Ugh. What to say about this book? While it is entertaining as far as it goes, I’m afraid that it really does lack the dynamism and energy that kept the other books in the series moving along at a fairly brisk pace. If I’m being completely and bluntly honest, I couldn’t wait to finish it. Maybe that was because I was really trying to get beyond it so that I could immerse myself in Knife of Dreams, but I also think it has to do with the fact that it is such a filler of a novel that doesn’t stand very well on its own.
Basically, the plot consists of pretty much every character taking a few minutes to look to the place where Rand has managed to channel so much saidin and saidar (the latter through Nynaeve) and wondering what on earth could have happened that would require using that much of the Power.
I exaggerate, of course. There are a number of developments in this novel. Most of the characters’ arcs move at least slightly forward, though not nearly as much as I would have liked (this, despite the fact that the novel is actually quite long).
However, it is largely hamstrung by the fact that the characters are too far enmeshed in their own respective plots to be able to effectively move in any meaningful direction. Perrin continues to insist that he will do anything necessary to rescue his wife from the hands of the Shaido (no surprise there). Faile continues to struggle against the Shaido. Rand hopes to make peace with the Seanchan, and Egwene is still dug in with the siege of Tar Valon. Meanwhile, Elayne continues the long, slow slog of consolidating her power within Andor, quite a tall order considering the many forces arrayed against her.
This novel really renders visible Jordan’s greatest failing as a writer: his unwillingness (or inability) to wrap up storylines. I understand this reluctance. It really is difficult to push any form of writing into its final stages, but that can be very trying to read, even when it’s an epic fantasy novel and you’ve already invested a lot of emotional energy into the reading project.
I was very excited to learn that Elayne is pregnant with Rand’s twins. It really does make you wonder how this entire saga will end up. Though we know that Rand will ultimately face off with the Dark One during the Last Battle, Elayne’s pregnancy suggests that there may be a future for the other characters. It may well be that the royal family of Caemlyn will continue to bear the blood of the Dragon into future generations. While epic fantasy is always, to an extent, predicated on the idea of a decisive battle that will determine the fate of the world (it is called the Last Battle, after all), this particular plot twist suggests that the Wheel will continue to turn and that, just perhaps, the future might be assured after all.
The real star of the novel would have to be Egwene. I remember when I first read this novel being shocked and dismayed that she was captured by those in the Tower, which I thought would bring about an end to the rebellion. But we know that Egwene is one of the most powerful characters in the entire series, a woman with formidable abilities and a will as full of iron as Rand or anyone else. If you don’t love Egwene, I don’t know what to tell you.
It’s worth noting that this is the last book that I had read all the way through when Robert Jordan passed away in 2007. I had managed to read about half of Knife of Dreams when it was first released, but I just wasn’t able to make it through to the end. I think I’ve got the wind in my sails now, though, so that will help to see me over the finish line.
Okay, now we’re on to Knife of Dreams, the first novel that I have not finished at any previous re-reading of the series. I’m very excited to share my thoughts on that book before moving on to the final three books.
Onward and upward!