Top positive review
Some turning points, the end may be near!
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.