Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Path of Daggers Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time Book Eight
Pages: 685

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

When The Path of Daggers was released in 1998 it became the first book in Jordan’s Wheel of Time series to reach number one on the New York Times Bestseller list, more significantly it became one of the first adult fantasy novels to reach number one.

The shortest book in Jordan’s series, excluding the prequel, The Path of Daggers fixes some of the pacing issues that were a problem in the previous book.  The ending in this book doesn’t feel rushed, like the ending in A Crown of Swords.  However, the conclusion to The Path of Daggers is very anti-climatic, and the continued drawing out of the Bowl of Winds storyline is starting to become cumbersome.

In a manner similar to the way Perrin went missing in The Fires of Heaven, Mat Cauthon goes missing in this installment of the Wheel of Time.  His fate after presumably being left in Ebou Dar remains uncertain, but the light-hearted moments he brought to the series were missed in this book, especially now that most of the characters have become more serious and cold-hearted.  The Path of Daggers doesn’t bring too much more to Jordan’s series than the previous book did.  It’s still entertaining but it lacks the impact earlier books in the series had.

Jordan continues to use his primary plot and subplot structure that had been used in previous books.  The story expands, giving more time to two of the previous subplots, so a total of four primary plots dominate this book.  These plots center around, and are mostly narrated by Perrin, Elayne, Egwene, and Rand.  The various major and minor plot threads are listed below:
  • Rand begins to establish order in Illian and he begins to prepare for the invading Seanchan
  • Elayne along with Nynaeve work with the Bowl of Winds to fix the weather.  Elayne begins her return to Andor.
  • Perrin and Faile head to Ghealdan to bring Masema the Dragon Prophet to Rand.
  • Egwene begins to bring the Aes Sedai around her under her control as she prepares for war with the White Tower.
  • Seanie continues to hunt the Black Ajah for Elaida.
  • Elaida continues to struggle to keep the White Tower together.
  • Sevanna begins to regather her armies after they were scattered by Sammael.
  • Morodin continues to gather the remaining Forsaken together.
  • Morgase having now released her claim as Queen of Andor takes up a new occupation.
  • Cadsuane continues to irritate Rand, while gathering Cairhein nobles to her.
  • Min continues to offer Rand her visions and she starts to become a scholarly reader.
The expected result for expanding the length of your plots is the book should get longer.  The Path of Daggers, however, gets shorter.

The problem with this is not a lot happens in nearly all of the major plot threads.  The Wheel of Time which was moving at a steady walking pace, now begins to feel like its crawling.  With a lot of time being spent on subplots, like fixing the weather, readers have to be wondering why this plot thread was even added, rather then viewing it as a significant addition that adds to the story.

The most exciting and fast action points of The Path of Daggers all involve the Seanchan.  The Seanchan, who have finally returned to become a significant part of the story for the first time since The Great Hunt, are a welcome re-addition.  The Seanchan bring the damane which is one the nastiest elements of Jordan’s story, which is the focus on the cruelty of slavery.  The Seanchan serve to remind readers that the surface level greatness of having the ability to channel also puts those characters in horrible danger.

Another of the books strong points is its more focused look into madness.  Rand and the voice of Lews Therin continues to test his sanity, along with the taint that comes from using saidin.  The conflict of madness that is brought upon men by being able to channel is expanded and looked at in more depth in this book as the Asha’man are now beginning to show signs of insanity.  The dangers of Rand creating a powerful army that can lose there minds at any second is a great source of conflict that is explored throughout this book.

The Path of Daggers doesn’t feel rushed like the previous book, but it features an ending that has been the weakest in the series thus far.  That’s alright, especially in a series that’s as long as this.  If this ending was designed to build to a stronger ending in a later book, which I suspect it is, then I’m more than willing to look past it.  However along with the previous book a noted drop in the quality of Jordan’s Wheel of Time series has been observed.

Score: 8.4

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