A Crown of Swords

I consider A Crown of Swords to be the most underrated volume in the Wheel of Time. Not because of how incredibly good it is (although, to be clear, it’s very good), but because of how fashionable it was to absolutely hate the book upon release. Yes, there were people dismissing the series by the sixth book and even the fifth[1] one, but here in book seven is where it became fashionable to do so. And I will not lie, I was very much That Guy my own self.

I even know why I was so put out at the time.[2] Part of it was the horror of only ten days passing. Not because those ten days failed to be exciting and action-packed, but because each successive book had already represented a slowing of the pace, and if things had continued at that rate (they did not, but who was to know at the time?), future books were apt to dedicate entire chapters to treatises on the inflexibility of Lan’s facial expressions or on Elayne’s bathing habits. But mostly it was that the driving plot of the book (the quest for weather rectification in Ebou Dar) ended so abruptly, both without a satisfactory resolution and more importantly with an imperiled cliffhanger for my favorite character. And that was before I knew it would be a four year cliffhanger instead of the already untenable two I expected at the time!

So yeah, annoyances. But that’s the joy of this reread in a nutshell: no delays between one book and the next, I am reading the entire motherfucking series from start to finish, with nothing in between, no other distractions of any kind, just the story all in one piece. It’s fair to say I came around on this book for its own merits years ago (it is the last one I had read three times already, I reckon) when I could see it as part of the whole, er, pattern instead of just for what it disappointed me by not delivering Right Now. But it’s also the book that has improved the most for me over time for that specific all-of-a-piece reason. Sure, it has slow chessboard parts, but the main-plot excitement parts are absolutely as exciting as any in the series, which I fear I will not be able to say about this next book.

We’ll see, I guess!

[1] I have a friend who was a little annoyed by my cavalier mention of Moiraine’s storyline in The Fires of Heaven, just as if he ever actually plans to finish the series, even though he stalled in that book something like eight or ten years ago now.
[2] Okay, immediately after the time, I should say. I do not believe that there is more than one book in this series (and quite possibly not that many) that I disliked while reading it. Only after the fact, when I was digesting what I had just experienced and contemplating what was (unfairly?) delayed to future volumes, have these annoyances ever cropped up.

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