East Side Story: The Wheel of Time vs. The Lord of the Rings

We’re probably going to catch a lot of flak for this, owing to the immense popularity of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, perhaps the most sprawling epic ever written, rivaling even A Song of Ice and Fire in verbosity. But from what we (Heather and I) were able to assess from the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, Jordan’s opus borrows a bit too heavily from Tolkien. While Jordan is a capable storyteller and a skillful wordsmith, his work is the epitome of everything I find wrong with the fantasy genre today. Basically, it’s the problem of world-building getting in the way of storytelling. Call me old-fashioned, but what matters most to me is plot and character, particularly characters you can relate to on an emotional level. In The Eye of the World, we are introduced to a very large cast of players, none of whom seem particularly engaging. What’s more, the conflict driving the plot is muddled, so you really never get a sense of urgency, a sense of knowing what it is the protagonists want or how they are meant to go about achieving it. To sum it all up, a village is attacked by orcish-like creatures, called trollocs, and a boy named Rand and his friends are convinced by a wizard named Moraine to follow her to a city, where some vaguely hinted at mystery is to be solved. In The Lord of the Rings, the destruction of the One Ring acts as an immediate focal point, with all of the emotional payoff and world-building centered around it. But in Jordan’s, dare I say, “version,” I am at a loss as to what the point is. To be fair, I only managed to get through the first 300 pages, so I can’t leave an entirely honest review, but I don’t think a reader should be tasked with digging through so many words just to get to the main idea.

Agree? Disagree? Check out what Heather and I have to say in our latest podcast! We review The Wheel of Time and the new show it’s based on, and sneak in a bit of nonfiction talk for a little-known title, Madhusree Mukerjee’s The Land of Naked People.


5 thoughts on “East Side Story: The Wheel of Time vs. The Lord of the Rings

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  1. I just finished reading the entire Wheel of Time series a few months ago. I started them back in the summer of 2020, so it took me a little over a year (and I read other books between WoT books as I went along). I enjoyed the series, especially after watching Youtuber Daniel Green talk about them. I haven’t read a lot of fantasy since high school, so I’m not as immersed in it as most. I thought Brandon Sanderson did a great job on the last three books, and A Memory of Light was an epic near-apocalyptic and satisfying ending to such a massive story. But it was a slow slog through the middle of the books of the series.

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    1. Wow, getting through a fifteen-book series is fairly impressive. But, the way I see it, there are so many more wonderful and amazing fantasy titles you could be reading instead. I sometimes feel readers give famous writers a pass just because they’re famous. People naturally assume, “Hey, it has to be good if it’s a TV show!” Not sure what books you’re familiar with, but I can recommend several fantasy titles I feel more deserving of the hype: The Once and Future King (my all-time favorite), anything by Tolkien, the His Dark Materials series, the Dune series, or Cloud Atlas (if you’re a real lit junkie), to name some of my favorites.

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      1. I have read Cloud Atlas and the first two Dune books. And Tolkien of course. And I read this obscure fantasy novel called The Ages of Aenya a few years ago. I started Wheel of Time after finishing my project of buying and reading copies of every book to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Novel/Fiction (all 92 of them) and wanted something big and long to immerse myself in.

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    2. All 92? That’s impressive! I am always looking out for fiction worthy of my focus, but I have yet to find a surefire system that never fails to satisfy. Some award winners, like the Newbery medal earner “A Wrinkle in Time” I absolutely loathe. Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” on the other hand, definitely deserves its Pulitzer. I know it’s all subjective, but I typically enjoy anything that is well-written. So, you’ll have to tell me whether you feel it’s a hit or miss with all the rest. Oh, and if you liked Alimonos’s “Ages of Aenya,” you’ll probably enjoy, “The Princess of Aenya.” That book received high marks from Kirkus Magazine and IndieReader!

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      1. Some of the Pulitzer winners were definitely better than others. Still, it was interesting to read what critics thought was the best novel at the time from each year. I did see that Cormac McCarthy has two interrelated novels coming out this fall. I’ll be reading both of those. His Blood Meridian is a ultra-violent masterpiece. And I have a paperback copy of The Princess of Aenya on my To Be Read stack.

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