I am a confirmed fan of the Wheel of Time series. It is easy to read, though the plots and subplots are challenging to follow. I read this prequel after finishing Book 7, and really enjoyed it. This "prequel" is really a vehicle to develop the characters of Lan, Moiraine and Siuan. Since the mystery concerning these characters and the reasons for their quest to find the Dragon Reborn helped make the first three or four volumes more interesting, I recommend a new reader read at least the first three volumes before reading this book. Jordan's prose sounds excellent when read. The readers are talented and, as a result, this is one book that might be more entertaining to listen to than to read.
Of course, since I have read the entire series, including the prequel, I liked this book. Many readers of this series are waiting for the climax, but this book merely sets the stage for it (and we may be way off stage as yet). Jordan is in no hurry and apparently needed to develop the parallel plots for the major characters (and I think this is why he released also a prequel to this series this year). I enjoy the detail and the manner in which Jordan develops his characters and plots, so I found this book very enjoyable. There is a lot happening to the characters in this book, but nothing much is resolved. What is wrong with that? If you have a relationship with this series, then this is an interesting book. Not the best book in the series, not the most exciting, but a good read. I prefer the audio version of this book to the printed version. The reader does a capable job on this book. Frankly, I think the printed book is difficult to complete. If you have not read the previous 9 books, then wait until you have and then I think you will find you'd rather listen to the audio book than read the print version.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
There was a time when the fantasy genre didn't just exist to entertain, but sometimes aspired to a higher level of artfulness. The Shadow of the Torturer is such a book. Set in a far distant future, when Earth's sun is fading and human society has lost much of its technological aptitude, Wolfe's novel has a haunting, elegiac quality. It's written in a voice reminiscent of 19th century writers like Poe or Dickens, which adds to the melancholy beauty. Fortunately for the squeamish, though torture is part of the story, it's not described in much detail.
In terms of plot, The Shadow of the Torturer isn't a complex novel. The protagonist grows up under the protection of a strange, cloistered society, learns a few things about the outside world, betrays his guardians, and is thrown out to seek his own fortune -- familiar fantasy stuff. But what sets the book apart from standard swords-and-sorcery fare is the richness of its language and the great imagination in its details; the difference is like comparing a fine oil painting to a crude computer graphic rendering. It has subtlety that forces the reader to pay attention. Wolfe messes with time and space, contemplates philosophical ideas, writes long exchanges whose import isn't immediately clear, and relies on the audience to make sense of the strange, slightly dreamlike events that unfold in the story, rather than spelling out how they're connected.
Without a doubt, this is a book that will absorb some readers and alienate others. Wolfe's ornate, college-level English, though not difficult, is not for everyone. Nor will everyone relate to the protagonist's detached, clinical voice. Basically, if you're looking for a light, Harry Potter-style book with instantly charismatic characters, you're better off going elsewhere. But, for readers who appreciate sophisticated writing and atmospheric, textured imaginary worlds, this is a great read.