Revisiting the Wheel of Time: Winter’s Heart

[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome, but please, no spoilers for books after Crossroads of Twilight, as that’s the last book I read before starting this project.]

Took me a while to get around to posting this one. I actually read the book last month, but my notes have been sitting around for a few weeks now — possibly a sign that I’m running out of steam. This is the ninth book, after all, and I’ve been doing this since January of last year; after a while, momentum does become an issue. (Doesn’t help that the next book is Crossroads of Twilight. I think I may have mentioned how little I’m looking forward to that one, once or twice. Or three times. Or more.)

But anyway. Winter’s Heart. Which is, indeed, better-shaped than the previous book, though still suffering the characteristic problems of the Bad Three.

So, the Prologue is seventy-one pages long, in a six hundred and forty-two page book. That translates to fully eleven percent of the text.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we call unbalanced.

But okay, given how I’ve harped on the prologues lately, let me point out the improvement: there are only four points of view this time, all of them pre-established, and two of them belonging to major characters (Elayne and Rand). Given the tendency to add to the cast and waste time with minor characters, this is good. Not perfect, mind you: Seaine finds members of the Black Ajah, but we the readers knew about them already, so why do we care about her discovery? Likewise, the accusation against Elaida would be more interesting if we we weren’t comprehensively sure that she isn’t. Toveine has appeared before, for the brief scene of her boot party failing at the Black Tower, but her scene here seems mostly a device to update us that (surprise surprise) Taim and Logain don’t get along. The protagonist scenes are much more satisfying; I rather like the adoption ritual between Elayne and Aviendha, though I don’t entirely buy the anger moment — maybe the saidar weaves help that along? And Rand’s scene announces a Big Important Thing, which ACTUALLY PAYS OFF BEFORE THE END OF THE BOOK. Holy shit, y’all. It’s like, progress or something.

(Side note: I find it interesting that Taim ordered his minions to face the wall when Elayne started stripping. Even if he’s a lech himself, it comes across as weirdly considerate of him.)

As for the rest of the book, the only way I can organize this anymore is by character, with some side notes at the end.

Perrin first. My notes say “don’t care, don’t care, don’t care, sigh.” The problem with him is that he doesn’t do anything except angst, have trouble with Berelain, and tell Masema they’re leaving. Faile is the more interesting pov right now, and I like her better when we’re in her head, too — though at this stage of the story, elaborating on her situation is maybe not the wisest choice.

At this point, I’m firmly convinced that Jordan himself had lost interest in Perrin — and furthermore, that it happened a while ago. Book by book, what has happened with Perrin since his big victory in TSR? TFoH, he took a sabbatical from the story. LoC, he remained absent for most of the book, then wrangled people for the save-Rand expedition at Dumai’s Wells. ACoS, he observed Rand, and was sent to deal with Masema. TPoD, he picked up Alliandre and Morgase (not recognizing the latter), and had some mostly pointless conversations with Masema. This book, he goes in search of Faile.

Mat, in the same span of time, died and came back to life, killed Couladin, put together an army, gave it to Egwene, helped Elayne and Nynaeve and Aviendha, fought the gholam, saved three Aes Sedai, and kidnapped the Daughter of Nine Moons.

I just don’t think Jordan was excited about Perrin’s part of the story anymore. Maybe he was excited by stuff that was going to happen, but for whatever reason — possibly contained in the books I haven’t read yet — he kept it in reserve, and filled these pages with make-work instead. Why not have Perrin deal with Luc/Isam/Slayer instead? We’ve barely heard anything from that plot since TSR. Presumably Jordan is saving it for later; unfortunately, the effect is that it robs now of any interest.

Elayne next, because I wrote these notes vaguely in the order the characters get focus in the story. The problem here is that her section is too leisurely. The detail in it isn’t inherently bad — but it isn’t important enough to warrant delaying the story for it. Case in point: the assassination attempt. Jordan seems to want it to come as a sudden shock, but in order to do that, he puts us through a lot of tedium first, as Elayne meets with the First Maid, then with the First Clerk, etc, etc, yawn. Just get to the attack already, and trust in your skill as a writer to make it exciting. (Mat’s hanging in TSR wasn’t prefaced by a lot of routine business, and for my money, that was one of the most shocking moments in the series.) Ditto meeting with the Borderlanders: at this point, we’re willing to trust that Elayne and her peeps are competent enough to set it all up; we don’t need to see the math. Just hop right in to the scene where Elayne rides up to negotiate with them — that’s the interesting part.

