Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger 2003)

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I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, and I am glad that I finally got the chance. I keep hearing a lot about this book, and everyone seems to have their own opinions on it. The book follows two characters, Henry and Claire. The plot is man meets woman like a romance novel. The twist is, one of them is a time traveller. Henry has a genetic condition which causes him to travel in time against his will. Over the years they meet each other at various stages in their life, and their meetings are not always in the right order. Eventually they meet in the present and strike a relationship ends with theme eventually marrying. However Henry’s condition is a constant complication from the moment they first meet all the way into their married life.

The style of the novel is very unusual. The novel frequently shifts in time in more ways than one. The point of view frequently jumps between younger and older versions of both characters. It has a habit of telling the story out of order, not revealing things that happened in the past until much later in the novel. It is confusing and at first it was hard to follow the various shifts in time and point of view, but around the middle it started to settle down before suddenly becoming confusing towards the end again.  Style wise it shifts from both Claire and Henry’s point of view, with both having a first person present tense point of view. The present tense works very well with the first person point of view but the point view shifts can be slightly confusing if one is not paying attention to who is speaking. Yet, this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that we only have Henry and Claire as the main characters rather than a host of first person narrators.

There are a few problems I have with the book’s content, with some you may have heard from other sources. The most obvious one is Clare’s side of the relationship. It seems unrealistic and at times a bit obsessive. After all she finds herself in love with him from an early age and seems to base her entire adult life around being in a relationship with him. This becomes a plot point later in the novel but it still rubs me the wrong way. The fact that the older Henry visits Claire as a little girl, also rubs me the wrong way since, even though the book treats the issue in a delicate and realistic manner, the fact still remains that these interactions form the basis for her crush on him. There are a few odd interactions between Henry as an adult, and Claire as a teen which rub me the wrong way as well.

The most interesting addition to the novel is Alba, their daughter. In some ways she’s a bit Mary Sue like since she has Henry’s genetic condition, but has much better control over when and where she travels, which is the part I don’t like about her. On the other hand though, I felt the addition of a daughter was interesting since a lot of science fiction romances rarely use the daughter as a plot point the way this book does, which I enjoyed. As a character Alba is a bit too perfect for my tastes, but I liked her function within the story fine enough. A lot of romance novels lack the courage to handle themes such as motherhood and fatherhood from the moment of birth, since they often prefer to focus on the romance. This book isn’t about the romance, it’s about their life together from beginning to end both as a couple and as part of a family, and that’s why Alba is important.

Overall there was a bit about the novel which was a bit off. The end was a bit confusing, with a lot of time travel issues complicating my ability to understand just what was going on. Despite my issues with the plot and characters I found my self strangely drawn to it. It is easy to see why the book is so successful, so much so that I find it very hard to rate it down even though I see a lot wrong with it as a writer. It is probably one of the best science fiction romance novels I have read to date, and I still find myself debating whether or not its identity as a romance novel overcomes its identity as a work of science fiction. It is rare for a work of science fiction to be remembered as anything but a work of science fiction, yet The Time Traveller’s Wife pushes these boundaries and is unique as a result.

SCORE: 4/5

IN A WORD: HEARTWARMING

Writing for Prose: The Eight Point Arc

The Eight Point Arc is one of many plot structures I have read over the course of my studies, and has its origins in another teach yourself book Write a Novel And Get It Published by Nigel Watts. This one relates to the prose medium and bears a few similarities to the three act structures. For a bit of clarification, the Eight Point Arc is not the Three Act Structure, though there are a number of ways you can reconcile the two which I will eventually go into. In some ways the theory is basic, but is still very functional. Like my article on the three act structure, this is a tutorial rather than a review so sit tight.Eight Point Arc.jpg

The eight point arc, as the name suggests, revolves around eight stages of the narrative. These are as follows: the stasis, trigger, quest, surprise, critical choice, climax, reversal and resolution. These points coincide with a number of common stages within stories, and some of you may notice similarities with other narrative theories since a lot of them do share a lot of common themes.

