A Crown of Swords – Part 1

This book starts out a little quicker than several of the earlier ones because there really isn’t much backtracking over what happened in the previous books, we jump immediately to how Rand is going to deal with the problems caused by his being absent for several weeks.

In Cairhien especially, Rand’s rule was rather tenuous, with most of the nobles trying to appease him enough to allow themselves to be crowned as King or Queen.  So naturally the first thing that Rand has to do is deal with the fact that Colavaere has been crowned Queen.  Of course she’s gotten there by killing her main rivals, which brings us to an interesting aspect of Rand’s personality, he refuses to send a woman to her death (with the exception of the Aiel, and even then he dislikes doing it).  This leads to an interesting situation, by all means Colavaere should be put to death, either by beheading or being hung, but Rand refuses to do so.  His solution is one that many nobles – both in the story and throughout history – would find far more shaming, she is sent to live out the rest of her days as a farmer.  Directly mentioned by the Aiel is the thought that being shamed is worse than dying, but apparently this holds for many of the “wetlanders” as well, even if they aren’t so quick to directly state it.

The early parts of the book also deal with Egwene struggling to be the Amyrlin.  Well, she isn’t struggling to be Amyrlin, but she is having a hard time dealing with everyone accepting that she really is in charge rather than just a puppet to be directed by everyone else.  The subtlety she uses to get the rest of the Aes Sedai to go her way is really quite brilliant, and it does a wonderful job of showing so many of the problems that the Aes Sedai really have in their ranks.  The constant bickering and fighting amongst the Aes Sedai is a large part of why the White Tower is in the situation that it’s in at the moment, and it further illustrates the fact that despite having as much power as any other organization in the world, they’re probably the most poorly organized and run that you could possibly find.

The last thing I want to talk about for this section of the book (roughly 1/3 of the way through it) is from the prologue, although it’s appeared in the previous books as well.  Elaida has become the Amyrlin in the White Tower, but while every other Aes Sedai in the series seems to prefer to operate in the shadows, Elaida has no subtlety at all.  She simply browbeats people until they do what she wants them to, avoids any sense of diplomacy, and yet somehow is still able to get her way in most cases.  It’s one thing to be strong willed, but from what I’ve seen, simply yelling at people until you get your way doesn’t ever work, at least not for long.  I find it absolutely amazing that Elaida has been a part of the tower as long as she has and yet she still keeps going the same way she always has, you’d think it would have come back to bite her at some point in the past, but apparently it hasn’t.  I think that the way she goes about things makes her one of the weaker antagonists in the story (to this point at least) when she should be one of the strongest.

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