Tag Archives: Brandon Sanderson

#amreading: The Wheel of Time, series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Once again, epilepsy has reared its ugly head in my family, and travel to and from hospital the hospital 70 miles north of my home has interfered with my ability to write. So, for today’s post I’ve chosen to reprise my review of a hearty 14-book trilogy. I’ve warned you that many of the books I love and turn to when I need a good book are NOT comforting in any way, and for many people the incredibly long, epic series, The Wheel of Time, definitely falls into the UNcomfortable category. This is for a variety of reasons.

The Eye of the World was the opening volley in what would ultimately become one of the most controversial series in epic fantasy. Written by Robert Jordan and first published in 1990, this series of books has polarized the most dedicated fans of true fantasy into two groups: the lovers and the haters.  No reader walks away from this series unscathed.

The story begins in the exceedingly rural village of  Emond’s Field. They are so rural that they have no concept that they are still considered to be a part of a larger country. The village is suddenly attacked by Trollocs (the antagonist’s soldiers) and a Myrddraal (the undead-like officer commanding the Trollocs).  These creatures are intent on capturing the three protagonists, Rand al’Thor, Matrim (Mat) Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, although why they are being hunted is not revealed at first. To save their village from further attacks, Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene (Rand’s first love interest) flee the village, accompanied by the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred, her Warder, Al’Lan Mandragoran, and gleeman, Thom Merrilin.They are later joined by Nynaeve al’Meara, who is their village’s medicine woman.

This huge range of characters and the many, many threads that weave an incredibly tangled plot are what polarizes the reading community over this series of books. Originally intended to be a trilogy, it eventually expanded to encompass fourteen LARGE, long books.

Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 while working on the final book, leaving the series uncompleted, but he left the rough draft and enough notes behind that Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the series, eventually breaking that final volume into three very large  books, and bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion.

So what is the basis for the plot’s tension, what conflict could possibly draw the reader in and keep them reading for such a long, drawn out process? It’s Robert Jordan, folks–the eternal quest for power, and dominance through violence, religion and politics is the core of this tale.

According to Wikipedia, the Fount of All Knowledge: The series draws on numerous elements of both European and Asian mythology, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism, the metaphysical concepts of balance and duality, and a respect for nature found in Daoism. Additionally, its creation story has similarities to Christianity’s “Creator” (Light) and Shai’tan, “The Dark One” (Shaytan is an Arabic word which in religious contexts is used as a name for the Devil). It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869).”

I loved the first three books in this series. I both enjoyed and endured the next three, hoping Robert Jordan would get to the point and finish the damned series. I had become a little irritated with book eight, Path of Daggers, but by the time Winter’s Heart came out, I was resigned to never seeing an end to it, and was back to simply enjoying each strange plot twist and new random thread for what it was–just a great tale.

When Robert Jordan died, I was thrilled that Brandon Sanderson was the author tapped to finally bring that unwieldy mess together. There were so many different stories within the greater story that the task of winding up each thread must have been incredibly daunting, and he did it magnificently.

The reason so many devoted fans abandoned the series somewhere around book six , Lord of Chaos, was that Rand al’Thor’s story ( and Mat’s and Perrin’s) stalled, and Jordan was sent way off track by the stories of Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elaine Trakand. In fantasy, there is a large contingent of readers who want instant gratification are not going to wait around for eight more books. They proved it by jumping ship and trash-talking his work.

Throughout the series, the quality of the writing never faltered. The depth of story and the intensely alive characters whose stories graced those pages never failed to intrigue me. The fact that it felt like the conflict would never be resolved was, at times, upsetting to me as a reader, and is a lesson authors should take to heart with their own work.

To write a story that is so compelling that readers become so violently polarized over it is quite an accomplishment.  I see this happening with George R.R. Martin‘s fans right now. Although I adore him as a person, I’ve never cared much for his style of writing, as he jumps around too much even for me. Have patience, people! It looks like George has a large story there too, so it may take him a while.

For Brandon Sanderson to step into the wasps’ nest of controversy that was The Wheel of Time and complete the series with such grace and finesse is nothing short of amazing, and I am glad I stuck with it to the end. Brandon Sanderson has become one of my favorite authors because of what he did to wind up this epic series.

