Tag-Team Fantasy Writing

I just received my reserved copy of The Gathering Storm. For those of you who don’t know the saga behind this publication, I refer you to my previous post here. For those link averse I will quickly summarise; author Robert Jordan wrote eleven of a planned twelve book epic series entitled The Wheel of Time, but then sadly passed away before he could complete the final book (if only he hadn’t stopped mid-series and written that prequel). Author Brandon Sanderson was given the task of completing the series by Jordan’s wife and provided with extensive notes, plot plans and indeed entire scenes already completed. Now that book has arrived and I can finally complete the series I started reading when I was 13. Or can I?

I couldn’t resist a wry chuckle as I skimmed Sanderson’s foreword and noted that the planned final book has already ballooned into three final books! As the series progressed and Jordan implemented more and more characters (entire nations actually) it became clear that this series might not end in anyone’s lifetime. While I watched the final of the three Lord of the Rings movies recently and patiently observed the film-maker taking at least half an hour to tie up all the loose ends I realised that given all the characters and plot deviations in this series it would probably take an entire volume to say our sad farewells to all the characters. We shouldn’t really be surprised by any of this as fantasy does seem to have become the most long-winded of genres.

What I’m trying to figure out is if this ‘series stretching beyond the lifetime of one author’ is unique, or if it now falls into the same category as  Brian Herbert’s plodding continuation of his father’s epic sci-fi Dune saga. I note for the conspiracy theorists that Brian Herbert was assisted by Kevin Anderson, only one letter astray from Sanderson…

In  any case, while I admit the undeniable tragedy of Jordan dying before he could complete his life’s work, I don’t really mind that someone else is finishing the series. The key point is that the ending and the plot direction has been pre-determined by Jordan, so it’s not like Sanderson is abducting Jordan’ characters and forcing them to act out his own mad designs. To be honest, after twelve volumes (not including the prequel) I’ve had my fill of Jordan’s prose, which had become quite formulaic. I don’t need to witness a particular character tugging her braid in anger any more times, nor be told again that another’s shoulders are an axe-handle wide. What I really want to know is how it all ends! Apparently Sanderson is already halfway through the second of the three final books so the end isn’t far away. But we have been promised the end before, lets hope Sanderson doesn’t meet with unfortunate accident or illness in the meantime! I’d be interested to hear how other fans of this series fare with this one.

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