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Merle

Merle

Knife of Dreams - Robert Jordan First of all, I'd like to clear up the misconception that the series is meant to be read all at once and even the terrible books are decent if you're not waiting a couple years for each one. I started reading the Wheel of Time in 2003, and for the first six books I ran out to get the sequel as soon as I finished the one before it. Well, then the books started to slow down, and I lost interest... finally, I realized I could skip #9-10 entirely, read online summaries, and continue to Knife of Dreams. While I re-engaged enough to continue for a bit, my experience is proof that having them all (well, the first 10 anyway) available at once doesn't solve Jordan's problems. Of course the wait time contributes to the irritation readers feel, but it doesn't cloud their judgment; the bad books are bad, whether you have to wait in between or not.

Unfortunately, I would put Knife of Dreams into that category, although it is an improvement over, say, Path of Daggers. It is mildly entertaining. It's certainly readable. Occasionally things happen, although of course the book is divided between five major subplots (Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Elayne, or six if you count Faile), interspersed with some minor ones as well, and so while they may resolve their private conflicts, it remains unclear why, say, Faile's capture and rescue or Elayne's gaining the Lion Throne is important in the great scheme of the series. Like in the previous tomes, scenes containing action are countered by the continuing focus on irrelevant power struggles between irrelevant female characters, complete with skirt-smoothing (elevated by Jordan to an infallible barometer of female agitation), arm-crossing (always "beneath her breasts" as if we were confused about where these crossed arms were going, above her head maybe) and spanking, of all things. The sad truth is that Jordan can't write political intrigue no matter how hard he tries. His strength is in action-adventure, which drew all of us in to the series in the first place but is sadly lacking here.

Now let me add my voice to the chorus expressing disgust for Jordan's portrayal of women. They are all the same person, and not a likeable one at that. All she (meaning every woman in the book) seems to care about is garnering power and deference from others, and therefore every woman in the book spends most of her time trying to one-up every other woman in the book. Healthy relationships, among women or between men and women, are nonexistent (Elayne and Aviendha are as close as it gets, so of course Jordan separates them); instead we get "I care about this person, but he/she is so hard to deal with!" Endlessly. I'm beginning to suspect that Jordan actually created a matriarchal-type society to express his views on why (in his opinion) women are catty and incompetent and men should rule all. Not that his men do much better, of course, but at least they don't smooth their skirts.

Then there is the continuing shallowness of all scenes featuring our supposed villains. I've come to dread these, because they boil down to one of two scenes: A) A baddie kowtows to a higher-ranking baddie, who in turn kowtows to an even higher-ranking one, and so forth up the line, with all conversations consisting of "Obey me or else!" "Y-y-yes, Master/Mistress. . . ." or B) A group of baddies gets together, apparently to plot or give progress reports, but it boils down to abovementioned one-upmanship, without having any effect on the plot.

And the circus that seems to be going on inside the main characters' heads. I've read a fair bit of fantasy, and am used to telepathic communication and the like. But Jordan overdoes it. Let's take a look at Rand's head, for instance. First there's the insane Lews Therin (and another guy). Then there's the matter with seeing Mat and Perrin whenever he thinks about them (all three try to push these visions away rather than using them for anything useful). And then he's formed a partial mind-meld with FOUR different women. He and Min are now having bizarre interactions in which they don't say or do anything, just sort of toss emotions back and forth. Then of course there's Mat with his dice and other people's memories, and Perrin and his wolves and his constant, irritating "sniffing" of people's emotions. Any one of these elements would be standard for fantasy; ALL of them is overdone. We can't relate.

Despite that whole mess, though (and numerous other weaknesses other reviewers have remarked on, and I will refrain from repeating), the book is worth reading if you're planning to see this epic through. Do what I did--skip #10 (maybe #8 or #9 as well), and get #11 from the library. In the meanwhile, read some GRR Martin and find out what REAL political intrigue looks like.