Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Knife of Dreams review

The Monk is all but finished (just the Epilogue left) with Knife of Dreams, book 11 of the Wheel of Time. As both of you who read this site know, The Wheel of Time is the modern version of the never-ending hero tale. After the first five books, each of which rated at least a 4.5 on a 5-scale, the series sputtered in book 6, lengthened and became more convoluted in book 7, then went in the dumper -- both books 8 and 10 wasted paper.

Jordan vowed to finish his tale in book 12, even if it takes 1500 pages or more. And given the amount of work he has left, it might. Worse yet for him, he's sick: he suffers from amylodosis, a blood disorder that is usually fatal within a short time after diagnosis and for which the median survival period is four years. His recent treatments have been fairly successful, but he also has cardiomyopathy -- weakening of the heart muscle.

Book 11 finally gets the players moving on Jordan's vast chessboard. It's probably the best book since book 7. There is still rampant overwriting and incredible stupidity from some of the primary characters (Faile, Rand). But at least three plot issues get solved, two main questions get answered and we're almost ready for the finale. Here's the crux of my review (2.5 stars)

After the absolute worst book of the series, Crossroads of Twilight, this volume actually gets some of the various storylines concluding and moving closer to the finale. The overlong and uninteresting Perrin/Faile/Shaido thread has a conclusion; the succession struggle in Andor finally concludes; and Semirhage finally makes an appearance, other than in a meeting of the Forsaken. There are some revelations about major supporting characters, a stronger role for Logain, and an important event for Rand. With two major battles and another instance of Mat's remembered military genius, Jordan again shows glimpses of why books 1-5 were so good.

Nonetheless, Knife of Dreams suffers from the usual array of Jordan idiosyncracies that detract from the storytelling -- repeating the desires of various women to give their lessers corporal punishment, too much devotion to describing bit-part players who only the most devoted fans can remember, far too much detail regarding the various women's dress.

Worse yet, Jordan again pays too little attention to Rand (he's the messiah figure and he putters around entirely too much); barely discusses what happened to Egwene; ignores the Black Tower almost completely; and expends about 40 pages more than necessary on day-in-the-life issues for Mat.

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