In the end, the final resolution was satisfying, and was well worth the journey.  I have gotten rid of most of my hard copies, and am down to only one room’s worth of hardbound books at our house. I don’t buy too many hard copies of books, being a fan of the Kindle, and  but I did make an exception for this book.   For me, some books need to be in hard copy form and the Wheel of Time Series is one of them, as are the Harry Potter books. There was a large contingent of people who were upset that the epub edition wasn’t released until 4 months after the paper book, but this was a choice made by Robert Jordan’s widow and her publisher, TOR. It was a strange one in my opinion, but it was their choice.

Amazon’s early reviews of the later books in this series were rife with trolls and naysayers who couldn’t wait to emerge from the woodwork and have their say. Apparently very few of these people purchased the book, much less read it. That is the price of success and these days it’s almost an honor to have so many haters just spoiling to knock you down. But their strident caws and self-important rants should have no effect on the true fans of WoT. In my humble opinion these works are masterpieces and Brandon Sanderson’s three books are a triumphant finish to the series.

I love Brandon Sanderson’s handling of this series finale, and feel I more than got my money’s worth from this series of book, as I will definitely read it again and again–in my opinion it’s that good. If you love this series, you will love the way it ends!

The original cover artist for these amazing books was none other than the late Darrell K. Sweet, who was just as amazing a fantasy artist as is Michael Whelan. The newer covers are nice, but for me they lack the power of Sweet’s brilliant paintings.

And as we all know, I buy most books for their covers, even epubs, and then fall in love with the tale.


This post has been recycled and was previously posted as Comfort Books, the main course: The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson  in February of 2015 here on Life in the Realm of Fantasy, Copyright 2015-2017  Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved.

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#amwriting: Redemption and the Hero’s Journey

WoT03_TheDragonRebornModern fiction often employs the motif of redemption–the notion that a person can counter a lifetime of misdeeds, but to do so, one must commit selfless acts of heroism.

Within the story arc, a fall from grace can make a protagonist more compelling, more multidimensional. A main-character who is not perfect is far more intriguing than a person with no flaws, because they are unpredictable. Nothing is worse than a predictable novel.

I see characters in books as if they were real people living through the events life hands them. When a character in a book experiences confusion, it’s an opportunity for them to learn new things. If they are frustrated, they must devise a way around that frustration, and if they are tested to the limits of their endurance, they will become stronger. Keep this in mind when you are writing. Don’t make things so easy for  your beloved characters–their struggle is the story.

No tension equals boredom which equals no readers.

For today’s’ post I’m using a famous work of epic fantasy as my example, but everything that I am saying pertains to every kind and genre of book you will write, assuming it is a work of fiction and involves fictional people. (Does not pertain to technical manuals.) (Insert ‘lol’ here).

Tales that describe the hero’s journey have certain tropes: they all involve a person who goes on an adventure and, in a decisive crisis, wins a victory. He/she then comes home changed or transformed.  This is a theme that most epic fantasy novels are built around, as is my medieval fantasy, Huw the Bard, and also my epic fantasy World of Neveyah books. However, every novel about people involves a journey of the human spirit, in one way or another.

398px-Heroes journey by Christopher Vogler

Hero’s journey by Christopher Vogler

So how does redemption fit into the hero’s journey? The events the protagonist experiences change his view of the world and his place in it.

Redemption can be portrayed many ways. A person who commits a terrible crime can do a heroic act, thus counter-balancing his prior sin.

Or there is the charming rogue: at the beginning,his life is focused solely on his own survival. Over the course of the story he gradually begins to care for his companions, and about the cause.

Then, there is the main character who begins the journey as a young and naive person. The first half of the book may show his fall from grace–he becomes disillusioned and callous. At the midpoint of the story arc he is once more transformed. This time events forge him into a hero.

Let’s look at Rand al’Thor, Robert Jordan’s protagonist in the (15 volume) Wheel of Time series. The Wheel of Time has great villains–a LOT of them– which is what drives the highly convoluted story line. There are times when Rand is as villainous as those he battles.

When we first meet Rand he is a naive young man from a rural village, who is pledged to be married to Egwene al’Vere, his childhood sweetheart. Many things occur to change him over the course of the following two years–15 volumes worth of terrible changes, both physical and emotional. In just the first three books:

  1. Rand is forced to leave home in the dark of night for his own safety.
  2. He learns he can channel the male half of saidin (magic/the ‘one power’) which means he will go mad, and should be killed for everyone’s safety.
  3. He is branded on both palms by his blade during an epic battle
  4. He hears the voice of a long dead madman in his head, and is told he is the reincarnation of that man.
  5. He is at war with himself and his hated abilities as much as he is with the evil Forsaken.
  6. He falls in love with three women, who eventually become his three wives, none of whom are Egwene, his fiance. This love-quadrangle challenges his strict sense of morality, increasing his stress.
  7.  He discovers the parents he was raised by were not his birth parents, and that he is the center of a prophecy.

