Spoilers for books 1-6 and A Crown of Swords to ch.36| More info and previous posts |Please no spoilers for future books/events
In my plan to read The Wheel of Time, and post about my experience, I’m now on book 7, A Crown of Swords. This post covers chapter 29-36.
The Festival of Birds
So, Mat wakes up with the dice rattling in his head, and Tylin comes in, has a woman take Olver away and has sex with Mat at knife point. Remember how I said last time I was caught between finding this mess funny and not being pleased with myself for finding it funny? Yeah, it’s not remotely funny anymore. What Tylin did was wrong, and I certainly hate her for it. It’s a clear abuse of her power, if not exactly rape then close enough.
Let’s just move on. So, it’s yet another festival in Ebou Dar, this one basically a masquerade. Mat is scandalised by the scantily clad people on the streets, but it seems like a fun affair. The rest are certainly enjoying themselves. And then suddenly yet another beggar attacks Mat. Or maybe someone pretending to be a beggar, because Beslan notes right before that he doesn’t belong to the Guild(!) of beggars. But it’s a much bigger attack this time – more beggars appear out of the crowd, attacking everyone. Things get pretty hairy for a while, and we get confirmation that they’re working for Old Cully, but eventually the real beggars show up to save the day. Apparently their guild is not happy with these people wrecking their reputation. A pretty weird episode altogether.
They go back to watch the house, and Mat’s already bad day is worsened when he realises Beslan knows about him and Tylin, and approves. In a hurry to avoid the super-awkward conversation, Mat hurries after a woman leaving the house.
The POV switches to Reanne, and it seems Mat’s ta’veren is working. She has given some orders, or sent that woman off to somewhere that she wouldn’t usually do. I’m not entirely sure what, but perhaps Nynaeve was on to something about these women knowing of the cache.
Elayne is getting scolded by the rest of the Aes Sedai. It seems Nalesean told her about Mat chasing after the woman, and she told the Aes Sedai, and they are now angry at her because she revealed some huge secret. This when Elayne herself doesn’t know what the damn secret is, and the Aes Sedai refuse to tell her. This is so ridiculous. How can they blame her for revealing what she herself didn’t know?
Just as the Aes Sedai are getting ready to pronounce Elayne’s punishment for her “crime”, a letter arrives for her. It’s from Carridin, telling her that Morgase is alive and Niall’s “guest”, and Carridin will give her an escort so she can meet her mom. Firstly, it’s a painfully obvious trap, and secondly, Elayne (sensibly but incorrectly) believes the part about Morgase being alive a filthy lie, and this makes her very angry. Well, Carridin is not here, but these pesky Aes Sedai are, who keep calling her child, who dare punish her for revealing a secret she didn’t even know, and Elayne turns her full regal wrath on them. It’s very gratifying to see her take on the lot of them and put them in their place. Once she’s cooled down a bit, Vandene/Adeleas tell her the secret: the Tower has known about the Kin for centuries. Apparently firstly they permitted is since it was the Trolloc Wars, and after that they’ve used it to catch runaways – most runaways seek help, and end up with the Kin, so the Tower can snatch them up again. Sneaky Sedaises.
Well, the power structure has been turned on its head now. All the rest clearly defer to Elayne, which is more than I and Elayne expected – the most we hoped was for her to acknowledged as a full sister.
Meanwhile, Moghedien is in town. What is she up to? No doubt working for that Moridin fellow, but to what end? She spots a woman in the crowd, and this makes her very excited. She rushes to an inn, to the roof, and fires Balefire at the woman’s boat. Ouch, poor woman. Or maybe not. The Balefire misses, and so instead of being dead, the woman sinks with the boat. Sidenote: the side effects of that shot, namely the boat being in a different place and being sunk already for a few minutes, confirm that Balefire is the weirdest and coolest and deadliest stuff ever. Moghedien seems to think that will be enough to kill the woman, but I doubt it. A normal person might well drown, but this is probably one of the Forsaken, or one of those Black Ajah in town, so a bit of water is unlikely to give them much trouble. But Moghedien is satisfied, and rushes off on whatever errand Moridin sent her on.
Nynaeve is making her grumbling way to the Atha’an Miere, because Elayne is too busy with the Aes Sedai and Aviendha chickened out due to all that water. There’s also grumbling about the bargain they have struck with the Sea Folk, but whatever the price, I guess it’s pretty damn cheap for saving the world.
