If I had one piece of advice to give to you about New Spring, it would be to make sure you read it at after completing The Wheel of Time series. You could read the entire series in chronological order, starting with New Spring and moving through fifteen books until you reach A Memory of Light, but I think you would lose something doing it that way. Published fourteen years after the release of The Eye of the World, New Spring brings the reader back to the days before Rand al’Thor, Perrin Aybara and Matrim Cauthon.
New Spring joins Siuan and Moiraine when they are still Accepted, still mischievous and still having to curtsey low to the Sisters in the tower, a far cry from the cool and mysterious women who guide the Dragon Reborn in later years. Early on in the novel, the two young girls, (whose friendship almost mirrors that of Elayne and Aviendha’s in terms of closeness) reach the coveted position of Aes Sedai, with the story mainly detailing how the two Sister’s lifelong journey to find and aid the Dragon Reborn began.
If you have read any Wheel of Time novels, you will be well aware of the typical Aes Sedai traits, and that Moiraine and Siuan both fit this description during their time at Rand al’Thor’s side. So as a reader, it was amusing and charming to witness the two women from an entirely different perspective, to read how nervous they were doing their testing to become Sisters, or how they gossiped just as freely as Egwene does at times. To me, it was as if Robert Jordan had let his readers have a sneak peek into the private lives of his characters – the little snippets of information that authors normally keep to themselves.
Reading New Spring at the end, despite the fact that it is classified as a prequel, gave it a decidedly nostalgic feel for me. Upon finishing the original Wheel of Time series, I took a step back from the world Jordan had created and started reading novels by other authors. But I always had the intention of coming back to visit the story. If read after completing the original series, New Spring adds on a somewhat endearing quality to its characters, particularly in the case of the young Aes Sedai.
Doing things slightly backward also gives the series a feeling of depth that I believe would be missing if it were read chronologically. There are scenes in the novel that gave it this feeling of depth for me, like the one featuring Elyas duelling in the Green Sister’s quarters while Moiraine delivers a message. It’s a sneak peek into the past, and a way of seeing how and why relationships and characters are the way they are in Wheel of Time.
The telling of the story is completed by Lan Mandragoran, who isn’t overly different from the Lan accompanying Moiraine in the later books. He’s still the same sullen martyr, inspiring all the men around him in battle while he tries to convince himself and everyone around him that Malkier is dead. The only real difference is the contempt he has for Aes Sedai, until Moiraine decides to bond him as her Warder. The scenes between Lan and Moiraine are entertaining at times, and it’s funny at times to see how flirtatious the two of them are – separately of course.
A criticism I would have for New Spring is that Jordan once again spends so much time setting the scene and writing detailed descriptions, that the development of the relationship between Moiraine and Lan feels slightly rushed. It would have been better if Jordan had left out something, had them meet earlier, or made the decision to make the novel longer in length. Their time together is so short in New Spring that is doesn’t put the same sort of weight behind their bond that Siuan and Moiraine have.
New Spring is well-balanced as a story. With a great mix of humorous and dramatic scenes, it stands strong as a separate novel from the original series. Upon further reflection, I actually came to the conclusion that reading New Spring at the beginning of Wheel of Time would make it a great gateway novel for young readers wanting to get into fantasy. It lacks the heavy politics and extensive character listing that Wheel of Time has, while still containing the brilliance of Robert Jordan’s writing. No matter when you decide to read it though, one thing is certain – Robert Jordan knows how to write great fantasy.