Cover art illustrated by: Gregory Manchess
Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Wheel of Time (Book #6 of 14)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Classic Fantasy
Pages: 1056 pages (Kindle Edition)
Published: 15th October 1994 by Tor Books
Lord of Chaos could potentially become the best book by Robert Jordan for me. Let the Lord of Chaos rule, and rule it did.
If you’ve read Lord of Chaos, you will know what those two iconic words signified. To say that I was worried before I dived into Lord of Chaos can be classified as an understatement. Just a brief summary, yes, The Fires of Heaven has rekindled the fire in me to continue reading The Wheel of Time after almost three years of hiatus from it. And I’m glad I continued, and now, persevere I shall. The book that made me quit The Wheel of Time for years was The Shadow Rising, a book often claimed by many of the fans of the series to be Jordan’s best work. Long story short, I believe my binge-reading of the series and out-of-control high expectations towards The Shadow Rising back then were hugely responsible for my downfall with the series in 2019. Why am I repeating myself on this? Well, Lord of Chaos is another one of the books in the series that has received a similar level of praise. Plus, with 389,000 words, it is also the second biggest book in the entire series, just 4,000 words shorter than The Shadow Rising. Fortunately, the result is the exact opposite of me reading The Shadow Rising. Lord of Chaos, despite some of its expected flaws, stands strong as the best book in the series (so far) for me. Even more than The Great Hunt and The Fires of Heaven. If The Fires of Heaven rekindled the fire in me with the series, Lord of Chaos burned it brighter.
“First things first; take care of what can be done now before worrying too long over what might never be.”
One step at a time indeed. One book at a time. One book every few months. That is my mindset as I go through The Wheel of Time, and for now, this marathon reading process has worked incredibly well for me with the series. Lord of Chaos begins with the biggest prologue of the series so far. At 70 pages long, the prologue could’ve worked as a short story or even a short novella. But I must say, I enjoyed reading the prologue. The story in Lord of Chaos revolves around Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, struggling to bind the nations of the world to his will. Rand is still trying his best to forge the alliances of Light necessary to fight the Shadow. The preparation for Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, continues. But as always, other powers seek to command the war against the Dark One. Not willing to let Rand in control, factions (especially Aes Sedai in this book) are racing to manipulate The Dragon Reborn to their respective side. In the meantime, as the realm of men falls into chaos and discord, the Dark One and his bloody servants polish their plan to assault The Dragon Reborn.
“Then forget honors and remember the Last Battle. Everything I do is aimed at Tarmon Gai’don. Everything I tell you to do will be aimed at it. You will aim at it!”
“Of course.” Taim spread his hands. “You are the Dragon Reborn. I don’t doubt that; I acknowledge it publicly. We march toward Tarmon Gai’don. Which the Prophecies say you will win. And the histories will say that Mazrim Taim stood at your right hand.”
It is very much necessary for me to begin by saying, especially for first-time readers of the book, do not expect battle scenes or war scenes entering into Lord of Chaos. You will be sorely disappointed if you do. Yes, there is the highly praised Battle of Dumai’s Wells, but overall, Lord of Chaos, despite the coolness and the implication of the book title, doesn’t feature a lot of battle scenes. Also, unlike the previous books, do not expect a battle against one of The Forsaken here. Let alone war scenes, I think the only battle scene in this book occurred in the final chapter, and it is not a battle against one of The Forsaken. However, this is not bad news. Jordan managed to make the novel better for it. I will elaborate more on this later as spoiler-free as possible. But first, before I talk about all the goods, let’s talk about some of the expected flaws of the novel, which have existed since the previous books, in my opinion, and gotten relatively better here in comparison. They are the pacing—or verbosity—and the main female characters. Shockingly, I will be talking about the miscommunication trope being used here in a better light.
“A fool moans when fortune takes him down, and it takes a true fool to moan when fortune takes him up.
I have heard from plenty of readers who love the series that, for them, they’ve encountered the invasion of the infamous slog of the series in Lord of Chaos. And I cannot fault them for this. Robert Jordan has always been great at writing the beginning and the closing chapters of his books in the series, and that situation did not change here. After the massive prologue, I continue to enjoy reading almost every page of Lord of Chaos for the first quarter. And then, after that, the pacing ground to a halt until around the 65% mark of the book. By the way, I read Lord of Chaos and every book in The Wheel of Time using my Kindle, hence why I used percentage in my review. But yeah, it was challenging, and even boring occasionally, to go through the verbosity of details in dresses and clothing while the plot seemed to move as slowly as possible. However, I must say, compared to The Shadow Rising, or even The Fires of Heaven that I enjoyed very much, the pacing in Lord of Chaos was overall better. Hey, at least we don’t have the boring-to-tears circus plotline here.
