I don’t think I’ve put it into words before now, but it coalesced while reading Path of Daggers: My biggest problem with the Wheel of Time series? It’s not the braid-tuggings (though *really* now) or the characters’ bickering or even the fact that nothing at all seems to happen for almost entire big fat books. My other biggest problem is that it took almost a quarter of a century, two authors, at least two primary cover artists, and kept expanding from five to eight to ten to eleven to twelve to FOURTEEN books, and that after book – what, six? The font and margins got bigger and the number of pages got smaller. But nope. My biggest problem with the series can be summed up in one word.
Not even kidding.
(I haven’t written a review in forever, and my first one back is largely about spanking. *facepalm*)
Everyone in this series has trouble sitting down at some point. Paddled, strapped, slippered (I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that used as a verb before, but it computes), pinched or beaten with the Power, or just plain old-fashioned smacked on the “bottom” … everyone, or pretty damn near. I should do a study. I should count ’em in the next book like I did the braid-pulls.
It’s unfortunate. It contributes to the weird farcical aspect that has so frustrated me about the writing – along with the bickering and braid-tugging and stereotypes, spanking could be said to slot into the lowest form of humor, and – even when it’s appalling – simply has a stupid humorous facet to it that won’t allow for it to be taken seriously. I wonder if Jordan was trying so hard to avoid Tolkien-esque high fantasy that he overcompensated, to the point that none of his characters maintain any dignity. (NONE.) Dragon Reborn or Amyrlin Seat or groom or scullery maid, it doesn’t matter – someone is bound to come along who will give you a smack (or twenty) on the bum. (< – "Bum" used in the American sense, FYI.)
And, too, it deepens the childishness of some characters. If, say, Nynaeve behaves childishly, it isn’t balanced out if she is punished in the traditional method used on bad children. It’s belittling to the character within the story – and it’s also belittling to the character in the reader’s eyes. Both characters involved – not only is one character being humiliated, but is this truly the only solution the second character can come up with? Really, it could be seem as belittling to the reader, dammit – do you really think I want to read this, Jordan? Do you?
Too much of anything is never good. One spanking in a book, in my humble, is too many – dozens? Really, truly, not good. It just gets *old*. I am, seriously, I am going to go back and count the damn spankings and paddlings and whatever else has caused characters to sit lightly. Really? You’re going to spend thousands of pages building your world and fleshing out your characters, only to detract from the latter on a regular basis? Not a great plan.
In truth, Jordan seems to have had a dismaying fixation on people's "bottoms" and legs and what is worn thereon and thereover. Another thing I'd kind of like a count of is the number of times a woman rides a horse wearing a skirt, and either a) not caring about how much leg they're exposing or b) utterly mortified about same. (If female characters aren't on horseback, then they're anxiously/worriedly/nervously smoothing their skirts. The two emotional states most prevalent in the series are humiliation and anxiety. Unless Nynaeve is present, in which case both are trumped by anger.) If it were a drinking game the skirt thing would lead to severe alcohol poisoning.
The braid-pull drinking game would only lead to the deepest drunkenness possible without going into a coma – Nynaeve is out of the picture enough to allow absorption and not too many others pull on their own hair (though some do, sadly).
I think if you took a drink every time someone got spanked you’d die.
And it’s a shame. I remain impressed by the story as a whole, by the worldbuilding, blah diddy blah blah. The writing is – usually – invisible, by which I mean the story is more important than literary flair, as though the author intentionally (or not) effaced himself to let what he had created shine. And at times it does shine. Now and then there’s a gem, like mention of a creature flying low, “skimming low over the treetops, twisting and turning to follow the curves of the land like a man running his hand down a woman’s back”. That was a pretty, pretty line – but oddly placed; maybe it was meant to emphasize the alienness of the character doing the reflecting, because it’s a rarity.
I’ve been surprised, even in the reread (it’s been a while). I’ve been shocked. I’ve rooted for characters, and hated others as much as any characters in anything I’ve read. I’ve been tantalized and intrigued. I’ve been amused. I’ve been excited by plot developments. It’s a helluva yarn. That’s why I’m still reading, after 24 years/five months. (This series has played merry hell with my reading challenge. I think I’m forty books behind.) I want to know what’s going to happen. There are a lot of prophecies of a good half-dozen different flavors, and I want to know how they’re going to play out. Yes, I’ve rolled my eyes enough to affect my ocular prescription; yes, I’m sick unto death of the many well-worn tropes throughout the series, only some of which I’ve touched on in this. Yes, I have problems with the books. I’d say that went without saying, but I’ve more than said it. But when all’s said and done I’m invested in the story. Hell, I’ve known these characters literally longer than some of them are supposed to have been alive in the series. And I’ve surely been waiting a very great deal longer for the Last Battle than these people. So … while I wish it was always as compelling as it ought to be, I can’t but keep going, and trust in the stuff I enjoy, and keep on rolling my eyes over the skirt-smoothing and bickering and braid-pulling.
And even the spanking.