Spoilers for books 1-8 and Winter’s Heart to ch.35| 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 9, Winter’s Heart. This post covers chapter 22-35.
In Far Madding
Rand is in Far Madding. What is he doing there? Tailing one of the renegade Asha’man. How did Rand know he’ll be there? Rand ensured he would, or someone would, by leaving a trail of clues indicating that he was going to Far Madding. Nice thinking – except there’s the risk of it backfiring. But I guess at this point Rand is no stranger to risk.
So, the sneaky pursuit continues, intermixed with descriptions of the city. I’d like to quote a particularly marbelous paragraph:
A round marble pedestal in the center of the square held a statue of Savion Amhara, two spans tall and proud in fur-trimmed robes of marble, with elaborate marble chains of office around her neck. Her marble face was stern beneath the First Counsel’s jeweled marble diadem, and her right hand firmly gripped the hilt of a marble sword, its point resting between her slippered feet, while her raised left hand aimed a warning marble finger toward the Tear Gate.
That’s seven marbles. Yeah man, we get it, it’s a marble statue.
Far Madding seems to be quite heavily policed by guards. Must be expensive as hell to employ so many of them, but it’s probably worth it if you can ensure a very low rate of crime. Rochaid eventually leads Rand to a maze of alleys, which it seems is a required feature in all cities. Turns out it was a counter-trap, with Rochaid as the bait. Well, they succeeded, but got more than they bargained for. Rand takes out Rochaid with a blow to the throat. His accomplice and Rand are facing off when they hear guards approaching, and they both run off. Pretty anticlimactic. I wonder why no one used the Power in this fight. Rand I can guess – the dizziness that comes with it would probably get him killed. But why didn’t the other two kill him instead of fumbling with swords?
Also, the other one doesn’t get away either. He’s killed soon after – by Padan Fain. I know he was just trying to kill Rand, but his panic at seeing the small nick from Fain’s dagger rotting his hand before his eyes and his last moments of desperation kinda make me feel sorry for him. We get confirmation that the attack on Rand was ordered by Taim. I bloody well knew it! Oh, and he was a Darkfriend too. Damn things are everywhere. You know what they should do? Counter-espionage. Send in people pretending to want to be Darkfriends. You know, like undercover cops. So we can get some intel on the plans of the Dark One. But no, there’re the pesky magically binding oaths that they’d probably have to take. Wouldn’t work.
Rand meanwhile gets to his inn and describes his adventures to Lan, Min, Nynaeve and – surprise – Alivia. I thought she’d just run away or something, but it seems Nynaeve brought her with them. They decide to move out of the inn in case the other Asha’man come knocking.
A POV from someone who seems a hybrid of Luc and Isam. A bit of very cautious googling reveals that Isam is Lan’s cousin, and Luc is Rand’s uncle from the Tigraine side. Whether they have always been the same person or there’s some magical fusion going on I dunno. Oh, and this fellow was I think the Slayer character Perrin encountered in the Two Rivers, who was the same as the Lord Luc Perrin met. Man, this fellow is doing his best to confuse me, and succeeding at it. Anyway, he steps out of Tel’aran’rhiod and kills two people. He’s doing this for one of the Forsaken, identity unknown. But it was a failure – the people he killed were someone else. Who he really wanted to kill was “his nephew and the wench”. So it was an attempted assassination of Rand and Min. Whew, close shave.
Among the Counsels
Next to arrive in the city are Cadsuane with an assortment of channelers. I like that we get a POV from one of the Sea Folk women – specifically Shalon. I was a bit suspicious of them just happening to come to the city where Rand is, until I realised they have Alanna with them. The woman is basically a Rand seeking device. There is a lot of boring chatter while they get to the city proper. Two important facts are revealed – the Aes Sedai seem to have warder-bonded Flinn and some other Asha’man, and that there’s a ter’angreal in Far Maddin that gives the city the stedding effect – you can’t even sense the Source there. So that’s why Rand’s fight involved no magic. After a lengthy check and bunch of formalities, they enter the city, and make their way straight to the Hall of the Counsels.
Typically, Cadsuane bullies her way into a meeting with the First Counsel. There doesn’t seem to be anything of importance to it though, just introduction and pleasantries. Verin for some reason chooses to go by a fake name. Even with the interesting Sea Folk perspective, this was a remarkably boring pair of chapters.
