Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Crown of Swords Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time Book Seven
Pages: 880

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(Spoilers for the previous six books in the Wheel of Time are below).

A Crown of Swords is notably shorter than the three books that precede it in The Wheel of Time, but it still comes in at over 800 pages.  Unfortunately not a lot happens in this book, especially in Rand’s storyline where he spends the vast majority of the book attempting to correct everything that went wrong after he was captured in Lord of Chaos.

It would appear at some point in this book Jordan realized this and rushed out an ending where something finally does happen in Rand’s story arc.  Unfortunately this ending, besides feeling rushed, loses all of the suspension and impact it could have had, were it not forced down readers throats.

A Crown of Swords in many respects is a reaction book to the Lord of Chaos.  Most of the events in this book are about offsetting the events in the previous book where Rand is captured by the Aes Sedai.  The two dominating plot threads of Crown of Swords take place with Rand and his occupied kingdoms and at Ebou Dar.  The various major and minor plots are listed below:
  • Rand and Min must now restore order to the lands he has conquered as new enemies within try to take advantage of his absence.
  • Elayne, Nynaeve, and Mat must find a way to co-exist so that they may find the Bowl of Winds, which will allow them to fix the weather.
  • Egwene and Siuan begin to convince the rest of the Aes Sedai to gather, grow, and march their new army on the White Tower in Tar Valon.
  • Elaida continues to plot after her failure to capture Rand.
  • Sevanna begins to regather the defeated Shaido Aiel after their defeat in Lord of Chaos.
  • Morgase tries to find a way to escape Whitecloak imprisonment in Amacidia.
  • Moghedien is free and given a new assignment.
  • Sammael continues to plot against Rand and the other Forsaken.
Rand’s storyline doesn’t add to much more to the story, at least until he meets Cadsuane, the oldest living Aes Sedai.  Her intentions are ambiguous but she commands a deep respect from other Aes Sedai, and her personality has a bite to it.  Her presence and ambiguity help generate some interest in Rand’s unfortunately weaker story arc in this book.

The Ebou Dar plot thread is what turns out to be the most interesting part of A Crown of Swords.  After six previous books of getting to know the personalities of Mat and Nynaeve, readers know these two characters in the same room is like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.  Jordan delivers on this expectation so readers can expect some great fights between the two.  What was really interesting, and what turned out to be the most entertaining character vs character conflict in the book, and were the battles between Mat and Elayne.

The clashes between Mat and Elayne in this book have to be the most comical of the many men vs. women clashes in Jordan’s series at this point.  The privileged princess vs the womanizing gambler brings a lot of different behavioral issues between two distinctly different classes of people.  After reading this book I sincerely began to wish Elayne would drop her romantic interest in Rand in favor of Mat (not that Jordan ever suggests this happens).  But the battles for control over what everyone should be doing in Ebou Dar between Mat and Elayne are endlessly entertaining.  The two fight like a married couple, it would be amusing to see what would happen should these two ever get married.
Forcing things to happen in the plot is the biggest weakness of this book.  Besides the forced ending in Rand’s plot thread, another major event gets forced upon readers in a way that defies logic.

Without divulging too many spoilers, a certain two characters get married within 24 hours after everyone in the party they are traveling with gets killed…. so lets celebrate by getting married?  No.  This whole marriage sequence had been building for a long time.  Having it done in the manner it is done in A Crown of Swords was really tasteless.

The seventh book of The Wheel of Time has a lot of flaws, as do all of the books in the series.  Since it’s fantasy, and as long as the story is told in a consistently engaging manner, some flaws (like the flaws in the previous books) can be overlooked.  A Crown of Swords has some glaring flaws at points though.  These flaws just can’t be overlooked, and the end result is this book is not as strong as previous books in the series.

The saving grace of this book is the Ebou Dar storyline with Mat, Elayne, and Nynaeve.  All though this story-line at times feels pointless, these characters being forced to work together ends being a lot more entertaining than I could have imagined.  Through this portion of the story Jordan adds a sense of humor to the story that I never realized he had.  The various other minor subplots also continue to help A Crown of Swords overcome some of its weaker points, but in the end it still can not completely save it.

Score: 8.5

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