The series gets even worse for two books followed by a return to form for Robert Jordan.
Winter’s Heart: Another plodding book. Perrin is still doing nothing but sucking up pages. How Jordan managed to stretch out such a simple plot as rescuing Faile to four book I will never know, but it is a skill better left unused.
Similarly, Elayne is still consolidating power in Andor, the details of which bore me, just like the character. Elayne is so bland. I prefer the irrationality of Egwene to Elayne and the former at least accomplishes many momentous things. Taking Andor after Rand already had it is such a contrived situation to give Elayne something to do. Also the logic saying it is for the good of Andor to have a succession war is downright insane. Protracted sieges and war is about the worst thing you can do for your people, whatever it may do to their “pride.” However, Elayne has to prove that she is made of stern stuff and sacrificing a bunch of Andorians is the way she chooses to go about it.
Mat, rescues the book once again. His first confrontation with his future wife is hilarious even though we already knew who the Daughter of the Nine Moons was. This plotline will also be the lifeline of the following and worst book, Crossroads of Twilight.
Finally, Rand derps around in Far Madding to kill some inconsequential Ashaman. The only way this makes sense is if Rand is deliberately trying to avoid responsibility for awhile, but Jordan doesn’t really hint at this angle at all. Instead this is a pointless diversion. At least we get Rand cleaning Saidin, though again Jordan writes a very understated battle, skipping over things like Forsaken dying.
Crossroads of Twilight: If you go to the wiki summary of this book it says
“Elayne Trakand continues trying to solidify her hold on the Lion Throne of Andor.”
Which is basically the same sentence about her character in the summary of the last book. This describes the entire book. Nothing happens. You could skip to the last chapter where Egwene is stupidly captured yet again (seriously. she didn’t take any precautions) and not miss a beat. Elayne is still winning the throne in Andor. Perrin is still chasing Faile. Matt is still running from the Seanchan. Rand disappears for a book.
By a huge margin this is the worst book in the series. The big event from the last book, cleansing saidin, is barely mentioned, mostly due to the fact that much of the book takes place before the ending of the last book. People complain when Sanderson does this in Towers of Midnight, yet seem to have blinders when it comes to Jordan twisting the timeline. Anyways the entire cleansing event is massively underplayed despite reversing a core tenet of life for 3000 years ago. Suddenly, male channelers will not go mad and one of the major purposes of the White Tower, hunting male channelers, is irrelevant, yet almost nothing changes. Or maybe that is the point and the actions of Logain in the last book are supposed to be the first step towards change, not Rand’s cleansing.
If you really like these characters then this book is OK. If however you like your characters to accomplish things, this book is absolutely awful.
Knife of Dreams: This is Jordan’s last book and a return to form. This is easily the best book since the sixth, but my perception may be colored since this book finally wraps up many of the story arcs that have meandered along for the last four books.
I still think Perrin’s arc is terribly boring, but at least he finally rescues Faile. At the same time, Elayne finally secures the throne and Mat finally escapes the Seanchan. What’s crazy is we get more character development too since we get to see things like how Perrin finds himself estranged from his wife or his conduct while searching for his wife inadequate. It is events that bring the depth of a character out, not sitting around talking or engaging in dull tasks like placating Aes Sedai and Tuon.
As for new things, well Semirhage’s ill-conceived attack on Rand is just another example of how incompetent the Forsaken are. One wonders what the Dark One could accomplish if he recruited for proficiency over ambition. I guess the reveal of Rand’s madness could be significant, but as a source of tension among characters it fizzled.
Most importantly, Egwene finally comes into her own growing into leadership at the same time as she is rendered powerless. I think this is the one time I really felt on Egwene’s side as she engages in some old-fashioned civil disobedience to slowly undermine Elaida’s reign as Amyrlin. It is well done, but unfortunately later events will render it largely moot.
I must mention the best scene in the book when Lews Therin seizes the One Power and massacres thousands of orcs I mean trollocs in a devastating show of force. Lews Therin was a bad ass.