the premise (which I have now forgotten) sounded good. However, after reading two hundred pages I put the book down and never went back to it. Normally I finish books even when they're slow, but not this time. It amazes me after all that I didn't care about the characters or the plot. And what amazes me even more is he has written a bunch more based on the first book.

The up-side to all of this is it's kinda encouraging knowing that if my book is boring I still can obtain readership.
 

Judderman

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I can't call him a weak writer because he does a lot things very well. In particular I loved books 1 and 2. Book 6 has some great demonstrations of Rand's power. But I didn't read after book 6 due to the poor reviews of 7-10 and you need the highs in his better books to cope with the irritating parts. I keep thinking of reading the last few books.
But I wonder is The Wheel of time unpopular with female readers? Compared to other fantasy epics. I have met quite a lot of guys who loved the series.
 

krm27

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I got to book 4 and gave up on the series.
That's pretty much where I'm at. It is such terrible writing, in terms of the characters and plot points. I mean, you have to hand it to the level of prose and description, clearly a lot of work and talent there, but no matter how you dress up a turd, it's still a turd.

For those who defend the great "characters" in this, can you think of one female character who is not constantly pissed off at everyone around her, even her supposed allies? Let's play a game...which female character does this sound like? "That fool girl!" thought ____, "I have half a mind to switch her till she's won't sit for a week! She's almost as bad as the men!" Answer: All of them! Their "go-to" emotion when thinking about anyone else, usually friends and allies, is to imagine how they'd love to visit some violence upon them for their stupidity. Some one barges into the Amrylin Seat's office, and her first thought is, "How dare you, I'll have you scrubbing pots till your fingers bleed!" rather than, "Gee, I wonder what is so important! This must be urgent for them to barge in like this!"

Look, I remember as a boy when the TV show A-Team premiered. And I watched it and was excited about it. It seemed different, original and fun and not formulaic...for about six episodes. Then you notice every episode is following the exact same formula, all the damsels in distress are essentially identical, all the villains are identical, and the whole thing is really a very formulaic and weak and superficial story. That is basically WoT. You can get through the first book and maybe part of the second before the repetitive behavior and reactions and same behaviors and manner of speaking and attitudes by every character (particularly the women) just becomes too glaring and detracts from being invested in the story.

Who possibly buys into the problem of the Amrylin Seat having to keep secret her involvement with and support for the Dragon from the other Aes Sedai or face mutiny??? Okay, for this to be legitimate, we have to believe that every Aes Sedai other than the Amrylin Seat and Moiraine are total idiots. Because if a prophecy says the Dark One will win and turn the world to Hell EXCEPT that this man who can channel defeats him, though in the process he causes a lot of death and destruction, WHO POSSIBLY thinks the right approach is to still that Dragon before he defeats the Dark One? Who is so incredibly stupid they would prefer the Dark One winning to letting a man channel??? Okay, I would be willing to buy the notion that there is a small segment of Aes Sedai so set in their thinking that they would refuse to see the logic of the Amrylin Seat and Moiraine's position, but just a very small segment. Beyond that, the writer is creating a very unrealistic and false dilemma.

I've seen works where the cheat in not making the back-story match the present. Here we are repeatedly assured this particular Amrylin Seat is really awesome, insightful, regal, smart, confident...just about every good thing you can think of, in spades... Yet somehow she cannot sue all that to make the other Aes Sedai see the very obvious logic and correctness of her approach?? Yet somehow despite all that, a majority of the Aes Sedai support a MUTINY to overthrow her, to torture her, to still her, and to have warder fighting warder, and to falsely spread lies that the Amrylin Seat was a dark friend??!! What the hell kind of people are these faceless Aes Sedai that are going along with such an absurdly over-the-top and evil / immoral strategy!

Guess what, if some one proposes spreading lies that some one who is not a dark friend actually is a dark friend, the painfully obvious conclusion is that the person proposing that is, in fact, a dark friend. So, no, unless the Amrylin Seat is so inept that she has been raising a generate of Retarded Psychopathic Hitlers, then, no, it is not plausible to think that a majority -- or even a substantial minority -- of Aes Sedai voted to pull off that horrific mutiny.

