These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
YMMV: The Wheel of Time
Alternative Character Interpretation: Whitecloaks are portrayed as misguided bigots in their persecution of Aes Sedai, but it is plausible to think that their crusade against Aes Sedai is completely justified. Darkfriend frequency in the general population seems to be about .5% - 1% of the general population (going by the Wheel of Time wiki's estimate, though I can't find a good citation for the figure). Since there are about 1000 Aes Sedai, we'd expect the Black Ajah to number between 5 and 10. By Towers of Midnight it's looking like there are at least 200, and those are just the ones a certain detective uncovered. Conclusion: Aes Sedai are 20 to 40 times more likely to be Darkfriends than the general population. And dangerous ones, too, not people merely dabbling in wickedness. If I'm a guy just minding his own business in Randland, I've got to think "Yeah, the Whitecloaks got it right; burn the Tower to the ground and do the world a favor."
They have no way of knowing this, however, and simply assume that every one of them is a Darkfriend. That Aes Sedai have a high proportion of Black Ajah is coincidental and not made public until the last few weeks of the story (and the Whitecloaks have been around for centuries) So, they're still misguided bigots.
It's hard to tell, but the proportion of Darkfriends in the Whitecloaks also seems to be higher than the norm (at least one of their leaders has been one). After all, what better place for a baddie to hide than in an organisation that considers itself above suspicion and gives the opportunity to sow discord and despair by instigating witch hunts?
After five books worth of build-up, Sammael gets eaten by Mashadar after a short, not particularly spectacular fight with Rand. When questioned about this, Jordan said that he felt Sammael was a "louse" who didn't deserve a dramatic death, so this trope can be safely said to have been invoked. It also doesn't help that you'd swear Sammael wasn't actually killed with a quite striking case of Never Found Thebody, until Jordan had to step in and clarify that "Sammael is toast."
Padan Fain/Mordeth/Shaisam, thanks to running straight into Mat, who is immune to his powers from previous exposure.
Author's Saving Throw: The last four books are arguably this for the four or so books that preceded them, which angered fans by allegedly not containing enough plot developments (although a pretty major one happens in Winter's Heart). Jordan himself admitted Crossroads of Twilight, which is pretty much universally considered the worst book in the series, was a failed experiment. Of course, the rapid increase in plot developments after that book may have had something to do with Jordan's diagnosis with a rare (and eventually fatal) blood disorder as well. In any case, by Knife of Dreams and especially by The Gathering Storm (which, unlike the two volumes that followed it, had more of its prose written by Jordan than by Sanderson), the pace of the plot ramps up massively.
"The Fires of Heaven" features Thom and a minor character acting like they've never met before, when they actually have. In the next book, Thom explains that he figured she was acting like she didn't know him for her own reasons, so he played along. Though funnily enough, several fans have said that given the Loads and Loads of Characters, they never would have noticed the mistake if Jordan himself hadn't pointed it out.
Base Breaker: Egwene is probably the most divisive character in the fandom. The fact that she is considered by many to be a Mary Sue, coupled with a lack of introspection means you either love her or hate her.
Broken Base: Mat in the two books (so far) co-written by Brandon Sanderson is either hilarious or acting totally out of character, depending on who you ask. Big points of contention: The "character sheets" in The Gathering Storm and the letter to Elayne in Towers of Midnight.
The Chris Carter Effect: Fans believed Robert Jordan's promise that Book 12 would be the final book of the series. The list of people who believed it would succeed in wrapping up the series was... rather smaller.
I Knew It: Brandon Sanderson was forced to write three volumes to complete Jordan's outline for the "final" book.
Complete Monster: Ishamael (aka Elan Morin Tedronai, Ba'alzamon and Moridin) is a scholar and philosopher who determined that The Dark One was destined to triumph over good at the end of time. With that in mind, he signed on with The Dark One's forces, setting himself up as The Antichrist and Evil Counterpart to his former friend, Lews Therin, whom he eventually drove to suicide. Sealed in Shayol Ghul, Ishamael managed to free his spirit, and eventually his body. He makes the life of Lews Therin's reincarnation a living hell while in his Ba'alzamon identity, tormenting him with nightmares and doing everything in his power to make him miserable, while sending his troops to lay waste to the world. Following his apparent death, he is resurrected in a new identity (Moridin), and takes over leadership of The Dark One's armies, brutally punishing the rest of The Forsaken when they fail. Unlike the rest of The Forsaken, who think they will rule the world when the war is over, Ishamael believes that The Dark One is an Omnicidal Maniac, and is cool with that. In fact, it's why he agreed to work for him in the first place—he's a Death Seeker and looks forward to The End of the World as We Know It, viewing it as the chance for a murder/suicide on a cosmic scale. Driven by delusions of godhood, and the occasional belief that he is The Dark One, even the other Forsaken give Ishamael a wide berth.
