To be honest, if I didn’t know that these problems with pacing will only grow with each book, they would have been completely bearable, perhaps even ignorable. Many stories I love have sections I don’t enjoy. But when you know it’s just the first sign of symptoms of a larger disease*, they become harder to ignore.
*And that disease is called narrative diarrhea. Or wait, actually, wouldn’t it be chronic narrative constipation? Things are moving sloooowwwly and nothing is happpppeeenning. Poooop joooookes.
Still, for every thing in the book that went on too long (like all the focus on the traveling menagerie, Nynaeve’s obsession with people making her wear low-cut dresses, the ceaseless bickering between all the female characters, and men and women being up each other’s butts all the time), there was actual plot movement and character development. At the beginning of the book, I was ready to strangle Nynaeve. She is arrogant, stubborn, and willfully blind, like a petulant child that thinks it knows everything. She’s also argumentative. It’s not a great combination. But something happens about halfway through that humbles her a great deal, and then she is humbled still further. After that, even though it’s only the beginning of what will probably be a verrrrry slow process of character evolution, she’s much more bearable as she wrestles with her faults. There is also progress for Rand, Mat, Moiraine, and Egwene (though none for Elayne, as Nynaeve takes center stage here) that alleviates some of my concerns with the way things were going for those characters. I still have concerns about Rand, though, and it’s hard to tell from Jordan’s style if he thinks they are problems, as well. He’s too cold and hard and unkind. He has power, but he is not an effective leader, one who inspires trust and loyalty, even if he makes mostly all the right decisions. And yet people follow him.
I’m not quite sure yet how I feel about Rand and his many love interests, so I think I’ll leave that for a future review. I like his relationship with Aviendha for the most part, but that may just be because I like Aviendha.
The main thing that is really starting to bug me, and which stands out much more when things are slow, is the battle of the sexes thing. I am really starting to hate the way Jordan writes his characters. Not only do the sexes constantly bicker with one another and ascribe stupid stereotypes to each other AT ALL TIMES, but he has characters of the same sex doing the same thing. All the women characters are constantly fighting with one another and being petulant. The men proclaim friendship, but you rarely see any evidence of it. I don’t understand why Jordan can’t just have his fucking male and female characters talk to each other first as individual people and not representatives of some foreign nation with different naughty bits. (STOP CALLING MEN FOOLS AND WOOLHEAD, for example. Like, maybe just fucking explain to Rand why that particular thing he just did was not a good idea instead of name-calling and stomping off?) It’s too prevalent not to be the author’s fault, as opposed to intentional flaws in his characters.
Ultimately, I’m still really intrigued by the larger world and story Jordan created, no matter what his asshole characters are up to, and I know that’s what’s going to pull me through the sloggy bits to come.