Title: Crossroads of Twilight
Author: Robert Jordan
Written & Published: 2003
If you’re still reading the Wheel of Time by book 10 in the series, then you deserve a commendation medal for perseverance. Or you’re a masochist. Perhaps, like me, you’re just a fool who is willing to throw perfectly good hours at a painful project, hoping desperately that it will pay off in the end.
Without wanting to go too deeply into spoiler land – a remarkably hard thing at this point in the series – something significant actually happened at the end of book 9. I was elated, and considerably relieved, that the series finally seemed to be going somewhere again. Then along came book 10. My elation and relief promptly left in disgust.
My copy of the book is the large, trade paperback size. The prologue begins on page 15. It is page 540 before the main character appears. For a novel that ‘only’ has 680 pages, I consider this impressive.
Obviously, there is a lot that happens in 500+ pages. There was, um… Well, let’s see. Perrin bought some grain. Ooh, grain! There were also beans. Thrilling. I’m sure 20 pages were dedicated to descriptions of the gilding and carvings on various pieces of furniture. We probably lost another 15 pages to pouring tea into Sea Folk porcelain. There were the obligatory pages describing the dress worn by each woman, and far too many observations about breast sizes that we have already observed in previous books. Setting the scene is important, but the limits are stretched beyond reason.
The main thrust of this novel was making sure nearly every character we have ever been introduced to got their chance to react to the main event at the end of book 9. Any character who was at risk of doing something about it was glossed over; why would readers want an action scene instead of a laborious conversation between characters?
A standard piece of wisdom for the writing community is “show, don’t tell”. This relates to the tendency to say “Elayne felt angry” rather than demonstrating Elayne’s anger. This piece of advice has been enthusiastically ignored in this book, replaced with “show and tell”. It’s an utter bonus for readers who are tuning out of the story, because you can skim the three paragraphs that describe the emotional reaction and skip straight to the summarising statements. Perhaps future copies of the book could highlight these sentences to save readers time and effort.
In the interests of being fair to the book, I do have to concede that something significant happens in it. Of course, to be fair to people considering reading it, I feel obliged to point out that the significant event takes place over the last 3 pages. The significance of it might be lost in the vague storytelling that supports the chapter, especially for readers who skimmed over an incredibly dull passage several chapters earlier. But don’t worry if you miss the point – it is explained in detail in book 11.
Following the decline of the series to this point, I give this book 1 out of 5 pages. It is too large and sprawling to include a clear story arc, and I consider a cohesive plot to be essential to any novel. Especially painful is the knowledge that other books in the series are substantially better, and that the problems here are not the result of an inexperienced author.