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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, August 29, 2004

New Spring: The Novel by Robert Jordan. New York: Tor, 2004. ISBN: 0-765-30629-8

Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series started out as one of the most significant new fantasy series of the past decade, but seems to be gradually collapsing under the bloated weight of its own excesses. Initially averaging about a book a year, by the end of the decade progress had slowed to a book every two years, with a three-year wait for the tenth in the series. Here is a list of the titles and their publication dates:
  • The Eye of the World (1990)
  • The Great Hunt (1990)
  • The Dragon Reborn (1991)
  • The Shadow Rising (1992)
  • The Fires of Heaven (1993)
  • Lord of Chaos (1994)
  • A Crown of Swords (1996)
  • The Path of Daggers (1998)
  • Winter's Heart (2000)
  • Crossroads of Twilight (2003)
The problem? Jordan allowed himself to get carried away into countless subplots, to the detriment of the main story, if you can even remember what it was or is supposed to be. To cite the most egregious example, the introduction of the Seanchan, which adds a totally unnecessary and extraneous set of complications to the story, needlessly convoluting the already complex set of players on the stage, and guaranteeing that the series will take several books longer than it otherwise might have required to finish the story.

The series admittedly contains some of the best fantasy writing of the last two decades, with some of the best characters: Rand, Egwene, Perrin, Nynaeve, Mat, Moiraine, Lan and many more, and some of the best fantasy concepts: such as the Aes Sedai, the Aiel, Ogiers, channeling and more. But rather than just telling the story, getting on with the usual conflict between good and evil, and bringing it to its inevitable conclusion, Jordan keeps broadening the scope of his narrative, adding more and more characters, plots and subplots, inventing and including whole nations, regions, cities, peoples and races, weaving together so many complex strands that it is almost impossible to keep them all in mind. Eventually you just stop caring. Especially when years go by without the release of the next piece of the story.

But now, instead of the next chapter, we get a prequel, a piece of the story that happened BEFORE the first volume, The Eye of the World. And it is a charming, readable tale of two women, candidates to the Aes Sedai, their experiences as they near the crucial testing that will raise them to fully fledged membership in the sisterhood, their accidental acquiring of a life's mission, and their first steps as they begin their quest, in flight from the authority of their superiors. Recommended for any lover of good fantasy writing, and especially recommended for fans of The Wheel of Time.

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