I have finished PATH OF DAGGERS, but I still haven't done a blog post on CROWN OF SWORDS, so we'll do that one first.
One of the things I went into this series wondering was if I could pick out why some readers grew frustrated with the series around books seven and eight. I went into this book during this particular read-through expecting it to be one of the weaker ones in the series, and yet, I found it to be one of my favorites.
Those of you who read my initial Dragonmount interview will recall that the scene in this book where Nynaeve overcomes her Block at the bottom of the river, while Lan races to save her, is one of my very favorite in the entire series. I felt that the foreshadowing of the events here worked perfectly, and the character growth for Nynaeve over the last few books has continued to grow her as one of my favorite (if not my very favorite) viewpoints to read.
Rand's character progression is also deftly handled, though he is going the other direction, in many ways. He is becoming harder and harder as he suffers more and more (the beatings in the last book didn't help either.) Part of me wonders if this character progression, which I find marvelously done, is part of what drove readers to complain about these later books. If that is the case, then they are missing one of the great aspects of the series, in my opinion. Rand is particularly heroic in how he faces so many difficult challenges, being beaten up physically and mentally, yet continues on despite it and even retains a large measure of his inner nobility.
I object to complaints about pacing. I thing the pacing across the series has been even, and I certainly didn't find this book to be any slower than previous volumes. However, perhaps that's because I'm able to read these all through without any wait in-between. One thing that is happening is that as the series grows longer, the viewpoints per character grow less and less frequent. There are enough main characters with important plots that we can't spend an entire book focusing on just two or three of them like we did during the early books.
This series, as I've said before, is meant to be read straight through. I think, perhaps, that waiting two years for this book and then only getting a tiny slice of the overall story might be what caused complaints from readers. It's not that the writing quality went down (I think it goes up as the series continues) or that the pacing grew slower. I think that the problem is readers not grasping the entire vision of the story, which is difficult to do when you don't know how many books there will be or how long it will be until they are done.
I point as a counterweight to these complaints that when you CAN read the entire series straight through, the viewpoints work so well together that the books become an even greater masterpiece. The story is so complex and interconnected that you can often get your payoffs chapters and chapters away from the places where they are introduced. But they're all the more sweet for the complexity and delicate touch.
Anyway, that's all I can really say here, as this one and PATH OF DAGGERS are quite well blended together in my head now. (As I think they were meant to be.) I'm on to Book Nine tomorrow. I should begin work on Book Twelve before the end of the month at this rate.
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