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YMMV / The Wheel of Time

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Elaida, despite becoming something of a Hate Sink, is a divisive character. Was she a Well-Intentioned Extremist doing what she felt had to be done to save the world, undermined by the Black Ajah and Driven to Villainy in the process? Or was she always an egotistical madwoman who leapt at the chance to take over as Amyrlin, sealing her fate through her own follies?
    • Egwene's character has many debated points as well. Is she needlessly self-centered and hypocritical, or was she the capable and self-confident woman the Pattern needed to make the tower whole before the Last Battle? Did she truly always love Gawyn, or was she suddenly infatuated with him after being drawn unwillingly into his Erotic Dream of her? Was her icy reception of Tuon a reasonable response to someone responsible for the horrors of damane slavery, something she herself suffered, or a rash and unwise action that nearly fractured the Forces of the Light right before the last battle?
  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • 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 the Body, 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.
    • Moghedien is an invoked example, exemplifying that for all the all the horrific myths surrounding them, the Forsaken are ultimately just people, and fallible as all people are. Sure, she's quite formidable when she's the one holding the cards and she survives the entire series, but almost every time she gets her hands dirty it ends very badly for her.
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  • Arc Fatigue: Sets in around the eighth book and doesn't let up until the eleventh. In particular, Elayne vying for the Lion Throne and Perrin's conflict with the Shaido remnants are generally acknowledged as having dragged on for too long. Even before then, the Aes Sedai civil war arc begins in the fifth book and isn't resolved until the thirteenth.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • The last four books feature a drastic acceleration in the plot, after the four books preceding them were widely criticized for moving too slowly. 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.
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    • "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.
  • Badass Decay: Moiraine, who despite facing down four Forsaken and defeating two before her apparent demise, is largely removed from the martial side of battling the Shadow after her return and plays a more advisory role.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Egwene is probably the most divisive character in the fandom. The fact that she is considered by many to be overly perfect, coupled with a lack of introspection means you either love her or hate her.
    • Tuon is another who tends to provoke strong reactions one way or the other. A big factor is whether or not one can get past the fact that she's the heir apparent to a militaristic empire that treats a major segment of its population (female channellers) as subhumans who need to enslaved and essentially brainwashed not just for the good of society but for their own good - and the fact that Tuon herself not only defends this state of affairs but is personally involved in it as one of the slave-handlers. She does have a lot of good qualities otherwise (including what some would call the best-written romance plot in the series, just by virtue of being the only one that's not Love at First Sight, though YMMV on that too; see below), but it's understandable that some people find the damane situation very difficult to overlook, and grow frustrated that the series wants to present her as an overall sympathetic character despite this background.
  • Broken Base: Mat in the books 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.
  • Common Knowledge:
    • The series will "never end". A common fan cry in the late 90's/early 2000's was that the series would never actually end, and in fact did not think Jordan's "final" book, which he was working on when he died, would actually resolve the series. When he did pass away, fans took for granted for a time that the series would remain unfinished. Thanks to copious notes and a good deal of finished work from Jordan, author Brandon Sanderson was able to finish the series.
  • 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.
  • Crazy Awesome: Padan Fain's fans tend to see him as this. He merrily skips over the Moral Event Horizon and hosts an evil force all of its own, waging a thoroughly insane war against the heroes and the Shadow alike — partly for revenge, but mostly For the Evulz.
  • 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-Breaking Character 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • While the villains are often irredeemable monsters, it can be hard to find enjoyment in seeing them get comeuppance as it often comes in the form of a Fate Worse than Death, with them typically getting enslaved, tortured, raped and/or Mind Raped.
  • 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.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Bela. Really is a horse, but fascinates the fandom anyway.
    • Jain Farstrider also has quite a following. JAIN LIVES!!! Really. Well, not anymore...
    • Demandred probably appears in person less than any of the other major Forsaken at least until A Memory of Light, but it certainly doesn't stop him from being one of the most popular in the fandom.
