‘”On the heights, all paths are paved with daggers.”
–Old Seanchan saying’– Robert Jordan, The Path of Daggers
This blog will contain SPOILERS for up to and including book 8 of the Wheel of Time.
What is it with Wheel of Time books randomly excluding our main characters for a whole book?
First Rand, in The Dragon Reborn, then Perrin, in The Fires of Heaven, and now Mat, in The Path of Daggers. Pretty much ever since book 5, Mat’s grown on me, and in the previous book, A Crown of Swords, he was one of my favourite characters, so it was a bit of a bummer to not see him.
Saying that, it wasn’t for as long, as The Path of Daggers is a pretty quick read (at least compared to the rest of the Wheel of Time). At just 222,842 words and 575 pages (by my copy), The Path of Daggers is the shortest entry in the Wheel of Time series, not counting New Spring, the prequel.
In my opinion, this book was officially where the ‘slog’ started for me. Looking back on it now (currently reading A Memory of Light), it’s definitely grown on me, but as I was reading, I remember finding really the first of the lot to be a bit of a grind to get though.
It definitely wasn’t a bad book. As is to be expected with The Wheel of Time, The Path of Daggers had tons of amazing moments, yet overall it just didn’t stand up to par with the rest.
Also, let me just say that the prologue was really good. The Borderlander’s meeting was interesting, although I wonder why they’re travelling so far to meet Rand. Verin’s PoV was fascinating (I don’t know what to make of her), and she seemed to use Compulsion on a fellow Aes Sedai? What threads is she spinning?
I find Moridin (Ishamael reincarnated) an interesting guy, and I thought his inner dialogue in his (very brief) scene was fantastic. I absolutely love getting glimpses into the brimming past of the Wheel of Time.
“Peel the apple in your hand, girl, not the one on the tree, Lini’s thin voice seemed to whisper in her ear. Tears are for after; they just waste time before.”-Robert Jordan, The Path of Daggers
The first main arc in The Path of Daggers is that of Elayne, Nynaeve and Aviendha with the Bowl of the Winds. This was a plotline that I struggled with, to be completely honest. Although Nynaeve has improved a bit, and I appreciate how both her and Elayne are now (pretty much) accepted as Aes Sedai in their own right, the Windfinders and the Kin are what brought their side of the story down. All that bickering and haughtiness. Eurgh.
However, there were some diamonds in the sludge. Fixing the weather with the Bowl of the Winds was one such jewel. Man, do I like my ritualistic scenes. And finally the unusual heat is gone.
Winter is coming.
Other stand-out moments with the girls include Aviendha Unweaving the Gateway, and then Elayne trying to copy Aviendha and accidentally blowing it up, causing the Seanchan to believe they possess an incredibly powerful Aes Sedai weapon.
So amusing. Both parts.
Also, I enjoyed the friendship growth between Elayne and Aviendha. It seems they are planning on being first-sisters! I mean, there was only two ways that could have gone. They certainly chose the more sensible option, if not the funniest.
The real question is: When will they third-sister Min?
Perrin, recently shoved out of Cairhien, is on a mission to find and bring in Masema. I really enjoyed Perrin’s (slow) stepping up into the role of a leader and his relationship development with Faile. It was satisfying to see Maighdin (Morgase) and her group merge with Perrin’s people, although I still don’t really care about their storyline.
One other moment that stood out in Perrin’s arc in The Path of Daggers was his meeting with Alliandre, where she swears fealty to him. It’s amazing what being ta’veren can do. And having a small but completely loyal army, along with the apparent allegiance of Saldea and Mayene. A set of golden eyes probably helped too.
That whole scene, Perrin’s ignorance and disinterest while the flippin QUEEN of Ghealdan was offering to serve under him, Faile’s encouragement and advice, with Perrin finally acquiescing, was all done super well.
Finally, Perrin’s meeting with Masema. What a gripping scene. Yep, that guy’s definitely gone off the rails. I love it, though. The question is: Who will he take with him? Maybe Aram the
Tinker Soldier? I did not like that look in his eyes.
Oh, and Faile gets captured by the Shaido! Duh duh duh. Hopefully Perrin can keep his head. There’s too many unhinged characters this side of the story already.
“There were advantages to being a legend; people seldom noticed the obvious when dealing with a legend”-Robert Jordan, The Path of Daggers
Another character’s storyline I found engrossing was Egwene. Ever since she became the Amyrlin Seat, I’ve found her chapters much more enjoyable. Something I hadn’t really noticed before. She’s flippin clever! One might even go so far as to say she’s a political genius.
The whole scene where she and a contingent of Aes Sedai meet the Andoran nobles on the frozen lake in the middle of Murandy was such a good example where Egwene uses her political prowess to agree on a truce. I also really appreciated her chat with Talmanes afterwards (what a legend).
The imagery as well, man. So vivid.
That scene was then followed up by perhaps the best Egwene moment in The Path of Daggers, within the chapter named The Law, where Egwene tricks the Sitters into giving her control over their armies according to the Law of War.
Boom. In your face Romanda. Boom. In your face, Lelaine. In your face . . . I could go on and on. Wheel of Time women sometimes. Enough to make a man’s head ache.
