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(Spoilers below for all fourteen of the Wheel of Time books).
It’s no secret that the characters in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series were flawed. Despite the flaws, as a reader, it was possible to overcome these character quirks and find a place in your heart to love them, if not at least like them on some level.
But then there were the characters that were unbearable. Characters that made you think why? Characters that defied all logic by having their story extended into something pointless. Something that was near impossible to read, yet you only suffered through it to get to the characters you did like.
Posting negative articles isn’t a common practice on this blog, but occasionally we like to stir the pot. Here are the five characters from the Wheel of Time that couldn’t be tolerated.
(Artwork below was done by John Seamus Gallagher)
Gareth Bryne is introduced as a potential husband and suitor for Morgase Trakand in the first book. While Morgase is under the influence of Rahvin, he is dismissed. All of this, so far, is ok. When Bryne is summoned to lead a portion of the armies for the Last Battle; Bryne, a man of duty, rises to the task and this is also ok.
Where it stops being ok is when he decides to chase Siuan Sanche halfway across the world because she broke an oath to him to work as a servant. Why does this general care about whether or not some new servant of his broke an oath? The best reason Jordan comes up with: he was bored. After a number of flashback sequences from Bryne’s perspective, we learn he doesn’t care much for the Aes Sedai. So after following Siuan Sanche into the rebel Aes Sedai camp he agrees to…. general their armies? That makes sense.
Furthermore, he develops one of the worst and most irritating romantic relationships in the series with Siuan. Why does Gareth fall in love with Siuan, what do they have in common? It’s impossible to say because Siuan and Gareth are two of the most poorly developed characters in the series. Their positions (former and new) are interesting but their personalities aren’t unique. There is no reason to like either character because neither of them have souls. The only arguable connection between the two is their sense of duty, and nothing is more romantic than duty. Couple that in with Jordan’s usual struggle in writing dialogue between the sexes and you have a Grade A horseshit relationship.
Bryne at least leaves the Wheel of Time on a high note, or better called a well written note. His epic suicide charge in a state of complete madness in A Memory of Light was the greatest thing I ever read the character do, it’s a shame that it was his death.
What is the point of this character? Someone…anyone?
Readers first meet Domon when he encounters Rand, Mat, and Thom in The Eye of the World by helping them escape Shadar Logath on his ship. Domon appears to be a minor character who is only there to help some of the major characters get from one destination to another. In The Eye of the World that is exactly what he does, and that is fine.
The problem is Jordan keeps bringing this character back. Domon returns for the Great Hunt and The Shadow Rising, and then comes back regularly as a part of Mat’s group when he decides to escape Ebou Dar.
Throughout the entirety of this series Domon accomplishes nothing except getting married to Egeanin, which is another relationship that feels like it is there just to be there. Their connection is supposed to be based upon their individual needs of reforming their lives. That’s an interesting idea except it is rarely explored when the two share book time together, which just largely makes this relationship a waste.
Domon doesn’t do anything that could be considered significant. He could easily be replaced by other minor characters to do the minor insignificant tasks that he does: such as wait for Nynaeve with his boat in the Great Hunt, throw away the collar and seals in the Shadow Rising, and follow Mat around as he escapes Ebou Dar.
So back to my first question, what is the significance of this character? As far as I can tell there isn’t any.
Morgase was a character that should have died, and The Fires of Heaven was a good spot for that. If not The Fires of Heaven, then shortly after the Seanchan successfully took over the Whitecloak fortress. Morgase is a type of catalyst character. She could have led to some major sources of conflict for the other characters and instead she doesn’t.
Jordan didn’t take the opportunity to exploit a potential mother-daughter conflict for the throne of Andor by keeping her alive. Jordan didn’t kill Morgase which could have easily led to a conflict between Rand and Elayne. Instead we get Elayne succeeding to the Andor throne without Morgase being any kind of factor in the succession. Morgase could have been used to spark something, but she doesn’t.
Instead, after escaping Andor, readers are treated to her falling in love (again another relationship that generates no reader interest) and her attempts to be a servant for Faile. She also endures captivity under the Shaido. All of these situations for Morgase as a character are boring or repetitive.