    • Asmodean is killed off relatively early, but is fondly remembered and commonly ranks high on fans' favorite Forsaken lists.
    • And Narg. Narg smart. Narg dead now... just as planned. Also, according to Word of God Narg was the one who killed Asmodean! Not really.
  • 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. 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.
  • Fridge Brilliance: Elayne's inheritance of the Sun Throne and the Lion Throne unites the kingdoms of Andor and Cairhien, and creates the largest and most powerful kingdom in the Westlands. A perfect counterbalance to the Seanchan in the future.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: An out-of-universe example; in Jordan's dust jacket biographies, it always said he intended to keep writing "until they nail shut his coffin". Robert Jordan continued to say this after he found out that he was terminally ill.
  • Growing the Beard: The first novel can be read as a fine standalone adventure, but it's often said that its first few sequels (particularly The Dragon Reborn) are what really got fans of the series hooked.
  • He's Just Hiding!: Moiraine got this in spades. The belief was vindicated.
  • 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.
    • Later, when Brandon was working on his own high fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive, he quipped that if Book 2, Words of Radiance was a single page longer, the publishing company would be literally unable to publish it.
  • Inferred Holocaust: With the Dark One's influence causing massive food spoilage throughout the continent, if not the world, to the point that channelers are routinely needed just to heal food poisoning, it's likely that a significant portion of the population, if not the majority, die of starvation before the end of the Last Battle. And that's leaving out the countries actually invaded by Trollocs.
  • It Was His Sled: Seriously, did anyone not figure out that Rand was the Dragon by the end of the first book? 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.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Rand in the second half of the series, as the weight of being The Chosen One hardens his heart and his actions become much more ruthless, ambiguous, and grey, accompanied by him developing a colder disposition and a willingness to commit indefensible acts for the sake of doing what has to be done. Many characters worry for where this will take him, and even his oldest and closest friends begin arguing that he's crossing lines. This reaches a climax in The Gathering Storm, when after an introspective reckoning on Dragonmount, Rand comes to terms with his destiny and resolves to make things right before his death.
  • Les Yay: Loads of it between Elayne and Aviendha.
  • Love to Hate: Most of the Forsaken, particularly Moghedien, who despite being an easily spooked Dirty Coward is one of the most enduring and driven villains in the series.
  • Memetic Badass: Bela is the Dark One! Bela is the Creator! Bela killed Asmodean!
  • Memetic Mutation: Whenever the series is mentioned, there's a pretty solid chance Nynaeve will tug her braid.
    • After this Youtube Poop, some people have taken to saying "Flicker flicker flicker flicker flicker" or "IS THIS NECESSARY?"
  • 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.
  • My Real Daddy: While this series has millions of devoted readers who have read and re-read the series many times over, it also has its more disgruntled fans who grew frustrated with Jordan's pacing, needless side-plots and additional character that added nothing to the story, not to mention his penchant for going overboard describing dresses and having characters argue and deliberate the same points multiple times, and had given up on the series in disgust. These sorts of fan think the last three books, with Brandon Sanderson as a co-writer, were a great improvement and that Sanderson has a better grasp of pacing, dialog, humor and action than Jordan did. Meanwhile, fans who loved Jordan's writing style will tell you that silly humor and brainless action are all Sanderson brought to the series. See Only the Creator Does It Right below.
  • Never Live It Down: One of Nynaeve's biggest motivations for joining the White Tower was to put herself in a position to get revenge on Moiraine for plucking the Two Rivers' folk out of their village. This is, on several levels, absolutely ridiculous: in helping the protagonists escape from the Two Rivers, Moiraine not only saved all of their lives, but also diverted the Shadowspawn trying to kill them all away from their hometown. Nynaeve eventually realizes how stupid this is and even becomes close friends with Moiraine in the final book but her detractors are still quick to point this out.
