Wheel of Time Book 8: The Path of Daggers

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.

Rating: 3 Stars

About Morgan R. Lewis

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14 Responses to Wheel of Time Book 8: The Path of Daggers

  1. Scophi says:

    I’m reading A Crown of Swords right now, but am interspersing other unrelated novels in between to intentionally drag out the series. (About to finish up an intelligent sci-fi called Existence by David Brin.)

    I start WoT almost two decades ago, only to realize that it was a series and would be a while before it was fully written. So I put it aside. I restarted about a decade ago, read to book 5 or 6, and realized it still wasn’t finished. Again, I put it aside. This summer I started over for the final time, know that the publication should be finished in a few more months. Still, I’m trying to take it slow.

    I have enjoyed the series and feel that he has really developed the world and the characters well. I definitely have my expectations about where the story is headed, but feel comfortable enough with Jordan to let him take me wherever he wants. I am unfamiliar with Sanderson, though, and am nervous about how the last set of books will be…mainly, do the characters feel the same, do they respond the same way, and does the tone of the story change. I guess those questions will be answered soon enough as I move toward books 12, 13, and 14.

    Like many good writers, I think that Jordan could have lopped off about 100-150 pages from each book. While the writing is good, the story gets a little thin in places. The series could have benefited from a stronger editor. (Stephen King suffers the same problem.)

    Since I have yet to finish the series, I can’t place it firmly in my rankings. But it’s tentatively very high on my list. My top five fantasy series are:

    1. Eddings – The Belgariad / The Mallorean
    2. Hobbs – The Farseer Trilogy
    3. Haydon – The Rhapsody Trilogy
    4. Williams – Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
    5. Donaldson – The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

    • Your experiences virtually mirror my own — I started reading the series in middle school about 20 years ago, and eventually decided to wait until it was finished, since Jordan kept stretching out how many novels it would be. Started my re-read back in May, I think. Like you, I haven’t read anything by Sanderson, so I don’t know whether it’ll feel the same when he takes over, though I’m at least encouraged by the fact that he’s working from Jordan’s outline for the ending, and Jordan hand-picked him to carry on the series after his death. (Given that Jordan had talked of living 20 years after his diagnosis with that rare blood disease, it was something of a pleasant surprise that he showed that much self-awareness, considering 20 years would have been pushing it at his age even without the illness.)

      I’ve read most of your top five series, save for Haydon. I’ll have to check that out sometime, since I at least enjoyed the others you pick, even if they wouldn’t all necessarily make my own top 5. Not sure what would at the moment, though; #1 would be Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, but after that, I’d have to do some thinking.

      • Scophi says:

        I met Jordan at a SC Library Association Conference back in 2000. He was a very interesting person to listen to. Even better was hearing him pronounce some of the character names in the WoT series. In my mind, I had always pronounced Nynaeve as Nin-uh-vee. He laughed and pronounced it Nye-nave. After 7 books, I’m still correcting my internal pronunciation.

        I did enjoy Amber, as well as The Sword of Truth (Goodkind) and Shannara (Brooks). They would probably be in my top 10. Rounding out I guess would be Mordant’s Need (Donaldson), The Time Master Trilogy (Cooper), and Dragon Prince/Dragon Star (Rawn). Wait, I think that’s 11. I guess one of those will have to go. Well, two when I finish WoT.

        Of course, I’m not including YA or comedic fantasy, like Harry Potter (Rowling), Artemis Fowl (Colfer), Landover (Brooks), or Discworld (Pratchett). Those are separate genres in my mind.

        • Oh yes, there’s definitely a good reason why the back of the books include a pronunciation guide… I pronounced it Ny-nuh-eve for a long time as well.

          Read most of your remaining top 10/11 as well, just missing the Time Master Trilogy. Also haven’t read Artemis Fowl, though I’ve been meaning to get to it one of these days. Liked most of it, actually liked Mordant’s Need more than I liked Thomas Covenant. The Dragon Prince/Star books were all right, but I didn’t get into them as much — but then, I was still fairly young at the time. I thought her Exiles books were better, but she never finished those…

        • Scophi says:

          I never noticed a pronunciation guide. We’re those in the original editions? I used to own the first 7-8 in print, but lost a good chunk of my collection in a divorce. Now I have everything on my Nook. It may still be in the back, but it’s not as easy to flip through an ebook as it is with a printed book.

          I’m slowly getting used to ebooks, There are some advantages, like being able to hold and flip through the pages with one hand…or being able to buy one for $7.00 at 2:00am. I still prefer print, but am comfortable with electronic.

        • Yeah, it’s in the back of the original editions, and some of the other print editions. Might be in the eBook editions as well, I have to be honest and say I haven’t checked. At this point I kind of figure if I’m mispronouncing it, oh well. 😀

          I mostly prefer print books, but I do see the occasional advantage to the eBooks. Such as with these, where I don’t have to hold an 800 page book with my hand.

  2. Rincewind says:

    Restarted as well since I quit reading after book 10 but have now gone through them and am finally starting on book 11 but yes, book 8 was a weak one…

  3. mistylayne says:

    I’m not familiar with this series – it sounds like something worth checking out for sure. 🙂

    • It depends a lot on how well you like epic fantasy novels… these things are long — the shortest of them weigh in at 500 pages, and 900 is more common — and there are a lot of them. And while most of them have been good, I wouldn’t say there are many great ones. Of course, I’m coming at it from the perspective of somebody who started them as a kid, gave up after a while, and is now re-reading them.

      • mistylayne says:

        I can go either way with the epic fantasy. Figure I’ll give the first one a go and if I like it stick with it. I’ll read ANYTHING at least once – my book stack is equal to my movie stack. 🙂

        • The first one is definitely one of the better ones (but then, that’s so often the case, isn’t it?) If you do check it out, let me know how you like it. I’m planning to plow through all the rest in the next few months (the final one is due out in January).

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