Spoilers for books 1-7 and The Path of Daggers to ch.27| 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 8, The Path of Daggers. This post covers chapter 20-27.
Elayne and her posse of women is making their way to Caemlyn. I don’t know why the chapter is called ‘Into Andor” – they are already inside Andor, they Travelled there earlier. Anyway, the journey is not a smooth one. For one, there is tension between the various groups. Plus Elayne has a few minor mishaps while studying the ter’angreals, which honestly is to be expected, and she should just be happy to get away without major injuries, poking through mysterious artifacts. A blackout during which she apparently did something embarrassing convinces Elayne to stop for now.
And then the weather changes, and suddenly they’re in the middle of a freezing winter for which they are absolutely not equipped. Luckily, they manage to trade a few of Aviendha’s gems for winter gear. It’s not a big plot point or anything, but I found the whole deal to be.. off. For a start, the villagers don’t want bejeweled necklaces but will totally buy gems? There’s a stab at explaining this, saying they see the necklaces are frippery but the gems as wealth. I don’t buy that at all. Plus, where did the villagers find so much spare stuff, enough to equip about 200 women? Like I said, it’s not a huge deal, but it irked me a lot for some reason. Other minor stuff that happens is Merilille starting to teach the Sea Folk, the Kinswomen realising that Aes Sedai are humans with failings, not deities to put on a pedestal, Egwene telling them to stay put in Caemlyn.
Pretty boring chapter, until the last line:
Three days later, the first explosion came.
Answering the Summons
Rand is preparing to take out the Seanchan moving on Illian now. Poor guy cannot catch a break. It’s like one enemy after the other, battle after battle, since he left the Two Rivers. Which I guess is also why he’s turned so damn bitter now. So he has my sympathy, but that doesn’t make reading his chapters any more fun. People always seem to berate the supergirls’ subplots, but I think they at least are hanging on to a bit of cheerfulness and humor.
Anyway, Rand’s summoned a bunch of Asha’man, always a wise move against damane. First stop is the city of Illian though. Rand makes a gateway to it, and I’m growing increasingly concerned at the dizziness he feels whenever he embraces the source. It’s only for a few moments, but that’s the crucial time when he faces danger – assassins, or Forsaken or whatever.
In the night, Narishma, who he’d sent on an errand, returns. And brings back something, which I’m guessing is a sa’angreal, the male part of the pair he’s hidden away in Cairhien (if I remember correctly). A bit overdoing it, but I guess you can never be too prepared. I’m actually surprised he sent Narishma to do it. Yes, his absence might’ve been noted, but with Traveling he could’ve been in and out in like five minutes. Much safer than having another person know of its existence.
The next day, he Travels again, and settles down to wait for the Asha’man to summon a bunch of nobles and their soldiers. It takes longer than expected, because of the storms and because he’s summoning the people least loyal to him. Which is a particularly stupid thing to do going against the Seanchan. Apparently it is so that he can keep an eye on them, but I’d still like to have at least an army of Aiel backing me up if I was in Rand’s shoes. At least he brings in Bashere too. Finally he has everyone gathered, and then it’s another teleport to the mountains proper.
Moments after stepping out of the gateway, an archer attacks Rand. And exactly what I was afraid of happens – Rand sees the attack coming, seizes saidin, but is incapacitated by the dizziness and nausea to do anything about it. Only sheer luck saves him. The man is immediately attacked by the other Asha’man, and is dead before he can be interrogated. Which is a shame, they should’ve just incapacitated him instead of using lethal force. Unless… What if he was sent by Taim, and these people are on his side somehow, so that they couldn’t afford to have the assassin captured alive? But no, it was Eagan Padros, leader of the band of rebels Rand met earlier in the book. It doesn’t discount my theory of an Asha’man conspiracy, though. He has a Tar Valon coin on him, but as noted, that doesn’t mean much.
Just then scouts return having sighted the Seanchan.
A small POV from a Seanchan soldier, presumably from the force Rand has just found. Their raken have spotted Rand’s army, but they think he’s a few miles off yet. The suckers have no idea what’s coming for them.
And cut to the post battle scene. I wish Mr. Jordan had just shown the battle instead of recounting it in bits and pieces in Rand’s thoughts. Not too great a loss, it was clearly a one sided fight, with Asha’man and surprise on Rand’s side. There’s a captive sul’dam, and of course Rand can’t bring himself to have her killed, and neither can he let her go, so she’s just kept captive for now. The other normal soldiers are let go. The reason Rand gives is that keeping them along will be too much bother. Well, just teleport them to somewhere more convenient. Like a dungeon. Or give them to the Aiel.
