Way-Too-Early Reactions to HOUSE OF THE DRAGON

It’s official. We’re back in Westeros after a 6-year hiatus from decent storytelling in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy universe.

As the first spin-off show we’re getting in the wake of Game of Thrones, I’ve been cautiously optimistic about this House of the Dragon.

With director Miguel Sapochnik, who directed several of Thrones‘s most harrowing and exciting episodes (see “Hardhome” and “Battle of the Bastards”), Martin himself more closely involved once again, and a star-studded cast, I felt like House of the Dragon had legitimate potential to be great.

After the debut episode, “Heirs of the Dragon”, all I can say is… I think I was right.

This premier introduced a set of characters who are poised to clash politically — or otherwise — and laid the groundwork for the rest of the season in an interesting way. They even managed to introduce a bit of lore that even the most ardent of book-readers could not have guessed.

I will not go into detail about the plot of the episode except to say that there is a jousting tournament with phenomenal cinematography and some pretty brutal violence. (The jousting show at the Maryland Renaissance Faire is one of my favorite events of the year, so I was thrilled to see such an exhilarating sequence in this show.)

I had honestly forgotten how unforgiving the early seasons of Game of Thrones could be, so to see it again in this premier was a bit of a shock.

While I have read part of The World of Ice and Fire, and Fire and Blood sits on my unread shelf, I’ve decided not to follow along with Martin’s writings while watching this show. I want to experience the show for its own merits, and then read the stories again.

Between the intriguing cast of characters, the tight-knit plot, the broader narrative it introduced, and the incredible looking dragons (more than one!), it’s apparent that the showrunners have set out to prove that the expanding Thrones-verse is still a force to be reckoned within the IP-as-content wars.

All in all, the showrunners have set the stage for what I anticipate will be an enjoyable, suspenseful, and action-packed season of television.

And of course, there are the dragons.

Share your thoughts or way-too-early reactions about this first episode of House of the Dragon in the comments below.

Steve D

Review: TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT overcomes Middle Book Syndrome

Towers of Midnight is the thirteenth and penultimate book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. I’ve been reading this series off and on for about six years. It took me some time to get through this book, primarily because I wanted to savor it, rather than rush through it to get to the end. That was a wise decision.

I consider this installment a “middle” book for two reasons.

  1. The Gathering Storm (book 12), Towers of Midnight (book 13), and A Memory of Light (book 14) are very clearly the final act in this sprawling series, narratively.
  2. They are also the final act in their production. Sanderson worked with the editor, Jordan’s widow, to split the final act into three books, and produced these three volumes.

This review contains spoilers for this book and those preceding it in The Wheel of Time.

So when I say that Towers of Midnight overcomes Middle Book Syndrome, I really mean that as a transitionary book to build to the climax that is surely waiting in A Memory of Light, this book succeeds.

Towers of Midnight is a compelling read jam-packed with fascinating plot lines centered around our main characters, especially Mat and Perrin, but also Elayne and Egwene. Other staple characters like Faile, Nynaeve, Lan, Galad and Gawyn also build towards a rich narrative.

It is very much a middle book in that these plot lines serve to close out long-running narrative threads, such as Perrin’s rise to leadership, Mat’s shifting focus back towards Rand and the Last Battle, Egwene’s cementing of her power as Amyrlin, and Elayne’s marshaling of power around her throne in Caemlyn.

These characters are shifting, slowly and inexorably, towards the Last Battle. In doing so, Towers of Midnight necessarily takes on the hefty task of transitioning the characters, all of the hundreds of characters, and the reader into Tarmon Gaidon.

That’s not to say that A Memory of Light opens with the Last Battle and is one massive compendium of fighting. (I’m a few pages in and can confirm this is not the case.) But after 13 novels of ever-increasing length and complexity, everyone is facing the same direction: towards The End.

Some sections of the book drag a bit — Perrin’s training in the wolf dream with Hopper and his inevitable face-off with Slayer took me a bit to get through, both because of the tension that had been built and because I wanted to get past it. Still, I understood in the moment that his realization and acceptance of his true self was necessary to Perrin’s facing of the Whitecloaks.

Overall, though, Sanderson churns through these plot lines and still manages to provide some surprises, some poignant moments, and some clean breaks with narrative threads that would no longer serve the end of this series.

