In preparation for A Memory of Light coming out in early 2013, and to fill a notable gap in our review library, I have been rereading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. A lot of time has passed since I first read these books, my teenage self placing them on the highest pedestal, and rereading the first two books really shattered the illusion for me that the Wheel of Time was the benchmark in fantasy; they had not aged well. I began The Dragon Reborn with some trepidation but right from the start there are some significant improvements over its predecessors and by the end of the book I could see again what I loved so much about these books, my faith in Wheel of Time partially restored.
The Dragon has been reborn, so the people claim. He has the banner, he has one power, and he has the armies of Artur Hawkwing fighting at his side. Everything is falling into place but mentally Rand is not yet ready to take the mantle that has been thrust upon him, and so he runs with Perrin, Moiraine, Lan and Loial hot on his heels. Dying from the sickness of Shadar Logoth, Mat is rushed to Tar Valon by Egwene, Elaine and Nynaeve, only something sinister is happening at the White Tower as whispers of the Black Ajah prove to be more than just rumours.
This is the first time we really see Jordan doing what he does best, juggling multiple points of view as his characters start to travel along diverging plot paths. As the characters start branching out you start to really get an appreciation for the sheer magnitude of the story that Jordan wants to tell, and you get that lingering feeling that it may be a long time before some of these characters cross paths again. The story is not as self contained as The Great Hunt, and if you strip back a lot of the character and world building, not a lot actually happens in this book, but what this book does really well is position all the pieces where they need to be for the rest of the series, preparing them with small scenarios where their actions subtlely contribute to the overaching plot.
The big changes in this book that you can see right from the start is that each viewpoint character is starting to get their own clearly defined quest, rather than just playing the support role to Rand's quest. Despite the title of the book, we hardly get a chapter with Rand as the point of view character as Jordan starts to flesh out Mat, Perrin, Egwene and Nynaeve as main characters in their own right. I'm glad that we finally get the real Mat back in this book, his happy go lucky nature was sorely missed in The Great Hunt, and I like seeing how the memories of the past first started to manifest in Mat's psyche. Perrin does the most growing up in this book, and I'm glad to see him leave his whiny personality behind from the first two books to become a likeable, respectable, and formidable hero. Egwene and Elaine are starting to show that they are willing to leave their childish bickering behind, but Nynaeve is real disappointment in this book, reverting back to ignorant and annoying village girl after being the strongest character from the first two books.
All in all, The Dragon Reborn is an excellent addition to the series, and one that finally sees the scope of this adventure become truly epic. By distancing the reader from Rand during this book, Jordan made his initial descent into madness all the more apparent, and I think what Jordan does here makes Rand far more sympathetic when he truly descends into madness in the later books. Having the characters finally start to grow up makes this book a lot more enjoyable for me, and I start to see why I looked back on these books with such fondness.
The Dragon Reborn is the third in the Wheel of Time series and continues almost immediately on from The Great Hunt. This book contains two distinct paths to the climax, a feature throughout the series and one of the many reasons why I am such a big fan of the series.
The Dragon Reborn is the first book in which Jordan hands the reins of the story over to the others characters; we still get brief glimpses of Rand but this is no longer just Rand’s story but that of an end of an age.
There is a lovely scene involving Perrin in this book. He visits a blacksmith and we are witness to some fantastic writing as Jordan opens up Perrin’s mind so that we can come to understand his turmoil. I might be slightly biased here though, as Perrin is my favourite character in the series.
My one criticism of the book is Moiraine. I find her extremely grating throughout this book, particularly as she tends to favour the stick over the carrot far too much for my liking. Sometimes I can see the need for it, but in some instances, especially with Perrin, she can be a little over the top.
The Black Ajah starts to become more prominent in this book, something that resonates throughout the series, and becomes a catalyst or component for many of the story arcs.
A side note: The ending of this book, involving Rand, was originally intended be the ending of the first book in the series, The Eye of the World. This is evidence of Jordan taking a lot longer to get to this point than he first thought but the book is all the better for it.
Christopher James Jepp
Leona from US
I knew for a while that this series has many fans but so does the Shannara stories and most of those books are horrible. I put the first three books in this series on the level of Elfstones of Shannara which is the best in that series. That is, the story is interesting as are many of the characters. That people could class these as good as or better than LotR is mind boggling. Tolkien was a linguist and well traveled. With each sentence he added more detail to the picture he was painting in your mind. I experience the world he created, knew the characters and appreciated every step taken through forest, over mountains, in bogs. This was the first book I started on being desperate for a good fantasy. The title grabbed me with the thought of dragons coming back to aid in a battle. I was instead bludgeoned with the words Aes Sedai so much I wanted to scream. I read the first 3 books were written as one and poor editing made this book incomprehensible without starting from the first book. I wonder if Jordan was trying to copy Tolkien who wrote LotR as one book before having to divide them. If so that didn't work for him. Unlike Tolkien every sentence does not add detail. Jordan stretches the story through repetition. The young heroes not too intelligent inner thoughts and questions are often identical blurring them into one retarded person. At times I had to go back to see if Rand or Perrin pov was being presented. The way problematic situations were dealt with many times was lazy. Rand, for instance, defeating omnipotent supernatural beings whilst being totally clueless about what he was doing. It has some good spots. Mat didn't evolve but, like Moraine, suddenly had deadly skills and knowledge that were not there before. Previously Mat was just stupid. I loved the I interaction between Elaine Gawyn Galad and Rand it was a rare moment when the dialogue was humorous and intelligent ( EotW). I wanted to see that built on but had to settle for being relieved she was not conforming to the ways of the Red Ajah. I will end this here.
7.6/10 from 2 reviews