First Wheel of Time Readthrough, Part 11

Let’s get right into it: Knife of Dreams was a much needed kick towards a conclusion that the series desperately needed.  For quite a few books, the series had been dragging its feet, as if afraid to draw towards an end.  Confrontations were put off, villains would escape, and plot points just wouldn’t get resolved.  While the books weren’t bad, and sometimes were even enjoyable, it did get frustrating, knowing that the story had an inevitable conclusion but seeing little to no progress towards it.

KoD puts a quick end to all that.  Before the prologue even ends we are hit with a bunch of significant plot advancements: Galad kills Valda and becomes the new Lord Commander of the Whitecloaks (or at least a group of them) and is determined to lead them to the Last Battle; Suroth is revealed as a Darkfriend (something that perhaps had been hinted at before, but if so, I completely missed it) and that Semirhage’s plots involved the Seanchan this whole time.

The rest of the book follows a similar formula.  Either we see long standing plot points resolved, or we get build ups to big conflicts/resolutions.  The greatest of these has to be the Shaido’s defeat / Faile’s rescue.  There were times I honestly thought the Shaido were going to continue to be a pain in the ass all the way up until the last battle, as they seemed to have the remarkable ability to maintain numbers and strength of presence no matter how many defeats they suffered.  But the concluding scene with Galina after they were defeated once again had a sense of finality to it that no other scene in the series has even come close to matching and I would be seriously surprised to see them show up again in any kind of significant way.

The siege of Camelyn comes to an end and Elayne finally has the support she needs to become queen, Mat and Tuon are married (by Seanchan standards) and Tuon is returned to her people by the Deathwatch Guards, Rand captures Semirhage (at the cost of his hand), and the members of the Black Ajah cell that the girls were originally sent out hunting are captured (minus the ones that are already dead or effectively neutered). After so long not seeing any plot points get resolved, its easy to feel a kind of whiplash from the sudden change of pace.  Perhaps Jordan realized he did not have long left and really wanted to finish in time.  It is my understanding that he intended to finish the series in one more book, and it was Sanderson who decided the last book would have been to long and decided to split it, though at the rate Jordan was going in this book perhaps he could have pulled it off.

The world still has a ways to go to get ready for The Last Battle, though. The Tower is still split, though Egwene continues her struggle from the inside in what is actually a really impressive display from her.  I think this is the first time we’ve seen a character who was captured really turn it around on her captors.  And outside, it seems Aran’gar was finally uncovered, though she and her Aes Sedai puppet both fled before they could be captured.  The obviously evil Mazrim Taim continues to consolidate his clique of loyal supporters in the Black Tower, and after his appearance in the Epilogue, I am going to go ahead and reiterate the my theory that he is Demandred, doing his evil thing.  If that is not resolved before the Last Battle, the forces of good are going to have their hands full.

The big moment in the book is Rand’s confrontation with Semirhage and his loss of a hand.  Shocking isn’t really the right word for that scene, Rand is a ‘chosen one’ type character and is bound to suffer even more before the series draws to a close.  But it was certainly a very intense scene.  And now everyone knows he hears Lews Therin in his head.  That is certain to have some consequences.

It is a shame Jordan did not get to finish his series, though my experiences with Sanderson promise that the final few books won’t disappoint.  Jordan set out to write a world and story that is massive in scope, and while the series has had its ups and downs, its hard to argue with what he managed to accomplish.    The remaining dominoes are all set up, and now Sanderson just needs to knock them down.

Some thoughts:

Is Elayne stupid, or does she just really have an issue with growing up? Everything worked out in the end for her cause she has protagonist advantage, but choosing to personally try to capture the members of the Black Ajah, when she has so many duties and responsibilities, was just really, really dumb.  The rescue effort after she was captured killed many of her followers.  She has a habit of taking offense whenever someone tries to keep her out of danger, like its her job as queen to keep risking her life.  Really, if it wasn’t for whatever destiny surrounded her, she would just be a terrible choice for queen.