The Stasis – The name is self explanatory. This is the stage where everything is peaceful, showing the status quo before the start of the main conflict. In books this stasis can last for several chapters or last for less than a page. In the latter case the stasis is usually implied rather than shown, especially in stories which begin in media res.

The Trigger – This is almost identical to the inciting incident which is present in many structures, including almost every variation of the Three Act Structure. In essence this is the event which starts the plot and leads the protagonist into the novel’s conflict. Relating to the stasis, the time at which the trigger occurs can vary and can even start at the first page of the story.

The Quest – This is the main bulk of the story, and lasts for a significant part of the story and generally involves the protagonist pursuing a need. The quest can also evolves throughout the story. Nigel Watts list an example of how a story could evolve from a quest about money, to a quest about love to a quest for survival. This stage is a bit vague but generally the writer should ensure that the quest evolves over the course of the novel as the protagonist’s needs change.

Surprise – The surprise is something which solidifies the conflict and the character development. This can either be a pleasant surprise but it is more likely to be negative. It can be used to make the protagonist commit to the conflict, or alternatively can be used to question their role in the conflict. In relation to the three act structure of the story, I would recommend placing this anywhere between the halfway point and near the end of the second act.

Critical Choice – Eventually the protagonist will face their greatest obstacle. From their they will be forced to make a choice as to where their path will proceed next. This usually leads on from the surprise Stage and leads directly into the climax stage. In general the protagonist is usually forced to make serious choices about where they will proceed next and continuing on their path usually requires them to change their approach. Character development usually comes to a head in this stage.

Climax – The climax is the staple of most stories and the stage is no different here than it is anywhere else. The climax brings the conflict to the forefront, escalating it to its highest point and puts the your characters’ skills and emotional growth to the test. Usually the climax occurs when seem most dire for the characters, and there is usually a sense that it is all or nothing. They have everything to lose but also everything to gain. In order to get the ending they deserve, they must pass this final test.

Reversal – This is a stage within the climax where things begin to turn around for the protagonist. In most stories things usually start to turn around in their favour, but it can also work against them, going from a good state of affairs to bad. Negative reversals are common in horror novels where the protagonist usually dies at the hands of the monster just as they think they’ve almost won. Regardless of which type you go for the reversal should feel natural, a consequence of the previous actions and not come out of nowhere.

Resolution – This stage is a return to an equilibrium after the climax, creating a new status quo for the story. The writer should wrap up any loose plot threads during this stage, and ensure the story has a tight conclusion with a sense of closure, even in stories which end on a cliffhanger. Like the stasis, this stage can last entire chapters or possibly less than a page depending on how long you wish the ending to be.

The eight point arc is strange in that it is very open ended in terms of where the stages actually go in the story, whether they go beginning, halfway or near the end and a lot of it is dependant on the interpretation of the writer. The writer may struggle to write the second act of their novel using this method. Strangely enough, I find the method actually works better for short stories than it does novels since the short word count means the stages usually a few pages apart at most. If your work is novella length or longer I recommend using a variation of the Three Act Structure along with it, since a lot of three act structures greatly enhance the middle of the story. If you wish to read more on the eight point arc, I recommend that you read Nigel Watts’ Write a Novel And Get It Published for yourself as in my opinion it is a staple for any writer who wishes to write prose fiction. Alternatively one can find an article I wrote for the three act structure here. While the article focused on film, many of the concepts still translate and it may be worth a read.

Elantris (Brandon Sanderson 2005)

elantris-by-brandon-sanderson-ukElantris is Brandon Sanderson’s debut novel and is notable for being a fairly stand-alone work in a genre plagued by series. There are rumours that he plans to write the sequel but so far no plans have materialised. As the name suggests, the key plot of the novel is the city Elantris. Elantris used to home to people transformed into powerful demi-gods by a magic known as the Shaod. That magic is dead and the city is left rotting while those who would previously be like gods, are now powerless wrecks. The plot is kicked off when the princess Serene arrives in the new capital of Aleron, Kae to marry Prince Raoden and unite Aleron and her kingdom Teod. However unbeknownst to her, Raoden is transformed by the Shaod and carted off to Elantris.. Meanwhile the religious imperialists of Fjordell tighten their grip, and send the high priest Hrathen to try and convert the local populace.

