Spoilers for books 1-9 and Crossroads of Twilight to ch.24| 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 10, Crossroads of Twilight. This post covers chapter 16-24.
The Siege of Tar Valon
We are officially at the siege of Tar Valon. I say officially, because the scene with Egwene moving her army there actually first came about two books ago. Anyway, it’s on. And as we know, war is mostly boring waiting mixed with short moments of excitement. In keeping with the book’s theme, right now we’re at the boring part.
The army is camped outside, and for now they’re just waiting. Meanwhile, Egwene is out checking out Tar Valon. They’re bringing in soldiers by the shipload, and Egwene can’t stop them because she wants to act as though she’s already taken the three oaths, so offensively using the Power is not allowed. I don’t see why she can’t do some creative trickery to achieve her results though. Like, make a huge wall of fire appear a bit ahead of the ships. They’ll obviously turn back, and she won’t have killed anyone.
Anyway, with the ships coming, Tar Valon is getting both supplies and manpower, and so Gareth Bryne wants to assault them immediately, because the longer they wait the more soldiers there will be in Tar Valon. But Egwene doesn’t want that either – because she doesn’t want open warfare between the sisters. Well Egwene, what the hell did you expect when you became Amyrlin and declared war on Elaida? That you’d show up with your army and Elaida’d be like, aw shucks, I guess I lose. Of course there’s going to have to be a fight. And the sooner the better.
But for now Egwene is going to stall. On the way back to camp, Delana of the Black Ajah comes to see her. Sidenote – it’s getting pretty hard to even keep track of all the known Black Sisters, and as for the rest of the Aes Sedai, no chance in hell. So there’re only like five people that I actually know in these chapters, the rest of the Aes Sedai are just names.
Anyway, Delana talks about a bunch of random things, but eventually she gets around to saying that there have been talks of negotiating with Elaida in the hall. Whether that’s actually the case is anybody’s guess, but Egwene believes it. In fact she gives her official permission, but she adds that the only terms she’ll accept is Elaida resigning and going into exile. Well that’s never gonna happen, so that’s quite a smart move on Egwene’s part.
Once Egwene gets to the camp proper, a dozen pages are spent describing it, but eventually Egwene goes into a tent where something is going on. That something turns out to be making cuendillar. Turns out Egwene figured it out. And so now she has sisters making cuendillar to fund their war. Though I’m disappointed we aren’t told much beyond the fact that the weave is actually pretty simple but needs some talent with earth. Um, ok, that was enlightening. That’s the problem with having a vague magic system – it’s hard to do clever stuff with it. Of course, Wheel of Time’s magic is much more concrete than, say, LoTR, but it’s still way too abstract compared to something like Mistborn. The chapter ends with a vague hint that Egwene intends to use this in some more direct way in the war.
Egwene returns to her study, to find Siuan and Halima waiting for her there. Egwene tells Halima she doesn’t have time for her, and just then one of her headaches starts coming on. Confirmation that Halima is the one doing this, as if we needed any. Egwene still sends her off for now. Siuan tells Egwene that on her trips to the Tower in Tel’aran’rhiod, she saw the list of new sitters, and a lot of them are rather young. With the same pattern repeating both in the Rebels and the Tower, Egwene is convinced that something is up, and tells Siuan to find out more. I’m pretty interested in how this turns out, especially how it happened in both the factions. One Ajah that hasn’t split and has a hand in both is of course, the Black, so it could be their work.
The two discuss a bunch of dry political matters, including how Egwene is going to handle the double surprise of the Kin and the Bargain with the Sea Folk. I guess Sisters becoming free of the Three Oaths will be shocking, but a couple centuries more to live might help soothe them. And once that’s done, as Egwene points out, they’ll be more likely to accept the Sea Folk channelers doing their own thing instead of becoming Aes Sedai.
The talk moves to the sisters serving Rand, and I’m appalled to see that Egwene even considered that Rand might have used compulsion. It’s really sad how little she trusts him anymore. Although, she is right about compulsion – sneaky Verin did use something very like it, but Rand did not. Just then a bunch of sisters return from some mission and it’s time for the Hall to meet and hear their report.
An Unlikely Alliance
After much chit chat and description of various Aes Sedai that I promptly forgot, the meeting begins. Turns out the women who’ve returned were sent to check out what the huge beacon of the power was all about.
