Alice, Christina Henry

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I love Alice in Wonderland. I loved ‘After Alice’ by Gregory Maguire. I adore the story and the extent to which it is possible to redesign Carroll’s original world.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so traumatised upon reading a book, and yet there’s a sequel and I’ve ordered it because I’m stubborn like that.

The Plot

Alice is in a mental asylum, next to a man called Hatcher. She is there because she was found covered in blood and weeping, and kept talking about a rabbit. He is there because he murdered 12 people with an axe. An intriguing opening, with a lot of mystery intertwined in. Alice and Hatcher escape the asylum, and begin a journey through the city to defeat the Jabberwock – a magician from the old days trapped when he turned to dark magic. In the meantime, their journey through the filthy underworld of Cheshire, Caterpillar, Walrus and Rabbit is the most horrifying and disgustingly foul thing I have ever read.

Walrus rapes girls and eats them so he can absorb their magic, but he is disappointed every time because the only girl with magic is Alice, who escaped him. Caterpillar keeps girls in a brothel dressed like butterflies, and in the meantime has a mermaid trapped and a woman surgically altered to look like a butterfly in a cage. The woman’s only escape is to beg for death, which Hatcher fulfills. Rabbit sells girls, rapes Alice when she is 16 to ‘break’ her. Cheshire seems a little more stable, but his game playing and cruelty is immeasurable.

I felt sick reading this, but at the same time, gripped by the mystery. Who is Jenny? Will Alice survive? What really happened.

And then of course there was Pipkin; a white bunny made into a giant so that he could fight in cage fights, who Alice can talk to and rescues, and who sets himself up as a protector of all the girls that Alice frees. Pipkin was a moment of light relief.

Henry has created a disturbing and horrific world, one that I only engage with because of the strong and clever interweaving of the original Alice in Wonderland stories. Based in an unnamed city, where the Old City is separated from the New City by soldiers and guards and no intermingling is allowed, Henry does not for a moment pretend that Wonderland exists. Everything is almost believable – the names, the characters. I was most impressed with Cheshire; he was the one character throughout that I felt really stayed true to the original characterisation. He is mysterious, has a great big grin, and helps only when it suits him, and even then his ‘help’ is confusing and misguided.

But nothing can excuse the rape, the murder, the blood, the horror of this story. It has all been so unnecessary. It would have been an intriguing tale without the horror that runs alongside it. But Henry overplays her hand, allowing the blood and gore to overtake the terrifying world that she has created.

Don’t get me wrong; whilst simple, Henry’s writing of place is absolutely fantastic. You can feel the difference between the Old City and the New City. There are no long, intrusive descriptions, but you learn enough about the place through what they witness. Alice and Hatcher’s amnesia both help with that, because they have to run through what is familiar to work out what they know and what they don’t.

Her characterisation is also very impressive. It helps that she is working with a much loved story and well known characters, but the development of love between Alice and Hatcher, the chase for the Rabbit, who you know as evil and are surprised by his physical state when he is found, and the creation of the over lords of the City are all very impressive. Some characters you feel you know before you actually meet them. Others, you get to know along the way. The physical descriptions were lacking a little, but again, because of the nature of the transformation, you can work with what you know about the story beforehand.

I’m just upset and slight disgusted that someone can think it’s okay to write such horror in such a blithe way. I expected a mystery, some uncomfortable-ness, but not a blaise writing of rape. It is almost as if Henry undermines the horror of the experience – rape is not bad enough, so let’s imagine someone eating their victim, or turning them into a human butterfly with broken legs… I can’t get over the imagery. It was foul and horrid.

So whilst the writing was good and the transformation interesting, overall I have hated reading this novel. I can’t help myself, the sequel is already on its way, and as Alice and Hatcher are leaving the city to hunt for Hatcher’s daughter, I hope that some of the horror will dissipate. But it has left a horrid taste in my mouth.

The Dragon Reborn – Wheel of Time book 3

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And as always, not with a quiet stutter but rather a large explosion and a cliff hanger like no other, yet another Wheel of Time novel draws to a close.