“Never make a plan without knowing as much as you can of the enemy. Never be afraid to change your plans when you receive new information. Never believe you know everything. And never wait to know everything.”
I will always maintain my words that The Wheel of Time (so far anyway, but I don’t think this opinion will change) is a series that would’ve been improved if it received another round of editing and trimming. Although I do love intricacies in settings and locations, I, as a reader, do not care too much about reaching this level of detail in clothing and dresses. I feel like they delayed some of the greatness of the series. As a comparison, I feel like Sanderson’s way of describing clothing in his books is on the right level of detail I usually love to read. But all of these boiled down to me saying that this pacing and detail, whether you like it or not, has existed in every book in the series so far. I expected them to be there, and by taking a few months’ breaks after finishing each book in the series before I read the next installment, I feel like I could tolerate and sometimes appreciate them much better now. Plus, I loved reading the execution of the themes of courage, leadership, and duty in Lord of Chaos. Even if we have to drown in verbosity to get glimpses of them here and there.
“Duty is heavier than a mountain, death lighter than a feather.” Once you had that mountain firmly on your shoulders, there was no way to put it down.”
Another thing I would like to talk about before I move on to the main highlights of the novel. I am not a stranger in voicing my dislike towards how the main female characters behave in the series, and no, I doubt this situation will change throughout the series. The topic of gender versus gender caused by SO MANY years of prejudice and dominance won’t vanish instantly. It is one of the dominant themes of the series. And I have mentioned plenty of times that I did not like Elayne, Aviendha, and definitely not Nynaeve. To be more precise, I have not yet, and I have no idea whether that will change in the later books. We will find out eventually. Although I understand why they behaved a certain way, I feel like the non-stop repetition of their behavior made them more annoying than they should. Honestly, the only female characters I have liked in the series so far were Min—as proven further in this book—and Moiraine. But admittedly, I did not find myself angered over the main female characters here. I know. It is surprising. I was frequently angered by how Elayne and Nynaeve behaved in The Fires of Heaven. But from my perspective, it was more balanced here. The only character I did not enjoy reading about here, and not in a good way, was Faile. What a failure of a character. How Perrin continuously obsessed over her is beyond my wool head.
“A wife isn’t a trooper to go running when you shout. In some ways, a woman is like a dove. You hold her half as hard as you think is necessary, or you might hurt her.”
Now let’s talk about all the great things of Lord of Chaos. And I will begin by saying that I love how the miscommunication trope is utilized here. NOT completely. Never completely. It is still too much in many sections, but remember what I said earlier in the review that the story in Lord of Chaos did not get so good until we reached the 65% mark of the book? Yes, that has something to do with the game-changing development (even if it happened too abruptly) relating to the female characters. After we reached this point, I felt the plot and the character development in Lord of Chaos started moving forward compellingly. And guess what, the conflict surrounding the final 35% of the book mainly happened because of miscommunication and prejudice. I feel like it was executed magnificently. I was constantly holding my breath as I read through the pages of these chapters. The deadly tension in the atmosphere and conversations were undeniably palpable. And I will have to admit that the miscommunication, this time, was rightfully used to heighten the stake of the narrative. Of course, this kind of result is only possible due to (here are the main highlights of the novel for me) Rand al’Thor, Mazrim Taim, and the Asha’man.
“Never be hostile unless you must, Moiraine had said, but above all never be overly friendly. Never be eager”
Every scene with Rand al’Thor, Mazrim Taim, and the Asha’man was undoubtedly the best part of Lord of Chaos for me. Look, I do not know where Rand usually stands in the list of favorite characters according to the fans of The Wheel of Time. But for now, Rand and Mat are constantly battling for supremacy as my top favorite character in the series. His romances aside, which I do not think Jordan ever handled well anyway, Rand has undergone an immense character development from his first appearance in The Eye of the World. I also think Rand is a genuinely humane main character. His actions, his arrogance, and how he started to accept his role as The Dragon Reborn, everything just felt so believable. I still have a lot of books in the series to read, and I already feel that the result of his character arc will become one of the best in epic fantasy. It IS already one of the best after reading Lord of Chaos. The amount of responsibility and ordeals he has to juggle is utterly overwhelming. It is beyond human. Rand’s internal grapple with Lews Therin Thelamon was always immersive to me, and I am constantly amazed by Rand’s perseverance to stay sane. How he remains sane facing the chaos and suffering he has to endure is inspiring. This is on top of so many individuals ceaselessly assuming bad things about him even when he always tries to do good for the world as best as he can as The Dragon Reborn.
