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on August 8, 2002
When the word 'epic' is used, we modern day readers think of 'The Iliad' or 'The Odysey'. Unfortunately, it is becoming fashionable to consider a long book series worthy of the term. Thus, the word 'epic' becomes shortened to mean 'a long series of books'. Dictionary.com defines 'epic' as '(A story), Narrated in a grand style; pertaining to or designating a kind of narrative poem, usually called an heroic poem, in which real or fictitious events, usually the achievements of some hero, are narrated in an elevated style. '
Unfortunately, Robert Jordan's series the Wheel of Time has become an overdrawn and rather mundane collection of books, detailing a group of characters that have ceased to be interesting a few books ago. A long story this may be, but somewhere along the way, the potential for readers to feel that each book and each book matters has faded.
A funny thing happened last year. 'Winter's Heart' came out. I bought it in hardcover, and proceeded to read through it over a period of three months. I was surprised to realize that after five years of being a fan of the series, I just didn't care anymore. Maybe it was the plodding sense of the last few entries into the series, but between the hordes of minor characters, annoying descriptions of every dress every women wears, and the frequent absences of one or more major characters in certain books, I began to wonder why everything seemed so trite.
My review for this book is rather low. I am puzzled as to how other readers can defend Robert Jordan's choice to draw the series out by saying that the series demands patience and maturity. In my opinion, a key benchmark of a good writer is to express themselves in a way that is both entertaining and meaningful to those that read their books. The Wheel of Time has become an unpleasant pass time for me and I empathize with those readers that feel cheated after years of buying these books.
Let's get things straight here. Something very important does happen in this book. But by the time you get to it, there is no attention given to this achievement. Instead, you must sufffer through almost 700+ pages of the usual repetitive descriptions and childish characterizations. A number of inconsistencies can pop up (which is par for the course in WoT these days). For one, if there is a city that is enclosed in a stedding, how is it possible to use the Power at all? Oh, Jordan doesn't really care about that. He circumvents that by introduces yet another new ter'angreal that makes it very convenient for our heroes to succeed in landing themselves in another hackneed scenario. And his characters? He doesn't care about that either, apparently. Cadsuane seems written into the story for the express purpose of knowing everything and having a number of advantages to move the plot along. As for Perrin and Faile? Oh, she was kidnapped in the last book, and while she is gone, he is still worrying about Berelaine.
These characters don't have priorities. It is as simple as that. Forsaken escape, and Egwene doesn't care. After all, she is still consolidating her power. Nynaeve is almost killed by another Forsaken. She doesn't care. She is worried about looking good in front of Lan. Rand is surrounded by enemies? His friends don't care. As they remind us again and again, he is always getting into trouble somehow or another.
At this point, I miss the simplicity the quest had when it was Egwene, Nynaeve, Mat, Perrin, Rand, Lan and Moiraine. Between the shabbily written court intrigue and half-baked machinations of the enemies, the series has become a continuos soap opera that more resembles a romance novel in fantasy clothing than a Tolkien-level work of strong writing. Robert Jordan, to put it bluntly, just doesn't care about turning out quality work, having compromised that for quantity of pages and characters. And it shows.
This books deserves no stars, though as a reader and a writer, I wish another writer would take the reins after book three and redo the series.
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on August 23, 2002
I read all of the Wheel of Time books over the course of seven months. I devoured the first few books in a week or less. But as the series went on, I found it took longer and longer to finish each page, up until 'Winter's Heart', when I had nearly lost interest in the story altogether.
I read 'Eye of the World' in three days. I read 'Winter's Heart' in three months- and that included the parts I skipped because I just didn't care what the minor characters had to say.
Personally, I think Robert Jordan figured out after about book four that people were still buying his books, and so he decided to drag them out as long as possible in order to stretch his fame and fortune.
Between a myriad of annoying, minor characters, page after page of the main enemies thinking about how much they hated each other and the protagonists, endless descriptions of the women's clothes, and constant reminders of how the world of Tel'aran'rhiod works, the story got put into the background.
It's a shame, really. Jordan started out strong, but he seems to have forgotten where he was going.
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on March 15, 2004
Well...I'd have to agree with the critics. The first six books of the series were awesome, and I liked the developments in book 7 (Nynaeve's block...etc.). Book 8 was the most horrible creation I've ever had to endure in my life. By book 9 you become very good at...skimming. I mean, seriously, is it necessary to describe it every time Elayne changes her shirt? Just say she's wearing silk. While the story itself is very good, the descriptions makes you want to throw the book out the window. And never see it again. Especially the battle scenes. Ack, those are the worst. Anyway...Jordan needs to work on shortening the descriptions a little bit, and put a few more interesting parts BEFORE THE CLIMAX. If that gets fixed, it will be fine.