When looking at the first book, I focussed on the characters. In the second I looked not just at the characters but their links with each other and the relationship especially between Egwene, Elayne and Min. This time, it’s time to take a closer look at the boys. But not before I say this…

Nynaeve and Egwene

Nynaeve and Egwene have the most childish relationship in the entire novel! Egwene acts like a grumpy 2 year old and Nynaeve is so self-righteous and rude all the time! My boyfriend assures me that I’ll develop a love-hate relationship with them, that there are times I’ll love them and times I won’t, but right now I just wish they’d go their separate ways instead of forcing their relationship on us. Egwene’s character progression has been fascinating to watch; from the determined young lady who wanted to leave the Two Rivers, to the powerful Accepted with a fear of being chained again. I can understand her anger and fears. Nynaeve I have no such understanding towards. Her reasons for following the group originally are a bit sketchy – would someone with no blood relation or particular benefit really go through so much effort to return the Two Rivers folk home? Her relationship with Lan hasn’t really been explored enough – we’ve not really had much narrative from Nynaeve’s perspective yet and so we have been told that this exists but not been witness to much of it. Nynaeve’s lack of control of the power – only being able to channel when angry – and her sole desire to learn more control being based on the desire for revenge against Moraine are concerning factors. We worry so much about Rand and the taint on the male power, that perhaps we are not seeing the evil that Nynaeve is capable of. I do believe she is one to watch – and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Rand

What was nice about this novel is that Rand didn’t actually feature much in it. Certainly, he was the main focus, but aside from the odd insight into his dreams, we learned about his journey from the perspective of the other characters. This is a very clever narrative device, emphasising Rand’s isolation as well as his battle with the descent to madness. We begin to understand a little more of how Rand is being swept away by events, by power and by dreams. Lanfear’s control over him is somewhat worrying – as with the horn, he seeks Callendor because she wants him to, alongside the call of the sword and the dreams and the desire to defeat evil. It is almost scary reading paragraphs from his perspective now. He has developed some control over the power, but it still drives him to madness. He has accepted his destiny, the Aiel are his followers and he has a powerful sa’angreal now which he can channel through. Is Rand going to be able to defeat the madness? Or will his spiralling descent continue.

Perrin

Perrin and Faile, sitting in a tree… okay, a little childish, but awwwwwwwww! Perrin was, from book 1, one of the most well established and believable characters. His development into the ‘wolf whisperer’, despite his reluctance, is one of the most engaging journeys in the series so far. His relationship with the dead wolf Hopper was surprising at first, and unlike Rand, Perrin seems much more able to actively fight the connection with the wolves, whereas Rand is consistently consumed by the call of the power. But in his fight against his destiny, Perrin is learning to use and control his powers; he accepts the power of the wolf-dreams, he is able to warn people about what is coming through his dreams and he just has a great sense of smell. This is one of the things I love about Perrin’s perspective. You get a total 4D experience, and it’s so natural. The five senses are always important in writing, but smell is one of the hardest to write as it doesn’t always fit in naturally. But through Perrin’s enhanced senses, the reader gains an insight into the world he is experiencing that doesn’t feel unnatural. In fact, Jordan often describes smells before sights when writing Perrin, which is a very powerful insight into the progression of Perrin’s powers. And now, Perrin has his falcon. I much prefer this romance to any of the others so far, because although it is childish (they both openly dislike and wind each other up and express their attraction through childish mannerisms), I actually believe that they are in love. I’m excited to see how the relationship progresses, and am dreading discovering who the hawk is, because she fights with the falcon and I like Faile.

Mat

Wow, Mat really winds me up. For a protagonist, I really dislike him. Even his rescue of Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve is so… reluctant? drawn out? childish? I’m not really sure what word to use. I find the discovery of his luck interesting, but not particularly gripping. Jordan overplays his role as the joker in the group, before they left the Two Rivers, except now it is mostly bitter and twisted and very out of place. He is a reluctant hero, which I have no problem with, but I just cannot warm to him. I don’t know whether maybe I am still putting a taint on him that is left over from the dagger. He just doesn’t feel natural. Of all the characters in the novel, Mat is the most forced. He has very little character progression, and isn’t that likeable. The novel ends with his planning to run away from events and he whines a lot about not getting any thanks etc. I just can’t warm to him.

Thom

Thom is a character I’m worried about. His injury, gained when saving Mat and Rand’s lives, is well written when convenient, but ignored when not so convenient. It’s a little inconsistent at times. The death of his lover was clearly deeply traumatic. The thing is, Mat and Thom should really be a dream team. You’d expect banter and laughter, a little comic relief. But they’re both so caught up in their woes that there seems to be little they agree on or enjoy. There is a definite darkness to The Dragon Reborn, and it manifests in Thom’s lack of story telling, lack of harp playing and, even if it’s written that he tells a story or performs, we don’t get to experience it like we used to. I hope that Jordan builds Thom’s character back up.

