Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Path of Daggers

The Path of Daggers re-read at Tor Publishing

The Dreams and Speculation Discussion

I have to confess that I enjoyed this book more than the previous three books. I find that I'm more engaged in the good vs. evil context, and I'm less repelled, confused, or bored. That's not to say that all is good, but I feel more tolerant. Is it just me? Have I become more... submissive?

One of the most tedious aspects of the Wheel of Time (so far) is the unreflective dominance/bondage/submission theme. But I felt at least in Path of Daggers that the Aes Sedai played out the theme within a larger cultural background, more context-conscious and less prurient.  The reader sees the Aes Sedai clinging to the claims of knowledge and wisdom in their elaborate hierarchies even when actual knowledge is absent or lost, and that since the Asha'man (male channelers) and Dragon Reborn have become realities, the Aes Sedai are losing their certainties and must become more individually engaged in problems of knowledge and action, not merely asserting dominance and superiority. In other words, they seem more human. The scenes of the worst cringing, by the Kin (the not-so-secret-after-all ex-Aes-Sedai society) are alleviated by the mockery they suffer from the Atha'an Miere Windfinder and Wave Mistress channelers, who as outsiders (with their own deeply hierarchical dominance culture) aren't especially impressed by the Aes Sedai. The Forsaken have a more peripherally menacing role in this book, so we're not entertained by extended gratuitous torture scenes, nor are there many detail-relishing Aes Sedai debasing scenes, and Egwene doesn't have her bare bottom spanked, thank the Light.

I had the distinct impression that Path of Daggers benefitted from judicious editing, rather more than Crown of Swords. There were cases where I suspected that would-be drawn-out scenes were cut down to paragraph summaries — quite a relief.

The book ends with a mess of cliffhangers, including (in no particular order, and probably incomplete):
  • What exactly is wrong with Saidin and Saidar (male and female magic forces) around the vicinity of Ebou Dar?
  • Oh no, Faile, Queen Morgase (pretending to be a servant) and Queen Alliandre and their entourages have been captured by Sevanna, the wicked Shaido Aiel leader
  • A darkfriend named Daved Hanlon is stalking Elayne, on the orders of Moghedien (forsaken)
  • There is a splinter group of Asha'man rebel assassins, including Dashiva, Gedwyn, and Rochaid, who are trying to kill Rand
  • It is suspicious that Verin is secretly practicing compulsion in her interrogations of Aes Sedai captured by the Aiel — is she Black Ajah?
  • What has happened to Mat?
  • How and why are the Forsaken helping the Shaido Aiel?
  • There is a darkfriend named Halima who is way too intimate with Egwene, and who is probably killing off Egwene's loyal servants
  • What did the Tower A.S. do when they discovered that Talene A.S. is a darkfriend?
  • Are the Seanchan creating an alliance with Masema, the anarchic and destructive Prophet?
All this is beside the constant undercurrent, "Is Rand going mad?"

Some good developments that occur in this book (in no particular order):
  • Finally Elayne arrives in Caemlyn and claims the throne, whew
  • Rand repels the Seanchan at great cost although doesn't fully eject them from Ebou Dar
  • At least some Asha'man seem loyal and useful to Rand (Flinn)
  • Sorilea and Cadsuane agree that Rand needs to learn qualities of compassion as a leader, which is not the kind of lesson you teach by dominating, so they seem at least potentially more beneficent
  • Many A.S. swear allegiance to Rand
  • Cadsuane and Rand reach a reasonable negotiated agreement about how she can advise him; presages character development in Rand
  • Egwene continues to succeed in her prosecution of her "game of houses" among the A.S. rebels, playing the strongest against each other, to her own political advantage, well done Egwene! This is the same strategy Rand uses in his multi-national army, as he keeps his friends close, but his enemies closer.
  • The A.S. sent by the White Tower to destroy the Black Tower are taken prisoner by certain arrogant Asha'man and turned into... love slaves! Really! Is it the Asha'man version of bonding a warder?
  • Masema is contacted by Perrin and agrees to meet with Rand, although he refuses to travel via a gate.
I'm having problems with the whole gate magic thing, the limitations seem too much like plot contrivances. It's hard to believe that one has to put the exit gate a week or more distant from one's travel goal, so that it takes many pages of treacherous and eventful travel to arrive at one's goal. This is ostensibly done 1) to arrive in a stealthy manner, and 2) not to hurt anyone when the gate opens. But they as much admit that trudging slowly across country isn't exactly a stealthy means of arrival.

So, after lots of dreadful snowdrift travel by Egwene's rebel A.S., they — whoop! — open a huge gateway right nearby Tar Valon. Um, why were they doing all that trudging, what did I miss? Did they have to practice a lot?


  1. I have to admit I wimped out on Robert Jordan after the first book. His characters just didn't engage me, and I kept seeing too many echoes of LoTR. I really, really wanted to like it though.

  2. Thanks for the comment, K. I wouldn't have continued reading it except
    1) I am interested to see what Brandon Sanderson does with the series,
    2) I signed on to TJ's Wheel of Time Reread, and I don't want to let her down!
    But I also found the characters shallow and unengaging, and the writing style is derivative of Lord of the Rings, and not in a good way. I was hoping for better, since the series has been so popular.