Go back to the scene in Book 4 when the Amrylin Seat is confronting the mutiny and see how painfully repetitive her dialogue and thoughts are...how many times in five minutes can she threaten to stretch Elaida's hide before it is stupid? 3? 4?

Weak authors often write that vague, unspecified, faceless characters acting en masse do the stupidest things, like all those Aes Sedai deciding to mutiny, and they can get away with such absurdity because they don't have to give the back-story for these non-characters who we never meet, to justify how they could be so stupid, gullible, etc.

People claim his popularity means his books are not weak. Well, A-Team was a hit show for years, but it sure was weak and superficial. Some people just don't have good taste, or they care more about superficial explosions and car chases rather than REAL characters and believable plot movement. I mean, some people actually claim Avengers; Infinity Wars was a good movie, when it was also crap dressed up with some glitz that could not hide the horribly contrived plot that did not come close to having any internal consistency. So, I guess there's no accounting for taste. But you should not fool yourself into thinking Jordan's writing is on par with, say, Raymon Feist or Julian May or Anne McCaffrey or Tolkein or Stephen Brust or David Eddings..well, there's a lot of people who actually avoid being so painfully "one note" in how they draw characters, and who force them to do absurd things to create a plot point. It reminds me somewhat of the Warlock of Graymaere (sp?) series by Christopher Stasheff (sp?) which I started reading in the 80s...some elements I like in stories, but by the second book it just got so contrived and two dimensional and repetitive, I gave up on it, but he published a number of books in that series and was successful...they were still weak.

Oh, and you DO definitely need to somehow justify all these people rushing to be Dark Friends despite the fact that, apparently, there has never been one single success story among people who did that in the past...they all wind up tortured, fed to Trollocs or executed, etc. If you try to claim some people think the Dark One will win and fear being on the losing team...well, first the friggin' PROPHECY says the Dark One loses, so I think most people would see that as the safer bet. Second, this implies that these people are motivated by fear. But if cowardice is their primary motivation, the LAST thing they'd do is willingly seek out involvement with the Dark One as a Dark Friend. That's some very dangerous ground to tread on. It just makes no sense. I mean, if Jordan wanted this to be plausible, he needed to think up what would motivate real people to enlist with the Dark One and face all that risk, with literally NO example of anyone ever having a good result from such dealings. It can be done. It's not impossible. But it means being smart in your plot creation, and that is where Jordan is very weak. He wants to impress us with numerous threads of stories, but he apparently is biting off more than he can chew to have to short-shrift giving us DIFFERENT characters, making them more realistic, and making the plot points arrive without heavy-handed contrivance.

The biggest block budget movies that make the most money are NOT the great movies, they just have some commercial success. Black Panther was so bland and unoriginal and yet it broke all the ticket sales records, so success is not a mark of good writing.
 

SilentRoamer

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For those who defend the great "characters" in this, can you think of one female character who is not constantly pissed off at everyone around her, even her supposed allies?
Min is a very calm and caring character throughout, she is very rarely angry. There are a number of Aes Sedai from specific Ajah with very calm demeanours. Anger does tend to be a go to point for Jordan character interactions but I see that as a consistent character flaw rather than something gendered.

People claim his popularity means his books are not weak. Well, A-Team was a hit show for years, but it sure was weak and superficial. Some people just don't have good taste, or they care more about superficial explosions and car chases rather than REAL characters and believable plot movement. I mean, some people actually claim Avengers; Infinity Wars was a good movie, when it was also crap dressed up with some glitz that could not hide the horribly contrived plot that did not come close to having any internal consistency.
This seems like a very closeted viewpoint. Some people prefer explosions and car chases in their films, they may prefer superficial high action literature - variety is the spice of life and one mans trash is another mans treasure.

I mean as a fan of WoT should I just accept that I have bad taste or should I change my opinion to more suitably match ones with "good taste". Taste and preference are not objectively measurable contrivances - they differ from individual to individual.

