Reading The Wheel of Time: “Knife of Dreams” (Book 11)

I know it’s been a while since I posted about this series, so I thought I’d just update to say that I have, in fact, finished The Wheel of Time. Clearly, I’ve earned some sort of nerd points for doing so. Now that I’ve finished, I’ll be slowly catching up with my entries.

As you may recall, Knife of Dreams was the furthest I had made it with the series, so it was pretty exciting for me to embark on some uncharted Wheel of Time territory.

Unfortunately, in many ways Knife continues to exhibit the flaws of its predecessors. The plot moves forward at a mostly infinitesimal pace, broken up with a few noteworthy exceptions. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but feel that all-too-familiar frustration that things kept getting delayed, with the Last Battle seemingly no closer than ever.

For all of its flaws, however, I was tremendously happy to finally see the Faile-captured-by-the-Shaido storyline brought to a satisfactory conclusion. By now, everyone who has read my earlier entries on the series knows how infuriating I find these two characters. The capture of Faile by the Shaido–and Perrin’s absolute folly in being willing to do anything–and I do mean anything–to get her back is just…excruciating to read. Sure, I know that it’s intended to show Perrin’s growth from being self-centered, lovesick dolt into hero of the Last Battle, but my gods…anyway.

One exciting development was the foreshadowing of Moiraine’s saving by Thom and Mat. Ever since I first read The Fires of Heaven, I’ve always thought it was a damn shame that Jordan got rid of Moiraine. She was one of the few characters that I didn’t find absolutely infuriating, for all that her self-righteous sense of justice was sometimes galling (and brutal). Now, however, we get the distinct sense that she is still alive, waiting to be rescued. Of course, this being Jordan, one knows that it will take two or more books to actually see this plot thread meaningfully resolved.

For me, the highlight of the whole book was Egwene’s time in the White Tower and her determination not to bow to the whims of Elaida. Admittedly, I was very frustrated in the former book when this happened, as I felt it was a bit of a distraction, but gradually the design has become clear. As meandering as he could be sometimes, when it came to certain storylines Jordan clearly had a trajectory in mind that kept him in focus. And, since Egwene is at once both one of the most frustrating yet also enjoyable characters to read, that made these portions of the novel, which show her tremendous strength, all that much more appealing. She clearly deserves to be Amyrlin in a way that Elaida, for all of her strength, never will.

Also, Loial got married. Much as I’ve always found this character endearing, he has come to seem a bit tangential to the main thrust of the main story. True, that is probably the result of having so many characters and Jordan having to move some of them out of the frame, but I always thought it was a bit of a shame, especially considering he’s been there since the beginning.

To my eyes, this novel seems to mark a tonal shift. I wonder if part of this has to do with the fact that, by this time, it probably became clear to Jordan that he had literally no idea what was going to happen, i.e. how he was going to get from Point A to Point C. He might also have had a sense that he was soon to become terminally ill. Whatever the reason, there is a certain sense of impending doom, a sense that no matter what these characters do they can’t avoid the inevitable cataclysm that might sweep them all away. And, while this isn’t the same sort of world that we’ve come to expect in a post-Game of Thrones environment, there is still a sense that some of these characters might not make it out alive.

Overall, I would rate Knife of Dreams as one of the weaker installments of the series. Next up, it’s on to The Gathering Storm!

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