In a post-script to previous discussions, I should note that again, the transition to sex between Elayne and Rand is oddly bloodless. And the women once again evince the attitude of fascinated prudery that characterizes their entire gender throughout this series.

Mat: well, let’s start with Tuon. I remember fan speculation in the years leading up to this book; we guessed she would be sul’dam, and we were right. (There was just too much irony to be had in him marrying a woman who can channel.) And she’s dark-skinned, which I had forgotten. So much for the positives: for the negatives, eh. It isn’t quite Lanfear-level disappointment, but I did want her to be cooler than she is. Maybe the problem is partly that her chapter doesn’t accomplishing anything significant except to tell us who she is.

Moving on to Mat himself — what’s up with the colors, anyway? All three guys are getting them. I don’t remember that being explained in CoT; does it come later? (Don’t tell me what the explanation is, though.) Anyway, I suspect his story got put on hold for the duration of TPoD because Jordan didn’t want Tuon to arrive until after Suroth had been defeated by Rand’s forces, and that was the Big Finale for that book, so. If true, then this, ladies and gents, is the danger of giving each protagonist at most one important Event per book.

I see a contrast between the delaying effect placed on Mat’s escape from Ebou Dar, though, and Elayne’s scenes earlier. There, it felt like Jordan was trying to set up a sudden shock; here, he’s building tension, and it works much better. For one thing, the logistics aren’t routine. The gathering of disguises and a’dam and all the rest of it could blow up in Mat’s face at any time, so it’s worth following them step by step, watching things go wronger and wronger until we hit the disaster of Tuon at the end. I don’t begrudge the time spent on this — not like I begrudge Elayne’s padded-out pages.

Olver: not funny to me.

Fain: still not dead.

This is the book where I like Nynaeve better, though — or rather, I go back to feeling justified in liking her, rather than reading against the text to preserve the characteristics I like, and ignore the ones I don’t. She seems to have arrived at something like an equilibrium of respect with Rand; they still butt heads occasionally, but they do so in a relatively productive manner, which is all too rare in this series. It helps, of course, that she no longer has to be angry all the time.

Rand himself is also better, in large part because — as I said before — he announces a goal, follows through, and FINISHES IT IN THIS BOOK. Halle-bloody-lujah. Far Madding works relatively well, too. Yeah, Jordan’s introducing yet another corner of the world — but it’s got some genuinely original details (though please can we ignore the strap in the hotel room, what the hell), it has some worthwhile plot taking place there, and (most importantly) we get in and then get out again, without the place spawning new complications that will continue to haunt us for the next four books. As with various other scenes earlier in the series, the moment of Lan telling Rand to let him fall is shorter than I remember, and not quite as awesome . . . but oh well, I can still kind of fill it in.

I find myself pondering this motif of Rand needing to be “harder than stone.” On the one hand, it is tres macho, in ways we’ve seen a thousand times. On the other hand, we have various characters — Cadsuane chiefest among them — insisting that Rand needs to be softer, and I’m pretty sure the author is on their side. I mention this mostly as a reminder to myself to keep an eye on that as the story continues; I won’t really know what I think of it until I see where it’s going. It might just turn out to be Jordan having his cake and eating it, too — spending books and books with an uber-hardass hero before he has a touching moment of emotional weakness at the end. Or it might not: there’s a chance here for some actual commentary on the concept, which would be pretty cool if it happened.

Small side note before we get to the two final topics I want to discuss: are the Seanchan going to repopulate Randland? We’ve talked before about how depopulated the continent seems, and what the possible explanations are for that. One way or another, the Seanchan homeland doesn’t seem to have had an equivalent demographic drop, if they can export such a quantity of settlers to their new colonies.

Now, plot topic first. I always think of this particular finale as the Forsaken Hoe-down: it’s a party, and everybody’s invited!

Seriously, Moridin is the only Forsaken who doesn’t show up outside Shadar Logoth. [Edit: I forgot that Mesaana is absent.] We’ve got Cyndane, Moghedien, Graendal, Aran’gar, Osan’gar, Demandred . . . and I swear Jordan threw up his hands and said, “You know what? Screw it. Yes, Cyndane is Lanfear! Osan’gar is Dashiva! Moridin is Ishamael! Hell, Elza’s a Darkfriend! Are you all happy yet!” There was so much fan speculation that got Kripke’d in this finale, and most of it with very little fanfare. I can’t shake the impression that Jordan lost patience with all the hand-waving and obfuscation, and decided to simplify his life.

