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Wheel of Time - Readable out of order?

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message 1: by Brian (last edited Jan 06, 2011 08:33AM) (new)

Brian (maeglin73) | 20 comments I've been thinking about checking out the Wheel of Time series, ever since talking to a friend about it last year at Dragon*Con. Looking at the winners of the 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards reminded me of that, and I'm wondering if (like some have said of Discworld) it's possible to read sections of the series without starting from the beginning, and being able to understand what's going on.

The main reason I'm asking is that, unlike Discworld, the digital libary collections I have access to have only books 12 and 13. Those are also apparently the first of the "Memory of Light" sub-series. For someone new to WoT who is looking to check it out, would you recommend starting at the beginning, or is it alright to start at #12?

Scratch the part about library availability. I've been preferring eBook formats over audio, but audio is the only format that the few available WoT books are in. I'm still interested in opinions about jumping into the middle of the series, though.

message 2: by aldenoneil (last edited Jan 06, 2011 08:55AM) (new)

aldenoneil | 1000 comments I'm on book 11, and I'd say, "No way." The reason being: I've read through the series at a slower clip, but still chronologically, and I find myself at a loss oftentimes, simply due to the sheer number of characters.

Jordan will introduce an ancillary character in one book and can leave him or her largely alone for a long time, then bring that character back in. It doesn't necessarily hurt understanding of the main plots, but knowing that character's previous history certainly makes the series more enjoyable.

There are wikis online, and any time I go to look up a character, I'm amazed at how many times that character has shown up before, and if they're less important, it's rare that I remember having read anything about them. (Even worse is when Jordan changes the names of characters). Having said that, maybe it'd be fine to jump in in the middle. I'd be curious to know if anyone on the forum has done so.

message 3: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments I started with Book 3 because my local bookstore never had the earlier books in stock. That was only comprehensible thanks to the glossary in the back. Books 12 and 13 would be completely incoherent without reading the preceding ten thousand pages.

Personally, I recommend you just skip the whole thing. There's a period of four books when nothing happens -- thousands and thousands of pages of nothing but characters taking baths and thinking about how dire their situation is without any progress towards a climax. If you didn't get suckered into the series early on and just have to push through to the end, there's no point in being a masochist.

message 4: by Nate Frary (new)

Nate Frary | 19 comments You really should read 1-6 chronologically. As Sean said several of the middle books got lost in minutae without propelling the story forward as well as the first 6. Books 7-9 fall into this category.

The problem with skipping them is that despite the slower pace and tedious over-detail, interesting and important things typically happened at the end of the books.

Then there's book 10. It is an especially egregious example of everything that was wrong with these middle books. It can be entirely skipped as it rehashes the climactic events from book 9 (but from other peoples perspectives) adding nothing to the overall narrative or to any character development and wasting everyone's time in the processs.

Book 11 was a bit of a return as (all of a sudden) things happened, plot points were resolved, and the story moved forward.

If I were new to the series I'd read 1-6, attempt 7-9 (but if it got too much find a good synopsis) skip 10 altogether and start again with 11. They really should be approached as chronologically as possible though.

message 5: by Kate (new)

Kate O'Hanlon (kateohanlon) | 778 comments I just pulled 12 off the shelf and tried to imagine reading it first and had a good laugh. I wouldn't recommend it.
10 is skip-able as has been said, I actually skipped it the first time around with no adverse effects. Probably you could start at 2, 3 or maybe even 4 and muddle through but I don't know why you would want to. Start at the beginning or not at all.

message 6: by Nick (new)

Nick (cykoduck) | 26 comments I'm just at the start of book 5 (in order), and while there is a bit of reminder text that might help a new reader it really is meant for more of a person that was waiting for the books availability.

In summary I'd agree start at 1. And the Audiobooks are wonderful for this as well.

message 7: by aldenoneil (new)

aldenoneil | 1000 comments Sean wrote: "Personally, I recommend you just skip the whole thing."

Seconded. No reason to do that to yourself.

message 8: by Brian (new)

Brian (maeglin73) | 20 comments Thanks for the input, guys. If I do end up starting on the series, this is handy info to have.

message 9: by Bill (new)

Bill | 116 comments Sean wrote: "There's a period of four books when nothing happens -- thousands and thousands of pages of nothing but characters taking baths and thinking about how dire their situation is without any progress towards a climax."

And a lot of the girl's (or was it just one girl?) tugging at their braids.

It was all of this non-action that made me drop the series. Such a shame. Because the first 3-4 books (I can't remember) were just incredible.

NOTE to authors. If you want to write a long series, either make them semi-standalones (like some of the Malazan books) or break them up into smaller sub-series that have satisfying beginnings and ends (like the Belgariad and the Malloreon).

message 10: by Tamahome (new)

Tamahome | 6392 comments I think you should read it completely backwards. :)

message 11: by Erin (new)

Erin Kelly (literateknits) | 10 comments I'm a huge WoT fan, but on my first read through I accidentally skipped half a book and I was so very lost. Therefore I would strongly advise against reading them out of order. Furthermore, A Memory of Light isn't really a subseries so much as the three gigantic books that Robert Jordan originally thought he could squeeze into the one final book.

I want to point out that the "slow" books in the middle actually serve a narrative purpose, Jordan didn't completely just lose control of the series (I did say completely).

message 12: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4211 comments I agree with what most of the people here have said, you really shouldn't read the books out-of-order. However, if you just can't make it through some of those middle books, you might look for the chapter and book summaries at

It's a fantastic resource to keep track of characters, key plot points, etc. I did a complete re-read of the entire series before The Gathering Storm came out. Before Towers of Midnight came out, though, I used to refresh in my mind the major plot points. I'll probably do the same when A Memory of Light comes out.

message 13: by Will (new)

Will (longklaw) | 261 comments I wouldn't recommend it. I've read them in order and I have trouble keeping track of all the characters.

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