The Strands

Ah yes, the wheel weaves as the wheel wills, and the four individual journeys, the three ta’veren and the dark one all end up in the same place for yet another confrontation. Ba’alzamon is dead. The dark one is not. The journey is only just beginning. The forsaken are clearly going to be a key focus in the next few novels as they need to be hunted down. But that’s an aside. What I want to say here is that I am impressed at Jordan’s control of all strands of the story. Clearly knowing this was a long term project, he wrote as if it was a record rather than a novel. The detail, such as songs with the same tune but different words, or an inn that ‘feels’ different, is so strong that you can really imagine yourself there. The story is complex and in an amateur’s hands would be confusing, but Jordan knows what he is doing and has produced a world that I can really begin to live in. His control of the characters is complete but unnoticeable while you’re reading; instead it isn’t till you look back on the books that you realise how in control he is. I’ve read a lot of self-published, kindle fantasy recently and had forgotten how powerful and thorough a true epic is. Jordan is bringing me back into the fantasy landscape, and I’m really enjoying it.

The Widow, Fiona Barton

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I love a bit of variety to my reading, and this book certainly provided that. I picked it up because of the blue circle on the front – ‘perfect to fill the dark void left by The Girl on the Train’‘. I question the comparison – although I can see spousal abuse in The Widow, The Gril on the Train had a much more powerful and harmful portrayal of that, whereas the Widow is darker because it is about children.

Caution! Spoilers!

This novel held an element of mystery from the beginning, even though you think you know who the perpetrator of the crime was. Jean seems, initially, confused and lost, but as the book progresses you start to realise that her sanity is not complete and that she knows far more than she lets on.

There is a consistent level of doubt throughout the novel about whether Glen was Bella’s kidnapper, or whether others, such as Doonan, were actually responsible. This held up throughout Sparkes’ investigation, right up until about 50 pages from the end when all other suspects were ruled out. By that time, however, Jean had revealed enough that the reader was far more certain anyway that Glen had been responsible.

The use of flashbacks, and using dates almost like police logs helped to create the feel of an investigation. The reader never has all the information until the end, which means that they feel Sparkes’ frustration and are desperate for Bella to be found.

As a mystery novel, this was well written, well paced and well laid out.

But the content was difficult. Child pornography, child rape, kidnapping, the intimation of abuse towards Bella… It was almost too difficult to read. Without in any way being explicit, The Widow paints a picture of an underworld of dangerous and harmful porn that leaks out into the real world to the endangerment of living people.

The one chapter written from Glen’s perspective, late in the book, shows how he made the decision to take Bella. He thinks to himself ‘it was a sickness, and he would get better’. Yet the plot continues and Bella is taken.

Barton writes addiction with skill and insight. Whilst anyone who suffers from addiction can relate to Glen’s struggle, you do not end up liking or feeling sorry for him. His emotional abuse towards Jean is evident from the outset of their relationship. She is allowed the semblance of freedom but is withdrawn and turned into an echo of Glen rather than allowed to develop as her own person. Glen is an emotionally damaged man, who cannot see past his own desires. His selfishness, his need, is what leads to Bella’s death. He is also weak, and a bit pathetic. He doesn’t remember what he did to her. He doesn’t remember how she died. We never find out what Bella really suffered. Because no one will ever know.

The development of Jean’s attachment to Bella, from the initial news event, to the moment she blamed Dawn for losing ‘our’ child, is impressive and painful. You can really feel Jean’s grief as she mourns her barrenness and aches for a child. She exhibits her own forms of mental illness, from the scrapbooks of pictures of children taken from magazines and newspapers, to the desire to ‘look after’ Bella in her death; to visit the place Glen left Bella and make sure it is cared for.  The conclusion to the novel is haunting: ‘Bella knew I was there, and that’s all that matters’.

The Verdict

I believe this was a debut novel, and I never once felt like I was reading a first time writer; probably because much of the story was told through the reporter Kate, and Barton herself was a reporter before trying her hand at fiction. Whilst I found the subject matter difficult, I did enjoy the suspense and mystery, and I would look out for this author again.

The Great Hunt – Wheel of Time book 2

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It’s been a while since I last wrote because these books are so long! And so incredible. You both want to speed through them and slow down so they don’t have to end. It’s pretty incredible.

Last time I wrote about the Wheel of Time, I talked a bit about the male characters and Moraine, the Aes Sedai, as well as Egwene and Nynaeve. Now, though, there are so many more characters, it’s hard to know where to start.

