While it still doesn't compare to the first four or five books, Knife of Dreams is probably the best novel in the Wheel of Time series since Fires of Heaven. The good news is numerous plot lines advance and the writing shows the effect of a full editing cycle. The bad news is that the good writing here oddly illuminates how much of a hole author Robert Jordan dug for himself with the mess of the previous novels - with it being made very clear even a writer of his talent probably won't be able to resolve the plethora of details even with another couple of books. I take a star off for letting a number of details and characters slip along with another half star for a pace that at times returns to near-plodding, but I'll round it up from 3.5 stars to four for the progress here that makes me have high hopes for the next book.
It is outright scary to think of how many top selling authors have come and gone since Jordan started this series. In 1990, Lemony Snicket was a sophomore in college, J. K. Rowling had just taken that fateful train ride back to London, and most of the top sellers on the sci-fi/fantasy lists hadn't been published even in fan magazines. My rating here is standalone and does not reflect my frustration with how Jordan has dragged this out; read my reviews of Crossroads and New Spring if you doubt that. (Incidentally, Jordan claims to never have read a review on Amazon, having stated that "if you're going to get your heart checked out, would you go to a doctor (professional reviewer) or walk up to a guy on the street?" Oh well.)
Although not spectacular, Knife of Dreams finally gives hope again. Without spoiling things, many plotlines raised in the last few books advance. Perrin's attempts to recover Faile, Mat's escape with and courtship of Tuon, Elayne's struggle for her crown, and a few miscellaneous issues resolve. More significantly and more satisfyingly, Jordan really does make progress on some plotlines that have been promised since the first few books - Egwene's struggle to truly be the Amyrlin Seat, the implications of Lan as Aan'allein, and miraculously, even some movement on the long (1995!) dormant Eel- and Aelfinn plotline. There are also some remarkable new point-of-view (Tuon, Loial!) perspectives that add to the details of the world without having to write hundreds of pages. Finally, the book also shows the effort of being at Tor for more than a month before publication like the last four or five novels; Jordan isn't allowed to go off into tangents - and thankfully, no major new characters get introduced - and in general the writing is generally crisper.
Unfortunately, it's not enough. Jordan has created so many irrelevant plotlines and characters from the sixth book onwards that even with a workmanlike effort to clean up here the mess is still very much present. A glaring result is that the main plot - what the Dragon Reborn is doing - not only receives merely cursory attention but also doesn't show up until Chapter 18, or 385 pages into a 760 page book. The not-particularly-engaging Windfinder and Tower-divided stories get far too much coverage without moving much, a number of major characters besides Rand (like Min, Nynaeve, and Aviendha) get very little stage time with more minor players like Galina and various Shaido characters receiving far too much, other interesting plots like the Forsaken move barely at all with minimal coverage, and of all the advancements above only the Egwene line really feels satisfying. (If Jordan had advanced the other main characters as much as Egwene this would have been a much better book.) The problem is clear. The last really good WoT book, Fires of Heaven, had roughly four or five major plotlines; this has at least ten thanks to the mess of the last few books. While Jordan and his editor state unequivocally that this will be finished in one more book (thankfully planned to be completed before any more prequels), all the new material he's added makes this doubtful and is now standing directly in the way of a great wrapup.
Jordan's goal was to have fans sweating by the end of the book; for me, I didn't get there as this doesn't qualify as a cliffhanger by any means. Over the summer, I actually reread all the previous books and the good news is the bad ones make more sense as part of a sequential order - and at least Jordan is somewhere close to his old form, so this isn't bad. But then again, it's not great either. Still, it deserves 3.5 stars and is worth buying in hardcover rather than waiting. For the first time in years, I look forward to the next novel.
September 2007: My sympathies to Jordan's lovely wife Harriet on his recent passing. For those who are interested, the notes he left as the basis of the massive final book, A Memory of Light, will be completed and published in 3 separate books by Brandon Sanderson.
Knife of Dreams has several things going for it. It isn't as bad as the last few for one, no slight achievement. It is relatively crisp in prose and pace. It advances story and character at a more enjoyable pace. It even has a few (though too few) strong scenes that evoke fond memories of earlier (much earlier) books in the series. It is without a doubt an improvement on the past few and anyone who has put the time into this series and felt like they were scraping along will breathe a sigh of relief.
That said, though, there isn't much to praise beyond its improvement over the last few books and its more clear movement toward resolution. Knife of Dreams is a serviceable book. It does what it needs to do (finally) but does so without any real panache or aplomb, without any sense of passion or wonder. It's readable, but not compelling. You'll want to know what happens, but not by the end of the first night you picked it up. For those who remember their reactions to the first books in the series, that's a disappointment.