Well, we already know what it was about, but it’s interesting to see what these women make of it. They report huge residues of both saidar and saidin, and much more of the latter. That, combined with the fact that the weaves were almost alien, leads them to correctly infer that it was a man who controlled the weaves. But they suspect one of the Forsaken. And they found a huge three miles wide crater left where Shadar Logoth once stood.
Since the sisters have no idea what Rand did, or even that he was involved, they think that it’s some new danger, some new power or weapon the Shadow has found. If only Egwene and Rand talked. Like, they are leading the two biggest groups that are going to fight in the Last Battle, not to mention that Rand is the bloody Dragon Reborn. And yet there is almost no communication between them. I know it’s hard for them to be friends like they used to, but they can at least try to work together. That’s one huge advantage the Dark One has, if you think about it. All his forces and resources are working together, under a proper leadership, with proper sharing of information. While the forces of good are so scattered and mistrustful of each other.
Anyway, the Aes Sedai are scared. They realise that they can’t stand against this type of power, not even if they linked – at least not if they are limited to circles of thirteen at most. And the way to cross that limit, of course, is to bring in a man. So it is proposed that the Hall formally make an agreement with the Black Tower. This causes an uproar as I expect, but after much arguing and shouting and debating, they realise that with their situation, it’s their only chance. So it is agreed to approach the Black Tower. The meeting goes on for long after that, debating the specifics of it all without much agreement.
Egwene returns to a late supper and turns in for the day. Surprisingly, her headache has vanished in all of this. She thinks it’s due to some herbal tea she had earlier, but of course that wouldn’t work for magical headaches. I dunno what it was. Maybe the weave just dissipated or something. Anyway, Egwene turns in for a night of dreaming. First she calls Elayne for a meeting, but it’s Aviendha who turns up. They chat a bunch, but nothing big. That done, Egwene turns her dreams on autopilot in the hopes of catching glimpses of the future. And she does. There’s one which clearly points to Mat using the Illuminator’s secrets in warfare – the precise image reminds me of cannons. There’s one in which she’s dangling from a ledge and a Seanchan woman helping her, and another of two ravens attacking a lamp. Waking up, she just knows that the last one means a Seanchan attack on the Tower. To be honest, that’s not so surprising since the Seanchan obviously hate Aes Sedai, not to mention that guy in Ebou Dar spouting conspiracy theories that involve Aes Sedai.
But she has other worries for now. A sister and her warder have been killed, and saidin was used. My god this Halima plant is such a work of genius on the Dark One’s part. No one is going to suspect her, and I don’t know if the Aes Sedai are aware the Dark One can do soemthing like this. So she basically has the run of the place – she can use the Power anytime, without anyone realising what she’s doing. How are they ever going to find her out? Oooh, I know – once they get together with the Black Tower, one of the Asha’man is bound to notice a woman channeling saidin.
Alviarin returns to the Tower from wherever. She goes through a lot of trouble to hide the fact that she can Travel, while constantly grumbling about how Mesaana doesn’t teach her everything she knows and daydreaming about how she’s going to gain so much power and immortality and stuff. She goes to check on Elaida, and finds her in a meeting with a bunch of sitters. More to her surprise, or rather shock, Elaida seems to have rediscovered her spine and orders Alviarin to shut up and stand in a corner.
Once the sisters leave after convincing Elaida to enter into negotiations with the Rebels – and she accepts with the condition that the Blue Ajah no longer exists and all rebels must do penances and stuff, Elaida explains why she’s so cocky again. It seems the Hall blames Coiren and Toveine for the two big failures, and not Elaida, so Alviarin’s threats hold no water. She follows this a slap. The tables have turned. I’m no Elaida fan, but it still feels good to see Alviarin’s ass getting kicked. Elaida also says that she’s have her executed for treason once she has the proof, and that she’s been fired from her position of Keeper.
Properly terrified – mostly because she assumes that by treason Elaida means the fact that she’s Black Ajah (though I doubt Elaida meant that) – Alviarin flees to her rooms, where she uses a ter’angreal to contact her boss. Mesaana soon arrives, but she is totally unfazed by Alviarin’s distress – mostly because it doesn’t have any negative impact on her. And then Shaidar Haran a.k.a the Superfade shows up. He’s unhappy because Mesaana was summoned and didn’t come. I didn’t notice her absence in all that madness at the end of Winter’s Heart, but if that’s what Mesaana did, it was a pretty stupid thing to do. Because now Shaidar Haran proceeds to torture her horribly. Also, Alviarin seems to think that it’s the Dark One itself reaching out through the Myrddraal. Anyway, he “marks” her as his own, and sends Alviarin off. She flees yet again, leaving Mesaana to her fate.
