Now, a response to WoT Book Nine. As fans, we waited a long time for this book: The book where Saidin was to be cleansed. True, we’ve waited longer for the final book in the series, but I remember this one providing a very nice sense that the series WAS indeed moving. The cleansing of the One Power really did deserve its own book, and the battle at the end was a nice focal climax, tying together several different characters and plot lines into a single awesome event.
I often wondered, when reading the early books as a youth, if Saidin WOULD get cleansed. I worried that the end of the series would come and the taint would still be in force, leaving the Asha’man to deal with being hunted and Gentled. As both a reader and a writer I found it immensely fulfilling to get this book, as I knew this event would change the series drastically. That’s exciting because of the possibilities it opens up—possibilities for conflict and storytelling. How will the Aes Sedai, and the world, react to the realty that men channeling is no longer a terrible thing? I think the fact that we didn’t get to see this reaction in Book Ten (as hoped) lead to a lot of the disgruntlement people felt with that particular volume.
However, we’re here to talk about Book Nine. Reading it as an author and the one who is going to help complete this series, I see things differently now. I love how the events of cleansing the male half of the power drive this book. By having Rand announce up front what he intends to do, Mr. Jordan creates an expectation and a kind of narrative ‘time bomb’ for the readers. Will it happen? Won’t it happen? This is very different from what authors normally do—my first instinct, for instance, would have been to keep Rand’s plan a secret for a large chunk of the book, then have a dramatic reveal.
Yet, that would have had a much different effect, narratively, and I like how Mr. Jordan did it here. The plotting method I mentioned above would work for the first or second book of a series, but for book nine, I see the initial declaration as a move of honesty on Mr. Jordan’s part. In a way, it’s saying this: “Look, I know you’ve followed this series for a long, long time. I’m here to promise you that something incredible is going to happen here in this book.” The joy for us as readers turns from trying to guess the plot to instead anticipation of what we hope will come at the end. Instead of “What will Rand do?” (A mystery plot) we get a “Will he succeed?” (an action adventure plot.) That made this book immensely satisfying, and allowed him to use Rand’s plans as a focus for the entire book.
The other item I’d like to note here is that we get Mat back, which is very nice. As I’ve often said in these reaction pieces, I feel that this series is much larger than just one character—even Rand. The pleasure of the books lies in watching the interweaving and growth of the various participants. That said, Mat is a nice counter-balancing force for the stories, and he adds a lot to them. An edge of humor, a feeling of a guy who is still—somehow—an underdog rather than a powerful political or militaristic force unto himself. The three male leads work very well together, and when we have a book with all three of them, I think it helps the pacing and flow a lot. Perrin can be deliberate and thoughtful, Mat spontaneous and glib, and Rand almost more of a force of nature than a person.
Anyway, I finished off NEW SPRING today and will begin Book Eleven this evening.