A Memory of Light, the last Wheel of Time book, is out. It feels really, really strange, and—unfortunately—not in a good way. There’s nothing wrong with endings being bitter sweet, but in this case, I feel a lack of closure.
Before A Song of Ice and Fire took over mine and Elio’s life, the Wheel of Time had a huge place in it. In fact, we would not have met without it. I didn’t actually pick up the series right away when the first book came out in 1990, but I believe I bought the paperback for myself for Christmas 1992 (I know it coincided with the publication of the first book in Swedish, since I actually ended up getting that as a present at the same time) and I was completely hooked right away. When I got on the Internet in 1995, it did not take long for me to find my way to a WoT MUSH called Tales of Ta’veren. From that MUSH, I discovered Elendor, a Tolkien MUSH, and there I met Elio. I got him to start reading WoT in order to join me on Tales. For a number of years, we poured over every word written by RJ, trying to figure out what various prophecies meant, piecing together esoteric details of the One Power and discussing just who was the best Blademaster around. I even wrote a letter with questions to RJ and received a response.
Yes, our interest did soften a bit as the story meandered, but my love for the world stayed strong. In part because we continued to roleplay in it, but the premise of the Wheel of Time is also completely irresistible to me. Myths, legends, time being circular and everything eventually coming back, it was all rather tailor-made for my interests and it was such a thrill every time I caught a reference or had one pointed out to me. That, more than anything else, is at the core of my love for the series. But I do have a weakness for structured magic systems as well and the One Power fascinated me.
Then RJ died. I remember finding out late one night or early one morning and waking up Elio to tell him. It felt very sad and very strange, but I don’t think the real impact actually hit me until the first collaboration with Sanderson came out. I just couldn’t read it. I didn’t know what came from RJ and what came from Sanderson and I simply could not stand constantly feeling “is this the real version?”. So, I have not read any of the books since RJ died. I’ve even had a hard time reading spoilers, because it just constantly brings back what’s been lost.
I do think I will want to read the epilogue of A Memory of Light, since RJ always said he’d had that one written or at least planned out for years. But the rest? I don’t know. Maybe I will try, since RJ did want to see the series completed. But still, I would have preferred to just have his notes published, similar to how Tolkien’s unfinished materials were treated. No matter how big a fan Sanderson is and no matter how much he may have tried to write what RJ would have wanted, he isn’t RJ. He’s not the Creator and his version of the story will always be a certain amount of guess work.
I don’t want his guesses, I just want the “truth”, and today I am feeling really sad that reality cruelly got in the way of the story and kept RJ from finishing his work the way he intended to. There’s closure to the story, as I do imagine it ended much like RJ intended it to end, but on a purely personal level there’s no real closure to my experience of reading the books. Even so, I am very grateful that I did, because my life would look completely different today if it wasn’t for the Wheel of Time.
Something else that struck me when thinking about this was that since 1992, I’ve been engrossed in epic fantasy. Now the Wheel of Time is over and eventually A Song of Ice and Fire will be over. I am not sure there will be anything to take their place; given the complications that both RJ and GRRM have run into, I am not sure epic of this particular scale will be attempted by anyone else. And if it is, I might not be as lucky in it being so very much to my tastes. There’s more to life than reading fantasy, of course, but it will leave a big hole behind.