I’ve seen quite a few YouTubers and other content creators doing these tier list things. Recently, I finished my first read-through of the Wheel of Time, so I thought it could be interesting to do a tier list ranking some of the characters.
Obviously, there are too many characters in this series for me to do them all. So I tried to focus on the most important ones. Also, it’s been a month or two since I finished this series, so I couldn’t remember every facet of some of the more minor characters.
What do you think about my list? Or, I should ask, what do you hate about my list?
Obviously, spoilers abound in this post. Do not read this unless you have finished the Wheel of Time or do not intend to read it.
Rand Al’Thor – I don’t know if I need to explain my selection here. He’s the main character, he’s the guy we get to see change and develop the most. At times I hated Rand, at times I loved him, at times I wanted him taken down a peg and at times I wanted him to rule the world.
That amount of depth and arc we get to experience with Rand makes him a special character in all of fantasy. We go into the depths with him and then we take that ride out and watch him develop into a demi-god status. The rise to his heights was entirely believable and well-written.
I loved Rand as the main character. He was everything we needed him to be.
Mat Cauthon – This is far from a controversial opinion. Mat is a fan-favorite and for good reason. He’s a fun character to follow, a sort of little brother figure. We might roll our eyes at the decisions he makes, but we still want him to learn and grow.
I hate his relationship with Tuon, mostly because I hate Tuon. Also, like most people, I don’t think Brandon Sanderson did his character justice when he took over the series. Mat was the one character that made the series feel like it was written by a new author in the later books.
Mat is a character of sacrifice. His whole story revolves around his sacrificing his desires for the greater good, or sacrificing his eye to save Moiraine, or other countless examples. Each time, against his wishes, he seems to make the right decision.
Also that weird storyline with the snakes and the foxes? Yeah, I loved that. I don’t know how they fit into the grand lore of the Wheel of Time and I don’t really care. That was a fun adventure story and a unique element of the story that I really enjoyed.
Loial – This might be a somewhat controversial pick in the top tier simply because of the amount of screen time he doesn’t get. There are entire books where we don’t even see Loial. He vanishes and then reappears.
But how can you not love this little guy? He’s brightness and goodness in a world that can feel so dark at times. When things look hopeless, look to Loial.
He’s a great character that I was never mad at and always wanted to read more of. Plus, that last battle! How badass was he in that?
Moiraine – I struggled with where to put her. In the beginning, before she takes a break from the series, she is amazing. Wise, fearless, powerful, she is a great example and a unique spin on the Gandalf character. The wise wizard is a young (looking) woman? That’s fun.
But then she’s gone. For, like, a while. And while she’s gone, our heroes move beyond needing her help. They are far more powerful than her when she re-emerges. She seems a bit like a shell of herself. I think Sanderson tried to compensate for that by making her more “wise,” but I don’t know that he succeeded. She sounded more cryptic and vague, not necessarily wise. So that’s why she’s in the second tier and not the top.
Perrin – Oh, Perrin. I had more ups and downs with this character than probably anyone else. At times, like when he was defending the Two Rivers, I couldn’t wait to read more of his sections. At others, like when we was building up to rescuing Faile from the Shaido, I couldn’t wait to stop reading his section.
I like his development and growth. I think he was an interesting character that might not have had quite the arc the other Two Rivers boys did, but it was still an adequate arc. I like him a lot, I actually wanted him to be my favorite character, but because of how boring some of his stuff was, I gotta move him down into the second tier.
Elayne Trakand – I really loved this character, but it seems like a lot of other people in the fandom weren’t too keen on her. I don’t really know why. I loved watching her develop into a good friend, a good queen, and a good Aes Sedai.
I wish we got more scenes with her and Rand. The other two women had plenty of one on one time with Rand and I felt like Elayne got jipped a bit. But seeing her dealing with her pregnancy and how it made her power unpredictable was so fascinating.
She did make some decisions that left me rolling my eyes, but she is a young ruler, someone prone to thinking they are unstoppable. Combining her with Birgitte was such a fun plot device. I loved that relationship.
Even in the slog, I found myself engaged in Elayne’s storyline. I think that says something right there. I debated putting her into the SS tier, but I think the fans might riot if I did that.
Min Farshaw – Min is an interesting character. I really like her with Rand and I think those scenes are great. Those two fit together so well, compliment each other, and play to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Really, it’s an author’s dream pairing. They bring out so much of the other’s character.
But, aside from that, she doesn’t have much to offer. Sure, she has that special power that throws a wrench into the certain plans and is a key part of the story, but in terms of her personality, outside of Rand, it falls a bit flat. So, for that, she’s knocked down a tier.
But I still really like her, so she’s not fallen very far.
Thom Merrilin – I need a whole series focused around the adventures of Thom. He started the series as my favorite character (which means I was primed for him to die the entire time). I don’t think he ended there, but I still enjoyed his presence throughout.
Thom has lived many lives, each one as interesting as the last, and the times where we got glimpses into his past were so fun. There were a few weird moments with Thom that left me scratching my head. Basically, any outright or implied romantic situation felt a little odd and forced. Like what was that thing with him and Elayne for a while? Also, when he pairs up with Moirainne at the end, that felt forced.