And suddenly she’s in the water and OH MY GOD MOGHEDIEN ALMOST BALEFIRED NYNAEVE!! I just realised this – Nynaeve was the woman Moghedien spotted. Who else would she want to murder so immediately and thoroughly?! Good thing Moghedien was in a hurry and didn’t stay to finish the job properly. Whew, close shave. Well, now to escape this boat. Nynaeve refuses to remove her bulky dress or jewelry that’s literally holding her down because of course some bling is worth the risk of bloody drowning. Typical Nynaeve. Anyway, she tries the cabin door but it’s blocked. Okay, just blow it open, it’s wood and you’re Aes Sedai. But she can’t get angry. Oh my god I knew this would cause trouble, and now here it is. She’s too scared to be angry!! Oh my god woman you spent most of your life in a rage and now that you need it you can’t find the anger? No no no, this can’t be happening.
And then she does something she’s never done – surrender completely to saidar, and she can channel now. Wew, that’s her life saved and she’s free of the boat and her block in one stroke. And then she’s floundering and out of breath and losing consciousness, but someone helps her to the surface. I breathe easy again. Turns out it was Lan. Lan Mandragoran is here, Nynaeve’s warder in shifting cloak. Wow, it feels ages since Lan set out, but actually it’s not been even a week. I wonder how much total time has elapsed since we met Rand and Tam on that village road. Probably 1-2 years.
So, the expected fierce romance flares up between Land and Nynaeve. Lan tells her that he’s bonded to Myrelle now, but Nynaeve is not letting Lan go this time. Oh no. She’s gonna marry him. That was fast.
Meanwhile, Elayne has led the Aes Sedai to the Kin’s house. They might not have accepted Elayne being a sister, but Merilille and the rest clearly have the trademark ageless face. It’s pretty gratifying to see their reaction when Merilille confirms that Elayne is in fact full Aes Sedai, and in fact the leader of the group. Elayne tells them of Egwene’s plan to have all women channelers conneceted under the Tower, and they are so pleased and eager. It’s clear they almost rever the White Tower and the Aes Sedai.
But the big shocker is their numbers – 1783 of them! That’s double the numbers of Aes Sedai! Okay seriously, what are so many capable women doing out of the Tower? Many of them are clearly strong enough to be Aes Sedai, and they also clearly want to be. Then why aren’t they? This time they also admit knowledge of the cache of artifacts, and just then Mat bursts in, with the same info. Technically though, Mat beat the girls to it.
Finally we can get to the Bowl and do something about this weather that people have been complaining about for two books now. And if all that excitement isn’t enough, it is revealed that Reanne is 412 years old. Four. Hundred. Are you kidding me? I knew Aes Sedai lived longer, but this isn’t long, this is like… superlong. And she still has plenty of years left in her. So if she were of this world, she would have seen the arrival of British to America, the genocide of the Indians, the war for independence, the Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, the Vietnam War.
Hmmm, the WoT world is really static by comparison. I guess the One Power doesn’t give you the sort of exponential growth Science and Technology does. Take that, Aes Sedai.
Sealed To The Flame
Elaida’s sweet dreams of her successes are interrupted by bitter news of her failures. It’s one of the kidnapping party, back with news that Rand has escaped, and they had their asses handed to them by Asha’man. Elaida can see her hopes crumbling to dust, and Alviarin chooses this moment to strike. She lays down the dire situation Elaida is in, and offers to help her in return for becoming her puppet, or she’ll be punished by the Hall. I would be happy over Elaida’s downfall, but this only means that things are going to become worse now that Black Ajah is so much more completely in control of the White Tower. I wonder if it was just bad luck that Elaida approached Alviarin first when she was forming her conspiracy against Siuan, or was she somehow guided to that decision? But while Elaida obeys meekly, she has some sort of plan forming in her head.
This plan is put into motion the very next day. The mood in the Tower is not good at all, and there is tension between the Ajahs thanks to some shady stuff Alviarin has had Elaida do. Elaida approaches one of the sisters, and under oath of secrecy she tells her she wants her to find traitors in the Tower, with a pretty strong hint that it’s the Keeper she’s after. (Sidenote : This Sealed to the Flame business is so shady, and is just a fancy way of suppressing unpleasant truths and keeping up the whole infallible facade of the Tower. Yeah, Aes Sedai really needed to be taken down a few notches). So Elaida means to have Alviarin brought down on charges of treason.