Which isn’t a bad thing. This is one of the better finales we’ve had in a while, in part because we get the satisfaction of results — both for us, and for Rand, who pulls off a serious victory here. I do find it funny, though, that after eight books of him running around fighting the bad guys, he basically sits this one out, while around him a very motley assortment of male and female channelers cooperate in the throwdown. (My notes say “Lanfear, meet Alivia. And her angreal. heh. heh heh heh heeee.”) My one slight frowny-face comes from the fact that Rand’s ter’angreal survives the cleansing, and Nynaeve’s doesn’t. This is probably relevant, and it makes me a little sad for what it implies.

(Put Osan’gar on the list alongside Sammael, though, for scenes that Jordan may have intended to be actual deaths, but which are so ambiguously-staged that we get no satisfaction from them. I actually went and checked the Wheel of Time wiki to see what happened to Osan’gar, and even there it’s not definite.)

Finally, one non-plot-focused issue:


Specifically, the Chair of Remorse used on Talene in the Prologue. That’s what got me thinking, anyway, though the topic is really threaded throughout this whole series. The use against known criminals is already iffy: the consequences it shows them are hypothetical, not real, and it’s definitely psychologically harmful — but then again, so is a lot of what we do in our real-world prisons, and this method strikes me as having better odds of preventing recidivism. Its use against Talene, though? You can’t call that anything but torture.

The peculiar thing about the Talene incident is that unlike most torture scenes by the “good guys” in fiction, they aren’t trying to get any information out of her. One of the usual arguments made against torture in interrogation, of course, is that the information it produces isn’t reliable, especially when compared to other, more humane methods. The dynamic here is different, though. They’re torturing her specifically to break her will, so that she’ll re-swear the Oaths, and then be inextricably bound to speak the truth. And of course, Talene wouldn’t have resisted for so long unless she had something to hide . . . .

This comes down to one of the things that fascinates me about fantasy: the fact that you can create a world whose logical conditions are not the same as ours. Torture does not produce reliable information — but in this fictional world, magic can, and torture can produce a situation that allows the magic to work. Furthermore, members of the Black Ajah have incontrovertible proof that the Satan-figure they swore themselves to is real, and if they renege on their oaths to him, they are fucked. The methods used by real-world interrogators often hinge on convincing the target that they can better their lot by cooperating — but that doesn’t work in Randland. Cooperation is a death warrant, when Myrddraal and Grey Men and Forsaken can step out of nowhere and shiv you on the spot. (And you don’t even get the promise of going to heaven afterward.)

In a scenario like that, how do you convince the bad guys to turn? Isn’t the used of such tactics thereby justified?

Maybe — within the story. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that all of this comes about because of the author’s choices. Jordan created a situation where Seaine and the others are justified in torturing Talene, where it produces important, useful results. And he’s made use of it before; way back in LoC, Nynaeve thinks of what they’ve been doing to Moghedien as being “just short of torture.” We don’t get details, so how badly you read that line depends on your own assumptions. Having re-read this scene, I’m inclined to revoke my earlier, more charitable interpretation: it probably is torture, once again justified by the results it produces. And those results happen because Jordan has created a setting in which the torture is both necessary and effective.

This is not cool. And, like the “we were trying to tell a humorous gender-flipped story about rape” problem of Mat and Tylin, I’m pretty seriously disturbed, now that I’m an alert enough reader to notice it.

Whoof. CoT next, and after that, I’m into the books I haven’t read before (including New Spring). I may speed up my timeline of reading and posting; I may want to take new material at a faster pace. We’ll see.

0 Responses to “Revisiting the Wheel of Time: Winter’s Heart”

  1. Anonymous

    Besides Moridin (who probably didn’t go because the weird connection him and Rand now have was making him violently ill), Mesaana was the only Forsaken who didn’t show up to Shadar Logoth, and she gets punished for it later in a way I’m SURE you’ll JUST LOVE.

    Speaking of the Forsaken at Shadar Logoth, it probably says something rather significant, and detrimental, about me, but I found myself rather captivated by Moghedien’s little part in that. “If she survived this, she’d never know fear again” as she’s caught up in the blow from a for-all-intents-and-purposes nuclear explosion. I don’t know, something about that appealed to me; that something so big could happen to a craven coward that they’d actually stop being a coward. And then of course we’ve yet to hardly see hide nor hair of her since, so there’s no way to know how/if it really affected her that much.

