Unlucky thirteen? Maybe. After hitting a rough patch, Jordan’s final books in the series have gotten a bit more compelling. This one was the last he completed before passing. Not his masterpiece perhaps, but a good way to go out, nonetheless.
I’m feeling more forgiving and almost appreciative of Jordan’s tics. Actually, they’re pretty good tics, it just that they’ve all been used a lot in the last ten books. But maybe because I can feel the end approaching, I am able to enjoy them again.
Mostly, I talking about this horror movie trope, where he shows you someone saying let’s go through that door and then shows the monster behind a door and then a show of someone turning the door knob.
Except, what he does is show the heroes prepare a cunning plan and then switches to a shot of some villain explaining how the hero is walking into her (and many of the villains, and certainly all the best villains, are women in these books – read into that what you will) trap.
The more or less hero, Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, is still kind of a whiny b—h. It’s really annoying, too. While using his magic, he still tends to get mopey and also car sick (I thought that when he cleaned up the male half of magical power, that was supposed to end?). And just in case he was in danger of becoming less irritating, Jordan burns his left hand clean off, so that everyone has an excuse to feel sorry for him and he can be an annoying tough guy. Ugh.
Mat, once again, figures prominently, but he’s in love and that makes him much less interesting.
Logain, the former false dragon gets some semi-prominent appearances. I can’t really explain who Logain is in the context of the story and mythology. I mean, this is book eleven. Eleven. I simply can’t go back and explain a whole muckety series of events and characters dating back ten books and roughly 8,000 pages. I have a life beyond this blog, you. I have hobbies. I have friends. Not many, but, you know, one or two. And I’m not a total nerd. I play D&D with real people. Grown ups, no less.
But my point: Logain is actually kind of cool, a little bad a– and seems relatively bright, competent, and good (morally speaking).
He almost makes up for Lan. Lan has been with us since the beginning, but Jordan has mostly ignored since the second book or so. Small scenes, but there’s been a definite effort to limit his importance. Which is good, because Lan is clearly a cheap knock off Tolkien’s Aragorn. I mean, a knock off to the point that, after reading the first book, you feel like Jordan should write a large check to the a charity of the Tolkien estate’s choice. As the series has progressed, Jordan has successfully created his own world, separate from Tolkien’s epic fantasy. But now, Lan as Aragorn is back. And, I guess it’s fine, but, it’s just irritating.
This volume’s immediate predecessor ended with a big set piece. Knife of Dreams ups the ante by incorporating several big set pieces in the last two hundred or so pages – and much less confusingly described so that the pay off feels much more worth the wait. Even better, some issues and concerns that have popped up over the last couple of books are resolved. Elayne becomes Queen of Andor. Perrin leads an army into battle to rescue his wife. Mat (as usual) has the best stuff – a couple of decently described tactical skirmishes and ambushes, culminating in a marriage to the heiress to the Seanchan imperial throne. Rand captures one of the Forsaken (that’s when he loses his hand), but (as usual), his set piece is less fun to read than the others. A couple of baddies get their comeuppance. Even better, almost every ongoing storyline but one gets resolved. I’m referring to the storylines of the main characters. Obviously, the final battle for the fate of the world hasn’t happened yet. It’s as if Jordan knew he would never complete another book and wanted to take responsibility for tying up a few fictional loose ends. And now I’m sad, because he’s gone.
I won’t lie. Some of my books lately have been shorter than others. Knife of Dreams is my return to something a little longer. And frankly, the last two books I read were disappointing, so it’s not like this is somehow less challenging or interesting. I’ll even say it’s better. Though I’m also hoping that the next book I read is better than Robert Jordan, in general.