The Path of Daggers is book eight of The Wheel of Time series and is the shortest of the fourteen. I think I mentioned around book four that I felt our main characters had come into their own and grown or matured greatly over the course of the first three books. As we get into book eight, I can’t help but feel like our characters have matured even more. So much that they are beyond just adults but taking on commanding roles within the world. I’m continuing this series discussion as before, with spoilers, so be warned if you have not yet read this far. If you have not read the series at all, I still advise against reading these spoilers, but we may be so far into it that the spoilers might not make sense without knowledge of previous events. Despite being the shortest book, there is still a lot to talk about. Let’s get into it.
Beginning with something brief, I noticed that Mat is not in this book at all, whatsoever, and I’m a bit disappointed. I’m disappointed because I was excited to see what happens to him after the ending of the previous book, but we don’t even get a glimpse, which means we last saw Mat getting buried in a pile of rubble in Ebou Dar during the invasion by the Seanchan. We do get information that the Seanchan have settled into Ebou Dar so surely the next time we see Mat he will have been through a few things and we will probably just get a brief summary about them before jumping back into his story. Also, I think Thom and Juilin had stayed behind with Mat so we don’t know what is happening with them either. We just know they are not with Elayne.
Elayne has only a few chapters in this book but they are important. We open up with her, Nynaeve, Lan, Aviendha, and Birgitte, along with the Kin from Ebou Dar, the Atha’an Miere, and the Aes Sedai who were in Ebou Dar all going out to the Kin’s farm/retreat. They Travel there via a Gateway made by Aviendha. She gets everyone through but then quickly undoes the Gateway by tearing the weaves, or “unweaving,” so no one can follow them. The Aes Sedai are appalled. They forbid that practice because it is high risk, but she does it for a purpose. They were being watched by what could have been the gholam that attacked them in the last book. She was right, but they were also being watched by Moridin (more on him later).
They travel out to the farm and end up using the Bowl of the Winds by creating a large circle. Strangely enough though, the Bowl uses saidin alongside saidar when it spreads across the sky to return the weather to normal patterns and reverse the Dark Lord’s touch on the world. They are successful and their success ends up having consequences later on. After they use the Bowl, they see that Ebou Dar is under attack by Seanchan so they prepare to leave. The Seanchan begin to scout into the area when they are finishing their Travel into Andor near Caemlyn. Getting everyone through took time and some of the Seanchan start coming through as Elayne, who made the Gateway this time, is still unweaving the threads so the Seanchan can’t follow with a damane who might be able to trace the weave. Some Seanchan come through and start attacking Elayne and Birgitte, and Aviendha, and Elayne isn’t able to fully remove the weave successfully. The result is a major explosion that wipes out most of the area around the weave on both sides of the Gateway. The explosion takes out the Seanchan on both sides and hurts Elayne, Birgitte, and Aviendha as well. Nynaeve is able to heal them once she comes back to help them. I have a feeling this “unweaving” will come into play later on since it can effectively wipe out an entire army if used as a weapon.
So Elayne & Co are in Andor and begin to make their way toward Caemlyn so she can claim the Lion Throne. The weather is turning back to normal, effectively turning abruptly to winter, and impedes their progress and they take much longer to get to Caemlyn. Along the way, they discover a Darkfriend is among their party after Adeleas is found dead and the Black Ajah they captured, Ispan, is killed as well. The main goal seemingly was to silence Ispan from revealing too much. Either way, they can’t trust anyone until they find out who did it. They all make it into Caemlyn and everyone is housed in the palace after Elayne announces her claim to the throne. She does meet with Dyelin who asks what her intentions are and then decides to support her. I can’t help but hope that Dyelin will be a good friend to her.
Morgase and her little group had run from the Seanchan invasion of Amadicia and we find them being hounded by some of the Prophet’s people. Perrin comes in to save them and sends a warning to the Prophet/Masema who he has come to meet with. Morgase is going by the name Maighdin and is picked up by Faile to become a servant. She apparently is slowly coming to terms with her new path in life since she is no longer queen, and Lini even tries to make Perrin marry her to Talanvor (he doesn’t, yet).
