contrast to the singular "gray" character of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings,
is the multitude of "gray" characters in Robert Jordan's fantasy series The
Wheel of Time. The hero, Rand, battles an emerging second personality and
may be going insane. He is expected to bring salvation to the world from the
Forsaken and the Dark One, but will also bring chaos and doom. Basically, there
is no chance of a happy ending. Everyone is striving to lessen an unhappy ending.
Rand begins as the "small town" farm boy setting
out on his first adventure, which draws the reader to Rand's situation. Then,
as the story moves forward, Rand changes into a paranoid, untrusting young man,
who shows signs of madness. After Rand's change, there is little that any reader
would like to have in common with Rand, except possibly his romantic troubles.
He has not one romantic interest, but three and he tries to juggle them all,
instead of settling on one. This is one area that he remains a young man, confused
by the women, unable and probably happily unwilling to settle on one woman,
while the three continue to vie for his attention.
Nearly every character on the side of the "good"
guys has selfish motivations, which bubble to the surface during most decisions.
The "good" guys are simply less despicable than the "bad"
guys. The multitude of "gray" characters makes the story more realistic, or
does it? It's still in a fantasy setting, but now one large element of fantasy,
that of the fairy tale battle between "good" and "evil" characters has been
removed. In its place are two sides who have selfish motivations and the reader
is left to decide which side will cause the least destruction to the common
As stated above, this series isn't as universally
appealing as is The Lord of the Rings. This series is aimed at those
who prefer to do a majority of their reading in the context of the fantasy genre,
much like those who are most comfortable reading westerns, mysteries or romance.
The Wheel of Time will not appeal to those who do not regularly read
fantasy. Jordan has taken modern and complex characters and dumped them into
a genre generally known for its simplicity and portraying matters in black and
white. Most who read fantasy or westerns or romance are reading that genre to
get away from the complexity of reality and want to step into a world whose
rules and boundaries are simpler and more clearly defined.