Twenty-one days to read this. This effer. That’s not a great sign. I will admit to being vastly distracted by real life happenings right now, but if a book is good, I will make time to read it, and I never did for this. The opposite, in fact. I had to make myself sit down and work on this, and until about the last 250 pages, it did feel like work.
And I’m not just talking about the by now normal Robert Jordan writing quirks that have been annoying me for seven books now (his gender essentialism and the constant battling of the sexes, the antagonism and belligerence of his characters, the general aggravating behavior of his characters). All of that was still there, but I knew it would be going in. This is book seven.
In my review of Lord of Chaos, I mentioned that story creep had set in, although I don’t think I called it that. I know for sure that I mentioned how almost a third of that book could have been cut out entirely and the book wouldn’t have suffered. Here, the problem has officially arrived. Probably closer to 2/3 of this book could have been feasibly cut and the story wouldn’t have suffered at all. Most of this book, nothing happens at all. It’s just his characters wandering around thinking their inane thoughts and providing no narrative utility at all. Authorial indulgence at its worst (my characters and my world are so great, anything they do is going to be interesting to my readers!) It’s only in those last 250 pages that things actually start happening and the plot begins to move again (and what happened wasn’t even all that monumental! It just felt like it because the rest of the book moves so slowly).
Aside from random chapters focusing on Morgase and the Forsaken and Elaida, the book is largely centered in Ebou Dar with Mat, Elayne, Nynaeve, and Birgitte as they search for the Bowl of the Winds in an effort to get rid of the endless summer plaguing the world. There are also several chapters that follow Rand, Perrin, and Min in Cairhien following the battle at Dumai’s Wells, and Egwene shoring up her power in Salidar.
Stuff of note that actually did happen [SPOILERS]:
[1. Rand punishes the Aes Sedai who came after him last book by essentially giving them to the Aiel as prisoners or apprentices. Rand continues to be afraid of Aes Sedai, and of his own growing instability.
2. The less said about Perrin and Faile’s inane jealousy-prone relationship the better.
3. Moghedien escapes from Salidar. The Black Ajah moves to take over the White Tower. Morgase escapes from the Children of the Light when the Seanchan invade Amadicia, and she abdicates her throne.
4. Egwene discovers several underhanded doings of fellow Aes Sedai and uses the opportunity to gain loyalties in the form of oaths of fealty, something no Amyrlin has ever done before.
5. Lan returns, and Egwene sends him to Nynaeve, who finally breaks her block after Moghedien tries to kill her. Lan and Nynaeve marry.
6. Mat spends the whole book being in the dark about why they’re in Ebou Dar, and in what was supposed to be a funny turn of the tables on his lecherous ways, dodging the amorous intentions of the Ebou Dari queen, Tylin. She coerces him into her bed, and he is not happy about it. At several points he exhibits clear post-traumatic behavior, at one point mentioning that he wants to weep. And yet all the people around him completely dismiss Tylin’s actions, and laugh at him openly, seeing it as some sort of cosmic balance for his previously lecherous behavior with pretty girls. I know Jordan meant this to be some sort of empowering thing, a society where women hold all the power, but frankly the power differential between Tylin and Mat is appalling here. Mat also developed a little friendship with Birgitte after they get drunk together, and Mat realizes girls can actually be people. It’s sad that this is such a realization for him.
7. The book ends with Mat witnessing a Seanchan invasion after being left behind in Ebou Dar to search for little orphan Olver.
8. They find the Bowl of Winds after being attacked by a gholam, a creature designed to kill channelers.
9. Rand and Min finally get together. All four participants in the harem acknowledge there will be sharing involved.
10. Lots of seeds were planted here as if they were plot developments, but nothing actually happens after they find the Bowl of Winds, or Cadsuane showing up to mentor Rand, or the Seanchan invading. The most interesting events in this book are actually events for future books, and that sucks END SPOILERS.]
For an 855 page book, you’d think that list would be longer.
No idea when I’ll be picking up the next book, especially if it’s going to eat another reading month out from under me (if I’m lucky I will have read four books by the end of July, and one of them will be a comic). I’m definitely not going to be finishing this series by the end of the year like I hoped I would.