Perrin is still my favorite character along with Loial. Loial left to find a Stedding and we haven’t seen him in a long time, but Perrin is back in a somewhat major way. He has come to get Masema and bring him to Rand and he is supposed to be quiet about it. He is able to get Alliandre, the Queen of Ghealdean, to align with him. She even swears fealty to him. Elyas shows back up too. I think this may be the first appearance from him since book one. He joins Perrin and actually gives Perrin some marital advice, which ends up helping Perrin out quite a bit. Perrin ends up meeting with Masema at the end of the book and convinces him to come see Rand, but he refuses to go by Traveling and Perrin agrees to take him to Rand by horse/foot. I doubt they will make it all the way to Cairhien considering the last bit of info we get with Faile. She is out hawking with Alliandre and gets info that Masema has been meeting with the Seanchan. She tries desperately to get the info to Perrin, but they are attacked by the Shaido Aiel. Faile, Maighdin/Morgase, Alliandre, and a few others including Bain and Chiad are taken prisoner as gai’shain. Supposedly, Berelain escapes and can inform Perrin of what has happened. Perrin will go crazy to get Faile back so I bet he takes out the Shaido for Rand now. Faile was more worried about getting Perrin the info about Masema than she was about being prisoner, but that may be because she knows Perrin will come get her soon.
We get a short chapter about the Shaido and Sevanna. She is losing influence with the Wise Ones after the Shaido were scattered by Sammael’s Travel boxes. She tries to make Galina swear an oath to her using something similar to the Oath Rod that Sammael had given her, but the oath Galina takes is to obey the Wise Ones and not just Sevanna.
One of the opening events in the prologue shows the leaders of the four border nations, including Agelmar from Shienar who we last saw in book one, meeting and deciding to band together, via an old pact not used in two thousand years, and move south to settle the unstable countries.
I’ve noticed that many of the events in the prologue of each book don’t often, if at all, get mentioned further in the book they prelude. The plot lines are simply mentioned to plant the seed and then come into play in either the next book or even a few books later on. This prologue includes the four border nations making the pact, Moridin who gets a little more mention in this book, and Verin who is apparently questioning the captured Aes Sedai from Dumai’s Wells. Within the prologue, she is doing something that apparently is forbidden. It seems to be some kind of mind control to make the Aes Sedai do what she thinks needs to be done. She even, at least it is hinted at, helps some of them escape. Presumably so they can carry out her “orders.” I like Verin, but this is kind of a red flag.
Moving on to Moridin. He seems like he will become a major villain, especially since the Forsaken have been absent of late. All we see in this installment though is that he has Moghedien and another woman go to summon Graendal. They accept that Moridin has been named Nae’blis, the top person named by the Dark Lord, but Graendal is skeptical until Shaidar Haran, the altered Myrddraal, shows up and convinces her. She is supposed to go meet Moridin and become his minion. There are still several Forsaken out there who we haven’t heard from. Only six remain from my count. We see a little of Mesaana who is still in the White Tower. We don’t see Demandred, Semirhage, or Asmodean (where has he been?).
We get one line during a scene with the Seanchan that tells us that Liandrin, the original Black Ajah troublemaker, is now a servant/slave to the Seanchan since she is still blocked from the One Power by Moghedien’s weave from a few books ago. Another Black Ajah, the one who was with Ispan but got away in Ebou Dar, has been captured and is now a damane. The Seanchan have captured Ebou Dar and are expanding further west. Many of the nations now know about them but have not yet done anything to move against them. Little is known if they are even preparing to defend against an invasion by them either.
Most of the main action of this book centers around Rand rooting out the Seanchan in Altara. He Travels from Illian with a small force of nobles who have issues with him or caused him trouble in the past. They each come with a few soldiers making up a force of about four thousand. He also brings about 50 Asha’man who are meant to do most of the killing. They Travel and scout through the mountains and drive the Seanchan out and back toward Ebou Dar. He then faces off against them in large numbers in the forests north of Ebou Dar. Both Rand and the Asha’man with him are uneasy about using saidin in this area because there is something off about it. I’m curious if this is another side-effect of using the Bowl of the Winds since it was used in Ebou Dar, but either way it is making things difficult for them. Unstable perhaps. Rand continues onward despite this. He first meant to just get the Seanchan out of the mountains to lessen their hold on the area, but he decides later to take them out of Ebou Dar. To drive them back to the sea like in Falme. He gets so focused on this that he has Narishma go get Callandor from Tear. He then uses the ter’angreal to finish off the Seanchan but he loses control and ends up killing some of his own people, including one of the Asha’man he first recruited to the Black Tower. He only stops because Bashere tackles him and makes him stop. Bashere is great. Rand believes this is his first defeat in battle since becoming the Dragon Reborn. We as readers get to see that the Seanchan also consider the battle a defeat.