Many of the same flaws that have cropped up lately remain, though in more minimal fashion. There's still the incomprehensibly frequent (though less so) references to spanking, bottom switching, bottom pinching, and barely covered bosoms (I swear Jordan had a macro set up so he could use "with hands folded beneath her breasts" at the flick of a single key, again and again and again). Braid pulling luckily seems to have gone out of fashion. The (same) women veer maddeningly between strongly competent and simpering, whining, gossipy cliches. If we're told something once, we're told it twenty times--Perrin, for instance, really wants to rescue his wife and that's his one and only focus--"nothing else matters." "Nothing." "Nothing." No matter how many things come up. Really,"nothing else matters". Elayne's section bogs down over political gamesmanship. Minor characters are given too much time at the expense of major characters (Rand is barely present). Characters too easily walk into traps they admit could be traps. And so on. Again, all of these flaws are much less present than in recent books, so they simply mar an otherwise solid book rather than truly annoy the reader.
More specifically with regard to storylines. There is a truly great scene involving Lan and Nyneve, though sadly the only one with them and the only truly great scene in the book. Rand's story has many of the other strong moments and he remains the most interesting and complex character, as do his adversaries or maybe-adversaries, but we spend far too little time with him. Matt and Tuon's story is also interesting and laced with some needed humor, though it could have been streamlined a bit. It does come to a good close, though not a resolution. Perrin and Faile's plotline is in my mind just not interesting enough. As mentioned, we're burdened too often with reminders of Perrin's single focus, and there's never any real sense that things won't work out as planned so there's little suspense to the story. Elayne's sometimes bogs down in House jargon, pregnancy details, or asides concerning the sea-people, Aes Sedai, etc., but Jordan throws a welcome jolt into that sidestory to liven things up. The Forsaken make a relatively weak cameo, a wasted opportunity. Some of these plots resolve, many open up possibilities (but ones that are nicely tethered to the base story as opposed to tangential), and all lends themselves to a sense of urgency with regard to the upcoming Last Battle.
It's hard to imagine how Jordan wraps it all up in one book but Knife at least moves him clearly and smoothly and crisply to that home stretch. It pales in comparison to the first five or six books, but it's much, much better than the last few on the basic level. One hopes with some of the underbrush cleared away through this book, Jordan can aim a bit more at the heights, casting that same old spell on the reader. Recommended.
on October 21, 2005
Upon finishing Knife of Dreams, I for one cannot wait until RJ finishes Book 12, and in humble fashion as I bend over I beseech you RJ,
"Thank you sir, may I have another?"
After more than a decade with the WoT, I was overjoyed that the latest installment in the series maintains on several fronts the high quality from RJ and Tor that we all have come to expect.
For starters, the cover. I was thoroughly relieved to see that Darrell K. Sweet still has a commission for the cover art, despite the LEGIONS of nay-sayers. Oh, I'll admit that at first the non-proportional bodies, lackluster depiction of "action", and total disregard for perspective and detail puzzled me for a while, but after some deep soul-searching I realized that Sweet is an utter f***ing genius, and at long last his "style" is unleashed for Knife of Dreams. Always the master of subtlety, what better way to capture the heart-pounding tension rampant throughout Knife of Dreams than with rotund, mullet midget heroes ensconced in what no doubt must be a frothy debate over contour lines. Only Sweet could hint at the petulant, "Oh no you didn't", "Yes I did....but I'll still obey you anyways" drama that RJ utilizes to perfection in his books.
Oh my fine publisher, haven't you realized by now that there's no need for you to pimp RJ with your billboard "Sequel to the Number 1 Best Seller...", that in fact the luscious eye-candy that only the aptly named Sweet provides is more than enough to harken that another RJ epic has at long last arrived?
That said, I was amazed that RJ yet again manages to advance the plot despite the myriad of characters he has introduced us to over previous novels. For instance, Paidan Fain....Paidan....err, ok bad example.
Rand... yes, Rand, he's in the book!...Rand's tale in this epic involves 4.3 chapters of intriugue and action, allowing Jordan to further rip-off Norse mytholo.... umm, allowing Jordan to further incorporate....moving on...
Elayne and the struggle for the Lion Throne are revisited...and revisited....and revisited...and finally concluded.
Herbert's Fremen.... I mean Jordan's Aiel....alright I'll admit even I've lost track of where the hell the tens of thousands of Aiel are outside of the Shaido. Yet the Shaido storyline involving Perrin is finally resolved, and by gods Jordan even manages to involve the Seanchan and more references to Norse.... I mean obscure prophecies in the process.
Mat...he's still considered a primary character, yes? Ahem, I mean... The primary character whose name is Mat has his storyline involving Tuon and the Seanchan advance. Although highly anti-climatic, the details allow Jordan to introduce the possible return of a character long thought dead. In addition, George R.R. Martin's fresh POV... I mean Jordan's choice for a new POV is nothing short of brilliant.
