When reading the Wheel of Time, what is the best point to read the prequel story New Spring?
As I see it there are 3 options:
- Before Eye of the World
- Publish Order (after Crossroads of Twilght)
- Last, i.e after A Memory of Light
I would recommend reading them in publishing order.
In the Wheel of Time, the main characters are country bumpkins at the beginning, and it's interesting to see how their perspective on the world changes through the first few books. The narration is unreliable, because you're always in the head of one of the characters, and so your view of the world changes too, as you find out more about what's going on. If you read NS first, you start out with the viewpoints of two much more worldly characters, and you have a less biased view, and better information from the start.
I see a 4th option: after you have read EotW and TGH.
That would still give you a fresh view on the main characters, and for the other book, some context to understand who are the main characters of New Spring and what the White Tower represents. It would also open a depth that would help while reading the more complex books coming after the first two.
My own experience was reading both New Spring versions (the Legends short story and the small book) around their release period. I found it very refreshing to read while the main story was stuck (books 7-8 and especially 10 felt very slow, even sluggish as little progress was made by most characters).
My recommandation would be to start reading in publishing order, and if you feel the main story not fast enough for you (I'd say around the 8th book, if it's before, maybe you should stop), maybe try New Spring.
When re-reading the series there is no harm in starting with New Spring, indeed it makes most sense there.
On a first run through, any time after The Fires of Heaven would be fine, though as others have said if you haven't read them, the publish point of after Crossroads of Twilight or after Path of Daggers (original short story version of New Spring) breaks the main narrative very well and comes as a timely reminder as to why you loved the series in the first place.
I wouldn't save it to be read after A Memory of Light, I think the ending of the series, should be read last.