Rand later learns from Cadsuane that Callandor is flawed and can only be used safely when one man, the wielder, is linked with two women and one of the women controls the flows of power. This info seems a bit too convenient for Cadsuane’s purposes and I’m not sure I believe it, but Cadsuane is bound by the three oaths and cannot lie (but we do see how believing something to be true lets an Aes Sedai claim it as truth, but more on that later). This also sets up many possible combinations of Rand using Callandor with a few Aes Sedai. The most likely combination either him with Elayne and Egwene, or him with Elayne and Aviendha.
Rand almost dies, twice, while fighting the Seanchan. The first is right after Traveling to the area and it was an attempt on his life by one of the men in his party who was paid supposedly by Aes Sedai, but Davrim Bashere pretty much shows that it couldn’t be assumed it was Aes Sedai. We don’t get to know who paid the man, yet, but it does seem like it was planned to look a certain way. The second time is when Weiramon gets too eager and leaves a side undefended, thus letting some Seanchan through who almost kill Rand.
Lews Therin’s voice also returns in Rand’s head and the issue with saidin is persisting with Rand. He pretty much is incapacitated temporarily when seizing the source and when letting it go. The fact the Asha’man state they feel the disturbance within saidin too soothes Rand at first but he still pushes himself and his soldiers too far. This leads to the final confrontation of the book, which I will save for last.
Next, let’s move back to Cadsuane. She was introduced a while back and was made out to be a prominent character. She is slowly getting there. She and Sorilea have a scene where they make a pact to bring Rand out of his downward spiral and remind him what it means to be human. This will be a great thing considering Rand has been too enveloped in his “purpose”of being the Dragon Reborn that he is pushing himself non-stop and is losing sight of why he has to do what he is doing. Min has seen an image of Cadsuane teaching Rand and all the Asha’man something important that they won’t enjoy learning, but it will be essential. Because of the viewing and Min’s insistence that he needs her, Rand asks Cadsuane to become his advisor. They discuss the possibility of this but never come to an agreement. They test the waters and it seems like they will eventually become official allies once they find acceptable terms.
Sorilea brings the remaining five Aes Sedai prisoners before Rand to make a final decision regarding what to do with them. They are all now willing to serve him and have learned their mistake. They all swear the same oath of fealty to him that the other Aes Sedai did at Dumai’s Wells. If I can remember correctly, none of these five Aes Sedai were Black Ajah, or even Red Ajah, so they are still bound by the three oaths. They are then given back to Sorilea to be made apprentices to the Wise Ones like the other Aes Sedai who swore fealty.
A few more areas to discuss before the finale. Elaida is still Amyrlin in the White Tower but she is basically a puppet for Alviarin right now. She is hoping Seaine will get the dirt she needs to have Alviarin dealt with. This brings me back to the Aes Sedai needing to believe something to be true in order to speak it. Seaine and Pevara are using the Oath Rod to try and find the Black Ajah members in the White Tower. They inadvertently discover the Salidar spies, or the spies the “rebel” Aes Sedai sent to the Tower. Pevara tells the spy they uncover to stop telling the “lie” that the Red Ajah set up False Dragons, specifically Logain. She tells her to renounce the lie, but the spy believes it to be true so she can’t say it is false. She starts choking since Pevara told her to say it is false after she had just sworn an oath to follow Pevara and Seaine’s commands, but she is still bound by the oath to tell the truth, so she is stuck between each oath of obeying Pevara and telling the truth as she believes it, which are contradicting each other. Pevara ultimately has to remove her command so the girl doesn’t die. Right after this event, other sisters, Sitters of the Hall, pop into the basement room Seaine and Pevara are using for their questioning. They were hoping to dig up some dirt about what is going on in each Ajah since the Tower is basically split by Ajah now and the Aes Sedai are not trusting each other as they had previously. They think Pevara and Seaine are sneaking to this room to discuss information related to their Ajahs. Anyway, these Sitters come in and find the Oath Rod and they all retake the Three Oaths and claim they are not Black Ajah. The scene cuts short before the final sister takes the Oath Rod, who we know is actually Black Ajah, so I’m sure we will get to see the repercussions of this later on.
Elaida also has sent about fifty Aes Sedai and two thousand guards to take out the Black Tower since they think only a handful of men are there who can use the One Power. They are of course terribly wrong since Mazrim Taim has been recruiting like crazy. One of the Aes Sedai groups, one of ten that would regroup in Andor before attacking the Black Tower, gets intercepted by a group of Asha’man which includes Logain who we last saw escape the “rebel” Aes Sedai camp with Egwene’s help. Logain does…something…to get one of the Aes Sedai to calm down. It seems like he bonded her similar to a Warder, but we will have to wait and see. Min’s viewings did show an Aes Sedai bonding an Asha’man as a Warder, so we may be getting some cool Aes Sedai/Asha’man team-ups in the future.
