I've had a unusually long winter break due to my school having an optional winter semester, and during my break I decided to re-read WoT in it's entirety, or else I might go completely insane.
I started the series in 4th grade, and caught up to Winter's Heart in about 7th or 8th, and have eagerly awaited the next books since then. I've tried re-reading all the books several times, but I never managed to get past Lord of Chaos, I would always run out of time or have something to do, and I knew I didn't want to shlug through books 8-10. But the last time I did that I was probably in 10th or 9th grade, and still pretty young without a full grasp on a lot of the subtler points of the books and foreshadowing.
This re-read was eye opening in many ways, probably aided with the fact that I've been reading about 200 pages on average per day, yikes. It's really been like one big novel, I'm halfway through The Gathering Storm right now and plan on finishing Towers of Midnight around Monday.
So I've burned through the books pretty fast, with a complete continuation of the books, and the thing that's fascinated me the most is Jordan's ability for growth with characters. The two that stood out to me the most were Rand and Mat, who coincidentally happen to be my favorites...
But the changes in these two were amazing to me, that they changed so subtly over the course of 10,000 pages, from what we were used to in the beginning, to what we are used to now. The parallels between the two are enjoyable as well, Mat in books 1 and 2 is somewhat what Rand becomes in the later books.
To me, Rand's descent into madness is one of the most chilling arcs I have ever read. In the first books, he is such a naive little farm boy, gaping at everything he comes across and desperately wanting everything to go back to normal. He still jokes with his friends, and takes the time to worry about smaller things in life. In the middle he banters with the Maidens and Aviendha, but underneath he is starting to feel the pressures of what he has become, along with instances of Lews Therin popping through. (The times that it happens in the beginning of Fires of Heaven are so spaced out and seemingly innocent that looking at what they become is bone chilling).
Then after he's put in the box, he distances himself from everyone. Sulin and the Maidens no longer are a prevalent part of the story, he stops noticing several of the things around him, and what he does notice he is suspicious of. In one of the books, maybe Winter's Heart, he thinks to himself that several of the Maidens protecting him are Shaido, and he needs to keep watch on them. He doesn't berate himself about it afterwards like he used to when he thought about people suspiciously, just continues on with his train of thought after marking out the Shaido.
He speaks more and more with Lews Therin and begins to show signs of his madness to people without realizing it. In POVs with himself, conversations with LTT do not interrupt the conversation he is having with someone else, but whenever there is POV of Min, Mat, or Perrin interacting with Rand, they note how he begins mumbling to himself or looking off to the side and nodding to someone who isn't there.
I just finished The Last That Could Be Done in TGS, and to have it all come to a head like that, completely snapping and losing all emotions... I was at a loss for words when I first read the chapter a couple years ago and I'm at a loss for words now, I know he gets better in Veins of Gold, but Semi's words when she gets captured fit this moment perfectly. "The descent into terminal madness can sometimes be... abrupt."
Basically, I just wanted to say thank you to Robert Jordan for being such an unbelievable writer, and having such success in character development, your books have been a huge part of my life and I only wish you could still be here to know that.