Seaine though jumps to an unrelated, but surprisingly correct conclusion : that there’s Black Ajah in the Tower, and Elaida wants them found. She seeks the help of a Red Ajah friend of hers, Pevara. And together they mean to play detectives. You know what would be great? They find that Alviarin is Black Ajah, and take her down, and also find all the stuff Elaida’s done, and take her down, and then everyone accepts Egwene as the true Amyrlin, and with her support Rand kills all the Forsaken and survives Tarmon Gai’don and they all live happily ever after.
Rand is in a pretty dark mood. What with having sent Perrin away, and Colavere and Fel dead, and his anxiety over the fate of the world in general, he’s become really withdrawn and depressed. After four days of this, Min finally gets in despite the orders he gave to the Maidens to let no one in to see him. She cheers him up a bit, soothing his guilt and doubts. They also talk how Rand “took advantage” of her the other day. It’s a pretty intense conversation.
She tells him of one of her viewings, which confirms my fears that there is a possibility that Lew Therin will overtake Rand’s body and become him. Or he’ll become Lews Therin. Either way, not a pleasant thought. But this just makes Rand happy because it confirms Lews Therin is real and not just a voice in his head. Dude, you couldn’t infer that from all the stuff he’s told you about the Forsaken etc.? Min also bullies him into agreeing to go meet the Sea Folk. About damn time!
Rand has a pretty embarrassing bath, surrounded by an assortment of women, then prepares a very pompous procession and goes to meet the Sea Folk. A bit too pompous. I don’t like his attitude, thinking he’ll make everyone bow and scrape by being so bloody blingy and royal. The power seems to be getting to his head a bit. Maidens, we need more jokes and teasing, stat.
I really love this little paragraph as the party is getting on a boat:
The captain bowed repeatedly as Rand came down the boarding ramp with Min on his arm and the Aes Sedai and Asha’man at his heels. Elver Shaene was even skinnier than his craft in a yellow coat of Murandian cut that hung to his knees. “It’s an honor to be carrying you, my Lord Dragon,” he murmured, mopping his bald head with a large handkerchief. “An honor, it is. An honor, indeed. An honor.”
Plainly the man would rather have had his ship brim full of live vipers. He blinked at the Aes Sedai’s shawls and stared at their ageless faces and licked his lips, eyes flickering back to Rand uneasily. The Asha’man dropped his mouth open once he put their black coats together with rumor, and thereafter he avoided so much as a glance in their direction.
So they make their way to the Sea Folk ship. Introductions are made, and they sit down to have a talk. Rand continues to be super rude to the Sea Folk though. Poor people have been waiting for what seems like ages for him to meet them, and now he does, he’s all “Yeah I’m your prophesied Coramoor and now you’re all my bitches and here’s my orders”. Bad Rand. I mean, the least he can do is be polite. To make matters worse for the Wavemistress, his ta’veren starts acting on her, making her spill all her bargaining chips. She’s right, this is not fair bargaining. Bloody ta’veren.
And then a claustrophobic panic attack of sorts strikes Rand, so he just gets up in the middle of the meeting and leaves with Min, leaving Aes Sedai to hammer out the details. It’d serve him right if the Sea Folk decided to say screw prophecy and leave him.
Meanwhile, Rand decides to take care of the rebels. Wow, the man may not be behaving like a pompous douche, but he’s getting stuff done. Except, instead of getting a few thousand Aiel or Wise Ones or Aes Sedai or Asha’man or all of them to attack or scare off the rebels, Rand decides to play the commoner and go alone with Min to them. Dude, you’re the Dragon Reborn and strong with the power, but it doesn’t mean a crossbow bolt won’t kill you just as thoroughly as any random farmer. But that’s what he does – without telling the Maidens, he teleports to the woods near the rebel camp.
Rand and Min into a woman who turns out to be one of the rebels’ leaders, Caraline Damodred, Moiraine’s sister, may she rest in peace. I expect immediate bloodshed, but Caraline just chats with him, and when one of the other nobles arrives she tells him Rand’s just some minor cousin. Then, Rand decides to go to their camp with the nobles. What the hell is this woolhead thinking? Quick, someone box his ears! (Question : Do we ever see any actual ear-boxing? I mean, it’s mentioned almost every other page, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it happen).