Egwene, or should I call her "MISTER Tibbs", reprises her role as the plucky new Amyrlin now being held within the confines of The White Tower following her cliffhanger capture at the end of CoT. Unfortunately, the Aes Sedai West Wing intrigue we all loved in 8, 9, and 10 is held to a relative minimum.
Jordan also reminds us that the Forsaken and The Shadow are still central to the WoT series, and that even he remembers. Drawing upon scenes in his earlier novels, Jordan has the Forsaken conspiring in yet another clandestine meeting with tea and crumpets, with one even daring *gasp* to intervene with one of the primary storylines. Weevils, ghosts appearing, spoiled food...only a master storyteller such as Jordan could think to utilize such foreshadowing that The Shadow awaits. Less skilled authors might be tempted to merely have their characters becry that "Tarmon Gai'don is coming soon", "Who will ride for Tarmon Gai'don", "Who stands against The Shadow" repeatedly, or "What are you gonna do when Tarmon Gai'don runs wild over you?" without actually moving the plot towards a series-ending-but-thank-god-for prequels-ching-ching climax, but thankfully Jordan refuses to insult his readers and passes on such mundane script.
What he does not pass up on are the typical Jordanisms we as educated readers have learned to love. Only in RJ's delightful world do men fail to understand women, and women fail to understand men.... As you'll read you'll find yourself shouting in frustration to the characters on one page "You fool, she's tugging her braid, watch out!" and laughing heartily on the next. Sing it Jerry Lee, there's a whole lot of Spanking going on, and Jordan rarely passes up on the opportunity to have his female characters enjoy a good smack or two. As in other novels, Jordan continues the development of the characters T and A, and further explores the maniacal intricacies of the Bosom character.
RJ also rewards only his die-hard readers by failing to update the glossary with character/locale/item references for characters, locales, items actually mentioned in the book, reminding the bandwagoners that this gravy train stops for no one and you've either forked the dough for the previous 10 tickets or barring the internet sh*t out of luck.
As for the cons, there are a few. One might imagine that Jordan had actually begun to believe "What was, What will be" and initiated a return to the simply horredous style found in books 1-4, or even 5 and 6. The writing is "tighter", as if an actual editor sat down and used the delete key once and a while. Jordan slips now and then by including poignant scenes such as one with Nynaveave and Lan, reminding readers that they once cared about characters in his stories, although he does quickly return Nynaveave to her dull, book-end position opposite of Min, restoring the readers' faith in the same old Rand sandwich they've come to love lately. As mentioned earlier, the plot does advance, yet not at the pace of the earlier books. Granted, the brilliance found in 7,8,9,and 10 would be far too much to expect one author to sustain indefinitely, but undoubtedly readers spoiled by such masterful manipulation of character and plot will find Knife of Dreams somewhat of a letdown. Constant readers can only pray that "What was, What will be" does not come full circle and Book 12 degenerates into a rehash of the tight, fast-paced arcs found in Books 1-4.
For these reasons, despite the glowing positives in this review, in all fairness this reader can only recommend paperback over hardcover. That you've borrowed from you're local library, or a former friend to whom you've introduced the series. If hardcover is your thing, hunker down at your local bookstore and read KoD there. Knife of Dreams is not as bad as the earlier epics, but it's still a far cry from the preceding 4-5 books. You're reading reviews on Amazon and like all addicts you're going to get your fix one way or another, so you might as well save a few bucks and avoid the "hard"cover stuff. Or save the money for 2010 to use on book 12, the definite *wink wink* last book in this series. I promise I'll actually be in that book, and prove I'm not just a wild tangent RJ thought up and abandoned.
on October 17, 2005
...but he's still clacking at the keyboard. I have read books like this before... you know... where you feel like you are reading through a fog and the writer is using a series of cliches to get through the book? We've all been there.
We just haven't volunteered to do it 5 times.
At least this book is comparable to Lord of Chaos. Remember that one? Stuff happened that tied into the previous books. KOD ties into stuff that happened in the first 6 books... and I mean that literally, you could skip the books between Chaos and KOD and be just fine.
Rand is a cogent presence in the book, which is a relief since Jordan had turned him into a whiny rat-crazy loon. Egwene is still dumber than a box of carpet nails but it is nice to finally have some action in that part of the story. I almost recaptured my previous affection for her. Nynaeve has thankfully quit tugging on her braid and started to do something... and, you know, now that she has a good man to twitch her skirts for her she's calmed down a lot. No doubt that is Jordan's solution to most woman issues. The Mat-Tuon thing is cute because Mat is cute and we already have a relationship with him. Elayne is filler to make the book similar in size to the other books on Jordan's bookshelf. It isn't even backstory, it is sillystory.