WoT05_TheFiresOfHeavenThese things are just the tip of the iceberg that is the multitude of burdens carried by Rand al’Thor. As his story arc progresses, Rand starts out with well-meaning intentions, wanting to use his powers for good. As he gains power both politically and in the use of saidin, he becomes a tyrant in his own right. But he is still a good man despite his desire to feel nothing, and once again, though his own folly, he is completely broken down to his component parts. It is during the aftermath of his final breakdown that he is made a truly strong, competent leader.

Rand’s ultimate acceptance of who he is, the reincarnation of Lews Therin Telamon, is the key to his redemption. Only then does he have the chance of winning the prophesied battle against the Forsaken at Tarmon Gai’don.

When I read a book whose protagonists and villains challenge me I return to it later and analyze what it is about those characters that inspired such an emotional reaction in me. It always comes back to their many layers of good and bad traits.

gone with the windConsider Margaret Mitchell’s classic, Gone With the Wind: Rhett Butler is a man with many faults, but who is, underneath it all, a decent, likable person.

Characters that are multi-layered are intriguing, and will keep the reader turning the pages, to see what they will do next.

WoT10_CrossroadsOfTwilightIt is a rare person who is completely consumed by evil, and so when we see the softer side of the devil we grudgingly like him. Because of that idea, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at how Robert Jordan portrayed the Forsaken.

Lanfear and Asmodean were frequently pleasant, engaging people and one could feel a certain sympathy for them despite the knowledge that they had pledged their souls to serve evil.  Even Demandred had a certain cachet that one could relate to. Each one had the potential and the latent desire for redemption–and each chose to grasp for greater power instead.

What kept Robert Jordan’s die-hard fans waiting patiently for him to finish the series was his compelling characters–and that was also Jordan’s weakness as an author. He fell in love with the minor players and soon the side characters became as important in his mind as Rand al’Thor.

A_Memory_of_Light_cover (1)This chasing after so many character’s threads derailed the series for several books, because although they were entertaining books, they did not advance the story. Many readers lost interest by book six, and Brandon Sanderson had to really exercise restraint when, after Jordan’s death, he was tapped to finish writing the series (from Jordan’s copious notes).

Some characters in my own work also have story lines that feature elements of the hero’s journey, some experience a fall from grace, and find redemption. Character development within the core group and reining in my enthusiasm for the side characters is my current task, as I embark on the final draft of Valley of Sorrows.

Tempting though a “fifteen book trilogy” is, I vow that Edwin Farmer’s story will be completed within this last of the three books in the Tower of Bones series.

If the literary muses are willing, the side characters can have their own books, later.

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Three audiobooks and why I liked them

First of all I love books. I’m the kid who was so desperate for books I would read the Encyclopædia Britannica  when the rainy Northwest summers got boring and I had read everything else. But now, beside writing, I freelance as a structural editor.

When I am editing for clients I don’t read, as it is hard to set aside my critical eye and just read for pleasure. I can’t go with out books, though, so when I am in editing mode, I rely on Audible Books to entertain me.

Three audio books that I heard over the last year really stand out. Two of them I would classify as literary fantasy and one is genre fantasy–but all are fantasy in the fullest sense.

Tenth of December, George Saunders1. Tenth of December, written by George Saunders and also read by George Saunders.

Saunders has the ability to get inside each of his characters’ heads, showing them sharply as unique individuals. They aren’t always nice, and certainly not always moral as I see morality, but Saunders portrays them with such vivid strokes that you feel as if you understand their reasoning.

For me, the most powerful tale in this collection of stunning tales was “Escape from Spiderhead.” This sci-fi tale has an almost Vonnegut-like flavor. It is a stark journey into the depths to which we humans are capable of sinking in the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Where does punishment end and inhumanity begin? This story lays bare concepts regarding our view of crime and punishment that are difficult, but which are important to consider. The scenario is exaggerated, as it is set in a future world, but it exposes the callous view society has in regard to criminals and what punishment they might deserve.
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George Saunders reads this book himself and he is an amazing narrator. This was an excellent, entertaining book to listen to, and I liked the audio book so much I bought the hard copy to take with me later this summer when I go on vacation.

