A Crown of Swords: How NOT to Do Sexual Writing

This was one of my favorite Wheel of Time books so far. Up until it started getting really rapey and the story became a jumbled mess right at the last second. Now, this is probably my least favorite one of these so far.

Rand showing off those ripped-ass biceps. When did he have time to exercise?

The Wheel of Time turns and ages come and pass. After breaking free from the Aes Sedai at Dumai’s Wells, Rand returns to find his grip on the world starting to slip. Meanwhile, Mat, Nynaeve, and Elaine continue their pursuit of the Bowl of the Winds. But with the two Aes Sedai all but shunning Mat, will they be able to find it before the Forsaken?

While all of the series’ perspective characters are all present, the only ones who get an extensive amount of focus are Mat, Nynaeve, and Elaine. Everyone else gets such little time in the limelight that they may as well not even be there. Perrin’s whole arc is just fixing the gap between him and his wife (I guess even Robert Jordan realized that shit sucked ass) and Rand doesn’t do anything until the very last minute and then suddenly the whole story revolves around him. But we’ll get to that later.

For the majority of the story, we’re seeing things from Mat, Nynaeve, or Elaine’s perspective. Which is for the best; their search for the Bowl of the Winds was the most interesting plot out of the lot. Seeing them struggle with their seemingly hopeless search while constantly bickering with each other is fairly compelling. And when the gap between Mat and the girls finally starts to close, it is fairly cathartic. Plus, we finally see Nynaeve’s character arc progress in hugely meaningful ways. And to top it all off, we get Lan back at last!

Unfortunately, that plotline is bogged down by the worst thing Wheel of Time has done so far: rape.

Sexual assault is a delicate topic that needs to be handled seriously. Unfortunately, A Crown of Swords does not treat it so gingerly. In fact, it’s played as a joke at the victim’s expense! And the victim isn’t upset because he was literally raped at knifepoint; no, he’s mad because he’s the one that’s supposed to seduce women, women aren’t supposed to pin him down!

There are no words to describe how much I hate this. Literally no words. My loathing for this is so deep and burns so hot that I genuinely nearly dropped the whole series right there and then.

Another big issue is how conflict is resolved. Mainly in that most conflicts simply resolve themselves. All our characters need to do is put a Ta’veren in the room and the people they’re arguing with will just bend over and submit immediately for no reason. This book has officially made me hate the concept of Ta’veren; it was fine when they were bending the Pattern in minor ways, but now they’re literally just willing the plot to go their way! That isn’t clever, it’s lazy writing!

Speaking of lazy: the climax. This is easily one of the most disappointing endings in any Wheel of Time book. The main plotline ends with a blatant sequel-baiting cliffhanger that resolves nothing, then we focus on Rand who has done fuck all for the whole book and we get an action scene that desperately needed more build-up.

It’s such a shame. Like I said at the beginning, I really enjoyed this book up until it got rapey and the ending let me down. It was one of the few Wheel of Time books that I was genuinely engaged in. The first half was fantastic! But everything takes a huge turn for the worse as soon as Mat moves into the palace.

And you know what’s worse? You know what is so scary it’s making me shit myself? Apparently, the next three books in this series are so slow and boring that not even Wheel of Time fans like them.

Wish me luck, everyone.

4 responses to “A Crown of Swords: How NOT to Do Sexual Writing”

  1. I think that topics like Sexual Assault somehow was not as sensitive a topic in books in 1996 or people just didnt call it out. I never read that one. Jordan had lost me already at that point and I preferred reading Conan or Dragonlance.

    Liked by 1 person

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