Friday, September 7, 2012

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

Back to Randland. The first time I read The Dragon Reborn I was under the impression that The Wheel of Time was a trilogy. I’m not sure why. Possibly because at the time most fantasy epics were trilogies, with the exception of David Eddings, but his 2 5 book series were both really short enough to have been fitted into 3 books.  Anyway I can remember reading The Dragon Reborn, getting closer and closer to the end of the book and thinking to myself: ‘How is he going to wrap this whole thing up in the next 50 pages.’ Of course I got to the end and was told that the adventure would continue in book 4. Groan.

I actually enjoyed The Dragon Reborn. I’ve liked it every time I’ve read it, and I’ve read it a few times. This is the book where I think some of the series problems became evident. One of the most regular criticisms levelled at Robert Jordan regarding The Wheel of Time is that he takes too long to make things happen. The story continues, but it doesn’t advance. Maybe I didn’t really notice it the first time because I thought it was a trilogy, I’m not sure. The book is about 600 pages long without the glossary, but the story only really advances in the last 200 pages. Despite that I didn’t mind the other 400 odd pages.

I do question his choice of PoV for one section of the book, and that’s because he chose Perrin. Of the 3 male ta’veren in the book I find Perrin the hardest to read. He’s very dull, and any story seen through his eyes suffers the same fate, plus the group he’s with seem to do a lot of that aimless wandering about that anyone who has read my reviews know I just absolutely adore in a book (where’s that sarcasm emoticon?). In The Dragon Reborn Jordan splits his main protagonists up into 3 loose groups for the bulk of the narrative. Perrin, Loial, Moraine and Lan comprise one group (Rand was with them, but he ran off, which is why they spend most of the rest of the book looking for him), Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve are another and Mat and Thom Merrilin are the third. Jordan spends nearly 400 pages orchestrating events so that the three groups along with Rand will all be in the same city at the same time, to witness Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One (again) and proclaim him (again) as The Dragon Reborn.

With that particular précis of things it sounds like I didn’t much enjoy what I was reading, but weirdly enough I actually did. One reason was Mat. When I first decided to reread the series from go to whoa one thing that was firm in my mind was that Mat was my favourite character. After the first two books I was wondering if my mind had played me false, because Mat wasn’t particularly likeable, nor did he even do that much. Once the Amyrlin Seat (leader of the Aes Sedai) has broken the connection with the ruby hilted dagger from Shadar Logoth, the Mat I knew and liked emerged. He pushed his luck to the hilt, he wheeled and dealed, he had memories of youthful hijinks and curiousities complete with their usual painful consequences, he put himself in harms way for his friends while telling himself that he was doing it for his own benefit. This is why I always liked Matrim Cauthon.

I was a little disappointed when the 3 girls left the White Tower in Tar Valon. As I’ve said in earlier reviews the Aes Sedai fascinate me and I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics and the politics in the White Tower, along with the little bits of information and history I was being fed. The girls aren’t entirely without their charms on a road trip either, especially the big sister/little sister relationship between Nynaeve and Elayne, who being the Daughter Heir of Andor isn’t used to being put in her place, but nevertheless does accept it from Nynaeve. When she gets angry Nynaeve has a habit of tugging the braid she generally wears her hair in, she does it so often that it’s become a bit of a joke about the series in general. There wasn’t a lot of braid tugging in the first two books, but it is in there with a vengeance in book 3. I’m surprised Nynaeve hasn’t pulled her hair out by the roots.

At times The Dragon Reborn has the air of a travelogue through a fictional land. It’s interesting, but one feels that maybe the world building could have been done earlier, or cut down on considerably.

The Dragon Reborn sees the introduction of two female characters I can remember not particularly liking later on. The intensely annoying adventuress Faile, who spends most of the book trying and succeeding to get Perrin to fall for her, and the Aiel Spear Maiden Aviendha. I did occasionally find Aviendha funny, but most of the time she was a bit of a Red Sonja caricature.

Despite the criticisms The Dragon Reborn is an integral and strangely compelling entry in The Wheel of Time, and I’m looking forward to rereading The Shadow Rising, where hopefully some of the questions raised in The Dragon Reborn will be answered.

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