Damsel Scrappy: Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve are popular choices. Especially Elayne and Nynaeve, because they spend a lot of time getting into trouble and are positively bitchy to the people who pull them out, particularly Mat. Having said that, other characters eventually call them out on it, so one could argue that their irritating behavior was intentional.
The key reason why Egwene is such a Base Breaker depends on how much the reader might notice how much this applies to her. Because Elayne and Nynaeve spend so much time together, while Egwene separated from them early in Book 4, it's often forgotten that she was just as much trapped as they were before Mat rescued them in Book 3, and that she treated Mat just as badly as they did if not moreso (early in Book 4, there's a scene between Mat and Egwene told through her POV showing us just how much she despises him). Unlike Elayne and Nynaeve, Egwene has never apologized for it nor been made to see that she needs to.
Also, in Book 2, Nynaeve took charge of rescuing Egwene from being a damane. While Egwene was grateful at the time, she quickly forgot or never realized how important Nynaeve was to that rescue and spent the next several books rebelling against Nynaeve's authority, often for no good reason. In Book 5, she used Tel'aran'rhiod to pull a nasty, mean-spirited trick on Nynaeve (which greatly contributed the Break the Haughty storyline Nynaeve went through in Book 5) solely to cover up Egwene's own misdeeds. Like the Mat example above, Egwene has never apologized to Nynaeve for this, nor been made to see that she needs to.
Faile even more so.
Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: As Rand descended into insanity, it became increasingly hard to root for him. The people who tried to manipulate him into turning out for the better however, were not much better on their own. This gets better in the last 3 books, first for the latter, then for the former.
Draco in Leather Pants: Most of the series' villains are vile and/or inhuman enough to avoid getting this, but the "Big Three" Forsaken- Ishamael/Moridin, Lanfear, and Demandred- do get a certain amount of it (being just about the only Forsaken to make it through the series with their badass-cred intact helps, as does all three being fairly nuanced in their motivations), as do the Seanchan as a whole.
Take a shot every time the phrase 'cloaked in serenity', 'serenity incarnate' or just plain old 'serenity' is used to describe an Aes Sedai. Or don't, because you'll die of liver failure. Mr. Jordan apparently has a fetish for the word.
Alternatively, take a shot every time a women sniffs or crosses her arms under her breasts. You probably shouldn't play both games at the same time, though.
Take a shot every time someone snorts or licks their lips. Just don't play this in tandem with the other games above.
Take a shot whenever someone's calves get mentioned. Finish the bottle if their "well-turned." Again, at your own risk.
Epileptic Trees: In the fandom these are known as "Loony Theories." This is not a derogative term, however — some of them have turned out to be dead accurate.
A whole new crop has grown since the conclusion of the series, in part due to the official Shrug of God regarding anything that happens after the final page.
Specifically, there are two major mysteries that the ending left unresolved that have spawned all sorts of fan theories. The first is the nature of Nakomi, the mysterious Aiel woman who visited Aviendha during her trip to Rhuidean. Was that a message from The Creator? A forsaken? Verin? Some random Wise One? The second is what the hell was up with Rand's magically lighting pipe at the very end of the epilogue. Did someone channel it for him? Is it a ter'angreal? Does Rand have some sort of new power, and if so, what? The fact that we'll never know has only fueled the theory fires.
Evil Is Cool: Deconstructed with the Forsaken; their mystique is impressive, but strip it away and what you're left with is a bunch of strikingly dysfunctional people with way too much power.
Evil Is Sexy: Very few of the Forsaken are described as physically ugly (the primary exceptions being Aginor and Balthamel, who suffered from Age Without Youth) but Ishamael (both in his original body and as Moridin), Demandred, Lanfear, Graendal, Rahvin, and Aran'gar in particular are all explicitly noted to be attractive. Lanfear in particular is noted by many characters of both genders to be the most beautiful woman they've ever seen.
Fan Nickname: "Randland" for the main continent in the series (which Word of God never named before his passing but is referred to by The Guide as "The Westlands"), and "Taimandred" for the popular theory that Taim is Demandred (eventually Jossed).
