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I've now completed my re-read of the first six WoT books. Perhaps it is my mind seeking organization where there is none, but I see these six books as having a rather interesting division. The first three each focus around a central event—the hunt for the horn, for instance, or the fall of the Stone. The second three change the direction of the series, moving to a much more complicated story. Each of these three middle books seem to contain a much larger number of plots, goals, and character motivations. These middle three, the second trilogy if you will, blend together far more than the first three did. It's like they all form one large book, with the lines between them far more blurred.
I'm not sure if this is the way Mr. Jordan plotted them, or if it's simply the way the series evolved. Perhaps I'm just seeing something where there is none. However, as a writer, this division interests me. I find that as a reader, I am much more satisfied with reading these middle books, though I didn't by any means dislike the early ones. A series this long could not have lasted by telling stories only about one or two characters. Series that do such always feel like they have flat characterization to me. You can only focus so long on one character before you have to begin recycling motivations or pushing their character development into the realm of the ridiculous. By expanding the series beyond what it appeared at first—a simple hero's journey—Mr. Jordan created something more lasting.
However, he also took a great risk in changing the series (either intentionally or by natural evolution) as he did. A great many writers do the easy thing, telling the same story over and over with different names on the front, having the same few characters go through the exact same stories over and over. That's comfortable for readers, but it does not challenge genre, and it is not the substance of greatness (in my opinion.) Instead of doing that, Mr. Jordan took a chance on expanding the plots of dozens of side characters, crafting a series that was about much more than it seemed at first. All three of these middle books blended together, but each one still felt distinct to me. The story is moving, progressing, growing—and the characters are much different people at the end than they were at the beginning.
Perhaps I should focus more on what specifically happened in LORD OF CHAOS that I liked, but as the one who must—however insufficiently—continue Mr. Jordan's legacy, I find myself looking more at the whole than at the minutia. That, of courses, is important as well. But I think for me to be successful in completing this final book, I need to understand—really understand—what made this series great. I might not be able to write the exact words Mr. Jordan would have, but if I can get the SOUL of the book right, then that will not matter.
Anyway, as for Book Six, it was a powerful read. Lews Therin was my favorite character of the book—his interactions with Rand are wonderful. We are left wondering just how much is insanity and how much is another man's soul in Rand's head. Each conversation gives us information about the setting, personality about rand, and tension for the plot as we wonder about his sanity. Not to mention the occasional laugh at the exchanges, sorrow regarding Therin's tragedy, and a sense of mystery as Rand tries to find out just how much he can interact with Therin. Masterfully done.
A second response comes with the ending. It's sometimes easy to skip over this ending in light of the dramatic occurrences at the end of Book's two and three, and yet I found this to be one of the most tense of the entire series. It was very well foreshadowed and marvelously executed.
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