The Wheel of Time, New Spring through The Shadow Rising

I first purchased the Eye of the World back sometime when I was in college, if not before. It sat on my shelf for a couple of years before I decided to read it; that was probably in my early junior or late sophomore year. I was barely able to read it. I struggled to read it, while I gorged myself on Terry Goodkind’s work. Now fast forward to February of 2011: I purchased the audio version of the book.

Wheel of Time Covers
I most likely purchased it because it was on sale for a few bucks and I figured I would try listening to it at some point; after all, I liked the narrators in other works I had listened to. There it sat untouched for another two years before I actually forced myself to give the story its second chance. And I am happy I finally relented.

So far I have listened to the first four books plus the prequel, New Spring. I am waiting for the audio book version of Fires of Heaven to get the whispersync for voice treatment before I consume that story. So I decided to do a review of what I have read while I wait for the next book. As I am finally reading the series, I have started by reading what other people have said about the series. On the web one of the biggest complaints I have found happens to be one I at least partially agree with, and it is that Jordan was too verbose without reason. Now for the most part I think these comments are baseless, but there have been a few scenes over the course of the first “five” books that I think he could have trimmed up without losing anything of substance. Who knows, maybe I just haven’t yet developed the patience necessary to appreciate his occasionally meandering scene settings. But even putting my opinion aside, the story being woven has been nothing short of engrossing.

Now I am not going to try to summarize five full novels for you in just a handful of paragraphs. That would be quite silly. If you want synopses of each book, I highly recommend Wikipedia. What I will say is this: the story of Rand al’Thor and his childhood friends has filled my commute with excitement and wonder. Jordan does a masterful job blending multiple story arcs together in a way that is both pleasing and compelling. As any one of any book’s story arcs would begin to bubble with activity he would jump away from it in order to develop another. And sometimes he will insert what appears to be a random scene, but as with any good storyteller, he is just planting seeds for the future.

Now since I never actually read these books I suppose I should talk about the two narrators, Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. The first thing I should mention is that these two narrators ARE the voice of The Wheel of Time series. Over the twenty or so years it has taken to complete the series, they have narrated each and every book without fail. They are also simply two of the best narrators I have had the pleasure of listening to. Each is more than capable of creating a semblance of a full cast, with apparent ease. In each book, as the point of view shifts from a male character to one of the female characters, so too do the narrators switch. Now since these characters are often grouped together, at first the difference between their voices was disorienting; but, with the passing of each book, that has diminished. Now my mind simply registers the obvious shift in the point of view. This series has so far given me a very pleasant way to pass my daily commute and I look forward to the Fires of Heaven becoming available so I can continue this series.