Thursday, May 13, 2010
From what I've gathered, Knife of Dreams was lauded back in 2005-2006 as a sort of "return to form" for Jordan. The MMPB page count reached 860, so perhaps if "return to form" means writing a bunch of pages, then this book achieved that goal admirably. If "return to form" also means that the author continues to repeat too many descriptive details of his characters and having an over-reliance on "national" stereotypes to substitute for uniform substantive character development, then maybe Knife of Dreams accomplished this as well.
But on the whole, this was a better reading experience than the previous two novels. There were some long-awaited (and long-delayed) subplot resolutions that take place here. There was a slightly greater sense of urgency, whenever the characters did not stop to sip their peppermint-flavored tea served on a silver service. And there was one romantic relationship that managed to outdo Stephanie Meyers' travesties. In a world (again, plug in that late, great movie trailer guy's voice) where virtually all relationships feel light as a feather and stiff as a board (those readers in their mid-30s to mid-40s might get that reference), the interplay between the mischievous Mat and his bride-to-be, the Seanchan Daughter of the Nine Moons, Tuon, is actually well done. When it seems some characters *cough*Rand*cough* fall in love (or have someone fall in love with him) at the drop of the hat, this budding romance was not as offensive to read, although there were a few times where it felt as though the relationship was taking place more due to "prophecy" influences than anything "natural."
However, the Mat/Tuon scenes are pretty much the sole highlights on this novel. Although he wasn't off-screen as much as in the previous volume, Crossroads of Twilight, Rand appears in a handful (pun?) of chapters and outside of one confrontation with a Forsaken in disguise, his chapters pretty much only detail that he's "hard" and wants to get "harder." If only character Viagra were available to him, then perhaps he would have accomplished this. Very little character development here outside of the above-mentioned "hand" issue and the "hardness."
Egwene's time as a captive in the White Tower was slightly interesting, but it felt a bit too abbreviated and rushed in places (a strange thing to say about this series, where a paragraph substitutes for a well-worded phrase or sentence). It is obvious that her travails are meant to show a marked difference between her ability to "embrace" pain and the unwillingness of the Tower Aes Sedai to confront their fears. It's just that the way her chapters were interspersed among other subplots led to this sense of there being a solid, cohesive development (this is rectified in the most recent book, I should note).
Elayne's scenes could have used more cowbell, if not more bath. The murder-mystery plot was rather clumsy to read and its resolution was so melodramatic that I think I heard Wilkie Collins yelling that he wants his moonstone back. The problem with trying to have a political intrigue subplot is that if the intrigue is not there, the political aspect (especially if it's for an imagined "country" like Andor) is going to fall flat and that is what I think has happened with Elayne's chapters the past three novels. Just not much interest in reading about these maneuverings, even if I suspect this was more to give her something to do until the big Last Battle breaks out in the storyline near future.
So while there is a slight uptick in plot "movement, on the whole Knife of Dreams is at best a tolerable novel and at worst, a melodramatic volume that makes readers roll their eyes at certain events. While I enjoyed it somewhat more than the previous few volumes, this is far from a "good" novel. The majority of the subplots failed to engage me as a reader, the prose continues to be pedestrian to clunky, and the characterizations still are more 2D than dynamic in character. Although I can understand why many fans of the series enjoy this volume, for myself it was just another description-heavy lull in a plot storm that may end up failing to make this series a worthwhile (re)read.
And since I already reviewed The Gathering Storm only a little over six months ago, my final WoT volume to be covered in this series will be the novel-size expansion of the novella prequel, New Spring. That commentary will be up in the next few hours.