Knife of Dreams revisited

There are some distinct differences in my opinions of Knife of Dreams between the last time I read it and today. Well, okay, more like “…and a week or two ago.” But still, the differences have stuck with me. All of them are down to my knowledge acquired between now and then, of course. The book certainly has not changed, but I have.

One change is a matter of expectations. I made some notes about Perrin’s character development that I stand by for now, because, sad as it seems, I really remember almost nothing about what happened in the next two books. Which is to say, books I’ve already read may have satisfied my complaints, and yet I wouldn’t know it. But except for that, a lot of things happened that, yep, my opinion has subtly shifted over the intervening seven years. I’ve already made the point several times, I think, over this reread that the two year gaps between each book harmed the flow of the story a great deal, in peoples’ perceptions at least. This time, that realization has unlocked another thought in my head, as to how Jordan uses prophecy and how a decade on rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan may have come between my understanding of the plotting of these books and the author’s actual intent. My example, which of course contains spoilers, will fall in a footnote[1] below the cut.

But the other change related to my knowledge of reality. See, a few years after the book came out, its author died. I am still grateful that there are more books to read and review, but knowing that this was the last book in the series entirely written by Robert Jordan of course changed the way I felt about it, this second time. For one thing, I’ve slowed down a lot again. Part of that, I’m sure, is because I’m also drawing near the end of the story, and I don’t want to leave. I know I’ve not wanted to leave stories before, but this is the most immersed I have ever been, and a brief depressive period is bound to follow. But so be it, I’m still just as grateful as I was  three sentences ago that it didn’t end in 2005, incomplete, as it might well have done.

Still, despite my sadness, there’s a last thing different between this book and all the others. It’s the first one I’ve only read twice (at least, in years upon years), and it was good to note that there were still a few scenes where my blood got pumping and my sense of wonder kicked up a notch and I was genuinely excited, even having a decent idea of the outcome, to see what would happen next. Because, despite some missteps, Jordan really was an incredible author, and I’m still sad that he’s gone. I hope I don’t forget that, now the story’s over and done. Because the original versions of the final entries in his series are not the only ones collected in Morpheus’ library of unwritten books.

[1] So, Aram, right? Not just the “tinker with a sword” viewing, but other viewings and dreams related to the darkness around him, and the eventual betrayal and (let’s be honest) shockingly rapid resolution of his story. Which left me to wonder, after the fact, what did Aram accomplish? He really didn’t do anything as Perrin’s ally that Perrin couldn’t have accomplished without him, and he was entirely meaningless as Perrin’s foe. I see how his arc was very important to Perrin’s character development, his choice between creation and destruction, and his probably very important future beyond the Last Battle. The upshot is this, though: viewings and dreams and foretellings are about plot, not character development. So, why so many portents about Aram when he is not particularly relevant to the plot? The answer, I have realized, is that the Pattern isn’t obligated to provide foreknowledge of things that are important. It only has to provide foreknowledge of things that will happen. Yeah, plenty of Min’s viewings are entirely important, but plenty of them are “that orphan will starve to death” or “that crofter will get married”. All of the portent was provided by us the readers and discussers. I don’t know if this should be unsatisfying; it seems like maybe it should, but it really doesn’t bother me. Then again, very little about this months-long dive into Jordan’s world has, so take this as you will.