(Re)visiting the Wheel of Time: Knife of Dreams

[This is part of a series analyzing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels. Previous installments can be found under the tag. Comments on old posts are welcome, but please, no spoilers for books after this one.]

After more than eight and a half years of waiting, I finally get to find out What Happens Next.

I read this last month, but it’s taken me a while to sit down and post about it. See, I’m doing two things now: analyzing the structural decisions and their effects (the general purpose of these posts), but also reacting to new developments in the story. I actually considered making two posts, one for each purpose. This is already an epic enough undertaking, though, that I decided to keep it to one, and see if I can’t handle both tasks.

On the reaction side, then: was I satisfied by this book? No — but I don’t think there’s any world in which this book could have satisfied me. I’ve been waiting for the story to move forward since January 2003, y’all. After the disappointment that was Crossroads of Twilight, this book would have had to walk on water and raise the dead for me to be entirely happy with it. Was it an improvement? Hell YES. (But then, there was pretty much nowhere to go but up.)


First scene: Congratulations, Galad! You have accomplished more of significance in thirteen pages than most of the characters did in the entirety of CoT. (Also, welcome back to the story. I don’t think we’ve seen you since TFoH, though I might be wrong.)

I’m not going to go scene-by-scene here, of course — this post would never end — but the prologue, while still spending lots of time on characters and corners of the plot I don’t much care about, is a lot more successful than its several immediate predecessors, because the individual scenes actually connect up. Galad killing Valda, and Ituralde doing his raiding thing, lead to Suroth’s problems, which creates more of a feel of forward motion than most of these prologues manage. It flags again with the Tower part, though — Pevara and Alviarin — which manages to introduce some new content (the head of the Red Ajah advocating bonding Asha’man), but intermixes it with crap we’ve known for more than a book (oaths of fealty, etc). Then a hop to Galina getting captured by Perrin, then back to the Tower for Egwene, but not in a way that really connects with the previous two Tower scenes.

Still and all, though: better than CoT. We’re off to an improved start. Let’s see where the rest of it goes.

But first, a brief comment on plot, instead of structure. For all I detest Elaida and think she’s a crappy Amyrlin, on analysis, I think she made the right decision regarding Egwene — given the information she had at the time. Prior to the revelation of Egwene’s Talent for Dreaming, busting her back to novice was actually a sensible choice. Elaida had every reason to think Egwene’s quiet disappearance would throw the Salidar camp into chaos, with no answers as to where their puppet Amyrlin has gone. Contrariwise, executing or stilling Egwene would turn her into a martyr — that poor girl! She was just the victim of Romanda and Lelaine. Plus, it would squander her strength as a channeler. Given that Elaida has already established a precedence for demotion (which used to be unheard of), and also given that Elaida didn’t know about either Egwene’s Aiel training (which helps her endure hardship) or her status as a Dreamer (which allows her to coordinate with the Salidar camp), this really is the best strategy for Elaida to pursue. It ain’t her fault that Egwene manages to outmaneuver her so thoroughly later on.

Next we move to Perrin and then Faile. Minor thing that annoyed me here: in the narration (well before the dialogue makes a similar shift), Bakayar Mishima is always referred to as Mishima, but Tylee Khirgan — who outranks him — is always referred to as Tylee. It’s really hard not to see that as a gender thing, treating a female character on more intimate, less respectful terms than a male one. As for the content . . . it falls pretty firmly into the zone where I would have been fine with it if I weren’t already so freaking bored with this plot. It’s probably worth showing the math in this instance, so that we see the challenges associated with pulling off the eventual resolution, but at this point I just want it to be done already.

Mat and his courtship of Tuon are similar, but mixed with the issue that (as is so often the case in this series) the material could have been presented more efficiently. Fewer pages describing the purchase of the razor for her; mention of the facedown with Seanchan soldiers at the entrance to the circus, rather than playing it out in full. Cut those down so as to keep the focus more on important things, like Bethamin channeling, and Mat figuring out what Aludra wants a bellfounder for. But it’s actually kind of refreshing to have one of the relationships in this series get properly developed; I may not like their dynamic, but at least work goes into making it happen, rather than the characters falling in “love” (the quotation marks are necessary) when they barely know each other at all.

. . . which gets horribly undercut with a certain incident at the end of Chapter 9, but we’ll come back to that later.

And HOLY SHIT WE’RE FINALLY MOVING FORWARD ON THE MOIRAINE THING. You know, the plot everybody’s been waiting for since the end of TFoH. I can’t help but view the letter she wrote to Thom with a cynical eye; it feels to me like Jordan realized that oops, it’s been six freaking books since she “died,” and we really need some kind of justification for why that plot has been stalled all this time. Hence the line about “you must not show [Mat] this letter until he asks about it.” I also feel like Mat’s concerns about the *finn spying on him via their interference in his head is way belated, given how easily his mind runs to paranoia. At the very least, he should have been speculating as to their motives a lot sooner.

Back to Perrin, back to me not caring. The thing is, I am just left completely cold by the whole “my wife is the only thing in the world that matters” attitude. It isn’t romantic, though I feel like I’m supposed to read it that way. It’s obsessive. It’s selfish: he doesn’t care about all the other Shaido prisoners, just that one. Just the one that matters to him. I mostly want Perrin to rescue Faile simply so that he’ll start thinking about something else at last. Unfortunately, that involves something else that bothered me a lot — which we will again come back to in a little while.

