Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review: The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

The Path of Daggers is the 8th book in the Wheel of Time series and as such is very difficult to review for it's own merit. I have been re-reading this series, but had stopped for some time.

Overall Impression
This is yet another good book in the Wheel of Time series. Being nearly in the middle of the series (book 8 of 14) means that it still plods along tidying up some plot lines and adding new complexities. The book itself is fine, but it feels incomplete by itself. You really need the prior and future books to really get at the story.
The plot section in this review will have some spoilers on the story up to this point. The characters are the same ones we've grown to love, though this book focused more on the women- Egwene, Elayne, Nyneave, and Aviendha feature prominently. Rand and Perrin do have viewpoints, though, and their plot lines advance too. As always, Rober Jordan features very strong women, a natural consequence of the world building. Hence, the women's thoughts can seem progressive and modern when placed in a middle-ages type world.


Plot
Spoilers in this section.

When I first read the Wheel of Time series, I went very fast going directly from one book to the next. Hence, I have a hard time remember which events took place in which book.
Last book (or was it two ago?), we saw the girls acquire the Bowl of Winds in Ebou Dar. In this book, we see them finally use it to fix the weather. This is the event depicted in the ebook cover, which is the version I used. We also see the assimilation of Illian into Rand's 'empire' after the battle with Sammael in the previous book, his attach against the Seanchan forces on Ebou Dar, and the attempt on his life by the Asha'man. A lot of pressure is on the Dragon Reborn to coalesce his forces and ready for the Last Battle, though that is still many books away. Perrin is a cool character, but I always felt his plot to be a bit dull (at least compared to Mat's and Rand's). I just don't care that much about the Prophet and Faile. It's impossible for me to recount here all the tiny, but significant, plot events that occur in books like these.

Characters
Part of the book focuses on the girls and some of the Aes Sedia, but we also switch to Perrin and Rand in their separate plot lines. Rand has started getting harder and harder, an ongoing process for the next few books, the consequences (and resolution) of which we learn in The Gathering Storm (Book 12). Egwene finally starts to get some respect, but she still has a ways to go.

One particularly thing I like in this series is that the character's style of speech is clearly distinct and heavily influenced by their country of origin. Very subtle changes in word order or in phrasing sentences go a long way to establish these patterns. The Illianer way of speech do be one of my favorites. Taraboners, they also possess a unique style, yes?

Setting / World Building
This is a Wheel of Time book, so the setting is already well established. We know the countries and how the magic system works. At this point in the series very little is being introduced, though we do get some more insight into the Warder bond and learn of the difficulties on learning second versions of weaves you are already familiar with. We also learn some interesting tidbits on Callandor and can see the gears moving in Rand's head about saidin and the most powerful sa'angreal.

Final Thoughts
Another fine addition to the Wheel of Time series. It is not my favorite, but it does have some cool moments. It's very difficult to judge a book like this on it's own worth since it depends so much on the prior books and promises so much for books to come. I'll be continuing my reread, but with many other books between these.

Next up is a break from epic fantasy by reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson.

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