“The trumpets of war shall sound at his footsteps, the ravens feed at his voice, and he shall wear a crown of swords.”-Robert Jordan, Crown of Swords
Warning! There will be SPOILERS up to and including book 7 of the Wheel of Time.
A Crown of Swords was published in 1996 and is the seventh book in the popular epic fantasy series, the Wheel of Time. In my opinion, A Crown of Swords (abbreviated ACoS) is deeply underrated.
This book had some of my favourite moments of the series, from Nyneave’s breakthrough to Mat’s fight with the gholam. Many agree that ‘slog’ begins around this book, but I didn’t find that to be the case.
Sure, there were certain moments that dragged, but the same could also be said of Lord of Chaos (Book 6), and even The Fires of Heaven (Book 5), yet they were still some of my favourite books in the series so far.
“Life is a dream—that knows no shade.
Life is a dream—of pain and woe.
A dream from which—we pray to wake.
A dream from which—we wake and go.
Who would sleep—when the new dawn waits?
Who would sleep—when the sweet winds blow?
A dream must end—when the new day comes.
This dream from which—we wake and go.”-Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords
A Crown of Swords begins with Perrin, during the aftermath of the battle of Dumai’s Wells. The whole scene with Perrin watching Rand decide what to do with Colavaere, in the chapter called A Broken Crown, was one of my favourites in this book, and perhaps in the wider series. It is one of those scenes the Wheel of Time does ever so well, where there doesn’t have to be an epic fight or groundbreaking event for a scene to slap.
And slap it did. Hard.
That then being followed by a touching moment between Perrin and Faile, made for a solid start to the book. After that, though, Perrin doesn’t really do much else. He refuses to lead the armies at Illian, and stages a fake argument with Rand, leading to him being sent on a mission to Ghealdan, to bring in the Prophet, Masema.
And he has Berelain and Faile accompanying him. No . . . nothing’s going to go wrong there, is it.
Probably the best part of A Crown of Swords was the whole ‘Bowl of the Winds’ plotline involving Mat, Elayne and Nynaeve.
Firstly, Mat. We start off with the guy watching a horse race. A horse race? Why? Honestly though, who cares. Mat could be watching snail’s playing chess and it would still be a great read. Then he somehow winds up with a signet ring bearing a fox and two ravens.
Hhmm. That definitely doesn’t mean anything, does it? Foxes, ravens, foxhead medallion, ashandarei, snakes and foxes, Aelfinn, Eelfin. Nope, I’m not getting anything.
I loved everyone’s reactions around him. The Aes Sedai squabbling over him and Mat just trying to stay low was hilarious, along with Mat meeting Birgitte. There’s three things that make a good Wheel of Time book. Mat, Birgitte, and a good tavern. Preferably all three together.
Also, it was priceless to see Elayne and Nynaeve being forced to apologise to him, especially while he was half asleep from drinking the night before.
I also really enjoyed the fight at the ter’angreal cache. Mat and company vs Black Ajah, darkfriends and a gholam. Mat’s fight with the gholam was thrilling, and the fact that his medallion can harm the creature when all other normal weapons fail? Those things are handy. Or necky, I guess, considering it’s a medallion . . . I’ll stop. They weren’t without casualties though.
May the last embrace of the mother welcome you, Nalesean.
One thing I did not like about Mat’s arc in A Crown of Swords was the whole Tylin and Mat stuff. That didn’t sit quite right. Saying that, what was even worse was when Mat told Elayne about it after, and she just laughed. Laughed. And Mat still offers her his foxhead medallion for protection against Moghedian.
“A girl or a fight, pouting lips or a flashing blade. Whichever dance you’re dancing at the moment is always the most fun. Wouldn’t you say?”-Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords
Now, Nynaeve. A Crown of Swords is the book which changed my opinion on Nynaeve. Before, I found her quite irritating, to be perfectly honest. After book 7, though, I find her much more tolerable. Although I would appreciate a little less braid tugging.
Probably the most iconic scene in the whole book, the chapter Mashiara, features Nynaeve breaking her block and marrying Lan. Man, what a scene that was. Moghedian (now freed), attempts to exact revenge on Nynaeve by balefiring the ship she’s on. The ship, of course, disappears from beneath her, leaving her rapidly sinking.
Nasty stuff, balefire.
Trapped at the bottom of the river, she has two choices. Break her block and channel her way out, or die. Wisely, she chooses the first. That whole scene though. Nynaeve’s fear and desperation, losing consciousness, then finally surrendering to her impending death, that act of surrendering being the thing required to break her block.
As you come to understand her character better, it’s even more impactful. Nynaeve is well known for her stubbornness and pride; it’s obvious she has a need to be in control of everything. For her to finally surrender, to tell herself, “It’s okay, I might die here, but there’s nothing I can do”, makes the moment all the more poignant.
And then Lan shows up to help. Boom. And then they get married. Boom. Aboard a Sea Folk ship. Boom . . .?
Nynaeve’s paradoxical sentences always make me giggle. This one was no exception: “Burn you, Lan Mandragoran! Burn you! Burn you! Burn you to the Pit of Doom! Burn you! .. We will talk this over calmly and rationally, as adults.”
I have conflicting feelings about the ‘Kin’. I hated the original chapter where Setalle Anan takes Nynaeve and Elayne to the Kin and they get scolded for pretending to be Aes Sedai. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve spent 30 minutes more annoyed than when I read that one. Eughh.
However, I did love it when Elayne stood up for herself with the other Aes Sedai in their ‘trial’. Yeah! Eat some of that, ya goat-kissing fools!
Sorry, too far.
