Eragon by Christopher Paolini

eragon by christopher paolini

Publication year: 2002
Genre: Fantasy
Time and place: a fictional world, unspecified time
Narrated in: third-person limited
First sentence:Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.
Verdict: A promising start to a series.

Summary
Eragon is fifteen and out hunting to help feed his family, when all of a sudden a big blue round stone fell from the sky. He took it home hoping he’ll be able to sell it for a big sum, but no one knew how much it was worth, so the stone remained in Eragon’s possession. Not for long though: one night a small baby dragon hatched from it :)

Determined to keep the animal a secret, at least for the time being, Eragon hides the dragon, Saphira, away from the village. As time goes by the two become fast friends, especially since they can read one another’s minds. Not much time later, two mysterious strangers come to the village, chasing whoever had the blue stone. Luckily for him, Eragon was away with Saphira, but his uncle was killed and their house destroyed. Together with the village storyteller, an old man who clearly knows a lot more than he tells, Eragon and Saphira start tracking the two culprits, looking for revenge and having no idea that they will never see the small village again.

General impression
Most people say this book is heavily inspired from the Lord of the Rings, starting with the very name of the protagonist, but the similarities I noticed were with Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World1. An orphan boy who doesn’t know his parents and lives in a very remote village goes on a voyage where his party is periodically attacked by horned beings, led by a more powerful magical creature (a Fade in EotW, a Shade in Eragon). There’s also a special sword, a hand marked, the hero discovering magic within himself, a storyteller with a hidden past, and the list probably goes on. Would I go as far as to call the book plagiarism? Of course not. The hero-chosen-to-save the world story has been told countless times; the secret is in the details.

Some criticize this book because the author has started writing it at fifteen, and it was published by the author’s parents’ publishing house. This in itself doesn’t make it a bad book, however. Sure, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it brilliant, but I have enjoyed reading it, and I am planning to read at least one of the sequels. Sure, some times it’s obvious that shortcuts were taken — when it comes to Eragon’s love interest, for example: instead of building a believable characters, with flaws and all, the author has created this perfect, supernatural being that Eragon was instantly attracted to. I would have, of course, preferred it wasn’t so, but on the whole the sum of parts is a positive, and I won’t complain.

Setting
The book takes place in the fictional land of Alagaësia — a world where once upon a time ago men and dwarves and elves lived together in peace. Everyone was protected from the forces of evil by the Dragon Riders, powerful people who could wield magic. One of them however has gone mad and turned to the dark side, so he killed his brethren and proclaimed himself king. The dragons were almost extinct (only three eggs remain), the dwarves and elves each hid in their own worlds and wanted nothing more to do with humans.

As the book opens, King Galbatorix has been ruling the land for decades. One of the three dragon eggs has been stolen, and the king has called on the forces of evil to help him get it back. But when the Shade and his Urgals attacked the elf who was transporting it she used her magic to send it in a remote place — which is how it found Eragon, or how Eragon found it.

I liked the world building, and thought most of it is original (although, I know, elves and dwarves were also in Tolkien’s books, and others’). It is not perfect — for example the lore says that the dragon egg hatches in the presence of the one that is supposed to be its Rider; this is why people and elves came to see the egg, just in case one of them will be the chosen one, which implies that the hatching will happen instantly, or very close to that, when the Rider was there; but Eragon had the egg for a few days before it hatched –, but some bits of it were fun, and I really liked it. I liked the werecat, Solembum, that alternated between being a larger-than-normal cat and a shaggy-haired boy. I liked the way magic works, physically tiring one, and even killing one out of sheer exhaustion if one tries doing too much. I liked the way the dragons were connected to their Riders, and how one Rider could technically live a very long time because of its dragon’s influence on him. I am looking forward to exploring more :)