    Rand’s ter’angreal surviving was totally Jordan saving it for relevance later on. It comes up in The Gathering Storm at a pivotal moment.

    I’ve said it before, but I think you’ll be very happy with Nynaeve when you read the books you didn’t read yet. IMHO, she shows tremendous growth and awesomeness.

    • Marie Brennan

      Ah, you’re right — I forgot about Mesaana. (It’s easy to do. She’s more of a spider than Moghedien, really.)

      Rand’s ter-angreal: oh, I’m sure it’s being saved for later use. What I wonder about is why Jordan destroyed Nynaeve’s. I really liked the fact that the weave required them both, and I think it’s a pity that he knocked out the possibility of that happening again.

      OTOH, yay for more awesome Nynaeve. She’s a good example of something I’ve long thought about Jordan’s protagonists, which is that they’re not bad characters; he just gives them a hangup (I can’t talk to wolves! I’m not the Dragon Reborn! etc.) and then leaves them with it for way, way too long. A pacing issue, rather than a concept one. Nynaeve’s hangup was her block, and she was saddled with it for six books; now that it’s gone, she’s a much more pleasant character to be around.

  2. tenillypo

    I really enjoy Nynaeve’s changing dynamic with Rand in this book. She’s becoming more of an advisor than an older sister, and there’s a nice sense of mutual respect and affection between them. Agreed with the comment above that her arc in the new books shows a refreshing amount of continued character growth.

    • Marie Brennan

      It’s a pity that this kind of respectful partnership is so rare in the series that we find it worthy of comment when it happens, nine books in. :-/

  3. green_knight

    I just wanted to say thank you for keeping up this series. I’m not invested in it and I don’t think I shall ever read it (read 2.5 books, put it down, never regretted that choice), but you’re making me think abou epic stories, and what does and doesn’t work for them.

    • Marie Brennan

      You’re welcome! And thanks for saying so; this being the internet, it’s hard to know who’s reading and getting some value out of it if they don’t speak up.

  4. Marie Brennan

    Jordan may have been far more entertained by that triangle than the average reader ever was — but Perrin’s ongoing half-absence from the story since TSR argues for lack of more active interest, to my eye. Even when he’s in the book, he’s often been getting maybe two or three chapters, in which no significant action happens (at least not that he’s responsible for). To me, those are hallmarks of a bored author putting him in out of a sense of obligation.

    I’ll keep your cutting theory in mind when I read Crossroads of Twilight, but quite frankly I doubt even those two changes could redeem that book. We’ll see . . . .

  5. Anonymous


    I just reread this book, and it made me wonder what you think about Jordan’s decision to leave Mat immediately after he kidnaps Tuon, leaving us not knowing if/how he escapes from Ebou Dar until we find out in the next book (in a flashback). You mention that you find the lead-up to Mat’s escape to be better done than some of the other plot-lines, and I agree. I actually think that it’s the best crafted story arc in all of books 9-11, or at least I would if not for the cliffhanger at the end. I assume that Jordan did it this way to avoid stealing thunder from Rand and the cleansing, but I think it was a big mistake. Mat’s whole story line was building up to an escape, but then we don’t get the escape! We then find out about it in flashback in chapter 1 of the next book, where it falls kind of flat, despite the fact that it would have been awesome after all the build-up at the end of book 9.

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: Mat

      My thoughts on that are sort of spread out across this post and the ones for Crossroads of Twilight and Knife of Dreams. Basically, what I said after reading KoD was that the series would have been far better if CoT had been edited out of existence; you could easily offload its small amount of content into WH and KoD, and dump the rest as useless filler.

      The flashback to the escape is one of the things that could have been offloaded — or, alternatively, skipped entirely. The stuff that follows after Mat kidnapping Tuon isn’t that climactic, compared to what came before, and sometimes events are more bad-ass if we don’t get the play-by-play. (I’m thinking particularly of Mat killing Couladin in TFoH, which gets about one paragraph of description.) Either way you slice it, though, the detailed flashback was not a good choice: it just stalled out the narrative’s momentum, to no useful effect.

      • namle84

        Re: Mat

        (The anonymous comment above was from me; I had forgotten to sign in).