There once was a man named Rand,
Destined to save all the land,
Talks of peace undertaken,
Turns out she was Forsaken,
And now he has lost his hand.

We got to learn a bit about Tuon.  She had her own prophecy about Mat, which explains her initial interest in him.  I grew to like her as a character over this book, though her close-mindedness is a bit frustrating.  I understand that is a Seanchan trait, but for someone who believes in portents and omens, her inability to accept things such as ta’varen or the existence of shadowspawn is really strange.  If she calls something ‘superstition’ one more time… At least I think she was properly humbled by Mat’s battle tactics.

I’m not sure what Semirhage’s plan was tricking Rand into meeting her. The fact that the first thing she did upon being revealed was chuck a fireball at him suggests that she wanted to kill him, though how she would have dealt with Moridin’s wrath had she succeeded I have no idea.

Poor Aram.  He was so dedicated to Perrin, I don’t know how Masema managed to corrupt him.  Aram saw Perrin fight the trollocs, he was there when Perrin took in the Tinkers to protect them.  And then Masema manages to escape.  He will get his eventually.

Rand was unable to make a truce with the Seanchan this book, but some groundwork is there.  Perrin worked with a Seanchan commander and they developed a mutual respect, Mat is now the prince and known to the Deathwatch Guards.  All that remains is for Rand to build upon their work. And, of course, somehow overcome the conflict with the Seanchan’s treatment of casters and the Aes Sedai which…might be hard.

Ghosts are walking around, corridors are shifting, villages are sinking into the ground.  Scary stuff.  I am amazed that most people seem to be taking it in such stride.  You’d think every place would be as bad as Creepytown.

The Dark One’s plan to spoil all the food is just a dick move.  I mean…it’s effective, cutting off food will cause people to lose morale, if not just outright starve.  Still, I can’t think of any other villain in fantasy that has gone that route.  Probably cause its not particularly interesting reading about people trying to eat spoiled food.

So…Moiraine isn’t really dead, it seems.  Which, for Moiraine’s fans, must have been great, but seeing as her sacrifice was the thing that made her likeable in my book, undoing that puts her back in the ‘meh’ category. She was also the closest thing to a protagonist to die so far, and undoing that undoes the most impactful death of the series thus far.  Though looks like her rescue will finally answer all these long standing questions regarding the weird snake and fox people.

When did Thom and Moiraine become … close?  That letter certainly suggested a level of closeness that I can’t recall any scenes suggesting.

The WoT books have had some weird covers, but I think this one might take the cake.  Every time I picked up the book I felt the need to stare at it a little.  Just look at this:

Starting with Rand, who has grown a Grizzly Adams beard and seems to be reading his maps in braille while he stares stoically off at nothing is specific:

Then we have what seems like Davram Bashere, in which case he’s the closest to how I picture a character a cover has gotten.  Except for his eyes, which are like two soulless pools of darkness trying to suck Rand’s soul out of the back of his head:

But the one who really draws the eye is this giant Aiel:

I’m not sure if this is supposed to represent any one specific character, but whoever it is seems to be looking straight at the reader…like…judging us for taking amusement out of their life-and-death struggles.  “Thousands more have died in this book…are you satisfied yet?”

This one took a little longer cause I ended up rereading a number of the scenes more than once, though I did really want to consume this book quickly.  I may or may not read the next few faster depending on whether or not I can control myself.  And depending on how much Final Fantasy XV distracts me as well…

EDIT: I don’t typically place edits on these things, but it has been pointed out to me multiple times that the cover actually features Perrin and his companions, during the meeting with Galina, rather than Rand.  I made the mistake because he’s wearing the same outfit the character I have ben referring to as “Handsome Rand” was wearing on a previous cover:

I checked Wikipedia and this is indeed Rand.  Note that he has the exact same hair color, exact same hair part, and really is just missing the beard. Also note that the Perrin in KoD’s cover does not have any yellow eyes, which you think an artist would make a distinguishing charastic.  If anything, the fact that I mistaken the character only makes the cover more bizarre.

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