I’m glad the last book Robert Jordan wrote was such a huge step up in quality from the ones before it. Seems like he was ready to get down to business finally. No matter what you think of him as a writer, I don’t think anyone can deny that it was a tragedy for him to die before he could finish out this thing that he’d been working on for so long, and so close to the end. I hope he knew his story had been left in safe hands (his widow—who was also his longtime editor—picked Brandon Sanderson to finish it out from his notes, but I believe she might have made that decision after RJ had already died; feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that).
So after much waffling about, most egregiously in book ten, Crossroads of Twilight (a book in which absolutely nothing of import occurs), things finally start to happen. Rand doesn’t get much showcase here (you know, most of the time, I feel like Jordan really didn’t know what to do with Rand as a character), but he’s trying to make an alliance with the Seanchan happen, and ends up having a confrontation with one of the Forsaken instead. Egwene finally gets her due. I have to tell you, her storyline is the most excited and emotionally engaged I’ve been in this series since probably about book five. I don’t even normally like Aes Sedai machinations, but I loved seeing her insinuate herself into the White Tower as their prisoner all the while refusing to stop viewing herself as the true Amyrlin, and gaining the trust and respect of the sisters in the Tower bit by bit, eroding Elaida’s base of power. But she really only gets a couple of chapters. This is Mat’s book (and unfortunately, Perrin’s; the less said about the ending of that endless storyline he’s been mired in the better).
Mat is leading a group in escape from Ebou Dar, and he’s got his future bride Tuon in tow, the Daughter of the Nine Moons aka the heir to the Seanchan Empire. Both of them know the other will be their spouse, because prophecy, but neither is aware that the other knows. Once I accepted that theirs was going to be yet another romance built on the foundations of antagonism, I found their storyline entertaining. I thought Mat acquitted himself well, although I still wish Jordan would stop with all the gender essentialism. Mat especially has a tendency to lump all women into categories as if they are a different species. And I simultaneously like and dislike Tuon. I enjoy her playful attitude, but I abhor her self-entitled attitude, and her blind insistence on her culture’s deplorable traditions (particularly the ones based on enslaving people in various ways, and dehumanizing them). I also hated the way she tried to play games with Mat. Her goal was to maneuver him, not fall in love with him, whereas he’s basically head over heels for her at this point, the poor guy. It was satisfying watching him upend her assumptions about him as a person, but I’m really ready for her to get a couple of comeuppances before I can fully like her.
I still have the same problems with this series that I always have (see my other reviews for this series if you want more details; I really don’t feel like going into them all again here). But I was so relieved to be feeling positive emotions again relating to this series while reading Knife of Dreams that I think a lot of my critical brain just went offline for a while.
It’s taken me three years to get this far in the series, and I’m so glad to have made it this far, even if large portions of my reading experience have been frustrating. I’ve actually been reading a lot of Wheel of Time content online from major fans of the series, and while my experience is definitely not theirs, I still find it really enjoyable to see people talking so passionately and intelligently about WOT. Tor.com particularly has a lot of good coverage, including multiple re-reads written by Leigh Butler, and a first-time reader’s experience that just started up last month, written by Kelsey Jefferson Bennett.
But I will not lie when I say I am mostly excited to have gotten this far because I can’t wait to see what Brandon Sanderson can do with this story and these characters, as I’ve historically responded really well to his whole thing as an author.