Rand Al’Thor is the Dragon Reborn. Whilst none of us are surprised by the fact that he is the actual real dragon, it seems that at last he has managed to accept it himself. Rand seems determined to isolate himself, and this is not helped by Mat’s loss of the dagger and Perrin’s reluctance to explain to anyone his connection with the wolves. It was good to see by the end of the book that they were resuming their relationships and staying loyal to Rand in spite of the danger he presents.

Favourite Character of Book 2

Loial. Without a doubt, the ogier is one of the greatest characters this series has produced. From his concern and worry for his books, to his unfaltering loyalty to Rand, Loial adds both comic relief and wisdom, as well as a valid insight into the nature of humanity. Jordan has written Loial really well – he is 90 years old, young by the standards of his people, as his species youth settles well with the wisdom that comes from having been alive for 90 years. He really is a good and loyal friend and a character I look forwards to following further through the series.

Least favourite characters

I have to say, this should be Padan Fain, a terrifying mix of Mordeth and the evil of the dagger and the depth of a life long darkfriend.

But my real issues lie else where. Firstly, the sul’dam. Women chaining women and manipulating them to use their power for evil. Renna, especially, portrays such evil – the facade of friendship and equality quickly wiped away by punishment and degradation. To do this to another women, to have those physical chains between them, is such a powerful image and indictment of the treatment of women in society, even at the hands of other women. Too many escaped for my liking. There has to be some form of justice produced upon them in the coming books. I found the imagery of such slavery quite upsetting.

Secondly, Selene. Or should I say LANFEAR, a forsaken. She is manipulative, cruel and totally in control of Rand whenever he is in her presence. I thought that the three ties Min had seen would be Elayne, Egwene and Min, but it appears that it is a forsaken, Egwene and Min. But Selene represents all that is wrong with this world. She has broken out of her prison and is dangerous. I really, really don’t like her.

Team Egwene?

I couldn’t write about this particular novel without mentioning the relationship between Egwene, Min and Elayne. It’s so beautiful, they all love the same man in their own way and yet they are loyal to each other and are focussed on rescuing Egwene at great risk to themselves. They have forged a bond of friendship that almost, not quite, restores the shattered portrayal of female – female relationships created by the sul’dam. Their loyalty to each other is a pleasure to see.

Conclusion

I was kind of sad that everyone left without saying goodbye to Rand. I know Mat’s situation is pretty desperate, but I still think they could have waited a couple of days. But, as seems to be the case, Robert Jordan knows how to write an ending! He is phenomenally talented at having everything the novel has led towards wrapped up whilst simultaneously creating new threads and mysteries to be faced next time. I’m not sure I can handle the stress for 12 more novels!

I am growing to love this series, and seeing character growth is really important. Last time I complained that Rand and Mat were quite flat. I still find Mat a bit two dimensional, but Rand is coming into his own now. I guess that when you have the pleasure of writing fourteen novels, you can take your time creating characters with such depth.

Overall, The Great Hunt felt more mature and thorough than The Eye of the World. I am looking forwards to reading on, not just because of the plot, but also because I can see the character development. Time for a short break and then onto ‘The Dragon Reborn’.

The Forgetting Time, Sharon Guskin

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The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin has been a mix of something really interesting and something really disappointing. For a debut novel, it’s clearly hit a nerve with the public and seems to be doing very well, with comments from Jodie Picoult on the front. I purchased it from WH Smith at the airport where it was in a ‘recommended reads by Richard and Judy’ (I think)… it was also buy one get one half price, so that may have had something to do with my decision to buy it!

The Premise

The premise is really quite simple. Noah is 4 years old, yet he has a distinct sense of ‘wanting to go home’ and as the novel progresses, we learn that he remembers being an 8 year old boy called Tommy. His mother, Janie, confused and hurt by Noah’s insistence that he has another mother and a different life, will do anything to help her son forget his nightmares and move on – even if it’s believing the impossible, trusting an ailing scientist, and allowing her son to meet his other mother.

The Execution

Guskin has great skill in drawing the reader’s attention in. I was remarkably gripped from beginning to end, even when my enthusiasm for the story line began to falter. The language was not pretentious nor was it patronising, but just right for the ‘popular’ market. The chapters were well paced and of a good length, meaning that you could take breaks where necessary (you know, when normal life intervenes) and pick up where you left off easily enough. The pace of the novel was fantastic, it lingered and took its time, but moved quickly enough that you didn’t feel trapped in any moment. The narration style, following three different adults primarily – Denise, Janie and Anderson – was engaging and adding in characters such as Pauly later added to the suspense. Over all, the book was well paced, well written and quite tense.

