Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan

winters-heartWinter’s Heart is book nine in Robert Jordan’s plodding Wheel of Time series. Mat Cauthon finally reappears from beneath the rubble pile that toppled him back at the end of book seven — only to fall into another sort of trap — he becomes sex toy to the Queen of Altara.

Mat spends most of book nine plotting and finally executing his escape — but not before he manages to (finally!) meet the Daughter of the Nine Moons — the woman Mat has envisioned he’s supposed to marry ( although as one of those nasty Seanchan, she doesn’t seem much the marrying kind).  This is just a sample of the frustrations of this series, where hundreds of pages go by and plot threads disappear or randomly reappear, sometimes books later. Case in point: Faile is currently held prisoner by the Shaido Aiel. Perrin has been (theoretically) searching for her for the entire book, but we have no proof, considering their storyline dropped off in Chapter 6 never to resurface in book nine.

What this series really needed was a strong editor. Long, meandering clothing and landscape descriptions could have been scrapped to speed pacing and flow. An editor could have helped weave a storyline that doesn’t drop character threads for so long you think they’ve crawled off the page and died of boredom, waiting for their chance to escape the wings and get on stage.

Loial the Ogier remains MIA — missing now since book six, Lord of Chaos, though research reveals he returns in book ten, Crossroads of Twilight — just enough to keep me plodding along, too.

April — August, 2015

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

300px-WoT08_ThePathOfDaggersThe Path of Daggers book eight of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series — revolves around rebellion and mystery.

The rebel Aes Sedai, led by Egwene al’Vere clinging perilously to her Amyrlin Seat, open a traveling window in the last couple pages of the book, foreshadowing the pending war with Elaida’s forces.

The great mystery? Mat Cauthon is still where we left him at the end of book seven: buried (but presumably still alive) under a pile of rubble.

While the plot still lollygags aimlessly for hundreds of pages, mired by unnecessary scene description, dozens of meaningless characters, and an anti-climactic Seanchan battle scene in which Rand nearly fries himself and everyone around him misusing the “sword-that-is-not-a-sword,” I need to know if Perrin rescues Faile or whether she finds a way to escape. I need to know if Elayne secures the Lion Throne of Andor. I need to know whether we see Loial the Ogier — my favorite character — ever again. I need to know if Rand retains his sanity. I’m curious about how he resolves his relationship quandries around Min, Elayne, and Aviendha. I also want to know whether plucky, lucky Mat Cauthon surfaces from under that pile of rubble.

March — April, 2015

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

WoT05_TheFiresOfHeaven In the final 150 pages of The Fires of Heaven — book five of the Wheel of Time series — Robert Jordan hits his storytelling stride.

While this book — like all the others — covers a lengthy, often tedious journey to an epic battle, the battles were worth the time I spent reading the book. Bossy hypocrite Nynaeve squares off against dark wench Moghedien not once but twice. Rand defeats Rhavin in a balefire duel and finally learns that his well-meaning yet chivalrous unwillingness to put women in danger has cost him one close ally as Moiraine sacrifices herself against Lanfear.

While all of the characters (even Nynaeve) evolve and grow within the scope of this book, the ever-present stereotypical Women! Who can understand them?!? / Men! They’re all wool-headed fools! idiocy detracts from and cheapens what could become a much deeper narrative about men and women and relationships.

Perrin Aybara makes no appearance in book five. What’s going on in the Two Rivers? On to book six to find out.

September and October, 2014

The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

200px-WoT04_TheShadowRising

The Shadow Rising, book four of The Wheel of Time series, is another long, tedious, lead-up to an eventual clash with members of The Forsaken — the minions of the Dark Lord, though at least this time, Rand doesn’t get all the fighting fun. Nynaeve helps out by capturing and almost stilling Moghedien. Interestingly, the Dark One makes no appearance in this book.

Perrin Aybara’s storyline gets serious attention and he becomes a hero in his own right, rallying the Two Rivers farm community to vanquish seemingly impossible Trolloc odds, with a little help from his new wife, Faile.

I enjoyed the interesting similarities between Aiel women going to Rhuidean to become a “wise woman” — entering three rings — which resembles the ceremony to become an Accepted in the order of the Aes Sedai. I sense that Aiel and Aes Sedai are linked in some way, deeper than the Aiel subservience to Aes Sedai the book depicts.

Perrin isn’t the only character that sees some growth in the novel. Bossy biddy Nynaeve manages to overcome prejudice in seeing a former enemy — Eaginin, a member of the channeling slavers, the Seanchan — become an ally, if not a friend.

The book is over twenty years old, but sometimes the predictability of the patriarchy gets tiresome: Rand is going to need to get over the fact that he may need to kill a woman (Lanfear) if he wants to remain the Dragon Reborn, for long.

