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Customer Review

364 of 406 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars improvement but middling quality, moves story forward, October 15, 2005
This review is from: Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, Book 11) (Hardcover)
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.
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