Book Review: A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, #7) by Robert Jordan

Book Review: A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, #7) by Robert Jordan

Cover art by: Melanie Delon

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Wheel of Time (Book #7 of 14)

Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy

Pages: 902 pages (Kindle edition)

Published: 15th May 1996 by Tor Books

Phaw! I can’t believe I’m finally halfway through The Wheel of Time. And the slog begins here. Phaw!

“Wounds to the pride are remembered long after wounds to the flesh.”

If you have heard about The Wheel of Time series, you might have heard that the seventh until the tenth installment are often hailed as the slog portions of the series. Some have argued that the slog starts here in A Crown of Swords; some have said it starts in the eighth book, The Path of Daggers, instead. I, unfortunately, will have to agree with readers saying the slog of the series starts here, in A Crown of Swords. It does not give me pleasure to say that. My determination to read the series was renewed last year when I attempted reading The Fires of Heaven to find myself calling it the best book of the series so far, which then was further topped by Lord of Chaos. A Crown of Swords, the seventh book in the series, was great in the first and fourth quarter of the novel, but the remaining in-between section was mind-numbing boredom. It took me five weeks, FIVE WEEKS, of on and off reading to finish A Crown of Swords. It is the longest time I have ever spent reading a novel, from beginning to end.

“In a cruel land, you either learned to laugh at cruelty or spent your life weeping.”

Initially, I thought the slog would not start here. The story in A Crown of Swords starts immediately after what happened at the end of Lord of Chaos. Yes, it did begin with a one-hour-long prologue, but after that, the narrative deals with the aftermath of the battle of Dumai’s Wells. And I was so engrossed with the beginning section of this book. I finished reading the first quarter of A Crown of Swords in two days. I thought it was going to be a smooth sailing from there. And then it started crumbling from there. Once I reached the first Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve chapter, every chapter with them as the POV character sparked either one or two, or both, reactions from me: anger or boredom. There are no other feelings. No sadness. No happiness. No captivation. Just boredom or anger. The plotline surrounding Ebou Dar and Bowl of the Wind are some of the most boring stories I have ever read. And I, supposedly, have not reached the worst parts of The Wheel of Time yet, The Crossroads of Twilight. But for this book, Mat did provide relief occasionally as he has to keep his promise to Rand and be surrounded by these selfish and even lusty vultures. I can certainly feel his frustration and anger, but those were not enough to act as a balm to all the raging and dozing spell the Aes Sedai and the women cast on the reader.

“Hypocrisy was a fine art among Aes Sedai sometimes, like scheming or keeping secrets.”

I remember last year on Twitter, there was a poll for a favorite fantasy group to befriend, and people said they would love to be friends with Aes Sedai. To this day, I am still so confused by this. I haven’t finished reading the series yet, so my opinion might change in the future, even though I do not think that will happen. But my god, the Aes Sedai is a group of awful and self-righteous people. They are essentially villains as well. This has been established in the past six books, and even more in the Lord of Chaos with their insane treatment of Rand. It is established even further in this book. I have zero idea why people would want to be friends with them. And honestly, this feeling is not exclusive to the Aes Sedai. It gets even more ridiculous thinking how the three crazy Powerpuff Girls (Egwene, Elayne, and especially Nynaeve) can be so mean to their friend.

“Suddenly it struck Mat that he was the only man present… The only man, surrounded by a wall of women who apparently intended to let him beat his head against that wall till his brains were scrambled. It made no sense. None. They looked at him, waiting.”

Throughout the book, Mat is surrounded by women who never cease to do and say atrocious things to him. Despite this, he still tries his best that his supposed friends (They are not. This is just what Jordan said, but nothing in the text ever indicated that) are safe from trouble. Egwene is boring. Elayne is horny and boring. Nynaeve is an embodiment of absolute wrath and self-righteousness. Mat tried HARD. REALLY HARD. To save these ladies. And still, they acted as if they were incredibly competent even when they were not. No friends would ever ridicule and blindly accuse Mat for the assaults he received in this book. And Nynaeve… I am speechless by how infuriating this character can be. Just take a look at these two (out of many) passages below:

‘“Blood rushed to Nynaeve’s face. He had never mentioned . . . ? That despicable, despicable man! “I will not apologize to Matrim Cauthon, not on my deathbed.”
Aviendha leaned toward Elayne, touching her knee. “Near-sister, I will say this delicately.” She looked and sounded about as delicate as a stone post. “If this is true, you have toh toward Mat Cauthon, you and Nynaeve. And you have made it worse since, just by the actions I have seen.”
“Toh!” Nynaeve exclaimed. Those two were always talking about this toh foolery. “We aren’t Aiel, Aviendha. And Mat Cauthon is a thorn in the foot to everybody he meets.”
But Elayne was nodding. “I see. You are right, Aviendha. But what must we do? You will have to help me, near-sister. I don’t intend to try to become Aiel, but I . . . I want you to be proud of me.”
“We will not apologize!” Nynaeve snapped.
“I have pride in knowing you,” Aviendha said, touching Elayne’s cheek lightly. “An apology is a beginning, yet not enough to meet toh, now.”
“Are you listening to me?” Nynaeve demanded. “I said, I will—not—apologize!”’


