Series: The Wheel of Time, Book 3
Pages: 704 (Mass Market Paperback)
Publisher: Tor Fantasy
Date: October 15, 1992
Reading the third book in the main sequence of Jordan’s Wheel of Time, I see the story just starting to hit its stride. The main characters are now well developed, and our sympathies as readers are beginning to spread out to multiple perspectives and agendas. The Dragon Reborn is all about Rand al’Thor coming to grips with who he is, and what his place is in the world – things every person goes through at some point in their life, whether they’re intended to save the world or not.
My reviews of other books in The Wheel of Time series:
<<Spoiler Alert: Again, I am including a spoiler alert for this review, despite the book originally coming out over twenty years ago – if you haven’d read it, it’s still new to you. This review contains plot and character details from this book, as well as from previous books in the series. If you wish to remain spoiler-free, do not click through.>>
After the events in Toman Head, as seen in The Great Hunt, pretty much everyone admits that Rand is in fact the Dragon Reborn – and most importantly, Rand himself is finally coming to grips with who he is, and what this means for him personally and for the world at large. He becomes obsessed with prophecies, something Moiraine warns him against as prophecy is open to wide interpretation: she’s afraid he’ll hobble himself by trying to adhere too closely to ancient and largely obscure tracts.
We get lots of development from the other protagonists, although not as much Rand as we have in the previous two volumes (despite that he is the titular character for this novel). Perrin and Mat are especially important, as we get several viewpoint chapters focusing on them. In addition, relatively minor characters come to the fore, especially in the person of Min, who acts as a messenger for Moiraine, and a spy for Siuan Sanche (the Amyrlin Seat). As well, a new major character is introduced in Zarine Bashere, who prefers to go as Faile, a young Saldaean Hunter of the Horn who takes a particular interest in Perrin, hoping that his status as ta’veren (one around whom the Wheel of Time weaves) will help her find the Horn of Valere.
Mat heads to Tar Valon, accompanied by Verin Sedai, as well as Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne. They take him there as he lies almost dead, the evil he acquired from Shadar Logoth slowly wasting him away. For the women, their visit to Tar Valon results in their being sent after the Black Ajah, a group of Aes Sedai who follow the Dark One (the Big Bad of the Wheel of Time series). This includes Liandrin, a character introduced in The Great Hunt – she is a particularly nasty piece of work, and her actions in the last book make total sense in the context of her being a part of the Black Ajah. Despite their outward confidence, Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne aren’t well prepared, but they are the only women in the White Tower that Siuan Sanche believes she can trust.
Perrin accompanies Rand to Tear, although he begins to chafe at the binds that keep him linked to his childhood friend; being ta’veren is not something he wants or has chosen, but it is something he must deal with. Loial stays close to him, as he wants to write his history of the three ta’veren from the Two Rivers, but finds staying close to Perrin a somewhat safer choice than trying to stay close to Rand.
Ultimately, all the major characters are reunited by the climax of the book, which takes place in Tear. This includes a favorite character making a surprise return, as well as an entirely new nation of people appearing out of the east – the Aiel.
Rand is becoming more powerful, and less trusting. He feels the taint of saidin every time he uses the One Power, but knows that he must use it if he is to become powerful enough to defeat the Dark One at the final battle, Tarmon Gai’don. His desire to follow prophecy leads him to the Stone of Tear, a legendary fortress that has never fallen to attack. At its center, in the Heart of the Stone, lies Callandor, a crystalline sword that is also a sa’angreal, a magical conduit that greatly enhances the wielder’s power – but only for men, as it uses the male half of the Source, saidin. In going to Tear, Rand starts a number of balls rolling, all of which show the world that he is, indeed, the Dragon Reborn.
Jordan is truly in his stride at this point of the series, breathing life into the fantastic, creating believable and sympathetic characters, and remaining true to his overall vision. It is particularly interesting to see how things hinted at, or even treated as minor events in previous books, come here to various forms of fruition. An example of this happening in this book is the gift made by Verin Sedai of a small ter’angreal (an object that allows its user to do a particular thing using the One Power, or that has a particular magical ability imbued into it) to Nynaeve, Egwene (who may be a Dreamer), and Elayne to aid in their hunt for the Black Ajah. Here, it is treated as an interesting but definitely secondary event, yet it has huge implications later in the series. There is so much happening that it really deserves a second reading.
Steve’s Grade: A-
The best book of the series to this point, further developing our favorite characters, while introducing new future favorites and plot lines. As with the previous two volumes, Jordan provides his readers with a satisfying climax, while leaving tons of unfinished business to encourage us to keep reading. Well worth your time if you have that epic fantasy itch.
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