Elayne next. I’m sorry to see Aviendha go; it feels like more splitting of the party (as if, at this stage, there’s still a party to split), but it’s good to see Elayne successfully politicking the Sea Folk, and making progress against Mellar, rather than being oblivious to the viper in her bosom <cough cough HALIMA>. The real satisfaction with her, though, will come later in the book — which is generally true of all the characters. There’s a sense here of forward momentum, that was almost completely lacking in CoT, but it won’t pay off until the second half of the novel. (Fortunately, it does actually pay off.)

On page 384, we finally get to Rand, who is ostensibly still our main character. It’s funny — in a not-very-amusing way — the extent to which he’s been sidelined in this story. Thinking back, I honestly don’t feel like Rand’s been the center of the tale, even in a diffuse way, since Lord of Chaos, except for the brief excitement when he cleansed saidin at the end of Winter’s Heart. He’s done stuff, sure — but a lot of it has felt like makework or more of what we’ve seen before, while the actual progress (when we have it) has come in the plotlines of other characters.

This would be fascinating if I thought it was deliberate, a deconstruction of the role of the hero in epic fantasy, eschewing one Chosen Hero for the collective action of many. Unfortunately, it feels instead like a consequence of the kudzu growth of the plot: as Jordan gave more development to Mat and Perrin and Egwene and Elayne and Nynaeve — and Siuan and Pevara and Ituralde and their second cousins’ ex-roommates, not to mention a whole host of villains — he needed to finish that stuff up before he could get to Rand’s big finale, with the result that Rand’s exciting plot moments keep getting pushed back and back and back. Since we can’t have him vanish from the story entirely, his scenes end up going in a slow downward spiral of madness, injury, politics, and unproductive war. I was trying to tell kurayami_hime what happens with Rand in this book, and all I could remember was “Trollocs attack, and then he captures Semirhage and gets his hand burned off.” He does a few other things, like sorting out Tear, but compared to the other major characters, it isn’t very much.

But hey, Loial gets pov! I noticed a while ago what a high proportion of the random tertiary viewpoints are women. Partly this is because of the prominence of Aes Sedai/Black Ajah in the story, but there are various male characters who could get pov and don’t, like Thom, Lan, and Loial. (New Spring notwithstanding, plus the Sanderson books, which I haven’t yet read.) It’s nice to see Loial get, if not a Crowning Moment of Awesome, at least a Moment, with his speechifying. And Nynaeve also gets a pretty awesome Moment; as tired as I am of the manipulative tone that predominates between men and women in this series, the trick she pulls on Lan is awfully well-done. Have fun riding to Tarwin’s Gap, Lan!

(I wonder if that bit is why Jordan chose to step back for New Spring before putting this book out — to set up the issues with Malkier and the Golden Crane more clearly in the reader’s mind. If so, it makes me wonder about his plans for the other two prequels, and how they might have played into the remaining books. Would the long-delayed revelation to Tam that Rand’s the Dragon Reborn have been less of a thundering disappointment if he’d gotten his prequel? We’ll never know.)

The Sea Folk chapter seems as good a time as any to bring up one of the running threads in this book, which is that Jordan is delivering to a surprising degree on the promise of apocalypse. Credit where it is due: although I expected all the warfare and such, things like the mass suicide of the Amayar are more of a surprise. And the ripples seen in Faile’s chapter, and the changes in the layout of the palace in Caemlyn, speak to a cosmic breakdown rather than just a social and political one — which is far more alarming. I’ll be interested to see how that plays out over the last three books. It’s the sort of thing that’s hard to sustain over such a length, especially when it should be growing worse with time. Hopefully this won’t turn out to be like the “bubbles of evil” that appeared at the beginning of The Shadow Rising, and were basically never seen again.

Back to Salidar, where we get a bit of balancing: there is a way for women to sense a man’s channeling. (It’s been bugging me for quite a while that men could sense women, but not vice versa. This one requires a weave, but it’s better than nothing.) Also, I note that Pevara’s scene back in the prologue mentioned men Healing stilled women; it seems that brought them back up to full strength, as Nynaeve did with Logain, but not with Siuan and Leane. I can’t remember if that had been mentioned earlier, but I don’t think so, and it fits in with my guess that full recovery requires the assistance of the opposite sex. (Could a male channeler bring Siuan and Leane up to full strength now? Dunno.) Continuing the trend of “things finally get sorted out so the plot can move forward,” the Salidar Aes Sedai finally learn about the cleansing of saidin, and Halima’s cover is also blown. At long. Bloody. Last.

Egwene’s chapter is actually pretty cool. Very little of what’s in it is flashy — although her schooling Bennae about the secret Tower records is pretty sweet — but she does a splendid job of not-quite-passive resistance, choosing which battles to fight and which to concede, and embracing her ongoing punishment as a sign of victory.

(Another random side-note: I will be curious to see whether Sanderson, given his views, quietly bypasses the clear indications that lesbianism is practiced in the Tower and other places. Also, can anybody tell me whether there are any unambiguous references to male homosexuality in the series? I can’t think of any, but they may be there.)