But if I may here, now, in the presence of Amazon and God, plead for the extermination of both Faile and Perrin. Yes, he and his wolves were once adorable, but, unlike Lan and Nynaeve, he has been driven annoying by love. No doubt Jordan's view of the male half of the heterosexual union. Do yourself a favor and skip those chapters (and I mean... CHAPTERS). I would have torn the pages out but I was reading a library book.
Finally, I'll just note that there are many unhealthy addictions in the the world and this is one of the more benign. We could be smoking or drinking or snorting, after all. But we are not. Unless reading this series drives us to that. The upside is that by the time jordan puts a bullet in this tired tale there will be a vast shortage of trees to make paper products to roll tobacco in. Think of the lives that will be saved. Unless, of course, you use the Faile/Perrin sections to roll your own.
on October 31, 2005
I join the horde of readers all shouting the same thing: This book isn't as bad as CoT.
Mat did his usual grim duty as the only character who is even remotely likeable suffering his way through all of the female horrors that populate his world. Oh and now he's married. Joy.
Egwene and Nyneave managed to be sort of interesting too. Their work in their respective plots is why there are two star up there instead of one. Lan going off to rally his men made Nyneave's plot great (so of course it was a few pages long) and Egwene's strength and craftiness made up for the fact that Jordan seems to think women use corporal punshment when they want to make a point - I begin to suspect that he simply likes to right spanking scenes (I know, you are all so shocked!).
This book made me ask myself a few questions: When did Elayne turn into someone who could carry her own plot? When did Perrin turn into a love-sick automaton who spends his time whimpering over his annoying and emotionally abusive wife? When did the turn-every-female-into-an-irritating-shrew ter'angreal get used and how can we turn it off?
So I went back to the earlier books searching for answers and I ended up with questions for the other readers:
1. Remember when the female characters were distinguishable with seperate personalities?
2. Remember when Nyneave gave wise advice and acted like a grown up (I suppose we got a touch of that here)?
3. Remember when we got to see more of Rand than Oh 4 chapters?
4. Remember when its was FUN to see Rand for more than 4 chapters?
5. Remember when Rand didn't spend all of his time thinking about Min-in-his-head and LTT-in-his-head and That-other-guy-who-would-be-a-spoiler-in-his-head?
6. Remember when people actually talked to each other like adults instead of resorting to SPANKINGS to get their points across? (OH MY GOD! Are you all FOUR YEARS OLD?)
7. Remember when Perrin wasn't married?
8. Remember when minor characters were actually acknowledged to be minor and minimal time was spent on them?
9. Remember when you actually enjoyed reading RJ instead of hoping you would enjoy RJ?
on November 9, 2005
Okay, I've read some of the reviews on here and think that it's sort of silly to review this book as a standalone item. Who starts reading a series at book 11? Only idiots, that's who. So why review it as such? You can't, and reasonably, you can't review it without looking back at previous books, plotlines, characters, and - unfortunately - pacing.
To start, I read the series again over the summer in anticipation of book 11. Anyone who's not a complete Jordan apologist understands that book 9 was a juicy stinking pile of "taint" and book 10 was bad copy of book 9. The plots stagnated, uninteresting characters completely took over the book with uninteresting storylines, they seemed nearly unedited, pacing was terrible and generally anyone who paid for the books probably feels robbed to some degree. Sure, some things came out, some cool things happened, but you could have summed up book 9 and 10 in 200 pages and kept it moving along at a brisk pace. What is this fascination with tertiary characters that any other author would NEVER introduce when a series is supposed to be winding down?
When reading back through the series, I've come to believe that books 1-7 actually really are an amazing feat. Even up through half of book 8 it remains interesting, fresh, decently paced and thoroughly entertaining. When Perrin and the MUCH hated Faile storyline began in earnest, I quickly lost interest with the plodding and painful tack he took Perrin. WHY even have Faile as a character? She's completely unnecessary and mainly irrelevant to everything going on around her. But I digress. The point is that during book 8, Jordon lost his narrative, his control, his pacing, and I'm pretty sure a lot of his audience.
Now, with all of that, the series remains fairly original, if you ignore that a lot of the material is based on existing mythology and stories from our own past. I actually enjoy that he's incorporated many old and modern fairytales and fantasies in creative ways. Trying to figure out the nuggets he drops in (all too few!) is good geek fun.
So, if you are comparing this book to 9 or 10, it has to get a 5 compared to their 1. But if you are looking at it as a continuation to the series, he's done quite well. plotlines wrap up, characters get their due, and most importantly "something happens!" Yes, unlike 9 and 10, there's almost non-stop action. Sure, a few things slow down, but I don't see how that's avoidable, given all the excess previously introduced. Some storylines begin to coallesce into single lines, pacing is maintained, the narrative (obviously edited furiously) remains tight and with almost nothing that's extraneous. No new major plotlines are introduced; in fact many start wrapping up. Same with small storylines.
