Knife of Dreams, the eleventh book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series follows the continuing adventures of an intrepid band (it’s fantasy; of course they’re intrepid!) of heroes in their quest to save the world… or for some, destroy it.
Central to the story is Rand al’Thor, known as the Dragon Reborn, a savior-in-the-flesh reborn in the form of a young shepherd from a small village. Throughout the previous ten novels, fans have watched al’Thor grow from a naive farmboy into a rock-hard ruler on a divine quest to fight the “Dark One,” the WoT equivalent of Satan.
When I first began reading the Wheel of Time, it was 1997 and only six books were published to date, with a seventh on the horizon. Like many others who came to the series late, I devoured the first few books and set in for the long wait for the next.
But only disappointment came. After the seventh book (though for some, this point seems to have come earlier), Crown of Swords, the series seemed mired in detail. Characters were spread all over the world, nations were disentegrating, and subplots were spinning out of control. It seemed impossible that Jordan could wrap everything up in the initially promised ten books (he didn’t), or even in twenty (looks like he’s not going nearly that far). Further, the books were becoming repetitive and bogged down in those subplots without getting to the real action — the impending Last Battle, the clash between Good and Evil and all the shades of grey between.
After several disappointing books, I picked this latest up with a sigh. I had to read it; after all, when one has invested nearly ten years in a series, what else is there to do? I’ve always enjoyed reading all the prophecy within the novels and have spent a good deal of time theorizing about the fate of certain characters. Two of the supporting characters, Min (one of Rand’s lovers) and Egwene (who has become a major character in her own right) have prophetic visions and dreams, and prophecy turns up in many other places in the books. These serve as clues to the final outcome, and the careful placement of those clues has always been one of Jordan’s strengths. Lately, perhaps, his only strength.
So I read it — and was utterly astounded. Here was the book we’ve been waiting for since 1997. Plot lines were actually wrapped up. Mysteries were solved. Disguised villains were revealed. Lovers came together, siblings were split apart, and destinies realized.
Best of all, we got to read the text of a letter for which we’ve been waiting for more than ten years. Yes, fans… Moiraine’s oft-mentioned letter to Thom Merrilin is reprinted here in full. I found I had to run into the other room and exclaim over it to my husband, who had no idea what I was talking about.
Even the writing was better in this book than in the last few prior to this. Jordan seems to have calmed down a little from the excitement of a guaranteed bestseller and gotten back to what he was doing in the first place, which is telling a story. Even better, he manages some fabulous surprises. Dedicated fans have pieced together much of the story from his clues, a fact of which Jordan must be aware, so he has searched for, and found, new ways to surprise us… as with the sudden deaths of several minor characters.
I have one major complaint with Knife of Dreams, however — the lesbians.
Don’t get me wrong; when the first whiff of homosexuality appeared, several installments back, I found it intriguing. Fantasy is typically the realm of the utterly heterosexual, and it was interesting to see a writer who would include even an innocent hint of homosexuality. The theme popped up several more times, even becoming part of a minor plot spike, but in KoD it seems every third woman either is a lesbian, or has had some lesbian relationship in her life.
It gets very, very tiresome. None of it adds anything to the story whatsoever and in fact seems as though an adolescent boy tinkered with the manuscript after editing to add some level of titillation to the tale. If two-thirds of the references had been left on the proverbial cutting room floor, some of the plotlines might have advanced further and made for an even more satisfying denouement. As it is… well, after the sixtieth time the words “pillow friends” appear in the book, you can’t do much more than roll your eyes and speed up the reading of that particular passage.
I’m still uncertain that everything can be completed in one final book, but events surely are marching straight for the Last Battle now, and this book is a glorious prelude to that battle. It’s not perfect, by any means — some sections could have been cut or shortened considerably, and some characters (like Rand himself) could have used a little more face time, but it’s wonderful to see the series picking up again. Now I’ll chew my nails and wait for the last installment instead of forgetting about it until the novel is announced.
The LegendaryMonkey is also Alisha Karabinus, a blogger and writer in Little Rock, AR. Find out more at Sudden Nothing.