Crossroads of Twilight is often called "Characters Show Up", since that's pretty much all that happens all book.
"Finnland" for the land of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn.
God-Mode Sue: Deconstructed/subverted/inverted with Rand for most of the series, especially books 6-12. He's powerful as all hell, but deeply flawed in some of his methods and reasoning. At the end of book 12, he got better and spends most of book 13 playing this more or less straight, though a large part of it is him admitting his sins. At the very end of book 13, he may be slipping back into a subversion/aversion when he sees Lanfear being tortured.
Hilarious in Hindsight: See Doorstopper on the main page. One of the principal reasons for splitting A Memory Of Light into three volumes was that as one book it would be literally unprintable. This is funny, because as quoted at the top of the page, Robert Jordan had said there would be one more book even if Tor had to invent a new binding format. Turns out they literally would have to invent a new binding format - and wouldn't you know it, they don't want to, so three books it is.
Amazing how many Idiot Balls get dropped in The Gathering Storm, and how much happens after that. Although again, much of this was surely planned out in detail by Jordan (as there was no other way to resolve most of the plots or bring the series to a satisfying conclusion).
I Knew It: THIS fanfic. It was written in the early 2000s, and got Asmodean's murderer right, down to the little details. Brandon Sanderson mentioned that it was in the notes on the end of the series, with one phrase handwritten on it: THIS IS RIGHT. It's the one RJ kept referring to when he said that someone on the internet has it right.
It Was His Sled: Seriously, did anyone not figure out that Rand was the Dragon by the end of the first book?
At the very end of the first book, it's made explicit. With the benefit of hindsight, many things that happen to Rand are clearly the symptoms of a wilder channeling, but with so much other crazy or horrific things going on (Your Mind Makes It Real, Farm Boys receiving an unwelcome Call to Adventure, the Artifact of Doom, Darkfriends everywhere), this reader didn't notice their significance until a reread. Lan is a plausible Aragorn, which is a different kind of Chosen One and would have made this a very different kind of series.
Mesaana engineered the tower schism, setting up two Black Ajah Keepers and playing the two sides of the single greatest Light-side organization against each other for months. The single most successful indirect ploy by the Shadow in the entire series.
Rahvin's plot in Andor wasn't that bad either.
Ishamael took the greatest empire the world had ever seen and destroyed it utterly within the span of a few decades with pure Manipulative Bastard-dom (and probably Compulsion), laying the seeds of the Seanchan Empire in the process and cementing Medieval Stasis making it harder for the Light to fight back. He is also the founder of the Black Ajah, was behind the Trolloc Wars without anyone ever finding out, and is the only Darkfriend in the entire series who so much as considers that the Dark One might actually be lying when he claims that he'll recreate the world after destroying it and let his loyal followers rule in his stead, even if he is Ax-Crazy enough to be okay with that. In addition, he is the only character who can say The Scottish Trope and get away with it.
In AMOL Hessalam!Graendal engineers a near complete and total rout of three of the four Last Battle fronts by using light compulsion to make the four great generals slip up which enables her to indirectly kill half of the collective army of light before Mat steps in to fix everything. Mat even remarks that it takes a bloody genius general to make it seem to everyone like an army is easily winning yet to be just one step from total annihilation.
To my mind, possibly Egwene, who when imprisoned by Elaida, by sheer force of will managed to get not only her torturer on her side, but eventually nearly all the Tower.
Moral Event Horizon: Rand comes dangerously close to this after spending the last two to three books walking nearer the edge, almost going off the edge when he almost kills Tam, his father, after learning that Cadsuane had brought him to Rand.
All Forsaken have crossed it.
Padding: It would be easier to list the stuff in this series that isn't padding. For instance, late in the plot, Elayne has to spend some time jockeying for the Lion Throne. This was generally felt to take way too long.
This actually doesn't get particularly bad until book seven. But after that, hoo boy. Books seven through ten are full of it (although at least Winter's Heart moves the plot forward in a very significant way). By Knife of Dreams Jordan appears to have realised he was taking way too long to resolve plot issues and began taking steps to correct this.
Mat spends most of the first two books either whining or dying from the cursed dagger he stole, being an idiot at the time. However, after being cured of the taint and recovering, he Takes a Level in Badass, gains reality-warping super-luck, and has a Crowning Moment Of Awesomeon the first walk he takes after getting out of a sickbed.
