One of the things I have to be careful of in my re-read is ploughing ahead without really reading the books. I need to avoid thinking I can remember enough of what has happened that I don’t need to really concentrate, in some way trying not to get bogged down in the annoying bits. A Crown of Swords has reminded me very clearly that I do not remember the story well enough, and that I do have to pay attention (mostly).
Despite covering a very short period of time (around 10 days), A Crown of Swords packs an awful lot of events in to the story, and that more than anything, sets it well apart from the previous two books. I accept I think, that Jordan believes political and emotional/relationship developments are just as important to the story as real progress in the war, or character development. However, to me they’re worlds apart and that’s why I enjoyed A Crown of Swords so much. The characters develop, the world progresses and we edge forward more in 10 days than we did in the entire previous 100 days in Lord of Chaos.
The story follows three different threads. Rand and his group, and their continued progress towards the attack on Illian, Egwene and her role with the rebels, and Nynaeve/Elayne and their progress in Ebou Dar. As before, the story picks up exactly where it left off in the previous book, and in fact, a little bit before that. In the prologue, we get the Shaido view of the Battle of Dumai’s Wells, which I really enjoyed. From there, the story progresses at a good clip, covering mostly those around Rand and Egwene for the first 12 or so chapters.
They were, I have to say, refreshingly good after Lord of Chaos. I found myself almost jubilant by the time I got a third of the way through the book. This was everything Jordan had promised previously but not delivered for a long time. Consistent characters, excellent exchanges and true character development.
After that the story starts to jump around a bit, with more PoV’s, spread between the three major groups. It did start to slow down for me here, and there were some truly agonising exchanges between Mat, Elayne and Nynaeve, but they were spread through with Birgitte and a few others, to put some honey on that kaf bitterness.
However, there’s a clear direction, and clear character progression for Elayne, Nynaeve, Min, Rand, Mat and a few others, and I really enjoyed that. The plot elements make sense, and I didn’t feel there was much wasted paper in general. Don’t get me wrong – there are still paragraphs of descriptive text that I just totally skipped across, and don’t feel I’ve missed anything at all, but generally I don’t feel there were too many chapters that could have been dropped altogether.
Generally the pace is good, and there are some very, very enjoyable scenes here. A favourite character makes a strong return, Elayne and Nynaeve make a startling discovery, and we begin to think just for a moment that it might not all be so bleak after all.
Until Padan Fain makes an appearance.
A Crown of Swords shows just how much change The Dragon Reborn is likely to bring to the world. It’s one of the better books in the first seven, and it was a real surprise to find how enjoyable it was against the memories of the two before it.
Be warned – the retrospectives are getting more spoilery, and this one may be very spoilery, for this book, the series, and all the books before it.
Well well, this was a real surprise. I’m not sure how much I enjoyed A Crown of Swords first time around, but I certainly did this time. Oh sure, there are annoying bits, and I had to skip over some paragraphs, but other than that it’s far better than I was expecting.
Once it got rolling I remembered a few of the things coming up (The Kin, Moghedian) but not anywhere near everything, and some of the reveals were like new. Very enjoyable.
I wasn’t looking forward to any of the scenes in Ebou Dar, I had memories of them dragging and dragging, but they weren’t as bad as I feared, and I quite like the moment Elayne snaps and truly discovers her backbone. I think the Aes Sedai are in for the biggest change of everyone in the land, and not all of it driven by the Dragon Reborn directly.
I have memories of the backlash this book faced when it was first released, covering only 10 days. How was the series ever going to finish people feared. I still understand that, but given how much the book actually drives the plot forward, I think it’s a moot point. The previous 100 days in Lord of Chaos changed almost nothing in the world until the very end, so I’m willing to forgive Jordan the short time-scale if he finally drives the story. I fear though, that book eight covers a longer period again, with even less happening – time will tell.
The Angry Spoilers
At this point, I’m too angry to care what I spoil. I might even spoil books by other authors (not really). Who knows. Reader beware.
What can I say that hasn’t been said in the previous 6 iterations of this section. Jordan uses too many adjectives, he focuses far too much on what people look like, how they dress, how they think about how they and other people dress, and the colour of every wall and piece of furniture in the world. I skipped paragraphs of this junk, especially in Ebou Dar. I know what they look like, you’ve told me two hundred times.
I was overjoyed when Nynaeve broke her own block. Firstly, it’s an excellent piece of writing from Jordan, with plenty of emotional undercurrents (that’s an awesome pun, read the book to find out why). Secondly however, it dispenses with the need to make her insanely angry all the time just to get her to channel. Hopefully Lan can take the girl in hand and finally get her calmed down.
I have come to realise that one of the reasons I dislike some of the characters is not only because they are stupid, but because they make constant and non-stop assumptions about everyone and everything around them. I try not to assume anything in life, I find it leads to making mistakes, upsetting other people and generally fucking things up. Of course, it also leads to far too much thinking and planning and stepping carefully around people – but I’d rather do that than make an assumption and screw someone else over. However, Jordan’s characters never ask, never engage, never discuss, they just assume. About each other, about the weather, about their intentions, and it’s that which leads to their downfalls, and that which leads to me hating them all so, so much. Elayne & Nynaeve are the two worst offenders, and so each time one of their chapters came up, I groaned inside.
There is one moment of contempt from Jordan, one reminder that this is only just the middle of his story. A moment in which I think he panicked about having gotten rid of Moiraine, and having polarised the Aes Sedai (Kill Rand vs. Obey Rand). Jordan introduces ‘the most powerful Aes Sedai ever’, a legend in her own time, Cadsuane Melaidhrin. It’s irritating on both levels, why someone so ‘important’ so late (and she’s not the only one, Moridin /cough), but also, she just happens to be the most irritating woman in the whole of Randland bar none. Ever.
But having said all that – there’s not a huge deal to moan about in this book. We make some progress and we resolve a few small threads.