The Wheel of Time is certainly one of the longest works ever to grace the shelves of the fantasy section. At eight volumes and counting (Jordan admits that the series will be "at least ten" books), this is not ideal for those whose time is at a premium. Nevertheless, these books are solid examplars of the Big Fat Epic Fantasy genre. Jordan's writing is craftsmanlike, his characters interesting, and his world rich in background. But what really makes these books shine is the depth and intricacy of the plot. For the first four books, at least, one senses that the extraordinary length of the books is actually necessary. Alas, the later books have not been able to sustain the pace and density of the earlier books, and the series threatens to become enmucked in its own complexity. If you haven't already started reading this series, it's probably best to refrain until you know whether the series ever comes to a satisfactory end.
Winter's Heart does not begin auspiciously. For the first third of the book -- a full 220 pages -- it continues the painfully slow pace of The Path of Daggers, which is to say: nothing happens at all. It literally took me weeks to slog through the first third, and I was more than once tempted to just put it back on the shelf unread. But I doggedly read on, muttering irritably at every useless page, when suddenly, to my delighted surprise, Robert Jordan remembered how to write. At exactly the one-third mark, it's like someone flipped a switch in Jordan's head and allowed him to write again. From that point on, significant events transpire, interesting people do interesting things, and I found myself actually giving a damn about the books again. I can't be wholeheartedly enthusiastic about this book, because no matter how interesting the end, there's no way that anyone should have to slog through 220 pages of dreary tedium to get to the good parts; nevertheless, this is an encouraging development. If the next book can maintain the pace and interest level of the last two-thirds, this series might pull itself out of its doldrums.