Wheel of Time Reread #7: A Crown of Swords

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

ACOSCoverA Crown of Swords is where the books start to really slow down – the whole book takes place over a couple of weeks, along with some events from the previous books from other perspectives. There’s a definite shift in writing style, there are more flashbacks and retrospectives, and more things happen off-screen. For instance, we see Sevanna’s view of Dumai’s Wells, and Egwene’s POV way before Moghedien goes missing.

Rand continues to make preparations to attack Sammael, and he is finally killed at the end of the book (although by Mashadar, not Rand). The Crown of Illian is offered to Rand (and renamed the Crown of Swords) – now he controls the Aiel, Illian, Tear, Andor and Cairhien. Aside from that, Rand doesn’t do a lot in this book – he does a lot of political maneuvering and moping. (Yeah, I know Rand has a hard life with immense amounts of responsibility, but it’s still not that interesting, despite all my sympathy).

Cadsuane finally shows up! I know she’s very polarising, but I love her. She’s the one Aes Sedai that doesn’t mind saying what she thinks, and although she treats Rand with little respect, I think it’s good for him that he sees that not everyone who wants to help him is either intimidated by him or loves him.

We finally meet some honourable nobles – the Cairhienin Lord Dobraine was shown to be honourable at the end of the previous book, but it continues here. We also meet Cairhienin Lady Caraline and the Tairen Lord Darlin, who were rebelling against Rand – one would assume that that meant they were annoying, but we find out that they’re just concerned about their homelands, and are actually pretty cool people. That’s what I love about Jordan’s books – he creates stereotypes, but then isn’t afraid to break them. Another example – we also meet someone from the Red Ajah that’s actually nice, hey Pevara! I think Teslyn is actually pretty cool too, although it’s not made clear in this book.

Morgase continues having the worst time in the world – she’s coerced into sleeping with Eamon Valda, and then the Seanchan attack and ask her to be their puppet ruler in Andor. She finally escapes, though (but as I recall from future books, she’s headed straight to Sevanna’s camp).

Nynaeve finally gets over her block! Maybe now she won’t be so angry all the time, since there’s no advantage anymore. I hope so, anyway. Oh, and Lan and Nynaeve get married, and everyone else thinks Lan is nuts but also step even more lightly around Nynaeve now. I can’t help but like Nynaeve, despite her total craziness, but I concur.

I like the story with the Kin – it advances the plotline of “how far the Aes Sedai have fallen” even more, and they seem like good people. I also like the Elayne and Nynaeve corral the Sea Folk Windfinders, and they all get out of there before the Seanchan arrive and make everyone damane (I’m attributing that to Mat’s lucky ta’veren-ness, since no one knew the Seanchan were attacking except for Nynaeve’s vague premonitions of a storm coming). And they even manage to find the Bowl of the Winds! And they apologise to Mat and start being (somewhat) nice to him!

Mat continues to be my favourite character – the scene I was waiting for where Mat and Birgitte realise who the other person is, and get drunk while reminiscing over memories of thousands of years ago… yeah. That’s one of my favourite scenes in the Wheel of Time. I forgot that the Horn of Valere connected them both, I was just assuming they’d get along because of their personalities. I also loved the moment where Mat realises that Birgitte is a woman that doesn’t confuse the hell out of him, and that women like that apparently exist.

The whole Mat/Tylin story always left me uncomfortable, especially the way everyone laughs at him about it. Reversing the genders would make it a horror story, but this is a problem that Jordan always has. Mat does have a bunch of funny moments though – especially the scene where he has different Aes Sedai factions pulling at him from different sides… literally, until his coat comes off. I’m so mad that Mat isn’t going to be in the next book.

Other things – I don’t think I picked up that Dashiva was Osan’gar on my first read. I knew there was something off about him, but I thought he was just going insane as male channelers are wont to do. Also, I was really confused about Elaida building a palace for the Amyrlin where she was clearly also worried about the Last Battle coming up, but Leigh Butler’s Wheel of Time reread points out that she’s being influenced by Mashadar/Mordeth since she was hanging out with Padan Fain earlier. Makes some sense. I’m sorry for what happened to Colavaere (I wish Rand didn’t have his Woman Hangup), but at least I’ll stop being reminded of this song.

I guess I should say a bit about Egwene, but there wasn’t that much – she’s still trying to consolidate power, and she’s fighting with some Forsaken-given headaches. And she’s taking after Rand (although she doesn’t know it) and demanding oaths of fealty from people. I thought Egwene was a lot more awesome in my first read, and I still can’t see why.

Last but not least – welcome back, Ishmael! You’re way better as Moridin-with-a-mysterious-connection-to-Rand than as “Ba’alzamon”.

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