I am happy to discuss the books, so long as we can avoid labeling those who do like them in a negative way. You are entitled to your opinions, but they would be better focused on the books than the people who enjoy them! :)


...you should not fool yourself into thinking Jordan's writing is on par with, say, Raymon Feist or Julian May or Anne McCaffrey or Tolkein or Stephen Brust or David Eddings..well, there's a lot of people who actually avoid being so painfully "one note" in how they draw characters, and who force them to do absurd things to create a plot point. It reminds me somewhat of the Warlock of Graymaere (sp?) series by Christopher Stasheff (sp?) which I started reading in the 80s...some elements I like in stories, but by the second book it just got so contrived and two dimensional and repetitive, I gave up on it, but he published a number of books in that series and was successful...they were still weak.
Looking at Eddings and Feist as comparisons for better writing might be some of the problem - neither are well known for their gripping prose! There are many other fantasy writers well known for writing beautiful prose - this has never been one of Jordans strengths IMO. As a counterpoint I can't imagine Jordan getting rulers in his novels mixed up like Feist did - and don't get me wrong, I really like Feist.

Jordans strength for me lies in the scope and size of his epic.

I think to answer the questuion of the Dark One - in RandLand the Dark One is a real entity, we already saw Baalzamon to use dream form to harrass Rand - there are further plot developments around this which I wont go into for fear of spoilers - same with the Aes Sedai.

I hope you continue to read! :)
 

SilentRoamer

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Thanks :)

I think the OP makes some valid criticisms of WoT - some of them are things I might criticize myself - or might be aware of but in an uncritical manner and some given no consideration previously.

WoT has some fantastic discussions, theories and threads on it and I would be more than happy to have some in depth chat/criticism/debate about WoT here.

Although it needs to be a critical discussion, about the work rather than about the reader. Just to give a little anecdote - I could never finish Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, I found it extremely tedious and slow paced, it also happens to be someone who I share much in reading tastes with favorite book - so trash and treasure even with those we have similar likes to is always possible.

Anyway @krm27 keep us informed how you get on and any particular criticisms you have if you care to discuss further - which I would be happy to. :)
 

Cathbad

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I would not have finished the series, had it not been for the characters. That, I believe, is where Jordan's strength lay. He was able to create believable and unique characters who I, at least, came to care about. I had to see it to the finish, because I needed to know how they fared!

I never truly enjoyed the story line, but rather the scenes are what grabbed me (if you understand the distinction i'm making).
 

Anthoney

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I think the OP makes some valid criticisms of WoT - some of them are things I might criticize myself - or might be aware of but in an uncritical manner and some given no consideration previously.
Of course there are some issues. I have never read a book or watched a show or movie that didn't have some problem. Given the size of WoT they're easy to find. As you said a lot of the things people point to as problems are things I like but there are still issues. I don't think any of them make him a poor writer. I do think he spent a little to much time thinking about women spanking or whipping other women but it's his fantasy.
 

Arette

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This is an old thread but as someone who has actually finished the entire series, re-read it a few times and spent a few years of my life roleplaying in this setting, I feel like I can offer some perspective into why someone might like this series.

Yes, I am well aware that in many aspects this series isn't perfect (like the male-female interactions and annoying female characters). But it's endurance and popularity is a sign that it's doing something right. And that is always worth studying even if you don't personally like the books.

I started reading Wheel of Time when I was a teenager, also the age of the main characters so there was a lot I could relate to. I wasn't very experienced fantasy reader yet so the series seemed super cool to me. I also had read David Eddings' Belgarion and liked it, and still do (despite its many issues like monocultures) so I was very much the right audience for this book.

Now, there is a big cast to start with and it expands even further as the series progresses. 3 very different boys, a girl, an older woman in her 20s, a mysterious female wizard mentor and his awesome stong and silent bodyguard and an old gleeman (bard). With such a big bunch, there is a good chance that most readers can find at least one character they like. There is also a promise of romance between two characters even though they barely interact at all. This appealed to me, still does.

When I was first reading the series, I didn't notice the LotR similarities in the first book. Now I do but it still doesn't bother me overly much.

