This review is a copy of the transcript of my video review on Path of Daggers
Cover art by Chris Rahn
The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: The Wheel of Time (Book #8 of 14)
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy
Pages: 669 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 20th October 1998 by Tor Books
This was a bit surprising. The eighth volume and the second infamous slog novel of The Wheel of Time, Path of Daggers, was not as bad as A Crown of Swords.
“On the heights, all paths are paved with daggers.”
Without going into too many details of the previous book, A Crown of Swords was a big downgrade for the series for me. I went into that book prepared for the beginning of the slog, and even then, I was still shocked by how significant the downgrade was from Lord of Chaos, my favorite book in the series so far. Compared to that, with repeated tempered expectations, I went into Path of Daggers after taking a five-month break from the series. And hey, unexpectedly, Path of Daggers was good enough. I will even go far enough to say… there were some scenes here that were straight-up incredible. But this isn’t to say the issues from the seventh book have disappeared. I do have mixed feelings about Path of Daggers. The reality is not that pleasant. But several factors, like Path of Daggers being the smallest novel—not counting New Spring prequel—in the entire series, I ended up finishing Path of Daggers faster than I expected. 18 days! A Crown of Swords took me 35 days to read. The longest I ever spent on reading a single book. I am thankful that slow reading time is not replicated here. For this review, I will share my thoughts regarding Path of Daggers by sharing my opinion on each main POV character’s storyline.
“Words could hurt as hard as fists, the wrong words, words you never meant, let loose in a temper.”
Elayne dominated the first quarter of Path of Daggers. Come to think about it, I am pretty sure she statistically has the most POV chapters in this book. And the first half of this book is where I struggled the most. Your miles may vary. But I could not bring myself to like Elayne. Not yet. In comparison, Nynaeve is one of the most thick-headed and infuriating characters I’ve ever read, but even then, I can still assess it as a distinct part of her character. But for Elayne, there hasn’t been anything about her personality that felt likable or distinct to me. It is so weird to me that she constantly blamed and ridiculed Nynaeve’s and Lan’s relationship, and yet there were moments in The Fires of Heaven where she wanted Thom Merrilin for herself. I don’t think she has the right to judge Nynaeve for her genuine feelings for Lan. But besides that, the majority of her POV chapters are filled with the weakness of the series. And that is the lack of distinct female characters. There were so many inconsequential names and female characters, and once again, all they did was bicker and mock each other all the time. Like always. It is a pattern of the series. That said, I must admit the battle that transpired in Elayne’s POV chapter at the end of the first quarter of Path of Daggers was quite tense.
If the first quarter of Path of Daggers is filled with Elayne’s POV chapters, why did I say the first half of this book was difficult and boring? Well, because after Elayne, we have to read Perrin’s portions. We are eight books into the series now, and I genuinely have no idea whether I will ever feel fully invested in Perrin Aybara. Certainly not yet, or maybe ever. We will see how it goes by the time I reach the end of the series. His relationship with Faile is a massive pain and slog to read, and he ceaselessly and immediately cowers or follows everything Faile says. This transforms Perrin into a weaker character than he already was spiritually. His mentor even told him he needed to stand up for himself here! It has been 8 books long, and although it is possible there is a rewarding character development waiting behind this, I have a feeling this is not going away anytime soon. Out of the Ta’veren, Perrin is the one that feels the least developed. His character’s development has been stagnant since The Shadow Rising. His storyline with the Prophet did not turn into something interesting until his last two POV chapters in Path of Daggers. I remember The Fires of Heaven sparked my interest to continue the series again, and I must say, one of the reasons why that book worked so well for me is because it has no Perrin’s appearance.
“No plan of battle survives first contact,”
As I said, Path of Daggers was a mixed baggage for me, and although I have been (mostly) negative about my thoughts so far, Egwene somehow became the biggest pleasant surprise of the novel. Some of the issues I mentioned in Elayne’s POV chapters, such as the uninteresting and incomprehensible Aes Sedai’s politics, are evident. I do not know whether any of you experienced this, but I was reading this book with my co-bloggers, and they agreed with me. Sometimes, when reading Robert Jordan’s prose, the writing style can make English feel like reading a new language. It is not even because the words are difficult. I read the English words, I know what they meant, and somehow, they are not registered in my head. This happened a lot in A Crown of Swords and Path of Daggers, mainly during Elayne and Egwene’s chapters. But thankfully, in the case of Egwene’s POV chapters, they are balanced with great moments. Egwene pulled off an impactful move in Path of Daggers, and it highly raised her rank in my list of likable Wheel of Time characters. After everything that happened, I am curious to see where her story will lead. Although I still think her character development proceeded relatively quickly because the events in this book are done in a matter of weeks, I still found her character development satisfying.
“A secret spoken finds wings.”
Lastly, as expected, Rand al’Thor’s POV chapters are my favorites. It was starting to test my patience that we got two chapters of Rand in chapters 13 and 14, and then after that, none of him until the last 35% of Path of Daggers. So yes, patience is needed if you are a fan of Rand and Mat like I am. Even more so if Mat is your favorite character because he did not appear in Path of Daggers. Not even once. It was unfortunate because I have no doubt his presence would’ve made this book more engaging. But anyway, back to Rand. Unlike many of the characters in The Wheel of Time, with the exception of the three wives plotline, I am fully invested in Rand’s storyline. His constant internal struggle with Lews Therin never felt uninteresting, and in the battles against Seanchan in Path of Daggers, we get to witness the blazing power of The Dragon Reborn. Lightning, flame, destruction, and death were conjured. The Prophecies of the Dragon demanded blood, and he fulfilled it. The dead bodies accumulated will stamp his name in history, for better or worse. And there is also the matter of Aes Sedai and Asha’man that Rand has to juggle. I loved it. And I wish we had more of Rand’s story here. Rand al’Thor and Matrim Cauthon, and Sanderson finishing the last three books, are the strongest motivators for me to conquer the slog of The Wheel of Time.
“He needs to be strong, and makes himself harder. Too hard, already, and he will not stop until he is stopped. He has forgotten how to laugh except in bitterness; there are no tears left in him. Unless he finds laughter and tears again, the world faces disaster. He must learn that even the Dragon Reborn is flesh. If he goes to Tarmon Gai’don as he is, even his victory may be as dark as his defeat.”
There aren’t too many things left to say. I know this is the smallest book in the entire series, but it still felt bloated, and somehow, there was minimal plot progression and character development. However, as far as the slog installment was supposed to go, Path of Daggers was not as underwhelming as I expected. There were some pivotal and epic moments that were crucial to the narrative. And even though it is true the magnificent and epic moments needed patience and perseverance to reach, the overall reading experience did not make me want to give up like it did in A Crown of Swords. I cannot believe I am more than halfway through the series now. And that means I still have two more slog novels to go before the series allegedly returns to being great again. I will endure and persevere. It is very likely I will read the ninth book in the series, Winter’s Heart, either in December or January. The wheel weaves as the wheel wills.
“When you die, people begin to forget, who you were and what you did, or tried to do. Everybody dies eventually, and everybody is forgotten, eventually, but there’s no bloody point dying before your time comes.”
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