Spoiler free summary: New Spring by Robert Jordan is the prequel novel to the Wheel of Time. Moiraine and Siuan are accepted of the White Tower. Soon, they will be Aes Sedai, but even sooner than that, ancient prophesies long feared come to pass. The Dragon has been reborn on the slope of Dragonmount, and they are two among a small handful of people who even know. Unfortunately, those who would take or kill the baby to help the shadow also know, and Moiraine must find the boy. She runs into a group of soldiers on her travels, but will they help her, or will they turn out to be more darkfriends leading her to certain death?
Character: I must be open and transparent here. This is at least the tenth time I’ve read this book. The characters are the reason this whole series is my second favorite (Dragonriders of Pern). This book elevated Moiraine for me, and while Siuan was never on my top list of favorites, this book allowed me to understand her better. Then, of course, there’s Lan, who steals the show. The characters are sympathetic and proactive. They have goals and flaws. They are why this saga is so special.
Exposition: This is probably where the book is a bit weaker. That’s not to say it’s terrible, but a world of this scope demands exposition. The other issue is that this book is first out of 15, but it was written much later in the series. The author was forced to act as if it was the first book, and that drags the pace even though the book is relatively short (especially when compared to other volumes in the series). So yes, it is excessive, but it’s not more than anyone should expect from a book setting up an entire world.
Worldbuilding: The reward for excessive exposition (see Dune, Dragonriders) is immaculate worldbuilding, and in my opinion, Wheel of Time has the best worldbuilding ever. I’ll mention this here even though this book isn’t the best one to mention it. Most fantasy stories I’ve read talk about other lands or nations, but they are vague mentions. This world is full of different places with customs an habits. In this book alone, we learn about White Tower politics and Shienar and Malkier. We meet people from those lands. We don’t just hear about them, we see them, and that’s setting aside Moiraine’s home nation of Cairhien, the matchstick for the entire saga.
Dialogue: As is the case with most of my favorites, this book has charming dialogue that doesn’t just expand the plot, but it reveals characters. Even their curses are unique to their nation or background.
Description: if anything slows down this story for me, it’s the sheer volume of description. The positive is that I can practically smell these characters. The down side is I have to slog through all of it. I feel like Jordan falls on the excessive, but he may just be the standard for an aspect of writing I’ve never really been particularly good at or interested in. I don’t know if it bothers other fans as much as it did bother me, but it does wonders for the imagination.
Overall: As an outrigger, this book fills in a lot of gaps that I wish we’d have seen fulfilled. As a prequel, it sets the stage. I start with this book when I re-read the series, but I wouldn’t recommend people new to the series start here. I’d read at least book one before going back (and I might recommend at least waiting until after The Dragon Reborn). That’s not because it isn’t good. Instead, there are surprises and treats that a reader gets from waiting to let this book add to the content rather than methodically play it out. Whatever you do, it’s a great book that really sets the standard for fantasy fiction.
Thanks for reading,