“I am the Dragon Reborn. Denying won’t change it. Wishing won’t change it. I’m not the man you knew back in Emond’s Field.
Introducing Mazrim Taim and the Asha’man in this book is one of the best things Jordan has done for the series so far. Aes Sedai has an irreplaceable hatred toward male channelers, and Mazrim Taim is the exact opposite. I felt intimidated by Mazrim Taim’s presence, and the existence of the Asha’man provides intriguing complexity in the story and confrontations between males and females as it—for better or worse—will shift the political and power dynamics of the world. I say it’s about time; this is what the series needs. Conflicts will happen. Changes will be inevitable. Most likely with sacrifices and death. But Tarmon Gai’don will come eventually, and there is no way of facing it without cooperation between the males and females channelers. I can’t wait to find out how all of these will develop.
“You need a name. In the Old Tongue, Aes Sedai means Servants of All, or something very close. The Old Tongue doesn’t translate easily… Another word in the Old Tongue is asha’man. It means guardian, or guardians. Or defender, and maybe a couple of other things; I told you, the Old Tongue is very flexible. Guardian seems to be best, though. Not just any defender or guardian, though. You could not call a man who defended an unjust cause asha’man, and never one that was evil. An asha’man was a man who defended truth and justice and right for everyone. A guardian who would not yield even when hope was gone.” The Light knew, hope would go when Tarmon Gai’don came, if not before. “That is what you are here to become. When you finish your training, you will be Asha’man.”
Lastly, I need to mention, once again, that the last 35% of Lord of Chaos was an easy 5 stars epic fantasy material, in my opinion. All the buildup, the accumulating rage I poured, and the devastating result of prejudice, self-assumption, and miscommunication exploded in the final chapter. As I said earlier, there were close to no battle scenes in Lord of Chaos. But the politicking, manipulation, and intensity sparked by wonderful momentum building between the characters were evident in the text. For years, there has been a LOT of hype and praise about The Battle of Dumai’s Wells. I approached this battle with a cautious expectation but also feelings of excitement, and you know what? The chapter successfully delivered an intensely memorable scene. It was immensely impactful and satisfying. I believe it is one of the best chapters of the entire series. It is a relatively short chapter for such an eventful climax sequence, and I wish it had been a bit longer. However, every sentence in the chapter, especially after all the momentum building and adding my vivid imagination, certainly enhanced the weight of the battle scene. In this one chapter alone, I spotted at least three REALLY iconic lines that will stand the test of time. One of them being…
“Kneel and swear to the Lord Dragon, or you will be knelt.”
God. Even typing that passage makes me want to reread the last few chapters. Thousands of participants were involved. Lives were cleaved. Vengeance enacted. Armies converged, wolves howled, weapons brandished, lightning weaved, and a rolling ring of Earth and Fire ignited an explosion of blood and flesh. It was a day of carnage. It was a day of fire and blood.
Picture: Lord of Chaos by Greg Manchess
Judging from the length of this review, I think you will have noticed that I loved Lord of Chaos despite some of its apparent flaws. Suffice to say that this is the best installment of the series so far. And personally speaking, Lord of Chaos, the sixth novel in The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, could potentially become the best book solely written by him for the series, not including the one that is written by Brandon Sanderson. We will find out, eventually, whether that becomes the case or not. I am saying this because I know where I’m at with the series. The upcoming four books in the series after this, from A Crown of Swords up to Crossroad of Twilight, are supposedly the infamous slog installments of the series. And I never heard any fans of The Wheel of Time consider any of the subsequent five books, including Knife of Dreams, as their personal favorites. I will make sure to lower my expectations going into them. Obviously, just like how I did not predict I would enjoy Lord of Chaos this much, I will be super happy to be proven wrong. Lord of Chaos went above and beyond my expectation, going as far for it to be included in my list of favorite books. If all goes according to plan, I will read A Crown of Swords in November or December.
Until then, let the Lord of Chaos rule. The wheel weaves as the wheel wills.
“We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect.”
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