Speaking of Lanfear, her appearance at the end of the book is ham-fisted and abrupt. She appears out of nowhere, without foreshadow of any kind. As a reader, it left me scratching my head. Jordan, you had 900 pages to clue us into the fact that she’d appear in the final battle.

Books one through four all feel overly long and all the novels’ pacing flags at times. They feel like a great warm-up to something more interesting just about to happen.

After reading The Shadow Rising questions remain: why did Moraine go into Rhuidean? Why do only women need to strip naked to enter Rhuidean while men entering Rhuidean get to wear their clothes? Will Nynaeve ever stop yanking on her braid and being a bossy toad?

Why am I reading on, despite the tedium? I guess I’m hooked. I want to know whether Elayne becomes Queen of Andor. I want to know precisely how powerful Egwene becomes as an Aes Sedai. I want to know if Nynaeve ever marries Lan and eventually becomes Amyrlin Seat. I want to know whether Perrin fathers a litter of wolf puppies with Faile. I want to know whether Rand vanquishes the Dark One.

July and August, 2014

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

WoT03_TheDragonReborn

The Dragon Reborn is book three of the Wheel of Time series. In book three, Rand appears only briefly as the book follows Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve’s storyline as Aes Sedai, interspersed with chapters from Perrin’s and Mat’s point of views. As a reader it was disappointing not only to know what would happen at the end of the book before reading it (Rand goes another round vs. B’alzamon. Who knew?) but also to find out the epic battle you’ve been waiting 600 pages for is short, perfunctory, and unsatisfying. It’s almost as if Robert Jordan became bored while writing the book. There’s almost no denouément whatsoever.

I’m currently reading book four, The Shadow Rising though not sure if I’ll continue reading the series beyond that.

July, 2014

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

WoT02_TheGreatHunt The first half of The Great Hunt (book two of the Wheel of Time) series, suffers from the same tedium as The Eye of the World. The last third of the book is action-packed and nearly impossible to put down. Getting there is a bit of a slog, at times.

What intrigued me most were some very cool scenes that mirror the superposition principle of quantum physics. As Rand moves through the Portal Stone to Toman Head, he experiences the many variations of the path his life could have taken: with Egwene, without Egwene, honouring his position as the Dragon Reborn or rejecting it.

The sul’dam and the damane were compelling, yet revolting and bizarre at the same time. This idea of magical slavery was so brutal and cruel that as a reader, you want to see the Seanchan come back somewhere in the series so that you can see their empire destroyed.

The visit to Stedding Tsofu late in the book reveals more about Ogier life and culture — some of the most interesting scenes in the book.

Character development has improved in The Great Hunt, though the fact that some characters can survive battles and slavery and remain so innocent is baffling and annoying at the same time.

May and June, 2014

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

WoT01_TheEyeOfTheWorldThe Eye of the World is book one of the thirteen-book Wheel of Time series. I bought this book over a year ago and it took me a long time to start reading it. I began the book, telling myself that I could stop at any time and abandon not only book one, but the idea of reading the whole series.

The story starts slowly, focusing on Rand Al’Thor and a few friends from Emond’s Field: Mat, Perrin, and Egwene, and two strangers (Moraine Sedai and her Warder Lan Mandragoran) who come to town around the feast day, Bel Tine. Implausibly, these strangers convince Rand and his gang to leave the Two Rivers area in a bid to end the recent and unprecedented Trolloc attacks on their village. (This is a place they’ve barely left their entire lives. It’s all they know, and these intriguing strangers convince them to leave on a moment’s notice. Hmm…)

The middle of the book is repetitive to the point of tedious, where (of course) the fleeing group gets separated into smaller groups. The story mainly follows Rand and Mat, who get attacked by Darkfriends in various guises in every stop they make.

This long middle section reminded me of Scooby Doo where meddling kids are repeatedly attacked only to foil the evil forces. The book is over 800 pages and it covers this one lengthy and perilous journey. I was almost ready to abandon the book when the action began in the last couple hundred pages. Additionally, Loial the Ogier‘s appearance added a much needed element of intrigue. (Who doesn’t love a thinking being who adores books?)

My other major qualm with the writing is the golly-shucks-hayseed innocence to the interior monologue of some of the characters, notably, Rand, Perrin, and Egwene. Greater character development would make them feel less wooden. They’re young adults, though they think like children. Sometimes this book felt like a YA novel.

The action in this book hooked me enough to read to the end. I enjoyed learning about the world and about the various inhabitants, dark forces, and magical beings enough to start book two: The Great Hunt. Two hundred pages in, it’s moving slowly as well. Will I read book three? The jury is out.

May and June, 2014