The three principle point of view characters are Sarene, Raoden and Hrathen. Sarene mostly deals with the political plot of the novel and frequently clashes with Hrathen, whom is the novel’s primary antagonist. Meanwhile Raoden, the novel’s male hero, deals with the complexities of life amongst the people in the ruined Elantris and is eventually drawn into solving the mystery of Elantris’ fall from grace. Hrathen meanwhile serves to give us insight into the Fjordell, but he also has an interesting character arc of his own relating to his own personal faith.

As a character Sarene suffers from the flaws common with a lot of Brandon Sanderson’s other heroines. Put simply, she’s kind of boring. She’s very capable politically and that respect she is a strong character but she seems to pine after Raoden, even though she has never met him in person, which makes her feel like a love obsessed teenage girl not to dissimilar to Bella from Twilight. She’s not quite as helpless as Bella but she’s still kind of boring and at times her capability borders on mary sue territory. Raoden is a bit more interesting but is little more than your typical hero character, with the interest being more in the story rather than anything within his own character arc.

Surprisingly it is Hrathen who is the most interesting out the three. His point of view segments make it clear that, despite his role as an antagonist, he is a well meaning but misguided person. His faith is interesting, and his point of view segments how it defines him. Despite everything you can’t help but root for him, and given the later revelations and twist in the novels it is clear that Sanderson was aware of how sympathetic his character was.

The big twist in the novel is that of the real antagonist, and it relates very heavily to Hrathen’s personal story arc. The character Dilaf, who appears to be Hrathen’s young underling is actually much older than he looks. He turns out to have been the real power all along, and quickly asserts himself to become the real antagonist. In some ways, I liked the twist since it allowed Hrathen to become the good guy, which I was all for since he was such a great character and turning against Dilaf was the best ending to his character arc. As an antagonist Dilaf is everything you can ask for, ruthless and without sympathy. Yet I sometimes think that he may be too extreme an antagonist, with some of his cruelty coming across as a bit pointless in places.

The plot with Elantis itself was confusing and even after the end I still found myself struggling to understand how it worked. I feel as though the magic system was poorly explained, and as a whole I felt like the Elantris plot was just confusing. In contrast, Mistborn’s magic was far more detailed and when reading the trilogy it all seemed logical. By contrast, Elantris’ magic is more mysterious but the mystery is poorly handled and drags the plot down as a result.

Elantris’ political plot is the more interesting part of this novel, to the point where I felt like it is more interesting than the magical stuff. Like other Sanderson novels the protagonists are functional but as a whole suffer from being boring. If Hrathen were not a major point of view character I would not have enjoyed the novel half as much. As a whole, the novel feels weak. Brandon Sanderson clearly has yet to find his feet with this novel, and for better or worse it sets a trend for a few of his later novels.

SCORE: 3.5/5

IN A WORD: FLAWED

Renegade’s Magic (Robin Hobb 2007)

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At last I have finished reading Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son Trilogy, which started with the book Shaman’s Crossing. Overall the series was a rather bumpy ride. It was an understatement to say that the first book was a disappointment, but the second book began to show promise in places. Now we’re on the third and final book of the trilogy, and things are… interesting to say the least. Renegade’s Magic follows on from where Forest Mage left off, with our protagonist Nevare assumed dead by both his enemies and friends alike. With no other option left, he retreats to the forest and embraces the magic within him. He eventually becomes unable to suppress the speck self within him, known as Soldier’s Boy, and becomes a prisoner in his own body. Nevare still wants to protect his friends and family from his old life but Soldier’s Son has no love for them and will do anything to stop Gernian expansion.

