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The seventh volume of The Wheel of Time carries us over the halfway point of the series (with the final book now being split into two volumes, bringing the series total to thirteen) in terms of wordcount. However, in terms of the actual story we're much closer to the end. Robert Jordan made a decision in the latter part of the series to reduce forward story momentum in favour of developing subplots and character interactions, a rather controversial choice that has resulted in the series' overall mixed reviews across SF&F fandom. By this seventh volume, we are starting to see the impact of this decision.

The book opens in the aftermath of the massive Battle of Dumai's Wells, when the Dragon Reborn, imprisoned by the Aes Sedai loyal to Elaida, was rescued by his supporters and both sides had to fend off an attack by the Shaido Aiel. During this battle nine of the rebel Aes Sedai swore fealty to Rand to prove their loyalty and the Asha'man, a society of male channellers created by Rand to use in the Last Battle, proved their worth. Resisting the urge to revenge himself upon Elaida, Rand prepares for his much-foreshadowed confrontation with Sammael, whilst at the same time trying to finally win over the Sea Folk and the Cairhienin rebels to his cause. Meanwhile, in Ebou Dar, Mat, Nynaeve, Elayne and several other characters are trying to find the Bowl of Winds, an important artifact that will restore normal weather to the world. In Amador, stronghold of the Children of the Light, a shift in the balance of power puts Morgase's life in danger, and from the south and from the west an even greater threat is emerging to challenge the alliance Rand is hoping to assemble against the Shadow.

There's a lot going on in A Crown of Swords, and the book conveys a feeling of momentum and movement compared to the largely static Lord of Chaos, which makes it a moderately more satisfying read. There's also a widening of the worldbuilding, with the Sea Folk presented in more detail then we have seen before, the introduction of the Kin (a secret society of female channellers) and the revelation of a new form of magic, the True Power, and a convincing reason given why we haven't seen it before (although we have, kind of). We also get to meet a deadly new form of Shadowspawn which presents a real sense of menace, just as we were starting to get bored of Trollocs and Myrddraal. As with the last three books, multiple storylines proceed in tandem and build to a series of large-scale, epic climaxes which shift the balance of power in the world and the story and leave the reader eager to plunge into the next book.

However, several key problems emerge or are solidified in this book. There is a lot of talk and overlong chapters in which very little happens. Forward character development proceeds satisfyingly for several characters, but others (most notably Elayne) seem to be stuck going round in circles to the increasing frustration of the reader. The fact that one of the most interesting and morally complex characters in the entire series dies in this book is also rather irritating (given how reluctant Jordan is to kill off characters in this series). The introduction of the Kin also feels like a redundant step too far. On top of the Aes Sedai, the Aiel Wise Ones and the Sea Folk Windfinders, we really didn't need yet another group of female channellers and their attendant politics. On the other hand, Jordan sometimes gets criticised for his introduction of a whole new bunch of characters among the White Tower Aes Sedai who are assigned to flush out traitors, but he doesn't devote much time to them and they are clearly essential for the resolution of the Aes Sedai civil war storyline.

