Welcome to the Binge Project series! These Binge Projects will feature me reading or watching an entire run of comics, books, TV shows, or other media in rapid order, then writing expansively about the experience. This installment will be a slower process, as I work my way through the lengthy “The Wheel of Time” book series.
Previously: Book 1 (The Eye of the World), Book 2 (The Great Hunt), Book 3 (The Dragon Reborn), Book 4 (The Shadow Rising), Book 5 (The Fires of Heaven), Book 6 (Lord of Chaos), Book 7 (A Crown of Swords), Book 8 (The Path of Daggers), Book 9 (Winter’s Heart), Book 10 (Crossroads of Twilight), Book 11 (Knife of Dreams), Book 12 (The Gathering Storm), Book 13 (Towers of Midnight).
And now, The Wheel of Time Book 0: New Spring. Spoilers ahead.
We come now to near the end of The Wheel of Time, but first, we go back to the beginning. New Spring was originally written by Robert Jordan as a novella for the Legends anthology of fantasy short stories (an anthology that also housed George R.R. Martin’s own prequel, The Hedge Knight). Jordan then expanded on it for a full novel that became “Book 0” of the series.
According to, well, the internet, Jordan intended it to be the first of a prequel trilogy, but went back to working on the main series after the New Spring novel version debuted to lukewarm reception. One source claims Jordan’s widow/editor was considering (as of a few years ago now) having Jordan’s replacement on the main series, Brandon Sanderson, also finish up the planned prequel trilogy, which would then feature one book about Tam in the army and him and Kari finding Rand, and another book of the further adventures of Moirane and Lan leading up to their arrival at the Two Rivers in The Eye of the World. I’m not seeing any updates on this possibility from since Sanderson completed the main series, so I assume it’s on the back burner at best, as Sanderson has his own creations to write. But I’d love it if he does eventually go back and do the other prequels. I was expecting Tam to appear when reading Book 0 (as I hadn’t done this research yet) and was disappointed that he did not. For that matter, what I’d really love to see someday is a prequel trilogy by Sanderson going all the way back to the War of Power and chronicling Lews Therin’s original rise and fall. We’ve been told so many snippets about the events of that time that it could be really fun to see an expanded version of Lews Therin and the Forsaken in their original big story.
But getting at last to the only prequel book we have gotten, New Spring is a fairly enjoyable but far from indispensable addition to the series. The entirety of the plot revolves around three characters — Moirane, Siuan, and Lan — at the end of the Aiel War. Right away, the book feels like a missed opportunity, as we see that the Aiel War is actually winding down; the Aiel themselves only actually appear in one scene, in which they mysteriously decline to fight Lan’s forces. There were surely plenty of interesting stories to be told about that war, which was essentially the Wheel of Time version of a world war, but Jordan chooses to skirt the war itself and mostly focus on its aftermath.
And the bulk of that aftermath comes from the revelation of the Dragon being reborn. We’d been told in other books about how Moirane and Siuan witnessed a Foretelling by Gitara, the Keeper at the time, saying the Dragon had been reborn on the slopes of Dragonmount, but we’re actually taken into that scene now, and then into Moirane’s and Siuan’s heads as they deal with being two of the only people who know the most important secret in the world.
The vast majority of the short novel is spent with those two in and around the White Tower. It turns out that about half of the important established Aes Sedai in the series were pretty much all Accepted at the same time (Moirane, Siuan, Sheriam, Myrelle, Katerine, etc.). Given how much we’re told about how long Aes Sedai live, it strains credibility slightly to me that so many important ones are all pretty much the exact same age, especially when that age is pretty young for an Aes Sedai, but it’s a minor quibble. The larger quibble is that Jordan doesn’t seem to understand in New Spring where his most interesting plot points are. We see relatively little of Lan and Moirane’s early interactions, and just the very beginnings of the search for the Dragon. Instead, Jordan gives us chapter after chapter of Moirane and Siuan essentially doing clerical work (it turns out even potential world-changing clerical work — taking the names of children who could possibly be the Dragon — is still not that exciting) and preparing to be tested to become Aes Sedai. Because New Spring was published in between Books 10 and 11 of the main series, I suppose their testings were the first glimpses readers would have ever seen into the testing process, and perhaps Nynaeve’s harsh testing in Book 13 would have felt all the worse after reading how relatively easy Moirane’s was.
