They say that originally The Wheel of Time was meant to be a far shorter work. I can’t help but wonder if whether, in that original envisioning of Robert Jordan’s, the events of The Dragon Reborn formed a lot of the last book, or formed none of it.
Either way, something feels subtly off about it given what I’ve read and what I know is to come. The idea of a bad second novel, where authors have to rush to write what they could polish endlessly before, is a fairly well known one, and while this is book three The Dragon Reborn gives off that vibe. Not that it’s a bad book. But I am getting very ahead of myself.
The Dragon Reborn is best understood as three somewhat intertwining quests that clear up questions from the end of book two, The Great Hunt, and propels Rand towards his destiny as the dragon reborn. Rand himself doesn’t appear much with the major PoVs being Perrin, Egwene, Nyneave, and Mat.
The book’s strength is letting us spend more time with them and in this world. We learn more about the Aiel and Tear, about Aes Sedai and Whitecloak politics, and the lurking bogeymen Forsaken. The ending is a pleasingly breathless web of gambles, betrayals, and action action action too.
The weakness is the amount of build up it takes to get there. It’s not bad if it’s your thing (it is mine) but where’s the passion, the drama, the twists? It is lacking in strange and uncanny too compared to the first two books as well. Oh there are some scenes that provide it, but not enough.
The Dragon Reborn is like a long meal where every course is pleasant enough but just a little too lacking in wow factor for the investment, followed by a showstopper dessert. As a book in a series, I doubt it’s changing anyone’s opinion of the whole, but as a book on its own it’s a letdown from high standards.