Seeing royalty and the privileged falling into a form of forced labor can be an engaging story line. Except you have Faile and Alliandre there representing nobility, how much more substance to this plot did Jordan plan to add by throwing a third member of royalty into the mix?
When Morgase returns to Andor it’s a happy reunion with Elayne? After screwing over this entire province, why aren’t the people who are already unstable so accepting of her return? Shouldn’t this cause Elayne some problems? Instead the problem is solved in a paragraph with some planned announcements? Alright.
Morgase essentially accomplishes nothing (except getting married of course) once she gives up her throne, and that is the problem with this character. She takes up a fair amount of narration time after her exile and accomplishes being pointless.
2. Leane Sharif
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If there is one character that seems to defy all logic it is Leane. It’s pronounced Lee-ann-uh, but I just like to call her Leann, because this character is a symbolic representation of the act of leaning. To lean is often associated with positioning yourself sloppily, and that is exactly what Leane is, a sloppy character.
The most interesting thing about Leane is her former position as Keeper of Chronicles. After she is deposed and stilled she should have died. Instead she lives, boring readers for an additional ten books.
After being stilled, and going on the run, Leane’s personality immediately changes from being quiet, shy, and reserved to being an outgoing seductress. Why? According to Jordan it appears largely to do with her heritage and the fact that she is stilled? She now needs to fill the hole from being stilled in her life with men apparently, and many at that. The explanation and the suddenness of Leane’s character change is one of the worst character developments in the series.
Leane after being stilled though also falls into the pointless character category. She spies on Lelaine for Egwene and produces no significant information to add to the plot, she helps block the gate of Tar Valon with cuendillar and gets captured (anyone could have done that), and she gets captured (again) by Demandred and is told deliver a message to armies of the good… which Demandred could have done himself with the whole yelling across the battlefield act he had been doing, so again Leane is pointless.
Siuan, unlike other characters on this list, has a solid back-story. She is a fairly solid character in The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, and The Shadow Rising, while playing the role of an Amyrlin who is losing the war with the Black Ajah.
Despite being boring, Siuan is not a pointless character. She is responsible for getting Egwene installed as Amyrlin, and she is responsible for educating Egwene about the politics of ruling the White Tower.
Unfortunately, and like Leane, she is not executed after she is deposed and stilled. Like Leane it is after Siuan is removed from her position of power that she becomes an uninteresting character that readers must suffer with.
The problem with Siuan is the hypocrisy of her character and her very annoying personality. Siuan is an incompetent Amyrlin. She is unable to manipulate anyone, during her rule, yet afterwards she is presented as a skilled manipulator? If she was a skilled manipulator she shows no such sign of having these skills while she was in charge of running the White Tower.
She hunts the Black Ajah with novices, because she claims that she can’t trust anyone. Wouldn’t a skilled manipulator/leader have a network of people that they could trust or at least a group of skilled people they knew they could rely on? Apparently not. Except… wait… she does have a network? As it is later revealed she once managed the largest Aes Sedai network of eyes and ears. She had access to the most information before she became Amyrlin, but when she needs information as Amyrlin, she doesn’t use her infamous skills of manipulation to take advantage of this network?
The point is, I’m not convinced that Siuan can manipulate anyone until Jordan finds it convenient that Siuan needs the skills. She certainly shows no potential in the skill of manipulation in A New Spring or as Amyrlin, and it is only after she is deposed that she suddenly has these skills?
Nothing is more irritating than Siuan’s nine book courtship with Gareth Bryne. In regards to this relationship Siuan is a grown women acting like an immature child. Her complaining about him to Egwene for no good reason is beyond annoying, her denials of her feelings are childish, and her attempts to sabotage him are petty and not at all romantic, they are just enraging and stupid. How was this child made Amyrlin? How could one of the most powerful women in this world act the way she does around Gareth Bryne? Is it because of love?
Love can make people act irrationally, but the way Siuan acts defames her previously established reputation as a strong intelligent character, and completely destroys her credibility as a respectable person. Nothing is more infuriating than watching a decent character becoming pointless and then finally a terrible nonsensical addition to a book. That is why Siuan is at the top of this list.