Now we start intercutting more rapidly between characters: Tarna (for whom I have sympathy, trying to deal with Elaida), Mat, Tuon, Perrin, Faile, back to Rand. I think this is a necessary shift as we get closer to the resolution of various plots; it’s harder to wrangle than the several-chapter-chunks of previous books, but helps avoid the problems we saw in The Path of Daggers, where the points of high tension were scattered all over the book, and the end felt like a letdown.

Which doesn’t mean we avoid letdowns entirely: Semirhage is, I think, the new holder of the Forsaken Who Went Down Like a Punk title. Seriously, Asmodean may have gone out with a whimper in the end, but he got a significant battle with Rand before his fangs were pulled, and even Be’lal had more of a throwdown with Moiraine. Semirhage goes from “holy shit it’s her!” to “problem solved” in literally a single page. Even her burning off Rand’s hand doesn’t feel like much of an achievement — more a sop to make up for her otherwise disappointing performance. I find myself sort of wishing Jordan had approached Tuon the way Martin did Daenerys; if we’d been following her on the Seanchan end of things since early on, the story could maybe have been structured in a fashion to make Semirhage’s slaughter of the entire imperial family carry some impact, rather than coming across like a newspaper headline from the other side of the world.

Faile’s escape/rescue feels like a slightly awkward compromise between “she’s enough of a pov character now that she should have some agency in resolving this” and “it’s going to feel lame if Perrin’s efforts end up being unnecessary.” At least that plot has finally wound up, though (which is basically the refrain for this entire book). Also, is it bad that I was happy to see Aram go? He’s just felt like this annoying dog yapping at the edges of various scenes for ages now. But add Faile to the list of Things To Discuss Later — they’re all interrelated, so we’ll leave them for the end.

Elayne’s conclusion here is pretty exciting, to a degree we haven’t seen for a while: there’s real cost (people die), and real negative turns for Elayne (her capture could have gone very badly), and real bits of cleverness by various characters (Birgitte strong-arming the Windfinders into helping). And then she’s Queen! For realz! Hallelujah!

And Mat gets married! I have to admit I was entertained by the way it played out. As they said, uh, maybe two books ago, all it takes is saying the thing three times before witnesses. So instead of a stereotypical wedding ceremony, we get “Matrim Cauthon is my husband. […] Matrim Cauthon is my husband. […] Bloody Matrim Cauthon is my husband. That is the wording you used, is it not?” I frankly appreciate the lack of sentimentality, both before and after; Mat may be in love, but Tuon’s priorities are still on the bigger picture, as well they should be. For all my issues with the two of them, they’re probably just behind Nynaeve and Lan for relationships I like — ahead of Rand and all his ladies, and WAY ahead of Perrin and Faile.

And finally, two nearly-random epilogue scenes: Suroth’s downfall, and Pevara’s arrival at the Black Tower, raising hopes of that plotline seeing resolution in the near future (by which I mean the next book).

This book achieved a decent bit, though. Major plots wrapped up in Knife of Dreams: Perrin rescues Faile, Mat marries Tuon, and Elayne become Queen. All three of those have been dragging on since the end of TPoD or earlier. Two major villains get knocked out (Suroth and Semirhage), and other things make satisfying forward progress (Egwene in the Tower). It is, without a doubt, a vast improvement.

So what complaint have I been delaying throughout this post? Basically, the fact that several of the characters make moral decisions that I find frankly reprehensible, and nothing in the narrative says boo about it.

With Mat and Tuon, it’s the moment where she puts an a’dam on Joline. For my money, that gets dismissed way too casually. It’s interesting that she freely acknowledges her own ability to learn to channel, and has an answer for why it doesn’t matter; you can argue with her reasoning — if channeling is so very bad, why is it justifiable to use other people’s ability on your own behalf? — but at least she comes across as smart enough to think that one through. Her willingness to depersonalize Aes Sedai and other channelers, though, really eats away at my sympathy for her, and Mat’s willingness to ignore it as soon as the collar comes off makes me pissed at him, too. What the story needed was a scene, or rather more than one, that actually addressed Tuon’s Seanchan prejudices, and worked past them to a moment of character growth; what we get instead is a token nod to the problem, after which it gets swept under the rug so we can get on with the Politically-Ever-After of their romance plot.

That pales next to the two incidents on the Perrin/Faile end of things, though. Faile’s is the death of Rolan, or more precisely, the way she responds to it. Now, I will freely grant that the entire situation there is complicated, and Rolan is not a straight-up good guy. He’s the one who captured Faile in the first place and handed her off into slavery gai’shain white; he’s also trying to make use of his leverage over her to get nookie, which is coercive no matter how friendly he is in presenting it. But he was also trying to help her escape, and I’m really bothered by the fact that Faile doesn’t bother to mention that to Perrin after he cuts Rolan down. I mean, the general trend of the story right now has been toward compromising with morally dubious allies for the greater good; it’s not as if Our Heroes are so pure that Rolan’s attempted aid should be dismissed out of hand.

