I have been discovering something about these books while reading them this time through and I have a new theory about why I hated them the first time I read them and like them now. Before I explain my theory I must provide the note that I will likely have a new theory for each book that I read and, indeed, I seem to have done so to this point.
My new theory is this: Much of the fine detail and foreshadowing feels like unnecessary details and murderous repetition the first (and maybe second and third) time through the books.
Let me explain. No, no, there is too much. Let me sum up.
There is a huge fan base out there, not enough to rival Harry Potter but phenomenally large nonetheless. This fan base obsessively takes apart every word that Jordan uses and massages nuance of meaning out of it to the point that they seem to pick it apart more carefully than many a preacher studies the Bible when searching for a new sermon. It’s as if they believe that Jordan is some kind of god and every word that he writes is planned to convey multiple meanings. While I was somewhat skeptical at first it appears that frequently this is true – I’m talking here about the multiple meanings part not the Jordan-is-some-kind-of-god part.
This community then finds clues and debates on their meanings until either they all die from malnutrition and/or radiation poisoning (most of these people started out sitting in front of the old CRT monitors – which, I know, didn’t actually emit harmful radiation since like the 1960s but it was a joke, however poor), or Jordan sees fit to provide concrete evidence in the next book.
Well, once that concrete evidence is provided and the previous are read again with that new knowledge and evidence in mind things become much more interesting. I know this because scenes that used to be mind-numbing bits of characters I didn’t care about saying things that didn’t make sense now are tense political debates and thrilling moments of character discovery. One of these scenes has a character almost decide to poison another then think better of it. It’s all there in the clues but unless you know information given two or three books later you have no idea what is going on.
So I have to say that I applaud Jordan for his planning and foresight – or for his ability to retroactively make boring things creepy or intense which would also deserve praise depending on which is true. At the same time I have to shake my head at the decision to do things this way. For people like me who want to reread the books and enjoy the series it works because I learn new things and I reread and I see it. (Most of his fans are like that so maybe it’s not a problem.) To the people who just want the enjoyable epic fantasy that they started reading in book one to come to a conclusion it is undeniably frustrating and senseless.
Jordan is somehow brilliant and elegant and also clumsy all at once. The intermingling of legend and myth and history from our world into the story that he tells continues at a mindboggling rate – I’m sure I’m missing more than I pick up and I pick up a lot.
For those looking for something to finally happen take comfort in the fact that this has probably the biggest and most optimistic ending of the series so far. If you haven’t read it I won’t spoil it for you but I will say that yet again Nynaeve gets a Crowning Moment of Awesome – along with Rand – and Jordan fundamentally breaks the world he has created to this point.
I liked this book a lot. I’m hoping that the next one is at least as good.