Eight books out of fifteen completed, if we count the prequel. When I made the decision to re-read The Wheel of Time novels I had read before, in preparation for reading the ones that were new to me (or just plain new altogether), I knew it would take a while, but I have to say, it’s taking a little longer than I thought. Granted, I paused my reading of this volume in the middle so I could read Robopocalypse and Frankenstein, so it really hasn’t been all that long to finish this one — only three weeks of actual reading.
Stopping in the middle and picking it back up again could conceivably have led to a diminishing of this book’s appeal as memory fades. But in truth, I don’t think I would be rating it much higher if I had read it one go. Most of the interesting stuff happens in the first 25% of the book.
Where A Crown of Swords felt like Robert Jordan had remembered pacing, here it’s slowed down again. There’s some resolution and building on events of the seventh book, but mostly there’s just a whole lot of shuffling going on. Different events are put into motion, but very few are resolved in this book, and in truth very few are even put in an interesting position in this book. It’s a novel that feels like an extended case of the waiting game, where perhaps the setup is necessary, but I find myself wanting it to just get on with things already.
There are a few battles in the novel, which would ideally add some action and interest in the novel, but here it all just kind of falls flat. Jordan doesn’t seem to know what to do with the battles in this case, and they mostly take place off the page.
There is some character development, and the necessary advancement of certain characters, particularly Egwene al’Vere, but for every change to a character’s status quo, there’s several chapters that are spent setting it up… which is sometimes necessary but more often feels like the pacing is just dragging its heels. I’ll also note, with some wry amusement, that Jordan still seems to have trouble juggling his various protagonists, and the character of Mat Cauthon — one of the three leads in the first book — is as absent here as Perrin (another lead) has been in other novels. Since he’s usually an interesting character, or at least has interesting things happen to him, this is a bit of shame.
The end of the novel was something of a disappointment. Big events finally happen, but only the barest beginnings of them are shown. The last chapter is essentially just relating rumors of the outcomes. It’s all very anticlimactic, and presumably the next novel will actually deal with those events, but it leaves this one feeling rather unfinished. In the end, the very uneven pacing of the series continues with an unevenly paced novel.