Just so you know–I rarely buy hard copies of anything.

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Sin audiobook coverI also listened to Sin, British author Shaun Allan’s masterpiece of stream-of-consciousness and fantasy, narrated by R.D. Watson. Allan breaks every rule of writing, and his work is powerful.

Sin is a dark, urban fantasy, written with a large dose of sardonic humor. We hear the tale from the man who was given the name ‘Sin Mathews’ at birth, but who goes by the name of Sin only, as the last name doesn’t matter; only the name which is the sum of his parts matters. R.D. Watson’s reading of Allan’s shining, witty, prose is moving and brilliant in every aspect. He gets into Sin’s head, and you are completely spellbound.

The atmosphere throughout is surrealistic, but it is well-balanced. I adore Allan’s lyrical, intimate style of prose, as in this series of images describing Sin’s disorientation, “History doesn’t relate whether Jonah, Gepetto, and Pinocchio sat around a table eating pizza, sharing stories of prophecy and puppetry while in the belly of the whale, but I thought that I could relate to being swallowed whole.”

Throughout the novel, Sin’s ruminations are self-mocking, and world-weary, yet naive and innocent.  He bears the guilt of the world, and suffers the unbearable pain of being the cause of so many deaths, but still he finds ironic humor in every situation. His sister, Joy, is grounded and guides him to the truth, but is not allowed to tell him anything.

Nothing is what it seems in this tale, and right up to the end, you are not sure which reality is real.

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The Emperor's Soul - Brandon Sanderson. audibleThe Emperor’s Soul, by Brandon Sanderson and narrated by Angela Lin.

Shai is thief, but not just any kind of a thief. Shai has been trained to forge a replica of the original item to leave in its place. Her replicas are masterful. in many ways her replicas are better than the originals. The power of her work as she remakes her surroundings amazes Gatona, a man who holds her life in his hands, and every day he is more confused by her. This is not a love story–Gaotona struggles to understand why an artist of her caliber, who loves the craft as much as she does prostitutes her gift by making forgeries.
Two factions now control her fate. They have something she needs, and she has something they need, but for how long? The Emperor Ashravan’s condition has opened up new possibilities for some on the council, and they are ruthless. Shai is safe for the moment, but she knows her life hangs by a thread and only a miracle will save her.

In Shai, Sanderson has created a character who is compelling and completely believable. Shai is more than merely a forger, she is an artist.  She takes pride in her work, and rightfully so. The way she is portrayed is a departure for Sanderson, in that she is most definitely a woman, and she is the central figure. There is a strong sense of history to this tale, and the structure of their society is clearly drawn in only a few well-crafted words.

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Audio books are great in the car, I think we all know that–but for me they are a way to access wonderful books when I am in too critical a state of mind to read for enjoyment. For my downtime I love to sit on my back porch and just listen to someone reading me a story.

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Comfort Books, the main course: The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Eye Of The WorldFor the main course of this three course meal I’ve chosen a hearty 14-book trilogy. I warned you that many of the books I love and turn to when I need a good book are NOT comforting in any way, and for many people the incredibly long, epic series, the Wheel of Time, definitely falls into the UNcomfortable category. This is for a variety of reasons.

The Eye of the World was the opening volley in what would ultimately become one of the most controversial series in epic fantasy. Written by Robert Jordan and first published in 1990, this series of books has polarized the most dedicated fans of true fantasy into two groups: the lovers and the haters.  No reader walks away from this series unscathed.

WoT05_TheFiresOfHeavenThe story begins in the exceedingly rural village of  Emond’s Field. They are so rural that they have no concept that they are still considered to be a part of a larger country. The village is suddenly attacked by Trollocs (the antagonist’s soldiers) and a Myrddraal (the undead-like officer commanding the Trollocs).  These creatures are intent on capturing the three protagonists, Rand al’Thor, Matrim (Mat) Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, although why they are being hunted is not revealed at first. To save their village from further attacks, Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene (Rand’s first love interest) flee the village, accompanied by the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred, her Warder, Al’Lan Mandragoran, and gleeman, Thom Merrilin.They are later joined by Nynaeve al’Meara, who is their village’s medicine woman.

WoT03_TheDragonRebornThis huge range of characters and the many, many threads that weave an incredibly tangled plot are what polarizes the reading community over this series of books. Originally intended to be a trilogy, it eventually expanded to encompass fourteen LARGE, long books.

Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 while working on the final book, leaving the series uncompleted, but he left the rough draft and enough notes behind that Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the series, eventually breaking that final volume into three very large  books, and bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion.

WoT10_CrossroadsOfTwilightSo what is the basis for the plot’s tension, what conflict could possibly draw the reader in and keep them reading for such a long, drawn out process? It’s Robert Jordan, folks–the eternal quest for power, and dominance through violence, religion and politics is the core of this tale. According to Wikipedia, the Fount of All Knowledge: The series draws on numerous elements of both European and Asian mythology, most notably the cyclical nature of time found in Buddhism and Hinduism, the metaphysical concepts of balance and duality, and a respect for nature found in Daoism. Additionally, its creation story has similarities to Christianity’s “Creator” (Light) and Shai’tan, “The Dark One” (Shaytan is an Arabic word which in religious contexts is used as a name for the Devil). It was also partly inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869).”

300px-WoT08_ThePathOfDaggersI loved the first three books in this series. I both enjoyed and endured the next three, hoping Robert Jordan would get to the point and finish the damned series. I had become a little irritated with book eight, Path of Daggers, but by the time Winter’s Heart came out, I was resigned to never seeing an end to it, and was back to simply enjoying each strange plot twist and new random thread for what it was–just a great tale.

When Robert Jordan died, I was thrilled that Brandon Sanderson was the author tapped to finally bring that unwieldy mess together. There were so many different stories within the greater story that the task of winding up each thread must have been incredibly daunting, and he did it magnificently.

The reason so many devoted fans abandoned the series somewhere around book six , Lord of Chaos, was that Rand al’Thor’s story ( and Mat’s and Perrin’s) stalled, and Jordan was sent way off track by the stories of Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elaine Trakand. In fantasy, there is a large contingent of readers who want instant gratification are not going to wait around for eight more books. They proved it by jumping ship and trash-talking his work.

TheGatheringStormUSCoverThroughout the series, the quality of the writing never faltered. The depth of story and the intensely alive characters whose stories graced those pages never failed to intrigue me. The fact that it felt like the conflict would never be resolved was, at times, upsetting to me as a reader, and is a lesson authors should take to heart with their own work.

To write a story that is so compelling that readers become so violently polarized over it is quite an accomplishment.  I see this happening with George R.R. Martin‘s fans right now. Although I adore him as a person, I’ve never cared much for his style of writing, as he jumps around too much even for me. Have patience, people! It looks like George has a large story there too, so it may take him a while.

Towers_of_Midnight_hardcoverFor Brandon Sanderson to step into the wasps’ nest of controversy that was the Wheel of Time and complete the series with such grace and finesse is nothing short of amazing, and I am glad I stuck with it to the end. Brandon Sanderson has become one of my favorite authors because of what he did to wind up this epic series.

In the end, the final resolution was satisfying, and was well worth the journey.  I have gotten rid of most of my hard copies, and am down to only one room’s worth of hardbound books at our house. I don’t buy too many hard copies of books, being a fan of the Kindle, and  but I did make an exception for this book.   For me, some books need to be in hard copy form and the Wheel of Time Series is one of them, as are the Harry Potter books. There was a large contingent of people who were upset that the epub edition wasn’t released until 4 months after the paperbook, but this was a choice made by Robert Jordan’s widow and her publisher, TOR. It was a strange one in my opinion, but it was their choice.

A_Memory_of_Light_coverAmazon’s early reviews of the later books in this series were rife with trolls and naysayers who couldn’t wait to emerge from the woodwork and have their say. Apparently very few of these people purchased the book, much less read it. That is the price of success and these days it’s almost an honor to have so many haters just spoiling to knock you down. But their strident caws and self-important rants should have no effect on the true fans of WoT. In my humble opinion these works are masterpieces and Brandon Sanderson’s three books are a triumphant finish to the series.

I love Brandon Sanderson’s handling of this series finale, and feel I more than got my money’s worth from this series of book, as I will definitely read it again and again–in my opinion it’s that good. If you love this series, you will love the way it ends!

The original cover artist for these amazing books was none other than the late Darrell K. Sweet, who was just as amazing a fantasy artist as is Michael Whelan. The newer covers are nice, but for me they lack the power of Sweet’s brilliant paintings.

And as we all know, I buy most books for their covers, even epubs, and then fall in love with the tale.

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