I especially enjoyed Guskin’s description and development of Anderson’s aphasia (a degenerative illness in which a person loses their language ability). Anderson is a psychiatrist with a professional and personal obsession with proving that life after death, or life after life, if you prefer, exists and can be scientifically proven. He has dedicated his life to his book and his research, and he needs one final case to make his book accessible to the public. But he is slowly losing his grip with language. What I found really interesting was when the chapters were written from Janie’s perspective, and she noticed something strange about him but couldn’t put her finger on what it was. She thought he was being ‘careful’, when the reader understood that he simply couldn’t find the words that he needed. Aphasia is an illness I knew little about, but Guskin’s understanding and portrayal of it is heart-wrenching, simple and expresses a deep understanding.

Throughout the novel, Guskin brings in other documentation, at least some of which is real – such as the case of Shanti Devi. Stories of other children who have experienced what Noah is going through are dotted throughout, as well as early on an article about a musician who suffered from musical aphasia. These added an interesting atmosphere to the novel, bringing the readers attention away from the personal family drama we become encompassed in as we get to know the characters, and understand that this is not an isolated incident. It adds credence to the mystery of the novel, emphasising the scientific nature of Anderson’s research.

So what went wrong?

There was so much good stuff in this book. I was gripped, I like the author, the mystery was thorough, and a lot of the emotions and incidences really heart wrenching. So why am I sat here more than a little disappointed?

I think it’s because it was too obvious. There wasn’t really a mystery to be solved. You learned early on the theories Anderson has about Noah’s condition, and whilst Janie seems reluctant to acquiesce, the reader can see far more objectively. I think 90% of my issues come from the front cover and blurb. They give away the mystery! They tell you that Noah is a 4 year old boy who remembers being an 8 year old boy called Tommy. This isn’t really revealed until about a third of the way through the novel, so all the earlier mystery that comes from the pre school and the psychiatrist etc is undermined by the fact that you know already that Noah has these other memories. It’s really frustrating, because it could have been far more intricately a mystery had this not been revealed – you would have spent time questioning Janie’s parenting, whether Noah was really her son, her sanity and his sanity. Instead you say back, and every clue was so obviously pointing to what the blurb suggested that you kind of just got a bit bored. As a result, by the time Anderson comes in with his diagnosis and you start solving the mystery of Tommy’s death, you’re not really engaged because you know with certainty that Noah is remembering a previous life. There’s no room for doubt or your own conclusions. Noah mentions ‘Pauly’ really early on, so the minute you meet Paul, you know he murdered Tommy. It was all just too wrapped up immediately. Whilst it was gripping and suspenseful, it was more a need to know how Guskin was going to explain the phenomenon, rather than working it out. It was almost too scientific – a report of a fictional incident rather than a novel. Whilst that fits in with Anderson’s character, it didn’t do much for me by way of engaging me in the story.

Conclusion

I think that Guskin still has a way to go to know how to craft a story that truly takes the reader on an adventure of which they don’t already know the conclusion. Her powerful displays of a mother’s love, another mother’s grief, aphasia, suicide and accidental murder are sensitive and moving, but there is that sense of disappointment throughout because nothing is really a surprise.

That said, I like her writing style, and the subject matter was interesting. With a little polishing, I think I could really grow to like this author.

If you’re not as picky as me, this is definitely a book worth reading, as much for what I learned from it as for the story.

The Eye of the World – Wheel of Time book 1

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And so it begins… an epic adventure through 14 books! Once again, my boyfriend recommended this series to me, and I have dutifully devoured the first book with a passion I haven’t felt for fantasy for a while. I’ve been trying really hard to read more ‘indie’ authors, especially with my kindle I can get self-publishing fantasy novels quite cheap. And they’re alright. But they’re not epic; not like this! I have decided to read one Wheel of Time book, then take a break with something else, then read the next… because else I’ll become fixated, something that is going to be very easy to do with this series! So… onto the book.