After the numerous books I struggled to get through, or even to understand at points because they were so weighed down with characters about whom I could not bring myself to care, I’m honestly still a little awestruck at how neatly Towers of Midnight, and The Gathering Storm before it, have brought us to this point.

Like I said, I’ve already started A Memory of Light. I’m thrilled and simultaneously reluctant to get to the end of this series. That, I think, is testament enough to its storytelling power.

Steve D

The MCU and the Multiverse of Expectations

I’ve mostly been following along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe as they’ve plotted their course from Avengers: Endgame through Phase Four – otherwise known as the Disney+ era. Of the Phase Four properties, I have yet to watch:

  • Spider-Man: No Way Home – because honestly, this movie is impossible to find without buying the DVD/Bluray outright, which I’ll probably end up doing. I feel like I’ve absorbed most of the major spoilers through pop culture osmosis, however, so there’s that.
  • Thor: Love and Thunder – which, if you’ve been here recently, you know I was excited about. I still am. I just need to get to a theater.
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – because it’s not out yet, but is definitively the best MCU trailer ever.
  • What If…? – because I wasn’t that interested or into the animation style.
  • There are also the upcoming She-Hulk and Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, neither of which strike a chord with me at this point.
  • I am also on episode 6 of Ms. Marvel – but I had to write this post instead of watching it!

Obviously, I haven’t watched everything, but from what I’ve and heard about Phase Four, I have some thoughts. Specifically, I have reservations about the wider story that Marvel seems to be building, or crucially, not building to this point.

Seriously, just watch that trailer if you haven’t yet. Or if you have.

Spoiler warning – From here on out, I will talk freely about Phases Four, Five, and Six (and previous phases) of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

To me, Phase Four feels like a bunch of individual stories with very little connective tissue. There have been some very good origin stories (Shang-Chi) and some moderately good passing of various torches (Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Hawkeye). There are tons of really interesting new characters, such as Yelena, Oscar Isaac’s multiple personalities, Kamala Khan, alternate timeline Loki, Sylvie, and Shang-Chi. And I’ve had a lot of fun watching most of these people do superhero things.

What feels sorely missing is the feeling that we are actively building towards something bigger. Phase One was all origin stories for the first Avengers team that were independent of each other, but used specific characters, like Nick Fury or Coulson, to tie them together and build anticipation.

Now, I’m fully aware of the announcements Marvel just made for Phases Five and Six, respectively, telling us that we are building towards Avengers: Secret Wars and Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. Those are coming alongside a lot exciting titles over the next few years, but I’m not really interested in stories that haven’t come to the screen yet.

What I want to know is how all of the characters we have seen so far coexist in their world. How can they coexist without any overlap? Why was no one aware of what Wanda was up to for a few canonical years in isolation? How did two Egyptian gods coming to life over the Cairo skyline not elicit some response from Dr. Strange, or anyone else?

Who or what will be binding these characters together, aside from Kang the Conqueror as the eventual Big Bad and the Secret Invasion as the Big Crisis?

Marvel hasn’t tried to start planting these seeds yet, at least not with any consistency. Loki met a version of Kang. Dr. Strange (and Kamala?) have traveled the multiverse. Captain Marvel, Wong, and Hulk are interested in Shang-Chi’s Ten Rings. Nick Fury is still off-world. Hints have been dropped along the way, but it’s really not clear at this point how they’re all related. Will half of the superheroes be off fighting Kang while the others deal with the Secret Wars? Or will all of them come together in two gigantic team-ups?

I know the overall path because Marvel has told us, but not really because that’s what the storytelling has shown us. With Phase Four wrapping up this November, it feels like an assortment of stories, rather than the beginning of a new saga.

Those are my feelings on the MCU. What are yours? Have you enjoyed Phase Four?

Steve D

Spare Parts for Broken Hearts – Songs that Stick to My Brain part 2

It’s time to return to my review of Spare Parts for Broken Hearts, the L.A.-based rock band whose eight singles have inhabited my ear space for the last couple of months.

When I listen to and review an album, the goal is to understand the music as a whole piece, rather than a critique.

I reviewed Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ first for singles a few weeks ago. Today we’ll listen to the back four.

Previous post: Spare Parts for Broken Hearts – Songs that Stick to My Brain part 1

“You’re softer / When we collide

Gentle acoustic strums open “Pleasure Delay”, paired with lead singer Sarah Green’s off-kilter verses. The sound steadily builds with rhythm guitar and then drums.

