Wheel of Time pt 4: Books 7 to 10

The slump of the series. Reviews for A Crown of Swords, Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart and Crossroads of Twilight.

Wheel of Time pt 4: Books 7 to 10

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#7 A Crown of Swords

Published: 1996

Read: May 24th, 2022

“The world does change… even mountains are worn away by the wind, and no one can climb the same hill twice… May you always find water and shade.”

A Crown of Swords is perhaps the slowest WOT book yet (warning: this phrase becomes true for the next 3 reviews as well). This is especially frustrating as I felt the key inflection points of the plot, where there is action or tangible character movement, were some of the series' finest. As always, plot summary first then my thoughts.

Elaida is losing control of the White Tower as Alviarin sows dissension for the Forsaken Mesaana. Rand struggles to maintain control over both Cairhien and Caemlyn, with the Shaido escaping and Aes Sedai learning their new status under Wise Ones following Dumai’s Wells. Egwene learns more of Amrylin/ Hall politics, and Nynaeve and Elayne join forces with Birgitte and Mat to find The Bowl of the Winds.

As the plow breaks the earth shall he break the lives of men, and all that was shall be consumed in the fire of his eyes. The trumpets of war shall sound at his footsteps, the ravens feed at his voice, and he shall wear a crown of swords.

The opening was a bit slow after Dumai’s Wells, but I thought overall the story had an even split between interesting and boring content. It’s hard to pin down where the heavy sections are because each plot thread has its highlights. My favourites revolved around character arcs and locations coming full circle, with some powerful moments with our heroes across the map. The last seven chapters in particular are carried forward by the story’s momentum and made for an exciting finish to the book.

Whilst the descriptions are repetitive, strapping content is still there, A Crown of Swords honestly didn’t feel like a slog to read!

#8 Path of Daggers

Published: 1998

Read: June 19th 2022

Time weighed down on his shoulders like lead. There was never enough time, but maybe this once….Fire and ice and death.

Engaging opening, plodding middle section with few highlights, exciting but also teasing ending.

The Bowl of the Winds storyline is finally concluded (3 books later). Armies move across the map as the Seanchan return, Borderlanders enter the fray, the Prophet’s forces tear across Ghealdan and Egwene’s rebel Aes Sedai army march to Tar Valon. An increasingly fractured White Tower awaits them, and the increasingly mysterious Black Tower continues developing in the plot’s background.

Madness waits for some. It creeps up on others.

The condensed summary of Path of Daggers is fun. The lengthy prose or actual novel is not. It is hard though because some of Jordan’s worldbuilding, environment description and map accuracy is excellent. It’s just too realistic sometimes! Rand and Egwene are standouts in terms of POVs, with the latter undergoing some fantastically questionable growth.

Wind lashed the land and rain flailed it, turning all but the hardest roads to rivers of mud. Sometimes the mud froze after nightfall, but sunrise always brought a thaw even under a grey sky and the ground became bogs once more.

Now if Winter’s Heart can bring home the bacon on some of these long-standing plot threads, that would be something…

#9 Winter's Heart

Published: 2000

Read: July 4th 2022

“Some men have an air about them that makes other men follow where they lead. Some lead to devastation, others to glory. I think your name may go into the history books.”

Yes! Something massive happened! Right at the end of the book. To get there is a lot of plodding description with a very rare moment of brilliance.

There’s a lot of Elayne dealing with Caemlyn politics, and Perrin picking up the Path of Daggers cliffhanger of Faile, Maighden, Alliandre being taken. Then Mat returns to the fold with readers being introduced to the Daughter of the Nine Moons. In-between are tantalising glimpses of Rand’s mission to cleanse Saidin, which involves some other familiar faces and has the most excitement in Winter’s Heart.

We are dead men, Lews Therin murmured. Dead men should be quiet in their graves, but they never are.

Unfortunately there’s some strange relationship building here, especially with Perrin and Rand. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but to each their own - however, I do hope Jordan’s ideas here are not too large an influence on younger readers. Also, the worldbuilding is just tiring at this point, but more on that in book 10 Crossroads of Twilight…

Stories have power. Gleemen’s tales, and bards’ epics, and rumours in the street alike. They stir passions, and change the way men see the world.

Everything with Far Madding is amazing. Very tough to get there. One more book to push through in the slog then we get Jordan’s swansong Knife of Dreams and Sanderson’s trilogy to complete the Wheel of Time!

#10 Crossroads of Twilight

Published: 2003

Read: July 27th 2022

Every plan is brilliant until the day comes, Mother, but then you must adapt to circumstances or be ridden down.

Respect for the worldbuilding. Respect for creating so many characters. Minus four stars because everything important that happens can be taken from roughly four to six well-written chapters of this book.

“Do you think he alters chance everywhere? Or do we change the future by ourselves, one step following another until we find ourselves somewhere we never expected?”

Crossroads of Twilight is really like an extended epilogue to, but also happening at the same time as, Winter’s Heart. First part of the Prologue was one of the highlights but again introduces a new character and faction to this increasingly crowded world. We get a lot of perspectives in both Aes Sedai camps, Sea Folk parties and Andor’s politicking. Mat and Perrin experience some great development, but these chapters are limited in the overall novel. In fact, the strategy and tension here is Jordan at his best, yet as is familiar by now there’s a gigantic chunk of text to get through in reaching there.

This was no song, and no old memory could guide him. The dice inside his skull kept spinning.

Honestly breathed a sigh of relief at finishing this one, and was glad for the break in the main storyline provided by the prequel novel New Spring. So as I follow the series’s publication order, that one will be next.

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Continue on to pt 5: Reviews of Books 11 and the prequel

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