Egwene after The Gathering Storm, especially her behavior against Elaida and the raid on the White Tower.
Gawyn defeating three elite assassins on his own despite the fact that he could barely see them in Towers of Midnight helped him, too, not to mention his turn against Elaida.
Or even Faile after Towers of Midnight. She might not be anyone's favorite character, but nine books and the events of Malden have left their mark. It helps that at the beginning of Towers of Midnight she admits to not liking who she was in the first couple of books and takes it down a notch. She still maintains a fiery attitude, but seems to handle it better than simply hitting the thing that annoys her i.e. Perrin.
The Scrappy: Several female characters, primarily the manipulative, anger-equals-love Faile and hypocritical, ungrateful Egwene. Mat was one of these too, until he Took a Level in Badass around book 3.
Also, Crossroads of Twilight can be considered the Scrappy book of the series.
Seasonal Rot: Crossroads Of Twilight, the tenth book of the series, is the worst part of the series if you believe the reviews at Amazon. The action consists of the same two days from the point of view of almost every every tenth character we've ever met... that is to say, Loads and Loads of Characters.
Some would argue the actual rot began with A Crown of Swords, which is the first book to literally not move the plot forward at all, and was followed by a book that was similarly stagnant. However, Winter's Heart concluded with a major game changer, even if it was the only real progress the plot would make until Knife of Dreams. Some readers are more harsh, and will claim the rot started even earlier, with The Fires of Heaven or even The Shadow Rising, which is the largest novel in the series, and the one where several of the more-hated aspects really came to the fore.
Things seem to be getting better in the next book (Knife of Dreams), and the 12th and 13th, though, due to streamlining the plot as much as possible on Brandon Sanderson's part.
Strangled by the Red String: Loial's match with Erith. Sweet, but not particularly developed. Like most of the romances in the series, really. Some of the characters are even Genre Savvy enough to realise this is happening to them.
Depending on your point of view, Mat and Tuon are either this (two people who don't really care about each other dragged together by prophecies they've been told) or start off as this and learn to enjoy it. On Mat's side, at least, he's initially uncomfortable because Tuon is pretty much the exact opposite of his normal taste in women, and grows into it once he gets used to the idea that Tuon is one of the few people in the series who can keep pace with his Indy Ploy thinking.
Mostly avoided by Rand and Elayne, but it really didn't help that she spent considerably less time around him (both chronologically and on screen) than Min and Aviendha did but apparently had just as strong a relationship with him.
Trapped by Mountain Lions: Faile's capture by the Shaido. Elayne's political plot in the later books, while arguably important to the plot as a whole, drags on far longer then it should.
The entire Ebou Dar/Bowl of the Winds plot. It spans three books (admittedly it was a subplot), and does little except solve a relatively minor problem (never-ending summer). Even if it introduces a ton of new characters, none of them particularly add anything.
Uncanny Valley: Myrddraal are just human looking enough to make their inhuman features (particularly the lack of eyes, but also the way they move) exceptionally disturbing.
Unfortunate Implications: It was bad enough that it took six books before we got a gay character... and then she was evil.
Queen Tylin literally tries to starve Mat into having sex with her, and when that doesn't work, she forces him to do it at knifepoint. This is played as a comedy subplot of the womanizer getting the tables turned on him, and if you have trouble picturing why people have a problem with it, just imagine if the genders were reversed.
Originally, there was going to be a fourth Two Rivers boy in addition to Rand, Mat, and Perrin. The character ended up being largely peripheral, and Jordan's wife eventually convinced him to drop him.
This is actually referenced in-story when the young man in question, Dannil, muses to Tam early on in the Battle of Merrilor what would have happened if he'd gone with the three main heroes when Moiraine took them out of the Two Rivers.
Robert Jordan initially planned to write at least two more prequels (one about Tam, and a second about Moiraine and Lan), as well as a sequel trilogy following Mat and Perrin several years down the line (collectively, fans tend to refer to these as "the outriggers"). Unfortunately, Author Existence Failure hit before Jordan produced much material on any of them, and it looks like they'll probably never get written at this point.
There was originally going to be a subplot in Memory of Light revolving around the Sharan leader Bao the Wyld better known as Demandred. Unfortunately, it threw off the pacing and forced Sanderson to do a lot more worldbuilding than normal, since Jordan hadn't left a lot of material on Shara. It got cut from the book, but ended up seeing the light of day as the short piece River of Souls in the Unfettered anthology.