From a narrative point of view the book is rather strange. For most of the story Nevare is trapped inside his own body, with Soldier’s Boy at the helm for most of the book. The story is still told from Nevare’s point of view, even when Soldier’s Boy is in control. This creates a sense of disconnection from the book’s action since Nevare is basically sitting back all relaxed inside his mind while Soldier’s Boy does everything. In fact most of the action in the Speck plot line is experienced from the back seat while Soldier’s Son takes front. Since most of the book revolves around the Speck plot line this gets rather tiresome and I can’t help but feel that Nevare seems rather passive in this book as a result. All throughout I’m just sitting around and waiting for Nevare to get his head in gear and kick the magic’s ass and get back to the other world.

There is a small silver lining in that Nevare can see into Soldier’s Son’s thoughts on occasion and give us insight into his character, making us connect with him a bit when he is in control. The antagonism between Nevare and Soldier’s Son is also quite interesting, and the fact that one of Nevare’s primary antagonist’s was an aspect of himself was quite interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes where the two interact, but it seemed to me like they didn’t happen often enough and a lot of the time they hardly interact. Soldier’s Boy just goes about his business while Nevare watches, and this is how things proceed for a sizeable portion of the novel. It is generally quite boring.

The characters introduced in the Speck plot line aren’t quite as compelling as the ones present in previous books, and I had a hard time getting behind them. We see nothing important side characters such as Epiny, Spink and Amzil until near the end. Until then we get occasional contact with them when Nevare contacts them via dreams but it doesn’t feel the same as real world contact and in the real world we’re still stuck with Soldier’s Boy and his boring Speck allies. Tree Woman, now known exclusively as Lisana is strange since for some reason Nevare is now fond of her and it is through her that he and Soldier’s Boy finally bond. This change always seemed rather abrupt since I always got the impression that Nevare hated her. She also seems to have turned out to be an ally of sorts for both characters, because she and Soldier’s Boy actually love each other. Her transition from villain to ally is something I have mixed feelings on and I am not certain on whether I prefer as a villain or an ally.

The biggest problem for me was the book’s climax and the build-up preceding it. I had a bit of difficulty following the end of the Speck plot line. My problems start just after Nevare/Soldier’s Boy enters his tree, similar to Tree Woman. Soldier’s Boy basically disappears from the plot entirely due to some magical ritual which I can’t quite follow, essentially negating any role he might have in the climax. Nevare somehow manages to escape the tree through means which I don’t fully understand. Then he goes back to Spink and Epiny, and deals with Carsina’s mad with grief former fiancée, Captain Thayer so he can rescue Amzil. As far as I can tell, he does nothing which solves the overall Speck/Gernian conflict and the issue is instead dealt with via fictionalised retelling of Nevare’s exploits gaining the Queen’s favour. The solution felt a bit deus ex machina since Nevare made no deliberate action to solve the conflict, though I could be misunderstanding things. To me, it felt like Hobb abandoned the overarching conflict and dumped it entierely in favour of Nevare’s personal story arc even though most of the Speck plot line had been building up for some epic solution which would utilise skills from both Nevare and Soldier’s Son’s experiences. I was disappointed by the ending as a result.

I felt like Renegade’s Magic was a weaker instalment in the series because of its flaws. I do not believe it has the same number of flaws as Shaman’s Crossing but I couldn’t shake the feeling the the ending was a bit of anti-climax. I was hoping the final conflict would be an escalation of stakes but instead it seemed to wrap up the leftover plot threads Nevare left behind after he ventured into the forest rather than dealing with anything new. I was hoping the series would pick up steam after the previous book, but it did not. As a result I feel that both this book and the series as a whole are a rather mediocre venture into the realms of fantasy. Since this trilogy is my first foray into Robin Hobb’s writings, it may be a while before read the works she is better known for. I will read her other stuff eventually but after this experience, I am more reluctant to make the commitment than I would have hoped.

SCORE: 3/5

IN A WORD: CONFUSING.

