Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

When I was nine years old, way back in 1990, Robert Jordan pub­lished a fair­ly large and in­ter­est­ing fan­ta­sy nov­el called The Eye of the World. It was one of a new breed of fan­ta­sy sto­ry, the mega-gi­gan­to-epic, tales that are planned from the out­set to ex­ceed the typ­i­cal tril­o­gy set-up by vol­umes and vol­umes. Terry Goodkind and George R. R. Martin join Robert Jordan as the top three su­per-enor­mo-epic writ­ers [and prob­a­bly J.K. Rowling now that I think of it…]. Terry and Robert have an­oth­er thing in com­mon, they both be­trayed their sto­ries in fa­vor of a larg­er bank ac­count. They’ve both turned their worlds in­to se­r­i­al killers, in­to Stories From The Black Lagoon, things that nev­er seem to end. Each book is around 700 pages. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time se­ries was ini­tial­ly slat­ed as an 8 vol­ume tale, but af­ter vol­ume 4 popped out, it was ob­vi­ous he was get­ting se­ri­ous pres­sure to drag out the tale as long as pos­si­ble. Now it is set for a twelve vol­ume se­ries. After read­ing vol­ume 11, I think num­ber 12 is go­ing to be unabridged OED in size, un­less, of course, he ex­tends it again.

Jordan’s writ­ing style [and now that I’m quite grown up, I re­al­ize he couldn’t write his way out of a pa­per bag. Tell a good sto­ry, yes. Write, hell no. He’s a physi­cist.] is very de­tail ori­ent­ed and de­scrip­tive. It got way overblown when vol­ume five came out and in­stead of skim­ming over de­scrip­tions and trav­el se­quences we start­ed get­ting de­tails about what each and every char­ac­ter, no mat­ter how mi­nor, looked like, wore, you name it. The plot ba­si­cal­ly dragged to a stand­still and sprout­ed sub­plots like a sow drop­ping piglets. And now he’s stuck like Peter Jackson and the third LotR movie, with tons of ground to cov­er and not much time to do it. Knife of Dreams starts to get back to the ac­tion, but it is ob­vi­ous that turn­ing to the tale back on course is tak­ing a lot of torque. Ponderous is still the word. I think the end might be in sight though. I’ll be glad, that is for sure. I’m tired of be­ing on this road for 15 years. I’ve re­al­ly turned away from fan­ta­sy nov­els be­cause of the ten­den­cy to blovi­ate, peo­ple im­i­tat­ing Goodkind and Jordan. There isn’t much good fan­ta­sy that gets the recog­ni­ti­tion that it de­serves. Instead the fo­cus is on cre­at­ing a fran­chise. Thankfully John Crowley and Patricia McKillip stick to one book sto­ries and write ro­bust­ly.