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review 2019-10-23 20:45
Warrior of the Altaii by Robert Jordan
Warrior of the Altaii - Robert Jordan


Black Cat Square: The 'warrior brand' of the Altaii, a snarling predatory cat, is depicted on the cover


'Warrior of the Altaii' is Robert Jordan's first novel. It was not published until 2019 because the publishers who bought the novel in the '70s and '80s failed to publish it. By the time the rights reverted back to Jordan he had moved on to other projects and, eventually, 'The Wheel of Time'.


This book is a real treat for diehard Jordan fans, but, for most readers this book will just be a really fancily packaged 1970s barbarian fantasy novel. It was on the strength of this manuscript that Jordan's editor and future wife would recommend him as a new writer for the 'Conan the Barbarian' novels in the 1980s. No one is trying to sell this book as anything but an awesome Easter egg for Jordan fans.


Even if you haven't read much barbarian fantasy or seen any of those movie-films you know there's going to be some, uh, dated, troubling, cringey, problematic, you-name-it elements to the book. You may ask, 'Is this going to be a 'Gor'-sized garbage fire, or just an amusing macho exercise?'


I forgot it was friggin' Robert Jordan so I did not expect the last-act genre-twisting awesomeness.


But first, let me confirm for you that there is slavery, torture, one fade-to-black rape scene where it was non-consensual for both parties (it's hard to explain), and so, so much gratuitous nudity. The men aren't exempt from all of that, but its mostly the women who get the sex drug smeared on their breasts for some reason. Jordan wrote scenes that would make the most eye-catching covers, it was the times.


All of that is terrible. But WAIT! Robert Jordan created here a world where magic is a woman's domain and the 'Sisters of Wisdom' offer up some interesting characters. There are one-way dimensional travelers known as 'wanderers', who are exclusively female, and its implied that they come from Earth! A very cool concept that doesn't get used as much as it should have. The female characters end up being the most interesting of the novel. The warriors, heroes and villains, tended to blur together, but the women were more distinct as allies or as enemies.


The bulk of the novel is macho warrior ego stuff and battle strategery for those who like that sort of thing (Jordan was great at it), but there are further genre twists that I won't give away that make the novel interesting reading for someone looking for seeds of 'WoT'.


Moment of zen: One character, a man no less, is described as having 'slashed' clothing to better show off multiple colors of fabric. It's a Jordan thing.


I enjoyed this.

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review 2019-01-30 15:30
The Wheel of Time Companion by Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal, Maria Simons & Alan Romanczuk
The Wheel of Time Companion - Maria Simons,Alan Romanczuk,Harriet McDougal,Robert Jordan

After Robert Jordan's untimely death in 2007 there was unfinished business in the Wheel of Time universe. Brandon Sanderson was tapped to finish the series that year, but there was a need for a book to act as a comprehensive index for the series. Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan's widow, promised an encyclopedia-like book to be released shortly after 'A Memory of Light'. It was hinted that the book would contain passages from Jordan's own notes. I thought that might mean it would shed light on aspects of the books that had never seen print.


As an index, I was pleased with this book. There were a few odd choices in the organization of the book (as in which characters were listed by first name and which were listed by surnames), but in the end you can find every single named character in the book and there is detailed strength in the One Power descriptions for many of the Aes Sedai and Asha'man. That is awesome.


Other highlights include an Old Tongue glossary and alphabet and descriptions of nations. This was cool. I suppose I should include the art, because it wasn't bad  - it was just that (obviously) they didn't match what was in my head. The sole exception was a picture of Mat and Queen Tylin, which...was fan service? It was repulsive. 


However, what I was really looking for were hints to the unwritten sequels and prequels that Jordan may have been toying around with, substantial information about characters that never made it into the final books, and behind-the-scenes snippets about what sources Jordan used to help him create this engrossing world. There was none of that. The entries for 'Bela' and 'Chair of Remorse' were the only ones that expanded my knowledge by a significant degree other than the power levels and the Old Tongue entries mentioned above. I mean - not even some explanation on 'The Book of Translation'? Even 'The Big Book of Bad Art' had some unique substance in the form of 'The Strike at Shayol Ghul'. It was likely too much to ask, if other substantive notes exist Jordan's estate is well within their rights to hold on to them for future use (how magnanimous of me).


This is a great volume to have for any fan of 'The Wheel of Time', but hardly necessary. 

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review 2019-01-24 21:34
Wheel of Time Reread Books 13-14 by Leigh Butler
Wheel of Time Reread: Books 13-14 (Wheel of Time Reread Boxset Book 5) - Leigh Butler

As usual Leigh Butler's reread synopses and commentaries were often funny, always insightful, and clued me into a lot of what was going on in the series that I might have missed. I was never involved in fandom so there were a lot of terms and theories I had never been aware of. There are so many threads in Jordan's pattern there is not keeping on top of all of it, even this time around when I read them all in a 9-month period.