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on March 2, 2004
The 'action' and 'movement' in this book were just to set up book 10 so RJ could sell a few more copies ala "When we last left our intrepid hero." (Something he's been in the habit of doing since Dumai Wells at least). Knowing what we know now, the story isn't a decology, and faced with the crisis of being caught extending this series ad naseaum and not being able to sell book 11 he rolls out a prequel to prove to us he can still advance a plot. The problem is he won't do too much in book 11 or the series will be done before he dies/book 30 (whichever comes first). Jordan is playing us for suckers. This series is a train wreck and the engineer is still asleep.
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on May 21, 2003
Wow, nine books through this series already. If it wasn't for Lumley's "Necroscope", the Wheel of Time would be the longest series of novels I've ever read. Jordan must be doing something right, and I've broken out three things I liked about "Winter's Heart". My list of complaints is a bit long too, so I've listed the top three problems with this novel as well.
The Wheel of Time is a well-done fantasy written with the complexities of Tolkien yet combined with a more contemporary, character-driven writing style. Since this is the ninth book in a series which will continue for several more books, I'm not going to give a lot of plot synopsis since new readers have no reason to begin reading these books at this point. If you attempt it, good luck... complicated, ain't it?
OK, positives about "Winter's Heart"
1. My favorite of the original cast of characters, Mat Cauthon, returns after a hiatus. I don't think he appeared at all in "The Path of Daggers". In any case, Mat is one of the most unique of Jordan's male characters and his mischievous nature makes for a fun time reading, regardless of the situation he's in. The chapters focusing on him are great.
2. A MAJOR plotline gets resolved. I'm not going to say which, but resolving this particular plotline points to an actual ending in sight (!) to the Wheel of Time saga. Of course Jordan weaves several other plotlines into the mix, and for the most part does a great job. It seems to me that Jordan has given all the background information necessary on the assorted nations, characters, and cultures within the plots of The Wheel of Time, and that this series is getting ready for the home stretch. I'm still interested to see how it all ends.
3. Jordan's writing style is very fluid and he makes it easy to sit back and spend an hour or two reading his books. I plowed through "Winter's Heart", reading 200 pages at a time which is unusual for me. I can always kill an evening being drawn into this series, and I'm happy to say this book held my attention in a stranglehold.
I do have some complaints though...
1. Too many characters! There are 50-60+ major characters in this series, and Jordan has a nasty habit of introducing, by name, each and every new face we come across. He tends to give long-winded descriptions of innkeepers, guards, merchants, assorted servants, and anyone and everyone who shows up for no more than a page or two. I'm having a hard enough time with the volume of major players, let alone being introduced to SO MANY new characters. 25% of the cast could be killed off and the plot wouldn't suffer one bit.
2. Too complicated! Now, let me say that I DO enjoy an intricate plot, and I like to read stories with a complicated plot. But there comes a time where it gets to be too much, particularly when dealing with Jordan's diarrhea of the word processor. He's capable of weaving so many plots that major characters like Mat can be cast aside for a book and a half (nearly 1500 pages). In the meantime I found myself forgetting a LOT of the characters and their motivations. Several times reading this novel I got lost. I read about a book a week, and with stories this complicated I have a hard time getting back into the swing of it after 2 years without a new W.O.T. story. I'm going to read book 10 and 11 consecutively after they are released, since re-reading the previous books in the series doesn't fit into my schedule. Streamline some of these plots, please.
3. Here's where I take some heat. Be ready to click that "not helpful" button. Jordan has been praised, rightly, for his thoughtful and well-presented female characters, and he takes it a step further by having a great deal of matriarchal societies within the Wheel of Time books. I think his female characters breathe with a life of their own, something quite different from the norm. Some characters' actions and reactions have gotten monotonous, but overall they grow very well in Jordan's hands. These days, it seems to me that EVERY description of hierarchy, ceremony, societal interaction, and everyday conversations MUST involve the fact that in Jordan's world, women run the show. Early in W.O.T., one of the charms was that the balance of power between men and women was spelled out in such a way as to amuse and entertain the reader, and Jordan's gifts in wryly bringing out the political and personal interactions between equally powerful men and women were masterful. Now, throw it all out the window because the women are "wearing the pants" in every society in this world. That sly balance Jordan used to employ has swung the other way entirely... this is quite a change from the original books, and I can't help but wonder if Jordan is playing to his female readership demographic. Cynical or not, I suspect this is what's happened.
"Winter's Heart" is better than "The Path of Daggers" and finds this series on the upswing again. I'm rating it 3 ½ stars, but am rounding UP because of the wrapping up of important plotlines and the return of Mat. A good continuation of this series, I recommend you start at the beginning though.
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on December 13, 2003
Please stop with the 2 page descriptions of a womans dress or the type of food the character eats!