And then she and Nynaeve head over to the Kin and repeat the process. Who’s the boss now, you mule-headed . . .
Begging your pardon. I just think A Crown of Swords raised the bar considerably when it comes to infuriating women. The two also gained some points retrieving the Bowl of the Winds and fighting the Darkfriends.
Although, after all the great things you did, Elayne, why leave without Mat? That’s like taking two steps forward, then ten back, followed by falling off a cliff.
A big cliff.
“Wounds to the pride are remembered long after wounds to the flesh”-Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords
Speaking of peak Wheel of Time women, we have another plotline which I was pleasantly surprised by. Namely, Egwene and the rebel Aes Sedai. I’ve never been crazy about Egwene, but ever since she was raised Amyrlin, my opinion on her has definitely changed.
Some of my favourite parts include Egwene realising Moghedian escaped, upbraiding Nicola and Ariena when they try to blackmail her, and her discovery of Lan Mandragoran in the camp.
Oh, and she gained the direct allegiance of Gareth Bryne. I also really enjoyed her gradual embracing of leadership and getting more comfortable in her new role. I found her dealings with certain. . . overbearing rebel Sitters satisfying.
Cough. Romanda and Lelaine. Cough.
Meanwhile over in the actual White Tower, we have Elaida, being, well, Elaida. No other way to put it. Come one, she’s building her own palace, and it’s to be taller than the White Tower? *insert face slap*
Basically everything else with Elaida was just her being blackmailed by Alviarin. So, a pretty enjoyable read. Although Alviarin’s pretty annoying herself.
“The spine that refused to bend at all was often the most malleable once it gave way.”– Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords
The other storyline I found myself gripped to was Rand’s. Our Dragon Reborn, at an all time low. Cut the guy some slack. I’m sure anyone else would be in the same (or worse) position if they had to go through what he had to recently; the box and Dumai’s Wells, plus everything else that has happened, and what he still knows is in store for him.
Rand making one of his Aes Sedai ‘servants’ serve tea was a superb scene. It’s always good to see an Aes Sedai put in their place. However, it also gave us as readers an insight into his brain. Yep. It’s getting pretty dark in there.
Then Cadsuane Melaihdrin rocks up. Good term for her, rock. A bit of a one herself, isn’t she. Hard and as stubborn, with the years to back too. And as blunt.
That scene where she quizzes Rand to try to puzzle his level of sanity is a great example. A great scene as well, the tension was palpable. The woman speaks sense, although the way she goes about it leaves something to be desired.
Anything where the ta’veren in Rand, Mat or Perrin emerges is always fantastic. The bit where Rand visits the Sea Folk ship and makes a deal with the Atha’an Miere was one such scene. Well, he didn’t exactly make the deal. Rather, he felt stuffy and ordered Merana to finalise it. Poor woman. First the tea, now this?
If The Shadow Rising was where ‘Rand and Elayne’ was a thing, The Fires of Heaven ‘Rand and Aviendha’, then A Crown of Swords was definitely the beginning of ‘Rand and Min’ (so far). Their relationship was developed well in the book. Probably the best friend Rand has.
The whole sequence where Rand and Min visit the enemy camp was one of my favourites in the book. Rand’s duel with Riatin was mesmerising. The way Jordan writes duels. Wow. His ‘Boar rushes down the hill(s)’ and his ‘apple blossoms in the wind’. Some of the most vivid fights I think I’ve read.
Then the bubble of evil, where Rand, Cadsuane, Min, Darlin and Caraline fight their way out through the mist. That was fun to read. Pretty creepy as well.
And of course Fain had to scratch Rand. Funny guy, Fain. Makes me chuckle. And then the part where Flinn Heals Rand, followed by Samitsu offering to bear his child for him if he shows her what he did.
I guess not all Aes Sedai are too bad.
“An enemy who comes once, will come again. Unless they are stopped.”-Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords
The climax was epic, as always (when are Wheel of Time endings not). Rand sneaking out the Sun Palace, launching an attack on Illian while battling Sammael himself, then moving his personal fight to Shadar Logoth, where he and a strange man in black (Moridin?) cross balefire streams.
Then Rand meets Liah (a maiden he thought he’d lost waaay back in Lord of Chaos), and views Sammael from a distance. Both are trapped by mashadar. Rand mercifully balefires Liah, and Sammael has disappeared, and is presumed dead.
A pretty underwhelming death to a villian which has been built for as long as he has, but hey, the Wheel of Time is great at underwhelming deaths. And overwhelming ones.
Rand returns and is crowned King of Illian, the laurel crown now named the Crown of Swords.
How many is that now?
Finally, we had what is probably my least favourite of all the plotlines in the Wheel of Time-Elayne’s Mum, Morgase Trakand, and the Whitecloacks. Saying that, her moments in A Crown of Swords were surprisingly good.
Her friendship with Pedron Niall, imprisonment under Eamon Valda, and then the Seanchan invading the Fortress of the Light, where she contemplates suicide and utters the ‘irrevocable words’ to step down as queen, were all captivating.
Excuse the pun.
“In a cruel land, you either learned to laugh at cruelty or spent your life weeping.”-Robert Jordan, A Crown of Swords
Overall, as I said, A Crown of Swords is definitely underrated. The storyline in Ebou Dar was amazing, and Rand’s arc was just as good. It was a shame that we didn’t get much of Perrin, and some moments were . . . controversial to say the least, but overall it was a cracking read.
Also, A Crown of Swords almost felt like a sequel to Lord of Chaos, similar to The Fires of Heaven and The Shadow Rising. I distinctly remember finishing the book, lying back, and saying to myself “Why is A Crown of Swords rated so low? That was insane!”
Path of Daggers, here I come!
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