I’m going to mix it up and post my review of New Spring in chronological order instead of publication order. But I still strongly believe that the books should be read in publication order.
New Spring is a prequel to Robert Jordan’s 14-book The Wheel of Time series, written in between books 10 and 11. It’s a prequel, but it shouldn’t be read before the main series. You should read at least the first several Wheel of Time books before reading New Spring (albeit not the entire series). Moiraine and Lan are presented in a certain, mysterious way in The Eye of the World. They start out as almost all-powerful, inscrutable archetypes. Watching that shield slowly slide back and reveal rich, fully drawn characters underneath is one of the many joys of The Wheel of Time.
New Spring shows a different side of Moiraine and Lan, the main characters of New Spring (with a significant assist by Suian Sanche). Moiraine (and Suian) are mere Accepted and Lan is leading troops during the Aiel War at the beginning of the book. We find out how Moiraine came to bond Lan and how their search for the Dragon Reborn began.
In keeping with its proper place in a read of The Wheel of Time, Jordan makes heavy use of themes much more prevalent later in the series. For example, we’ve always been exposed to matriarchal societies, but we only start to see aggressively matriarchal societies later in the series. Much of the interaction among Aes Sedai reflects nuance only provided later in the series.
I don’t know how I would have reacted to New Spring had I not read any of The Wheel of Time books, but re-reading it in between Crossroads of Twilight and Knife of Dreams in anticipation of A Memory of Light it made a real emotional impact. Moiraine and Lan are so important to The Wheel of Time and such great characters and the purity of their mission is really something special.
New Spring was one of three planned prequels (the other two were Tam’s story and a direct prequel featuring Moiraine and Lan right before they arrived in the Two Rivers at the beginning of the main series). He also planned three “outrigger” stories. At least one of these was supposedly about Tuon returning to the Seanchan continent with Mat. Jordan scuttled his immediate plans for more prequel novels in response to the furor at him taking time away from the main series and never returned to them before he died. For the outrigger novels, at least, it seems certain we won’t see them. Jordan left little-to-no notes (unlike for the main series), and the stories can’t be reverse engineered (as they could for the other planned prequels).
Original or new cover? New.
Original 0, New 1