Crossroads of Twilight
There are neither beginnings or endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. SO starts each Wheel of Time book and it is never more true than in Crossroads of Twilight. There are no new plot threads started in CoT, and none of the continuing stories end. It is just incremental steps forward. Crossroads of Twilight is easily my least favorite book in the series. It feels both slight on developments and bloated. It takes the flaws of the previous two books and leaves their strengths. It feels in large part like the second half of Winter’s Heart that didn’t make it into the previous book. More than half of the book takes place before Winter’s Heart ends. In all, Crossroads of Twilight is the nadir of the series, where the increasingly unwieldy structure finally collapsed, at least in part.
Crossroads does accomplish a reset of all of the character’s timelines. The cleansing of saidin in Winter’s Heart is a world changing event, as well as one that could be immediately felt all around the world. It provides a spot to sync all of the characters. Since they have split up over the last few books, there is little way to tell when they are in relation to each other. For first half of this book, plus some, it is merely showing where they are and what they were doing when Rand cleansed the taint. While it could have been done with more elegance, having the characters all at the same time is a good thing. It is also notable that the big events of Crossroads of Twilight are not actions, but choices. Characters do come to crossroads, and they must make important decisions.
The most obvious one is Perrin. He is still hunting down his wife in the center of the map. He is forced to make several tough decisions, like asking the Seanchan for help and getting the food from So Harbor, but the big one is his choice of the hammer over the axe. While the central philosophical dilemma still haunts him after this book, here is where he finally throws away his axe and chooses the hammer. He does it after seeing how far he will go to save Faile. He cuts off the hand of a captured Aiel and threatens to do more. Disgusted with himself, he casts the axe aside. It is a philosophical choice, leaving the axe, which only destroys, for the hammer, which can both destroy and create. Perrin is choosing to not be a destructive force, or at least not only that.
The incentive for all this crossroading is Rand cleansing the taint. To do that he used enough of the power that every character who can channel felt it. The overwhelming feeling is whatever it is that they felt was so powerful that it surely changed the world. If they world has changed, they must change too. That is right. The problem with CoT is that seeing everybody react to the giant glowing beacon is just not that interesting. It really just serves to slow everything down. It also hurts that so much time is spent on Perrin and Elayne in this book and their current stories are just not that interesting. Every other character of importance has been stripped from Elayne’s storyline. Aviendha leaves in this book, Nynaeve and Lan are already gone. It is just Elayne, embroiled in a not particularly enthralling political battle. The real problem with it is the disproportionate amount of time spent on her story. And I say this as a big fan of Elayne.
Crossroads of Twilight is almost a necessary book for moving into the end phase of this series, but that doesn’t make it not a slog to work through. The quality of the writing never falters, but the plotting and structure are completely broken here. It feels like unraveling a tangled knot. It’s not pleasant, but it must be done before you can tie another knot.