        It’s interesting that you see it as mostly about Crossroads of Twilight, which I agree is a terrible book (although I think that books 8-9 and 10-11 could each be condensed into one book, rather than just 9-11 into two). I just finished WH and am taking a break for a few weeks before COT, and my memory of COT is probably not as strong as yours, but I thought the flashback scene contained events that would have been exciting at the end of WH. Specifically, I seem to remember some kind of confrontation at the gates of the city, and a massive Sea Folk uprising going on in the background, including fighting with the Power. I guess I’ll find out if I still think that it belongs in WH when I start COT.

        Somehow though, it just doesn’t feel right to me to have all this build up to an escape, only to leave the results of the escape as a cliffhanger. I think Jordan came to use cliffhangers as a variation on his tendency to hide things from readers. Other examples are leaving Mat under a wall in book 7 and Egwene’s capture in book 10. I don’t think this is a good way to end a book, and here is no exception.

        In any event, I’ve enjoyed reading these reviews and the discussion, and I’m looking forward to the next one. I’m particularly interested in seeing what you think about the structural decisions Sanderson made when he decided to split one book (That Jordan had insisted could not possibly be split into multiple coherent books) into three.

        • Marie Brennan

          Re: Mat

          Thanks for signing in; it helps to know who I’m talking to. πŸ™‚

          You could probably do a lot more condensing than I’ve outlined. Heck, get ruthless enough about it and this might be a ten-book series, instead of fourteen. πŸ™‚ But at a minimum, I felt like 95% of CoT was dead weight, and the remaining 5% was easily disposed of.

          Check back in with me once you’ve re-read (since my memory is far from perfect), but what I recall from Mat’s flashback is that they had a tense moment at the gates, that stopped short of being a confrontation. If so, that’s of lesser interest than “OMG Daughter of Nine Moons!” The Sea Folk uprising is shiny, but that can be disposed of in about three paragraphs of description as Mat and the others ride out.

          . . . or not; I mean, just because that’s the way the story went in reality doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been replaced with something bigger and more exciting, that would make a good counterpoint to the Forsaken Hoe-Down. I’m mostly speculating about what to do with the content that’s actually on the page, rather than improvements to that content (which are certainly also a possibility.)

          The cliffhangers I see less as a matter of hiding things from the reader, and more an attempt to maintain tension and interest despite the years-long gaps between books. Mostly (barring the Incident of Mat and the Wall) the resolution appears in the next book, so it’s pretty much the same trick TV shows pull, just at a much. slower. pace. It can be a perfectly fine way to end a book — but only if the next installment shows up on schedule, and soon.

          As for Sanderson, yeah, I’ll be interested, too. I always doubted Jordan’s claim that it HAD TO BE and WOULD BE only ONE MORE BOOK — I hadn’t read KoD at that point, but I seriously could not see how the remaining plot could be wrapped up in (from where I had stopped) two more books. (Things on the list at the time: make Elayne Queen, overthrow Elaida, rescue Faile and mop up the Shaido, marry Tuon and rescue Moiraine, deal with the Black Tower, kill the gholam, stop the Seanchan, lose Rand’s hand somehow, possibly slaughter most of the Aiel depending on how you read that prophecy, address the Isam/Luc/Slayer thing, fight somewhere between seven and nine Forsaken, and oh yeah, the Last Battle. Plus more I’ve forgotten.) Sure, it might be possible — but I doubted it would be satisfying at that speed, and I doubted even more that Jordan’s generally leisurely writing style could pull it off.

          Anyway, yes, looking for the structural effects of that split is definitely on my list for those books.

          I might be slowing down my pace a bit, though, since the pub date for A Memory of Light is currently in limbo. Look for the TGS post in December, and then we’ll see about ToM.

          • namle84

            Re: Mat

            I might be slowing down my pace a bit, though, since the pub date for A Memory of Light is currently in limbo. Look for the TGS post in December, and then we’ll see about ToM.

            I feel pretty fortunate that I first read this series in the summer of 2005, just months before KOD was published. By virtue of being younger than a lot of fans (I was 16 at the time), I saved myself a lot of impatience and irritation. On a smaller scale, the same applies to your reviews, which I also discovered just before you posted on KOD. If I had been with you from the beginning, I probably would have dropped out somewhere along the way, but I think I’ll manage to stick around through the publication of AMOL.