A Crown of Swords (****) is largely a satisfying continuation of the story despite the increasing longueurs in some of the storylines. Some of the new characters and elements introduced are more successful than others, but broadly there is still the sense the story is going somewhere with continuing hints that we are moving towards a definitive conclusion. Unfortunately, this is the last time for several volumes that this is apparent. The book is available from Orbit in the UK and from Tor in the USA.
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on 7 August 2001
...This book, in my opinion, mantains Jordans high standards and is an improvement on the last book. Once more the pace is slow and you need to be prepared for this. It won't suit all people no matter how detailed a world he is building up this way. Personally I love this. It makes a marvellous contrast to other books such as the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. Both are different but excellent in their own ways. Its good to read books of variety in pacing.
However, Jordan did get a little bogged down occasionally in the last book which I would give 4 stars for this reason. Crown of swords is different. I never once felt that a passage was unneccessary and all the detail simply added up to paint a wonderful picture of another world.
Some would say tht nothing happens in much of this book. I disagree, we see a subtle developments in character interaction particualrly between Mat, Elayne and Nynaeve, the intruduction of new elements to the world (true source for example) as well as a cliff-hanger of an ending. This all serves to set us up nicely for not only the next book but the rest of the series.
The aforementioned character development helps to negate the fact that Jordan still uses descriptions of Nynaeve tugging her braid, thinking all men are dumb etc. This is because you can see that these developments are leading us away from this. Hence me saying earlier that there are no wasted words. Without this, I would have begun to have become fed up with this but Jordan, skilled writer that he is has advanced things at just the right time.
So basically if you love the series then you will love this. It has many classic Jordan moments that stir the soul (a'la dumai wells!). If you are beginning to tire of things then please give it a chance as hopefully you will see the advancements that take place to make this one of the great achievments of fantasy literature. And he hasn't even finished yet!
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VINE VOICEon 1 June 2010
Jordan, uncharacteristically one might say, produces a Wheel of Time novel which starts off with action, has plenty of exciting sequences in the middle and offers a grand finale to boot. There is none of the spirituality of the previous two entries and the action centres around the original Two Rivers 'heroes', as their stories continue on a collision-course with the Dark One. Although Jordan is still verbose and frequently uses five hundred words when fifty would suffice, there is less redundant prose here, although anyone looking for brief and concise fiction would have escaped from the Wheel of Time some volumes back. The story is worth the content and and Crown of Swords offers the propellant this ailing series needed offering various entertaining aspects of fantasy fiction from tavern brawls to field warfare, mysterious quests to assassinations. Entertaining from the first page to the last, although a little wordy on the way, this is a reminder of why the series is so popular.
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on 20 November 2012
Unlike previous sequels in this series, a Crown of Swords picks up during the climax of Lord of Chaos. This is an odd choice and I can't really see any reason for it. I would have preferred these scenes in the previous book which would have made the ending a little longer. Also, it made for a slightly confusing read. I actually had to go back to check that I was right when I remembered Moghedian escaping, before reading on to find that I was only reading Egwene's POV as the event happened.

Anyway, those little niggles aside, it was more of the same as LoC. Honestly, I have just finished reading it over the last eight days or so, and I can't remember much of the plot. It seems to be just another filler book with a few interesting things along the way. I did however find the Ebou Dar storyline to be far more interesting than previously with the girls. It might be because Mat is involved, but as is usual now, when these women meet up with men, they have something derogatory to say about them to the detriment of the story. And this time it would be the same.

If it wasn't for Aviendha and Birgitte.

Birgitte is firmly established in this book as being more like one of the boys and strikes up a friendship with Mat when he finally remembers who she is. She then acts as an unofficial ambassador for both genders and becomes one of the few characters who are actually capable of understanding a different point of view.
Once it is revealed to Aviendha how the women were rescued from the Stone of Tear, she mentioned that Elayne and Nynaeve (and Egwene) have toh towards Mat, leading the women to become more civil with him, which also leads to a previously unconsidered revelation to Elayne that civility with Mat can lead to civility towards her. Finally, we might see an end to all this bickering between the sexes and get on with the story.

Rand's story, though, tends to skip around with no clear path. One moment he's visiting the Sea Folk, then he hops outside Cairhien to clear up some rebels, before deciding to finally take care of Sammael. Again, this climax is one chapter with little to no foreshadowing. He literally, I kid you not, gets out of bed and says, 'I'm going after Sammael now'. Nothing seems to have brought it on, Sammael has done nothing to Rand throughout this book and has kept quiet since issuing his truce. In fact his efforts have been towards the Shaido. Acts that Rand cannot know about. There is literally no reason for him to go there then, rather than tomorrow. Sure, his massive Army reaches Illian before he decides to go, but the event seems incidental, as if Jordan didn't know how to end the book.

To conclude, this book has more interesting personal moments, but on a grand scale, very little happens until the end.
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on 15 November 2009
Book seven in this saga is an interesting one. I thought six had gone downhill and that the story was beginning to drag it's feet, and so waited a few months before continuing with the series. The first half of Crown of Swords followed on immediately from book six in terms of both plot and style.

