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a worthy appendix to the Eye of the World
on November 29, 2010
I thought the story overall was about average quality-wise for the Wheel of Time series (albeit in miniaturized form). While I enjoyed the final third better than the first two, both had their pleasures and frustrations. It was a delight watching Siuan and Moiraine's relationship in their progression toward the shawl. The passing of the test in the great oval ring Ter'angreal, however, was a bit of a letdown. But the story became even more engaging as we watched the fledgling Aes Sedai begin their real education outside the Tower with Cadsuane's sage insight into Moiraine's youthfully ignorant impetuousness playing itself out. Always the prankster, Moiraine's juvenile deeds in the Tower laid the necessary groundwork for her interactions with Lan on the road to Chachin, where I finally felt that I was beginning to see the Moiraine I was familiar with in the rest of the WoT series. New Spring completes Moiraine's and Siuan's character arcs by showing us where they came from. It makes where they are going and what happens to them so much more important and fruitful. We also spend enough time in and around the White Tower to know how the rest of the world sort of revolves around it. Now if only those chapters that added nothing to the story other than the purchase of a dress or the name of yet another inn and its owner had been edited out. The ending flew by at breakneck speed, which was quite a change in pace from the rest of the story, but not out of character with other books where the harrowing conclusion usually only occupies the final chapter and/or epilogue.
The character of Lan wasn't developed as much as one could have hoped, but for such a reticent fellow who believed the past belonged only to the man and those who shared it with him, perhaps it was enough. The one place where it hurt the story, however, was in the moment of Lan's bonding. What was he thinking when he made his vow? What did he really think about this strange, diminutive woman? Did he believe that becoming her Warder was a suitable way to wage his war with the Blight or was it his way of running from the duty that was heavier than a mountain? Or something else entirely? And what about his "luck"? That he came out of the Blight is one thing, or that he survived a fight he should have lost is another, but to have walked (no, RAN) away from that fall in the palace . . . The fact he was a target of the Black Ajah from the beginning through Ryne confirms what Moiraine directly mentions: there seems to be a connection between Lan and luck. But what does that mean? Lan can't channel. He's no Ta'veren. Hopefully there is something more to all this that gets revealed later on in the series.
While I can understand Siuan and Moiraine jumping at Aes Sedai shadows and seeing Black Ajah everywhere, I still don't understand why Moiraine felt so convinced that Merean had to be either Black Ajah or one of Tamra's searchers. Because she showed up in two of the same cities that Moiraine was visiting? Because she said Larelle changed her mind about going to Chachin? None of that make sense at all. Perhaps it was part of her sophomoric thinking (like believing Cadsuane to be Black) and her inability to see past her own purposes in Chachin, but her thinking prior to the events that revealed Merean's true nature wasn't explained clearly enough.
When I first read through the WoT series, beginning with Eye of the World, I loved that the story began in the middle of nowhere and we got to see things through the eyes of naïve young adults with no concept of what awaited them in the larger world. And I was very willing to discover along with them what that entailed. However, I felt betrayed when Robert Jordan suddenly introduced two people groups that would overtake and overrun the story I was reading. I disliked them immediately because the way the story had been written, they intruded where they didn't belong. It would be like hearing about the people in Shara and how there's been some interaction with them and then suddenly it's the people of Shara who decide the fate of the world. Who are these Shara people again? Why do they matter to this story? However, New Spring brought one of those two groups to the forefront at the very beginning so that we know the importance they will have later in the story. For me, this changes the entire way I view the WoT and what happens in it. And it is only after reading New Spring that I realize what it meant in Knife of Dreams when Nynaeve raised the Golden Crane in the Borderlands--another element that makes this story essential.
The most important thing about the very beginning of a story is excitement. You need a story that pulls you in so hard, you can't get away. As it stands, I don't think I would tell my friends to begin reading the series with New Spring. It isn't powerful enough on its own to introduce and support the entire series. A better hook with more action and suspense would have been getting to see Lews Therin and the Companions sealing the Bore, going instantly insane, and destroying the world. Then enter the plot about the Dragon being reborn and the quest to find the child. Will this child be different? Will he avoid the errors of his past incarnation with the help of these characters--if they can find him? Well, the Jordan weaves as the Jordan wills. And this book will have to do... perhaps as an appendix to book one.