            Anyway, on to content…The paragraphs below say some things about the structure (but not the content) of TGS and TOM. I don’t think you would consider this a spoiler based on what I have seen others post here, but I wanted to warn you just in case. So, delete if you want, but I think the structure of those books provide an interesting comparison to WH. And if the material below is fine, I’ll go back and delete this warning paragraph.

            In some ways, WH and TGS have similar structures, although TGS is faster paced. Both books include scenes from most plotlines, but are mainly focused on just two (in WH, Rand’s and Mat’s; in TGS, you’ll find out soon enough if you haven’t already). In both books, this is accomplished by having scenes from a variety of plotlines in the first half of the book, but focusing almost exclusively on the two central ones in the second half of the book. In TGS, the effect is even stronger than in WH, but the idea is the same. However, TGS has both central plotlines climax separately (but at the same time) at the end of the book, while WH leaves Mat’s out to make Rand’s more central. In my view, TGS works better, and this is part of why.

            On the other hand, both WH and TGS are followed by books that have to play catch-up with the other plotlines, which winds up being unfortunate in both cases.

            As for the split, my impression based on TGS and TOM is that Jordan may have been right. While I agree that AMOL could not possibly have been published as a single volume , it probably would have been best published as one book with 2 or 3 volumes published around the same time, even if that meant a longer wait for new material after KOD. As is, we are probably going to get two coherent books (TGS and probably AMOL) and one incoherent (TOM, although a lot of awesome things happen in it and it is no COT, is a huge mess, and it’s hard to see how it could manage not to be with the books split the way they are). Maybe if AMOL had been split into two both books could have been coherent, but I’m doubtful. We’ll see what you think once you read the books, and what we all think once AMOL is published.

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: Mat

            I feel pretty fortunate that I first read this series in the summer of 2005, just months before KOD was published. By virtue of being younger than a lot of fans (I was 16 at the time), I saved myself a lot of impatience and irritation.

            That was pretty much my situation, if you swap out the year and title for whenever it was that A Crown of Swords came out. I was in high school, and I got to read six books in quick sequence with only a short wait for the seventh; many (though not all) of the people who gave up earlier in the series were also reading it earlier.

            I do hope you stick around for the end of my posts. πŸ™‚

            Your structural comments for the later books are fine — I read those paragraphs verrrrry carefully, prepared to stop at the first hint of a spoiler, but I don’t think what you’ve said gives anything away. (You won’t be able to delete the warning paragraph, though; comments become closed to editing once somebody has responded to them.)

            Anyway, I suspect the situation with TGS/ToM/AMoL is one that had no good solution. For those books to have effective structures, whether they’re one volume or two or three, would require things being lined up well going into the home stretch, and they weren’t. You’d have to go back as far as Winter’s Heart at the very least, and probably earlier, to rearrange things into a more felicitous shape. It might have helped in some regards for them to give it the Dark Tower treatment — Stephen King wrote all three of the final books for that series, polished them, and then put them out over the course of about a year — but it still wouldn’t have solved the problem. It was, alas, likely unsolvable.

          • namle84

            Re: Mat

            many (though not all) of the people who gave up earlier in the series were also reading it earlier.

            I think the short wait for KOD after COT saved the series for me, since it showed that Jordan was wrapping things up. If I had ended with COT and an indefinite wait for the next book, I would not have been happy. Also, reading books 8-10 quickly and in direct succession with the rest of the series made them less offensive, since I still had a vivid memories of the earlier books, which I enjoyed immensely (I also was less sensitive to the weird gender/punishment stuff at that age, which I have noticed much more on my current reread).

            I do hope you stick around for the end of my posts. πŸ™‚

            I plan to. Your TGS post should coincide with my reread of COT, and it will be nice to have some other WOT material to think about while bogged down in that. I’m doing a book each month, so I should reach TOM in March (and I started the series last March, so I’ve done a good job with the one book each month speed).

            Your structural comments for the later books are fine — I read those paragraphs verrrrry carefully, prepared to stop at the first hint of a spoiler, but I don’t think what you’ve said gives anything away. (You won’t be able to delete the warning paragraph, though; comments become closed to editing once somebody has responded to them.)

            Oh well. At least it’s good to know what kinds of things I can say about the books you haven’t read yet. I had an unfortunate tendency as a child to spoil books for other people (My siblings used to refuse to let me read our copy of each new Harry Potter book before they did, because they knew I would spoil it for them), so I have learned to become sensitive to this kind of thing.

