I have very definitely never read this book before. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve not read (to any serious extent) the chapter summaries. As such, it’s the first book in the series that I was actually ‘excited’ to read, in my current re-read. I was interested in re-reading the previous ones, because I love many aspects of the story, but this is the first one that was going to feel new. It’s hard giving honest reviews of books you’ve read a few times, simply because so much is wrapped up in previous readings and expectations. It’ll be nice to be able to review this one without any pre-existing experience.
Brandon Sanderson defended book 10 in a blog post he wrote. He noted then, in 2008, that the book had received a score of around 1.5/5 on Amazon. He went on to describe why many people didn’t enjoy the book, and to try and explain why he did. So that you can avoid reading this review if you like – I’ll tell you where I stand before we get going. At best, this is a two star book.
Crossroads of Twilight takes place just before, in parallel with, and just after the events in book 9. Massive book 9 spoiler coming up. At the end of book 9, the climax of that story pretty much, Rand cleanses Saidin. He does it using the two huge sa’angreal. Using them is like a beacon to everyone in the world who can channel, so even the female channellers know something is going on, even if only the men realise what it achieves.
In this book, we get the stories of Mat, Perrin, Egwene and Elayne (all separate threads), and in each of them, there’s a moment where they all realise some huge amount of channelling is going on. We also get a short bit of story around Rand as well, clearly post-cleansing.
I don’t really mind how much real time passes in the story, as long as the story makes progress. The problem with book 10, like several of the previous books, is that the plot seems mired in it’s own complexity and we don’t make any progress. Oh, there’s manoeuvring of epic proportions within several groups, and a few small steps in various plot elements, but nothing significant really happens overall.
You really, really, have to love the political aspect of the Aes Sedai at this stage, or the history of Andor, to get any joy out of those story lines.
People seem to think the complaints about the book hover around the way Jordan tried to incorporate the cleansing in other character’s story-lines. To me, it’s neither here nor there. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t think it was brilliant either. The point is that it would have been achievable even if the plot actually made serious progress at the same time.
So we have Jordan’s long-winded prose. His desire to describe every camp-site again and again even if you know exactly how they look. If you leave one group of people for a few chapters, when you come back they’re all described for you in explicit detail once again. To that we add complex political and social manoeuvring that never actually affects the overall story. All surrounded by emotionally stunted characters.
Seriously, what’s not to hate?
There are some amusing moments with Mat and Tuon, but for me, that whole relationship is flawed, I assume Tuon is going to announce she knew this was coming because she’s read a prophecy or seen an omen, but it’s just too insane for it to work.
The most frustrating part of the book for me, are the Aes Sedai. There are 5 groups of Aes Sedai (rebels, tower, Rand-sworn, Cadsuane-posse, Aiel-apprentice) and each is split into further factions. That’s politically very interesting, but it must encompass about 50 or 60 characters you have to remember. When you’re dropped into another conversation in the White Tower between a bunch of Aes Sedai it takes you most of the 10 pages spent discussing their dress code just to remember who they are, even if you can remember.
I’m not good enough with names to do that, and I felt having a character card for each of them that I filled in as I went was a little bit over the top. It might be intriguing but it’s so heavily wrapped in useless words that it’s impossible to engage with.
Jordan truly lost himself with this book. He lost sight of the point of reading. For enjoyment. There’s little enjoyment to be found in Crossroads of Twilight, and nothing of note. You could skip this book entirely and miss almost nothing of events in the world. Given this is the first book I hadn’t read anything about, it’s disappointing to confirm it’s also one of the worst.
Some quite nasty spoilers here for the series to date and this book. Be warned.
I haven’t read this book before, so the retrospective is going to focus on how it stands up so long after it was written. I think Jordan accepted that the book didn’t work as well as he’d hoped, and it was pretty much universally panned by critics.
After such a long build up, and a promise by Jordan that the series would end around book 12, people expected at this point for story threads to be coming together, nearing their end. However, the book showed no signs of that and instead we got the following,
- Mat – making almost no progress physically or mentally in his escape from Ebou Dar
- Perrin – making almost no progress in rescue of Faile
- Egwene – making almost no progress in her siege of Tar Valon
- Elayne – making almost no progress in her claim on the crown of Andor
- Rand – having one idea, and in the space of 6 paragraphs confirming a deal with the Seanchan
I don’t understand how Jordan’s editor at this stage could read book 10 and think it was good and okay to publish. It only confirms my worst fears, that Jordan’s editor (I believe it was his wife, I could be wrong) was not objective enough, and/or not strong enough to guide Jordan to properly edit his work.
The Angry Spoilers
No spoilers, but plenty of anger.
Every time Jordan described the perfectly in-line cook fires in the cavalry camps, I wanted to murder someone. Every time Jordan told me the same thing about the same people over and over again, I wanted to burn the book. Every time someone ground their teeth, smoothed their skirts, pulled their braid, thumbed their knife blade, or made any quality of bow, curtsey or knee that wasn’t quite perfect, somewhere, a unicorn died.