Ah Winter’s Heart. the ninth book, there’s no going back now. If you’ve made it this far, there are so many questions you need answering that you know you’re going to go all the way. Even if it means walking the last 10 miles barefoot across broken glass. Which is good, because in the back of your mind there’s a voice telling you that’s exactly how painful it’s going to be.
Winter’s Heart is the 9th book in the Wheel of Time series. The primary story threads this time focus on Mat, Rand, a little bit of Perrin, Elayne, and Nynaeve. They have all pretty much split up by this point, with some of them crossing paths, but all of them getting some time on their own. There’s no mention of Egwene other than a brief visit.
Rand’s story is engaging, thrilling and moving in parts. Mat’s story is both funny and sad, and in one moment very moving. Nynaeve and Perrin are what they always are. Elayne’s plot is engaging, but other than some brief flickers of life, it felt dry and forced to me.
As with other books in the series, book nine feels like 600 pages of build up and 7 pages of climax. It’s a familiar pattern now with Jordan, but it no longer holds the magic like it used to. There’s just not enough in the final few pages to justify the extended story before it. What happens is huge, momentous, it’s just the delivery is too distracted, too fragmented to do it justice. It’s a real shame.
Character-wise there are some excellent moments. We finally see what Verin has been up to, we discover some startling things about a bunch of other characters and we learn some new things about the One Power. Mat shows once again that he has a heart, and Rand shows that his is turning into ice before our very eyes.
I still can’t decide if the relationship between Rand, Elayne, Min and Aviendha is a stroke of amusing genius or some kind of weird wish fulfilment on Jordan’s side. At least it finally comes to a head and gets ‘resolved’ during Winter’s Heart, which cheered me up. I hated all the confusion and doubt, and some of the scenes are worth reading. However, Jordan still uses more words than necessary and ruins what could have been a good moment with repetition.
I could read an entire book filled with nothing but Rand and Lan going on adventures together. We could call it ‘Rand and Lan go on some adventures’.
Winter’s Heart is neither amazing nor terrible, it once again delivers some interesting developments hidden among too many words, far too many adjectives, and more skirt smoothing than is good for anyone. Read it because you have to, not because you want to.
The Retrospective (partial)
Mild spoilers! Well, maybe not so mild. You’ve been warned.
Only half a retrospective this time, since I don’t think I’ve actually read the whole book before. What I have done, is read chapter summaries, and maybe some snippets from the book.
When I started Winter’s Heart I was sure I’d read it before. After all, it’s the one where Rand cleanses Saidin. However, two pages in it was clear I had no clue what happened in the prologue. A few chapters in and it was clear I’d never read the whole book. However, every now and then a page or two would be familiar, a conversation, an event, something would trigger a memory.
I either read this book while I was very drunk, or I read snippets of it without reading the whole thing. The latter is more likely, the former is probably wiser.
So it was a curious mix of ‘yes, yes I know that’ and ‘Wait, really?’ Some questions I had were answered, such as what Verin was really up to, and some events were true surprises, such as the four way bonding of Rand and his Girls.
It’s clear then that this was the point previously where I just gave up on the series, and stopped reading it properly. I may have scanned summaries for one book after this one, but probably not in any detail and so we’re arriving at the point where there might not be a retrospective at all. Virgin territory. A hundred thousand adjectives all crying out for attention for the first time.
I’m not sure how good that news is, to be honest.
Despite the lack of having read it before, I still found myself skimming some pages. I don’t need to read about the dress of every woman in Ebou Dar, nor about the moustache of every man anyone ever meets. I don’t need to hear about skirt smoothing, or dry hand-washing, nor about smooth faces and the lack of sweat. I just want to get to the meat, and wish Jordan would stop serving peas and carrots over and over again.
The Angry Spoilers
No spoilers really, just the sad lurking memory of them from the past, when I cared enough.
As with the previous book, there’s not a lot to get angry about in Winter’s Heart, which I guess is good news. The annoying characters continue to be annoying, but they’re slightly tempered now, and there isn’t as much glaring stupidity that there was at one time.
The only thing I can get worked up about is that when this whole bloody thing started, it felt like it was going to be ‘The Story of Rand al’Thor’, but has turned out to be ‘The Story of everyone around Rand al’Thor which sometimes includes bits about Rand as well’. I wanted to read an epic fantasy with Rand at the centre, but Jordan’s story is too big for that and so despite being The Dragon Reborn, so far, he’s been only one of many parts, and not always the most interesting.