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To New Readers:

In the 1990s, a war veteran and historian named James Oliver Rigney, Jr. began a massive fantasy saga under the psuedonym of Robert Jordan.  His internationally bestselling series has reached its 11th volume.  Fans wait an average of two years between books, but we can find new details, new predictions, and renewed excitement with every re-read.  New volumes always hold something completely unexpected. 

Is this series worth such an investment of your time?  Fans will tell you that it is, of course.  You'll even find bitter ex-fans who continue to buy each new volume because they're hopelessly addicted.  A word of caution: There is something about reading this gargantuan story that will cause you to temporarily lose your sense of reality and want to take notes.  People have created artwork, music, merchandise, role playing games, a video game, fan fiction, and tons of fan websites in homage to The Wheel of Time ... and the saga hasn't ended yet.

Perhaps you've avoided The Wheel of Time due to its size, the genre reputation, or the cheesy book covers.  This saga, however, breaks most of the stereotypes in the fantasy genre.  Nothing about it is predictable.  The book covers are woefully inaccurate and do the opposite of selling the product.  Not only do they NOT depict scenes from the story, but they portray stereotypical damsels-in-distress and other clichés that have nothing to do with the books.  Judging solely by the cover art, I had concluded that the series would be predictable and dull.  I avoided The Wheel of Time for years.  One day, I wanted to try something new, and remembering all of the recommendations I'd heard, I bought The Eye of the World.

Well, I had to force my way through the first part of the first book--the beginning is ponderous, although important to character establishment--and then suddenly the story took off!  None of the things I had assumed would happen according to Tolkien-based pulp fantasy formula happened.  Instead, the world of The Wheel of Time was revealed as something unlike anything I had ever read or seen before.  The characters were so engaging that I had to get my hands on the next volume.


The Wheel of Time takes place in an Age of Exploration type of world; "the late 17th century without gunpowder," according to Robert Jordan in his interview with Locus Magazine.  Magical ability called the One Power is practiced by a small percentage of humans with the lucky genes (or unlucky genes, depending on the culture).  Due to a mistake made by well-meaning scholars in the distant past, only women can wield the One Power without going insane.  Men who are born with this ability get exiled, tortured, or executed.  The saga centers around one young man, a sheepherder's son from an isolated region, who can wield the One Power.  His fate is to defend the world from evil forces (most of them human, and each nearly as powerful as he is) while battling his own growing insanity and the thousands of people who fear him, want to use him, or seek to destroy him. 

It's really a story about struggle, when all is said and done.  He hears voices in his head.  He has memories of a childhood experienced by someone who lived and died three millennia ago.  He's afraid to hurt anyone whom he considers a friend, and he's developing a stress complex over it.  What could make a better hero than that?

Okay, I'm through with my little sales-pitch.  If you want more information and opinions, read my article Robert Jordan: Genius or Hack?

In Memory of James Rigney (Robert Jordan)

When I think of the three writers who've had the biggest influence on me, Robert Jordan is among them. I wish I'd sent him at least one fan letter, to add my voice to the thousands of fans who did write to him. This memorial note was in fact a fan letter that I never got around to sending, and I now regret that he couldn't have read it himself. The world lost him too soon, when he still had stories to tell and one epic to finish.

I started reading The Wheel of Time when I was an undergrad in college. Prior to that, I'd never read post-Tolkien fantasy, and I avoided the WoT books despite recommendations from friends. I was surprised to enjoy The Eye of the World, and even more surprised when obsession took hold with The Great Hunt. The WoT series gave me so many important revelations about storytelling, character development, and my own views on life. I read it at an age when I was deciding and questioning my future. It helped me find my path through those times, and gave me the courage to free my suppressed passion for writing.

I can't think of any other author who fit so comfortably in the worlds of both casual readers and literary critics. The Wheel of Time reaches book snobs who read each year's Hugo and Nebula winners, and teenagers who browse bookstores out of boredom. I've lived in both worlds, and I can discuss The Wheel of Time with just about any reader. I owe Robert Jordan a huge thanks for giving me so many interesting discussions, and for allowing me to bond with strangers of all types.

Robert Jordan's series gave me countless hours of fascinated joy, where I escaped into the lives of Rand, Mat, and Perrin. After my first read-through (at that time, it was only 7 books), I bought more fantasy novels. None has yet inspired the same addiction in me, but I owe my current enjoyment of several series to Robert Jordan. I doubt I would have sampled more epic fantasy if I'd tried another author first.

I owe Robert Jordan more than I can say. I feel honored to have met him, and to have enjoyed a dinner with him and his wife, Harriet. That was a memorable experience. But the books he wrote made an impression that will last the rest of my life, for all the reasons I've stated above. He will not be forgotten.

Rest in Peace, James Oliver Rigney, Jr.

Obituary in the New York Times