 

Writing for Film: The Three Act Structure

Trying something a bit different for my writing articles since I only have so many writing books in my library. Hence I will talk about an important concept in writing, the three act structure. The three act structure is one of the most common forms of storytelling. For those who have never heard of it, the three act structure is exactly what it says on the tin. It is a structure for stories, where the story is split into three acts. The first act represents the beginning, the second act the middle, and the third act the end. The three act structure, regardless of variation, is typically used to aid the writer in plotting out the elements of plot in detail. For the purpose of this article I will be looking at the three act structure in relation to scriptwriting for film, though those of you who write prose or another form of medium may find that the lessons translate over to other forms of media.

The three act structure in question is one I picked up in the book Breaking Into Screenwriting, a book by Ray Frensham in the teach yourself series. His three act structure in turn is derived from that of Syd Field. The basics of the theory is that each stage takes up a certain portion of the act. The first act takes up a quarter of the story, the second act half of the story and the third act a quarter again. Syd Field’s three act structure is notable for its detail, with a number of narrative stages outline along the three act structure.
Listed below are these stages. Since Frensham relates the times of each stage to a 120 minute script I will also be using this format. For a script of a different length one can use mathematics to work out how each would fit.Three Act Structure.png
Hook – The hook is the event which grabs your audience’s attention. In a 120 minute script this should ideally be within the first ten minutes. It is important to establish characters, plot and the story’s genre within these first few minutes in addition to having an event which will make them want to keep watching. Some films may have a prologue scene during these first few minutes before getting into the main first act.

The Inciting Incident – The time between the hook and the inciting incident should be spent continuing to establish things such as the characters and setting, and setting up plot points for use later on in the script. Ideally the inciting incident should happen somewhere around the 20 minute mark of the film. As the name implies the story begins with this stage, and the protagonist is usually confronted with a problem which kicks off the rest of the plot. The action should gradually rise until the first turning point.

Turning Point 1 – Also called Pinch Point 1. Turning points occur at the end of the second act, at the thirty minute mark. A turning point pushes the story in a new direction and in the case of the first turning point, it must push the story into its second act by creating new stakes and creating some kind of change in the protagonist’s motivation in some way.

Focus Point 1 – After the beginning of the second act Frensham recommends giving the audience some breathing space, and using the first moment of the second act for reactions or set-ups for later complications. Focus Point 1 occurs somewhere around the 45 minute mark. This is a scene or sequence which tightens up the action, reminds the audience of the conflict and keeps the story going.

Point of No Return/Halfway Point – Following the first focus point the action tightens up. The story should reach a point where obstacles gradually get tougher as they start to tackle the story’s conflict. Halfway through the script the protagonist should reach a midpoint where they either reaffirm their goals, reconsider their quest and generally make a solid decision concerning their goals.

Focus Point 2 – As a result in the changes brought about in the halfway point the protagonist should suffer an increase in stakes and the obstacles brought against them. The second focus point should test the protagonist’s new character development and reinforce the raise in stakes. This should occur around the 75 minute mark.

Turning Point 2 – The protagonist’s development should be gradually tested further. Gradually things should set up the second turning point, which is preceded usually by some kind of failure. The second turning point occurs at the end of act two, at the ninety minute mark and leads directly into the climax and should confront the protagonist with their biggest obstacle in the story. After that Act 3 begins.

Climax – This begins at and lasts for the majority of the third act. The climax should tie up the film’s loose end and build up to a final confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist, or whatever the final confrontation in the story is intended to be. The climax should be a constant build up of tension all the way up to the end.

Final Climax – The Final Confrontation. Typically occurs in the last five minutes, beginning at the 115 minute mark. This is the one I like to take a lot of leeway with since I like to have a few extra minutes with the ending sometimes. The protagonist should face their final obstacle, whether that be the antagonist or a more external force. The main plot should be fully resolved and any transformation within the protagonist must be fully realised.

