By the time I discovered The Wheel of Time I had been reading fantasy for several years. I had run through most of the major fantasy authors of the day: Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Raymond Feist, and Anne McCaffrey and I wanted something new. This was before the internet and online recommendations so I grabbed a book that looked interesting: The Eye of the World. I was hooked from the prologue where Lews Therin Telamon was at the end of his life after having destroyed everything that he loved and much of the world. The Eye of the World then turned into a story of a simple farmer joining his friends for a holiday celebration turned terror when Trollocs attacked and a mysterious woman in blue helped to save the day. From that point it was a fantasy love affair of nearly twenty years with this world and story that Robert Jordan (James Oliver Rigney, Jr) created and first began in 1990.
When I began reading The Wheel of Time Jordan was only 5 volumes into his long running (and uncompleted) saga and I was treated yearly for a time with new entries. A new Robert Jordan novel was an Event and a chance to marvel and wonder at what was going to happen next and when Moiraine would return to fight at Rand Al’Thor’s side once again. We knew she would. She’s a Gandalf type character. Even when I, as a reader and fan, grew frustrated with the overall lack of plot advancement, I would rather be reading a new Wheel of Time entry than not. These characters were old friends and the setting now as familiar as my childhood neighborhood. Emond’s Field was that place we all long to go back to even though we’ve changed enough that it’ll never be home again.
Jordan’s creation was never perfect and an argument could be made that with a good editor with a big red pen we could have had a truly remarkable series of 7-9 volumes rather than the series we have which features 4-5 truly special novels followed by merely good or decent novels with moments that make us gasp. The conclusion to Winter’s Heart? I had to read it three or four times it was that outstanding. I could FEEL those chapters and I needed to read them again to really live that moment again.
As I mentioned earlier, though, I would rather read what I would consider a “sub par” effort than no effort at all because all of it builds this world which loomed so large in my fantasy landscape.
It may not be possible to overstate the importance of Robert Jordan in my fantasy reading history. He looms large over everybody else. I had been previously hooked on Eddings and Feist, but not like I was on Robert Jordan’s work. Robert Jordan cast a large shadow over fantasy in my high school and college years and though I have since discovered author fantasists like George R. R. Martin, Scott Lynch, Steven Erikson, Melanie Rawn, Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson...it is still Robert Jordan that looms the largest and that I would come back to time and time again to rediscover his story and to read the newest entry in The Wheel of Time. Part of me wishes that we really would get Wheel of Time: Volume 38 – Nyneave Tugs Her Braid. The other part wants to see how Jordan would end it. Tarmon Gaidon.
Reportedly Jordan was working on what was intended to be the final volume of The Wheel of Time before he died. A Memory of Light. Somehow that title seems even more apt now than it did when that working title was first announced a year or two ago. Also reportedly, Robert Jordan had revealed the salient plot points of the novel to his wife and family.
Whether A Memory of Light is finished by a friend or family member, or if another author will finish the novel based on RJ’s notes...it doesn’t really matter. The Creator has passed. A simple listing of those salient plot points and ending would more than suffice, but knowing what happens next seems like such a small thing knowing that Robert Jordan has died from complications from his disease. For the last couple of years Jordan and his cousin Wilson had been posting updates on Dragonmount about the status of RJ’s health. Recently the prognosis seemed promising, that Jordan might actually beat this thing. Forget the books, I wanted Jordan to beat it for himself and for his family. I only hope that nothing was left unsaid and that there will be peace within his family after this passing.
I never met Robert Jordan or had any sort of interaction with the man, but from everything I had heard RJ was a kind and generous man and willing to take time for his fans.
Number me with Robert Jordan’s fans.