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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.