Aviendha – Starting off the A tier, we’re throwing in the last of Rand’s women. It feels…rude putting Aviendha lower than the rest, but I like her the least. I like her story line and the whole Aiel issue at the end of the story, but I don’t think Aviendha saw as much growth as the rest of the characters.
Her arc wasn’t very drastic. Sure, she grew into leadership, but they all did that. She had to adjust to a world where her entire culture was different and that was cool to see, but that’s more of an overall Aiel thing than just her.
I do love seeing her fight. I like seeing the Aiel fight in general. They are fierce and powerful, which is fun. But then Aviendha shifted to fighting with the power which isn’t as cool. We see enough of that with the Aes Sedai. I want to see more stealth and fighting with her. I really like the Aiel culture and how it interacts with the Wetlanders. Out of all of the world-building in this series, the Aiel are near the top of my favorite cultures. Aviendha is a good vehicle to see more of that, especially through her relationship with Elayne.
But Aviendha isn’t my favorite character. She is a little shallow in terms of arc. Maybe that’s a downside of the rest of the characters being so deep, some can’t quite measure up. In any other series, she’d be a deep, complex character with a heavy arc, but she isn’t in the Wheel of Time.
Lan – Lan is a character that’s easy to like. He’s unquestionably a good guy with a heavy mission. He’s an underdog, a warrior, a protector, and someone you can’t help but root for. Plus, he’s got that whole dark and brooding thing going for him. What’s not to like?
But I have to examine this in terms of writing and character development. He seems a little one-note to me. He learns to be a leader and take charge, he learns to accept love, and he learns to want to live. That’s basically all of the change he goes through in this series and half of it took place in the last book.
Sure, it was a fascinating ride to watch him go from accepting, even wanting, death to finding reasons to live and then still being willing to sacrifice himself anyway. That was an interesting dynamic. But that wasn’t enough to make him a complex enough character to get into the S tiers. I really like Lan, he’s one of my favorites, but from a character standpoint, he can’t be near the top.
Tam – Tam is basically Lan with less screen time. Again, it’s impossible to not root for him. He’s a great guy who carried a heavy burden in raising the Dragon Reborn. He’s a leader for the Two Rivers, he’s a mentor for Perrin. He’s just good.
And that’s where it stops. If we saw more of his backstory, he’d easily be in the S or even SS tier. But we didn’t get enough of him to warrant placing him higher than other characters. I wish we saw him more and I loved that he played a major role in the last book, but I wanted him in every book. There just wasn’t enough. So he has to be in the average tiers.
Mazrim Taim – Personally, Taim is my favorite villian because he’s complex and varied. Sure, he wants power, but he also has the added motivation of bitterness. He wanted to be the Dragon Reborn but missed out. He wanted that respect and power. In a lot of ways, his story parallels some of the forsaken and their bitterness towards the power of Lews Therin. They wanted to be him, but they couldn’t.
So, in that way, we get to see the character arc of a forsaken play out and I really enjoyed that. It makes it easier to understand the motivations of the forsaken. It’s not all about power, it’s also about wounded pride for Taim and that’s a cool spin on it.
But I think we lost sight of the Black Tower towards the end. I wanted a Taim/Rand showdown. I longed for Rand to put Taim in his place and we never got that. Instead, we got a character we’ve never seen before who has to take out the Black Tower from the inside. While that was fun, it didn’t have the power of Rand coming in and wrecking the place. I wanted that and I’m sad we didn’t get it. There was just too much for Rand to do at the end, I guess.
Verin Mathwin – Man, Verin was a badass. Taking on the entirity of the Black Ajah from the inside? How cool! That’s such a great mechanic to have a darkfriend who doesn’t want to be a darkfriend, was forced into it, and then dedicated their life to taking it down from the inside. I wasn’t expecting that and it was amazing.
Verin is another character that would easily be SS tier if we saw more of her. I want a prequel book about her life. I want the spinoff show. Give me more Verin!
Lanfear – Other than Taim, Lanfear is my favorite villain. Again, she has more motivation than wanting power, though that is a part of it. And that is a huge thing for me: villains who have a point. They aren’t evil for the sake of being evil, they have a method to it.
But I couldn’t rate her higher because she isn’t around much. In the books that she is one of the primary antagonists, she is intimidating as hell. But that is in the earlier books where the heroes aren’t as strong. She isn’t a main villain when our heroes have grown into their power and are able to confront her adequately.
Plus, she took Moiraine out for a while, so screw her.
Padan Fain – I guess this is the cool villain tier.
Fain is such an interesting and unique villain because he isn’t affiliated with the Dark Lord or the Forsaken. He’s just a rogue baddy and that’s so cool. More than that, he’s super powerful and scary. We don’t get to see enough of his power and that was a bummer.
Also, it feels like he was forgotten about. Like Jordan and Sanderson set up this super awesome bad guy and then just forgot that they needed to resolve that. I know we had that moment in the last battle when he comes to take people out and Mat kills him, but that was super rushed and he came out of nowhere since he wasn’t around for any of the last battle before that.
I loved the scenes he was in and I wanted more of a confrontation. He also never got to fight Rand and I wanted him to. This character had so much potential, I think he fell pretty flat in actuality though.
That’s the end of part one. I’ll recap the rest of these picks in a future post.