Here’s a question I’ve been wrestling with: How long do you stick with a series once it loses its steam? I just did a week’s worth of posts on music, movies, and books I’ve partaken of in the past year (and, in the case of movies, the last ten) and there are a myriad of examples of this question in each of these media – How many Offspring albums can I convince myself to buy? If there was a fourth Matrix movie, would I go see it? and finally, how many more books can there possibly be in the Wheel of Time series?
Robert Jordan wrote the first 12 books of the Wheel of Time series (books 1 through 11, and a prequel) before he passed away. The rumor was that he had one more book planned to complete the series, but was unable to finish it. Fortunately for those of us who had invested time in the 9,000+ pages of the previous books, Jordan had left copious notes and outlines for the final volume. Those closely involved with the series tabbed Brandon Sanderson to write the concluding novel from those notes. Of course it turned out there was too much to wrap up to do it in a single book, so it has been split into three. The first one came out this winter, and in preparation for this one and the rest of the grand finale, I am re-reading the entire series. I’m not sure if this is a good idea, there might be a lot of skimming going on in some of the later books, but I (foolishly?) hold out hope that with a new author this series will regain the form of its early stories. Who am I kidding? It will just be nice to see how it all finishes up.
‘New Spring’ is the prequel novel. It was written between books 10 and 11, but it is set before the first. Unfortunately, the story more closely resembles the weaker books later in the series, instead of the strong start.
This book tells the story of Moiraine, the Aes Sedai (think female magician) who figures prominently in the first part of the series, and how she started her quest to discover the Dragon Reborn, who would save the world (or possibly destroy it in the attempt). It’s interesting to see the initial prophecy that sets her quest, as well as her introduction to her Warder (think bodyguard) – but that’s all because the first few books of the series are so interesting that they invite curiosity into the backstory of the characters. Jordan plays on that and makes this a pleasant enough read. He keeps it relatively quick (only 350 pages, compared to the 800-900 page volumes in the rest of the series) which serves the story well.
If this book wasn’t written, the series wouldn’t really miss it. If you are going to start reading this series (and if you do start now, you’re at least assured that the story will wrap up) don’t start with this one. Start with book 1, ‘The Eye of the World’ which will be the next up on my reading list.