Yes, the plot got bogged and slowed to snail's pace and way too many side characters were introduced. I really disliked book 8, 10 and 11 and large parts of 9 because barely nothing important happened. When I re-read the series, I pretty much skip these books. I read the first 5 and then the last 2-3. But still, I sticked with the series because of the original characters (that is, the characters in from book 1), the interesting worldbuilding and because I wanted to know how it all would end.

And what a world. I loved the magic system. Not such a big fan of separate female/male magic, feels like essentialism to me, but the channeling itself was cool. I loved the world of dreams and wolf brothers. Those were truly unique elements.

There was so much detail and the cultures of the world were distinct and interesting, especially the Aiel. I loved Tolkien's world for it's history and details and this was a series giving me more of that. I liked even the curse words although they got silly with characters who swore a lot. Brits do say bloody, too. And the Illianer accent. It did be the best. Yes, there were things that were unrealistic, like how religion was treated (there wasn't any really) and the languages. But I was able to overlook those things.

I loved it that there were female characters in leadership positions, even though they were often arrogant and annoying. I loved it that women were active characters and doing things, not just damsels in distress. Even though they were that too, occasionally.

I am really glad that Brandon Sanderson finished the series. It was fascinating to see his touches and he most certainly did some things differently than Jordan would have. Sanderson's strenght are magic systems and during the last book and the Last Battle, the channelers developed some really cool gimmicks and new ways to use the One Power that were signature Sanderson.

As a writer, I was really curious to see how a massive series like this could be pulled together and ended in a hopefully satisfying way. And it mostly did, even though there were inconsistencies that left a bit of a meh feeling. But I finally did learn what happened to all the main characters.

In the last books, I also for the first time respected the bad guys who were left. Finally they were doing smart and devious things and seriously being a threat.

And the biggest like factor: there was a really active fandom for this series online and I got very involved. I joined a roleplaying site (Dragonmount), read the theories and speculations what would happen next and posted some of my own. When you get into the community surrounding the series, it doesn't matter anymore whether the series is good or bad. It is something you do together, it's your hobby.

Now the appeal of this series is mainly nostalgia, some favourite scenes and characters (like Siuan and Pevara Sedai, especially in the final book). This world isn't just Robert Jordan's anymore, it is mine too because I have also told stories in the setting and I have my own headcanon. WoT isn't the best series there is but will always remain in my keeper shelf.
 

Cathbad

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@Arette , if he had not written those long, useless preludes, and reduced the number of pages in he novel by about 200 - easily done by cutting all the useless stuff out, I would say the series stands as one of the best of all times!

I read the entire series. Jordan's characters were superbly written, the storyline only so-so. Fortunately, characterization is my favorite thing in fantasy novels! ;)

I've played D&D for 39 years, which means I've been a DM for 38, but I never had the opportunity to roleplay in his world. As a DM, I don't think I could have managed it properly. Besides, right from the beginning, I liked running campaigns in a world of my own creation.

I can understand why you liked the series so much. Unfortunately, I struggled finishing the final two he wrote. Sanderson's finale was far better written, but lost the dynamic of Jordan's work.
 

Anthoney

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but lost the dynamic of Jordan's work.
Bite your tongue! I love Jordan's work (for the most part) but found Sanderson better in every aspect. I had never read Sanderson before. After reading his first WoT entry I felt a profound need to read everything he'd ever written (that I could find). A Memory of Light has become my favorite fantasy novel of all time (and I'm not afraid to say it :))

I never had an issue converting a book to a campaign. Often I like to blend 2 or 3 different books into a giant campaign world. I once set a campaign in a Shannara world into which I added the Swords from Saberhagen's Swords books and topped it off with some David Eddings Belgariad.
 

Cathbad

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I never had an issue converting a book to a campaign. Often I like to blend 2 or 3 different books into a giant campaign world. I once set a campaign in a Shannara world into which I added the Swords from Saberhagen's Swords books and topped it off with some David Eddings Belgariad.
Oh,I've often added items similar to those of other authors.
 