Pevara has a meeting with the new Keeper, Tarna. After beating around the bush for a while, the woman gets to her point. The Black Tower is strong, and getting stronger. They no longer have the power to capture and gentle all of the men, so she proposes that they warder-bond them instead. This to me is a remarkably stupid plan – if they can’t gentle them, how are they going to “convince” them to be bonded to Aes Sedai? This in fact seems the harder thing to do. Pevara doesn’t answer straightaway, but shows her a letter from Toveine, that apparently “changes the whole world”. What could it be? That the Asha’man have Aes Sedai bonded to them? That’s big, but hardly world changing. Maybe something else that we don’t know about yet.
A Cadsuane POV. Currently she’s listening to Verin prattle on about how the Sea Folk women have been delivered to Tear and what the situation is like there. Internally, she’s wondering exactly how trustworthy Verin is – Cadsuane knows that Verin’s vague manner is just a mask, but she isn’t too suspicious. Min comes to tell Cadsuane that Rand wants to see her. Cadsuane takes her sweet time getting to him though, chatting with every single person she runs into on the way and stopping to watch Lan and the Asha’man sparring.
But eventually she gets to Rand’s rooms, with Alivia guarding the door. It seems she really is glad to be rid of her a’dam, and super grateful to Rand for it. But Cadsuane also notices signs that point to Min’s foreteling – that Alivia will help Rand die. This is one smart and observant woman. Rand talks about how the Seanchan are going to be hard to beat, and is just getting to his point when the Aes Sedai burst in with news that all of their wards are coming – they just Travelled from Cairhien, and the meeting is cut short.
Turns out Logain and his Asha’man and their bonded Aes Sedai are here as well, as is Bashere. Loial has arrived too. But worryingly, cleansing the source hasn’t taken away Rand’s issues with the power – the dizziness that comes whenever he seizes saidin. What? Why? I was hoping after so much effort, Rand would be rid of the problem. Maybe it’s like residual damage. You know, the taint is gone, but using the tainted saidin has done something to Rand, damaged him in some way. Hopefully now that the taint is gone, he will heal completely over time.
Rand and Min meet with Loial. He tells Rand that he visited all the stedding, and told the Ogier to guard the waygates. Most agreed, but not all. There’s also a big Ogier meeting in Shangtai, but he doesn’t know what it’s about. Presumably they’re deciding how to handle this whole end of the world as we know it thing.
A small POV from Cadsuane, who meets Samitsu and finds out about the bonded Aes Sedai, and tells Samitsu to keep an eye on the sisters sworn to Rand.
Rand meets with Bashere and Logain. He raves at Logain for bonding Aes Sedai, but of course he can’t do much more than that. He does tell him there’s to be no more of that. Bashere tells him about the men ransacking his tent. He thinks that this happening to him and Darlin means that those people were looking for the seals on the Dark One’s prison. Quite probable. But there’s no mention of whoever Bashere agreed to meet with after that ransacking, back in the prologue. I kinda trust you, Bashere, but I get the feeling you’re up to something.
Rand tells them that he can’t be fighting the Seanchan and the Shadow at once, and so he wants them to go arrange a truce. Makes sense – whatever the Seanchan are, they’re hardly a bigger danger than the Dark One.
A POV from Elza. Turns out she’s Black Ajah too. Verin’s meddling has her convinced that Rand must live, but only so the Dark One can defeat him in the Last Battle. It’s good that she wants Rand to survive for now, but if she’s in contact with the greater shadow network, she can give so much info to them about Rand’s activities. That’s worrying.
Well, that’s it for this post. Just one-fifth of the book to go. Crossroads of Twilight hasn’t disappointed – it’s as boring as everyone promised me it was going to be, but we’re through. And to be honest it wasn’t that big a struggle – I wasn’t even close to abandoning the series, as a lot of people seemed to worry about. But before you guys start getting excited about the climax books, I remind you once more that this will be followed by New Spring, since I’m following the publication order.