The real horror — to the point where I may have to consider it a Moral Event Horizon — is with Perrin. Remember how I said I didn’t find his “the only thing that matters is Faile” attitude very sympathetic? Well, he lost my sympathy for good in his deal with the Seanchan.

True, Rand is also dealing with the Seanchan. I can accept his decision, though, as I don’t accept Perrin’s, for a variety of reasons. For one, Rand proposes alliance so as to halt the war that now stretches across the entire continent, and to prepare for Tarmon Gai’don. For another, my impression of what he’s offering — which could be wrong — is a “live and let live” policy, at least for now. This is rather different from Perrin’s deal, which goes much further than turning a blind eye to Seanchan practices: he literally sells four hundred women into slavery in exchange for military help. That would be like Rand saying “in exchange for peace, I’ll let you collar the whole White Tower.” And why does Perrin do this? Not for Tarmon Gai’don. Not to save the surrounding land from the depradations of the Shaido. Not even to free all the other prisoners they hold; Faile’s the one who shows concern for that. No, Perrin sells out four hundred women to a fate possibly worse than death just so he can get his wife back.

Good-bye, Perrin. I’m done with you. I will read your future chapters in the faint hope that somebody will point out what you did, and that maybe you’ll realize your error — but I doubt it. And even if you do, I have a hard time imagining how you could redeem yourself. You’ve never been a character much interested in the bigger picture; even during your war in the Two Rivers, you were motivated more by tribal concerns (I have to protect My People) and vengeance (my family is dead) than by concern for the world. Since then, your selfishness has pretty much eclipsed all else, to the point where there’s no better man for you to return to being. This is who you are, and I don’t like you anymore.

(Yeah. I’m angry.)

Final takeaway: I think Winter’s Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, and Knife of Dreams could and should have been two books instead of three. As discussed in previous posts, you could have offloaded some of the CoT material into WH; then take what remains, jettison 2/3 of it, tighten up what remains and the flabbier parts of KoD, and walk away with two volumes of much leaner, meaner plot.

It’s easy to say that in retrospect, of course. I have sympathy for the difficulty of wrangling so many strands over such a long series. But this is an argument for keeping better control of those strands in the first place, so you don’t end up with such a pacing mess that it takes a herculean effort to drag yourself out of it again.

. . . and now I’m in the home stretch. All that remains are the three Sanderson books. If I stick to the original schedule, I’ll be reading The Gathering Storm in November/December, The Towers of Midnight in January/February, and then A Memory of Light in March, which is (last I checked) the planned pub date. Sanderson is 70% of the way through the first draft, according to his site, and given how fast Tor can push the book out to shelves when they have to, he may yet make it. Or not. I’ll keep an eye on things, and adjust the schedule as needed.

0 Responses to “(Re)visiting the Wheel of Time: Knife of Dreams”

  1. Marie Brennan

    A lot of the people I name in this post are back-half people, i.e. characters who didn’t even exist in the story until A Crown of Swords (book seven) or later. And frankly, a lot of them are very minor. They shouldn’t get point of view, but they do because of Jordan’s loss of control over the structure.

    As for Perrin . . . he didn’t have to suck. He just got stuck in a narrative bog, and then got left there, and then began slogging very slowly out of it, and the result is that I haven’t seen him do anything memorable and non-Faile-related since literally the fourth book of the series. And Jordan just handled it all so very badly. He should have been like Sam Vimes, and I wish he had been.

    • diatryma

      Okay, Perrin and Mat are both living in my head, where they get to be awesome. Rand is eaten by chickens (evil chickens, because Terry Goodkind).

      • Marie Brennan

        Mat is still awesome, except for the whole “I’ll overlook the a’dam incident” thing. He gets to spend a goodly portion of this book being effective at what he does, which is always nice.

        • diatryma

          I don’t actually remember much of Mat, just the many-weapons thing when they go into some city or other and that he has incredible luck. And the Band of the Red Hand.

          Wait, has it seriously been more than a decade since I read these books? I picked up Eye of the World half my life ago this May.

  2. Anonymous

    Considering Seanchan’s Asian flavor, I’m not sure that they do “First Name, Surname” like Randland, so Tylee might actually be MORE formal, like someone calling you Brennan. But I can’t actually say if we’ve ever been told much about Seanchan naming conventions, or if they differ among the various constituent parts of the Seanchan empire.

    About male homosexuality, the only real unequivocal reference is in “New Spring” when the new Amyrlin fires all the clerks for paying too much attention to the novices, even “those who don’t like women that way.” There might be one or two other lines like that elsewhere. Jordan supposedly said that there were male homosexuals/bisexuals in the series but that it “hasn’t come up,” which is a cop-out, but whatever. Personally, I think Dobraine is gay (a Cairhien nobleman of his age and rank who doesn’t have a wife and has never been linked to any female? Suspicious!) and is unrequitedly in love with Rand, but that might just be my overactive imagination. I think Sanderson continued the Tower lesbianism, but I’m really not sure at the moment.

    I liked Nynaeve’s trick on Lan, too, even if I, too, am kind of sick of all the manipulation in relationships. But “The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don!” literally gave me chills. And, also, Lan has been a “I’m a brooding loner” douchebag for too long.

