I am hesitant to start a new thread in this forum. The Jordan-Lovers will just say I'm totally wrong, and the Jordan-Haters will just say Jordan sucks. But I'm giving it a try, anyway.
First of all, I really enjoy Jordan, and when I first read these books (8 years ago, when I was 21) he was by far my favourite modern fantasy writer. Since then I've read others (including Martin, Erikson, and Hobb) and I see things a little differently. However, I still really enjoy the Wheel of Time, and have been doing a re-read. Upon this re-read, I've been trying to decide where things started to go wrong (and if you think nothing is wrong at all, then there's probably no point in reading any further). These were my thoughts on the re-read so far:
Book 1 - Awesome.
Book 2 - SO awesome.
Book 3 - The lack of Rand is lame, but still... pretty awesome book!
Book 4 - Totally awesome, maybe the best?
Book 5 - Here's where the problems begin....
Let me expand: I know that Jordan defenders (and Brian Sanderson who is writing Book 12) have agreed that if Jordan had continued to focus on Rand, it would have gotten boring. After all, how long can we read about Rand's near infinite power, his inability to hurt women, and his fight against insanity? However, I disagree! Rand's POV has always been the most interesting and exciting, but not just because of Rand. It's because Rand is at the CENTRE of the most important events in the WoT world, and when we are reading about Rand, we are really reading about the WoT! The problem with the Nynaeve/Elayne/Egwene subplots (and some other subplots as well) is not that they totally suck, but that they are just not as interesting as the major events.
Now, for a while this was okay. For example, in Book 2 when Nynaeve and Company get captured by the Black Ajah on Toman Head, it's pretty interesting (and relevant, in terms of Black Ajah, Seanchan, and a'dam plot points). In Book 3, when Nynaeve and Company head to Tear to hunt the Black Ajah, it's still good. It feels like a detective story or something, and it's a nice counter-plot to the Rand storyline. But in Book 4, when Nynaeve and Company go to Tanchico, it's starting to feel formulaic and forced. I mean, seriously, all of that just for a "male a'dam" that is totally unecessary and gratuitous to the plot? Hundreds of pages, just for that? Sure, there was still some Black Ajah, and the introduction of Moghedien, but it did NOT have to take so many pages.
In Book 5, however, it truly becomes awful. And before you bite my head off, let me say this: I LIKE NYNAEVE! She is a great character, although the braid tugging gets old fast, and her rambling internal monologues become annoying. But she's a great character. Still, what on earth was the purpose of Nynaeve & Co.'s storyline in Book 5? Several hundred pages of them joining a travelling circus? Valan Luca was funny, but still... it could have taken place in 2 or 3 chapters at most, and the book would have been a lot stronger. And what WAS the point of it all? At least in Book 4 they were searching for something, however contrived, in Tanchico. This time, they were trying to find Salidar.... Nynaeve had already read about Salidar in one of Elaida's letters.... BUT SHE JUST FORGOT THE NAME OF THE TOWN!!!!!! Seriously?! That's the best Jordan could come up with?!? She just forgot!?!?! Hundreds of pages of filler (yes, for the first time, it is absolute and total FILLER) while Nynaeve tries to remember the name of a town she forgot! Pointless! I am honestly interested in seeing ANYONE provide a reasonable defense of this storyline in Book 5.
For these reasons, Book 5 took me THREE MONTHS TO FINISH! I finally finished it today, and the last 200 pages were awesome as usual. SO awesome! The conclusion is great, multiple Forsaken are dealt with, and there are hugely important events concerning Rand, Moiraine, and Lan. Book 5 could have been just as good as any of the other volumes... EXCEPT for the unecessary filler with Nynaeve & Co.
I won't even get into the later books, and how boring Perrin's pursuit of Faile becomes, or how silly the re-incarnation of the Forsaken is, or how annoying it is that Jordan spends 6 more entire books dealing with the freaking SHAIDO. I really think he should have focused more on the world politics, and Rand uniting the world, rather than allowing the minor plotlines to take over the entire story. A balance would have been good, but I honestly think he lost that balance.... And although there were hints of this in Book 4, it really starts in Book 5.
I am planning on re-reading Book 6 as well, but I don't think I will re-read any further than that. I will simply wait for Sanderson to provide the final volume to the series, and hope that it's enjoyable. And, one last time, I ENJOY the Wheel of Time, so don't label me as a Jordan basher. I just feel that this re-read has made it very clear to me where the problems begin.