Characters
The dialogues are not, perhaps, the author’s forte, and yet I did like most of the characters — even Arya, who’s probably the sum of all cliches2. Everyone has their well established role: Eragon is the hero, Saphira the loyal sidekick (who just happens to be a dragon), Brom is the hero’s teacher, and Arya the hero’s love interest. There’s also Murtagh (the hero’s human companion, so he won’t feel lonely) and Angela (the mysterious witch). The former is my favorite character — a brave, loyal young man, having to bear the burden of his father’s sins. He keeps mostly to himself because of that, which is why I think his friendship with Eragon is so precious: because it’s earned. Brom would probably be a second favorite: a former hero, he’s been through much and knows a lot, and it is for Eragon the father figure he needed at this challenging time of his life.

Writing
The writing is what attracted me to the book in the first place. The descriptions in particular are the author’s strongest point. One of my favorite bits is the first description of Saphira:

“The dragon was no longer than his forearm, yet it was dignified and noble. Its scales were deep sapphire blue, the same color as the stone. [...] The wings were several times longer than its body and ribbed with thin fingers of bone that extended from the wing’s front edge, forming a line of widely spaced talons. The dragon’s head was roughly triangular. Two diminutive white fangs curved down out of its upper jaw. They looked very sharp. Its claws were also white, like polished ivory, and slightly serrated on the inside curve. A line of small spikes ran down the creature’s spine from the base of its head to the tip of its tail. A hollow where its neck and shoulders joined created a larger-than-normal gap between the spikes.”

Trivia
According to the author, he had spent a lot of time trying to pick the perfect names for his characters. He considers himself lucky to have thought of Eragon, as it’s “dragon” with a letter changed. Also, Angela the Herbalist is inspired from the author’s own sister, also named Angela :)

What I liked most
The first time we meet Angela the herbalist she is described as “holding a frog in one hand and writing with the other“. When asked about it, she said that the frog was in fact a toad, and that she was trying to prove that toads do not in fact exist. I loved the unexpectedness of the answer, and the reasoning that follows is funny too:

“If I prove toads don’t exist, then this is a frog and never was a toad. Therefore, the toad you see now doesn’t exist. And,” she raised a small finger, “if I can prove there are only frogs, then toads won’t be able to do anything bad—like make teeth fall out, cause warts, and poison or kill people. Also, witches won’t be able to use any of their evil spells because, of course, there won’t be any toads around.”

Which pinpoints Angela once and for all as a bit eccentric, if you will. But still I liked that :)

Also, although not directly related to the things in the book, here is a quote from an essay written by the author:

I hope that Eragon will leave you with the same sense of wonder that I had while writing it. I do believe in magic—the magic of stories to give you wonder, awe, and revelations. Such feelings can come from small things; in a fey vision of fairy dust swirling in marble moonbeams, or at the end of an epic where a wave of emotion washes over you, sweeping away the mundane world for a moment. Either way, I hope that you find something special in Eragon, something from the other side of the looking glass.

Enjoy the journey!

What I liked least
The author seems to have a problem estimating periods of time. This is most jarring when it comes to Eragon’s training — the guy goes from zero magic powers and zero sword training to unbeatable hero in just four weeks or so. Now, I can get there’s such a thing as a natural talent, and that helped, but still that was too much. Particularly as afterwards Eragon is the equal of Brom, who albeit older has spent most of his life in battle (and has killed at least one enemy hero, so by all means he was a good fighter), and a bit later Murtagh’s, who also has studied swordplay for most of his life.

Also, show spoiler

Thoughts on the title
Well, it is the story of Eragon :) So it’s a fitting, albeit unimaginative name. I am looking forward to see how come the 3rd(?) volume ended up being called Brisingr :)

Thoughts on the ending
Darn, knowing that the book was written in early 2000s I was hoping it had escaped the wave of ‘everything should be trilogy’ that plagues us nowadays3. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Not only there are still untied threads left at the end of the book (I for one am very curious about who Eragon’s father may be — probably a Dragon Rider hero, but which one), but a new challenge is set for Eragon in the very few pages. Why yes, I still hate this scheme.