I am sick of the characters because they are showing no growth through all of the tragedy and experiences they have. The only 2 characters that have really developed since book3 are Rand and Matt.
Jordan wastes your reading time with pages of descriptions and very little story or character dialouge
Sometimes I can't tell the difference between any of the women characters because they all say and think the same thing!!
Whats with every male character acting meek around women? Why is there no difference in thought and attitude between Seanchan,Aes Sedai, Two Rivers and Aiel woman? Where is the variety of character development?
There is way too much repetition of characters thoughts and actions. How many times do we have to be reminded that Nynave has a temper and all men are wool headed and Elayne acts like a princess,Rand wants to protect women and Perrin hates his axe. . .blah. . blah. . .blah.
Do what I do wait a year, buy all of the books used, skim through the pages of repetitive descriptions and finish the sbooks in no time.
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on April 10, 2001
I can understand readers being frustrated at Jordan over books 7 & 8 which were terrible (I didn't care for #4 either), but Winter's Heart is a definite improvement and probably ranks in the top 3 or 4 for the series. Throughout the book, you get the distinct impression that Jordan is finally pulling together all the loose threads and subplots. The ending in particular is a real rush, reminiscent of the ending in _Lord of Chaos_, plus it's one of the most significant plot advancement to occur in the series. I could see the series coming to a satisfactory conclusion in 2 to 3 books. That said, I have two complaints about this book. First, Jordan continues his usual pattern of filling 80% of the book with drawn out descriptions of uninteresting events. When significant events occur, they are usually glossed over in a few pages. Secondly, Jordan introduces several characters who are stronger in the Power than Nynaeve/Egwene/Elayne. This was totally unnecessary. Nynaeve in particular seems to have become almost completely irrelevent over the last few books - I would take the old annoying Nynaeve over the new impotent Nynaeve anyday. Anyway, if you are reading this review, you probably haven't totally abandoned Jordan, so give Winter's Heart a try.
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on August 31, 2001
I will not go as far to say that "Winter's Heart" was anywhere near as good as any of the first five books. However, I will say that I thought that it was a very good book. Although some of the imformation and thoughts may sound trivial, it does make for a better book. For those of you out there who think that my review of this book may be shallow and my level of reading that low that I don't know what I'm talking about, I would beg to differ. After reading "Les Miserables" (unabridged version, mind you), no book can compare. But Jordan's Wheel of Time does prove to facinate me because of the compexity of the world as well as the characterization. As in "Les Miserables", as well as the classic "Robinson Crusoe", there is rich characterization. I would have to say that the Wheel of Time, including "Winter's Heart" have come to a level of such complex charicterization that is near to that of the classics. The ending of "Winter's Heart", as well as the other books in the series, has a cliff hanger of an ending. The ending is still satisfying to any Wheel of Time fan. Don't give up on Robert Jordan just yet, he still has a few tricks up his sleeve. I haven't been disapointed yet, and the next book will not disapoint either.
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on September 23, 2001
I am hooked on the wheel of time series. It is one of the best series in the science fiction world, in spite of the fact that it is sometimes difficult to follow the story. Mainly because he takes so long between books, and he doesn't reintroduce the characters in each book. Each book just takes off as if you just finished the last one and the reader remembers all the characters (and there are many) with no clue of how they fit into the story. And, have you noticed how many of his charaters have similar names? However, I think Jordan has reached the point where he just doesn't know where to go with this series. This entire book could have reduced to a single short chapter in advancing the story line. There is no arguing with the fact that Jordan can make the experience of the hero walking down the hallway an interesting experience, but I would like to see more things (read action) happening to advance the plot to a conclusion. While reading this book I kept waiting for something to happen along the main story line, but to no avail. This is one that could have been skipped with no lose.
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on May 3, 2003
There is no doubt that Robert Jordan is a talented writer in many ways. He is very adept at word building and character description, but at this point I feel that his series has stalled. Given the length of the book I was left feeling that very little of any substance happened.
Winter's Heart continues to add detail and depth to the characters in the series. I really enjoy the rich cultures and their varying customs. Anybody who writes creatively or plays RPGs would certainly find some inspiration from the WoT setting.
In my opinion there are just too many different threads to the story at this point. They add detail and explore the many rich settings of the world Jordan has created, but they have also caused the series to bog down. I don't think its worth 25 pages just to set up a few small details that will be important later (which is what I get the feeling was going on at times). This problem, which has existed through much of the series, seems to be especially serious in Winter's Heart. Those who feel this is a strength, and who have liked the direction the series has taken will be pleased with book 9.
I think those of us who are this far into the series will want to continue on, but at this point I'm telling people not to start the series in the first place because I just don't feel there are enough quality scenes given the length of the books. I don't feel that the recent books have been fulfilling the promise made by the earlier ones. Its important that people who are thinking about starting the series take this into consideration.
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