Meanwhile, Rand and Min are hanging out in their new inn. Rand of course knows that Alanna is in town. Min is worried, but Rand tells her to chill out. They talk about Alivia. Min’s seen that she will “help Rand die”. Oh man, that is so ominous. I was afraid that Rand would not have a happy ending, but a man can hope. Until Min’s prophecies break those hopes, that is. Cadsuane and Alanna arrive then. Cadsuane leaves after a bit of standard Cadsuane bullying, including slapping Rand (grrr). At this point I’m not even shocked. Alanna and Rand have a talk. Rand asks Alanna to free him, but she straight up refuses.
However I acquired you, you are my Warder, and I have a responsibility. That is as strong in me as the oath I swore to obey you. Every bit as strong. So I will not release you to anyone unless I know she can handle you properly. Who bonded you? If she is capable, I will let her have you.
That is some really shaky reasoning. She does convince Rand to make better use of his loyal Aes Sedai besides parading them about to show his power, so he sends her off to negotiate with the rebels in Cairhien.
Verin and Cadsuane chat about Rand. Cadsuane tells her what I think is her true intention – to make sure he survives till Tarmon Gai’don, and make sure he isn’t more stone than human by that time. This seems to be the response Verin was looking for – she doesn’t slip poison into Cadsuane’s tea at least. I think Verin is on the good side, but she’s just super paranoid about Darkfriends and Black Ajah, so she tries to help Rand in the most sneaky way possible. It’s the closest I’ve come to guessing her motivations.
Egwene and Elayne are having a meeting in Tel’aran’rhiod, the venue being Emond’s Field. The place is certainly prospering – transitioning from small village to bustling town. Turns out the reason we haven’t seen anything from the Siege of Tar Valon yet is because it hasn’t begun. The epilogue scene where Egwene teleports the army to Tar Valon was just a preview I guess.
Egwene leaves, and Elayne wakes up after the universal struggle of doing stuff versus having some sweet extra sleep. She and Aviendha get dressed and have breakfast. Elayne grumbles about having to eat lame plain food because of her pregnancy. Which I agree is a bit unfair. I’m no expert, but I think this is a bit overkill. I mean, no alcohol is fine, but why the very little honey? What’s wrong with honey? Honey is healthy!
That snake Mellar/Hanlon is still around of course, though so far he hasn’t struck. Elayne bloody encourages him by acting all flirty, to make everyone believe the child is his so they won’t suspect the truth. It wouldn’t be that bad an idea except she chose the worst guy for it. Elayne spends the day in the usual mix of boring administration and slightly less boring politics. She’s taking a bit of a break when Merilille returns from somewhere and she rushes off to debrief her.
Turns out Merilille was checking out the Borderlands armies. She’s met with them. Elayne asks the obvious question – what do they want? Merilille doesn’t know, but they do want to meet Elayne. Well, no time like the present, Elayne decides, and off they are with Birgitte and Aviendha. They meet with all the four rulers. Once the formalities are taken care of, they get to the point. They know that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, and they know Elayne is somehow connected to him, so they’re hoping she can help them find him. Why do they want to find him? Because the Last Battle is likely to happen in the Blight, which is their expertise, and they want to help.
Admirable sentiment, but I must ask – what in the hell are they expecting will happen when they find Rand? “Hey man we heard you’re gonna be our last hope of salvation and rebirth, so we brought you these two hundred thousand soldiers.” It would’ve been better and way more convenient if they’d just sent messengers saying they support him or something. This is just overkill. I mean, they just spent weeks or even months tramping through heat and cold, and for what? Such a waste of time and effort. It just irks me.
But Elayne the smartypants has a plan to use this for her advantage. She will tell them where they can find Rand. In return, they will march through Andor. This will allow her to use the threat of a foreign invasion to unite the nobles behind her and ensure her succession. Neat plan, as long as it doesn’t devolve into actual war. The borderlanders agree to the plan.
A very tired Elayne gets back to Caemlyn. Seriously, I think RJ went overboard with the exhaustion. Like, she can’t even stand? Intrigue is exhausting, but it’s not like she ran a marathon or anything. Norry has some bad news for her – there are four armies marching on Caemlyn. Not large ones, but twenty thousand men is no laughing matter. They don’t yet know who though. So they do what they can to prepare for a siege.
