TVTT Citizen Edition

This article contains spoilers up to and including Crossroads of Twilight.


Crossroads of Twilight is better than anyone gives it credit for, and here is why.

Among much of the Wheel of Time fan base, Crossroads of Twilight is normally considered not only the worst of the series, but a generally bad book. I think this is wrong and the Tar Valon Times Citizen Takeover has given me the chance to go in depth about why. So let’s go over the largest criticism I have heard about the book, “nothing happens” which may have some merit but isn’t exactly true.

To examine this further we have to look at the structure of the overall series, as well as the structure of stories overall. A short explanation of the structure of a story is that they are largely comprised of 4 major parts.

1. The Start
2. Rising Action
3. The Climax
4. Falling Action

Now, the Wheel of Time runs several plots at once, so the books often straddle several of these points at once. Look at the story of the main character over the first 4 books. In Book 1 (Eye of the WorldRand al’Thor knows nothing about who he is, only finding out he is the Dragon in the first part of the second book (The Great Hunt). Then accepting it in the third (aptly named The Dragon Reborn) when he takes Callandor, and in the fourth book (The Shadow Rising) his action falls dramatically as he gathers followers. His action then shifts back to a high in Book 6 (Lord of Chaos) where his armies confront the largest foes he has to this point.

As of the end of Book 9 (Winter’s Heart), two of the principle protagonists had major climaxes. Rand cleansing the taint, and Matrim Cauthon escaping Ebou Dar. Meanwhile Elayne Trakand and Perrin Aybara are both in the set up to the climaxes of their next arcs. This puts Book 10 (Crossroads of Twilight) in an awkward position that none of the ongoing arcs for the main characters are anywhere near a climatic point.

Compared to those two major story lines getting resolution (Mat escaping Ebou Dar and meeting the Daughter of the Nine Moons and Rand cleansing the taint) almost any follow up book is going to seem slow in comparison. Given that Crossroads of Twilight is effectively the start of the third act of the series as a whole, pulling back on the action is not only understandable but quite necessary.

Not that there isn’t any advancement of the plot within Crossroads of Twilight, of the 3 arcs majorly displayed 2 of them show quite a bit of advancement.

Elayne went from one house sworn to her to five. She effectively negated the largest part of the siege by making a deal with the Sea Folk, and setting herself up for the climax of her civil war. Egwene al’Vere’s plot also advances by moving her into her next major plot line, with her becoming a prisoner of Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan and directly confronting the character that she has effectively been a rival of for the previous four books. Mat begins his next story line escaping from Seanchan controlled lands, and confronting his future wife. Which ends with Renna Emain running off and the stakes growing with Valan Luca and his circus getting a “get out of jail free” pass, while Mat does not.

The largest issue people tend to have with the book is Perrin’s arc. However, this is not just a Crossroads of Twilight problem. The Ghealdan storyline begins in Book 7 (A Crown of Swords) and does not reach a conclusion until Book 11 (Knife of Dreams). This is probably the longest arc in the series with no climax points. Going by the normal flow of three books of rising action and one book of falling, Perrin should have had a major action in Book 9 (Winter’s Heart), with Book 10 (Crossroads of Twilight) starting the Malden plot.

Ultimately, I am not saying that Crossroads of Twilight is the greatest book in the series. Both Perrin and Elayne’s supporting cast are among the weakest set of characters in the series, and both of them have low action concurrently which does make the book drag. However, that low action point follows the second highest climax of the series with the cleansing of the taint. Having the story ease off the pedal, gives the reader a chance to take a breath and reset the action. The action can then build again, without having to one up the Battle of Shadar Logoth, the use of Callandor and an amount of the One Power that could be felt across the world in the next three books.

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