Wheel of Time Reread #8: The Path of Daggers

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.

thepathofdaggersI have no pithy introduction for The Path of Daggers, so let’s get to it.

The biggest things that happen in this book is that Elayne, Aviendha and Nynaeve finally use the Bowl of the Winds and fix the weather caused by the Dark One, and Rand finally battles (and vanquishes) some Seanchan that were threatening his new kingdom of Illian. But of course, the fun parts of Wheel of Time aren’t the “big” things.

This book was a bit annoying because Mat wasn’t in it. I probably wouldn’t be so irritated about this, but last we saw, Mat was running around Ebou Dar during a Seanchan attack, looking for a ten year old boy. In this book, Rand pushes the Seanchan back to Ebou Dar, so we cover a lot more time with no whiff of what happens to Mat. Yeah, I know he meets Tuon and all that, but still, it’s annoying!

Egwene begins her road to awesome with this book, finally taking control of the Hall and using obscure legal rules to declare war against Elaida and give herself absolute power during wartime. I was wondering why they weren’t using Traveling to get to Tar Valon, but I guess the rebel Aes Sedai were generally dragging their feet – Egwene puts a stop to this and last we saw, the army was outside Tar Valon.

Some exciting things happen with Perrin’s camp – the Queen of Ghealdan joins them, the ex-Queen of Andor becomes Faile’s servant (no one knows who she is, of course) – probably the best time in Morgase’s life for the last couple of years. Elyas shows up! I love the Wolfbrothers, so that was pretty exciting. But then of course, she gets kidnapped by Sevanna’s group, so that ended – at least that’s the last of her troubles. (This also means Faile gets kidnapped and that plotline gets stretched out to forever and is probably one of my least favourites… but I’ll suffer through it).

The Consolidation of the women-who-can-channel into the White Tower begins, and that is one of the more awesome parts, even if it’s slow. Egwene gathers a thousand new Novices, Elayne and Nynaeve gather Windfinders and Kinswomen, although there’s a lot of friction there (I hope that gets resolved quickly). And Rand collects sul’dam and damane on his battles against the Seanchan – I think those join, too.

What does Cadsuane end up teaching Rand? I love that her tactics of ignoring him worked and he’s asked her to be his advisor. He also gets a few more Aes Sedai to swear fealty to him – I can’t really approve of that, but I guess the Light can’t win without some dirty tricks. Although Rand being mad all the time isn’t doing any good, either.

Elayne finally reaches Caemlyn and starts consolidating her power. I can’t believe Dyelin’s willingness to support Elayne, but I guess she’s smart enough not to want the job of Queen, but dutiful enough to make sure someone good gets the throne. I don’t think I found that plotline that interesting on my first read, but we’ll see.

Other random things – the Shadow has had enough of the Forsaken trying to do their own thing, and is now putting them all firmly on a leash. Osan’gar tries attacking Rand with a few more Darkfriend asha’man, but he manages to avoid harm, and they escape – too bad. Nynaeve hasn’t learned to control her anger yet – she’s just madder because she likes being around Lan so much and knows it. Oh, and Rand has been thinking about cleansing saidin using Callandor, but quickly abandons that plan after he discovers Callandor’s flaw. I didn’t remember that happening, or even Callandor being used again. Good to know he had a plan, though, and that it involved Nynaeve.

Okay, onto Winter’s Heart and Mat. Mat, you’re never allowed to leave again.

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #8)
Tor Books, 1998 | Buy the book

“Naamah’s Kiss”, “Naamah’s Curse” and “Naamah’s Blessing” by Jacqueline Carey

Naamah's Kiss coverYes, I’ve been reading a lot of Jacqueline Carey lately. (wait until I get to my Robin Hobb backlog – I’ve got four trilogies and a book of short stories to review…)

I don’t think there’s an official name for this trilogy, just “the Moirin trilogy”, but it’s the third trilogy in the Kushiel’s Legacy world (my review of the “Imriel trilogy“, and the individual books of the Phèdre trilogy: Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, and Kushiel’s Avatar.) It’s set a hundred years after the events of the previous books and features an entirely new protagonist – Moirin mac Fainche of the Maghuin Dhonn, who happens to be half D’Angeline. I pretty much have the same cricitisms and things I love for all three books, so I won’t be reviewing them separately.

