Time for a review of the next three books.
Book 4: So I said before this book opens in Tear with all of the characters actually in one place (which is a very rare occurrence so far in the series) and Jordan doing nothing interesting with it. Egwene and Rand end their relationship abruptly and Elayne and Rand fall in together. Romance is not Jordan’s strong suit and Rand’s many female love interests are ill developed and annoying.
However, after dilly dallying around for a third of the book everyone collectively leaves Tear on their own quests. Elayne and Nynaeve go to Tanchico to hunt the Black Ajah. Perrin goes back to the Two Rivers to defend it against Padan Fain. Everyone else accompanies Rand in the Waste to meet the Aiel.
Let’s start with Elayne and Nynaeve. As female characters in the Wheel of Time they are wretched. At no point do they stop fighting each other or badgering the men accompanying them, even if Thom and Julilin have more experience out in the world in general and in seedy city underbellies in particular. These chapters were all painful to read because of these two, even the magic battle between Nynaeve and the Forsaken, Moghedien, is pretty boring as they do nothing but try to shield each other.
Perrin goes to the Two Rivers and we see a mantle of leadership thrust upon him unwillingly by the Pattern. Maybe it was Jordan’s intention but Perrin actually does very little by himself to actually save the Two Rivers and even after it is all over seems quite uninterested in being raised to Lord of the area. It has some decent battle scenes, but the final one with Padain Fain glowering over his defeat was almost Scooby Doo-esque; at any moment he could have said “If only it weren’t for those rotten kids.”
Lastly, we have Rand going into the waste. Rand’s power keeps increasing and he has at this point mostly embraced his destiny. He also seems far craftier and wiser than you would really expect after the last two books, seemingly executing long range plans known only to him. This is in sharp contrast to the harried and paranoid character of the last book. Matt is still lucky but can’t seem to escape Rand’s pull and if there is one thing that annoys me about my favorite character it is that he whines about his leash to Rand for far too many books.
The storyline in the Aiel city of Rhuidean is excellent, with the flashback of the Aiel past and the world before the Breaking being well done and very interesting peeks into the past. Matt’s journey into the Terangreal in Rhuidean was strange and has consequences that are still not entirely clear books later and his apparent death was frightening indeed. The brief interlude into Aiel politics and Rand’s nemesis in Couladin is also well done but the finale was confusing to me. I have no idea what caused Rand to figure out Asmodean’s plot and why he didn’t so something about it until he was actually in Rhuidean.
Overall a little weaker than the last, but better than the first two.
New Spring: This is the prequel that focuses on Moiraine and Lan. I chose to read it here based on the recommendations of people that have read the entire series. It becomes clear in the next book why they did.
Lan is barely in this book and it raises interesting questions about how Lan was trained as a Warder considering Moiraine was essentially persona non grata at the White Tower following the events of New Spring.
Your enjoyment of this book entirely depends on how much you like reading about the internal working of the White Tower. Most of the book is set within its gleaming walls and sets up the relationship between Siuan and Moiraine. Only near the end do they venture out and run into a Black Ajah trying to kill a potential Dragon Reborn. The only worthwhile thing to get out of this is just how much of Moiraine’s life she dedicated to finding the Dragon Reborn and it explains her behavior in the next book where she accepts anything from Rand in order to guide him.
Book 5: I know I complained about the excessive recounting of battles in the Furies of Calderon, but Jordan has the opposite problem: he shies away from showing battles. The book opens with Rand chasing the Couladin and the Shaido into Cairhien. Jordan writes the inevitable battle from Mat’s view. Mat is trying to escape at first but his ever oppressive conscience causes him to help a small band of soldiers. Then we get some quick vignettes of his actions on the battlefield before we fast forward to after the battle and learn that Mat had vanquished Couladin in single combat. I mean how do you just yada yada that?
The book is pretty slow up until the end. We get to learn far more than we care to about the Aiel and then there is the awful romance that plays out among Rand and Aviendha. Everyone seems blind to it until the have sex. After that Aviendha refuses to let anything happen again between her and Rand because he is Elayne’s. It really makes no sense, but that is predictable for WoT women.
Just like in the third book, Jordan picks things up when Rand in a fury at Elayne’s mother’s death stages a sudden attack on Camelyn. Rahvin seems woefully unprepared, but at least we get a good chase in the dream world and get to see the full power of Balefire in action.
One last note. The female channelers spend a lot of time in the dream world in these books. Jordan is trying to write powerful women and yet every time they are in Telaranrhiod we have to read long descriptions about plunging necklines and translucent dresses. 1) I don’t care that much about what they are wearing and 2) it suggests that deep down these powerful women just want to be fluttering peacocks for men, undermining his portrayal of their strength.