Premise

The Eye of the World is complicated! After the breaking of the world several thousand years ago, the wheel of time has turned through many ages, all of them ending with the destruction of the good and the overwhelming of evil, though the evil one has been trapped and so unable to relish his victory. The wheel of time continues to turn, only this time there are three young men central to its turning, and only they seem to be able to turn the tide. Rand, Mat and Perrin and simple country boys until Moraine, an Aes Sedai (one who can touch the One Power) arrives in their village, immediately followed by an attack of the Trollocs. The three boys, along with Egwene, a young woman seeking adventure, and later Nayvene, a wisdom who seeks to bring the boys home, Lan, Moraine’s warder who is bonded with her but also has a bit of a thing for Nayvene, and Thom, a travelling story teller, embark on a journey of epic proportions. From humans who can talk to wolves, to a people seeking ‘the song’, to princes and princesses and false dragons, the story weaves its way into your mind and heart with skill and thoroughness.

The Characters (caution! contains spoilers!)

It would seem complicated, having to get to know all these characters at once, but Jordan does an excellent job of making you feel like you know them. The initial focus is on Rand and his father Tam, and whilst Mat and Perrin are introduced, the focus stays on Rand quite a while, and so you get to know the other characters from his perspective before they develop their own individuality. Rand is a simple boy, who loves his father and his village and leaves only to protect them. He doesn’t seem to grow much throughout the novel; he constantly wants to return home and although he stands up to Ba’alzamon in his dreams, he doesn’t do so with a heroic feel but rather desperation. In a way, this suits his stolid and firm character, but he simply seems uninteresting to be honest. Even when he defeats Ba’alzamon, he is led by the light to do so and doesn’t really seem that aware of what is happening other than the fact that he has to win to protect his friends. He does, in the last few pages of the novel, appear to grow a bit more, deciding to learn how to fight, choosing not to go home  so that he doesn’t taint anyone with his ability to connect to the one power, and putting his feelings for Egwene aside to protect her. I’m interested to see whether he gains more depth in the following novels, but I’m not too sure yet.

Mat is a lot of fun, until an evil dagger makes him so sick he nearly dies, and despite being saved he is still attached to it. He is the standard, cardboard cut out of a joker, well known in the village for his practical jokes and always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. His descent into madness, however, was really well developed and portrayed, and you really felt his struggle against the powers that were afflicting him. It was probably at that point, shown through Rand’s perspective, that I bonded most with Mat, because I could feel his struggle and pain, and the overwhelming paranoia and delusions. It is a powerful metaphor for depression, in many ways, this darkness eating you up from the inside out, changing everything about you until it leaves you no choice but to die. His healing was too sudden, almost, but as it is still developing and he still carried the dagger, I imagine this will be picked up on in subsequent novels.

Perrin is reluctant to depart the village and is a quiet and sensible member of the group. His discovery of his ability to talk with wolves, to be connected to them to the extent of feeling their desire to hunt and run and be free, is an interesting and difficult development for both Perrin and the reader. He is so reluctant to acquiesce to such a magical talent, that he hides it from his friends, who notice his increasing quietness and yellow eyes, but don’t seem to push him for much more. They’re all so busy keeping their own secrets that they don’t seem able to engage with each other in a caring manner. Perrin intends to return home, but I truly believe he could develop into one of the most powerful and unusual characters in this series, and I’m excited to see his progression. He, of all three of the boys, has the most depth – being considered slow when really his great size has made him careful – and we have a little more insight into his mind in the way he communicates with the wolves. A fascinating and muli-levelled character, Perrin is ceratinly the more interesting of the three protagonists.

Moraine Aes Sedai… what a conundrum! I’ll say little about her here other than I don’t 100% trust her motives. I’m not sure how she knew so much, or what she’s doing with the boys and what her ultimate goal is. In so many ways, she seems to know so much, but at the same time, she knows very little. She is a mystical character who needs a lot more exploration in further novels.

Just when you think Lan is simple and uncomplicated, you discover that he’s actually the heir to a kingdom destroyed by the blight, and that many people look to him to ride again against the evil enveloping the land. He is a solid support throughout, but his loyalty to Moraine once again makes him a concerning figure. However, his developing feelings for Nayvene may counter this, and I’m interested to see how it develops.

Conclusion

I won’t go further into anyone else for now, because I feel like they’ll come to the fore in the next 13 novels!

Whilst I have some problems with the characters, overall Jordan produces a storyline which exceeds expectations and leads to strong feelings for all involved, even the seemingly ‘evil’ characters. The intrigue and mystery continue through the conclusion, and the strangeness of the ages is yet to be answered. I look forwards to the next novel and learning more about the wheel of time, the one power, and where the characters are going to go next.