Jacqueline Carey writes beautifully, I love the lush descriptions of her world, and I was really excited to see more of it – Ch’in, Bhodistan, Vralia, the Tatar steppes – even the New World! I thought the way Raphael ended up using Caim’s gift was ingenious. I love her subtle use of words, I love her characters, I love her twist on the “love conquers all” cliché.  I can’t not enjoy a Kushiel’s Legacy book… but these books didn’t live up to the previous trilogies. Here’s why:

Naamah's Curse cover

  • Moirin’s diadh-anam: As a child of the Maghuin Dhonn, Moirin has a very convenient thing called a diadh-anam. Whenever Moirin has to make a decision, it’s simple – she consults her diadh-anam. If it’s leaping, she says yes. If it’s still, she says no. This always turns out to be the right choice, and this means Moirin never has any internal conflict and turns out to be a Mary Sue. Her diadh-anam even points her to the direction she needs to go in next – it gives the idiom “moral compass” a whole new meaning. Very occasionally, her diadh-anam is silent, but Moirin ends up making the right choice anyway, and it leaps afterwards
  • Bao:  Bao is the worst character. He’s absolutely unbelievable. In Naamah’s Kiss, he’s surly and resentful, although a good fighter and protective of his master.  Then after a few months, Moirin realises that he’s beautiful? By book 2, he’s Moirin’s one true love and his character has changed completely – he’s now stubborn and confused, trying to figure out his feelings – kind of similar to Joscelin in Kushiel’s Chosen. In the third book, despite his ordeal at the end of the second, he’s suddenly a loving and patient husband – also like Joscelin in Kushiel’s Avatar – except he’s nowhere as awesome as Joscelin, and suffers by comparision. He should’ve been his own character – instead it seems like his character serves the plot rather than developing realistically.
  • The white savior: Like I said above, Moirin is very much a Mary Sue. Wherever she goes, she ends up finding sympathetic ears and changing the face of the society. In Ch’in, Snow Tiger ends up defying her father (something that never happens) to save the realm. In Vralia, she converts a fundamentalist Yeshuite to see the power of love and inspires him to go preach about it. In Bhodistan, she persuades the Rani to abolish the castle system. In Nauhatl lands, she persuades the emperor to give up human sacrifice. Not only does this reduce the lands she visits into stereotypes,  it’s just annoyinNaamah's Blessing coverg! Phèdre and Imriel manage to save the world multiple times without falling into this trope – Phèdre visits Khebel-im-Akkad without effecting women’s emancipation and Menekhet without changing the Hellene perception towards natives. Imriel visits Caerdicci Unitas without changing the stigma against homosexuality. It’s made all the more annoying by Moirin’s observations about how she’s not as good as the legends Imriel and Phèdre.
  • Moirin herself: Okay, Moirin is not that bad – she’s just bland. She has very little internal conflict because her diadh-anam tells her what to do, she’s Naamah and Anael’s child, and that makes her desires a lot tamer than Kushiel’s chosen, so that part  isn’t as much fun either. She had a lot of promise when she was a cave dwelling half-wild girl needing to understand D’Angeline society, but she figures that all out really quickly, which is boring. She’s just nice and kind and she has a destiny.

I still enjoyed the series, and if Carey wrote other books in this world, I’d pre-order them in an heartbeat. But I’d hope fervently they were more like the Phèdre and Imriel series’ than this one.

The Moirin trilogy is  Naamah’s Kiss, Naamah’s Curse and Naamah’s Blessing.

Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey (Moirin Trilogy, #1)
Tor Books, 2009 | Buy the book

Naamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey (Moirin Trilogy, #2)
Tor Books, 2010 | Buy the book

Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey (Moirin Trilogy, #3)
Tor Books, 2011 | Buy the book