Okay, so, two and a half star book, for me. I waffled between two and three stars for ages, but I’m going with two, I think, for a couple of reasons. One, what is the arc here? It’s sort of Moiraine becoming a real Aes Sedai, but there isn’t really any emotional development on her part. She is the same person before she passes the test for the shawl as she is after. I liked that person for the first half, then she did some questionable shit, and I stopped feeling so charitably towards her.
Plus, there was all this gross sex stuff with Lan and the Malkieri that I just found really unappealing, and I don’t care what Jordan was trying to do with it, gender roles reversing, blah blah blah, it just annoyed the hell out of me and me feel worse about everybody. Google “carneira” and “Wheel of Time” and see if it doesn’t make all the blood vessels in your head explode. Yay, culturally sanctioned rape! Whoops, spoiler alert.
So this book was totally billed as the story of how Moiraine and Lan met for the first time, and while that is *technically* a thing that happens in this book, it’s certainly not the focus. Lan is barely in it, and Moiraine doesn’t even leave the Tower until 60% of the way through. The book begins the day Rand is born, with the end of the Aiel War, and Moiraine and Siuan witnessing a sister having a Foretelling, that the Dragon Reborn is currently being born on the Dragonmount. They, along with the Amyrlin, are the only ones who know of the Foretelling, as the sister promptly dies immediately afterwards.
The rest of the book features Moiraine and Siuan insinuating themselves into the hunt for the Dragon Reborn, which is undertaken in secrecy, but of course the Black Ajah gets wind of it, and Black Ajah fuckery abounds. Most of the book is taken up with Aes Sedai political maneuvering veiled in Jordan’s typical manner. If that doesn’t drive you absolutely bonkers, you might enjoy this book. It felt more behind the scenes than the Aes Sedai stuff normally does. Maybe Jordan felt he could go into a bit more detail since this was a prequel. (Do we never get to see any of our regular main characters pass the test and “officially” earn the shawl?)
The book ends with Moiraine having left the White Tower and making Lan her Warder. (Which is another super annoying thing: Moiraine is a complete cow to Lan 100% of the time. Why did he agree to be her Warder. If she wanted a damn apology, she should have just fucking asked for one instead of sending plagues of bitey insects at him every night for a week. And talking about taming him all the time! UGH JUST TALK TO HIM LIKE HE IS A PERSON YOU VILE WOMAN. And Lan! You stupid fucker! If she is insulting you, OBVIOUSLY NOT KNOWING SHE IS DOING SO, then fucking tell her so she can stop! YOU UTTER MOO-RONS.) I used to like both of them!
Overall, mixed bag of a book. I love Siuan. I loved the first half with her friendship with Moiraine, which felt real to me. I liked seeing all the behind the scenes White Tower stuff, and how they reacted to the Foretelling. I did NOT like the middle part that dragged a bunch and nothing happened. Did not like Moiraine being a huge asshole (leaving a woman to be gang-raped is not justice, Moiraine, even if she meant the recipient of it to be you). I did not like all the gross rapey shit with Lan. I did not like how they met or that they are now stuck with each other. Bleh. Disappointing.
(But still, a vast improvement over the last two books of the series where NOTHING HAPPENED. At least lots of stuff happened here. And it was half the size!)