Slower chapters, away from the main action, were always a mainstay for Jordan, but the longer entries in the series usually had more action beats interspersed throughout a given book. New Spring is shorter and has to wait til the end for a sudden furious pace that helps make the whole book worthwhile. Starting when Moirane first butts up against the immovable object that is Cadsuane, the book picks up considerably. Moirane and Siuan deduce the existence of the Black Ajah, as well as the danger posed to the baby Dragon, and Moirane and Lan finally meet for the first time. At the same time, Lan is struggling with defusing an effort by his countrymen to raise the Golden Crane and restore Malkier, knowing the foolhardy quest would only leave them all dead and Malkier still a ruin. Like my friend said when recommending the book, New Spring does further develop Lan’s conflicting desire to restore Malkier with his reluctance to lead anyone into needless and fruitless deaths. This inner conflict is expanded upon in a way that gives a lot more depth to his return to the Borderlands in the last couple books of the series.
I enjoyed the early moments of Moirane and Lan’s relationship, despite Moirane being an “Angry Woman” at times in ways that were rather classic Jordan. Yet the emotional core relationship of the book was certainly Moirane and Siuan, including the revelation that they were lovers as Novices and Accepted, and maybe as Aes Sedai at first. I mentioned in a post for one of the early books that it feels odd how vague Jordan is with anything regarding sex. I think the main reason his vagueness bothers me is that he’s so detailed about everything else that his ducking of physical relationships (I’m not sure the word “sex” ever actually appears in The Wheel of Time) feels all the more off. That’s true again in Book 0. Jordan spends a very long scene showing us Moirane and Siuan buying new dresses after being raised Aes Sedai, yet he’s so uneasy about sex that for most of the book, Jordan writes Moirane and Siuan’s relationship in such a way that it’s incredibly hard to tell if we’re supposed to accept them as just very close friends, or if his opaque hints are intended to imply something more. It’s not until fairly late in the book that Merean explicitly tells Cadusane that the pair had been “pillow friends,” Jordan’s characters’ euphemism of choice for lesbians. There are some really sweet and supportive moments between Moirane and Siuan that make me sad that Jordan didn’t intend them to be in a true romantic relationship. Instead, he seems to sell lesbianism as a simple phase that Tower initiates go through until they’re all grown and ready for a man, a rather insulting paradigm. In the end, it’s yet another piece of evidence that Jordan never really got women (or human sexuality in general, I suppose). He did write some great women-driven scenes throughout the series, but he also got caught in numerous webs of his Angry Women and seemed unable to get past his own misconceptions, whether it be his weird tic that all women in his books unconsciously smooth their skirts when aroused, angry, or upset, or the fundamental conclusion that his women all seem to need a man. It’s a shame in this case, because I came away from New Spring thinking Moirane and Siuan actually needed each other. That could have been a much better pairing than Siuan and Bryne, or especially than Moirane and Thom.
But as was often the case for Jordan’s entries in the series, the flaws throughout the book felt mostly forgivable after the great final act. Jordan had a true knack for driving to an exciting conclusion, and New Spring is no exception. Despite the Black Ajah having been an open issue for the vast majority of the series, Jordan still makes us feel Moirane and Siuan’s fear at their first realization that the Black Ajah is real — and more, that it’s a clear and present danger to their immediate future. The revelation of Merean as the first Black Sister in the chronological narrative, and the sense of growing doom leading up to Moirane’s battle with her, was wonderfully written. There was little true surprise there, yet Jordan still packed plenty of excitement into Moirane and Lan’s first experience fighting side by side against the Shadow.
And now, fittingly, we approach the possibility of their last experience fighting that Shadow. Moirane was recovered at the end of Book 13, and I remain hopeful that we get to see her have reunions with more than just Thom and Mat before it’s all over. My initial thoughts when reading Book 13 were that I hoped we got to see reactions from Rand and Lan upon finding her alive again, and I still do, especially Lan. But neither are now my top hope; that belongs to a wish for a meaningful Moirane and Siuan reunion, so we can get one last significant glimpse at the romance that should have been, even if it is (unfortunately) just a friendship now.
So, that’s it for New Spring, and that’s it for the buildup in this Binge Project. No more prelude to the end. No more last-minute glimpses into the past for a prequel or missed text. There’s only one more volume left in The Wheel of Time. One more chance to see characters I’ve spent the better part of a year falling in love with. One more entry in a plot I’m dying to see the resolution to. It’s time for one last book, one last journey, and one Last Battle.
NEXT TIME: A Memory of Light, Book 14 of The Wheel of Time
You forgot about women pulling their braids as well as the smoothing out their skirt.
Would have loved to hear about the War of Power, I forget which book it was, but it showed Lanfear discovering the Sa’angreal I believe… And it had glimpses of the past, and it was fascinating. I forget exactly which book or the context, but I do remember thinking how awesome the past sounded.
Read the fuck out of the last book!!!
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