My one note on Goodreads on this book was “Not nearly as much spanking in this as in the main series” – and that’s a bit sad, considering there was still more spanking than I would consider normal in a non-erotic-type novel. (That’s one thing I’ll say for Jordan, is the spanking is never erotic. I think that’s a plus. I think.)
This is a prequel to the WoT series, expanded from a short story or novella telling how Lan Mandragoran and Moiraine Demandred met and wound up bonded as Aes Sedai and Warder. I think I raised a scornful eyebrow when I first heard of it, simply because of the extended wait time between books – really, sir, what are you doing exploring the past when the present and immediate future of your world desperately need to be dealt with? But it is a good story. I don’t believe I ever read the novella (short story?) but in the novel the tale of How Lan Was Bonded is tied up with the birth of the Dragon Reborn, and the youth of Moiraine and Siuan Sanche, and also with White Tower politics, and – most fun for me, I think, and smartest, what exactly brought Moiraine and Lan into the Two Rivers that day.
The depiction of the White Tower from the inside, from the points of view of two very different young women living and learning there, was wonderful. There was a lot of good stuff in here. I hadn’t ever realized how short-changed we as readers were by the fact that Our Heroines never spent that much time in the Tower; it was startling to learn just how uninformed I was about the step between Accepted and Aes Sedai. We were never shown much of the training, and never anything at all about the later phases.
I always liked Moiraine, and it was good to see some of the formation of the personality I met in WoT. And to find out just how she dodged the bullet that was the crown of crown of Cairhien – I had wondered. As for Siuan Sanche … I never liked her all that much (early on, little more than “hard as nails” and outbursts about fish guts, later on nearly as angry all the time as Nynaeve and still more fish guts), but this was enlightening. I’m not sure how I feel about her and Moiraine being “pillow friends”, or not; this is the one time I wish Jordan was less Victorian about sex in his books and would just say one way or another what the nature of their friendship was. Coyness does not become a grown man – what it does become is irritating. (Not, mind, that I have any – ANY – interest in the boys’ sex lives in WoT (A-N-Y), but for Pete’s sake just come right out and say it instead of putting on a fan dance.)
The story took a couple of unexpected turns, and ended up being something quite different from what I did expect. I approve – and I appreciate the story. And, sadly, it makes me wish Jordan had had the chance to explore a few other areas of the canon which might have tantalizingly received little or no attention. I’d love more set before the Breaking. Who knows? Maybe there’s stuff still to be released in his papers…