Meanwhile, in the actual White Tower, Alviarian’s still one-upping Elaida. She’s such a fraud, that woman, but it’s hilarious to read. Also, I’m quite enjoying the subplot of several Sitters working undercover to discover the Black Ajah within the Tower. Finally, someone’s doing something, somewhere, somehow.
And who is Mesaana posing as?
In my opinion, the Black Tower and Asha’man are criminally underused. I would love to see more of what’s going on over there. And Logain, man. Such a fascinating guy. It was super satisfying to see the false Dragon and his men Bond the Aes Sedai as Warders.
Talk about switching places. Ha! Didn’t see that coming, you goat-spawned toads.
“Strong endures; hard shatters.”-Robert Jordan, The Path of Daggers
Pretty much the perfect quote to sum up both this book and Rand’s character. The book: this is the first book in the series I believe to be in the so called ‘slog’, the point where ‘the strong’ push through and ‘the hard’ break. As for Rand: he gets a lot harder during the course of the book. Hhmm . . . I guess it doesn’t sound as clever as I thought it did. Oh, well.
The quote I just pulled up came from a conversation between Cadsuane and Sorilea. We all wanted to see a showdown between Cadsuane and Sorilea and, while it wasn’t exactly a showdown, those two managed to pull out one of my favourite pieces of dialogue, maybe even across the whole series.
Here’s a little snippet:
“Do you believe a man must be hard?” she asked. She was taking a chance. “Or strong?” By her tone, she left no doubt she saw a difference.
Again Sorilea touched the tray; the smallest of smiles might have quirked her lips for an instant. Or not. “Most men see the two as one and the same, Cadsuane Melaidhrin. Strong endures; hard shatters.”
Rand’s arc in The Path of Daggers was full of engrossing moments, but quite sad at the same time. We begin with him near Illian, in the aftermath of the events concluding A Crown of Swords (when Rand was crowned King of Illian). All his interactions with the Asha’man were perfect. I can’t really describe what I liked so much about it.
Perhaps it was the tension, the underlying knowledge that these men would soon go mad and that they are simply weapons to be wielded, and that they are in the presence of their Wielder. Perhaps it was the darkness that results from such knowledge, and perhaps a little of the newfound sense of pride in their own abilities, that they no longer need to hide or be ostracised from society.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Regardless, I thought it was class.
Especially when Rand reveals his intentions to cleanse Saidin, and also when Rochaid turns up, challenging Rand. Also, Narishma is such a cool guy. One of my favourite Asha’man ‘loyal’ to Rand.
The Seanchan battle was one of the best parts of The Path of Daggers. The whole back-and-forth between Rand’s PoV, the Seanchan’s PoV, and the soldiers was done really well; you could feel the chaos of the war. Yup, it sounds weird, but I actually really appreciated seeing Rand get shot.
You’re probably thinking “okay…”
Just listen. Especially after the ending of A Crown of Swords, he’s begun to feel kind of invincible. He no longer has to worry over such simple things as swords and arrows when he’s so powerful in the One Power. To see him receive an arrow in the arm proved the point that even with all his power, he’s still just a man.
Excuse the pun.
The thing that stood out to me the most, however, was Rand using Callandor (I had a suspicion that was what Narishma had gone to fetch) to not only absolutely obliterate the the Seanchan armies, but also accidentally destroying Adley and several others nearby before Bashere tackles him to the ground. That was unsettling.
We’ve seen Rand getting darker and darker, but to lose control in this way? Yikes. Hopefully he can hang on til Tarmon Gai’don.
The other two bits I liked were the Tower Aes Sedai (the ones who’d originally kidnapped Rand) swearing fealty to Rand, and the attack on the Sun Palace (an assassination attempt on Rand).
Dashiva as well?! I feared so. Gedwyn and Rochaid were a given. I’ll be sad to see the guy go, though.
The most emotional part, though, has got to be where Rand poisons Fedwin Morr. Wow. The first time I read it through I didn’t understand what was going on. Then it clicked. Morr’s madness overcoming him, Rand’s soothing words, and Min’s sorrow, as Taim watches on. Just . . . wow. What a powerful scene.
“All things change. Until we wake, the dream drifts on the wind.”-Robert Jordan, The Path of Daggers
Although it all happened slightly slower than I thought it would have, the change in weather was much welcome. I could almost feel the cool relief of a bitter chill in the air, the biting wind and the first of winter’s snow drifting down from a white sky.
Sorry, I’m waxing poetic.
Anyway, I’ve got to say that while I didn’t find The Path of Daggers quite as strong an entry compared to the rest of the series so far, it’s certainly not a bad book. I’ve come to appreciate it even more at the point I’m at, and while it does have quite a few ‘sloggy’ moments, and there’s no Mat, which is a bummer, it has its fair share of amazing moments and character development.
Also, everything’s beginning to feel a little darker. Rand’s growing madness and hate, the looming Seanchan invasion and the Dark One’s own touch on the world growing more and more evident.
Or maybe that’s just the gathering clouds of winter.
Winter’s Heart, here I come!
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Here’s a review from one of our regulars…
“By now I’ve heard all of the criticisms of this portion of the walk through The Wheel of Time. But sometimes you’ve got to walk your own path and hope that path isn’t lined with daggers.Mike