Other than that I actually liked the ending more than I thought I would though. Of course there is a big battle, and of course the forces of good win. I really did like, however, the way this was accomplished: show spoiler

Recommend it to?
People who love dragon stories :)

Buy this from amazon.com | Buy this from bookdepository.co.uk | The series’ website | Christopher Paolini on Twitter

  1. and yes, I know that EotW itself draws heavily from LotR []
  2. well, at least she’s generally not the damsel-in-distress cliche, but the I-need-no-help-I-can-slay-anything-myself one, which I happen to love :) but she also needs rescuing at one time, so… []
  3. yes, I did know there were many books in a series, but I was hoping that the first one was written as a standalone []

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

Genre: Epic fantasy
Main characters: Rand al’Thor, Nynaeve al’Meara, Egwene al’Vere,
Matrim Cauthon, Min Farshaw, Elayne Trakand, Aviendha, Siuan Sanche, Birgitte Silverbow
Time and place: the Wheel of Time universe
First sentence:From the tall arched window, close onto eighty spans above the ground, not far below the top of the White Tower, Elaida could see for miles beyond Tar Valon, to the rolling plains and forests that bordered the broad River Erinin, running down from north and west before it divided around the white walls of the great island city.

Summary:
After the events in LOC, life goes on. Egwene’s rebel army marches on towards Tar Valon. Elayne and Nynaeve, and sometimes Mat, continue their search of Ebou Dar after the Bowl of Winds. Rand continues his quest for convincing leaders to be by his side, while also continuing his plan to kill Sammael. Oh, and Perrin and a bunch of his folks start a campaign to stop the destruction Masema and the rest of the Dragonsworn are leaving in their path.

General impression
I have postponed this since forever. The first book in this series is one of my favorite fantasy books and, as such, it’s only natural that I want to know what happens next. And I do. However, I found the sixth book rather long, and somewhat boring, hence my hesitation to pick up this seventh. Now that I did though, I was happy to discover that this one wasn’t that bad after all (or perhaps my expectations were just very low :) ). Don’t get me wrong, the things that I am not fond of (the way-too-many characters, the male-vs-female conflict, Rand loving three women at once, the Aiel in general) are still there, and yet I cannot say I did not enjoy it :)
Four more books until Sanderson takes over! I am quite curious to see the way he’ll deal with all the things I find annoying, while still preserving the continuity of the series.

Setting
The weather itself feels the influence of the Dark One, and drought makes people starve more often than not. There is unrest and conflict everywhere, with people struggling for power and leading armies to war. Bonus? The Seanchan are back, with their damanes and their winged beasts, trying to conquer the continent that once was theirs.

It’s up to Rand to keep all things (and all the now ruler-less kingdoms his armies have taken) in line. His job is not an easy one, making him feel like some juggler who has to keep too many balls flying. People still die under his command, Maidens too. By now however he has no choice than to accept who he is and try to make the best of it.

Characters
First of all, I know I said this before but it bears repeating: I cannot believe the way the author insists on naming each of the vast cast of characters. By now there are tens of Aes Sedai identified by name, and quite a few Aiel women and men. I’m starting to tune out whenever I see yet another new name, as I have long lost all hope of keeping track of them all.

Also, I still cannot believe the way all the people in the book have the exact same reaction towards their opposite sex: “Men/Women! Who can understand them!”, which is particularly annoying when the opposite sex person doesn’t act particularly irrational. It’s getting incredibly tiring after a while, especially as I keep finding these kinds of musings (“A woman would do a thing until you were sure she always would, then do something else just to fuddle you.“) rather unfair towards whichever sex is maligned in any particular one. All in all, the fact that not a single person remotely has any idea about the workings of the opposite sex’s mind makes me wonder about the author himself — has he really gone through life with these kinds of thoughts towards women? If this is so I find that really sad. We may be complicated, at times more so than others, but totally beyond comprehension we are not.

