A few caveats before I begin: I read this novella in the collection Legends, edited by Robert Silverberg (thus the confusing author/title data provided above.) It’s also where I first read The Hedge Knight (George RR Martin). Even though it’s a novella, I’m counting it as a book–partly because I don’t really want to read most of the other entries in the collection. Maybe the Le Guin one someday, if I read more of the Earthsea novels, and likewise King’s if I read the Dark Tower novels, but I have carefully avoided Terry Goodkind, was never big on Orson Scott Card, and have rarely been so bored as by Tad William’s The Dragonbone Chair. I suppose Pratchett might be a good one to try out, even if I haven’t read any Discworld yet? (Cue much horror–I know, I’m sorry, I’m a bad fantasy lover!)
On to Robert Jordan’s New Spring, which is a prequel to The World of Time and feels very much like one of those books in miniature. I suppose, in many ways, that’s the point of a novella set in such a world, and it did provide a lovely little glimpse back into the world after I finished the series almost two years ago. I had recently found myself missing this world, which I was deeply immersed in for probably just over a year (more on this in a second). It was by sheer chance that I realized that not only was there a work I had not yet read, but that it was actually on my kindle as part of this big collection that I hadn’t even looked at for absolutely years! It was the perfect fare for my most recent flight.
The novella centres around Lan and Moiraine, and how they met. Lan is not much different than he is in the novels–still stoic, still tortured by the past, and still damn good with a sword. Moiraine is fresh out of her training and has just begun her search for the boy who would end up being the Dragon Reborn, probably about sixteen years before The Eye of the World. But this Moraine is a bit of a delight–she is much less composed and much less mysterious, more of an Egwene than her usual self. It has everything you would expect from a Wheel of Time novel: magic, sword-fighting, representatives of the many WOT nations, mysterious Aes Sedai, Darkfriends where you least expect them. It even has Siuan Sanche, who was always one of my favourites, and Cadsuane features as well.
Unfortunately, it also suffers from another WOT characteristic: the rushed ending. I used to get so frustrated with these novels because they would plod along for a thousand pages and then end in a mad rush to the finish. The world and the characters were great, but Jordan really needed to read up on how to properly plot a damn story. (Coincidentally, Sanderson’s books to wrap up the series solved pretty much all the problems I had with the books. Sorry, Jordan.)
If you can live with this–and it’s much less egregious in novella form than a gigantic novel–then I do recommend the novella. If you’re new to The Wheel of Time and want a shorter version of what you’d get later on, then I recommend it as well! There’s not really any prior knowledge required–after all, Jordan was never the best at guiding his readers through the huge world he created; Sanderson was again much better at reminding you why you’re supposed to know this character who hasn’t appeared for five whole books.
For me, this was a sweet trip down memory lane. For all their faults, I did (mostly) love the series, and they hold a very special place in my heart because I started reading them when the first book was lent to me three years ago by a man whom I very much fancied. We used to joke that once I finished the series, there wouldn’t be a reason for us to date any longer (some comfort was found in the fact that it is, of course, a ridiculously massive series, and it took me more than a year to read. That’s commitment, right?) So it was quite lovely to sit beside this man while on our way to his home country for a holiday, and to read the last piece of the series that I can’t help but associate with our relationship.
I’ll give this 3 stars for the book itself, but to be honest, it gave me quite a bit more joy than that.