Opportunity for Escape
Tylin is going away so Suroth can “show her how much of Altara she owns”. That just feels so lame to me. It was actually Tuon’s idea. I’m pretty sure she has some ulteriour motive. Maybe she’ll make a move on Mat? But for Mat, this is huge, because with Suroth and Tylin gone for over a week, it gives him a chance to escape the city. He immediately begins scheming. Step one is to have Juilin procure sul’dam and damane dresses and an a’dam. Juilin is reluctant at first, until Mat figures out he’s in love with one of Suroth’s slaves, and tells him this is his best chance to get away with her.
The servants know he’s up to something, though they have no idea how much. I love Mat for trying to encourage this belief so that when he vanishes with damane, he will be blamed, not Tylin. This after how the woman has treated him. He continues to scheme with Thom and Juilin. Beslan stumbles on the scheme, and he wants to help – by starting a fricking revolt. Mat calms him down with a dose of bitter truth though – if he tries to pull something like that, the Seanchan will respond with slaughter.
Eventually Juilin manages to find the damane dresses and an a’dam. The trouble now is who will be the sul’dam. They try it with Mistress Anan (who by the way is planning to leave too) but it doesn’t work. Mat is in despair and considering making a run for it alone, when Bayle Domon finds him. Mat meets with Egeanin. She wants him to help her leave, only a few months down the road, but Mat manages to convince her that she needs to escape now. She can help out too – as one of the Blood, she has a lot of authority, and can also supply sul’dam – I’m guessing Renna, Seta and Bethamin. While talking to Thom and Juilin about this, the male a’dam comes up, but unfortunately no one thinks to confirm with Domon that he actually dumped the thing. If only they would do that, then they and be extension Rand, will know of the danger. But alas, that doesn’t happen.
Escape from Ebou Dar
The day has arrived. Olver and the rest of the soldiers will be leaving in the day, because as common people, they don’t stand that much risk. No, that’s Mat. He’s going to be sneaking out with: two damane, a marath’damane, a personal servant of High Lady Suroth, three sul’dam, a woman pursued by the Seekers and there’s himself. That is quite a list. The day passes slowly, and night arrives. Egeanin comes with Domon and other assorted people, and they make their way to the kennels, where they get the two Aes Sedai. Meanwhile, Rand frees one of the Sea Folk windfinders, shows her how to free others, and in exchange receives a promise she won’t do anything until Mat and party are gone from the city. Good guy Mat. But I don’t know how well this will turn out for the Windfinders. I hope they manage to get away too.
Returning to his chambers, Mat runs into Tylin, who has arrived early. Uh oh. Or not uh oh. For once Tylin doesn’t behave like an entitled douchebag. She lets Mat go, though first she has him tie her up so she won’t be blamed fort the other people who are also going to flee tonight. Whew.
But it’s not over yet. On the way out, he runs into Tuon as well. She’s a fierce one, going berserk mode on Mat’s ass, and only a timely intervention from Noal saves the plan from going down the drain. Turns out he’s planning to leave too. They manage to bind Tuon as well, while Juilin arrives with his woman, Thera. Thera of course almost shits herself at the sight of a bound and gagged Tuon. Egeanin reacts in the same way. Except she knows exactly who Tuon is, and she tells Mat. Understandably, everyone is surprised when Mat responds with “She is my wife”. And then, to my surprise, Mat decides to take Tuon with them.
This just feels so out of character for Mat. I mean, he’s always done his best not to do what the Aelfinn said. He’s always confirmed that any woman he’s hooking up with is not the Daughter of the Nine Moons. And now when he finds one who is, instead of staying the hell away from her, he decided to kidnap her? Does not compute.
At least he’s out of Tylin’s clutches now.
Blue Carp Street
Rand is still in Far Madding. He’s looking for the rest of the Asha’man, but so far no luck. He runs into Verin, who tells him that the Seanchan are in Illian. This, combined with the news he heard earlier of a siege on Tear makes him realise that stuff is still happening out there. He tells Verin that he’ll be leaving Far Madding the next day, and to tell Cadsuane he accepts her terms and wants her as his advisor. One, it seems Cadsuane’s reverse psychology has worked, and she has Rand approaching her instead of the other way round. Two, I thought this advisor business had been finalised earlier, back in Caihien? Or was it just negotiation without any commitment?