“Nynaeve quivered. “Don’t you take that tone with me!” she shouted. “I tell you, I’m not angry! Do you hear me?”
“Blood and ashes, Nynaeve,” Mat growled. “He doesn’t think you’re angry. I don’t think you’re angry.” A good thing women had taught him to lie with a straight face. “Now could we go upstairs and fetch this bloody Bowl of the Winds?”

These are just a few examples; I took a break from the series for a few months before reading A Crown of Swords, thinking by doing this, I would be able to tolerate their antics and insanity better as I did in The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos, but I failed. The Aes Sedai and the three Powerpuff Girls aggravated me way too much. Nynaeve’s thick-headedness has reached a new height in A Crown of Swords that not even Wolverine’s Adamantium claw can pierce the hardness of her brain. Many readers who disliked Nynaeve have told me they grew to like her by the last few books of the series, and I look forward to reaching that point. What annoyed me further about the women characters in the series is how they all felt like caricatures; very few exceptions aside, it felt like Jordan prepared bullet points on how infuriating women should behave in his books. Then he made them all follow these bullet points.

“Usually when a woman was in the wrong, she could find so many things to blame on the nearest man that he wound up thinking maybe he really was at fault. In his experience, old memories or new, there were only two times a woman admitted she was wrong: when she wanted something, and when it snowed at midsummer.”

And the result? The women in this series and this book are barely distinguishable from one another. No distinctive voice was given, and their personalities revolved around one trait: hate and blame men for everything, maybe except for the one they want to bang. Actually, scratch that. They count, too. Look, I get it. Finding ways to cooperate is one of the main themes of the series. But these characters, some of the men here, too, did not even act like real people. Don’t even get me started on the sniffing. The women constantly sniffed so loud, as if they lost their sense of smell due to Covid 19. And the book lacked a coherent focus on what matters in the story. PHAW! There were too many Aes Sedai, too. None of them ever felt important. I forgot their names already by now. This is a book that centers around politics, and yet, they relentlessly bicker about nothing consequential. All the time.

Picture: A Crown of Swords by Tyler Jacobson

Even Cadsuane, an oddly completely new character introduced in A Crown of Swords, has a more distinct and intimidating presence when compared to the other Aes Sedai in the series. It is odd because she is supposed to be a legendary Aes Sedai, but she was never mentioned in the past six books. This might not be the same opinion as I move forward with the series, but at this moment, I surprisingly liked having the dynamic that Cadsuane brings into the story. But enough ranting. As I said in my review for The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos, Min seems to be the only genuinely kind-hearted woman in the series so far. I am happy she appeared relatively frequently in this book. Min seems to be the only character that does not drive Rand insane, and I appreciate having a character like her so much. As you can probably tell from my review of the past three installments, my investment in the series lies heavily on Rand al’Thor and Mat’s POV chapters. These two characters greatly enhanced The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos for me. I know it is shocking that in a series with SO MANY characters, I found only these two POV characters, along with the Ashaman, the Forsaken, and the world-building, to be the only anchor I have with the series. But it is the truth. The less we have Rand and Mat in the lead, the less invested I am in the book. Rand’s struggle with his role as The Dragon Reborn and the madness threatening to consume him never gets old. And Mat’s last chapter in this book was an intense cliffhanger that increased my excitement to read the next book soon, even if I know I won’t for a few months.

“Saidin tried to destroy him. Saidin filled him to overflowing with vitality. It threatened to bury him, and it enticed him. The war for survival, the struggle to avoid being consumed, magnified the joy of pure life. So sweet even with the foulness. What would it be like, clean? Beyond imagining. He wanted to draw more, draw all there was.”

In the end, A Crown of Swords was a vast downgrade from The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is one of the weakest books in the series so far. It is such a shame. I cannot emphasize this highly enough. The Wheel of Time is a series with incredible world-building and lore. These are included in the narrative, and I get so pumped up every time I think about the scope of the world, conflict, and prophecies Jordan has implemented into the series. As I said, Rand and Mat remain a favorite of mine, and I am seriously looking forward to reading the development of their story and character. Unfortunately, the greatness of The Wheel of Time, especially in this book, is plagued by many frustrating and glaring issues like the ones I discussed above. Although I found the first and last quarter of the book relatively page-turning, I was also disappointed by how the long-awaited confrontation in the final chapter of A Crown of Swords was concluded. The battle and the chapter itself were so cool, but its conclusion felt so anti-climactic, to say the least. I wish we get more scenes designated toward building momentum leading to this kind of pivotal battle instead of verbose descriptions and women being angry and bickering about insignificant matters for hundreds of pages, dragging the pacing extensively. I will take three or four months’ break before I read the sequel, The Path of Daggers. I sincerely hope The Path of Daggers will be better than A Crown of Swords, but I do not think it is safe to get my hope up. I planned to read until the ninth book this year, but we shall see whether that’s achievable. After all, a man can plan, but the wheel weaves as the wheel wills.

“As the plow breaks the earth shall he break the lives of men, and all that was shall be consumed in the fire of his eyes. The trumpets of war shall sound at his footsteps, the ravens feed at his voice, and he shall wear a crown of swords. The Prophecies of the Dragon gave little hope for anything except victory over the Dark One, and only a chance of that.”

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