That Jordan was not very good at getting a woman’s way of thinking is actually fairly obvious in the way he portrays his female characters: almost all of them are unbelievably annoying. The notable exception in this volume is Egwene, whom I’ve actually liked, as it is obvious she’s maturing as fast as her newly found title requires; also, she doesn’t get to really interact with any male character, which means she had no reason to step on my nerves.

Alas, the same cannot be said of Elayne and Nynaeve. I actually liked the latter in the first volume, I think she was one of my favorites, if not the very favorite, but in this book she acts like a spoiled child (tantrums? she’s throwing tantrums??), making me want to shake some sense into her (assuming that was possible, which I don’t think is the case). Both their attitudes towards Mat (who not only saved their hides once but still wants to protect them even now) were *I’m running out of words to express my displeasure here*… let’s just say I pity the guy for having to put up with them. And then there’s Faile, who, in a completely different context, is acting very much the same. Her being jealous of Berelain would have made a tad of sense at first, but by now she is SO overdoing it I’m actually pitying Perrin a bit.

Men on the other hand are mostly heroic (can you guess that the book’s written by a guy? :) ). Rand is struggling to keep his sanity as much as possible, and to make the best of the rotten situation he finds himself in. Perrin too, although he feels really uncomfortable with his new position and his mission, he realizes that this is what fate has dealt him and there’s no escape, so he might as well get on with it. I never would have guessed it after book one but in this book Mat was about the only character that I actually liked (which isn’t to say I dislike Rand or Perrin, it’s just that neither of them manages to really catch my interest the way Mat does). “[A]n untamed rogue, a gambler and chaser after women“, Mat takes very seriously the promise he made Rand, to watch over Elayne and Nynaeve, despite the way these two keep treating him (my jaw almost dropped when he offered them his fox medallion!). He manages to hit the perfect balance between being a bad boy (with a colorful language, my favorite example being “Sheep swallop and bloody buttered onions!“) and an honorable one, and right now I like him for that.

Relationships
Almost all the relationships in this book made me scratch my head in wonder.
First of all, Min and Rand. I used to love Min prior to this book, and yet as this book opens we see her transformed in a random court lady, having abandoned what made her special in order to be liked/noticed by her love interest, aka Rand (aka sheepherder, yet another thing that became tiring after a while; I got that she didn’t want to say his name because her feeling would have shown in her voice, yadda yadda, but does she have to keep insulting him?). I thought the part where they got together was rather nicely done; too bad there’s also and Elayne and Aviendha to consider (could this scream ‘male fantasy’ more than it does? being in love with three women at the same time and all three of them agreeing to play nice with each other, yeah right).

Which brings us to Elayne and Aviendha and their ‘becoming nearsisters’ game. “Already they brushed each other’s hair, and every night in the dark shared another secret never told to anyone else“. Isn’t that a bit overdoing it? I can understand it from Aviendha, who as an Aiel belonged to a culture accepting of multiple wives, but Elayne is the most puzzling one. Especially when it comes to apologizing to Mat — God forbid Elayne should apologize to him because it was the right thing to do, but should Aviendha even blink an eye implying that Elayne should do that and there Elayne is, falling over herself with apologies. Nope, I definitely was not fond of that part.

At least the fates have brought Lan and Nynaeve back together again. It’s interesting to note how Nynaeve becomes far less annoying when she’s near Lan, as she actually puts an effort into holding her temper under control (who knew she was actually capable of that :) ). The dynamics between them are somewhat strange though (“Lan gazed down at Nynaeve, though, with no more expression than a fence post, and for all Nynaeve appeared ready to crawl under the coach and hide, she stared up at Lan as if no one else existed in the world.“), as Lan is still very much affected by Moiraine’s demise due to his Warder bond to her. Which makes everything way less romantic and pleasant than it would have been otherwise, as he is more often described as having dead-looking eyes than anything else. *sigh*