In Act 1 and Act 2 the script should be more about setting up the climax and plot points later on in the script. Over the course of the Act 3 the writer should start cashing in on these set-ups, giving the film a sense of continuity between the acts. The tension in the film should constantly build up, never relenting since. Unlike novels and other mediums, the audience can quickly get bored if there is a sudden lag in the tension or if the film’s climax doesn’t live up to the hype.

The three act structure is almost universal and I have seen variations of this structure applied other mediums as well. Concepts such as the hook, the turning points and focus points all translate well to novels and comic book scripts, and the percentage divide of quarter, half, quarter between acts can work well depending on the medium. I hope that whatever you use it for, this is a useful resource that you will use when writing. I would highly recommend picking up Ray Frensham’s Break Into Screenwriting if you wish for more detailed analysis of the three act structure in addition to other aspects of writing a screenplay.

Brave New World (Aldous Huxley 1932)

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Brave New World is probably one of the more interesting science fiction novels I’ve read over the course of the past few years. Like George Orwell’s 1984 it provides us with a vision of a future society where people’s individual freedom’s are restricted. The main difference between Brave New World and other seminal works in dystopian science fiction is that the future in Brave New World is a future brought about by over-indulgence. People are genetically developed to be as happy as possible in their roles, with the population born exclusively in laboratories where they are conditioned from birth to fill their roles in society.

They are kept in check by a hedonistic lifestyle where time alone is frowned upon is actively encouraged, and things such as sexual fidelity and chastity are completely foreign to the general population. On the surface one would believe it to be an utopia of sorts, but behind the surface there are little things like the increasing lack of individuality, the banning of works of seminal literature, which are considered subversive, and then there is the “savages” people who embody the old world and live outside the system and are treated similar to how Native Americans are treated, living in specialised reservations where they are generally treated and viewed as inferior beings.

The setting is interesting because it is such a chilling prediction of modern culture, and the extent of the predictions is quite impressive for a book written in 1932. It’s a vision of what could happen if modern culture went too far, and in my opinion the setting has a far more realistic chance of actually developing in contrast to the settings of 1984 style dystopias. The “savages” are an interesting parallel to the Native Americans, but it is interesting since their culture has evolved in ways despite the fact that they are perceived as following the old ways, but it is clear that along the way the old ways eventually became distorted.

The plot is strange in places, since it can’t seem to decide on who the protagonist is, or rather it switches protagonists. The main characters for the first portion of the novel are Bernard Marx and Lenina Crowne, with Bernard appearing to be the novel’s protagonist. He seems to fit. He has conflict with the system due to some slight imperfections, and seems like the kind of person who would reject the system outright if given a chance. Yet, when he and Lenina go to a savage reservation for a holiday the reader is introduced to a “savage” from within the reservation John, who turns out to be the son of a World State woman who became trapped in the reservation and chose not to return out of shame for her pregnancy. John returns with them to World State, where he quickly becomes the protagonist as he begins to challenge the fundamental nature of the World State and its morals.

John is a very interesting protagonist but I feel like he should have been introduced earlier, since to me his introduction felt like a bit of a plot shift. At first the story seemed to be about Bernard and his struggle with the World State, but after John is introduced it’s suddenly about John and the culture clash between his upbringing and the World State, with Bernard’s character arc becoming little more than a sub-plot for the remainder of the novel. I believe the problem could have been solved if John had been established as a protagonist earlier, since ultimately his parts of the book are stronger and the book might actually have benefited from introducing him nearer the beginning.

Despite this, Brave New World remains a strong novel and certainly one of my favourite works in the sub genre of dystopian science fiction. Unlike a lot of futures, Brave New World seems to be scarily accurate in its predictions of modern day culture, and while we have yet to reach those levels of extremes there are certainly parallels. This is a unique dystopia since to some readers it may barely seem like a dystopia at all, just a vision of an imperfect future. A very good book, and I would recommend it for those who do not consider 1984 and its ilk to be realistic enough.

