Knife of Dreams

by Robert Jordan

 

So I’m probably not going to achieve my goal of finishing in May. And by probably not I mean definitely not, given that it is currently, as I write this, May. But I’m doing the best I can.

Knife of Dreams is different from most of the installments in the Wheel of Time series, in that it actually seems to have a climax and ending. Previous entries have moved the story forward, slowly but surely, often ending with a major event, but plot lines never really seemed to end. Case in point: Perrin’s rescue of Faile. I’ve been complaining about the Perrin-Faile relationship since… well, basically since Faile appeared. She was kidnapped three books ago, and Perrin spent all that time whining about how she was gone and plotting how to get her back. In Knife of Dreams, it’s as if Jordan finally realized that nobody gave a shit, and reunited them.

He does this with other plots as well, bringing them to their logical conclusion so that the next book, The Gathering Storm, can start winding towards the finale. (Actually, it seems that Jordan envisioned Knife as the penultimate publication, with A Memory of Light coming as the twelfth and final book. When Sanderson took over, he made the decision to split up Memory.) I believe Jordan got sick and realized that he no longer had unlimited time to meander the characters towards Tarmon Gai’don, and he tried to move things along a bit. While he didn’t get to finish his series, he does go out on a high note, making Knife of Dreams the most exciting and momentous Wheel of Time book since The Great Hunt.

So Elayne’s succession fight ends, Perrin rescues Faile (bleh), Mat escapes the Seanchan, and Tuon returns to her people. Depending on how you count it, that’s at least three major conflicts that Jordan resolves by the end of Knife. Obviously, this makes for an interesting read, but it’s also such a relief just to know that things won’t keep dragging and dragging through the end of the series.

Two minor items. One: I fucking knew Moiraine was alive! So that was exciting. I was actually hoping that New Spring would provide some hints as to where she went and whether she might pull a Gandalf, but no dice. I was ready to give up on her, so I’m very glad she’s back.

Two: not to harp on the Perrin-Faile thing, but I was totally shipping Faile and her Aiel captor, as well as Perrin and Berelain. The latter seem to have more mutual attraction and respect between them than Perrin and Faile ever do, and at times it seemed that Perrin was starting to realize it. As for Faile, anything to move her from middling importance to minor importance would have been great. Plus, the Aiel love interest, Rolan, is a rare morally gray character in Jordan’s universe, unapologetically fighting for the Shaido Aiel while helping Faile and friends survive and escape Malden. Unfortunately, Perrin accidentally kills Rolan, and my dreams die with him.

Knife of Dreams shows Robert Jordan could still tell a great story, when he wasn’t distracted by creating more and more characters and plots to populate his world. Alas, he got close, but never got to finish the series he started. RIP Jordan.

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The Dragon Reborn

by Robert Jordan

I’m reading too much Wheel of Time, and I know that you don’t care about it, so I will try to be brief. Since I’m not going to recommend you randomly read the third book in a series of fourteen, feel free to skip over this review; if you’re interested, start with book one. There also might be light spoilers.

Since we (mostly Rand but I’d like to think I helped) found the Horn in The Great Hunt, The Dragon RebornRand is openly the Dragon Reborn (which has kind of a nice ring to it don’t you think?) and he’s trying to figure out what to do next. For the most part his answer seems to be “not much,” which is fine, because he’s not the focus of this book.

Yes, that’s right, the book is named after Rand, but he’s only in it for about ten pages. I didn’t mind this so much, since he spent the last book whining about how he didn’t want to be the Dragon, whining about who his father was, and whining about pretty much everything else going on. Ok, it wasn’t all whining; at times he kinda kicked ass. But it’s also nice to ignore him for once and see how the world is turning around him.

What’s happening is that Mat’s back, finally. He snatched up the wrong dagger in book one and was in a pretty bad mood till book three, in which he seemed to be in a serious dagger coma, not unlike the Taco Bell coma that you may be more familiar with. Anyway, they get him off enchiladas- I mean they separate him from the dagger, and he’s back, and he spends the rest of the book gambling and melting girls’ hearts with his devil-may-care attitude. He’s just so dreamy. He definitely became my favorite character in Dragon.

Other things happen, too. Mat finds Thom. Perrin meets a fly honey, but he doesn’t hit on her because he’s still upset about kind of being a wolf. The girls do something too, mostly involving Egwene arguing with Nynaeve and Elayne trying to squash it. Theirs has the makings of an interesting storyline, but it never really amounts to much, like The Walking Dead. They make negative progress in what’s built up to be an important quest, and I’m really not looking forward to following that particular plot element in later books.

