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

Brian G Turner

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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'd definitely recommend you try reading Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time series, if nothing else to help make your own mind up while widening your fantasy reading to see what works and what doesn't. Personally, it didn't work for me because I found it too derivative of LOTR - however, that complaint aside, it was a very richly painted world, and as Arette mentioned, there was a lot of variation in characters that is not easily found in other books. I could certainly appreciate its appeal, especially the promise of all the plus points carried over a very long and involved story
 

The Big Peat

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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.
He's not. Granted, I would say that as the chances of me admitting to being objectively wrong are somewhat less than you winning the lottery three weeks in a row, but happily I happen to be right here. He's not objectively right. His views (as you've framed them) are pretty much as close to objectively wrong as you can be on this - there's too many self-reports to the contrary. The only possible way he has to be right is for the majority of those self-reports to be wrong. And much as I believe the average reader to be a liar - its not to that extent.

I'd definitely recommend you try reading Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time series, if nothing else to help make your own mind up while widening your fantasy reading to see what works and what doesn't. Personally, it didn't work for me because I found it too derivative of LOTR - however, that complaint aside, it was a very richly painted world, and as Arette mentioned, there was a lot of variation in characters that is not easily found in other books. I could certainly appreciate its appeal, especially the promise of all the plus points carried over a very long and involved story
EotW was deliberately similar to LotR for marketing reasons. Once you get beyond that start, there's not many similarities at all.
 

zmunkz

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I recently read these from start to finish, and overall enjoyed the series quite a bit. I can imagine several of the books would have been major letdowns if I’d been waiting years between, but taken in marathon-mode, I didn’t feel nearly as much resistance to the later books as most people report.

In any case, the fact you are on book 4 is a problem for some of your critiques. This is a 14 book series, which means several of the character arcs and relationship arcs span that whole range. Book 4 is less than a third of the way through the changing/learning/growing process. And frankly, that’s the meal you are ordering in this kind of epic. Maybe epic just isn’t your cup of tea?

1) I agree this sometimes got a bit tiring, but then, that is the world they live in. It’s not our world. Here, men broke the world, men go mad with the power, men have no equivalent education/power platform to the Aes Sedai. Society has grown up around those truths ever since, and a huge part of the story arc is Rand growing past those pre-conceptions and removing some of the ancient foundations for that bias. In-world, it really makes perfect sense.

2) I agree on this one. When it finally starts to shift, it felt long overdue.

3) There were times this bothered me, but mostly it felt true-to-character, and it did make the later reveals quite impacting.

4) This seems like a nit pick. I only use two curse words, and I use them a lot.

5) I don’t agree, and I think it is perfectly realistic for powerful people to draw supporters. Later books bring more clarity to this, but the top echelon of the Dark One’s followers certainly are rewarded in unique ways, and others are understandable in flocking to them for some part of that power.

6) There are different sorts of prophecy in fantasy. It seems to me this was a case where certain things had to happen *in order for* the Dragon to enter the last battle. They were more like necessary checkpoints than inevitable foretellings. If any don’t play out on this turn of the wheel, then it could end very differently. Also, with the many false Dragons, it makes sense to want to help along fate in order to ensure you aren’t dealing with another false Dragon.

7) Sometimes, sure. Rand and Selene, well keep reading for that explanation. Some you mention I agree, others, it’s back to the nature of the characters or it’s explained later.
 

BAYLOR

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Robert Jordan came up with a incredibly good concept for this series . the problem is he, dragged things out too much. He should limited the main sage to7 or maybe 8 volumes tops. The he could done Standalone novels set in the world of the Wheel of time.
 

AndrewT

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View attachment 49047

1. 90% of the social dynamic is based on a very simplistic "battle of the sexes" mentality that is just very repetitive and 2 dimensional. I'm not sure any female characters have ever had a conversation in any of the books where they did not include a line like, "Men! Just children with hair on their chest, really, how do we put up with them!" Or some other completely over the top male-bashing. I'd say this infects 90% of male-female interactions, 90% of all female characters thoughts & words, and 50% of the male characters thoughts and words. I mean, yes, this exists to some extent, but is it not the ONLY source of interpersonal conflict, as Jordan seems to think. I'm on Book 4 and the absurd, repetitive gender-bashing comments are just laughable, and not in a good way.

2. The constant Moiraine bashing is way too stupid and realistically would have stopped long ago. Fact, she came to Two Rivers, fought off trollocs, spirited away 3 boys she said were being hunted by the Dark One, and two girls came along for the ride. At first, they are not sure she's right, and so, sure, there's distrust. Fine. But, um, after enough time goes by that she is proven RIGHT about FRIGGIN' EVERYTHING, then you just cannot have characters saying stuff like, "Oh, and that Moiraine, why if she had not ensnared us her Aes Sedai plots, we'd all be better off...those damn Aes Sedai!" Umm... is being SAVED the same as being ensnared? This is a funny kind of gratitude these people have. Is "shoot the messenger" the official sport of Two Rivers? Because they are embracing it to a Herculean degree. I mean, these comments should have ended within Book One, replaced by gratitude, apologies for prior rude comments and thoughts, and sincere intentions to trust her above all others since she had truly proven herself trustworthy... But, no, that would make too much sense...