Plot
While the first few books had a contained plot arc, this is not particularly the case here. There are many story threads, some of them mentioned in passing (Morgase’s stint with the Children of Light, and her subsequent escape; Egwene’s campaign), some of them advancing but not actually finished by the end of the book (Elayne & Nynaeve find the Bowl of Winds, but how will they use it? Will they be able to use it? What will the effects be? We don’t know yet; the fight between Rand and Sammael does takes place but how does it actually end? We don’t know yet), and some of them merely starting here (Moghedien’s escape and desire for revenge on Nynaeve, Mat being trapped in a Seanchan-attacked city (I am so looking forward to his meeting the Daughter of Nine Moons :) ), Perrin’s hunt for Masema & his men, etc. It is a complex book, with many things happening at once, and no obvious answers about what will be next.

As a bit of trivia, the book spans only 11 days from start to finish (the shortest in the series). I don’t think I would have noticed that myself, so many things happen that I didn’t think of keeping tracks of days and nights.

Thoughts on the title

“As the plow breaks the earth shall he break the lives of men, and all that was shall be consumed in the fire of his eyes. The trumpets of war shall sound at his footsteps, the ravens feed at his voice, and he shall wear a crown of swords.
–The Prophecies of the Dragon”

This is quite an accurate description of what happens around Rand — all the war and destruction his influence on the land has brought. To my surprise, the crown of swords turned out to be a literal one (I actually though it was a cool idea to have a crown “with sharp points of swords” hidden among the decorations, as it made sure “no head would wear this crown casually or easily“).

Thoughts on the ending
And so Rand became King of Illian. I wouldn’t have expected that of him, since he avoided any titles and kingdoms until now.
show spoiler

What I liked most
Awwwww. The wedding of my favorite couple since book one (an event that I knew would happen, after accidentally reading some spoilers, and I’ve been looking forward to for ages now :) ). Their relationship is not precisely perfect (plus one half of the happy couple is really getting on my nerves lately) but it was a happy event for me nonetheless.

Also, I thought the name the underground circle of non-Aes Sedai women who could channel gave themselves was rather cute (the Knitting circle); their rules for governing themselves (by turns, so each of them would have a taste of each position and responsibilities) were quite an interesting idea too.

I was also amused at the author’s own brand of Thanksgiving, as celebrated in the Two Rivers: “the Day of Reflection, when you were supposed to remember all the good things in your life and anyone who voiced a complaint could find a bucket of water upended over his head to wash away bad luck“. :)

What I liked least
Hard to pick among all my hangups :)
I have found rather creepy the part Mat was raped, or very close to that and nobody cared. Not only that, but people were actually laughing at him? I will not get into details, but this is a part I could definitely could have done without (the laughing, not the conflict in itself).

Recommend it to?
Fans of the series :) By now it’s been many thousands of pages since it all begun, and I am not sure one would be able to make sense of things without them.

Buy this from amazon.com | Buy this from bookdepository.co.uk

This book is a sequel to:
The Eye of the World | The Great Hunt | The Dragon Reborn | The Shadow Rising | The Fires of Heaven | Lord of Chaos

Next books in this series:
The Path of Daggers

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

Genre: Epic Fantasy
Main characters: Rand al’Thor, Egwene al’Vere, Nynaeve al’Meara, Elayne Trakand, Mat Cauthon, Perrin Aybara, Faile ni Bashere t’Aybara (to name but a few)
Time and place: the Wheel of Time Universe, around 1000 NE or so (I think)(according to the Glossary, Moiraine has started her quest to find the Dragon Reborn in 978 NE; she’d been searching for about twenty years when he found him, and a few years have passed since).
First sentence:Demandred stepped out onto the black slopes of Shayol Ghul, and the gateway, a hole in reality’s fabric, winked out of existence.

