OK, I know I said Lord of Chaos was politics heavy, but I was wrong. This is what pure, uncut politics looks like.
There are three primary plots going on during A Crown of Swords, and two of them are politics from the start to the finish. The third is a detective story that moves at a pace that makes every word in Lord of Chaos seem to be its own book. This book is, if you are into it for the fantasy action, probably not going to please you–though if that’s your flavor you needn’t despair, as this book is short compared to previous entries.
I enjoy the political maneuvering, so this book was right up my alley. The way conversations play out is incredibly nuanced, and Robert Jordan even tries to teach the reader how to read the conversations to get the most information out of them. This isn’t a direct quote, though I think the paraphrasing really sums up how the maneuvering works:
“Did she say ‘if you give the item to me I could destroy it’? Or ‘if you give them item to me, I would destroy it’?“
The reply is along the lines of “Oh… I… I don’t know.“
The idea being, of course, saying that it could be destroyed is true, but will it be destroyed? The single letter change in the sentence changes the entire outcome, and how deeply you read into a sentence makes a huge difference in how much you will get out of this book.
When I go to write a review, I pull up a plot summary to make sure I have the order of events right in my head (and, since I am chain reading these books, making sure I am remember which book contains which plot). The plot moves so slowly that even at 880 pages long, the plot summary is only three paragraphs. Having read the book, those three paragraphs contain the bulk of the plot, the rest of the book being character development.
Speaking of character development, that is the major strength of A Crown of Swords. Each character changes based on everything that is happening in the world around them, not always in a linear forward momentum. Robert Jordan seems to have been a master of capturing humanity. Sure, there are characters who do things and react in a way I fully cannot comprehend, but the thing is my complaints about the characters have been the same for almost the entirety of the series–consistency is key. Some characters may be unreasonable, but they are unreasonable in a way that lines up with their personality.
In previous books, there is always an epic climax, a point where the story takes a gigantic leap forward. That does not happen here. The book kind of wanders towards its own ending, and then fizzles into the eighth book, The Path of Daggers.
I may enjoy this series, and I enjoy the politics, but some have told me they made it to book 7 or book 9 and then quit, and I never understood at the time–but I can very much see why the shifting tone away from adventure and into pure politics can throw some people for a terminal loop.
All I can say is that the series moves back to adventure in the later books, and for what it is worth, I definitely find it worth it.
A Crown of Swords
Rand's Storyline - 7/10
Mat's Storyline - 6/10
Egwene's Storyline - 8/10
History - 7/10
Overarching plot - 7/10
Other Characters - 5/10
The slowest book to date, despite being much shorter than Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords has the potential to burn out the casual reader with its slow moving, politics heavy plot.
The only solace I can offer to you is that the series moves back towards fantasy adventure as the plot moves towards its overall conclusion.