01/12/2008. Contributed by Rod MacDonald
pub: Macmillan Audio. Price: $69.95 (US). 23.5 hours ISBN: 978-1-4272-0508-7. read by Michael Kramer & Kate Reading.
check out website: http://us.macmillan.com/Book.aspx?isbn=9781427205087
Robert Jordan, the pen name for James Oliver Rigney, is the author of an absolutely mammoth fantasy series called 'The Wheel Of Time'. Sadly, Robert Jordan died last year before the 12th and final book was published but working from notes, Brandon Sanderson will complete the series in 2009. By then, 'The Wheel Of Time' will amount to approximately 3.5 million words. Almost as much as government report!
'The Path Of Daggers', originally written in 1998, is the eighth book in the series. Like most of the others, it has been made into an unabridged audio book by Macmillan Audio and, as far as I can determine, the same narrators have been used throughout the series. This is excellent for continuity. It is also a bonus for quality because, after millions of words, the narrators have become immersed in their subject, adept at portraying the multitude of characters playing their parts on this curious stage.
Not being familiar with Robert Jordan's work, I was like the pilgrim at the edge of the world, glimpsing a new universe as in the Flammarion woodcut. This is indeed a huge alternate universe. The only thing in my experience that I could liken it to would be the Hindu epics 'Ramayana' and 'Mahabharata', such is its scope and indeed on listening to 'The Path Of Daggers' nuances of Hindu philosophy certainly emerge.
I found this book easy to listen to as far as audio quality was concerned. However, not being familiar with the previous novels, it was very easy to lose the plot and become confused as to who was who. Strangely, I just didn't have enough time to read the 2.5 million words that went before which would have allowed me to catch up on the story. There were times during the listening when I thought about chucking it in because I didn't have a clue as to what was happening. Nevertheless, towards the end I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel to the extent that I could be encouraged to delve in to the other novels of the series.
A great deal of time has been spent writing 'The Wheel Of Time'. Almost a lifetime! It has also been immensely lucrative with millions upon millions of books being sold. It's a great pity that Robert Jordan could not live long enough to finish the last book himself but, like Frank Herbert, his spirit lives on.
What was it all about? Well, one of the problems of listening to an audio book with characters of strange names and equally unfamiliar geography is that in order to write about it you've got to look it up to get the correct spelling. In doing so, some readers report that they were disappointed with the eighth book because it didn't get anywhere in terms of the story. Being a novice, I thought it was all right but maybe if I had read the others I would have agreed.
The main point about 'Daggers' is that there are many kingdoms in the world all making war against each other. They are also experiencing internal conflict to the point that insurrection becomes a normal pastime. I was very intrigued with the race called The Seanchan who seem to be the real bogeyman. War-like in nature, they are intent on conquering everyone in sight and it is up to the new king of Illian, Rand al Thor, to stop their advance. This doesn't prove to be an easy task but it probably becomes the main point to the book with a somewhat muddy conclusion emerging towards the end. Matters are not helped by the Asha'man's state of mind which is verging on madness and also by the dissenters within the ranks. Everything is on a knife-edge and outcome is uncertain with other conflicts thrown in just for good measure.
For goodness sake, compared to this world with its multiple terrors were no single country remains at peace, Earth is a veritable paradise. Listen to this at your peril. However, the main point of this review is to point out the quality of the audio edition which is quite superb. As far as I can tell, it is well delivered and should not disappoint devotees of 'The Wheel Of Time'. If you are into fantasy then this is one not to miss.
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