As compared to the rest of the series as a whole, I give it a 4 out of 5. Sure, it doesn't have some of the driving punch of the first 3 or the introduction of interesting mechanics in some of the others, but how can you expect this at the end of the series? Jordon delivers here, plots wrap up, it's obvious that much too much was made of many subplots in 8, 9 and 10 and they sort of get wrapped up summarily. You are left wishing some of that had happened earlier on, but at least it's done.
There's a definite feeling of "gotta get this over with" and I have a feeling if he closes the series with only 1 more book, it's going to get worse than in book 11. ESPECIALLY if he intends to have a decent epilogue (and if he doesn't, I'll never buy another book from him - EVER). How can a 12 book series (with 3 prequels ) that has probably 100 continuing characters and literally a 1000 non-continuing, passing reference characters not give you a sense of what's going to happen to the gang after they defeat the Dark One? Don't think they will? Please. Rand's going to live (or at least die and come back), Mat's going to be the next King Arthur (oops, I mean Artur Hawkwing!), Perrin? Well, I think he might just bite the dust, but that's because I'm not imaginitive enough to figure out what he might be good for other than supplying Rand an army and involving the wolves.
Anyway, if you've given up on the series, this will almost certainly bring you back. Probably even worth the purchase, but if you feel robbed from 9 and/or 10, then go to the library, borrow it, or wait for PB edition. Don't give RJ any more of your hard earned cash if you're feeling like he was just milking this. The book brought me back from the brink. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't give up a series this far into it, but 10 had me thinking that if 11 sucked, I was done. It doesn't suck. If ONLY his editors had reigned him in 3 books back. :-(
So here's the good:
1) Plots move along and smaller plots get pulled into their main stories finally.
2) Only two semi-major lines are introduced (Seanchan/Perrin and The Whitecloaks - but not enough to kill my enthusiasm)
3) Pacing is quite good. Only a few sluggish parts where RJ had to write like mad to get past the setup he's been struggling with for 3 books.
4) Stuff Happens. Story arcs complete in preparation for the final push.
5) Editors actually show up!
6) Hardly any wasted space - although there's the standard tide of throwaway characters and their unintelligible names - but if you've come this far, you expected that right?
7) Some of the coyness is gone... he point blank tells you who's who and who WAS who from books past. Those keeping their Darkfriend/Forsaken lists will be happy to see some things clarified. FINALLY! Why did this need to be so hidden? Why did their names change 5 times each? Ugh.
1) Uh, Isn't Rand the MAIN character? He makes an almost cursory visit here, and both main things that happen seem like "eh - what's next" Both (fights) seem largely pointless and don't really add anything new to the story. I remember actually worrying more back when he was running from the Two Rivers.
2) Min, Aviendha, Lan - several other characters you actually care about barely register a blip on the radar.
3) Faile didn't get her throat slit, have her bones dissolved, or get tortured to death. Much to the entire readership's chagrin.
4) Things go a little too well. But I suppose that didn't bother me as much as it might others.
5) The Forsaken are pretty ineffectual here. They could at least cause some inconvenience! They offer so little overall threat or fear in the book, that I often wonder how they got to the top of their field and why the Dark One hasn't just killed them all himself!
6) Let the Lord of Chaos Rule. See #5. Time to hire some henchmen who don't suck! At least at the end, there's some actual threat - but any long time reader will know that they will be thrown into the final battle and not really cause any problems with the Light side until the end. *sigh* It could have been so much more....
In order for there to be only one more book (book 12), I think too much has to wrap up. Not to mention that they have to fight the final battle. It's going to make this one look positively compact if it's done well. But I expect Tarmon Gai'don to be like 10 pages instead of the section of 15 chapters it deserves. I suppose some of the prequels will fill in the historical blanks that will undoubtedly be left gaping. I actually hope there's 2 more books. I hope there's a supplement in the back of the last book that lists and explains (IN DETAIL!) all of the prophesies and predictions - Min, Egwene, Elaida, Aelfinn, etc. Tor, I hope you're trolling and pick up on this! It could probably be written into a reference book, which the series really could use.
