Robert Jordan didn’t waste any time in making it clear that KNIFE OF DREAMS was going to make up for the wheel-spinning that soured the last few books, especially CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT. After reading CROSSROADS, I recognized it for what it was – a book designed to set up the climax of multiple plotlines – but that didn’t make it any less frustrating.
In KNIFE OF DREAMS, we finally start to see the payoff. In the past, I’ve been frustrated by Jordan’s prologues, which have often extended almost 100 pages without any clear point. This time, he did it right – 13 pages of action with an interesting peripheral character. After those 13 pages, I still wasn’t convinced that Jordan would continue his momentum, but he finally wraps up a number of storylines that had been left dangling for the past three to four books. There’s plot advancement, action, some character development – everything that belongs in all fantasy books, to be honest, but had been missing in the recent WHEEL OF TIME installments.
The sudden shift actually makes it hard to judge this book on its own values. Is it a great book? I don’t think so, but I read it immediately after CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT, and in that context this book has been a tremendous breath of fresh air for the series. As disappointed as I was at the end of CROSSROADS, I’m that excited to read the next book in this series, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that.
Of course, I say this in 2013, when I know there are three more books remaining. At the time KNIFE OF DREAMS was published, it was supposed to be the penultimate chapter. Had I read it upon publication, I likely would have been worried that Jordan would try to wrap everything else up within a single tome, as there still remain a significant number of unresolved plotlines. But knowing what I know, I end this book feeling good about where the series stands (even if it did take way too long to get here) and I’m glad to see that Robert Jordan’s final book was a strong installment. No matter what you say about the middle books in this series (and I’ve been as critical as anyone), Jordan deserved to go out on a high note.