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"A Memory of Light": A longtime fan remembers the journey

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I must admit – I am a binge reader. I will go weeks without reading a book, but then something will catch my eye and I’ll read it in a couple of hours. After that I’ll make multiple trips to the library to see if they’ve got anything more by the same author. I’ll check out three or four and have them back in two days. When I’m on the wagon, I’ll stay up late reading and get up early the next morning to read more. Which is why Robert Jordan’s “The Wheel of Time” series has been one of the more agonizing experiences of my life.

I started reading the series when I was 13. My best friend, who had the locker next to mine in middle school, handed me “The Eye of the World” (the first book in the series), and I couldn’t put it down. I was drawn in by Rand Al'Thor, Mat Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, the mysterious witch Moriane and her dangerous warder, and the strange magic known as the One Power. Their long (14-books-long) journey to the Last Battle to fight the Dark One was just beginning. The fascinating detail of their world and the lack of annoying Tolkein-esque songs didn't hurt, either. I am well aware of the series' weaknesses (endless subplots, too much description), but the books endeared themselves to me. They are old friends now.

It’s strange having lived with these books for so long. It’s like being one of the kids from Narnia – there’s a secret world only a few page-widths away that only I and a few hundred thousand other nerds know about.

I caught up to Jordan as a junior in high school. I’d read 11 of his books in five years. I found out that the next book wouldn’t be released until my freshman year of college. I buried my frustration, and waited.

Then came the news that Jordan had passed on. After that, more news – some guy named Brandon Sanderson would finish the series based on the notes that Jordan had kept. I didn’t know what to think.

Freshman year, when the 12th book arrived in my mailbox (figuratively, that is – the books are actually too big for mailboxes), I took a day off from school to read it. Sanderson did a great job of cleaning up the subplots and rebuilding momentum for the Last Battle. I was again a happy reader.

And now, two books later, here we are – at the end of the journey with "A Memory of Light." It will be a bittersweet goodbye to this gargantuan series for me. And yet I do know that the sound of the back cover closing on the last page of this book will be one of the most satisfying sounds heard in my life to date.

(Check out the audiobook clip below, courtesy of Macmillan Audio.)

Ben Frederick is a Monitor contributor.


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