Summary: With Tarmon Gai’don looming closer and closer, Rand is doing his best to prepare for it, by gathering around him as many men who can be taught to channel as he can find. Wanting to get rid of the responsibility he has for both Cairhien and Andor, as he is now the ruler of both, he sends Mat to track down Elayne, the rightful heir. However, she has other plans, ending up in Ebou Dar, together with her usual companions (Nynaeve, Birgitte, Thom and Juilin), plus Aviendha.

The Aes Sedai in Salidar also make plans for the future, electing a new Amyrlin and getting ready to attack Tar Valon. They also send an embassy to get the Dragon on their side, an embassy that reached Andor and Rand about the same time the one from Tar Valon, come with the very same purpose, did.

General impression
“Boy, that is one long book”, was my dominant thought while reading, followed closely by “Another character? How am I expected to keep track of them all??”.

So this was book six, the one where all but the most valiant fans of the series are said to abandon the quest. Well, I cannot quite blame them, especially as for me each of the books has been a little less captivating than the one before (yes, the first one is still my absolute favorite of them all). If only there weren’t that many characters… at times I simply lose track of who’s who and my interest in the story plummets. I have this problem with almost every large group of people (I can’t tell the Aiel from one another, with few exceptions, which makes me very uninterested in almost everything regarding them; I can’t tell the nobles from one another, with few exceptions, which makes me very uninterested in almost everything regarding them; I can’t tell about half of the Salidar Aes Sedai from one another… etc).

Characters
Did I mention there’s plenty of them?

One character I find promising is Mazrim Taim: always in control, never afraid. Speaking of which, I am also fairly curious about the way Logain will develop from now on. Gawyn too is beginning to show some promise, if only he weren’t a Whitecloak (those Whitecloaks being the bunch of characters I couldn’t bring myself to care about almost from the very beginning)
As far as the female characters are concerned, I tend to agree with the people who say that they all act as one, and they are all spending too much time acting superior, or offended, or both. I don’t remember any of them smiling for a while now, a thing that’s particularly disappointing when it comes to Elayne, whom I initially thought had a good sense of humor. Luckily there is one exception to the rule, and that’s Min (my current favorite character). show spoiler

Plot
In a perhaps funny turn of events, the book dragged on for so long that by the time I was nearing the end I couldn’t be actually certain what events have happened in this book and which of them in the previous one (I had to go check out the Wikipedia article in order to write the summary). There wasn’t much plot as I see it, a thing that probably is tightly connected to the way the book seemed to be dragging on endlessly at times. At least this “detail” is corrected sometimes near the end, when Rand (previously too strong to be even threatened, much less defeated) falls into a trap. From that point on I actually started getting interested in what I was reading, making the remaining pages (about 20% of them) fly by. So yeah, there is a plot, but one has to be really patient to get to it :)

Setting
I love the world that Mr. Jordan has created. I love the way magic is done here, with the flows of different elements, that have to be woven in different ways and so on. I love the way every land has its different customs and clothing styles. Sure, I am getting a bit confused by the geography of it at times, but other that that I am quite fond of it :)

Thoughts on the title
I love it. I find it a perfect metaphor for what Rand is: someone who polarizes people either with or against him. The battle at the end (where Aes Sedai fight against Aes Sedai and Aiel against Aiel) is the perfect illustration of the idea.

Thoughts on the ending
I liked the ending so much I even had a surge of enthusiasm, wanting for a short moment to pick the next book right up to see what happens next. Did I mention I like Mazrim Taim?

What I liked most
Mazrim Taim and his Asha’man at the end. Such flawless control (“Asha’man, do this! Asha’man, do that!”, and they all acted as one), wow.
Also, the fact that Loial may well have found his chosen one, I’m looking forward to see how this part develops :) (oh, and Mat is getting closer and closer to his Daughter of the Nine Moons too, ha! I’m so very looking forward to that too :) ).