Rand returns to his inn, and tells Lan of his plans to leave. The women return from a ride out in the hills with Cadsuane. She’s been teaching Nynaeve how to use some of the ter’angreal she’s got. A letter arrives for Rand, telling him where two of the Asha’man are hiding, to kill them and leave Far Madding. It’s probably a trap, but Rand doesn’t care. He’s gonna go in with Lan and do what he came to do. Typical “it’s not a trap if I know about it” philosophy. I remember the girls saying the same when they went to Tear, and then ending up captured by Black Ajah. I hope this one turns out better. While they leave with Nynaeve, Min goes to Cadsuane with Alivia.
Rand, Lan and Nynaeve reach the place. They confirm that their targets are there, and Nynaeve uses one of her ter’angreal to boost Rand and Lan to the roof. So convenient that she just happened to have a ter’angreal that let her use the power in Far Madding. Rand and Lan find the two men dead with blackened, bloated corpses. It is indeed a trap, laid by Fain! I should have seen this coming. Somehow Fain has Toram Riatin with him too. While he occupies Lan, Fain tries to kill Rand.
Unfortunately, Fain’s presence seems to worsen the pain from the wounds in Rand’s side, so he can hardly defend himself. Rand still manages to wound Fain a bit. Man, Rand’s become so hardcore now. But guards are coming, and Fain flees. Rand and Lan try to escape from the roof, but they slip and fall down, unconscious.
Meanwhile, Nynaeve is still waiting out in the street when Alivia and Min arrive with Cadsuane. She’s almost dragged away by them. Turns out the reason the guards are here is because Nynaeve used the power, which was detected by the ter’angreal. Without the power, not much they can do to help here.
Rand wakes up in a dark cell. I’m guessing the guards put him here. A very small cell. Oh boy. This is bringing up all sorts of unpleasant memories. So, this one didn’t end up any better. Moral of the story: when you know it’s a trap, stay the hell away.
But Cadsuane is on the case. She marches in on the Counsels yet again, and this time I approve. It’s for Rand! She tells them she knows they’ve got Rand, and to let him go. They refuse. So she and Nynaeve use their special magic battery ter’angreal to lift the crown from the First Counsel’s head, and then put it back. All the while talking as if they’ve discovered some great flaw in the ter’angreal that prevents channeling, and this scares them enough that they agree to let Rand go. Ok, that’s twice that Cadsuane has saved Rand. I am starting to like her. She’s rude and bullying and not nice to Rand, but she gets shit done.
With the Choedan Kal
Rand and co. depart Far Madding. Rand leads them to the spot where he’d hidden Callandor. A bit risky – what if someone had been watching him at the time? But fortunately, it’s still there.
And this is it. It’s time to cleanse the source. I am so hyped right now.
They move to Shadar Logoth. Rand and Nynaeve link, and they draw on the most powerful sa’angreal ever made. It’s interesting to see their reactions to the other half of the source – Nynaeve’s surprise at how she has to constantly fight saidin, and Rand’s attempt to fight saidar until he realises he must surrender to it. He makes a sort of connection from the male half of the Source to Shadar Logoth using saidar, and sends saidin through it. I’m guessing he hopes that the evil in the city will somehow destroy the taint from saidin.
While Rand and Nynaeve are doing this, Cadsuane marshals everyone else into preparing to defend against anyone who might try to interfere. Good thinking. All the Forsaken except Moridin arrive one by one and try to attack Rand. Again, conveniently, one the ter’angreal Nynaeve had allows Cadsuane to detect anyone channeling from a great distance and direct her troops to oppose them.
First on the scene is Cyndane. And she is Lanfear! What! I thought we were rid of the loony. Clearly the Dark One has no idea she wanted to take him down and rule the world with Rand, or else she wouldn’t be back. But back she is. And eager to kill Rand/Lews Therin. Another big revelation is that Osan’gar was masquerading as Dashiva. I don’t know if he killed and replaced him, or there was no Dashiva to begin with. The fight continues on multiple fronts, with an assortment of Forsaken fighting their own little isolated battles against Rand’s allies. Everyone except Moghedien, that is. She’s just chilling out away from all the fighting waiting for someone else to take care of Rand or a chance to do it safely. Typical Moghedien. So far, the Aes Sedai and Asha’man are holding out.
