This sequel to The Eye of the World does a nice job giving us lots of time with our favorite characters. It also broadens our understanding of the world through which those characters are stumbling. While the main story arc feels like basically a rehashing of the first book, luckily there are enough smaller arcs to keep things interesting. Most particularly, all of our central characters are developing in very interesting ways. Rand, Mat, and Perrin are encountering external events that push them into new roles. Meanwhile, Egwene and Nynaeve are learning about the One Power, which is cool.
It’s hard for me to talk about these books without complaining about the gender dynamics. We get lots of different kinds of male characters, and one kind of female character. This is exacerbated by the time we spend in the White Tower with the Aes Sedai. These are the most powerful people in the world. Yet somehow their lives consist of little more than humiliating their students while jostling for power with their peers—because that’s how women behave in this series. All of them. Because of this, the story is deeply marred for me. Every time I find myself getting interested in the plot, I get tripped up by shallow and incomprehensible character dynamics. Fortunately, Jordan does a better job with his men. Perrin, in particular, was great for me in this book. (Admittedly, I do have a soft spot for people who have a special affinity to animals.)
Read it if you love plunging into complex worlds with detailed histories where characters are caught up in prophetic events.
Skip it if you can’t stand female characters that are repeating cardboard cutouts of one annoying archetype.