What I liked least
(something that goes for the series so far on the whole)
show spoiler

Also, is it me or the vast majority of the words in the Old Tongue contain apostrophes? At first I loved seeing an apostrophe now and then, making a particular word look more exotic, but these days I think the Old Tongue is suffering for a sort of apostrophe overload :(

Recommend it to?
Anyone who has a great deal of patience and is curious what happens next. Take heart, there’s only a few more books left :)

Buy this from amazon.com | Buy this from bookdepository.co.uk

This book is a sequel to:
The Eye of the World | The Great Hunt | The Dragon Reborn | The Shadow Rising | The Fires of Heaven

Next in the series:
A Crown of Swords | The Path of Daggers

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

Genre: Epic Fantasy
Main characters: Rand al’Thor, Nynaeve al’Meara, Egwene al’Vere
Time and place: the world of the Wheel of Time (mostly Fal Dara, Tar Valon, Cairhien and Falme); year unknown
First sentence:The man who called himself Bors, at least in this place, sneered at the low murmuring that rolled around the vaulted chamber like the soft gabble of geese.

Summary: The book opens where the previous one ended, with all our characters in Fal Dara, each getting ready to go their own way. The danger of Ba’alzamon seems now passed, but then the unthinkable happens: Trollocs attack the fortress of Fal Dara from the inside, killing a few people, stealing the Horn of Valere and Mat’s dagger, and also taking Padan Fain with them.

The Horn cannot be left in enemy hands, and Mat would die shortly without his dagger, so a small army of Shienaran soldiers, together with Rand, Mat, Perrin and Loial leave Fal Dara on a “great hunt”, to find the Horn again, and replace it where it belongs.

Nynaeve and Egwene cannot join them this time, as they must be on their way to Tar Valon, the place where they are to be taught how to use the One Power for the greater good. Not that their lives are going to be safe from danger even there.

This is the second book in the Wheel of Time series and I have enjoyed a very small bit less than the previous one, yet still a lot. First of all, I love the writing style, because it has what I call “cinematic quality” (every visual detail is so aptly described that it sometimes feels like watching a movie). This book needed less world-building than the one before, since the reader is now familiarised with the location; however there were still new concepts introduced, and new places, giving me the occasion to bask in visual details, just as I like.

The plot is also well written, and quite unpredictable too — I very rarely knew what to expect, if at all. This is another reason why I’m on the way to becoming a fan of the series: the fact that there’s always something happening, with never a moment of boredom. Many people say that will change once the series reach book six or seven, but until then I really really love this part.

As for the characters, my, there’s plenty of them. I was happy to meet again most of those introduced in Book 1. Rand, desperately trying to adjust to who he is, trying to get rid of the yokel of prophecy but at the same time preparing himself for it, taking swordfighting lessons and learning to channel. Mat, sick, doing nothing but participating in the search for his dagger, now a bit more likable to me than before because he has less pages to complain in. Perrin, still communicating with wolves, also with less pages allotted. Loial, always with his nose in a book and one of my favorite characters. Surprisingly enough, Bayle Domon, the owner of the ship Rand crossed the river seemingly eons ago, makes an appearance in this book too, piquing my interest in his fate. There are also a few new characters, of which Huron, a “sniffer” (a man who can smell deeds done by others) seems the most promising one, and I am looking forward to meeting him again. A notable absence is Lan (yup, the one that I liked most of them all), who only appears a little in the beginning and a little at the end since Moiraine Sedai is kept busy elsewhere almost all throughout the book.

The female characters get to grow and develop, especially Egwene, whom I dismissed as childish before, but whom I have actually liked in this volume. Nynaeve is trying hard to learn to become the best Aes Sedai she can be, dreaming to punish Moiraine later on for everything Nynaeve thinks she has brought to “her people”. We meet Elayne again, and, although the Daughter-Heir, she is so very down-to-earth that it’s impossible not to like. Another old acquaintance is Min, who, while only met once in Book 1, already seemed like a promising character and I was happy to see her again. As secondary characters we also get to meet a few more Aes Sedai (including their leader, the Amyrlin Seat, an old friend of Moiraine’s), some more interesting than others, and about whom I am curious whether we’ll get to see them again or not, but none of them particularly captivating and/or likable for me.