    Some of your issues with Perrin and Faile get at least cursory attention ahead. Not particularly satisfying, but at least nodded at. And I suspect that the Wise One damane might have a part to play ahead in the Education of Tuon, Daughter of the Nine Moons.

    • Marie Brennan

      Tuon’s full name is Tuon Athaem Kore Paendrag, and we know the “Paendrag” part is a family name. Suroth and Egeanin (both women) are called by the first part of their names in the narrative text. Furyk Karede and Lunal Galgan (both men) are called by the second part of their name. I seriously doubt we can chalk it up to some never-mentioned Seanchan naming custom.

      even “those who don’t like women that way.”

      Ah, good catch; I remember that line now, but had forgotten about it before. You’re right that “uh, it hasn’t come up” is a cop-out.

      Dobraine as a gay man is an interesting thought. πŸ™‚ And then there’s always the possibility of Galad: such a pretty man, so dedicated to the cause of the Light . . . .

      I would not call Lan a douchebag, though. Brooding loner, yes, but he hasn’t used it as an excuse to treat women like shit, which is the usual flaw of such characters (and such men, in real life).

      I’m glad to hear there’s at least some addressing of the things that bugged me in this book. I doubt it will win me back to liking Perrin, but it will be a sign that Sanderson, at least, sees a problem there.

      • Anonymous

        You have a point about the names. I just never really noticed it. I think, like with the male homosexuality, it was an unconscious thing on Jordan’s part that has to do with his own more old-fashioned notions. Jordan was progressive in a lot of ways, but he WAS a military-educated South Carolinian of a specific generation. You can never fully shake your roots. I think this was particularly a case of unconsciousness because Tyree is written as a very likeable, capable person, one of the “good Seanchan” we’re supposed to like. There’s no real indication that we’re not supposed to take her seriously as a military leader; quite the opposite, in fact.

        Maybe being a gay man is why I am so “suspicious” of Dobraine. He could just be one of the rare noblepersons in the series with half a brain and at least a basic notion of loyalty, but, I don’t know, something about the way he acts with Rand screams “repressed, unrequited love” to me. There’s a moment in the next book that struck me that way, especially, though you might not notice it (because it might be just in my head). Also, when he was almost assassinated a book or two ago, all of his servants seemed to be men; not a maid in sight. Hmmmm… *LOL*

        Calling Lan a “douchebag” was uncalled for, I agree. It’s not the right word at all. He’s just taken the brooding loner thing to an annoying/pathological level.

        I think Perrin’s a lost cause at this point, but he does at least burn off some of the suck in the next two books.

        • Marie Brennan

          Oh, I agree it’s likely just unthinking habit on Jordan’s part, calling the women by their first names and the men by their last. Still annoys me, though, as another aspect to the issues with how women are written in this series.

          Your reading of Dobraine could well be fair; I’ve never paid enough attention to the character to have any opinion one way or another. I’ll keep an eye out for him in the next book, though. πŸ˜‰

  3. Anonymous

    KOD

    I’ve always thought that this book is only better than the few that precede it for two reasons: Stuff (finally) ends, and it’s structured so that the climaxes all happen together, at the end. Other than that, it has all the same problems.
    Also, I’ve always found Egwene’s bit the most satisfying, even though it’s just a prologue scene and one chapter, and even though it doesn’t reach a conclusion in this book. This is because 1) It’s not predictable (did you ever doubt Perrin would rescue Faile or Elayne would gain the throne?) and 2)It’s very significant to the overall story (If Faile had never been captured, we could have skipped the whole business and the overall story would hardly have been effected). It’s pretty amazing, when you think of it, that Jordan managed to accomplish so much more with Egwene in one chapter than he did with Perrin in all of books 7-11! And the Egwene bit is really only a teaser for the next book, not even part of a full plot arc within book 11.

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: KOD

      I’ve always thought that this book is only better than the few that precede it for two reasons: Stuff (finally) ends, and it’s structured so that the climaxes all happen together, at the end. Other than that, it has all the same problems.

      I will give it credit for avoiding one problem from the previous books, at least: it didn’t launch a new plotline. Things here either wrapped up, progressed, or (in a few cases) stagnated, but there was nothing like “now we must go on a quest to Ebou Dar so we can fix the weather!” or (god help us) “oh noes Faile has been captured and now I must rescue her!”

      I will also give it credit for having all the same problems to a lesser degree than before. It’s faint praise, to be sure, but at this stage I’m rather pathetically grateful for any improvement. I don’t think I could have sat through another CoT.

      1) It’s not predictable

      This is true. I was genuinely surprised — though not in a good way — by her capture at the end of CoT; the consequences in this book were not what I would have predicted. I guess I was expecting an assault on Tar Valon, or some kind of spectacularly impressive channeling trick; I don’t really know, as I never gave much thought to it. But passive resistance in novice white? Not on the list. And it’s well-played.

      2)It’s very significant to the overall story (If Faile had never been captured, we could have skipped the whole business and the overall story would hardly have been effected).

