October 5, 2011

New Spring, a Prequel by Robert Jordan [review time]

For a novel expected to deliver on that idyllic moment when Lan agrees to be Moiraine's warder, New Spring is largely ineffectual. It certainly didn't contain what I expected from the prequel. I mean, I expected Jordan to have a hard time being concise and moving the plot at a decent pace, but I also expected that he would be able to reign himself in and make sure he accomplished everything he could with the novel set at the time of Rand's birth. Like perhaps actually spanning the 20 years between when Rand was born and when Moiraine found him in Emond's Field. Surely I can't be the only person who actually expected Jordan to cover all that material. But of course, our Creator isn't known for spanning decades with leaps and bounds in a mere 360 pages. He's better known for covering a few months in 900.

Luckily with the fantasy crowd, we're willing to accept some long-windedness in the sake of fanfare, and fanfare is what we get here in plenty. Seeing Moiraine and Siuan gain the shawl hand in hand was priceless. We also gained a lot more access to the White Tower in regular running order, seeing both the life of an Accepted and of Aes Sedai. Moiraine's early treatment of Lan is amusing, and we get some cameos from the most beloved and hated of characters. Do we love or hate Cadsuane? I can't really say. In any case, when it comes to fantastic escapism, we'll take every scrap we can get, and New Spring delivers on some great bonus material for the WOT universe.

Again, my only complaint is that the book begins and ends within the year of Rand's being born. Moiraine is only beginning her search for him, and it seems as if the entire purpose of the book was to show us what kinds of dangers and complications she faced in that search, without actually showing us it. It's not so much a cliff hanger as when you're hiking in the mountains and you expect one hill to take you where you need to go, but it lets you down too early.

Not to mention, the idyllic moment aforementioned where Moiraine bonds Lan? It happens in the EPILOGUE. Pardon the caps. This seems like a great moment for the climax of the novel, something that seemed very complicated since their relationship was not a strong one and Lan seemed bent on not getting involved with Aes Sedai, but Jordan wraps this up in one let-down of a page in the epilogue. The climax is also a Jordan staple. You get past page 300 and you're really wondering what this is all leading to. Not a lot is happening. The chapter that begins the climax, completely out of nowhere in a strange pacing choice, begins on page 342 out of 360, with nothing leading up to it before that point. I've noticed something similar in a few of the WOT books and it just kills me every time. The longer the novel, the funnier.

In short, read it for the fanfare, not for incredible story-telling. It certainly has its moments.

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