Joshua Jones

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You know, as someone with complete ignorance of this series, what I find interesting is the range of things people connect with, and how this determines their enjoyment of a work. It seems like those who look primarily at the characters and the world love it, while those who look primarily at storyline don't. It seems like a good encouragement for writers that if a writer is not strong in one area, this doesn't necessarily mean that the writer can never be successful.

This whole discussion also touches on the difference between critical success and commercial success. For many writers, they would rather make gobs of money over being hailed as the greatest bit of fantasy literature since the Epic of Gilgamesh (personally, I would be happy to not be mocked incessantly and make about $1.28, but everyone is different...). Unfortunately, though, critical and commercial success are often divorced from one another...
 

Toby Frost

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I agree. I've never read WOT and I'm not going to (what story could take so long to tell?), but I find the discussion here really interesting.

From a writing point of view, I find the comments both interesting and slightly disturbing. If, as Adam Roberts suggests, WOT is of poor quality but is loved basically because it is very long and has kept a lot of people busy, that's worrying for a writer of fantasy. (I've thought for a while that there isn't a direct correlation between length and "epicness"). But of course that relies on Roberts being objectively right, and not being either objectively wrong or only approaching the issue from a very narrow point of view (ie what Adam Roberts likes).

My suspicion is that it simply belongs to a different generation of writing. I have read Eddings, Feist and Goodkind, and none of them strikes me as an especially good prose writer (Tad Williams is better but very wordy), although some of them did know how to keep a very long story going. Also, back then, editing seems to have been looser, and if a writer wanted to stop the story and randomly stick in a 40-page sexual fantasy or what have you, they could. But that's not to say that there aren't things wrong with modern fantasy.
 

HoopyFrood

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I was persuaded to read the Wheel of Time books back in 2013 (can't believe it's been that long already) and a lot of my thoughts as I went are in various threads around here.

In a nutshell, WOT should be everything I dislike -- a million different characters, straightforward good vs evil, prophecy abound and I absolutely cannot stand gender stuff and anything about male/female essentialism.

And yet I would list it as one of my favourite series. I think for a few points:

- female characters everywhere. And not just lots of them, but having agency, scheming, making plans, holding positions of power, being masters of their own lives, etc etc. I agree that Jordan's characterisation is lacking, and he spoils his own very good world building by then having all women act basically the same, but compared to other fantasy books especially where you barely get any female characters, you can barely turn a page without another one appearing here and I love it.

- the gender stuff is rather annoying, but there's a stereotypical naivety to it that I (mostly) don't mind and as I said at least women are doing things. I would much rather this than something like GRRM where is seems every woman has to suffer some kind of sexual violence or abuse or get sold off in marriage.

Also there does seem to be a point to the gender divide in WOT, in that a thread of the series is that men and woman are learning to work together and not be all "stupid men", "damn bossy women" etc. We see that the world was once much more progressed and advanced and the Wheel is turning in that direction again.

- I also agree that what I remember most from the series is not the overall story, but specific scenes. There really are some amazing points throughout, and by the end couple of books it feels like nothing but amazing scenes and amazing accomplishments.

- Unique features, like the system of channeling, and the different abilities people have, and the world itself and its history and the hints at what it was and could be again. World building to the max, that's for sure.

I don't know. It's a weird series as it does divide people and for folk who like it, it's hard for them to say exactly why at times. I often genuinely wonder myself, but ultimately I have to say that I do, I really do. It's a bizarre mix of simple plot that's entirely complex in its unravelling, poor characterisation but characters you remember long afterwards, a drawn out storyline that has amazing scenes that you won't forget, and a lot of fantasy tropes that are used in completely new and interesting ways.
 
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Arette

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I agree with you, Toby, that long sprawling epic sagas were a product of their time. These days most longer fantasy books are part of a trilogy at most. Brandon Sanderson being an exception with his planned 10 doorstopper series. But he earned his chops by first writing 2 good standalones, Mistborn trilogy and by finishing WoT. And many many other books since. The man is a writing machine.

About editing, Robert Jordan's editor was also his wife. I suspect that she wasn't quite as strict with him as she should have been, and would have been with another author. She was likely involved with the book early on and this might have made it harder to see the book objectively.
 
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