      This gets to the kudzu issue I’ve referenced before, where the story branches out in directions that really aren’t necessary, and add little or nothing to the plot. Faile’s capture is a fine example of that: viewed structurally, I strongly suspect the only reason for that plot’s existence is that it gave Perrin something to for a few books. Along the way, it managed to get rid of the Shaido plot — but there are easily three other ways that could have been dealt with, none of which would have required all this crap. You could also point to Pevara et aliae (significance so far: tells us Elaida suspects the existence of the Black Ajah), the Borderlands monarchs (significance so far: none that I’ve seen), and all kinds of other side plots. Egwene is a beacon of significance by comparison, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

      • Anonymous

        Re: KOD

        I will give it credit for avoiding one problem from the previous books, at least: it didn’t launch a new plotline.

        Well, sort of — it does launch Mat’s attempt to rescue Moiraine. Granted, that was sort of launched the moment Moiraine “died,”and also, the rescue attempt itself is saved for later.
        In any event, The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight introduce new plotlines (otherwise, Rand and Perrin wouldn’t have much to do!). Despite this, The Gathering Storm is a much better book than Knife of Dream, and if Towers of Midnight is not, it’s because of major structural problems and nothing to do with new plotlines.

        PS I’m sorry if this posted twice.

        I will also give it credit for having all the same problems to a lesser degree than before.

        Fair enough.

        On Egwene — I think the presence of her chapter in this book amounts to Jordan saying “I dug myself into such a mess in the previous books that I don’t have space to resolve the Tower split here, but I promise it is coming and I promise it will be awesome.” Otherwise, there is little need for Egwene’s chapter to be in this book at all. It’s clearly not the focus of the book, nothing is resolved, and Jordan clearly intended to deal with the Tower split in (what he thought would be) his final book.

        I strongly suspect the only reason for that plot’s existence is that it gave Perrin something to for a few books.

        I mostly agree. It does sort of change the character dynamic around Perrin-Faile-Berelain, but that could have be done in other ways. Basically, Perrin only does one significant thing after The Shadow Rising and before Towers of Midnight, and that Dumai’s Wells.

      • Anonymous

        Re: KOD

        Oh, and one more thing:

        You could also point to Pevara et aliae (significance so far: tells us Elaida suspects the existence of the Black Ajah), the Borderlands monarchs (significance so far: none that I’ve seen)

        Elaida certainly does not suspect the existence of the Black Ajah. She told Seaine to hunt for treason in the Tower, hoping she would be led to Alviarin. Seaine simply misinterpreted her instructions, thinking that “treason” meant darkfriends. If I remember correctly though, this plotline never becomes significant enough for the amount of attention it gets, so it’s still a good example of what we were talking about.

        As for the borderlanders, the main problem is just that Jordan introduced them in book 8 but then never told us what their goals were. They sort of just hung around and did stuff, but we never knew why. We finally get an answer in the Sanderson books (I believe in the second of the two the have been published so far), and it is significant to the plot, but it is not really worth the amount of time we had to wait to find out.

        • Marie Brennan

          Re: KOD

          Elaida certainly does not suspect the existence of the Black Ajah.

          Ah, you’re right; all the scenes of the BA hunt have gone on for so long, they’ve overwritten Elaida’s actual order in my head.

          As for the borderlanders, the main problem is just that Jordan introduced them in book 8 but then never told us what their goals were.

          Which was even worse because our point of view character knew what they were up to, and yet the narrative never said. It was a bit of totally unnecessary obfuscation, that undercut the story instead of adding to it.

  4. Marie Brennan

    Yes, thank ghu for a non-white character of significance. The only other one I can think of is Juilin Sandar; he’s one of those “dark” Tairens. (As contrasted with the fair-skinned and blue-eyed ones like Siuan.) Maybe Suroth, too, but we really don’t want to have to turn to the villains to find diversity. Everybody else is way more minor.

    And yes, Tuon may be surprised to find out Mat’s a military genius, but once she sees it in action, she accepts it without any of the “but it’s Mat!” hang-ups most of the other women have. (I somewhat forgive those when they come from Egwene and Nynaeve; they grew up with him. But the others have no excuse.)

  5. Marie Brennan

    Re: KOD

    it does launch Mat’s attempt to rescue Moiraine

    I consider that an ongoing plot, given that I’ve been waiting for it to happen since TFoH.

    In any event, The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight introduce new plotlines

    <headdesk>

    Okay, okay, you’re (semi-)right about Perrin and Rand. (Perrin still has the Luc/Isam/Slayer thing hanging fire — which I complained about back in TSR; why introduce that so early and then ignore it for so long?) Rand, well, I have a sense that he’s got items on his to-do list before he heads off to Tarmon Gai’don, but when you get down to it I can’t think of what any of them are. Not good, from a structural standpoint, when he’s ostensibly the main character, and we’re ostensibly near the end of the story.

    I think the presence of her chapter in this book amounts to Jordan saying “I dug myself into such a mess in the previous books that I don’t have space to resolve the Tower split here, but I promise it is coming and I promise it will be awesome.”

    Quite possibly. In fact, I would not be surprised if this is Jordan having learned his lesson after the debacle with Mat: wall falls on character, character is not seen for entire book, character reappears next book with nothing interesting having happened in the interim, fans are pissed.

    It does sort of change the character dynamic around Perrin-Faile-Berelain, but that could have be done in other ways.

