Locations & Cultures:
I think this is why I fell in love with this series to begin with. At first read, when I was 12, they were so varied! They were so historically based! (excuse me while I go hide under a history text book awhile)
Now… well now I am more critical of Jordan.
[Warning: I’m not going to look up spelling for every place/culture and since I did audiobook, some of them might be wrong because I am remember spelling from 15+ years ago and/or using phonetic spelling]
Some of this is my own studies of history and how very inaccurate (and weird) some of his cultures are. For some of them I feel like he enforced ideas on them without considering how those ideas would be impacted.
So most of Jordan’s world is this psuedo-renaissance/medieval land where people are subsistence level agrarians. and then you have these cities with vastly different cultures. Ebou Dare might supposed to be loosely based on France (they have a lot of dueling) and wear frilly clothes.
I think my biggest struggle was because of language. Everyone spoke English. Not even as a “this is the language of trade and I can usually find someone who speaks it” but nope. Monolingual world! This isn’t realistic. Even in the USA, Georgia and Boston speak pretty damn different English. Yeah we can work out each others dialect, but the words we choose, cadence, rhythm, etc.
And pre-car it was more drastic. For the era Jordan writes in (carriages apparently aren’t invented yet) language tended to become very regional – just look at how many languages are still spoken in India and China. Or Europe. (China & Europe are pretty equivalent in size). TODAY there are 24 official languages in Europe. Jordan’s world being monolingual is…. really difficult for me to process. Yeah, there seems to be like one group with a different cadence/grammatical structure (Illyianer I think it was) but they still sounded kind of Scottish accent-y verses their own dialect much less language.
Language aside – I get he probably did that because it was easier (it is!) but it did sometimes break my sense of immersion because these supposedly vastly different cultures speak the same language and yet – this is my other big criticism – everyone thinks their way is THE Way.
There is NO character who says “Oh wow, you do this thing differently! Why?” – or even thinks about “oh, hmmm they handle this issue differently and honestly, it’s better than the way MY people handle it.” Nope. Everyone thinks anything weird is done wrong. And characters apparently find it impossible to question WHY people might do things differently (ie the Aiel revere water but when they come over the mountains to the “wetlands” they sneer at how water is treated when it it plentiful).
The judgemental attitudes get really annoying the longer I spent in the series. At first it was bit of an eye-roll but as people like Matt (who becomes embedded in at least 2 cultures) spend more time in a place they just sound more and more like European colonists who went to India and wore layers and layers of petticoats. UGH.
I think I am so critical of this because it didn’t have to be this way. Just a few tweaks and Jordan could have made me much happier. Have a character (Egwene or Matt would have been perfect) who is accepting and curious of others’ customs – not just WHAT but WHY (Min would have also been a good choice). Make it clear that “English” (monolanguage) is not their first language but is an accepted “trade common” language. Hell, make the characters learn the “trade common” language during the 1st & 2nd books because THEY only spoke their local/regional language.
As “diverse” as Jordan’s world is, it very much was not a world I would want to live in. People were too judgemental (which I know, people can be – but not always!) and there is some variety but…. as someone who has a bit of a love affair with the beautiful & etymology of languages it becomes flat when language and culture aren’t entwined. Or even addressed. When “clearly” everyone speaks the same language. Where is the diversity in that?
Wheel of Time Reviews: