Monday, January 23, 2012
New Spring by Robert Jordan
New Spring: The Novel by Robert Jordan is a prequel to Jordan’s ongoing fantasy novel series The Wheel of Time which I’ll be reading over the next year (and longer since I don’t have a lot of time for reading while I’m studying. The person who most recently recommended this series told me to read this book first and I think it was sage advice. This novel is shorter than any of the others, an expansion of a novella that first appeared in the book Legends edited by Robert Silverberg.
The novel begins by telling the story of Lan Mandragoran and Moiraine Damodred. At the novel’s beginning, Lan is battling the Aiel and Moiraine is an Accepted, living in the White Tower studying to be an Aes Sedai. Events gradually move to bring the two together as other characters are introduced. Many other things are mentioned that are not explained in full, none f which require an immediate explication. Ogiers and the Aiel, the Breaking of the World and the Three Ages are all dropped into the narrative but explanations are not necessary for this story and I already know, from having read the first seven or eight books in the series that many of these things will be explained much more clearly as we go along.
I immediately liked Moiraine and her friend Siuane Sanche. Their friendship reminded me of many of the powerful adolescent relationships girls build that last a lifetime. When Lan’s path finally crosses with Moiraine’s events move very quickly to the climactic ending. The entire novel moves far more quickly than any of the other novels but the other novels have many more characters and the frequent shifts from one to the other characters forces the later books to move less quickly. It is hard not to compare this (or any) fantasy series with Tolkien’s classic. In this case, New Spring is not unlike The Hobbit while the rest of the series is like the Lord of the Rings trilogy plus The Silmarillion. The later stories are longer, complicated, sophisticated. It lays the groundwork for the larger epic to follow and introduces some of the characters without overwhelming with too much information in background information or people or the rest.
I had read this book before and didn’t remember that this novel focused so much more on Moiraine than it does on Lan. I honestly thought it was more balanced. This is not a complaint—merely an observation. On page 313 I came across something else I had nearly forgotten. I quote: In spite of herself, she sniffed. I made a silent groan, having forgotten that Jordan has his women sniffing constantly in his novels. That he didn’t give into this inevitability. I didn’t read far enough to know if he ever managed to stop with all the sniffing but this prequel was written and published fourteen years after the first novel so I now have hope that the women will stop sniffing at the men and someone finally pointed out to Jordan how silly it is that all of the women characters do this. Once in a while, maybe, and even then only a couple or maybe four (given how highly populated these novels are) women at best.
All in all, I enjoyed reading this novel again. And I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the series. If I weren’t in school, it would happen much faster than not but with all the studying I am required to do, I’ll have to pace myself in spite of myself. I’ll try to write my reviews so that there are no spoilers but I’m not sure if that will be possible going forward. We’ll see how that goes.
For all those who have never read these books and are considering doing so, I would recommend reading this prequel before trying to dig into the first novel but don’t assume this novel sets the tone for the rest of the series. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to read past the first three books in the series (including this prequel) if you aren’t already compelled to read the rest. The only reason I stopped is because I was reading the series faster than they were being published and I don’t like the endless waiting for that last novel comes out. I did it with Herbert, with Donaldson, with Rowling. I just don’t want to do it again.