Basically everyone’s racing towards Tear and nobody knows why, but it gets pretty exciting towards the end. I was told by one Wheel reader that you could basically stop after the first three books, and I guess I can see how the first three are kind of a trilogy. Nothing’s really settled though, so I’m going to keep reading.

Question: Has Robert Jordan come to dominate the world that Tolkien began to reveal? Answer: Possibly.

The Great Hunt

by Robert Jordan

 

Flashback to March 2012: A dashing young part-time fry cook and recreational blogger picks up The Eye of the World on the advice of some of his nerdy friends. He reads it, decides he likes it, and writes positive things about it on his aforementioned blog.

Months pass.

A world-weary (yet still dashing) young man picks up its sequel, The Great Hunt. It’s tough at first because he’s forgotten most of what happened in the first book, but he soon begins to enjoy it and, after several weeks, finally finishes. The end? Of course not. There’s twelve more books in the series as of today, when the 14th and final installment is released.

Some random fangirl with A Memory of Light

Some random fangirl with A Memory of Light

Like I said, it took me a few chapters to get back into The Wheel of Time. It’s hard to remember such a large cast of characters, and I was confused as fuck about what happened at the end of Eye anyways. But after a while (and after asking Wheel experts about a few details) I got really into it. Almost embarrassingly so; Metro riders seem to prefer more intellectual fare. Judgmental commuters.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot here- you either read the first book or you didn’t- so I’ll just tell you what I liked or didn’t like about the book. Mostly liked. First of all, one of the plot elements from the first novel really becomes important here. The main characters are frequently described as Ta’veren, meaning that the world kind of revolves around them. Makes sense, right, for the main characters in a fantasy novel to have a huge impact on their universe? So that’s cool, but I think in The Great Hunt, it plays out in interesting ways. Characters that have had minimal interactions with our heroes seem to have been greatly affected by them. It’s kind of a stupid thing to think is cool, but I like the way the story incorporates and reinforces the notion that these characters are equally important to their own world as to the audience.

I also liked that, with few exceptions, the narrative is pretty focused. It’s called The Great Hunt, and about 90% of the book follows various characters’ attempts to find, steal, protect, or use the Horn of Valere, the object of the eponymous hunt. This is somewhat different from The Eye of the World, in which the Eye itself wasn’t important till the end. The Great HuntCome to think of it, I don’t even really remember what the Eye was, and since it wasn’t mentioned in Hunt, I’m assuming that it doesn’t fucking matter anymore. Again, this might not seem like a big deal, but it’s nice to have some structure in place from the beginning, and to know when the finale is approaching.

Speaking of Eye, while I understand the whole hero’s journey thing, I do get tired of Rand al’Thor (our protagonist) complaining that he’s just a shepherd from the Two Rivers. No. Shut up. All signs point to the contrary, and it should be obvious even to you, Rand. The character Moiraine, who provides general expository services, already identified you as the Dragon Reborn at the end of Eye. The third book is called The Dragon Reborn. You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to figure this out.

Since I seemed to have transitioned into things that I did not like, I must say that at times it’s frustrating to try to remember each and every character. Jordan has this annoying habit of introducing several characters at once, following one of them, and then not mentioning the others for hundreds of pages. All of a sudden they’re back, and you’re supposed to remember everything about them. It frustrates me, and means that the longer I take to read one of these books, the more confusing it becomes.

Many things confuse me, however. Writing checks, for instance. What goes on this line, and that one? Sometimes it takes a minute. Don’t front, you know it’s confusing as hell. But anyway, I can’t really complain about getting confused by Wheel; I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m supposed to be confused, or at least curious. There are certainly questions left unanswered, plotlines unexplored. I know that there are twelve more books, so I guess I have to be patient and have faith that the rest of the series will provide those answers. Or I guess I could just forget about the questions I have, and move on anyway.

And I am going to move on. Not immediately, though. I like to mix it up a little bit, and not read too much of any one thing for too long. Diversification. So I’ll probably read a book or two before moving on to Dragon. And y’all benefit too, as my blog (hopefully) won’t turn into a Wheel of Time forum. Or a James Bond forum. Or a weekly rant about the state of our political process, to hint at what I’m reading now. But I will come back to Dragon, and I intend to read the whole series.

The Great Hunt did more than The Eye of the World to hook me into the The Wheel of Time. Pretty exceptional.