Another Seanchan POV. Rand’s apparently been attacking bands of them and they think it’s a huge Altaran force, because how can they know it’s a much smaller army teleporting around. I don’t understand why the Seanchan are split up though. I thought they were marching on Illian – why not stick together like a normal army? And then they are attacked, and they flee.
Rand meanwhile is watching all this unfold. He’s now holding the Power, maybe spooked by the almost-disaster that happened earlier. Good idea, I guess, but this is hardly a solution. A Soldier appears with another captured sul’dam, and Rand just tells him to take her back to the carts. This attempt at not looking idle by Rand – having prisoners brought to him for “inspection”, seems remarkably childish and petty to me. The man also mentions something being strange with saidin. This is not the first time this has been mentioned. Something is up. Rand doesn’t notice anything strange though. He sends Flinn and Dashiva into the fighting as well, leaving him alone with a couple of noblewomen. A sudden something happens to Rand – like an instability in saidin, wild surges of Power, and he has to let go of the Power. He finds himself flat on the ground, and suddenly a bunch of Seanchan appear, running towards him. Rand tries to reach the Source, but he can’t even move. Fortunately a bunch of Tairens and Cairhienin appear and engage the Seanchan. The women seem to be debating between letting him die and killing him, but more of Rand’s soldiers appear, and Bashere. Wew. At least the Seanchan are on the retreat. But it seems that Rand wants to press on to Ebou Dar.
Seriously dude, get some proper reinforcements before doing that. Please.
A Time For Iron
A POV from a Seanchan general camped outside Ebou Dar. He’s worried – by this time, the Seanchan think there are ninety thousand enemy soldiers in the mountains. The High Lady Suroth arrives at his tent. Surprisingly, she’s got a damane with her, one who turns out to be Liandrin. How’d she get there? Last I remember of her was Moghedien shielding her, in the Fires of Heaven I think. Still, it’s fitting, seeing as how Liandrin was responsible for Egwene’s brief captivity in Falme. Suroth somehow knows that Rand’s forces are capable of Traveling, and that there’s only five thousand of them. So Rand is still pressing on with his meager force. It was risky doing it with a bunch of scattered Seanchan, now it’s madness.
Funnily, the Seanchan do believe in the Dragon Reborn, except they think he should serve their precious Empress, and win Tarmon Gai’don for her “glory”. Man I hope we get to see this Empress some day. Also, even the damane have been feeling something wrong about saidar, so it’s not just the men. I wonder if the Bowl had something to do with it. It was used in Ebou Dar, and the Aes Sedai with Perrin or Elayne never mention something being the matter, so whatever it is must be localised.
Rand is bringing in his army via gateway. Dashiva again complains to Rand about something being amiss with saidin, about how it’s hard to control. Rand again tries to dismiss his concerns, but on his urging really tries to notice and finds that indeed there is a sort of pulsing in saidin.
The battle begins, and we get a bunch of POVs from assorted nobles that really capture the nature of battle – chaotic, with little skirmishes breaking out all over the place. But men are naturally stronger in the Power, so the Seanchan in general are not doing good, though there are casualties on Rand’s side too. Both Asha’man and damane seem to have a lot of trouble controlling their attacks, and there are cases of them killing people on their side by accided. Rand’s generals think they should stop the fighting, that enough Seanchan have been killed, but Rand means to press forward still. And Rand pulls out – Callandor. Well, I was right about it being a sa’angreal at least. He channels, and brings about a huge storm, flashing down hundreds of lightnings bolts. Except he can’t control them – he’s killing Seanchan as well as his own people. Eventually Bashere manages to bring Rand to his senses, and he stops the attacks. Rand thinks he’s lost – in a way, he has, but the Seanchan are on the retreat too. So yeah, not a cheerful victory, but I don’t think it was a total loss either.
Aes Sedai Shenanigans
Elaida is in a meeting with the Sitters. They’re busy dismissing the news of Seanchan, especially their damane, and basically arguing with each other while Elaida stews. Elaida sends them off with some decrees, but Alviarin appears, and takes the decrees back and dismisses the Sitters. Alviarin is still very much pulling Elaida’s strings. She has her sign a proclamation saying that Rand is indeed the Dragon Reborn, and only the White Tower is allowed to guide him. And she has Elaida switched for trying to sneak those decrees while she was gone. Honestly, WoT has the most spanking and switching of grown people that I’ve seen in other books combined.
Then Alviarin herself reports to her mistress, Mesaana. Actually, Mesaana’s strategy reminds me of Voldemort – he too was fond of having his minions control powerful posts, while himself staying in the shadows. Anyway, Mesaana is concerned that despite her and Alviarin’s attempts to seed discord between the Ajahs (another Voldemort thing), the heads of the Ajahs are meeting secretly and are up to something. She commands Alviarin to find out what.