    More interesting ones? That wouldn’t make me want to bash everybody’s heads in?

    Perrin only does one significant thing after The Shadow Rising and before Towers of Midnight, and that Dumai’s Wells.

    Which only barely counts. So far as I can recall, nothing in it required Perrin; if he and the Two Rivers men and the wolves hadn’t been there, the Mayeners and Aiel and Asha’man could have taken care of it themselves — just up the numbers accordingly. It isn’t like Mat and saving Moiraine, with the prophecy and all.

    • Anonymous

      Re: KOD

      In any event, The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight introduce new plotlines

      headdesk

      To be fair, these are plotlines that start and end over the course of single books, which is a vast improvement in and of itself. Also, if you think about it, you can probably guess the sorts of issues Rand and Perrin both have to deal with before the Last Battle (What Mat and Egwene have to do should be obvious). Now that I think about it, Rand’s plotline in The Gathering Storm and Perrin’s in Towers of Midnight are only sort of new — they both deal with issues that have come up before, but not been dealt with extensively.

      More interesting ones? That wouldn’t make me want to bash everybody’s heads in?

      You’re practically asking for spoilers here… but the Perrin – Faile – Berelain business has to be resolved sometime, doesn’t it?

  6. Anonymous

    I think you’ll like what Brandon does with Perrin in the end… though I don’t know if you’ll enjoy the journey to get there. My main issue with that plotline is it felt kind of pointless. The Shaido have been beaten twice already and the third conflict with them takes the longest in terms of the number of books to resolve? That’s kind of crazy.

    Also kind of crazy is why RJ wouldn’t just let Perrin pick up some more Aiel and Ashaman and end the thing quickly instead of dragging it out. The whole Seanchan alliance seemed kind of contrived since if they’re that desperate for help… why not contact people on their own side? I really wish RJ had worked Mat, Perrin, and Elayne’s storyline together. Have Mat and the Band of the Red Hand help Perrin then have both help Elayne, or do it in the reverse order. Probably could have shortened a book out that way.

    But while the Seanchan alliance seemed pointless I can’t get that upset about it. Giving away 400 people into slavery is wrong but what was he suppose to do with them? The Shaido Wise Women are basically war criminals. They’ve enslaved and killed a ton of people, attempted to kidnap Rand, and broken most of the custom’s of the Aiel. Should Perrin have held a tribunal and executed them or sent them to prison? Or give them to the Aes Sedai? Or back to the other Aiel? And then if they were handed over to the other Wise Women, what would they do to them? Or would the other Aiel let them go free?

    • Anonymous

      I think you’ll like what Brandon does with Perrin in the end… though I don’t know if you’ll enjoy the journey to get there.

      I agree that you’ll find Perrin in Towers of Midnight better then Perrin in the late Jordan books (Perrin doesn’t do much in The Gathering Storm , and I think the only reason he’s in the book at all is that Sanderson didn’t think he could get away with leaving him out entirely). He takes much to long to get there though — I book 13, Perrin finally start resolving issues that began in books 1-4, abd then are never even mentioned in books 5-11.

      Giving away 400 people into slavery is wrong but what was he suppose to do with them?

      I think Jordan just wanted this too look like bad guys getting what they deserved — we’re not supposed to sympathize with them (any more than with, for example, Galina, who seems destined to spend the rest of her life as Therava’s slave and, if I’m reading the books right, the object of Therava’s sexual abuse as well). Both are very morally problematic, but I’m not sure I can criticize Perrin for getting rid of them this way. We can criticize Perrin for giving the Seanchan 400 new WMD’s, though.

      • Marie Brennan

        Woo, dueling anonymous comments! For the record, I’d be grateful if you guys could sign with some kind of name, just so I can keep track of which person I’m talking to.

        Perrin . . . we’ll see. I’d like to see the stuff that got forgotten after TSR get dealt with.

        I can criticize Perrin for getting rid of them this way.

        I can. It’s morally reprehensible, and I want better out of my protagonists.

        • namle84

          Woo, dueling anonymous comments! For the record, I’d be grateful if you guys could sign with some kind of name, just so I can keep track of which person I’m talking to.

          Sorry about that. My comments begin with the one that says that I think this book is only better than the few before it for two reasons, and every anonymous comment below that is mine except for the one that begins by saying that you’ll like what Brandon does with Perrin in the end.

    • Marie Brennan

      My main issue with that plotline is it felt kind of pointless.

      Exactly. Excise it, and you lose nothing, really.

      Also kind of crazy is why RJ wouldn’t just let Perrin pick up some more Aiel and Ashaman and end the thing quickly instead of dragging it out.

      It’s part of the obsession thing, I guess — he’s not thinking clearly; he doesn’t want to move in any direction that isn’t Toward Faile — but it’s not good, no. And it would have been a lot better to integrate plotlines, though maybe not in Elayne’s case; remember that she was determined (for good reason) to win her throne without bringing in foreign mercenaries. (The Windfinders stretch that a bit — but that was Birgitte’s idea, anyway.)

      Giving away 400 people into slavery is wrong but what was he suppose to do with them? The Shaido Wise Women are basically war criminals.

      1) Perrin’s train of thought is not “these other options would be hard;” it’s “I don’t care what happens so long as I get Faile back.”

