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Crossroads of Twilight, Robert Jordan, TOR, 2003, 700 pp.

Crossroads of Twilight is the tenth book in the best-selling Wheel of Time series. I have been reading the series since the very first book, more than ten years ago now, and Crossroads of Twilight has pretty much convinced me to abandon the series altogether. I had been hanging on in the hopes of some advancement in the story, some sense of events progressing to an ending, but in this tenth outing, the climax of the series recedes even further. Crossroads of Twilight is a book where literally nothing happens, an astonishing feat considering how long it is; with this ability of writing an enormous book filled with nothing, Jordan could conceivably write an infinite set of books in the series.

When I look at my notes, Iím still surprised at how little happens in this book, so the rest of this review will consist of a chapter by chapter analysis. I donít usually write reviews in this way, but in this case I wanted to back up my assertion -- nothing happens in the book -- and that partly for my own incredulous sake.

This next section has extensive spoilers. Those who have not read the previous nine books are not advised to start with this book in any case.

Prologue -- The Prologue of Crossroads of Twilight is 94 pages long, and itís basically a hopscotch set of viewpoint mini-narratives, of characters who may be important to the overall story, but who donít show up again in the book. They are: Rotel Ituralde, a soldier in Arad Doman who is maneuvering for power among the clashing armies on the west side of the continent; Eamon Valda, a leader among the Children of the Light who have suffered defeats in the previous books; Gabrelle, one of the Aes Sedai among the men in the Black Tower; Yukiri, an Aes Sedai in the White Tower who is trying to hunt Black Ajah; Gawyn, one of the soldiers in service of the Amyrlin Seat in Tar Valon; Davram Bashere, a soldier observing the siege of Caemlyn; and the final and longest section of the Prologue, in which an Aes Sedai named Samitsu prevents the death of an aristocrat in Caerhien. This last section contains the only part of the story in which a character does something; all the other sections, the characters are introduced and they think of what they might do in the future. Fine for a prologue, of course, but not a good omen.

Chapters 1-3 -- Mat is stuck hiding in a travelling show, with Tuon, who is the kidnapped Seanchan heir, and a number of other Aes Sedai and Seanchan. Tensions are high among the group; the travelling show decides to leave a war-torn area.

Chapter 4 -- A new character is introduced, Furyk Karede, a member of Tuonís Deathwatch Guard who is trying to find her.

Chapters 5-8 -- Perrin is trying to find his kidnapped wife, Faile. He and an aristocrat named Berelain are chasing a large army of Shaido Aiel who have Faile; the army is too large for him to attack head on, so he has to try and find a different method of rescue.

Chapter 9 -- Faileís privations in the Aiel camp.

Chapters 10-14 -- Elayne is fighting for her succession to the throne of Andor, although fighting is too strong a word for it. She gets back from a trip to rally support, finds she has three new supporters back in Caemlyn, and discovers that some other people have fled.

Chapter 15 -- Elenia is one of Elayneís rivals, and she gets the first half of this chapter to talk about her schemes. The second half concerns Elayneís Captain, who turns out to be a Darkfriend.

Chapters 16-20 -- Egwene is the leader of the rebel Aes Sedai besieging Tar Valon. By the end of the four long chapters she has agreed to send a delegation to the Black Tower.

Chapter 21 -- Alviarin is a member of the Black Ajah in the White Tower; she loses her role of authority.

Chapter 22 -- An Aes Sedai named Pevara wants to try to bond Ashaíman.

Chapter 23 -- Cadsuane is in a small town hiding Rand.

Chapter 24 -- A chapter split four ways. We finally get to the viewpoint of Rand, who is ostensibly the most important character in the series. The viewpoint switches to Cadsuane, back to Rand, and finishes with a woman named Elza (who turns out to be a Darkfriend).

Chapters 25-27 -- Perrin goes on a mission to get food for his soldiers and interrogates some captured Aiel.

Chapters 28-29 -- Mat buys some silk for Tuon, who is beginning to assert her authority.

Chapter 30 -- This is the final chapter of the book! Egwene takes the place of a lesser Aes Sedai and goes on a secret mission; she gets captured before she can do anything.

Epilogue -- This two-page epilogue consists of Rand receiving word that Tuon will make a pact with him.

Up until about Chapter 21 or so, the chronology of Crossroads of Twilight is still catching up with the events at the end of the previous book, Winterís Heart. In that book, Rand and Nynaeve used some devices to amplify their abilities with the One Power, with the aim of cleansing the evil taint from the male half of the One Power. They did so, with the side result of obliterating the entire city of Shadar Logoth (an evil city that was entirely deserted apart from dark presences). Anyone with magical sensitivity can feel the channelling of such an enormous amount of power, and the characters with such sensitivity comment on it up until at least halfway through Crossroads of Twilight. In other words, the only momentous event in this book is left over from the previous one. Egwene gets herself captured on the last page of the last chapter, but even that hardly progresses her storyline. The White Tower is still besieged, her ostensible responsibility. Other unresolved storylines include: the ambitions of the Black Tower, Mat and Tuonís relationship, what Rand will do next, Perrinís rescue of Faile, and Elayneís claim on her motherís throne.

Now I understand that a series has to sustain a readerís interest by delaying the resolution of dangerous events. This has to be balanced by action on the part of the protagonists, at the risk of boring the reader. In Crossroads of Twilight, the protagonists literally accomplish nothing; if anything, Jordan is further from the end of the series now. There are hints of what might have been exciting moments in this book, such as Perrin discovering that there are Seanchan in his area who might help him fight the Shaido Aiel army, but these hints are left for later books. I found it a very frustrating experience to read Crossroads of Twilight and Iím really not sure if I can stomach another such disappointment.

Last modified: January 30, 2003

Copyright © 2003 by James Schellenberg

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