Meanwhile, Seaine, who Elaida accidentally set to hunting Black Ajah, is working diligently at her task, though hindered a bit by the growing animosity between the Ajahs. She meets a “girl” who’s been Aes Sedai for “only” fifty years. She takes her to somewhere beneath the Tower, where Pevara is waiting for them. It seems the two have decided to begin by interrogating this Zerah Dacan. And they’re prepared – they’ve filched the Oath Rod.
And finally the big secret of the Black Ajah is revealed – it seems one can use the Oath Rod not only to take, but also to free oneself from the Three Oaths. Okay, it’s pretty simple, but, well how was I to know that? So Pevara and Seaine retake the oaths in front of Zerah, and then bully her into taking an oath to obey them. Zerah confirms that she’s not Black Ajah, but now she’s trapped – the two are not yet ready to free her from the Oath of obedience.
Unfortunately for Zerah, a bit more digging reveals she’s one of the sisters sent from Salidar in secret. Pevara can’t accept that her Ajah raised Logain up as a False Dragon, and orders Zerah to say that it’s a lie. But she can’t, because it conflicts with her Oath of not lying – it might be a lie, but Zerah believes that it’s the truth. And so the poor woman almost chokes to death. So that’s what happens when you have conflicting oaths. They’re just planning to the other nine from Salidar bound to them, when assorted Sitters barge in. They’ve noticed that Seaine and Pevara are up to something, and they spot the Oath Rod, and figure out what they’re up to. They immediately start proving their innocence by retaking the Oaths and saying they’re not Black Ajah. Except one of them can’t. Because she is Black Ajah. Paydirt!
Quite a productive day. They uncovered a bunch of rebels and found a Black Ajah. Though that’s not saying much. Given the amount of scheming that’s going on and the number of Aes Sedai that are Blacks, you could interrogate any radom woman and find something fishy.
A small POV from Toveine Gazal, hunting for the Asha’man, who gets hunted in turn as expected. Surprisingly the Asha’man warder bond them, like a weird mirror image of what happened to Rand. Except that they can control the Aes Sedai, unlike Rand/Alanna. Toveine herself is bonded to Logain, who has ended up with the Black Tower as I expected.
Min is chilling out reading a book – she seems to have found quite a taste for scholarly stuff – when Rand returns to Cairhien. She is of course a bit pissed at him for vanishing, but Rand calms her down with a few kisses. Dobraine, who’s been running the place, interrupts their fun with reports and stuff. Nothing major, just updates on the rebel nobles – Toram and Fain are missing, Darlin and Caraline are apparently under Cadsuane’s protection. And then Rafela and Merana are there. A bargain has been stuck with the Sea Folk – they’ll help Rand, but in return they’ve exacted a bunch of promises – Rand won’t interfere with their laws, they must be given a square mile of land near every city on navigable water – kind of like an embassy, he will keep an ambassador from them at all times with him, and will obey summons from their Queen, no more than twice every three years.
Wow, that is a lot of stuff, but aside from the final bit, it’s pretty reasonable IMO. Rand starts to get angry until he’s reminded that the bargaining was going pretty well until he up and left the Aes Sedai alone, which shuts him up.
Rand summons Cadsuane. It seems Min has had a viewing – she must teach him and all the Asha’man something. And then three maidens march into the room and beat the living daylights out of Rand. They are clearly very unhappy that Rand left them behind when he went to Illian, and later when he fought the Seanchan. Completely justified.
While Rand is recovering from this, with “help” from Min, a messenger arrives from Cadsuane, saying she can’t come as she’s too busy with needlework. Typical. So Rand decides to try and awe her by dressing up and going to her with a couple of Asha’man. As I expected, Cadsuane is completely unfazed. Intimidation is not going to work on that one.
They eventually reach a bargain of sorts – Cadsuane will be Rand’s Aes Sedai advisor, with a few conditions for both parties, like she’ll not try to manipulate him (ha!) and do what’s good for him, not the Tower. I hope Cadsuane can steer Rand towards a more reasonable and calmer state of mind.
Also, turns out she knows (or at least suspects) that he used Callandor. According to Cadsuane, the sa’angreal is somehow flawed – it’s dangerous to use, and magnifies the taint in saidin. The safe way to use it is to be linked with two women and have one of them control the flows.
Rand realises that means the next time he’ll have to use the statue sa’angreal, which are even more dangerous in their way.
And that brings us almost to the end of the book. This last chapter was perhaps the only one I had fun reading. Rand’s whole Seanchan campaign was just so bleak and emo and depressing and sad. We really need Mat to come back ASAP. But it seems that’ll have to wait for the next book.