It feels odd to have finished the Wheel of Time. I believe it was Christmas of 1996 when I was given The Eye of the World by an aunt. I was fifteen, and I had always liked reading, and reading fantasy, as a kid, but had kind of fallen out of the habit in favor of playing SNES games and Magic: The Gathering in my free time. At 814 pages in paperback, it was the biggest book I'd ever considered tackling, and half of what made me give it a whirl was just the challenge of seeing if I could finish a book that long. I never imagined it would turn out to be fourteen volumes of a similar size and heft, or that I would read many of them twice or thrice over as the years wore on, in anticipation of the next volume being released.
Well, the final book has finally come and gone. Although--unbelievably--only two years have passed for the series' characters throughout all the tumult their world and their lives seen, it's been sixteen years for me. That is fully half my lifetime thus far. So now, to be done with the story, or at least to know how it all plays out, and to have lost some of those characters I know so well to their ultimate fates, and the rest to the end of the narrative, it just feels weird. Forgive the wordplay, but it's as if I closed the book on one chapter of my life.
The characters and the world of Robert Jordan (and to some extent, Brandon Sanderson's) Wheel of Time are to me what Tolkien's works are to many people, and to the world of fantasy fiction, in general. I read Jordan--extensively--long before I ever picked up The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Growing up in parallel to, if much faster than, Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and others always made the series resonate with me more than a lot of fiction, and a small part of me is sad that I'll never get another view into how their world and their lives are coming along.
They say endings are one of the hardest things to do in fiction, and I believe it, having seen so many seem to go up in smoke, even harming for many the quality of the work prior to the ending. I am fairly satisfied with the way The Wheel of Time ended up. With the series having gone on for so long, there was almost no chance of every little matter being wrapped up in a grand and superlative way. I feel like the way it ended was mostly appropriate and fulfilling, even if I have a bone or two to pick here and there. I'm looking forward to the series' capstone encyclopedia which is due out in a couple of years, and in several years, eventually introducing The Eye of the World to my daughter. Maybe she'll enjoy it as much as I have over the years. I wouldn't rule out re-reading the series again for myself at some point, either. It wouldn't be the first time.