Crossroads of Twilight – Part 1

I managed to make it about halfway through another Wheel of Time book before stopping to write out my thoughts about it, albeit half of this book is a little over 400 pages as opposed to The Path of Daggers, which totaled just under 700 pages total.

Anyway, the first thing that I was going to talk about from my list of notes is from the prologue, but upon looking back at everything else that I was going to talk about, I’m going to once again talk about the structure of the book first.  Many people consider this to be the worst of the Wheel of Time books, and a quick glance at the Amazon ratings (for what they’re worth) show this book at a 2 star rating, while every other book is at least 3 1/2 if not 4 stars.  And the reason for this is the structure of the book.  The first half of this book takes place over the same time period of the ending of Winter’s Heart.  After watching Rand cleanse Saidin using the Choedan Kal, it’s very odd to have several different chapters where we watch every person who can channel stare directly at Shadar Logoth from hundreds – if not thousands – of miles away wondering what is going on.  But we already know how that turns out, so the viewpoints from all of the rest of the characters seem redundant in this book.

So we return to the prologue and what I wanted to talk about there.  The first viewpoint character in the prologue is Rodel Ituralde, a well-respected general from Arad Doman.  One of the things that he discusses in his short section is that he was receiving very confusing orders from his king, and at the point of the where he is at in the opening pages of the book he is making a concerted effort to avoid any further instructions from the king so that he can go through with his plan.  There is even a comment that the last message he received had come through a rather bloody path.  This might not make much sense unless you remember that Graendal in an earlier book talked about sending a letter, and telling the person she sent it with to make sure that there was some blood on it to make it seem like he had to struggle to get it there.

That short section with Ituralde encompasses everything that the first half of this book is about.  This book covers a lot of the behind the scenes action that isn’t as interesting on it’s own, but if it wasn’t there you would be completely lost.  What all does Elayne have to go through in effort to claim the throne of Andor?  Why is Tuon cooperating with Mat when he kidnapped her, threatening the Corenne?  What is going on with Rolan in the Shaido camp, and why is he trying to help Faile?  What is Perrin doing to try and rescue Faile at the same time she is trying to escape?  How does Masema play into all of this?  All of these questions are discussed in this book, and while the main plot of the story suffers a little in this book, the motivations of the characters as well as their goals are all brought into light in this book.

Does that make this book an easier read in any way?  No, it’s a difficult read compared to many of the early books, especially on your first time through the series.  But if you’re on a second or third reading of the story, so much of the foreshadowing from earlier books comes to light in this book, as well as much of the character motivation in the later books.

It seems like Winter’s Heart and Crossroads of Twilight were originally intended to be one book, and then later split in half.  The reason that they were split the way they were is simple.  If you wrote out the entire story chronologically, and then found the midway point to break it in half, it would be very unbalanced and unruly.  By splitting it the way he did, Jordan is able to focus on the stories of Rand and Mat in Winter’s Heart, and then come back and pick up talking about Elayne, Perrin, and Egwene in Crossroads of Twilight.  For once referring to the future books in the series rather than the past books, this is the same thing that happens with The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight, but for most people it seems to work better in those two books because they’re closer to the end of the series and the overall plot is faster.

As much as this is the lowest rated book in the series, it’s really one of the most interesting and impressive from a technical standpoint.  Unfortunately for this book in the eyes of many readers – many who are devoted fans of the series – it’s not always easy to see that on your first time reading the book.  So what probably happens is that they read the book on their first time through the series, dislike it because of the slower pace, and then on any future times through the series they could very well skip this book.  And it’s their loss, because the full scope of what this book is trying to do doesn’t really become apparent until you’ve read it two or three times, at least it didn’t for me.

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2 Comments

  1. Adam, this is a massive undertaking – exactly how many pages will this amount to? I like the way you’re analysing everything – I haven’t read any of these books so I’ve skipped some of this but I was wondering if you’re loving this series as much as you originally did or more and do you think you’re getting something more out of it on a reread?
    Sorry, just idle curiosity really.
    Lynn 😀

    Reply
    • I’ve reread several of the books as the trade paperbacks, some in regular paperback, and some in hardcover, so the page counts are a little different. At this point I have a count of 9447 pages, it would be a little higher if all the books were the regular paperback, and a little less if they were all trade paperback or hardcover.

      I’ve always loved this series, and it’s definitely one of those series where you get more out of it when you reread it for a second or third time. There is so much subtle foreshadowing throughout the entire series, some things that are talked about in the second or third book don’t happen until book eleven or twelve.

      This series is really the reason that I started reading, and I’d highly suggest it to everyone. Yes, it’s big, but it’s worth it because the writing is just so good.

      Reply

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