I’m finally reading A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final installment of Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time. The first book was published in February of 1990 (which is, consequently, the month I was born), and the last in January of 2013. These books have been iconic, lovely, masterful, and above all unrivaled in terms of what inspired me the most as a child to become a writer. I knew I wanted to write from a ridiculously early age, but it wasn’t until I read The Eye of the World that I realized there was a future for me in making magic with words. This is what I wanted to do–retreat into the world of my mind with people I admired and stay there. For me, this is what writing fantasy has always meant. It is an escape, freedom from society and from expectations (including my own). Freedom to fly if I wanted to, or turn water into ice with a wave of my hand.
When Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 from a rare blood disease, I lamented, not only because the world had lost a brilliant man, but also because only 11 books had been released (out of a then-planned 12) and I didn’t know whether the last volume would ever see the light of day. But the publisher and Robert’s wonderful wife, Harriet, wanted to see this thing through til the end. They saw what Robert saw, what I see when I read these novels: infinite possibilities, love, admiration, my childhood. The fans wanted a proper end to this era, to acknowledge the turning of the Wheel of Time and to welcome a new Age where Robert would be remembered and celebrated even more than he already was. And so they gave us Brandon Sanderson, the already-established author of books such as Elantris and the Mistborn trilogy, and three new books to look forward to.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I needed this series. The books helped me imagine a world beyond the walls of high school. When I was told to get my head out of the clouds, to read something “real” or “of substance”, I faked agreement and then retreated into the arms of The Wheel of Time. Robert’s work opened the doors to me for other kinds of literature, led to me studying English in college and now graduate school. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read these things, and can only begin to describe how influential they have been in the course my life has taken.
Reading this last book is a little bittersweet. It has always been there: another book has always been on the horizon, another glimpse of Rand al’Thor and his antics as the Dragon Reborn. But this is the end. I’m only 200 pages in, but it promises to be an amazing end to an amazing adventure.
There are many more rereads in the years to come. But this is the last time it will be new. I’m not sure I’m ready to say good-bye yet.