I’ve been holding onto “New Spring: The Graphic Novel” for years. I never read it because I knew I was going to enjoy it as much as I actually did.
I met Robert Jordan twice when he was on tour doing signings for some of the “Wheel of Time” books, including “Knife of Dreams.” I’m not sure there would be The Geek Initiative without his influence, because he took the time to answer my questions fully and with candor.
Although he expressed a great deal of wit, he eschewed cynicism when he discussed writing, editing, and publishing with me.
When it comes to the representation of women in literature, the academic topic was empty for me until I took a close look at the complexities of female characters in Jordan’s work. My views have certainly changed over time – I’ve become a bit more critical – but the endmatter in “New Spring: The Graphic Novel” reveals some interesting information about how Jordan wanted to present his female characters. At the end of the publication are multiple emails written from the series author to the consultants, Ernst Dabel and Les Dabel.
In different instances, Jordan asks for more modesty, less cleavage, and even asserts that one character is too slight in frame. This has little to do with feminism, I believe, and much to do with accuracy – he wants the characters in the graphic novel to appear how he described them in the books. Jordan goes on to make corrections so there is complete consistency in his world.
Reading the graphic novel through a feminist lens, I see the subtexts of fetishized lesbianism and power play between the sexes. It would be a lie to say those things don’t change my view of the series – and it’s especially impossible to ignore when fully illustrated in graphic novel format.
The character development of Moiraine, however, reminds me of why I was so hooked on the series to begin with. She retains some personality traits as time progresses throughout the novel – she is always determined and committed to a cause (which helps her select the appropriate ajah). In illustrated form, I noticed what I couldn’t quite understand just in written word: the difference between youthfulness and agelessness. This is reflected not only in how an Aes Sedai looks, but how she conducts herself.
Each woman wears a distinct style, representative of her homeland and/or personality. Most notable is Cadsuane’s ornate headpiece featuring celestial objects. There is a slight diversity in body types among the women, but for the most part, they have similar shapes, which seems unrealistic. Their facial expressions, however, really bring the story to life. I should also note that there was a clear change of artist towards the end of the graphic novel, offering a less realistic style.
The story itself is gripping and well-paced. The clothing, locations, and politics are as visceral as the descriptions in the original book and the visual depiction provides more reason to Lan’s stoicism and Moiraine’s purpose.
While the fantasy series does, of course, go on to explore Rand al’Thor’s impact on the world, Moiraine’s life does not revolve around him (or any male) in “New Spring: The Graphic Novel.” While she chooses to locate the child, Moiraine’s sense of self is not defined in relationship to anyone but her Aes Sedai sisters – and even then, she continues on her quest of her own volition.
Additionally, the story and the Aes Sedai do not treat Moiraine any differently for presumably being a virgin (or not). It simply isn’t discussed. Over a short time, she begins to flex her wisdom without the need for a sexual awakening or a man – and she only seeks to take a Warder (in a nonromantic but strong bond) when she has already established her own goals.
When I first started reading “Wheel of Time” books Moiraine was probably one of the characters I related to least. Now that I’m a decade older than I was when I first started reading them, I understand her the most and find her sense of duty and purpose admirable and inspiring.
Disclosure: I have no material connection to the item reviewed. I did not receive a review copy.