Then the chorus hits with atmospheric sound–crashing cymbals, heavy chords, and eerie vocal tracks from Green behind the lyrics: “I could really show you something / I could be your one and only”

This song is a plea, perhaps for connection, but with a darker self-awareness, or maybe an admission: “But if you’re gonna die would you do it for me”.

“Take my hand and watch it burn”

“Say When” opens with a kind of slurring verse that seems to be directed at a former significant other. The music treads forward inexorably to a wailing chorus of old wounds: “Say when / Tell me you don’t want me then you hurt me just to stick around”.

In the second verse, the music quiets to a walking bass line and light drums, but Green’s vocals retain the anguish: “Take my hand and watch it burn / Oh I am shaking / From the love I can’t return”.

As in the first crop of songs from my previous post, “Say When” exemplifies Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ ability to embody diverse and often conflicting emotional tones between songs, within songs, or even within a single verse.

“Build a bridge / Burn it down together”

“Mush” is the first song I ever heard by this group, and I was immediately struck by the weighty post-grunge overtones and Green’s ability to take her voice from warm and breezy to a full-throated gale and back in an instant.

I’m counting this entry as two songs, because the acoustic version of “Mush” is just as poignant as the full-band version. If someone had shown me the acoustic version first and told me it was the original, I would have believed them.

The authenticity of Spare Parts for Broken Hearts’ music is what resonates with me. It feels real, and even when the times of the music seem to contradict the anguished lyrics, that contradiction feels intentional.

It makes listening to these songs a layered experience, even after the tenth or twentieth time.

Steve D

June Write Day: Oops

Holy crap it’s June. Apologies for my recent absence. A week of time off and the holiday weekend threw me off. I forgot to post a haiku on Sunday for the first time in like… three years. And then I forgot to schedule this post for this morning. So now I’m cramming.

June is off to a great start!

Last Month’s Goals

  1. Write 6,600 words.
  2. Read 3 books.
  3. Continue the exercise climb.

Write 6,600 words?

NOPE. I think I write about 2,000 words to start the month, and then did not write again. I was away from home for the week before Memorial Day without reliable internet access, so I knew I had limited writing time in May.

My adjusted goal for available writing time was supposed to account for this, but I need to tweak it to a lower weird count goal.

I’ll probably try for 400 words per available day, or some such.

Read three books?

Almost. I finished two books in May, and I’ve made good headway on three others. One of this might be a comic volume, but who’s keeping track?

Continue the exercise climb?

Another hiccup in May. My week away consisted of virtually no exercise. That was due to the renovation work I was helping a friend with on his Thousand Islands cabin. Turns out that tearing out drywall and old wood, carrying supplies, and installing new flooring is damn tiring. Thus, I didn’t really need the extra exercise.

I had a great week in cabin in the river with a few friends, though.

Goals for June

  1. Write 8,800 words. This is my adjusted goal, counting 400 words per day for twenty-two available writing days. June is (hopefully) a slow month for us.
  2. Read three books. As I said, I feel like I have enough of a head start to reach this.
  3. Continue the exercise climb. I’m back on track, I think, so I feel pretty good about this.
  4. Reorganize this site. You may have noticed some new headers on this site’s navigation. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m shifting my writing topics to themes rather than formats. I’m debating whether I want to re-tag my archive with these new themes, so there may be more changes to come.

Steve D

On Presence

I’ve been thinking a lot about presence recently, and especially how much I’ve caught myself not being in the present moment in recent weeks.

February was a tough writing month for me in part because I spent more time thinking about stories I haven’t written yet than thinking about my actual current work-in-progress. Even now, one week into this month, I find myself thinking a lot about the end game for The Herb Witch Tales. Not just how I want part 2 to end, but about how I want to reread parts 1 and 2 together and think of them holistically, how I might need additional drafts just to ensure I get them right before I publish, and how my publishing timeline seems to be in a state of constant expansion.

I haven’t even finished a full draft of part 2 yet.

A similar feeling has passed over me while spending time with my three-year-old. A moment at the park when he is playing a game with me but I’m thinking about what time we need to leave to be home for dinner. Or a moment where I’m watching him interact with his six-month-old brother and wondering if the two of them will make each other laugh as teenagers the way they do now.

