A Crown of Swords is book seven of the Wheel of Time series. I have made myself the goal of finishing this series by the end of the year. I started the first book in February and book seven marks the halfway point. That said, I think I am making good progress and I should be able to meet that goal. So far, this book is now the quickest I have read in the series since I finished all 850+ pages in 7-8 days. Below are my thoughts on this installment. As with the previous discussions of this series, there will be spoilers ahead, so be wary if you have not read the series or are not yet to this book in the series.
Starting at the beginning of the book is actually the best area to open the discussion this time. We begin with the final battle from the previous book, but we get to see the events through the eyes of Sevanna. Oh man do I hate Sevanna. She is actually worse than a Darkfriend at this point. Worse than a Forsaken as far as behavior and childishness. She is power-hungry and delusional and I am just waiting for her to meet her demise. We get the tail-end of the battle from her perspective and her running away with those who have survived. We get to see her talk with a man and a woman who end up being Sammael and Graendal. Sammael says he can give her the item to bind Rand to her but only after she has captured the Dragon Reborn. She is obviously being manipulated by him, but of course she thinks she is manipulating him and can even turn Graendal over to her side. She thinks she can conquer the world she is so delusional. I can’t help but wonder why any of the Wise Ones follow her or even enable her with the title of Wise One herself. Some of them even killed a fellow Wise One just to convince the rest of their tribes to attack the Aes Sedai to capture Rand. Anyone directly involved with her has no honor among Aiel. I think her “army” would abandon her if they knew half of what she did.
Towards the end of the book, we get another glimpse of Sevanna. Galina, the Red Ajah Aes Sedai who captured Rand initially, is discovered to have been captured by Sevanna’s tribe. She is brought back and turned into a “despised one.” Sevanna does this because she wants to control her like a damane. All so she can use the One Power second-hand since she can’t use it directly herself. Again, she is a power-hungry idiot. What I did like was the fact Sammael used some temporary Gateway thing to scatter her forces halfway across the map. He simply gave them the device and they used it willingly. I thought it was sad in a way though because we see this happen through the eyes of a would-be clan chief who still follows the Aiel ways and customs. He even says he would only be clan chief after he goes to Rhuidean. He goes through the Gateway and is surrounded by Rand’s forces somewhere outside of Illian if I remember correctly. His concerned more about clan and family than anything else.
After Sammael watches Sevanna’s forces use the Gateways without a second thought, which was dumb on their part, he and Graendal part ways and we get a scene of Shaidar Haran watching them leave. He was spying on them and mentions the need to break himself away from the need to return to Shayal Ghul because he was away for too long. He seemingly wants to break free from the Dark One’s influence. This is strange because he is a Myrdraal but something more than just a Myrdraal. We still don’t know what he is really, but he seems to be scheming on his own.
Since I mentioned the Red Ajah, let’s jump to events in the White Tower. Elaida is becoming a bit paranoid and shut herself in the highest part of the Tower. She is having a palace built for herself too. She is ruling through fear and turning on anyone for any small thing just to maintain control. She does have a Foretelling though that lets her believe she will “win” overall but the Foretelling only mentions the Amyrlin so obviously I believe that reference is to Egwene. Later on, Elaida is put in her place by Alviarin (who is still under the Forsaken Mesaana) , and basically becomes a puppet of the Black Ajah. This confirms my original belief that Elaida wasn’t Black Ajah but was simply hungry for power and was manipulated by the Black Ajah. However, Elaida did do something interesting here. She went to Seaine, a White Ajah in the Tower, and instructed her to conduct a secret, internal investigation. Seaine recruits Pevara to assist her because she can trust her from their long history despite Pevara being in the Red Ajah. This could become quite important later on depending on what they discover and what can be done about it. I think it might just be able to break up those in the White Tower enough that Egwene and her group can easily take them over. This should be easy either way since Elayne recruits the Kin to Egwene, but we will get to that a little later.
The Black Ajah are led, apparently, by Mesaana. We still don’t know how many exist, but we do discover that Galina and Alviarin are two of the top three under Mesaana. Or were, at least. Mesaana takes Alviarin directly under her wing and teaches her how to use a Gateway.
