I love to read and can get very attached to my opinions, but recently I've been learning not to completely lose my head when people disagree with me, so feel safe to argue with me whenever you wish ;)
Picked this up at the library and just sat down to read it. No peaking at GR reviews, didn't even enter it in my currently-reading shelf. Refreshing way to read a book, because it puts me in a much more forgiving mood than usual and forces me to receive the story as it is, without preconceptions.
I enjoyed the decent first half. A fairly average coming-of-age story about the usual *special* main character who attends a prestigious school to learn a special skill, but Gabriel's genuine passion for his career veered him away from Mary Sue. The world is simply sketched, but atmospheric enough to make the sparse details seem real. The highlight for me was the court intrigue--there was an ominous sense of doom to it with the inevitable future of a lost kingdom, much less naive and fluffy than most fantasy of the same vein tends to be.
Unfortunately, that storyline is abruptly dropped halfway through and switches to a completely wacky pseudo-biblical narrative about how Gabriel is destined to save a people threatened by genocide. I gather that the author was thinking of Moses? In any case, it did NOT work. The worse part was the Noble Savage stereotyping, how indigenous people are all wise and brave and in balance with nature and stuff. Which carries the double offense of being both insulting and boring. What also bothers me is the narrative of some random guy from the dominant culture who has to do the "saving"...I mean really, do I even need to explain the problem there?
That aside, there was one highlight that sticks out particularly vividly. In one scene, the main villain reveals a very tender love for his illegitimate daughter, which was surprising, but somehow also consistent--it didn't compromise his villainy, only added another side to his character. Throughout the story, I felt him as much more a character in his own right than a plot motivator, and it had me guessing what explanation there could be behind his outwardly scheming personality. I would have loved to see Jordan delve into him more, and what's strange is that I'm still thinking about it after having finished the book, so I'll say that it's more an ambiguous fizzling-out than solid disappointment.
Still, the psuedo-Moses bit really grated on my nerves (especially the emotionally manipulative ending, ugggghhh), so I'm not sure if I'll pick up the sequel. Maybe if I accidentally encounter it in the library? Who knows.