Jordan seems to have made a bad plan for the storyline at this part of his tale, as it appears to call for Rand, his main character, to sit around doing nothing, and some plot elements seem forced just to give an opportunity for Rand to make an appearance.

I did enjoy some of the appearances by other characters in this one though. I liked that Mat had a lot if the attention, and a nice chunky storyline like Perrin had back in book four, although Perrin almost disappears again like he did back in book five.

The second half of this volume is where things start to pick up again, with the action focussing on Mat, Elayne & Nynave as they search an unusual city for a lost artefact. It's really nice to see the characters moved a little out of their comfort zones and their expectations challenged. The presence of some action actually happening for once rather than lots of talk and a tiny battle scene is excellent.

Overall, I am still glad I had a little break before returning to the Wheel of Time, but once the dull first half was fought through this book turned out to be a good read. The fantasy world is beginning to get a little too detailed to remember everything now though so I'm glad that the next book in the set is a 'reference guide'.
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on 29 January 2011
this is a good, well written book that I enjoyed reading. The only problem I had with the book is that there is little plot development for the series as a whole, with a large chunk given over to traipsing around Ebou Dar.
the book starts with a quicker pace than other books in the series with the world recoiling after the events of Dumai Wells. After that the book quietens down around the middle to nearly the end of the book. Then within the space of the end chapter, everything goes at hurtling speed, completely out of character with the rest of the book, where some sort of plot development happens to end the book, whilst all the other plot threads remain open.
All in all there're a few decent action scenes, some nice characterisation, but as said little plot development. it's well worth reading if you're a fan of the series.
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on 8 November 2004
A Crown of Swords picks up where Lord of Chaos left off. Rand al'Thor, The Dragon Reborn has been worrying about Forsaken Sammael for some time. It is in this story that he finally decides to confront him. Meanwhile, Nynaeve, Elayne, Mat, Thom, Juilin, Aviendha and Birgitte head to Ebou Dar to find the Bowl of the Winds and make the weather right again. A number of new characters are introduced - the sultry Queen Tylin of Altara and the mysterious and bossy Cadsuane Melaidhrin. We get to hear more of Sevanna and the Shaido Aiel, mostly from Sevanna's point of view, and Sammael and Graendal both make numerous appearences. Despite being slow in some places (Perrin is STILL the most boring wheel of time character, and Faile the most annoying), A Crown of Swords is an able successor to the great lord of chaos. But don't get it until you have read the 6 preceding books!
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on 26 November 2007
The series of books is brilliant, but the story line seems to be dragging on and on now chasing in never ending circles. We don't seem any nearer the final conflict than we did 6 books ago. It has got to the stage now where you just read the books because you want to know what is going to happen. After this endless stream of books and the closeness you begin to make with the characters, you could sit and write the ending for yourself. It has started now to become very predictable, where you can read what is going to happen in each chapter before you have even read it. I just hope with the sad loss of Robert, that who ever writes the next book in the series that they make it the final chapter and that they just manage to end the book as he would have done himself. It could have ended at least 2 books ago.
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on 17 March 2012
Probably my favourite series of fantasy books ever, and I've read a few! I'm reading them for the second time in anticipation of the final book being released later on this year? There is so much detail I realise I missed bits the first time round. Robert Jordan was a wonderful writer and it is so sad he is no longer with us and able to tantalise our minds with his word magic. I recommend the whole series of The Wheel of Time although some are harder going than others, they are still a wonderful insight into another time and place. Hundreds of characters, places, weird creatures and intrigue to keep you thoroughly entertained and not wanting to put it down.
Fantas-tic.
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on 13 February 2012
Now, I am a huge fan of Jordan, make no mistake, but books five and six were, for me, tolerable, and this one, whilst better, is still not up to scratch with the latter (or earlier) novels. But, no matter how much you detested five, it does not mean you can skpi any of these novels :) To do so would leave you more lost than one of the Sea Folk on dry land :) read on, my faithful family, and see where it leads you in books 8 and 9 (back up to par, then) :)
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