Speaking of Aes Sedai, I was happy that the author chose to give at last a bit more details about the notion of Ajah. While I have already surmised that each Aes Sedai belonged to an Ajah, and the said Ajah’s color meant something related to the Sedai’s personality, I knew no more than that. In this book though I found out a bit more details, some even funny ones, such as the way the Green Ajah women treat men (the more the better, they even have more than one Warden each). Their opposite is the Red Ajah, who despise men altogether, and never choose Wardens for that reason. There’s also the Brown Ajah, whose members thirst for knowledge and as such are always studying one thing or another. I have no idea yet of the particularities of the other Ajahs (including the Blue, Moiraine’s colors), but I am looking forward to finding out in the next book or books :)

As a small detail, I was amused by the names of the fighting stances Rand had to learn. “Cat Crosses the Courtyard” is my favorite, but there’s also “Parting the Silk”, “Hummingbird Kisses the Honeyrose”, “Heron Wading in the Rushes”, “The Kingfisher Takes a Silverback”, “Bundling Straw”, “The Dove Takes Flight”, “The Falling Leaf”, “The Swallow Rides the Air”, “The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain”, “The River Undercuts the Bank”, “Stones Falling From the Cliff” and many more :)

Thoughts on the ending: Unsurprisingly, I absolutely loved the ending (more so than the one in the previous book). show spoiler

What I liked most: It’s a tie between two things:
1) the three tests that Nynaeve had to go through in order for her to become Accepted. While the idea of testing someone by making him (or her) confront his (or her) innermost fears is not new by far, I very much loved the buildup and the way each test was more intense than the one before. Plus the fact that we got another glimpse of Emond’s Field and of Lan. :)

and

2) the portal stones!!!
The very idea of there existing “worlds our world might have been if things had happened differently.“. Much like some people believe in parallel universes, people in the WoT world also believe that “The Pattern has infinite variation [...] and every variation that can be, will be.“. Well actually, that’s not just a belief of theirs, because those worlds of variation actually exist and can be visited too, using portal stones. So, so very cool (I seem to use this word a lot lately). Not to mention the moment when Rand focused on one portal stone and actually got to “live” some of these variations for himself.

What I liked least: I have no major complaints but
1) I could have done without the Children of the Light (they served no major purpose anyway)(or perhaps there is a purpose and it will be revealed later?)

and

2) I was a bit annoyed at the beginning by all the drama surrounding the fact that Aes Sedai might want to “gentle” Rand because of who he is. Now, I understand that the male Aes Sedai broke the world once; I also understand that the prophecies state that the Dragon Reborn “shall break the world again by his coming, tearing apart all ties that bind“. I understand that people might want to stop the world from breaking again and thus harm Rand to keep him from doing so. But the prophecies also state that “the Dark One shall once more lay his hand upon the world of man [...] yet shall the Dragon Reborn confront the Shadow at the Last Battle, and his blood shall give us the Light“. So, considering that somewhere in the near future the said Dragon Reborn will be the only thing keeping the world from being conquered by the Dark One, why would anyone do anything to the Dragon and interfere with his doing so?

Recommend it to? Anyone who read and liked the first book, of course. While I imagine it may work as standalone too, many of the events are based on what had happened before so the enjoyment of it would be considerably reduced. Or so I think :)

See also
Wheel of Time wiki :)
Moiraine’s Facebook page :)

This book is a sequel to:
The Eye of the World

Next in the series:
The Dragon Reborn | The Shadow Rising | The Fires of Heaven | Lord of Chaos | A Crown of Swords | The Path of Daggers