I agree with both of you - I loved the Wheel of Time series when I first began it - the world and characters were so rich and detailed, and I loved the philosophy/theology of ages repeating and reincarnation. While it borrows some from Tolkien (and a lot from the Bible), it was original enough to hold my intrest, and I had a great time with it. Then I realized at book 4 that it was book 4 out of 10...no, 11...wait, is it 12 now? I liked your analogy with the side quests, and yes, that's what it felt like. Eventually, the 5+ storylines and lack of any real plot movement discouraged me from keeping up, and I stopped around book 6. Shame, but I just couldn't do it. As soon as you have to force yourself to keep reading, it's no longer worth it.