Absolutely recommended for the longtime fan looking to get a little more out of their latest reread of the series.

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review 2019-01-20 20:00
A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time #14 by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan
A Memory of Light - Robert Jordan,Brandon Sanderson

This series was a long road, there's never going to be anything like it for me ever again. There are other epic fantasies out there and there is one, still on-going, that I began around the same time I started this one - but, I'll admit it, 'A Song of Ice and Fire' can't match this. The Evil Empire is developing a fauxevision series of the show as I write this. It will be interesting to see them attempt it, but it won't be pretty. Gray Men can't make, duh.


This was my first time reading the entire series over again. The early novels I've read 6, 7, 8 times at least, but around the time I hit 'Winter's Heart' I wasn't feeling the love as strongly anymore. This reread, prompted by the 'Great American Read' (was it supposed to make me read something I hadn't before?), has made me fall in love all over again. Even with the typos that riddle these trade paperback editions. I've come to terms with the errors, the books still look pretty anyway, even if they aren't on the inside.


I also have to give huge amounts of credit to Leigh Butler, whose 'Wheel of Time Reread' on Tor.com made an excellent companion during my reading, helping me clear up long-standing questions and allowing me to see connections I never would have made on my own. 


In my first review of the book I praised Sanderson, and my only real criticism was my feeling underwhelmed by the conclusion and having been bored during a lot of the endless battle scenes. Some of that still holds true, but reading the whole series so close together this past year makes me appreciate even more how cohesive the series was and, frankly, amazed that more threads weren't dropped. The ambition of this series still staggers me.


These books still made me laugh, shiver with anticipation, and gasp in surprise - Sanderson wasn't great on laughs, but he nailed other important aspects and nixed arms crossed over breasts, so - it is so nice to be able to say that this series has aged well. I'm going to read it again. There's a lot that could be said about the sequel series in Seanchan Jordan talked about writing, or the other prequel novels, but this is what we have and its enough.


Oh, and I've been reading the official companion now that I've read the whole series over. I have some thoughts.


The Wheel of Time


Next: 'The Wheel of Time Companion'


Previous: 'Towers of Midnight'

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review 2019-01-11 21:40
Towers of Midnight, The Wheel of Time #13 by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan
Towers of Midnight - Robert Jordan,Brandon Sanderson

If the cover art weren't a clue, Perrin takes center stage in this volume with a final confrontation with the Whitecloaks under Galad. This is something that has been brewing since 'The Eye of the World', so it was very satisfying. Perrin's and Galad's plotlines conjoining puts Morgase into an interesting position. Perrin also faces down demons of self-doubt, and a Forsaken or two with varying results. Faile and Berelain Work It Out and we can truly lay to rest the ghost of the Plotline of Doom. As a united force, Perrin's forces march towards the Last Battle.


Mat has reached Andor and must delay there until he either opens a letter from Verin, or he receives instructions from her. While he waits he strikes a deal with Elayne for Andor to start building Aludra's dragons. Elayne also has to get Queenie on Perrin for awhile. Long standing darkfriend/Black Ajah threats come to a head and some rash decisions are made. Mat is awesome, and less problematic than he was in 'The Gathering Storm'. As with Perrin, a long-standing animosity - in Mat's case with the Snakes and Foxes - is dealt with on a rescue mission with Thom and Noal. 


Egwene and a united White Tower face down the lingering Forsaken threat - and something else - and take to the World of Dreams, with some unwitting assistance from Perrin engaged in battle with another old nemesis. The White Tower is whole and can prepare for the Last Battle, but now it must try to decide how they solve a problem like the Dragon Reborn. 


Rand still holds on to his new zen-like state and heads to Arad Doman and then Saldaea to take care of unfinished business, and make amends. With the help of Min he begins to form a plan that could make the coming confrontation with the Dark One the last. Meanwhile Aviendha sets out for Rhuidean to become a Wise One. There she experiences the past of the Aiel, but is given something else, also. A vision of the future that changes much.


And then, at the Black Tower (FINALLY, we get a picture of what's going on), some people are troubled by the constant echoing laughter and rubbing of hands. Androl, a Dedicated with a bit part in 'Winter's Heart', becomes the central figure there along with Pevara of the Red Ajah. 


As with 'The Gathering Storm', 'Towers of Midnight' (I don't fully understand the name) is clearing away old plotlines and advancing timelines so that all of our main characters are in sync at the start of the Last Battle. Sanderson does the best job that any writer could have, frankly. There are some reunions that we don't get to see and a whole lot of unanswered questions - but this is the penultimate novel we got and its pretty damn good.


The Wheel of Time


Next: 'A Memory of Light'


Previous: 'The Gathering Storm'

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