30 May 2009

The home stretch for the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series

Working in the book business as long as I have, one of the most asked questions that came from fantasy fans was when the next Wheel of Time book by Robert Jordan was coming out.

As a fantasy enthusiast, I read the series, so I usually kept up to date on when a new one was due. I read it until book four, however, when I began to get annoyed with the characters, especially Rand, the hero. Stephen R. Donaldson sort of started the anti-hero in fantasy novels with his Thomas Covenant series, and it was hard for me and others at the time (we're talking 20 years ago) to read a fantasy novel were the author forced you to like the unappealing guy. So when when Rand sort of became that as the series progressed, I got bored with it. Plus the female characters became more bratty and series became more soap opera than sword and sorcery.

Plus, there was only suppose to be seven books. But over the years, it expand and expand. Whether this was TOR Books way of keeping a franchise going (and most fantasy books are usually a series of three or more), or Jordan's inability to do something else, I'm unsure (some authors find their fans unresponsive to other novels not set in the same, familiar universe). Fantasy authors do have a tendency to go on and on (something Tad Williams has admitted too), creating a richly textured universe that while different from ours, you could see some similarities.

As the series expanded, Jordan created more and more subplots, which drew criticism from his fans, as some felt he was sort of milking the series, as later volumes concentrated on secondary characters (and he even took time to write a prequel to the series) and story-lines, sometimes taking 1,000 pages to get to its point, and then abruptly ending it. Plus, as the later volumes came, some of the main characters were sometimes reduced to cameos.

So, when Jordan died in September of 2007 the books had reached 11.

While Jordan was sick for nearly two years before he died, he kept detailed notes on how the series was to end- with the twelfth novel called Memory of Light - and after he passed, his wife Harriet (an editor at TOR Books) assigned a relative newcomer to the fantasy world, Brandon Sanderson (Elantris, Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians) to finish up the series.

But, apparently like the last Harry Potter film to come, it could not be done in one book.

Or even two.

Yep, there will be three volumes to the final book, turning a seven book epic into 14 (well fifteen really, if you count the prequel to book one, New Spring).

So, book 12.1 -The Gathering Storm hits book stores on November 3, 2009, while 12.2 and 12.3 hit 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Well, at least I hope they can keep to that schedule. One does get tired of those fans boys (and girls) asking again and again when a new book was coming. Now, when is Jean Auel coming out with a new book?

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