3. The Moiraine bashing is kind of related to Jordan’s other “favorite source of conflict between characters” which is rampant distrust even among allies. I mean the extent to which no one EVER EVER EVER confides in or supports their allies in the fight against the Dark One is ludicrous. From the boys keeping their Dark One dreams secret from Moraine even as she’s trying to save them, to Rand and Matt keeping his cursed dagger secret, to Perrin keeping his wolfiness secret, to Matt later keeping his past memories secret, to Rand keeping pretty much everything secret that he can. It is frankly a weak and tired and cliche form of conflict, at least when over-used to this degree.

4. It’s a small thing, but they REALLY need more cuss words. I’m pretty sure all they’ve got for expletives are “Light,” “Burn” and “Bloody.” “Light but that that’s a bloody long fall! Burn me, I almost died! Bloody blood and burning ashes! For Lights sake!” It may not be as apparent if you read the books, but when you listen to them on audiobook it becomes pretty silly how the characters repeat the same few expletives over and over and over and over. Because realistically, societies develop more expletives, so it sounds silly after awhile.

5. I don’t think we’ve ever had more 2 dimensional villains than the servants of the Dark One. The sort of fake, 2 dimensional villainy we find in most fantasy novels with some Black Wizard or Evil Lord or whatever, people who just want to cause misery for the sake of causing misery, the kind of 2 dimensional villainy that is not at all realistic. So why is Jordan’s 2 dimensional villainy worse than all the other examples? Because he cannot offer any rational motive for ANY of the dark friends to actually be dark friends. We have seen dozens and dozens of dark friends who, we are told, swore oaths of loyalty to the Dark One in return for power, money, etc., but so far they universally instead get abused, tortured, and killed, often by the Dark One or his other servants. It is so ridiculous how often the Dark Friends suffer hellish torments, you’ve got to wonder how the hell is anyone stupid enough to say, “Gee, that’s for me! Where do I sign up?!” “What, I can be a Dark Friend and swear to obey eternally the worst being in the universe in return for some vague promise of unspecified power in the future, and I only need to offer my soul and my slavish devotion, and to associate with the most frightening and evil creatures who might on a whim decide to torture me, and if anyone ever finds out I’ll be disowned and tortured and executed...yeah, that sounds like a great deal!” Seriously, by book four there has been not one single example of a Dark One actually getting anything good out of it. You wonder just what makes the people lining up to be Dark Friends think this is a really great deal for them? What are they basing that on? Is there some song bards sing, some saga, about the guy who sold his soul to the Dark One and got everything he ever wanted? It just gets really retarded to have so many people jumping onto the “Dark Friends” bandwagon when they seem to be giving up a whole heck of a lot, and near as I can tell they just get abused and tortured and killed for their trouble. It’s absurd. I need some realism in terms of a plausible motive why people would be converting to Dark Friends, and so far I’ve got Zilch.

6. Does anyone know what the word Prophecy means? Because they really act like they don’t. And it is really basic. If it was foretold that the Dragon Reborn would do certain things they he’ll do them. Period. I mean, the way Moiraine’s whole motivation in these books as about steering Rand to make sure he fulfills the prophecies... Duh... I mean, you can’t stop him if you wanted to, that’s why they are prophecies, not false prophesies. Relax, whatever you do, he’ll do what the prophecies say. She keeps commenting how it is possible for the threads to be broken somehow to defeat the prophesies, but frankly I have no idea where she gets that notion, because nothing in any of the books suggests that is actually possible, for a prophecy to NOT come true, apart from her own comments worrying about it.

7. Okay, the characters have these bouts of INCREDIBLE stupidity, like so bad it is impossible and fake and just bad writing. Like, when Rand meets Selene through the portal in a world where no one lives, and yet she somehow got there right when they happened to be there, and he does not think that is at ALL suspicious???? And even after he finally tells Moiraine how he met this woman through the portal, she does not immediately think it is suspicious? I mean, if Rand, Perrin and Matt just ever compared notes on the stuff going on with them, Rand would have known much sooner that Selene was not just some random girl. It was just so contrived! Even worse, was anything stupider than having Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne agree to the totally suspicious proposal of Liandrin, who they already viewed as the MOST suspicious of all the Ajah in the White Tower? I mean, she might as well have walked into their room and said, “I’m Black Ajah and I want to enslave all of you, and I don’t want anyone to know about it, so meet me at midnight and we’ll depart.” And the girls say to each other, “Gee, do you think we can trust her? Okay, I guess...” I mean, I don’t know if I’ve ever read of a single character doing anything that unbelievably stupid, let alone a group of three. I get it, Jordan wanted them to go and get caught and create that conflict, but he needed to think of an INTELLIGENT plot by Liandrin to trap them. Liandrin’s plot was about as clever as Road Runner painting a tunnel on a rock face so that Wiley Coyote would run into it, which is to say not at all. You can only take so much of the author writing such contrived garbage before you just can no longer be emotionally invested in the characters or story.

And people say the books get WORSE as you go along??? I find that hard to believe. And people say Jordan is a great fantasy writer? Wow, that must be a low bar. I mean, he does some stuff very well. The attention to detail is amazing. He must have studied a lot about medieval stuff. But the core elements of believable characters and plot movement that is plausible and arises organically from who the characters are, he is really weak at those. He gives us cartoonish villains and heroes and plot devices, all fleshed out with incredibly detailed and descriptive prose that fools you into thinking the writing is really great.
Much of what you say is true and yet I still found myself thoroughly caught up in his sprawling, epic world for the first six books at the time they came out. The trouble was that it became more and more sprawling and less and less epic until I felt quite literally buried under massive heaps of boring trivialities.
 
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