Neither of those are “bad” distractions, but they are distractions nonetheless.

Even in writing this post, I can’t keep my fingers off my phone until I’ve settled on a song that both suits my vibe and allows me to focus. (The correct answer is “Monumental Holiday” by Dead Sara.)

What I have tried to do is take those distracting thoughts, let them pass through me, and let them go — a lesson I’ve taken from the meditation intro I listened to last month.

Am I going to be able to publish my stories this year? Maybe. Keep writing. What will my kids be like at X age? Impossible to know and always fascinating, but don’t lose sight of who they are right now.

What I can’t say for sure is whether I’m more distracted than usual, or I’m just noticing it more. This site is ostensibly A Writer’s Blog, but these things tend to bleed into each other.

Steve D

My Ever-Evolving To Be Read or Watched List

I don’t think I’ve ever done a real TBR on this site before, except as art of summaries of what I have been reading or watching and what I might do next. So, why not do one now?

The glut of content nowadays is often overwhelming (I say as I think about future novel ideas), so honestly I feel like I need to set an intention, so to speak, of what things I’d like to focus my attention on for the next several months.

I’m definitely not going to outline every single thing I plan to read or watch this year. We’ll just cover the highlights.

To Be Read

  1. The Wheel of Time I’ve talked about this a lot recently, because it’s been very front-and-center in my brain. I will definitely finish reading this series this year, without a doubt. I’m on book 13 of 14 currently and plan to continue through until the end.
  2. The Saxon Stories, or The Last Kingdom series – This series seems to have many names, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve only read the first book — both abridged and unabridged versions, because I didn’t pay attention to the Audible cover — and I love it. I have book 2 ready and waiting, and I’ll likely be unable to resist it as my next audiobook listen. I definitely won’t finish the series this year, but I like the idea of having an entertaining staple to fall back on when I need it.
  3. An Encyclopedia of Tolkienwhich my wife got me for Christmas last year and keeps tempting me from the shelf. One fantasy series at a time, damn it! Having recently read through The Lord of the Rings, and with the new series set to debut on Prime in September, this seems like the right time to pore over this tome and absorb everything Tolkien-related I can.
  4. Brandon Sanderson – I haven’t even decided which of his series I will start with, but I know I need to dive into his work after I finish The Wheel of Time.
  5. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and MusicDave Grohl’s memoir, which my wife got me for Christmas this past year. The Foo Fighters are one of my favorite bands, and Grohl is awesome. He’s one of the few celebrities I legitimately want to meet and hang out with. Maybe he’ll read this blog and message me!!
  6. A few good social science-y type books – I try to pepper my reading list with history, anthropology, global issues, or other books that blend academic with nonfiction topics. Audible makes it much easier to churn through a few of these at a more reasonable pace. Otherwise, I get bogged down in the details on the page, rather than the overall concepts and ideas. Fun fact: these types of books can be great idea fodder for world-building.

Honestly, that probably about covers my reading list for the year, unless specific titles catch my eye. To the watch list!

To Be Watched

  1. MCU – Particularly the new Doctor Strange. I also still haven’t seen the second and third Spider-Man films. At this point I might just buy them on BluRay since Disney+ inexplicably does not carry them.
  2. Star Wars – Especially the Kenobi series and The Mandalorian season 3, but I know there are a ton of other things coming that I will definitely check out.

Now that those are out of the way…

  1. The Rings of PowerThis is probably a no-brainer, but it deserves mention since I don’t think I’ve written about this show before today, or maybe only in passing. Based on the trailers Prime has released, I have high hopes that this will be enjoyable and well-made.
  2. The Witcher, season 2 – I really enjoyed the first season and was eagerly awaiting the second. For some reason, Netflix had to release this exactly when every other series/franchise was releasing a new season.
  3. Jurassic World movies 2 and 3 – Guilty pleasure pick. I love Jurassic Park (the book and the movie), and even though the most recent franchise is light on the substance and heavy on the spectacle, they’re solid action flicks. And they have. Freakin’. Dinosaurs. Yes, I’m an adult.
  4. The Last Dance – Another one that’s been on my list for ages, this docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Bulls got rave reviews by people I listen to/read who love basketball, so I’ll probably enjoy it, too.
  5. The 15+ other documentaries on my list in Netflix – Aside from the above, there are just too many for me to name. Animal documentaries, six of which, it seems, were all somehow narrated by David Attenborough in the same year, a mushroom documentary, a documentary about drummers, Netflix’s super over-produced historical docuseries. Not Tiger King, though. I missed that train and do not regret it.