Just to make matters worse, they run into Aes Sedai, including Cadsuane. She obvious knows Rand, but doesn’t give him up. And then there’s Mordeth! Padan Fain is there. Oh my god this cannot be good. Mordeth will know. He already knows! I know he can sense Rand. As I see it, Rand can either kill the fucker and escape, or just escape. I mean, Cadsuane might be a question mark, but we definitely know what Mordeth/Padan Fain wants for Rand – death. But no, Rand just bloody chills out and enjoys the party. And accepts an offer for a sporting duel for good measure. Okay, maybe the man is going insane.
This Toram fellow clearly expects to beat the crap out of Rand and make himself look a badass in the process (also beat him up for hanging out with Caraline). Rand apparently expects the same. The result, surprisingly, is a tie They both fight super well, (sidenote : Been ages since we saw a proper duel, and this one feels really well written), but neither can get the advantage. Toram is a Blademaster, and Rand is as good as one, if not officially one. (How do you become an official blademaster anyway?) Though I believe if Rand had not done all the overconfident stuff at the start – which Toram very nicely pointed out:
He raised an eyebrow at the sight of Rand with his coat simply hanging open. “You will be confined in that, cousin.” Rand shrugged.
“Those gloves will slip, cousin. You want a firm grip.”
Rand could have won if he hadn’t acted like a smug arrogant over-confident douche. (Yes, I am not liking Rand currently). As it is, the fight is interrupted with shouts from outside, though Toram does get a good hit on Rand. It’s only wood, but it’s on his old wound, which means it’s pretty painful for Rand. It seems one of those bubbles of evil is afoot, this time taking the form of a deadly fog out of which murderous shapes emerge. Everyone runs helter skelter and the place is full of screams and death. The atmosphere has suddenly turned rather sinister and spooky in one page. Props to RJ.
Under Cadsuane’s directions (of course she has to act like everyone’s boss) Rand, Min, Caraline, Darlin and Toram and a few Aes Sedai head out, with the Aes Sedai using magic fireballs to keep everyone safe. A woman appears out of the fog, and a fogster (fog-monster, doesn’t really work though, does it?) right behind her. And this being a woman, Rand must do something. So he Balefires the thing. This takes care of the immediate danger, but one, now everyone knows who he is, and two, it scares the woman so much she turns right around and runs into the fog and (presumably) dies. Poor woman.
And then Fain leaps out of the fog. Rand turns, but Fain does too, dodging the dagger Min threw at him, and his dagger grazes Rand’s wounded side. His Shadar Logoth dagger, which is deadly enough to kill in moments with just a graze. Fain escapes, and Rand falls with a scream. Luckily the Aes Sedai are there, and one of them is good with healing, so she heals him. Rather, tries to, because IT DOESN’T WORK AND OMG SHE’S SAYING HE’S GONNA DIEEEE!!!
No no no, someone do something! Cadsuane does. She’s not giving up yet, and rallies everyone and first order of business is getting to Caemlyn. I don’t know what she intends to do there (circle-powered healing?) but if she saves Rand I will totally forgive her all her bossiness. The journey passes by in a rush because I’m in too much of a hurry to appreciate Aes Sedai commandeering a turnip cart and stuff. They get to the palace, and the bloody Aes Sedai settle down with a bloody book, but it’s Asha’man to the rescue – yet again. One of them, Flinn, does some stuff that Samitsu the healing expert knew not, and somehow seals off the wound. Rand’s chances are a bit better now. Flinn says that it’s possible the two evils in the wounds will kill each other off. But it’s also possible that Rand will die. I don’t think Rand will die now. He can’t.
BTW, I guess this is an example of saidin and saidar together doing things that neither alone could. When I first heard that, I was a bit skeptical, but the more I’ve seen how different male and female channelers are, the more convinced I am that yeah, they totally can do great things if they work together, shoring up each other’s weaknesses and amplifying strengths.
Well, anyway, that got pretty intense. And the climax is yet to come. Well, actually, to be honest, I’ve already finished the book, but this post must end here because it’s way more tiring writing about stuff than reading it. So I’ll work on the next post while you guys are reading this one. I’ll try to have it out Monday, but probably it’ll be Tuesday.