I'm getting there. I'm getting there.
I raised my star rating on this from three to four stars; I was probably pretty cranky when I read it lo those many years ago, because I knew it would be a good couple of years before the next installment came out. (It was three years.) And by then - 2000 - the rumors had gotten more widespread that the author was ill and might not live to finish the series.
But I have to say, this time I felt this was one of the better volumes in WoT. Quite a bit happened, there was some payoff on some long-running plotlines, and it ended with quite a bang. It was a little confused on its way to the bang, I thought, and almost rushed, but after eight other books and untold hundreds of pages I'll take the bang.
One of the many times I read this series I let my obsessive side take over, and I compiled a database of characters and predictions. It was entirely pen and ink and lots and lots of paper. I let it go somewhere around volume eight, and never got it typed up on the computer - in fact, I think getting a computer might have contributed to its demise, because I couldn't quite stomach the notion of recreating all of that work in digital form. (Also, I believe I discovered that there were others just as obsessive as I am, and more digitally forward, so I would only be reinventing the, er, Wheel.) And that's kind of a shame, because it's the sort of Big Fat Giant Fantasy Series that rewards that kind of obsessive behavior. There are foretellings and predictions and visions and dreams and whatnot made throughout which - especially after all these years/all these months (depending on which way you want to look at it) are very satisfying when they're finally fulfilled. There's a bit of that in Winter's Heart.
And there are also mysterious characters galore, including the handful of the Forsaken who were brought back from the dead and downloaded into new bodies - and a couple of other Big Bads who were even more mysterious. A fanatical devotion to noting minute detail might allow the über fan to be able to smugly say "I knew it!" when certain identities are revealed - or to be able to say "Aha! I know that Aginor created the Trollocs, therefore ...!" (I admit it. I had to look that up. But some eighteen years ago I might have known that.
And you never know when one or two of those millions of background characters who were given names and descriptions might pop up again. Jordan was pretty obsessive and detail-oriented his own self.
Yes, there are still spankings; yes, there is still an overabundance of women on horseback with their skirts riding up above their knees. Yes, there's still a boatload of crabby and cliche-ridden characterization.
But there are also very much in evidence all the reasons I keep reading the series, and why I've kept reading it all these years (and all these months). It's - as I've probably said before - a damn good yarn. And I want to know what happens next.