I'm probably over-enthusiastic about my rating simply because I was pushed down a well with 8, 9 and 10 and in 11 someone finally came to rescue me. But I do think that it deserves the rating if for no other reason than I found it more entertaining than most of the other books in the series. And Jordan Redeems himself. For all of those apologists who claimed 9 and 10 were masterpieces that were misunderstood, get a grip. They sucked on nearly every level and each could have been summed up in their own amazingly long prologues. Sure, a series this complex is going to have it's ups and downs. Thankfully this is a MUCH needed and LONG awaited UP to the series. If the next book or two finishes on this note, he'll have a fan for life. If not, then he already has enough of my money. And I hope he puts it to use on a stylist and a trainer. The guy looks like he could drop dead any day! I honestly hope he lives long enough to finish the series. And Editors at Tor better have the major storyline stashed in a safe somewhere ala J.K.Rowling!
Don't give up... even if you give this a 3, it's back to RJ's old self and it's a 3 because he's making up for his past mistakes. So, even if that's how you feel, I think the next one will be a 5, even if it's not the final book in the series.
on November 19, 2005
Ok, so maybe Knife of Dreams isn't the crapfest that Book 10 was. And yes, the pace does move along a little quicker. But come on now people: the plot could be at a complete stop and still be moving along more rapidly than in book 10. Jordan continues his flair for writing a whole lot of nothing. On a pain scale of 1-10, with 1 being a poke in the cheek and 10 as slamming your fingers in a car door, I'd say reading this book registered at about a 6.5, right between dropping a cinderblock on your foot and smashing yourself in the face with a wok. So here's the quick rundown of the particularly annoying points.
- very little Rand: our main "hero" doesn't show up much in this book, but really at this point I don't even care anymore. Someone tell me why I keep buying these?
- Faile lives: man I hate her. Can anyone honestly say they enjoy Faile's character? Because I would like to meet that person. And then run him over in my car. Twice.
- lots of pointless plotlines with very minor characters that really should just be omitted so that we can get on with the actual story.
- no completely debilitating injuries for Egwene, Nynaeve, or Elayne: sorry to ruin many of your fantasies, but there is no triple threat cage match between these three ridiculously annoying women that would result in several broken backs, numerous cracked ribs, and a variety of sprain, bruises, contusions, and shattered kneecaps. Sorry guys.
- As several reviewers have noted, Jordan has really focused on this concept of spanking grown men and women as a punishment. What is going on here? RJ is turning into one really weird and creepy dude.
- Know what makes really interesting reading? Descriptions of people traveling, and lots of it. I'm not talking about dangerous journeys into enemy territory or magical realms, but rather just people going from here to there on dusty roads with no significant action happening. Man I just can't get enough of it! And Jordan certainly satisfies my appetite in this book. Plus he does a great job of describing really intriguing and relevant things like wagon wheels, ditches on the side of the road, and clothes of every single character mentioned. Sweet!
- women: Does anyone else wonder if Jordan has actually met a live woman? I mean seriously, they're all exactly the same character, with the dress smoothing, lip pursing, eyebrow arching, braid-tugging activities that can supposedly send grown men scurrying down the street with a glance. The only difference between his female characters is their level of annoyance, ranging from Min (only bang-your-head-against-the-back-of-your-chair annoying) to Elayne (run-face-first-into-a-wall annoying).
- characters coming back to life: Stop it. Just stop. I'm so tired of Forsaken coming back in different bodies. Yes yes, I know the whole theme of the series involves cyclical movement, but seriously, give us some indication that progress in the plot is being made. Aaargggh!
- RJ's lies: I refuse to believe he's going to finish this series up in another book or two. Just not possible, considering very little is accomplished here. Simply a ploy to keep us buying these disasters.
So there you have it. Why the two star rating? Two reasons:
1. KOD is slightly better than book 10. But keep in mind that's not really saying much.
2. I'm trying to make myself feel better for buying yet another stupid WOT book.
So read if you must. But I think Jordan got us again. I hate him.
on October 21, 2005
It's time for me to put in my two farthings on what has gone wrong with Jordan. My comments go beyond just book 11, but bear with me. We all agree that the first 5 or so books were excellent, then something happened. So how can Jordan get back to writing engrossing novels? I'm not sure he can at this point, for reasons which will follow, but I'll offer him (and you) my best advice.
First books were engrossing because they were laying out a new world to be discovered. Neither the reader nor the main characters (who were simply people from a small isolated village) knew much about the world and so we and they were constantly discovering new things about the world and about themselves. Jordan was able to keep this up for about 5 books. He did this in part by having the main characters visit new and mysterious places each new book. Tear, Tanchico, Falme, the Waste, the Ways and you name it. Back then, extended descriptions of say the stone of Tear or the Ways were fine, because it was new and we didn't know about it. Problem was around book 6 Jordan had pretty much taken us every place on the continent. There wasn't anyplace new to explore or discover. He tried to get back some of this in Book 9 with that city where no one could channel. It didn't work though because it basically felt as though Jordan had suddenly created this place out of thin air just for the purpose of finding a new location for an adventure. I mean, if there had been a city where there were no magic I think we would have heard about before book 9. (Also it fell flat because Rand was so stupid going there it didn't make sense, more on that below.) So by around book 6 we had been everywhere. For the next books the repeatedly experienced deja vu, and not in a good way. It was "been there done that." This of course only got worse as Jordan started to reincarnate Forsaken. Rand killed Aginor in Book I then we dig him up again and start all over. It obvious that Jordan basically ran out of new places to visit, and along with it new ideas. He began recycling old places and old ideas. The moral here was Jordan should have stopped when he ran out of new places and new things to describe. J.K. Rowling take note. Don't ride your horse into the ground. One thing Terry Brooks did right with the Shanarra series was once we had been everyone in the "Four Lands" he discovered new lands, he didn't go back to discover one all over again.
