With the prequel New Spring, Robert Jordan returns to the very beginning of the Wheel of Time saga, with the impending birth of the Dragon Reborn on the slopes of Dragonmount.
The Dragon Reborn is a messiah of sorts, prophesied to fight Jordan's version of the devil in a "final battle" when that dark demon finally escapes his prison. New Spring tells of the search for the Dragon by two women who will come to play major roles in the main series: Moiraine and Siuan Sanche. These women are able to wield a magical energy known as the "One Power", and are part of an order known as the Aes Sedai. While they are full sisters of this order in the original books, in this one they start off as mere Accepted -- trainees still learning to use their powers.
The plot of the book shadows its predecessors, throwing the two young women into the middle of a conspiracy they aren't ready to handle, against enemies they can't see, and with allies they can't trust. And it all happens against the backdrop of a prophesy could bring about the end of the world -- and all of existence.
Same Old Jordan
It's a cliche, but you either love Jordan, or you hate him. Or maybe you did love him, and now your just exasperated with him. When he began the Wheel of Time series, I was still in high school. Since then, I've graduated from college, gone through four jobs, gotten married, and had a kid. And after all that time, he still hasn't finished the series.
Jordan's style has been unwavering (though he's grown more verbose over the years): complicated plots being carried out by an ever-increasing cast of characters, all of whom share certain traits that can drive a reader nuts. They're the kinds of novels where women -- all of the women, regardless of culture -- express anger by placing their fists on their hips, and where the same old tired sayings about men and women are played out time and again. His stories, especially in more recent years, tend to ramble, and he introduces a dozen new plot elements before resolving even one story arc.
I'm aware of all these flaws, and yet, I'm still one of those who falls into the "love him" camp. I enjoy spending time in Jordan's world, and even when he's rambling, I'm entertained. I really don't' care if he takes another 20 years and 10 novels to finish the main series ... though I will be seriously pissed if he dies before completing it (as authors are occasionally known to do).
So, unlike some who groaned at the arrival of the prequel ("A prequel? When he hasn't finished the original yet?"), I welcomed it. It was another chance to visit the world I enjoyed, and to do so from a fresh perspective.
The prequel is based on a short story of the same name Jordan wrote for Robert Silverberg's first Legends fantasy anthology. By Jordan's standards, it's a short book -- only 322 pages -- and that was one of the things that appealed to me about it. Most of his recent books have been extremely hefty, and it was refreshing to be able to finish a book in a few days, rather than a few weeks.
Some might view this book as a good starting off point for the series, but I'd advise against that. While short -- and a beginning of sorts to the cycle -- it is really written for fans of the main series. A lot of the scenes -- like seeing Moiraine take her test to rise from Accepted to full sister or seeing her meet her future warder al'Lan Mandragoran for the first time --- have so much more meaning when you've read the other books.
Indeed, it's the foreknowledge of what's to come that makes the book so much fun to read, even if the writing itself isn't exceptional. The Wheel of Time books are all about prophesy and its fulfillment. Reading a book like this, with the rest of the novels behind you, allows you to revel in the knowledge of what's to come.
Those looking to get a taste of Jordan's writing could do worse than starting here -- it is a huge series after all, and this book doesn't give away any great secrets. But I still say it's worth your time to check out the first book (Eye of the World) and return to this one when you have a few other releases under their built.
New Spring is a decent book, but not a great one -- certainly not worth picking up in hardcover unless you're a diehard Jordan fan (or you can snag it cheap -- I've seen it on sale at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com for half the cover price. If you've got an Audible.com subscription, it's certainly worth a credit (that's out I "read" it) but otherwise, I'd wait for the paperback.
- New Spring
- by Robert Jordan
- Tor Books
- 336 pages
- ISBN: 0765306298
- MSRP: $22.95
- Buy it from Amazon.com