I’ll quickly cover the story of Morgase that is still simmering on the back burner. Pedron Niall is assassinated and the Whitecloaks are taken over by Valda, who blackmails Morgase to sleep with him which is absolutely horrendous. This blackmail effectively shatters her confidence. While Valda goes north to deal with the Prophet Mesema, the Seanchan invade and take over Amadicia, or at least the Fortress of Light. Morgase relinquishes her rights to the throne of Andor, in secret, and nearly attempts suicide before being shown a way to escape the Seanchan. We last see her heading east toward Andor.
Which brings me to the Seanchan. I still hate these people, but they were bound to return eventually. It seems they have been working “off-screen” with their invasion of Tanchico and taking over Tarabon. They are making their way eastward in conquest. Amathera, the Panarch of Tanchico, is shown as a captive named simply Thera and is used to try and convince Morgase to play along with the Seanchan. The last time we really saw the Seanchan was in Falme at the end of the second book. I expect there will be much more of the Seanchan in the next book, especially with what happens with Mat, which I’ll cover shortly.
This book could have been called The Bowl of the Winds if it weren’t for the last chapter, the title chapter, because most of this book centers on Ebou Dar with Elayne and Nynaeve looking for the Bowl of the Winds. They showed up in Ebou Dar at the end of the last book with Mat as escort since he was tasked with bringing Elayne to Caemlyn and got dragged along to help her find the ter’angreal that would return the weather to normal.
The Bowl of the Winds is what the ter’angreal is called by the Atha’an Miere whom Elayne and Nynaeve visit and apparently strike a terrible bargain with, which Mat ends up leveling out when he speaks to the Atha’an Miere. Nynaeve gets herself and Elayne mixed up with the group of women called the Kin. They take in women who were cast out of the White Tower or had left the tower. They run a little group to help these women and their ability to use saidar. Their leader, Reanne, is apparently almost 500 years old. Elayne and Nynaeve get poorly treated at first by the Kin who believe they are runaways from the Tower or pretending to be Aes Sedai. Elayne confronts Merilille and the other Aes Sedai in the palace about being treated poorly and calls them out about their behavior and thinking her and Nynaeve are not full Aes Sedai despite Egwene’s, the Amyrlin’s, statement that they are. During her confidence boost, we are reminded that Elayne is only 18 years old. After the confrontation, Elayne basically takes full control of all matters in Ebou Dar, including showing the Kin who she is, truthfully, despite them not believing her at first. She effectively recruits the Kin to Egwene’s group. The Kin make up almost 2,000 women. Practically twice the number in the White Tower before it was split. So technically, with that amount of Sisters, they should be able to retake the White Tower easily.
Quick-side update on Moghedien. She was set free from Egwene at the end of the last book. We still don’t know who helped her escape but the woman-who-can-wield-saidin is apparently still in the Aes Sedai camp. We next see Moghedien in Shayal Ghul and is pretty much tethered again but this time instead of an a’dam, she is linked by a Mindtrap which makes me think of a mix between an a’dam and a Warder’s bond. The Mindtrap is in the hands of Moridin, who I don’t think we have met before. Moghedien is practically a slave again but for a Forsaken or whatever Moridin is. I would feel bad for her if she wasn’t a Forsaken herself and an evil person.
Egwene discovers Lan in the Aes Sedai camp but hidden off to the side by Myrelle and Nisao. She sends Lan to protect Nynaeve. It seems Moraine originally transferred Lan’s bond to Myrelle because Myrelle has saved several Warders in the past who lost their Aes Sedai. Myrelle was then supposed to transfer Lan’s bond to Nynaeve once he was “healed” so he wouldn’t run off to die fighting somewhere. This gives Lan his reason-to-live since he love Nynaeve. Myrelle and Nisao swear fealty to Egwene as Amyrlin to avoid harsher punishment from their keeping Lan a secret. I don’t think this is a great move for Egwene though because Aes Sedai are about the Tower and not a specific Amyrlin, but now we have Aes Sedai who have sworn fealty to Rand and some who have to Egwene. Last update on Egwene: She is apparently in fact a Dreamer. Her dreams can potentially predict things, so she spends most nights in a half-sleep cataloging her dreams. This prevents her from getting fully rested and may be the reason behind her headaches, but her headaches have been present since she was tortured by Lanfear before Moraine intervened. I’m sure this is all foreshadowing something.