Related issue. Jordan maybe gave too much away with the prophesies. We've known for what 5 books that Mat and Thom were going to rescue Moraine. So finally in book 11 they actually decide to do it. Too often even when something finally does happen there's no surprise (and no suspense) because the reader has known about for 10 years.
Second big problem: the characters have become less engrossing and empathetic. The first 5 or 6 books were good (not just because they stuck to the main characters) but the characters were basically likeable and believeable. For the most part they were ordinary people with whom the reader could identify. Then, apparently often to create some adventure most of them (Rand most of all) started doing really stupid things. Rand seems crazy sometimes, and does things like allows himself to get captured and put in a box, or going to that city where he can't channel and allowing himself to be captured again. I mean he's the most powerful magic-user in the world, so of course he goes someplace where he can't waggle his fingers. Elyne allowing herself to get captured in Knife of Dreams is another really stupid thing. She's got a whole army and dozens of chanellers and she goes to raid a dark friends house with 3 aes sedai at least one of whom she knows is Black. That's stupid to start. Then of course, did she forget that the two Black sisters she's trying to capture were part of a group of 13 that escaped from the Tower with a bunch of dangerous terangreal? She doesn't even wonder where the rest of the Black are? While I'm on that. Egwene was dumb enough to get captured too. Why didn't she at least invert her weaves when she tried to seal the harbor. She may as well have brought along a great big neon sign that said "Egwene is here." The examples could go one and on. My point is that when characters repeatedly do stupid things to get themselves captured (I've lost count how many times Egwene, Neneyve, Eleyne and Rand have been captured by enemies in the book) the reader stops caring, not to mention the "been there, done that" again. It also becomes farcical. It's like the old Bat Man episodes where they're always captured and left in some weird device that supposed to kill them; but we know they're going to escape. So I've lost empathy for most of the characters. (Mat probably being the biggest exception. He's about the only character where the reader is not constantly asking "How can (s)he be so stupid?")
Third point, related to the second. Jordan has lost the sense of danger, for the most part. Remember the first few books where the characters were being chased by some really scary monster/person. Like Frodo being chased by Black Riders. That was exciting. At this point the characters have all been captured so often that we know even if they are captured it won't matter, they just escape. Or the characters seem to be invulnerable. Characters like Elyne and Rand and Egwene never feel fear (as we're constantly being reminded). One of the reasons the early books were so exciting was because the characters were terrified, and that feeling of terror and excitement was passed on to the reader. Now that the characters are never afraid or even nervous that sense of danger and excitement of the early books has been lost. So it's not only annoying that Rand feels invulnerable and does stupid things but it ruins the whole atmosphere of the book.
I think these are the main problems. It may be too late to resolve most of them, even if RJ would listen to the likes of me.
on October 20, 2005
The eleventh novel in "The Wheel of Time" series titled "Knife of Dreams" continues the adventures of numerous characters from the prior ten books. The mediocre author's style has changed with less tea drinking, skirt smoothing, and braid tugging but establishes more broken English dialogue, angry weapon fondling, women hissing, ample or formidable (not sure I've encountered fearsome) bosoms, sniffing audibly, icy stares, bottom spanking, and finger wiggling sign language. Exclamation points punctuate extreme emotion at numerous instances, making people appear juvenile. The series by and large is simple and mindless fantasy with short spurts of nasty violence amidst poor political maneuvering.
Once again a huge prologue almost 100 pages without the main characters has a topic not addressed in the remaining novel, the result of a duel within The Hand of the Light. Less than half the book follows the possible main characters in the series (Rand, Perrin, and Mat) with the remaining story mostly Elayne (she would be a silly Queen) and Egwene (remarkable methods but ineffectively portrayed). Roughly 4 chapters follow the overall main character Rand, who dominated the earlier novels. All of the women and most men (even among the Forsaken) are portrayed as huffy, inept, insecure, temperamental, jealous, and immature given the behavior through spitting out tea when shocked, demanding obedience while showing little respect, sniffing when someone bows or curtseys a sight less, and bickering over the mundane. Because the book consists of leader type individuals such as Aes Sedai, Warders, Asha'man, Aeil, Wise Ones, and Atha'an Miere, the unbalanced chain of command has too many powerful leaders with stoned/zombie-like deadpan or angry conversations attempting to coerce or negotiate an understanding.