            Anyway, I suspect the situation with TGS/ToM/AMoL is one that had no good solution.

            The reason I prefer one book with multiple volumes is that it allows the entire story to advance with all the plotlines in unison, even if this would make the first volume not have any sort of ending. When he divided one book into three, Sanderson faced a serious dilemma, but it was not a dilemma caused by earlier books (This is demonstrated by the fact that TGS is structurally excellent. If it has a flaw, its flaw is that it lacks the scope of the Jordan books). His dilemma was that he needed all the books, but especially the first one, to be really good; but if he just chopped his outline into thirds chronologically, the first book would have no ending and would cut off in the middle of all the plotlines. So instead of dividing the books by chronology, he divided the first two books by plotline. And to make the first book really wow the readers, he had the first book focus on the two most interesting plotlines, and bring them far ahead of everyone else in the timeline. This way, he got a climax in each of those two plotlines, and a really tight, focused, exciting book. The problem is that everyone else was left weeks to a month behind, and in TOM he decided to catch them up while advancing the TGS characters still further (which means that TOM jumps around chronologically, although by the end of the book everyone is matched up again). Also, TOM loses the focus that TGS had because it is the “everything else” book. Basically, it’s a sprawling mess. A lot more happens in it than in COT, but its structure is far, far worse. But because Sanderson had not yet written TOM when he published TGS, he probably could not foresee the hole he had dug himself into by writing TGS the ways he did, and only saw the praise that everyone was giving TGS.

            Anyway, the point of all that was that I actually don’t agree with you when you say that however Sanderson divided the books, he would have had structural issues. The problems that I see in the Sanderson books are caused by the way he chose to split them, not by what came before.

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: Mat

            At least it’s good to know what kinds of things I can say about the books you haven’t read yet.

            Yeah, it’s a hard thing to judge. But generally speaking, so long as you don’t tell me what happens to the characters, it’s okay.

            When he divided one book into three, Sanderson faced a serious dilemma, but it was not a dilemma caused by earlier books (This is demonstrated by the fact that TGS is structurally excellent. If it has a flaw, its flaw is that it lacks the scope of the Jordan books).

            I’d disagree, because it sounds like TGS only achieves “structural excellence” by ignoring a large percentage of the story. It may be exciting in its own right, but that comes at the cost of everything around it, and that makes it inherently flawed. If Jordan had been managing his plotlines better beforehand, Sanderson wouldn’t have had to be so selective about what would be cool for the reader.

            To pick a random example (since I don’t know which two plots dominate that book, and don’t want to know, but I can make some educated guesses), if Perrin had ended KoD gearing up for a confrontation with Isam/Luc/Slayer, and that had important consequences for other characters’ plots, Sanderson could have incorporated it into TGS. But that plot is starting from pretty much a dead halt (since we basically haven’t seen hide nor hair of it since TSR), and there’s no clear indication that it’s anything other than a sideshow, so I’m guessing that’s one of the things sidelined in TGS and then crammed into ToM.

            Or, to put it in more general terms: if everybody’s plots were being exciting, and their excitement was happening at the same time, and any of these conflicts had the slightest thing to do with one another besides taking place in the same world — which ought to be the case, when nearing the end of an epic fantasy series — then Sanderson could have produced an exciting book without ignoring half the story. As it stood, he really couldn’t.

            I find your assessment of TGS interesting, though. Because I hadn’t yet picked it up, I hadn’t considered the factor that he needed to prove himself to readers, even if he did so at the cost of the following book. I think he’d actually gotten some way into ToM (or at least, material that ended up in ToM) before they sliced it all up — that was my impression when they announced the split, anyway — so I find it less likely that he didn’t foresee the problem; my money’s on, they did foresee it, and decided to sacrifice ToM’s structure in favor of establishing Sanderson as a worthy successor. And you know, from a business perspective, I can see their point.

          • namle84

            Re: Mat

            I’d disagree, because it sounds like TGS only achieves “structural excellence” by ignoring a large percentage of the story.

            That’s a fair point.

            I don’t know which two plots dominate that book, and don’t want to know, but I can make some educated guesses.

            I would guess that at least one of your guesses is right. And that’s all I’m saying about that.

            any of these conflicts had the slightest thing to do with one another besides taking place in the same world

            Actually, they do, a least a little bit. Sanderson has to use tricks to reveal a few tidbits from the characters left out of TGS, particularly the swirling colors thing that the three Ta’veren have been experiencing recently.

            think he’d actually gotten some way into ToM (or at least, material that ended up in ToM) before they sliced it all up — that was my impression when they announced the split, anyway — so I find it less likely that he didn’t foresee the problem.