Last section before the climax of this book. Egwene. She finally takes control of the Aes Sedai group by having them declare war on Elaida. An older law in the White Tower claims that if war is declared, as done with a majority vote by the Tower, then the Amyrlin must have full support in all decisions regarding the war. Few seem to remember the law but it does bind them to her. Siuan is tutoring Egwene and has aligned with her, as has Gareth Bryne, whom Egwene realizes Siuan is in love with. Egwene threatens to tell Bryne in order to get Siuan to behave herself. There was a weird scene where Sheriam was attacked/forced into submission by someone we don’t get to see. It is hinted that she is being subservient to a Darkfriend, but not in a way that would claim Sheriam is a Darkfriend herself. The person I think may have done this is Halima. We know Halima is a Darkfriend to say the least. We find out in this book that Halima is actually a (former?) Forsaken who apparently was reborn by the Dark Lord, who we know can bring people back from death somehow. However, this reborn Forsaken was a man prior to being reborn so he is now technically a woman who can weave saidar, which means that he/she/they is the one who freed Moghedien from the a’dam and from Egwene. Halima is indirectly shown killing the two maids given to Egwene from Romanda and Lelaine. She remains with Egwene as well and is too close for comfort considering what we know. Egwene spends a month on the border of Andor resting her troops, who are making poor time traveling with the new weather. Then, at the end of the book, she Travels her entire camp to Tar Valon to lay siege to the White Tower and depose Elaida. I hope we get to see this battle and resolution in the next book. Or at least the start of this conflict. I would hate to have to wait an entire book before getting back to Egwene’s story. Similar to how we didn’t see Mat in this book.
Okay, on to the climax of this book. As with previous books, we get an unexpected fight at the end. Usually it has been with a member of the Forsaken. We are first lead to believe it is either Demandred or Asmodean, but we ultimately see that it is a few members of the Asha’man who attempt to kill Rand. They are all members who had gone with Rand to root out the Seanchan, including Dashiva. I was skeptical of Dashiva since the beginning, or since Rand chose him to follow him after Dumai’s Wells, and never understood why Rand chose him since he mutters all the time and seems to be on the brink of insanity. I thought for a moment that Dashiva’s muttering was him talking to a past hero as well, or someone from the past who could wield saidin. Maybe this will turn out to be true. It could be an interesting development. Perhaps some of these Asha’man will join the Forsaken. The Black Tower was made to assist Rand but may turn out to be detrimental to his cause. I doubt this since Logain is now an Asha’man and he is supposed to attain some sort of glory according to Min’s viewing.
So a handful of Asha’man attempt to kill Rand in the Sun Palace in Cairhien. They were all insubordinate or questioning Rand’s orders during their fight with the Seanchan and seemingly held a grudge. I think maybe they are just ambitious as well. Below are two quotes I included when talking about book five, The Fires of Heaven, that I think apply once again.
- If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals – J.K. Rowling
- Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln
The Asha’man have definitely been given power, or at least trained to enhance and control the One Power. I think some of the Asha’man were bound to lose themselves to ambition or believing they were or could do better than Rand despite knowing Rand is the Dragon Reborn. They probably question that as well. At first, I thought that maybe these Asha’man were rebelling at the orders of Mazrim Taim (I never trusted him and still don’t) because I can see Mazrim taking the forces he trained and turning them against Rand. But Mazrim shows up later to report a few deserters, who end up being the ones who attacked Rand, and Rand tells him who else was included and demands that Mazrim hunt them down and kill them. Rand kills Fedwin Morr by feeding him a cup of something poisonous. Mazrim is impressed that Rand can be ruthless and he assumes Fedwin was part of the group that tried to kill Rand. I was confused at first as to why Rand kills Fedwin since he had asked him to protect Min, but after reading the section again, it sounds like Fedwin may have lost his mind. He was young, but it says he reverted to the mind of a young child and Min had to convince him to play like a child with wooden blocks instead of using the one power to tear stones from the palace walls to play with. So this makes me believe Rand kills Fedwin mercifully since Fedwin is no longer the man/boy that he was and is too dangerous to be left alive and still able to use the One Power.
I really did like this book and I am continuing to love the series. I still have six books to go and I’ll be jumping right into book nine: Winter’s Heart.