While the end of the world nears with ghosts appearing and rooms or walls shifting, Aes Sedai become envious when another creates a new or better weave or offended once a Great Serpent ring is disrespectfully removed. The most common punishment among adults is the spanking; Mat sadly threatens to paddle the bottom of a channeling damane while other people punish with extreme paddling to tears. A nauseating Perrin repeatedly states "only Faile matters" in an attempt to introduce romance to a weak story. Tarmon Gai'don (analogous to Armageddon) will not be prevented by adolescent behavior from such leaders. Meanwhile none of the three ta'veren questions the colors they fight in their head when thinking of the other two, whereas embracing the event could help tactical coordination.
Few brief careless battles emerge packed between bickering, negotiations, discussing supplies, and recruiting. The most outrageous battle is Rand and about a dozen others (a few who can channel) become encircled by as observed over one hundred thousand Trollocs with a few Myrddraal. The arrangements between Mat and Perrin separately with the invading enemy Seanchan make no sane sense, especially what Perrin proposes when in theory he offers nothing assuming an obvious loophole. Although some major and minor plots are resolved, new one are added leaving as many questions as before. I do not foresee the series concluding soon, in fact with this novel ending around 24 days since book 9 I would be unsurprised learning at least 10 additional novels to finish an ever-expanding world.
Editorial offenses degrade the storytelling; a noteworthy one occurs during Chapter 24, the author chronologically backtracks many elapsed days to begin new details since the second day of an event (hardback - page 517 and page 522). The enormous assortment of major and minor characters leaves one desperate for a more detailed glossary. It is inexcusable not having the Aes Sedai and their respective Ajah colors and hierarchy, all the characters in this specific novel, or an angreal versus a ter'angreal addressed by the glossary. I recall many of those items however I find it unnecessary to have a brief explanation of how to play snakes and foxes or Padan Fain (not referenced in the story) when I am searching for whom exactly is Egeanin (referenced in the story). I finally searched the internet using keywords "wheel of time", "glossary", and "characters" to find the answers on a reliable website. A more detailed map of the significant terrains would have been useful.
It looks as if a great deal transpires over 750 pages but some characters given a few chapters leave what could be a potentially commanding tale reduced to a series of modest short stories. Any one of the five primary characters portrayed in this novel could have given a solid separate book with more depth and hopefully more closure. I will continue to read the series after an appealing introduction. If my review influences one person to borrow the book from a friend or library prior to a hasty purchase, I will be content.
on October 13, 2005
The bottom line is that this is an acceptable "installment" but not a compelling "book". Like many of the recent releases, KoD lacks a central motivating conflict that establishes a driving pace for the book. On the upside, the subplots progress more than they have of late --- the reason for the 2nd star. In addition to the prologue, here are the "novellas" contained in KoD: Mat & Tuon's Story, Perrin & Faile's Story, Elayne's Story, the White Tower Story, a Rand teaser, and a very short but perfect chapter on Lan & Nynaeve.
The first three reach conclusions of a sort while the last three do not. Mat & Tuon's Story is easily the most enjoyable although the conclusion may leave you feeling unsatisfied. Perrin & Faile's Story is only enjoyable because the conclusion means that Perrin won't be doing the same thing in the next book. If you're an Elayne fan, you'll enjoy that, and otherwise, keep plenty of coffee by your side. The White Tower thread, focusing on Egwene, the Rebels, and Elaida, is very enjoyable, but it simply stops with no cliffhanger or resolution --- apparently the page limit must have been reached. Finally, Rand's Story is a very short teaser that contains the answer to a long-lingering question and intensifies his inner battle but contains little else worthwhile.
Yes, RJ pays up on several events that have been foreshadowed but after dragging them out for several books, the construction lacks the quality to make the reader care all that much. Considering RJ has created a world in which characters can move across the world in heartbeats, it grows frustrating that subplots never coalesce at any point. You will not find events like the Taking of the Stone or Dumai Wells which build to a head involving many characters. In fact, in reskimming the book, I found that each thread can be read entirely separately without spoiling anything (except for a viewing Perrin has of Rand).
As most WoT fans, I was hooked from the first book and have purchased every book since The Great Hunt in hardback the day it was released. That is, every book until CoT when I lost my patience with the pacing and waited for mass market. After seeing some advance reviews of KoD, I couldn't resist the urge and again picked up the book on the release date. If you can't resist the urge, at least you'll have company in your misery ...