Top critical review
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Had potential but alas...
on 7 October 2009
Having avoided it for many years, well aware that the series carries on for another 5,000 books or so, many of them recieving very poor reviews from fans, I decided 'what the hell!' and borrowed this from the library. I suppose I wanted to see if these books were as good as the hardcore fans say or as bad as the critics reckon.
The Good: Well, the underlying story of the WoT series is engaging, an interesting mix of Celtic, Christian and Eastern philosophy, myths and legends. There is always a real sense that there is an epic battle between Good and Evil being fought behind the scenes, and it does keep you hooked. The world of the book is pretty interesting also, seeming very vibrant and with a heady mix of cultures and characters. The relative strength of females in the world of the novel is also an interesting dynamic.
The Bad: The list of plotpoints and characters lifted straight out of Lord of the Rings is just too vast to go into. Versions of Orcs, Rangers, Ringwraiths all show up, as do copies of Aragorn, Gollum, the Shire, Bree, Moria and many, many more. Its painful at times. There are also more than a barrelful of ideas robbed from Frank Herbert's 'Dune' series. When he's not ripping off Tolkien or Herbert, Jordan simply swipes names and concepts from the real world (the Aes Sidhe of Irish myth, Zoroastrian dualism and the Yin-Yang symbol for example) and just cellotapes them all together in a mish-mash.
Despite the interesting backstory to the novel, the plot of the book is very banal. Our heroes are chased from one muddy village to the next, getting into the kind of minor scuffles you might see on a Saturday night outside a pub. There is nothing very 'grand' or 'epic' going on for huge swathes of the book. Considering that most fans reckon this is one of the most action-packed of the series, with thing slowing down later, that's rather a worry.
Speaking of 'swathes', that's a good description of the amount of redundant prose you'll have to work your way through to get to any plot. There are vast amounts of text that serve no purpose whatsoever and whole chapters pass by with nothing to mark them but dull descriptions of dreary places and stock characters. I found myself skimming through a lot of it
As for characterisation; outside of two central characters pretty much everyone follows the same pattern; all women are shrewish and ill-tempered, all men are a bit dense.
And yet....there is something in all of this that keeps you reading. It's rather like heroin or MacDonalds; you know its awful, you know it has ruined the lives of countless others...and yet you still come back for more. I read this during long nightshifts at work where I wanted to read something without having to think too much. So if you find yourself in that situation this might be worth a read.