Meanwhile, there’s a huge black dome rising from Shadar Logoth. I guess this is the physical manifestation of the filth being cleansed from saidin, which must mean Rand’s plan is working. Hell yeah! Poor Nynaeve collapses from the strain, but fortunately it doesn’t stop the process. Cadsuane heals her to help her out. And then suddenly it’s over. The black dome writhes a bit and then collapses in on itself, vanishing. The female statue is wrecked from the strain, broken and half melted. The male one survived though. I wonder if it’s because Nynaeve could not handle the strain but Rand held fast to the end. They’re both fine now, though unconscious. Must be exhausting to alter the nature of magic itself. Two of the defenders have died though, and I’m guessing all of the Forsaken got away. Still, it’s surprising these random people held out against some of the most powerful channelers in the world. The Asha’man confirm that Rand has indeed succeeded. This is so huge! I can’t even get my head around it. It changes everything! How will this affect the Asha’man? The Male Forsaken? The Red Ajah? All the people who have lived all their lives believing male channelers = must be killed/gentled.
I wonder what the last line means:
And on distant Tremalking, the word began to spread that the Time of Illusions was at an end.
Whew. That’s book nine down. This one was so much better than The Path of Daggers. More like the earlier ones that got me hooked. Though I have to say, Perrin and Faile’s story was a total bust. Nothing happened. I mean, we had a few chapters from them, but the plot is almost where we left it in The Path of Daggers, no progression to speak of. And Elayne didn’t get much to do. And Egwene was just missing.
But, then there was the return of Mat! And he finally met the Daughter of the Nine Moons and got away from Tylin. I enjoyed his parts. The final escape was fun. I mean, I realise it was this super dangerous thing and they were in real danger, but it just felt a bit funny to me. Maybe it’s just how Mat sees things.
And of course, Rand. He got bonded again. The man’s head is getting really crowded now – Lews Therin, Alanna, Min, Aviendha, Elayne, himself… Far Madding was pretty good – damn Fain got away again though. The real highlight was of course, the long awaited cleansing of saidin. It was written pretty well and reading it was exciting as hell. RJ definitely has a way with his climaxes, if you know what I mean. *wink wink, nudge nudge*
Two points I’d like to note though. One, I did not like that Cadsuane teaches Nynaeve about the ter’angreal that she just happens to have and they are both immediately useful in two situations. Too convenient.
And second, the actual method Rand used to cleanse the source. I don’t know how much sense it makes, and I don’t like that. I mean, if someone had asked me before this whether Rand’s way would work, I would have had no way to answer correctly. We had no idea that the evil in Shadar Logoth would react with the taint in this fashion. There were some indications, like when Rand was securing the Waygate there and he felt a resonance of sorts, but still I feel it should’ve been foreshadowed better. On the other hand, with this way, we feel really uncertain when the process begins, adding to the tension and excitement. Maybe that’s what RJ was going for.
Also, I always got the impression that saidin is infinite. Like, you can draw as much as you want, use as much as you can. But then Rand’s way of basically putting it through the conduit into Shadar Logoth wouldn’t have worked – he would never be done. He’d keep cleansing a bit of it, but there’s no way around infinity. But it’s not a big issue. I wonder if it means that Shadar Logoth has been cleansed as well? Like, the two evils cancelled each other out? We’ll probably find out if that’s the case.
Oh, and before I finish, I’d just like to say I loved this exchange back when Rand and Min went to meet Nynaeve:
“Do my first-sister and I fear danger?” Aviendha demanded, planting her fists on her hips. Her shawl slipped from her shoulders and fell to the floor, but she was so intent that she seemed unaware of the loss. “This man has toh to us, Aan’allein, and we to him. It must be worked out.”
Min spread her hands. “I don’t know what anybody’s toes have to do with anything, or feet either, but I’m not going anywhere until you talk to them, Rand!” She affected not to notice Aviendha’s outraged glare.
Get it? Toh, toe? I just though it was really funny but forgot to mention it in the relevant post, so here it is.
Well, that’s it for now. Time to prepare myself for what is apparently one of the least liked books in the series. Crossroads of Twilight, here we come.
No wait, just one more thing to say. No matter how this books turns out, I really like the title. WoT has some great titles.