I have to admit I took my time getting to this book. My memory of the Wheel of Time books is that after book seven (the previous one) they became very boring very fast. I realize that some people with less stamina for Jordan’s style of prose may think this happens much sooner than book seven.
Imagine my surprise when I found that after the initial couple of chapters – Elayne takes twenty pages to step through a gateway – things pick up and proceed at an almost breakneck pace.
Many of the complaints I had in the previous volume are gone. Jordan’s description of women still seems to center on their chests but not quite as frequently. The characters spend very little time sitting around and things progress at a steady pace.
Why is it that I still don’t like this book then? I think it is because of two things. In the previous books each one led up to a climax and an ending of sorts for the events of that book. A Crown of Swords introduces the first cliff hangar ending with Mat. The Path of Daggers, then picks up the story by not having Mat in the entire book. No, instead of telling us what happened to Mat the book spends about six hundred pages setting up cliff hangar endings for Rand, Elayne/Nynaeve/etc., and Perrin. There is no ending, just some more setup.
The plot is beginning to get overly complicated. It feels like a tangled rope that Jordan secured at the top of a cliff and then jumped off holding the other end. The result is a knot so tight and complex that the best way to decipher it is to hack it into bits and buy a new rope. When it takes a team of crack scientists years to develop a method whereby your plot can be unraveled then it’s become too much of a mess.
The other reason is that this book takes a very dark turn for many of the main characters. They’ve been bumbling about getting lucky more often than not for about seven books now. In this one things start to go wrong for them. Betrayal, failure, and downright stupidity begin to stack up against them. It’s starting to feel like the Dark One is winning. Rand learns some painful lessons that, while important are uncomfortable to even read about.
I think that if the first half of this book had been added to the end of the previous then it would have helped them both out. I don’t know what to do with the second half of The Path of Daggers, maybe it will fit onto the beginning of the next book.
Overall this book was much more exciting than the last one and I found it far better than I remembered. Here’s hoping the rest of them keep up that trend. I’m told if you read them straight through then they don’t become boring. It’s when you wait for three years for Jordan to finish he next one that they start to become disjointed. I’m not sure that’s true but I’m about to find out.