The OF Blog: WoT Ten Years Later: Robert Jordan, New Spring: The Novel

Friday, May 14, 2010

WoT Ten Years Later: Robert Jordan, New Spring: The Novel

Back in I believe September 1998, an interesting anthology of original novellas came out entitled Legends.  Edited by Robert Silverberg, Legends included prequels and side stories set in the same settings as the novels of authors such as George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, Ursula Le Guin, Terry Goodkind, and Robert Jordan, among others.  I recall buying this book in hardcover in a local mall bookstore when I was browsing for new things to read.  I discovered several new authors here (including a rediscovery of Martin, as it turns out) and perhaps one day I'll re-read that anthology and review it here.

One of the more intriguing stories for me then, being only 10 months after my initial WoT reads, was the novella prequel "New Spring."  Set a little over 19 years prior to the events of the first WoT book, The Eye of the World, "New Spring" told the story of how the Aes Sedai Moraine and the Malkieri Lan came to meet each other while Moraine was in the beginning stages of her search for the infant Dragon Reborn.  Although I have not read that novella version in at least a decade, I do recall it being faster-paced and with more pared-down descriptions compared to the novels.  In other words, I remember it being a better read.

Flash-forward to 2004.  Jordan has announced that he's decided to expand the novella into a full-blown, 334 page novel and that it'd be the first of three prequels concerning events prior to the first WoT novel.  Much groaning and gnashing of teeth followed from those readers who just wanted the author to finish the damn series.  I didn't buy that book then, in part thinking that since I already knew the basic story and that I wasn't planning on reading the series for years, why bother wasting the money?

Well, I finally broke out a couple of weeks ago when browsing in a used bookstore.  Since I was re-reading/commenting on the first 11 novels in the main WoT series, why not pick up the prequel for $2 worth of store credit?  I did so, not expecting much in the way of a good story (one of the perils of re-reading so many of these massive tomes in a row is that the story weariness increases rapidly, as I might have had a more favorable impression of Knife of Dreams if I hadn't just re-read the 10 prior volumes in a four week span).  Sadly, my expectations, low as they were, were barely met by this bloated mess.

Instead of expanding the original 80-90 page novella with a few more scenes and details, Jordan instead appears to have decided that here would be the best place to tell just how an Accepted becomes an Aes Sedai.  Those of you who may have groaned at how Aes Sedai of one ajah sniffs and drinks tea in a slightly different fashion from another Aes Sedai of a different ajah doubtless will be thrilled to do that all of this oh-so-exciting discussion of ajah traits and secrets is elaborated upon for about 2/3 of the actual novel.  Only a brief scene or two involving Lan during the immediate aftermath of the Blood Snows is shown until the the scenes of the original novella begin to appear.

The overall effect was creating two stories:  one being the discovery by Moraine and Siuan (the later Amyrlin of the first four novels) that the Dragon Reborn was just reborn, followed by a few chapters of discussing how Aes Sedai are raised, and the other story being the original novella, barely edited at all.  This bolting-on of information that feels like it was copied from the author's sketches on the characters and their nunnish society onto what was an interesting story in isolation creates a Frankenstein's Monster of a novel that feels very disjointed and bloated, an impressive achievement since the book is less than half the length of most of the WoT novels.  Outside of extraneous information on the Aes Sedai ajahs, nothing really was added to the original novella.  If anything, the preceding 200 pages or so served to weaken the impact of the original story, proving that sometimes, story expansion is not always for the story's best interests.  Had hoped for an enjoyable story to finish my WoT-setting re-reads, but this book was just poorly-structured, with the usual wooden characters and pedestrian prose.  Might be another decade or more before I bother with this story again, if I ever do.


Paul D said...

Loving this re-read, but the nit picker in me can't help but point out that the Legends anthology came out in 1998.

Larry said...

Corrected. That's what I get for typing it so late at night, I guess :P

Wise Bass said...

I remember this book. It was . . . okay (I thought Lan's internal monologue about how he had to make sure he didn't meet any Aes Sedai's eyes, lest they ask him to be a Warder, was funny).

It was nothing great, though, and in some ways it exemplified some of the things that people mock The Wheel of Time for (like endless descriptions of clothing, such as the multi-page part where we get to see Moiraine pick out dresses).

Larry said...

Yes, but I guess I became so numbed by the other volumes that it didn't faze me to read that Moraine dress selection scene. If only she and Siuan had a chapter devoted to taking a bath...

Amy said...

I remember being SO DISAPPOINTED when this came out because I was looking forward to another installment. I read it immediately then, and thought it was fairly good. Of course, I hadn't read any of the other books since the previous release, and also hadn't read the novella that you mention. In my current re-read I started with this, too, so it again was pretty good, if not as good as the regular books itself. I didn't realize that the author originally meant there to be three prequels!

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