That’s a solid watch list for now. Much like my reading habits, I tend to fixate on specific series, franchises, or types of shows/films for a time. At the moment I’m more interested in delving into the back-catalogs on the big streaming services to see movies or shows I may have missed, so if you have any recommendations, let me know.

Is there anything I’m definitely missing out on by not reading or watching right this second?

Steve D

On Writing in a Year without Big Goals

Each of the last couple years I’ve started January with big ideas for what I wanted to accomplish for that year. My goals tend to be ambitious, but still within the realm of possibility. Still, I’ve learned that it’s difficult for me to project progress on any long-term project more than a few months out–or sometimes more than a few weeks out.

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

Looking at my annual goals posts from 2020 and 2021 may give the impression of a writer who overshoots and under-delivers, and that’s not inaccurate. I have had some big goals in mind over the last couple of years, notably the publishing of my still-in-progress novellas in The Herb Witch Tales series. I just also know that there have been other factors at play. The usual suspects come to mind: family, work, existential dread, a global pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s tough for me to project my progress on something more than a few months out. Projecting how much I can write in a year is a murky endeavor. Trying to throw the entire editing, revising, proofreading, and publishing process on top of that is basically insane.

At least, that’s what I’ve learned over the last couple years.

I’ve also learned that I am not the publish-something-every-year-or-two type of writer. My last meaningful publication was my 12-part short story, “The Grand Mythos of Úr’Dan“, which I ran as an experimental monthly serial throughout 2019. It’s probably more like every “few” years, depending on when I click Publish next. Basically, I’m closer to Patrick Rothfuss than Brandon Sanderson–in publishing cycles, not skill level!

The Year without Goals

That all is to say that I will not be posting an ambitious book marketing/publishing post this year. I definitely have goals, and I will detail them through my monthly Write Day posts. What has changed for me recently is that those monthly goals are enough for me at this moment in my life.

My long-term goals have necessarily and totally predictably shifted to bigger things: navigating the whole *waves arms emphatically* world right now; raising two boys, one of whom has learned the f-word from daycare (yea!); beginning the house-hunting process in the next year; family and friends and holidays, which all require a lot of extra planning and consideration and fuckin’ caution than they used to.

It’s a lot, and it means that thinking about where I might be in the publishing process in autumn 2022 is just not a concern for me today.

Writing Rhythm

However, that all doesn’t mean I haven’t picked up on a few of my writing habits…

  • I know that I can be a productive writer by writing immediately after work, or right after getting the toddler to bed.
  • I know that writing a couple days in a row or more than three times per week motivates me to continue, regardless of how much or how little progress I make in those sessions.
  • I know that once a character is embedded in my brain I find it easier to write them, which just takes practice and patience–not trying to churn out an entire novella in a month.
  • I know that motivating myself to write regularly helps my self-confidence, my self-worth, and my overall mental wellbeing.
  • And I know that writing 10,000 words each month is very doable if I stick to each of the above points.

That’s really my only writing goal this year–not to write 120,000 words on the dot, but to aim for 10,000 words each month, to build consistently and steadily until, come December 31, 2022, I will have written a whole hell of a lot.

I’m currently on pace for about 9,000 words in January, so maybe in February or March I aim for 11,000. The point is, it doesn’t matter much right now.

I’m moving forward. I know what the ultimate goal is, but I also know I need to focus on the day-to-day first.

Steve D

Midway Checkpoint: The Wheel of Time Show’s Jam-Packed Ambitions

Back in September, I allowed myself to get a little pre-hyped for Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time series, and I promised that I would check back in after the first couple episodes. The Wheel of Time show currently has six episodes released, and I have watched the first five, so I am definitely overdue for this post.

Spoiler warning: I will be discussing events in the TV show only, through episode 5–which maybe means this isn’t really spoiler-y. Anyway, anything that has happened in the first five episodes is fair game for this post. Although I am a current book reader I will not bring up any events from the books that have not yet been depicted on the show.

