Saturday, December 5, 2015

Knife of Dreams Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time Book Eleven
Pages: 860

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

A sense of darkness and sadness pervades the overall tone of Knife of Dreams.  It’s not just the fact the book has as dark a tone as the Shadow Rising and The Fires of Heaven (two of the darkest books in the series), but it’s also the knowledge of the fact that this was the last completed book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

After a very disappointing tenth book, Robert Jordan redeems the series with this book and brings it back up to par.  All the plot lines that stood still in Crossroads of Twilight finally move forwards in Knife of Dreams, and the end result is a book that’s fun and exciting to read again.

Book eleven, doesn’t have one of Jordan’s flashiest endings, because the book is more about preparing the final plot threads for Tarmon Gai’don.  Despite this, there is still plenty of action continuously happening throughout the entire book.  Additional character development and some newly introduced plot threads that have a good deal of promise also add to the story, making this one of the stronger books in the series.

The plot thickens, or perhaps more significantly, the plot advances.  Characters on all fronts advance their story in Knife of Dreams, but at the beginning of this book a lot characters are in similar places to where they were at the beginning of Crossroads of Twilight.  Regardless the various plot threads are bullet pointed below:
  • Rand begins preparations to meet the Daughter of the Nine Moons and to prepare a peace treaty with the Seanchan.
  • Mat and Tuon continue their escape from Ebou Dar, the contents of Moiraine’s letter to Thom Merrilin are finally revealed.
  • Perrin prepares his army to invade the occupied Shaido Aiel city that is holding his wife prisoner.  Faile and her friends begin preparing their escape.
  • Egwene’s fate is revealed after she seals up the gates at Tar Valon.
  • Elayne continues to work on uniting Andor under her rule.
  • The Forsaken come up with a new plan to aid the Dark One for Tarmon Gai’den.
Knife of Dreams is a surprisingly bleak book.  The Dark One’s touch on the world continuously increases as the series progresses, but Knife of Dreams really seems hell bent on making you feel this almost every few pages.  A lot of the ideas that Jordan uses to show the Dark One’s corruption are just awesome, especially the newest one where the corridors and rooms of large buildings frequently change.  I’m finding this aspect of the Wheel of Time eerily reminiscent of the house from House of Leaves.

Jordan also for the first time in the series has nearly every major character make prophetic comments about Tarmon Gai’don being nearly here.  Knife of Dreams sort of feels like an apocalyptic dooms-day countdown.

Throughout the course of the series I’ve always felt that Jordan has wanted readers to think of Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve as equals in terms of accomplishments and intelligence.  Through the first ten books, though, it certainly feels like Nynaeve and Elayne have accomplished significantly more than Egwene, and they appear to be significantly more skilled at plotting and thinking.  In Knife of Dreams, for the first time, I actually feel like they are equals.  That being said, Egwene really gets it done, she has one of the best plot threads in this book while in Tar Valon, and her plotting and scheming are finally starting to make her a convincing Amyrlin.

One of the more interesting ideas that was beginning to be explored at the end of Crossroads of Twilight was the extent Perrin was willing to go in order to save his wife.  That, “how far will you go,” mentality continues in this book, and it really showcases a much darker side to his character.  Perrin seems to becoming less and less the image of the heroic good guy he was originally portrayed as, making his chapters a lot more intriguing.

Knife of Dreams ultimately puts The Wheel of Time back on track, in terms of quality, and in terms of bringing the central conflict against the Dark One back to the forefront.  If Crossroads of Twilight discouraged people from ever reading a Wheel of Time book again (it almost certainly did for me), then Knife of Dreams should restore your faith in Jordan and his story.

Score: 8.8

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