            It’s true that he had written some of TOM when the decision was made to split the book. When the decision to split the book was made, I believe Sanderson had written two plotlines (the ones that wound up in TGS) to about the 2/3 mark — the point that became the end of TOM. Most of those plotlines (plus a bit of additional material) became TGS, although the last bits were left for TOM.

            However, I am certain that Sanderson did not foresee certain aspects of TOM, because he said things ahead of time about the book that turned out not to be true. In particular, Sanderson more or less told the readers ahead of time which two characters TGS would focus on, and also told the readers that the second book would focus on a different two characters in much the same way. This did not turn out to be the case. Instead, only one major character stands out as getting the most attention in TOM, and one (one who was a focus in TGS) definitely gets the least. All the rest, including the second major focus of TGS, are about equal to each other and fall somewhere in the middle. Additionally, side plots get a lot of attention in TOM (TGS only included the ones that had direct bearing on its two central plotlines).

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: Mat

            Actually, they do [connect], a least a little bit.

            I was being a little hyperbolic. πŸ™‚ But the plots have been running so separately for so long, it’s hard to interweave them effectively.

            I’ll reserve actual judgment once I read the books, but I don’t think it’s possible to make good structure out of what remains of the series. Your suggestion — writing it all as if it were one enormous story, with arbitrary divisions for printing — doesn’t solve that; we’d just have a different mess than the one we’re getting instead. (Even if the books came out rapidly, people expect there to be meaning in where the break-points fall, and would feel dissatisfied by the uneven shape of each volume — assuming Sanderson could even pull off a good structure on that scale break-points notwithstanding, which would be easier said than done to begin with.)

          • namle84

            Re: Mat

            Yeah, this discussion will probably be more interesting once you’ve read the books.

          • namle84

            Re: Mat

            One other thing though: I don’t want my above comments to give the impression that I am disparaging Brandon Sanderson for his work on the final books of The Wheel of Time. I actually think his work has been very good, considering the difficulties he faced. His books are flawed, but I enjoyed both of them more than a number of Jordan’s books (I actually enjoyed TGS more than all of Jordan’s except TSR and maybe one or two others), which is saying something considering that he is not the real author of the series.

          • Marie Brennan

            Re: Mat

            Oh, sure. I’m going to cut him a lot of slack for the difficulties left by old problems, and the inherent challenge of being the guy who has to pick up somebody else’s ball.

          • namle84

            Re: Mat

            I just recently started COT in my reread, and in the end, I have to agree with you that the tense moment at the gates is not as big a deal as I remember it being. It is certainly less exciting than Mat’s discovery of Tuon.

            Still, skipping over the escape does not feel right to me. I think my opinion on this now is that Jordan should have made the escape more exciting so that it was worth including in WH.

  6. Anonymous

    Well, I’ll be doing the same thing, so I guess that’s encouraging? πŸ˜›

  7. Anonymous

    On Aegon: I believe he’s a fraud. Well, “pretender” is a kinder word. My bet is that he’s Illyrio’s son. And speaking of Illyrio, who the HELL keeps his wife’s hands in a jar because he misses her so much? ICK!

    If Aegon is actually the True King, I will be highly annoyed. He sounds too much like a Gary Stu as he currently stands; all that, and a game of cyvasse!

    There were a lot of WTF? moments in the fourth and fifth books. Martell/Targaryen arranged marriages? Li’l Aegon wasn’t murdered? A coup to put Myrcella on the throne that collapses because it, well, collapsed? Everything, but everything, to do with Meereen?

    On the other hand, Stannis was pretty awesome in his Stannis fashion.

  8. Anonymous

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  9. Anonymous

    Just dropping a comment as requetsed. Follwed a link from .

    I’m a buyer of your books as I have to admit that they are son my TBR very high pile. Still I have heard many positive things and I’m a huge fan of fantasy whether contemporary or historical that feature Faerie.

    Edit: Glad I read your user info has obviously missed there was a Book 4 for Onyx Court.

    Regarding your sale of the folksong story have you encountered ‘Long Lankin’ by Lindsey Barraclough? That and ‘The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones’ have both impressed me of making good use of English folklore.

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