Anyway, Moghedien shows up in Ebou Dar randomly. She is apparently on an errand for Moridin but all we see is she tries to kill Nynaeve on sight using balefire. This whole scene almost seems like Moghedien showing up was just an excuse to have Lan save Nynaeve. The balefire kills Mat’s men who were guarding Nynaeve and sends her to the bottom of the river. She gets saved by Lan and apparently also gets her “block” removed so she can use saidar without getting angry first. Near-death experiences can cause real changes in people, but with the build-up from the last book, this seemed like an underwhelming way to have the block removed. Also, Nynaeve and Lan get married that night. Good for them.
We don’t see Moghedien again, but we do see two of the original Black Ajah who were with Liandrin way back when. They show up to get the Bowl of the Winds or another object out of the supposed house-full of angreal at the exact same, convenient time that our heroes do. They fight. Several loads of items are taken off by the Black Ajah’s men. Nynaeve takes on the two Black Ajah and Mat rushes up to help Elayne and fights what we find out is an gholam, a man who is crazy strong and doesn’t bleed when stabbed, but is burned by Mat’s fox head medallion. We later learn, from Mat via Birgitte, that there are six gholam that were made before the Breaking. Three men and three women (in appearance at least) who are unaffected by the One Power and are assassins of the highest talents. They apparently were held in stasis boxes so who knows how many are freely roaming around or under a Forsaken’s command. This one was apparently under Sammael’s command who had the Whitecloak Carridan in Ebou Dar doing something. Our heroes were keeping an eye on Carridan but nothing happened once they started keeping tabs. At least in this book. In the end, our heroes capture one of the Black Ajah but the other one gets away. They also do find the Bowl of the Winds. Mission accomplished.
Elayne, Nynaeve, Birgitte, and Aviendha leave with Lan to the Kin’s farm outside Ebou Dar, but Mat stays behind to find Olver. Mat was eager to leave but of course he is obligated to look after the boy. He is eager to leave because Tylin was playing him like a fiddle and took advantage of him multiple times. He wasn’t fond of being chased instead of doing the chasing, but it was fun to read. While he is searching the city for Olver, the Seanchan arrive in Ebou Dar and their invasion begins. We last see Mat get buried in a pile of rubble. Now, this sets up Mat’s prophesied encounter/eventually marriage to the Daughter of the Nine Moons who was hinted at as being the Empress of the Seanchan. I expect this is the next story arc for Mat. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
We, again, don’t get to see much of Perrin or Loial in the book. Hopefully they get more attention in the next book. All we really get is Perrin fake fighting with Rand and then taking a band of soldiers, and Berelain for added stress (not his choice), to Ghealdean to take care of Masema the Prophet. This was all after Perrin refused to take over things in Tear. The fake argument ended up being a little real since Rand flung Perrin across the room, but it was all a public display.
Lastly, let’s discuss the Dragon Reborn himself. Rand returns to Cairhein after the events of the last book and has to recapture it from Colaveare, which he does easily. The Aes Sedai who swore fealty are holding their oaths so far. They even help, along with much ta’veran luck with Rand’s discussion with the Atha’an Miere, to secure the Atha’an Miere to Rand. Rand tells Min about Fel’s death and they both “comfort” each other. Min gets mad at Rand later for trying to claim that he took advantage of her when she of course was overly eager herself. This brings Rand’s lovers to two of three. He has been with Aviendha and Min. Next, I bet, he will be with Elayne and the love tetrahedron will be complete [insert ironic laughter here].
Back to the matters at hand. Cadsuane shows up out of nowhere and becomes a prominent character. An Aes Sedai nearly 300 years old and a legend among them and the White Tower apparently. Min sees a viewing that Cadsuane will teach Rand and all the asha’man a lesson they will not like, but it will be important for them to learn. This is after Rand gets back from his visit in the forest.
