Book Review – Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan

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Winter's Heart (Wheel of Time, #9)


TITLE:  Winter’s Heart

SERIES:  The Wheel of Time Series, book 9

AUTHOR:  Robert Jordan

FORMAT:  Epub via Google Play Books

PAGES/LOCATIONS:  697 pages of story, 711 pages total

GOODREADS’ AVG. RATING:  3.87 out of 5 stars; 58,113 ratings

SYNOPSIS PROVIDED:

Millions of Robert Jordan fans will rejoice at the release of the ninth book in the phenomenally bestselling series The Wheel of Time. The sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller The Path of Daggers, which swept the nation like a firestorm, Winter’s Heart continues a remarkable tale that is mesmerizing an entire generation of readers.

Rand is on the run with Min, and in Cairhein, Cadsuane is trying to figure out where he is headed. Rand’s destination is, in fact, one she has never considered.

Mazrim Taim, leader of the Black Tower, is revealed to be a liar. But what is he up to?

Faile, with the Aiel Maidens, Bain and Chiad, and her companions, Queen Alliandre and Morgase, is prisoner of Savanna’s sept.

Perrin is desperately searching for Faile. With Elyas Machera, Berelain, the Prophet and a very mixed “army” of disparate forces, he is moving through country rife with bandits and roving Seanchan. The Forsaken are ever more present, and united, and the man called Slayer stalks Tel’aran’rhiod and the wolfdream.

In Ebou Dar, the Seanchan princess known as Daughter of the Nine Moons arrives – and Mat, who had been recuperating in the Tarasin Palace, is introduced to her. Will the marriage that has been foretold come about?

There are neither beginnings or endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it is a beginning…

DATES READ:  June 17-21, 2015

MY REVIEW:

A trap isn’t really a trap if you know it’s there.  If you know it’s there, maybe you can see a way to walk in so it isn’t a trap at all.~Rand al’Thor

Upon starting Winter’s Heart I had a pretty set frame of mind regarding the characters and the factions, this is a typical reaction given that at this point I am more than half way through the series.  Yet, this book has forced me to reevaluate my preconceived notions – I have had to change my way of thinking about things I thought I knew and I love that.  Over the course of the series the Seanchan have been portrayed as a threat towards the Westlands (the continent where our story takes place) and The Dragon Reborn, but I don’t believe it is so black and white.  Yes, the overall mindset of the Seanchan faction is focused on what they call the Return – the reclamation of the Westlands, the land from which their ancestors came from, but this doesn’t make them inherently evil or in the wrong.

To iterate some important history regarding the Seanchan:  They are currently ruled by an Empress, she and her children are direct descendants of Artur Hawkwing through his son Luthair Paendrag Mondwin who led a fleet to the Seanchan continent across the Aryth Ocean 1000 years after the Trolloc Wars and approximately 1100 years before the events of the first book in the series.  The Seanchan have an incredibly rigid class structure based upon hierarchy and status, the most power lying with the Empress, those of her immediate family, and other nobles known as the Blood who can trace their lineage directly to Luthair.  The Blood are further divided into two groups, High Blood and Low Blood.  By default, the immediate family of the Empress are members of the High Blood with the heir to the Crystal Throne titled Daughter of the Nine Moons (or Son).  The High Blood are nobles among the Seanchan, ruling as kings and queens over regions within the empire with the blessing of the Empress or as important individuals in the Seanchan military.  Only the Empress can raise an individual to the High Blood – essentially she is adopting them as direct descendants of Luthair through this action.  Low Blood are more numerous than the High Blood and hold relatively important leadership positions within the Empire – free men/women can be raised to the Low Blood by a member of the High Blood in recognition of great service.  Below the Blood are free men and women, then we come to the prime point of contention between the majority of the characters and the Seanchan – the concept of da’covale, slavery among the Seanchan.  There is even hierarchy among the da’covale with so’jhin, da’covale of the High Blood considered as higher rank than free men and women while damane (leashed women who can channel) are considered to be the lowest of the lows as channeling is seen as something to be controlled hence the sul’dam who are in charge of damane and control them through a’dam.

