Review: “The Dragon Reborn” by Robert Jordan

The Dragon Reborn: Book 3 of the Wheel of Time Series. Robert Jordan. 704 Pages. Tor Fantasy.

I don’t read a lot of fantasy books. Don’t get me wrong; my most favorite book series in the world is The Lord of the Rings. But most fantasy series can’t live up to J.R.R. Tolkien and LOTR. The series has an incredible depth and sense of meaning that most fantasy is missing.

In fact, from my viewpoint, most fantasy has gone the way of the western. Westerns were soooo popular for many years that they went into overkill, and everything eventually became a cliche. You could pretty much predict what was happening in every story. And that’s the argument I have had against fantasy. On top of that, LOTR, the start of all fantasy, had some strong moral messages that you don’t see in most fantasy today, just as most westerns are empty as well.

But over the years I have heard of the Wheel of Time series. Those who read the 14 books (fourteen!) in the series said that they were well worth it. And that it was worth the investment of time. And so this year, especially during the year of COVID, I decided to wade in and try them.

The Dragon Reborn is book three in the series. Here is the Amazon summary:

Winter has stopped the war―almost―yet men are dying, calling out for the Dragon. But where is he?

Rand al’Thor has been proclaimed the Dragon Reborn. Traveling to the great fortress known as the Stone of Tear, he plans to find the sword Callandor, which can only be wielded by the Champion of Light, and discover if he truly is destined to battle The Dark One. Following Rand, Moiraine and their friends battle Darkhounds on the hunt, hoping they reach the Heart of the Stone in time for the next great test awaiting the Dragon Reborn.

This series is one of those where each book starts right where the previous book left off. If you don’t remember what happened, you’re out of luck. And it’s complex enough that you need a chart to keep track of everyone. Like most of the epic-length books I have reviewed here–the Expanse sci-fi books and the Stormlight books by Brandon Sanderson, for example–not a lot happens in the first half of the 700 pages of the book. The author takes his time setting up the story. And I typically find myself saying that I probably could have written the same story with 100-200 fewer pages.

But the people who read these stories read them for immersion, for exposure to the world building in the series. I enjoyed the end of the book, yes it was exciting. But I don’t think The Wheel of Time is anywhere as good, as fulfilling, or as memorable as Lord of the Rings. I didn’t come away with a moral that made me think long and deep about my existence or my relationship with my fellow man.

The story was good, but not great; not excellent. If you’re a fantasy buff, you’ll enjoy it. But I’m a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more of a moral here, something to learn. As I talk about in class, science fiction talks about the way things are, and fantasy talks about the way things should be. So why am I not seeing it here?

I give The Dragon Reborn three of five stars.

3 thoughts on “Review: “The Dragon Reborn” by Robert Jordan

  1. In terms of a “message” or “moral”, though there is plenty spread throughout the series through certain character arcs, most of “the point” becomes clear in the final act. The series as a whole is a very slow burn in that regard.

    1. Good to know, Edward, although I am looking for something now and not finding it. Guess I have eleven more books to wait for the punchline?

      1. Fair, though I suppose part of the problem might be in your general approach to it in terms of your framing of sci-fi and fantasy. The Wheel of Time, for most of the length of the series, is not about how things should be, and more a warning against how things often are. So, if we were to use your general rubric of Sofi versus fantasy, then we would have to say that the Wheel of Time is much closer to a sci-fi novel than a fantasy novel.
        Most of the point right now is wrapped up in how secrecy and mistrust constantly put people at odds with one another who should be understanding/helping one another, and how societal and cultural power dynamics further complicate that.

Comments are closed.