So Rand goes to the forest outside of Cairhein to sneak among the Cairheinan and Tairen rebels. He is pressing his ta’veran luck here since it was right after meeting the Atha’an Miere. He infiltrates the camp easily with the help of Moraine’s cousin Caraline. During this covert mission, Rand sees several Red Ajah Aes Sedai in the camp and another group consisting of Cadsuane and two others. Padan Fain is also in the camp but under the name Mordeth. He somehow calls in a fog full monsters or at least tendrils similar to those seen in Shadar Logoth. The camp is effectively destroyed. As Rand, Min, Cadsuane, Caraline, and others make their way out of the fog, Fain jumps out and slices Rand with his dagger from Shadar Logoth. Eventually everyone gets back to Cairhein. Rand gets healing from two Aes Sedai and one of his asha’man, Flinn. One of the Aes Sedai makes a very generous offer to Flinn to teach her exactly what he did to assist Rand’s healing. The cut from the dagger sliced right over Rand’s wound from Falme. We learn that both wounds are filled with evil but they each are a different kind of evil. The two evils may actually combat each other. Rand survives because of the three who healed him as best they could.
Then we get to the final chapter. When Rand wakes up from a coma two days after getting cut, he makes another dumbass decision. He disappears with this asha’man to Caemlyn to pick up Bashere and Co. then travels to Illian to take over the city. He chases Sammael to Shadar Logoth to fight it out. While there, he finds Liah, the Maiden he lost when he traveled there to put a trap on the Waygate with the help of Loial’s mom, future wife, and the Stedding Eldar in the last book. This means she has survived for who knows how long there, which seems improbable. Rand fights some Trollics and a Fade then almost falls into a dark pit, but he is saved by a mysterious figure. A man who can channel but supposedly not saidin. I think it may be saidar since we have the opposite going on inside Egwene’s camp. This man helps Rand but says he won’t help him kill Sammael. He only helps because “many plans will be impacted” should Rand die. I guess he is a Forsaken or at least on that level. This guy channels balefire at a tendril of Mashadar, who is seeping through Shadar Logoth as before, at the same time as Rand, and their balefire attacks intersect. I don’t know if the attacks canceled each other out or if they just touched for a second, but it effectively shakes Rand and mystery guy out of the Power and put them on their knees to recover. After the brief encounter, this guy disappears without a word.
Rand goes on to find Sammael. He is about to take him out with balefire when he sees Liah getting picked up by one of Mashadar’s tendrils. He redirects his balefire to kill her so she wouldn’t die a horrible death since she was already touched by the evil. He turns back to find the area Sammael was in covered in the fog of Mashadar. He presumes Sammael is dead, killed by Mashadar, due to the lack of time he could have had to make a Gateway. I of course don’t believe Sammael is dead for three reasons. We didn’t see it, or a body, so it cannot be confirmed, Sammael is the only Forsaken still alive that we have gotten to know to some degree (besides Moghedien), and he has a huge grudge against Lews Therin that will likely play a role later on. He is still an interesting enemy. All the other current enemies are still shrouded in mystery if not simply names we’ve recently seen.
Rand ultimately is given the crown, the crown of swords, in Illian, which he accepts. So he is king in Illian. He still plans to have Elayne rule in Andor and Cairhein. The high lords technically still rule in Tear. I’m not sure where he plans to take over next, but I bet it is westward and will involve fighting the Seanchan. We will see.
One last comment before we end this. I have noticed that these books are becoming, or have always been and I am just now fully realizing it after several books, a little formulaic. I mean this in the way they are written. We get similar events at similar times in each book. In the beginning it was the repetition of facing a Forsaken at the end of the first three books. We didn’t get a huge surprise moment in this book like we have others, but we did get a few lesser ones. Don’t get me wrong, I am still enjoying myself with the story and this “formula” may just be Robert Jordan’s way of handing the massive amount of story-lines going on at once. Like in previous books, we get little glimpses of some stories in this book. Mainly small updates on Sevanna’s and Morgase’s stories, while the main focus is on a few of our main characters. Mainly Rand of course but I would say Elayne, Nyneave, and Mat were the biggest characters of this book. We also got a few sprinklings of new story-lines and introductions of new characters. Some of which will become important and others will probably never be seen again. This could just be me analyzing the series from a writer’s perspective, but I think any reader could pick this up after the first few books. It may turn some readers who do see it away from completing the series. I doesn’t change any of my opinions. I’m of course going to finish the series regardless, but I thought it interesting that the practices have continued in each book. I wonder if they will persist throughout.
On to book eight. The Path of Daggers.