Friday, October 28, 2005

Knife of Dreams (Spoiler Review)

Just under two years ago, when I reviewed Robert Jordan's Crossroads of Twilight, I expressed the hope that it was setting the stage for significant action in the next book. Indeed the series has needed some badly. Pacing is not Jordan's strong suit. What you actually have in the recent Wheel of Time volumes is five separate "books" (Dragon Reborn; Mat and the Seanchan; Perrin, the Shaido, and the Prophet; Elayne in Andor; and the Aes Sedai) each of which has been spread over several volumes so that we haven't had a real climax in quite some time as each goes through its beginning, middle, and end. This also means, however, that eventually you'd get to a book in which a lot wraps up at once, and that is what you have with Knife of Dreams.

Rand's story gets the least attention. Although he is the center of the series as a whole, his arc for the moment has been one of character development as he learns to love and be loved, or, as Cadsuane once put it, "laughter and tears." A lot of progress was made on this plot in Winter's Heart, for which it provided a title, but since he has little else to do before the Last Battle he's been off to one side. The Aes Sedai plot also doesn't finish in this book, though it does get a fair amount of attention, and indeed was probably the most compelling of the five. The ties between this and Egwene's time among the Aiel show something Jordan is quite good at - character development. There will be no scullion boys easily adapt to kingship in this series.

Of the plots that finish, I'll be most glad not to spend more time trying to take scheming Andoran nobles seriously, and was quite relieved by the direct hint after Elayne was acknowledged as Queen that Jordan wouldn't try to tie up every last detail. This plot was so boring I'll forgive the irrelevant murder mystery as something that at least gave you something to ponder in it.

Perrin and Mat also reached the end of what they've been doing for the past several books, and have started in a new direction pointing toward the Last Battle. Mat's marriage to Tuon was quite well done, especially considering we've known the outcome of that since The Shadow Rising. Perrin, meanwhile, seems to have finished off the Shaido permanently. I'm still not sure how that's supposed to come into play, though both of Rand's companions now have Seanchan connections. I also wonder if that went the way Jordan had originally planned; all the set-up regarding Perrin and Aram seems really strange if it was just leading up to a duel that would last about half a page.

I can speak more confidently about how things might tie in with future books given how some of the seemingly random developments turned out to have a purpose after all. I mean, if the wanderings of Morgase and Co. had a point, which it would seem they did given where Galad goes, then pretty much anything can. It was also a relief to see characters like Lan and Loial who had all but vanished from sight take up the tasks for which they seem to have been initially conceived.

All this has me really looking forward to the finale, tentatively titled A Memory of Light. Certainly we're set up for some good war drama, with the Uncrowned King of Malkier leading the Borderlands against the Blight, Aludra helping produce gunpowder weapons, and the Ents - I mean, the Ogier - most likely marching off to war, as well. There also looks to be some enticing political drama, as well, with the White Tower not only still divided, but slated to be attacked by Seanchan and potentially the place where Rand will "face the Amyrlin Seat and know her anger." What's more, it seems clear there will be another side to things, as well. Thom, Mat, and probably Noal have an appointment with Moiraine at the Tower of Ghenjei, which may be where Perrin finally confronts Slayer. Rand, furthermore, has to become a blind beggar of some kind, his blood has to stain the rocks of Shayol Ghul, and he has to die to he can live. And Herid Fel was killed for speculating on how the Dark One's prison could have been without the patch when the Bore was made if it was patched now.

Should be interesting.


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