      2) I do in fact wish Perrin had held a tribunal or something. Did Sevanna and Therava deserve punishment? Absolutely. Did every one of those 400 women deserve a lifetime of slavery, simply for being loyal to their clan? No. Perrin is supposed to be one of the heroes of this story. I do, in fact, want to see better from him than this summary not-even-justice. (Especially given the kind of character he’s supposed to be.)

      • namle84

        I do in fact wish Perrin had held a tribunal or something. Did Sevanna and Therava deserve punishment? Absolutely. Did every one of those 400 women deserve a lifetime of slavery, simply for being loyal to their clan? No. Perrin is supposed to be one of the heroes of this story. I do, in fact, want to see better from him than this summary not-even-justice. (Especially given the kind of character he’s supposed to be.)

        I think that part of what Jordan was doing with this story arc was pushing Perrin to the limits of his morality. Remember the scene in COT where he cuts off a Shaido’s hand and then throws the axe away, disgusted with himself? At the end of KOD, Perrin’s Axe-Hammer decision is not resolved, and the choice that it represents is not complete.
        Also, Perrin has consistently been shown acting outside the law — from the incident with the Whitecloaks in the first book to raising the banner of Manetheren to his dealings with the Shaido. He is going to have to pay for all of this eventually.

        • Marie Brennan

          I’d say the result has been to push Perrin beyond the limits of his morality. And while his actions may have been outside the law before, I don’t recall his behavior being seriously immoral until Faile was kidnapped. Which is a major part of my distaste for the whole arc: okay, not only has Perrin done reprehensible things, he’s done so in the name of a motivation I don’t find very sympathetic. (Wanting to rescue the person you love, yes. Declaring everything else to be secondary to that love: no. That’s obsession, not love.)

          If the narrative addresses that, I’ll be glad of it. But I don’t really trust this story to condemn Perrin’s behavior the way it should.

          • namle84

            I think the narrative does address the fact that he was obsessed, and that this was not a good thing. But I do not remember it condemning his actions here — it seems far more interested in making sure he pays for killing those Whitecloaks way back in The Eye of the World, despite that fact that that was pretty close to self-defense.

          • Marie Brennan

            Seriously? That’s where the focus lands?

            <headdesk>

          • namle84

            I see you take your cues from Leigh Butler’s reread when it comes to headdesking.

            And remember, even though it’s hardly been mentioned since The Shadow Rising, Dain Bornhald still thinks Perrin killed his father, and Byar is sure Perrin is a darkfriend/shadowspawn. And it’s not the sole focus, just a major part of it. The Slayer business is addressed, and the axe/hammer business, and Perrin’s status as a wolfbrother. The Shaido wise ones are not, though.

          • Marie Brennan

            I stopped reading Butler’s re-read back around TFoH or LoC, because of too many spoilers for KoD and later books. She has the same problem I do about what problems come home to roost for Perrin? Or is it just that she headdesks about other things?

          • namle84

            Oh no, she hasn’t gotten to reviewing TOM yet, she only just started TGS. All I meant was that she likes to headdesk a lot. It’s not something that I’ve seen a lot of other people use.

  7. Marie Brennan

    Re: KOD

    Yeah, Verin was easier to justify, because she’s being sneaky enough that you can imagine her avoiding important details even in her own head. It doesn’t make all the obfuscation with her successful, but it’s less annoying than with the Borderlanders. The TPoD prologue, like so many things in this series, feels like Jordan launching something he assumed he’d get back to pretty soon, but then books went by without it paying off, because of — let’s all say it together — his pacing problems.

    • namle84

      Re: KOD

      Verin pays off. And at least TPOD prologue was short — by far the shortest in the late part of the series, the Sanderson books included.

      • namle84

        Re: KOD

        Verin was easier to justify, because she’s being sneaky enough that you can imagine her avoiding important details even in her own head.

        I don’t actually buy this. I find it very difficult to believe that Verin would not be thinking about her motives while she is Compelling her fellow Aes Sedai, and I find it equally hard to believe that she would never think about what she is compelling them to do. Jordan simply skips having her think about these things, and then simply decides not to describe what she compels them to do, for no apparent reason. As I said before, this is justified when it comes to hiding Verin’s motives since those are a Big Mystery to be revealed later, but there is no reason to hide the actual content of the compulsion.

        As for Verin being sneaky in her own head, I think this is a separate issue. As far as the reader knows at this point in the series, Verin must either be bound by the Oath not to lie, or if she is not, she must be very used to acting like she is in order to avoid being caught in a lie. Therefore, when she makes misleading statements, she explains to herself in her head how it is that there statements are not false. All Aes Sedai must do this since they are either bound by the Oath or pretend to be, but Verin is sneakier than most. Jordan just included this sneakiness in Verin’s head to emphasize the mystery of Verin’s allegiances and motives.

        • Marie Brennan

          Re: KOD

          I wouldn’t go so far as to say that justification for hiding things when we’re in Verin’s pov is a good one — much less that it’s the right choice for the narrative — merely that at least there is some kind of justification, as opposed to the incident with the Borderlanders. I’m willing to accept Verin as an unreliable narrator, in comparison with them.

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