  • Only the Creator Does It Right: Brandon Sanderson's name is almost a swear word to some of Jordan's more devoted fans, who reacted as if Michael Bay had been hired to complete the works of Shakespeare. To a reader of this mindset, Sanderson is a stupid child trying to drive his father's car, and all but destroying it in the process, shoving Jordan's insightful narrative and solid character development to the side for silly jokes and action scenes. In particular they detest the way Sanderson portrayed Mat Cauthon, but in general they tend to suggest that any part of the last three books they don't personally like had to have been the parts Sanderson wrote, while if they did enjoy any of them it must have been from Jordan's manuscript. Even Sanderson's original works aren't immune from their ire, with a majority of them claiming that his books are utter garbage. Chances are very high that any author chosen would have been subjected to more or less the same treatment, with only the specifics changed. There is another branch of the fandom that sees this all rather differently (see My Real Daddy above).
  • 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. It doesn't get particularly bad until Book 7. But after that, hoo boy. Books 7 through 10 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.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • 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 Moment of Awesome on 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.
  • Replacement Scrappy: For some, Cadsuane, who becomes Rand's foremost Aes Sedai advisor after Moiraine appears to die. The fact that Moiraine cooperates with and defers to Rand after he becomes ruler of multiple nations, while Cadsuane shows up on his doorstep and immediately starts trying to bully him into line, doesn't do her any favours.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Nowadays, The Wheel of Time is considered by many to be a horrendously cliched example of how all fantasy books are too long, with series that go on seemingly without end and yet little happens in them. When the first volume was published, in 1991, most fantasy novels were actually quite short, and/or tended to be trilogies or quintets at the very longest. However, he inspired so many other writers to pad out their volumes and stretch their stories over ten or twelve volumes that by the 2000's he tended to get lumped in with those he inspired, often cited as the Ur-Example, but rarely acknowledged as the man who started the trend.
  • Shrug of God: According to Sanderson, there were certain plot developments (most notably who or what Nakomi is and how Rand was able to light his pipe after his rebirth, as mentioned above) that Jordan's notes explicitly stated were not to be explained.
  • Squick: Shadowspawn can breed. Think about it too much and you'll probably need Brain Bleach.
  • 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. Possibly Fridge Brilliance: given how slowly Ogier mature, their relationship is the equivalent of a high school crush. And shotgun wedding.
    • 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 spends considerably less time around him (both chronologically and on screen) than Min and Aviendha do but apparently has just as strong a relationship with him.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Asmodean, for some. Rand having a de-powered former Forsaken as his Token Evil Teammate and channelling coach was an interesting angle to take, but Asmodean's arc is cut short on the cusp of a true Heel–Face Turn when he's Killed Off for Real.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: After numerous books of Masema being an evil zealot causing all kinds if misery in Rand's name, just about everyone was eagerly looking forward to his inevitably meeting Rand again and being destroyed to discover that he didn't want any of it, and he'd done nothing but make the world worse. Instead, he's anti-climactically killed at the start of "The Gathering Storm," and by Faile rather than anyone who'd personally been affected by 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 than 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.
  • The Un-Twist: Several.
    • The biggest is that everyone figured out that Moiraine was going to come back at some point.
    • Also, that Mazrim Taim had some kind of ulterior motive in leading the Asha'man. He is perhaps the single most blatant Starscream in literary history.
  • Villain Decay: It's apparent by the fifth book, if not before, that not all of the Forsaken are worthy of the intense dread their reputation has inspired, especially when fate pits them against the heroes' ever-increasing skills and powers (particularly Rand). On the other hand, Demandred, Graendal, and Moridin more than live up to the hype and dominate much of the Last Battle.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Badass?: Among a cast of badasses, most with one supernatural magic power to invoke or another, and the rest firmly in Badass Normal territory, Min, despite being thrown into death's jaws quite a lot, falls very short. She tries to remedy this by having Thom teach her the art of throwing knives, which she picks up quickly, but she's still little-to-no help (and in one very important case, a dramatic hindrance) against almost all of the enemies she comes up against. Her fans tend to point out that this is somewhat unfair to hold against her, since despite her lack of conventional strength, she's still a very important character.


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