SCORE: 4/5

IN A WORD: SCARY

The Wheel of Time series (Robert Jordan 1990-2013)

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The Wheel of Time, in a nutshell, is basically Lord of the Rings on steroids. It’s longer, it’s even more epic in scope, and even more boring. It’s essentially a single story spread out over fourteen books, which is why I have reviewed it all in one go as opposed to reviewing each book individually. There is a lot to talk about but to put it simply, The Wheel of Time is a work of Epic Fantasy revolving around the prophecised hero, The Dragon Reborn Rand al’Thor and his friends as they get dragged into an ever expanding story to defeat the ancient evil god The Dark One as the prophecised last battle Tarmon Gai’don grows ever nearer.

Basically the book is standard Epic Fantasy fair, with the main bad guy being an ultimate evil with minimal direct influence as opposed to a more physical antagonist for the heroes. It uses a lot of common fantasy tropes, most notably being it’s reliance on prophecy and fate. The world of The Wheel of Time is very deterministic in nature, where everything is seemingly written into fate, with every character having a pre-set destiny. This includes the Dragon Reborn himself. In fact a few of main characters are notable in that they Ta’Veren, meaning the pattern of fate basically weaves itself around them. As a result of this most of the Ta’Veren characters seem a bit Mary Sue like, including Rand al’Thor and his companions, since as the story goes on it seems to use this Ta’Veren status to justify the huge number of ass pulls which get them out of trouble.

My main issue is primarily the sheer number of characters. By the end I found myself struggling to remember anyone who wasn’t a major character within the story. Many times I have seen a side character die a dramatic and tear filled death, only I can’t remember who they are are or where they’ve come from. After around the fifth book I stopped trying to make sense of who the new characters were and sort of just rolled with it, if they died. Like, sure, I know who you are Mr Guy Who Has Just Died. The length of the story also means that a lot of characters spend a lot of time sitting around doing nothing, or simply travelling without any clear aim. In fact most of the series is either sitting around doing nothing, travelling, and maybe dealing with the occasional bit of meaningless politics only vaguely related to the main plot.

The main story arcs which run throughout the books tend to overstay their welcome. The most notable examples include Rand al’Thor’s increasing mental instability thanks to the split personality of the previous dragon residing in his head, and the political drama which unfolds amongst the Aes Sedai. In the case of Rand al’Thor the insanity seems to exist to make him edgier and more dangerous as a character. I can see why the story arc was necessary to a degree since his character is overpowered to an amazing degree and he needed something to hold him back without limiting his actual power. Yet I felt like it went on too long and made him less sympathetic to the point where I really struggled to get behind him until he eventually got over himself in the last few books.

The Aes Sedai political stuff, is something I hate primarily because it is a dragged out storyline that exists for the sole purpose of creating drama for the Aes Sedai characters while giving them something to do until the last battle comes along. Not only that but is solved in short order once the last battle is about to begin. These aren’t the only story lines which are dragged out but they all seem to follow this same pattern. They’ll be introduced, then they’ll drag on for several books before finally being solved in the last three books to tie up loose ends ready for the final battle. A lot of the sub plots towards the end seem to exist to provide filler before the final battle begins, and to be honest the pacing of these story lines is so dragged on reading I get the impression that any sensible writer would have finished the series before reaching book ten.

The Wheel of Time is a very long series, so long in fact that I actually have difficulty recalling where certain events happened in the middle of the series, and the plots of several books seem to blur together after a while. I am unsure how long the series should have been in order to be a functional and readable series, but I do know that fourteen books is far too long. To his credit, Brandon Sanderson did a good job wrapping up the last free books following Robert Jordan’s demise but by that point the damage had already been done. I was disappointed that the series didn’t turn out how I expected it to be, but ultimately I came to the conclusion that the series’ problem is excess. I never thought it would be possible to be too extreme when writing an epic fantasy, but The Wheel of Time proves that such a thing is possible. In my opinion it personifies everything that could go wrong in a fantasy series, and in my personal experience it serves as a warning to others in the genre to know when what they’re writing is too much.

SCORE: 3/5

IN A WORD: EXCESSIVE