Robert Jordan…R.I.P.

Brian Golden

I’ve been a fan of the fantasy genre ever since I first struggled through the works of J.R.R. Tolkien as a child, a fascination that has not diminished as I’ve grown older. His novels were the foundation upon which I built my collection of favorite authors and storytellers. David Eddings, Elizabeth Moon, Robert E. Howard, Ed Greenwood, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman immediately spring to mind. But in the last ten years one author in particular sticks out as a personal favorite, Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series.

Now to be completely honest, when a former roommate of mine brought home the first two books of the series after perusing a local garage sale, I was not at all impressed. In fact, I didn’t even make it all the way through the first novel, something that rarely occurs whenever I pick up a novel. I found the story slow and uninteresting, unlike any fantasy story I’d ever read. One year later and a nasty bout with the flu changed all that.

About ten years ago, while spending the better part of a week home sick, I vainly searched through my Henry Street apartment for something, anything, to read. When I stumbled upon “The Eye of the World”, book one in the Wheel of Time series, I remember shrugging and thinking to myself what the heck, maybe it deserves another try.

Ever since that day I’ve been hooked, and have read and re-read the entire series, 12 books released to date, several times, necessary due to the unbelievable number of characters, sub-plots and political maneuverings involved. However, when tragedy struck on September 16, 2007, I sorrowed that the tale would never be completed.

Robert Jordan, whose real name was James Oliver Rigney, Jr., lost his battle with cardiac amyloidosis that day, and while my heart went out to his family and friends, I also felt a deep loss of my own. After spending ten years with the characters of the Wheel of Time I felt a connection to them, and a unique depression set in as I realized I would probably never experience the end of Jordan’s epic tale. To think that I had spent the better part of a decade reading a story with no ending was frustrating and unthinkable. You can therefore imagine my relief and excitement when fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was announced as the “perfect writer” to finish the final books in the series, according to Jordan’s wife and editor.

After finishing “A Gathering Storm” for the second time last week, book 12 in the series and Sanderson’s first effort at its continuation, I must say I agree wholeheartedly with the choice. Without changing the flavor or pace of the story (at least not much), Sanderson has restored the sense of apprehension and excitement that has accompanied the series all along. Never in my life have I been so attached to a work of fiction and I’m extremely pleased with the way Sanderson has embraced such a challenging and monumental task. I’m sure it can’t be easy to step into a story overflowing with such depth without trepidation, and I can’t begin to imagine the pressure he’s under to deliver. What I can say is that he’s off to a great start.

So now, as I sit and wait for the release of book 13 (due out this coming fall) I suppose I might as well start all over again. Now where did I put that copy of “The Eye of the World”?