A Series in Time: Robert Jordan's Extraordinary Saga Ends

 Today marks an event more than two decades in the making for fans of Robert Jordan's fantasy series The Wheel of Time; the 15th and final installment, A Memory of Light, hits the shelves. This final book (like the two before it) was completed by author Brandon Sanderson, who used extensive notes left behind by Jordan when he passed away in 2007, and (like all of the Wheel of Time novels) it was edited by Jordan's wife Harriet McDougal.

The wildly popular series -- which has sold more than 40 million copies in more than 30 languages -- comes full circle just one week shy of 23 years to the day that the first volume, The Eye of the World, was first released.

In honor of the triumphant finish of this epic tale, we take a look back at each book within the context of what was happening in the world at the time of its release.

 The Eye of the World
January 1990

The '80s were officially over and Apartheid was on its way out, too. The world's biggest McDonalds opened in Moscow, Joe Montana was the MVP of Super Bowl XXIV, and exactly one day before this book got the Wheel of Time spinning, The Simpsons debuted on FOX.


 The Great Hunt
November 1990

America was a few months into Operation Desert Storm when President Bush dubbed dictator Saddam Hussein "The New Hitler." The World Wide Web launched, Home Alone held the No. 1 spot at the box office, and Grammy-winning duo Milli Vanilli was mired in a lip-syncing scandal.


 The Dragon Reborn
October 1991

Anita Hill testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton announced his bid for the 1992 presidency. Mariah Carey's "Emotions" held the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.


 The Shadow Rising
September 1992

Inflation hit the Peanuts hard as Lucy's fee for Psychiatric Help increased from 5 cents to a whopping 47 cents.  Stefan Edberg finally defeated Michael Chang for a US Open win after a  match that lasted 5 hours and 26 minutes. Boyz II Men topped the Billboard Hot 100 with "End of the Road."


 The Fires of Heaven
September 1992

Nelson Mandela and South Africa president F.W. de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Tupac Shakur was charged with aggravated assault for firing on police officers who had fired at him. Mariah Carey topped the Billboard charts again, this time with "Dreamlover."


 Lord of Chaos
October 1994

Raul Julia and Burt Lancaster passed away. Susan Smith swore her two children had been carjacked (later admitting she'd killed them). Pulp Fiction ruled the box office. Far Side cartoonist Gary Larson announced his retirement.


 Crown of Swords
May 1996

Daytime Emmy Award nominee Susan Lucci failed to win for the 16th time. Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby" was No. 1 on the Billboard Charts.


 The Path of Daggers
October 1998

Matthew Shepard was discovered tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming after being tortured and murdered for being gay. The House of Representatives voted in favor of an impeachment inquiry of President Clinton. Google launched.


 Winter's Heart
November 2000

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones tied the knot. Whether the presidency will be won by Al Gore or George W. Bush came down to Florida. Hillary Clinton was elected to the United States Senate.


 Crossroads of Twilight
January 2003

Hulk Hogan returned to the WWE. Eminem was at No. 1 on the Billboard charts with "Lose Yourself." Kobe Bryant sunk his 12th 3-point shot in a single game, breaking the NBA record. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was the No. 1 film.


 New Spring
January 2004

Radio personality/countdown show host Casey Kasum retired from "American Top 40." My space launched. A 60-ton sperm whale exploded in Taiwan. OutKast's "Hey Ya! was No. 1 on the Billboard charts and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was No. 1 at the box office.


 Knife of Dreams
October 2005

"The Colbert Report" debuted on Comedy Central. Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks passed away. Saddam Hussein was tried in Baghdad for crimes against humanity. Kanye West was at No. 1 with "Gold Digger."


 The Gathering Storm
October 2009

President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The ultimately scandalous search for "Balloon Boy" was in full swing.


 Towers of Midnight
November 2010

Almost a year after losing his role as the host of "The Tonight Show," Conan O'Brien made his triumphant debut on TBS. The Beatles released their entire catalog on iTunes. Willie Nelson was busted for pot possession.

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Comments (7)

I wish I knew why I walked past all the different Robert Jordan novels in all the different bookstores I've visited over the years. I'm a fantasy adventure junkie for 30 years and really need to close this gap in my reading career.

Posted by: Howard Sherman | Tuesday January 8, 2013 at 5:24 AM

These books need better covers.

Posted by: Shelley | Tuesday January 8, 2013 at 7:38 AM

They have better covers, at least in the ebook versions.

Posted by: Pattonmat | Tuesday January 8, 2013 at 12:29 PM

You misspelled Al Gore's name.

"Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones tied the knot. Whether the presidency will be won by Al Bore or George W. Bush came down to Florida. Hillary Clinton was elected to the United States Senate."

Freud strikes again!

Posted by: Typo Corrector | Tuesday January 8, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Sincere apologize to Al Gore. That was truly an innocent typo!

Posted by: Robin A. Rothman | Wednesday January 9, 2013 at 4:20 AM

I love Brandon Sanderson and I like the way he's written the last couple of books—but I honestly don't know if I can bring myself to slog through the final stretch. It's just gone on too long now for it to be enjoyable any more. A Song of Ice and Fire is doing the same. (And in fact I wouldn't be surprised if GRRM can't get it finished either, maybe Sanderson should be hanging out down in New Mexico now so he can pick that one up as well.)

Posted by: David Sage | Monday January 14, 2013 at 3:27 AM

Oh, I must disagree, David. I think the way George "tortures" us all with years between new releases has been genius and has acted as a buffer for such a saga to get too sloggy. I can't wait until the next one and, as I've said each time, I'm going to try to read it slowly to savor it for as long as possible. (After which I call in sick to work, unplug all technology, curl up in bed and barely eat until I know that Arya and Tyrion are okay.)

But to address that concern for his longevity, he himself brought this up in an interview with "Entertainment Weekly" last year. Here's what he said:

"I know the ending in broad strokes. I don’t know every little twist and turn that will get me there, and I don’t know the ending of every secondary character. But the ending and the main characters, yeah. And [Game of Thrones producers] David Benioff and Dan Weiss know some of that too, which the fans are very worried about in case I get hit by a truck."

Posted by: Robin A. Rothman | Monday January 14, 2013 at 4:58 AM

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