Hippogriff's Aerie

Apparitions of Imagination

Book Review: Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan

Format:  Hardcover, First Edition, 2003

Pages:  680

Reading Time:  Unknown

Crossroads of Twilight is the 10th book in the Wheel of Time series, and it is truly a crossroads of sorts. Many readers who struggled through Winter’s Heart decided to give up on the series at this point. Those who continued on were rewarded with not only Knife of Dreams, in which the story starts to move forward again, but also the last book, which has been split off into 3 books, 2 of which, as of this post, have been completed by Brandon Sanderson.

I was there at the beginning of the Wheel of Time…I bought The Eye of the World in trade paperback way back in 1990. I had abandoned the series after struggling through Winter’s Heart in 2002, but I’ve pressed on now that the end is in sight. So much has already been written about Crossroads of Twilight, I’m not sure I have anything new to add. Here’s what some others have written:

The problem, however, lies in its continuance. The last four novels of the series have increasingly slowed in pace, or spun off in new directions that as yet have not significantly enhanced the development of the central themes, if anything at times seeming to exist for their own sake and a playing out of the narrative. With Crossroads of Twilight the story has reached idle, a situation not improved by reports that Jordan intends to interrupt the series in order to write a prequel. Originally begun in 1990 and intended as six books, since Lord of Chaos output has gradually grown prolonged, acceptable if the rewards of reading had proven worth the wait. But instead the story’s progress has lagged with its writing, until now it seems effectively stalled. Online discussion boards abound with speculation and readers’ displeasure — “he doesn’t know how to end it;” “he’s milking it for the money;” “it was always intended to be thirteen books: that’s the number necessary to form a magic circle” — any of which may singly or together offer an explanation. My concern is not so much with possible motivation, as with the quality of the overall story, which frankly seems to be going nowhere fast, regardless of the craft displayed in its writing or any fleeting pleasure derived from revisiting a narrative world that by now any follower of the series has far too much invested in to readily abandon.” – William Thompson, SF Site

Jordan, I’m sorry to say, is not a well man. He suffers from that pernicious writer’s disease, Epic Sprawl. This story (which he has been writing, let’s not forget, since 1990) started as a brisk jog, at times even a sprint, but lately has strolled, hell, it’s dawdled, through a total of ten volumes and is not discernibly closer to an ending. Keeping up with all the names and faces, and infinitely proliferating plot lines from previous volumes is hard enough, but the reader is left utterly dazed by the slew of new people and places and narrative directions…

The pleasure of meeting old familiar characters, and the tension of watching them struggle through their lives and master their challenges, is irrevocably soured by the blizzard of digression, the welter of new acquaintances, and the unbelievable mass of trivia with which the story is packed out. Does it matter a damn how reluctant Aviendha is to take a bath, with a servant’s help or without it? Who cares about the fact that Valan Luca’s wife is a lousy cook? Why dwell so painstakingly upon the progress of Elayne’s pregnancy?

Well, perhaps there are crucial plot hooks buried in these doldrums. Let’s hope so. Jordan is writing what is, I think, the single longest and most involved Fantasy Epic in the history of the genre. It’s unavoidably fascinating for those of us who’ve made the investment in time (and money!) to buy and read the books, but at the same time it’s howlingly frustrating. I cannot point to a single major plot thread which was open and active at the end of book nine which has reached a clear and satisfying conculsion at the end of book ten. Worse thing is, it didn’t used to be this way.” – Simeon Shoul, Infinity Plus

Here’s the bread and butter:  I love the series.  Some of the books (1-6,11+) are very much terrific epic fantasy and altogether classics within the genre.  Books like CoT, however, are not.  They have value – which is why I rated it a 3 of 5 (I’m not hating it as much as a lot of reviewers).  Due to a lack of action, books like CoT dissuade readers from staying entrenched in a deep fantasy series (which defeats the purpose of a series-pushing volume).  I enjoyed the world-building, different viewpoints, and interesting images, but I can understand how one would be frustrated by the same plot lines over multiple volumes and a book that nearly ignores the series protagonist.

Ultimately, if you’ve read this much of the series, you should continue it.  I think it’s worthwhile and I’m sure there are a lot of WoT fans that would say the same.” – Bannon Thyrses, The Surly Mage

Though the tenth book of the Wheel of Time series has a reputation as the worst in the series and one of the worst books of all time, it isn’t. While, it is undoubtedly the worst in the Wheel of Time series, but it isn’t even really that bad of a book. Just padded, slow, and dull. The entire book is a dearth of action, with is surprising, given that the events and stories going on are actually quite interesting…And it’s all boring, with all of these plots flowing along at a glacial pace. This book is so thoroughly crammed with fluff and filler that it will strain the patience of even the most seasoned reader. Robert Jordan’s biggest flaw as a writer has always been his somewhat droning prose, giving too much detail in most places and not enough in a few others, meaning that the Wheel of Time has always been a series that had to be read with patience, the prose a chore to get through in order to digest the considerable, deep, rewarding story behind it all, but this book takes it to its outmost extreme. I did a lot of skimming reading this book, to get through it faster, and I found that I missed nothing of importance and enjoyed the book quite a bit more than if I had tried to process every word. Jordan demonstrates his technical skill, from fleshing out every character to detailing every leaf on every tree, but the problem is that he bores the reader with all this pointless detail. Do I really need to know what some chap in Tarabon is doing when he has no relation to the main story whatsoever? Why are all of these characters taking away from characters like Rand, Mat, Elayne, and the rest that I’m most interested in?

The bottom line: CoT is well-written but hopelessly bogged down, a classic transition book, but certainly not a terrible book by any means. I think the majority of the vitriol directed at it, as the +1,000 one star reviews attest to, is that at this point, people are tired of waiting and aren’t so willing to put up with this kind of crap any further without protest. I, for one, tighten my patience and press on.” – High Fantasy Reader, Amazon.com

I agree with all these reviewers. It wasn’t terrible…I particularly enjoyed Mat’s cat-and-mouse with Tuon, and unlike others I’m actually enjoying Perrin’s storyline. But I did some skimming, and thus I was unable to nail down a firm reading time. I like Brandon Sanderson’s writing, and I’m eager to see what will happen to these characters that I’ve followed for so long.

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May 16, 2011 - Posted by | Book Review | , , , ,

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