Winter’s Heart – Part 1

So I once again stop at roughly the 1/3 mark of a Wheel of Time book to stop and talk about it.  This is one of the books that often gives people a hard time when they’re reading through the series because it definitely slows the pace a little bit.  The pace has been slowing for the past several books, but this one seems worse than the other for a couple of reasons.  The first is that this is the first book for a while to focus parts on all of the main characters and storylines (Rand, Elayne/Aviendha, Nynaeve, Mat, Egwene, Perrin), and the second reason that this book seems a little slower is because we’re told at the very beginning of the book what is likely to happen at the end of the book.  In the prologue of the book Rand talks about wanting to cleanse the male half of the one power.

It’s a very different kind of storytelling from what the rest of the series has been doing, and it creates tension for a different reason.  You’re not wondering what is going to happen to the characters, you wonder if they’re going to be able to succeed in what they’re trying.  Compare this to book 7, where Rand knew for quite some time that he was going to attack Sammael in Illian, Rand had his plan in place since book 6, but the reader was never shown exactly how Rand was going to try and pull it off.  I suppose a lot of people would say that it’s unsuccessful overall – and I agree that your first time through the series this book is an onerous read at best (once again, I’m on my 3rd time through the series) – but there is still a lot of stuff going on in this book and I still enjoy it.

Getting back to the rest of the stuff going on in this book.  The most notable event from the early part of the book is that Faile was captured by the Shaido and made gai’shain, even though it is against Aiel tradition to take anyone other than an Aiel as gai’shain.  This of course sets Perrin off as he starts to try and rescue her, but of course Faile immediately starts to plan her escape without waiting for Perrin to rescue her.  There will be a lot more to talk about as this goes forward in the next couple of books, so I’ll talk about it more then.

The next thing that starts to be set up in the early part of this book is Elayne finally reaching Caemlyn and putting in her claim for the Lion Throne.  Even though we know that Morgase is still alive and that the crown should be Elayne’s since Morgase essentially resigned and left it to Elayne, she still has to go through all of the chaos of trying to become Queen through the support of the nobles.  I’m not generally a big fan of politics in storytelling, but there’s a lot of other stuff going on concurrently with Elayne trying to get the throne to keep it interesting.  One of the biggest is something that Rand left for Elayne, 20 some sul’dam and 5 or 6 damane that he captured from the Seanchan forces near Ebou Dar in the last book.  It’s interesting how the characters in the book try to get those former soldiers to adjust to the society that we’re used to seeing in the books.  It’s a really interesting idea, particularly trying to free the damane and watching their reaction.  Even though they’re obviously people, many of them believe that they deserve to be prisoners who are treated at pets.  It’s an interesting look at how difficult it really is to look accept the lifestyles of another culture, and much like everything else in his books, Jordan does an excellent job of writing about it.

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