I really quite enjoyed the fifth book in The Wheel of Time series, which was something of a relief for me, because the fourth one felt like a significant step down in quality. Though there were still little bits here and there that made me role my eyes, overall, it was a much more engaging read.
One of my favourite things about it was how it explored the breaking of the White Tower as seen in the end of the last book. The newly stilled Siuan Sanche essentially becomes one of the new main characters, and the idea of this formerly extremely powerful figure (both magically, and politically) having to go on the run after being deposed is very cool, and her perspective is so different to that of Rand or any of the main characters, so I always enjoyed the chapters about her.
Of course, Siuan is just part of it. This novel also gives us a look at the Aes Sedai who refused to accept their new Amyrlin. They’re based within a obscure and quiet little village where they are trying to figure out exactly what they should do next. As the Aes Sedai had seemed to be an almost unstoppable force in earlier novels, I enjoyed seeing them in a completely new light. Seeing them broken into different factions like this helps make the world feel a lot more three dimensional.
One thing I didn’t like so much was how Aviendha was written in this one. With so many other female characters seemingly getting caught up in how much they love Rand, it was nice to have one who seems to regard him as an irritation that she’s been thrown together with by circumstance. Unfortunately, it seems that once again Robert Jordan was doing the “they seem to hate each other because they secretly love each other” trope, just like he did with Perrin and Faile (neither of whom are in this one). For me, this kind of thing is quite tiresome, and not good romance writing at all, but there’s not enough of it to spoil things this time.
Something else that I actually did like was the plot thread about Nynaeve and Elayne. As they make a long journey to try and return to the White Tower (having completed their mission) they end up joining a travelling circus, which I found very entertaining. The legendary hero Birigitte also plays a pretty important role in their part of the story, and I really enjoyed her becoming more of a main character.
All thing considered, I think anybody who has gotten this far in the series will be quite pleased with this book. While some of the novels can feel a bit meandering at times, this one was well paced and had a pretty explosive finale too (literally), even if part of it was a little too convenient.