This is the final Wheel of Time book to be penned solely by Robert Jordan, so it seems like it’s worth pausing to consider the series as a whole at this point before diving into Sanderson’s take on the work.
And as a whole, the series works. It’s entertaining. I’m not sure I would actually recommend it to anyone, but I don’t have to: it’s popularity recommends it for itself.
There is some interesting room for discussion. Jordan’s treatment of female characters is often remarked upon. But I think he mis-writes his women in the exact same way he mis-writes his men. I don’t think it’s misogyny so much as an ability to write rational adults. Everyone in this series is a manipulative, conniving, un-trusting and largely untrustworthy idiot. Everyone has secret plans for everyone else. Everyone is certain that they deserve special treatment above everyone else. Everyone goes out of their way to not reveal important information to everyone else. It goes on and on.
But this behavior stands out for the female characters more-so than their male counterparts because this is how shrews and bitches have been long portrayed in our society. The exact same behavior doesn’t ping for the men because men never need to prove that they aren’t all of those things.
So I think it’s too simplistic to say “Jordan can’t write women.” or even “Jordan hates women.” I think it’s closer to “Jordan can’t write anyone at all, and he never notices that his privileged position means he has to try harder for the women.” I don’t say this to excuse him, but merely to point out that his literary sins extend far beyond “She folded her arms beneath her breasts.*”
And then there’s the spanking. I don’t even know what to think about the spanking. Again, spankings (and the threat of spankings) are used by both men and women in these books; but it’s way creepier when a man suddenly throws a non-consenting woman over his knee. My own take on it pretty much stops at “Adults do not solve their personal disputes in this manner!” but if you want to read a deep-seated misogyny into it, I won’t argue with you. It’s really disturbing.
Aside from that (which is a pretty big aside!), the story feels too complicated in general. There are enough characters that I don’t really know who is who or where they are or what they’re doing anymore. I’m constantly having to look up minor characters on the Wheel of Time Wiki just to get the basic facts about them when they show up in the story.
In a previous review, I believe I complained that there were too many villains. Now there’s too many characters in general. There are also too many main plots and subplots and small plots and who knows what else. I think I have the general outline of what’s happened over the past eleven books, but I wouldn’t be able to sketch it out for anyone.
At this point, I’m enjoying the books scene-by-scene and not worrying too much about how those scenes interconnect. For everything else, there’s the wiki.
And I don’t think there was ever an actual Knife of Dreams: if there was, I completely missed it in one of the subplots. The titles of the books have all been pretty literal plot-points until now. I don’t know what that means going forward, but it feels like a sudden change.
* Although, that’s a pretty big literary sin. He uses that construction fifteen times in this book alone.