Wheel of Time #7: A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

Read: 17 February, 2015

I was talking to a friend recently about the pacing of these stories. Like many, he felt that the pace has been progressively slowing down, becoming intolerable (or near enough) around Lord of Chaos. For my own part, I hadn’t really noticed. There’s no question that I can recall a lot more of the specific events from the first book, but I’ve actually enjoyed the pace. I’ve enjoyed plodding through, seeing what micro-adventures the various characters go on, and generally getting to explore this huge world along with them.

Because that’s the really great thing about a massive series like this – we get to see so many places and meet so many people that the world really does feel very large. And I’ve found the world building to be very compelling.

After some discussion, my friend and I concluded that listening to this series on audiobook makes all the difference. When I’m “reading,” I’m also doing the dishes, or the laundry, or playing Minecraft. I’m free to focus when it’s very interesting, and to drift off when nothing much is happening. Were I reading the books in the traditional sense, I think that my tolerance for the pace (and for the quality of the writing) would be much lower.

In this book, we’re seeing the various characters fall into their places – Rand continues his quest to be King Of Everything, Egwene settles in as the Amyrlin of the Little Tower, we see Mat leading his military band, and Elayne and Nynaeve have another side quest.

Unfortunately, only Egwene’s plot line really interested me in this book. Her struggle to take the Amyrlin seat in more than just name showed us a lot of her character, and I found it very well handled.

Rand’s plot line suffered from his emo-ness. He does some stuff, but mostly he just sits around acting like a jerk to everyone and praying that he hasn’t gone mad yet. I can understand that this is where his character is, and I know that we need to see his inner conflicts, but he’s just rather annoying.

Elayne and Nynaeve make some discoveries during their side quest, but their Stuff Happening To Page Number ratio is very poor. And while I normally enjoy their chapters (the petty fighting aside), they are much mired by Mat in his book.

Mat is where it really falls apart for me. He is unbelievable annoying. I see people talking about how “funny” he is, but how is it funny for him to just talk over women, bully women, demean women, humiliate women, harass women, infantilize women, and then, in the few breaks he takes from all that, spend his time complaining about how he just can’t understand why the women around him think that he’s a jerk? His narrative provides no new insight into the inner lives of people who think this way, it merely repeats the horribleness that women have to deal with so frequently, and it’s annoying as hell.

Worse yet, Mat gets raped by a woman in this book. The scenes leading up to the rape are terrifying, yet despite feeling humiliated and taken advantage of, the most Mat is able to consciously express about the experience is how awful it is that he wasn’t the one doing the “chasing.” There’s some indication that Jordan, at least, was aware of how Mat’s own behaviour toward women is reflected by his rape – as when Nynaeve makes a comment to the effect of how he’s getting a “taste of his own medicine” – but it’s all treated in such a light-hearted way, as though the reader is supposed to find his rape and subsequent harassment amusing. I found that whole plot line incredibly disturbing – not just for what happened and Mat’s reaction, but for the way the other characters react to it when they find out.

As with the last book, one of my greatest complaints so far about this series is that Jordan cannot write romance. He seems to view romantic relationships as some sort of battle for dominance in which the female party must learn proper submission and humility.

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More books in the Wheel of Time series:

  1. Series: The Wheel of Time
  2. Prequel: New Spring (graphic novel version)
  3. The Eye of the World (graphic novel version)
  4. The Great Hunt
  5. The Dragon Reborn
  6. The Shadow Rising
  7. The Fires of Heaven
  8. Lord of Chaos
  9. Crown of Swords
  10. The Path of Daggers
  11. Winter’s Heart
  12. Crossroads of Twilight
  13. Knife of Dreams
  14. The Gathering Storm, with Brandon Sanderson
  15. Towers of Midnight, with Brandon Sanderson
  16. A Memory of Light, with Brandon Sanderson

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