I greatly appreciated the insight into who the Seanchan actually are when reading from the point of views of Mat, Tuon, and Egeanin – it gives a strong sense of the Seanchan in three different ways.  Mat views the Seanchan as invaders, originally despising them for everything they are and feeling disgust towards the reliance of their class structure on slavery in addition to the mistreatment of damane just because they are able to channel.  Egeanin is a member of the Low Blood and a Seanchan captain, through her experiences with Elayne and Nynaeve in Tanchico she has learned a secret with the potential to do great harm to the stability of the Seanchan empire – she learned that sul’dam are women who have the potential to learn to channel thus ultimately defining them as marath’damane (non-captured women who can channel).  If this were to ever get out, the harm that could come to the stability and unity of the Seanchan empire could be enough to cause it to self-destruct and bring into question what else isn’t as it appears.  Tuon, Daughter of the Nine Moons, she sees the beginning the Return and a fulfillment of that which has been foretold for a number of generations – I am actually interested in reading more about her, especially her relationship with Mat since it has been revealed that she is to be his wife according to prophecy!  I am hoping for some seriously good things in future Seanchan storylines!

The larger story line that is in play over the course of this novel is the cleansing of saidin which Rand is ultimately able to achieve through channeling with Nynaeve under the watchful protection of Cadsuane and Aes Sedai loyal to the two of them.  Honestly this was a major necessity if Rand hopes to have any success at Tarmon Gai’don, especially when one considers that Rand has been creating an army of men who can channel in the form of his Asha’man and you don’t want to have an army allied to you that is in danger of succumbing to madness at any point in time.  An interesting fact that we come to learn through this novel is that the Black Tower is split into two factions, much as the White Tower, following either M’hael Mazrim Taim or Rand al’Thor, The Dragon Reborn under the leadership of Logain (accused and escaped False Dragon now loyal to Rand).  Without the threat of madness overtaking the Asha’man loyal to Rand, his threat towards the Dark One has grown just that much stronger.  I can only imagine how this is going to shift future events and wonder exactly where Taim’s loyalties truly lie.

Changing the focus of the future battle awaiting Rand, I want to discuss my favorite part of this book and that was Rand’s bonding with Aviendha, Elayne, and Min!  I had been waiting for the four of them to be together for quite some time and to actually be open and honest regarding their feelings and emotions for each other.  Rand openly admitting that he loved the three of them equally and in their presence was incredibly important as was the reciprocating of that love on the part of the women and accepting that he loves all of them.  The bonding would have been even more special had it not been for the forced Warder bond placed upon him by Alanna, which the three women were most upset about and have stated that Alanna has incurred more toh against them than could be repaid in a single lifetime.  Despite what Alanna did, the three women bond with Rand with his permission through a combination of weaves used by the Aiel in the binding of first-sisters and Aes Sedai to Warder.  I had hoped that this bond would help Rand recognize that he isn’t going to survive life if he is hard as stone, if he doesn’t allow himself to feel any emotion.  I feel as if Rand sees emotion as weakness, he sees hardness as strength, while that frame of mind on the surface appears to be of sound logic and true strength, it isn’t because you ultimately lose yourself.  We already know that Rand is in some ways facing an identity crisis as it is inside his head due to the memories, presence, and voice of Lews Therin Telamon.  Rand is constantly fighting for control of his mind from Lews Therin, perhaps with the cleansing of saidin he won’t have to deal with this seeming descent into madness anymore – but I am left with a feeling that the presence of Lews Therin in Rand’s head is not connected to the taint of saidin, that there is some deeper reason and purpose for his presence and I can only hope that it will ultimately be to the benefit of all.  Hopefully with Cadsuane as an advisor and the continued love and affection of Aviendha, Elayne, and Min, Rand will ultimately soften and recognize the meaning of truth strength before reaching Tarmon Gai’Don.

TL;DR REVIEW:  4.5 out of 5 stars.  I am happy with this novel, it did an excellent job serving its purpose as a sequential novel without letting the pacing suffer.  This novel’s pacing was better than The Path of Daggers – almost on par with A Crown of Swords, though I am not sure how effective it is in setting up of Crossroads of Twilight because of how it ended with enemies and friends alike witnessing the cleansing of saidin.  I am not exactly sure what this is going to mean for the beginning of Crossroads of Twilight, but I hope it can successfully build upon the excellent foundation laid by Winter’s Heart.

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