Before we move into Brandon Sanderson land, I have to say some things about these books, and Robert Jordan as an author: I love them. I hate them. I just can not quit them. It has been a while since I have talked about them here, and there are a few thoughts I can not hold back any longer (don't worry, there are no spoilers in this post).
Knife of Dreams felt like a return to what made Wheel of Time good. It was a refreshing read; especially after Crossroads of Twilight (book ten), which was more than 800 pages of overly-descriptive writing that did not seem to move the plot line of any of Robert Jordan's 522 characters forward a single inch. I know I have said this before, but it bears repeating: Robert Jordan needed some major editing. Never was this need for editing more apparent than in books eight and ten.
As I continued to read Crossroads of Twilight, I decided that wasn't entirely the case. I think Jordan realized he had all of these characters who we hadn't heard from in a while, and he wanted to remind the readers (those of us who weren't keeping a spreadsheet of character names and aliases) who those characters were, and catch their stories up with the timeline. The execution was not as good as his past work, but the spirit of the idea was good.
Unexpected feelings about Jordan, Martin, and death.
Robert Jordan should have visited the George R.R. Martin school of writing. Only for a day - long enough to learn how to kill off a few characters. I have come to believe that the only thing that will help to bring this story to an end is the death of many.
I don't just mean deaths at the battle of Tarmon Gai'don, seemingly the ultimate destination of this story; I mean kill them now.
Kill them now. Kill them quickly. And please, for the love of words, kill them without describing what they, the killer, the maid down the street, and the dog next door are wearing at the time of the murders, or what kind of furniture was in the room.
I'm hesitant to say that, not only because it makes me sound a little blood thirsty, but also because I fear he probably would have chosen to kill off all of my favorite characters. Isn't that always how it seems to happen? I honestly don't know how I could bear to finish reading this series if he was to kill Loial, who will always be my favorite character, even if he does not get to have a large part in the majority of the books.
(If you know something about Loial, or any other character, living or dying, please don't tell me. I am already dealing with Thomas trying to give away the end of the series at every opportunity.)
Regardless of that fear, I stand by my assertion. The Wheel of Time world has gotten so big, and the list of characters so expansive, that it is out of control by book ten. For the first time I feel a little bit of sympathy for George R.R. Martin, and his choice to freely kill his characters. Clearly there comes a time when you can't keep following each person you have introduced into your world. Martin jumped to the kill place much earlier than necessary in A Song of Ice and Fire, but Jordan seemed to pretend that the kill place does not exist at all, which might be even worse.
(The following paragraph is brought to you by the letter "E")
One more note about Jordan and his characters. For some reason I have yet to figure out, many of his characters are women with names that start with the letter "E". I know this is extremely nit-picky, but when I opened book eight, only to be introduced to a Queen Ethenielle, I honestly wanted to throw it across the room and swear off saying any word with the letter "E" for at least a month.
I often sit in bed and wonder if Robert Jordan bought a baby name book at a garage sale, for character name inspiration, only to get home and find that all the pages belonging to letters other than "E" had been torn out.
685 named characters in Knife of Dreams), it moved much more quickly than Crossroads of Twilight. I felt that Jordan had a real vision where he was going with the story in this book. He still had his overly-descriptive moments, but at least they were describing important things. Mostly important things. Okay, there was a lot of clothing descriptions (keeping with my theory that Robert Jordan secretly wanted to be a fashion designer), and he continued to detail the specific length of hair and lacquered fingernails, but ultimately he was moving the plot forward in between those descriptions.
I fear that this post will make you think I do not enjoy these books. I really do like them. It is not a chore to read them. I am excited to see how the story will end. Although Sanderson is finishing the series, Jordan did write pieces of the final book, and shared his plan for the ending before he died, so they will still ultimately be his books. I hope. And I do recommend them as being great reads.
Think of the Wheel of Time books like family: They drive you crazy, and you are going to complain about them to your spouse and your best friend. But you will always love them, and you won't allow people who are not in the family to talk badly about them in front of you.
And unlike some families, at least you know Uncle Robert is not going to kill you. He just doesn't do that. Watch out for that George Martin guy that lives down the street, though. He seems a little dangerous, and I am pretty sure he has a knife up his sleeve.
How do you feel about authors who kill their characters?
What do you think about names that start with the letter "E"?