The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.
- Robert Jordan
I finished the final Wheel of Time book last night. (Don't worry. No spoilers.) For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, the Wheel of Time is an epic fantasy spanning years and continents, filled with unforgettable characters, universal themes, and some sort of highly addictive substance that is likely to be banned if scientists can isolate it.
Robert Jordan tells the traditional child-of-the-prophecy/coming-of-age story, weaving the arc through a unique conglomeration of familiar and foreign cultures, maintaining constant tension with thrilling battles, intense conflict, and clever riddles hinting at something larger and darker than we can imagine. Oh, and he writes women well.
But this isn't an entry about the series. This is about me.
I started reading this series when I was thirteen or fourteen. I was a sophomore in high school and my first boyfriend gave me a copy of the first book, The Eye of the World. Needless to say, my relationship with the series far outlasted my relationship with the boy. Now I'm twenty-three. I've been reading this series for a decade of my life. Each book is somewhere between 700 and 1000 pages long and there were eleven available. I burned through them.
On September 16, 2007, Robert Jordan died. I was furious. He'd died before he could finish the series. He left me hanging on the edge of a literary cliff, desperate to know what was going to happen to the characters I'd fallen in love with. How dare he. This was the instant reaction of my seventeen-year-old self and it took me a while to come to terms with his death. His books had become an important fixture in my library and in my mind. Thankfully, Brandon Sanderson took up the unimaginably daunting task of finishing the series.
And he did.
And now I'm done.
Where do I go from here? I spent two days completely engrossed in the final book. About three quarters of the way through I began to think about what my literary life would be like post-Jordan. I was excited at the prospect of reading new epic fantasy series (something I'd denied myself while in Jordan's thrall). I was excited to be finished and relieved that the last book had finally made it to my hands. And then I reached the end.
Many of you will understand the type of melancholy that arises upon reaching the end of an especially beloved book or series. I made it through fourteen harrowing volumes and suddenly it was over. I feel an emptiness, knowing I will never see these characters again. In many ways I will miss them more than actual people that have come and gone through my life. But then again, I spent ten years with the characters of the Wheel of Time. I have seen their beauty and their flaws and their strength. They reverberated in my mind, reaching out of the page and changing who I was and how I saw the world. I loved them and they never disappointed me.
That is the power of a truly spectacular series. It lives in its readers forever and refuses to let them go. Even at the end. But then...
There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time.
But it was an ending.