Honestly, I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot to spoil at this point in the series, which is maybe part of the problem I have with it so far. These first five episodes feel so packed with plot-building, and world-building, and characters, and movement that I have to imagine it’s difficult for casual viewers to keep track of everything and everyone that’s happened so far.

In five short episodes we’ve seen seven primary characters–Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Moiraine, Lan–come together, split apart, and (almost) reunite in Tar Valon, while also meeting half a dozen other characters who appear to have some part to play this season. Stepin, Liandrin, Alanna, Logain, Eamon Valda, and Aram all seemed poised to round out a pretty full cast of characters and factions with whom that party-of-seven would have to contend. Stepin has already off’ed himself, and Aram seems to have exited the story for now, but this is still a list of characters I would…

a) never have expected to meet or be asked to care about in the first place,

b) never have expected to meet this quickly,

and c) don’t think quite fit together in an 8-episode season that is now more than halfway over with no clear central conflict having yet emerged.

The one through-line of all of this is that no one knows who the Dragon Reborn is yet, which, fine, that’s a mystery for people who haven’t read the books. But it doesn’t feel like a conflict to me.

I think my point here is that this show, so far, feels like an oversized plot that does not take the necessary steps to make me care about these people. I care, at the moment, because I’m reading the books, but that’s not enough when viewing this show in isolation.

Onto more positive notes…

Okay, I don’t want to be all cynical about this show, because I am enjoying it for what it is. The acting is great overall, the landscapes and set pieces are stellar, and the story has a compelling pace.

Listening to a podcast interview of showrunner Rafe Judkins has me confident that the man behind the curtain knows what he’s doing in trying to adapt a massive story to the small screen, where we do not have the luxury of 400 pages to tell the first part.

The first three episodes, which were dropped all at once on Prime, are heavy on lore and trying to get the viewer to even understand what the hell the Dragon Reborn is supposed to be. In hindsight, it makes perfect sense that Prime decided to present the first three episodes all at once. I think episode one on its own would have been too jarring for most people; it moves at a break-neck pace, introducing a host of characters and tons of lore, has a thrilling climax, and then ends with barely a moment to breathe.

Episode 4, in which Nynaeve discovers her ability to touch the One Power in stunning fashion, is when I decided I liked this show. I can see past the overloaded plot if we get moments as powerful as that a couple times per season.

Three more to go

Looking ahead, it’s hard to believe that this season is only going to be eight episodes. I really have no idea what sort of “ending” this first season could possibly have, unless they decide that season one is just a prologue.

All in all, I’m enjoying watching this show, but I have lingering concerns that the showrunners have tried to pack too much into so short a season for it to have much meaning. I hope to be proven wrong.

Steve D

Book Review: KNIFE OF DREAMS sets up an epic final act for THE WHEEL OF TIME

I recently finished reading Knife of Dreams, The Wheel of Time #11. You may remember that in my previous entries about some of the books in this series, I have lamented the plodding pace of the narrative, especially for particular point-of-view characters.

After a few books’ worth of dragging plotlines, Knife of Dreams finally brings some real momentum to this series, and ties off a few narrative threads in the process.

For the most part, the reader spends several chapters with a particular character at a time, watching their narrative unfold in more depth. Unlike in previous books, however, there is actually forward progress with the main characters, and Jordan even returns to each character towards the end of the book to see where they’ve landed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was glad to find it spent the most time with only three of the primary characters: Mat, Perrin, and Elayne. There are check-in sections with Rand, Egwene, and others, mostly serving as compelling placeholders for things to come in the next book(s).

The three or four smaller plot lines that are all tied off in this momentous installment is clearly guiding the reader and each of the characters towards one thing: the Last Battle. With only three books left in the series — I say that as if each book wasn’t more than 600 pages — Knife of Dreams is definitely setting up the end game for the series.

I’m not ready to forgive the narrative slog that was books 7 through 10 (especially 10). I can see that groundwork that Jordan was laying for the mini-climaxes in previous books. I’m just not convinced that it needed to take as long as it did to get to this point.

Anyway, I feel like I’m over the hump of the middle part of this series, and I’m ready to jump into the final three books, which were completed by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death. The Gathering Storm (book 12) will be my first introduction to Sanderson’s writing, so I’m excited to see how he adapts Jordan’s story and narrative style. Then I can start reading Sanderson’s own work!

Steve D