What exactly is it about Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series which has captivated so many millions of readers for the past 22 years? This is a vast epic of good and evil, of farm boys becoming near-gods, of monsters and magic. The world is intricately and immaculately drawn, the characters are many and varied, and the magic is original and intriguing.
Over the years, many criticisms have been made - primary among them being the sheer length and density of the series, a criticism with which I wouldn't disagree. But all the same, there's just something that keeps us coming back every time. For me, there is a very major reason why this series means so much to me.
Years ago I picked out 'The Eye of the World' as my uncle's birthday present for my brother Oisín. When he had read and enjoyed it, I read it myself and also loved it. We were off! After that I bought each book, read it, and then immediately passed it on to him to read. It was something we could always chat about, and the source of a really strong bond between us. When we had a joint 21st and 18th birthday party, it was smaller than it could have been because we had most of the same friends. A few months after that party, on September 15th, 2007, Oisín took his own life. Even in the middle of that trauma, I was shocked and really moved by the coincidence of Robert Jordan's death the very next day.
Reading the newest books has been the definition of a bittersweet experience for me, at the same time loving the book itself and knowing that Oisín would have so enjoyed reading them and talking about them. He would have loved the excitement, the pace, the resolution. I would have enjoyed arguing about who our favourite characters were (he always called my favourite character, Mat, a 'whiner') and exclaiming over amazing climaxes and denouements.
I can't wait to read the final book in the series, and I'll be wishing that Oisín could have read it too.