Spoilers for books 1-11 and The Gathering Storm to ch.19| 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 12, The Gathering Storm. This post covers chapter 8-19.
Siuan has a problem – after a long stalemate, Lelaine is starting to get the upper hand in the Romanda v. Lelaine struggle. And that’s bad, because maintaining that stalemate is important to avoid them seizing power in Egwene’s absence. But I think it’s kind of a moot point – Egwene is going to take down Elaida from within the Tower, and then when she’s the one to throw open the doors to the rebels, there won’t be any danger of Lelaine grabbing power.
Lelaine wants Siuan to stop serving Bryne, but Siuan convinces her otherwise by saying that she’ll be able to keep an eye on Bryne this way. Of course, the real reason is that she’s in looove.
Siuan returns to Bryne’s tent. I think this is the first time we actually get to see how they’re getting along. They act all gruff and stuff, but it’s clear they get along pretty well. Bryne asks her why she broke her oath, and refuses to accept the obvious reasons – that she had more important stuff to be about. So Siuan gives a big speech about the Dragon Reborn and prophecy and her Quest to save the world etc. That satisfies him.
Siuan goes to sleep and meets Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod, reporting on the happenings in the camp. Egwene’s shocked by the news that she hung out with one of the Forsaken, but Lelaine’s growing power does not faze her at all.
“Lelaine’s gambit will only succeed if I fail to return. She is using me as a source of authority. When I return, she’ll have no choice but to accept my leadership. She’ll have spent all of her effort building me up.”
“And if you don’t return, Mother?” Siuan asked softly.
“Then it will be better for the Aes Sedai to have a strong leader,” Egwene said. “If Lelaine has been the one to secure that strength, then so be it.”
Full marks on pragmatism.
Perrin spends the aftermath of Faile’s rescue listening to people’s complaints and requests, inspecting wagons (typical Perrin) and doing a lot of navel-gazing about stuff that I just can’t be bothered with. He just rescued his wife, and he should be happy and move on.
Ituralde has camped in an abandoned stedding, and is clearly preparing to make a last fatal stand against the Seanchan, when Rand arrives and convinces him to help him restore order in Arad Doman. Rand will drive the Seanchan out of Arad Doman, and after that Ituralde will go guard the Blight.
The Death of Adrin
Aviendha’s ordeal is still going on – she hasn’t figured out what the Wise Ones are punishing her for, and so she continues to be ashamed – this time by carrying rocks. She also makes super fun mental observations on the wetlanders:
After some contemplation, she had determined that being a wetlander required one common attribute: a fondness for complaining. During her first months in the wetlands, she had considered this shameful. Did that guard not care that he was losing face in front of his fellow by exposing his weakness?
They were all like that, even Elayne. If you listened to her talk about the aches, sicknesses and frustrations of her pregnancy, you would almost think she was approaching death! However, if complaining was something that Elayne did, then Aviendha refused to accept it as a sign of weakness. Her first-sister would not act in such a shameful way.
Therefore, there had to be some hidden honor in it. Perhaps the wetlanders exposed their weaknesses to their companions as a means of offering friendship and trust. If your friends knew of your weaknesses, it would give them an advantage should you dance the spears with them. Or, perhaps, the complaining was a wetlander way of showing humility, much as the gai’shain showed honor by being subservient.
She had asked Elayne about her theories and had received only a fond laugh in return. Was it some aspect of wetlander society that she was forbidden to discuss with outsiders, then? Had Elayne laughed because Aviendha had figured out something she was not meant to?
Either way, it was certainly a way to show honor, and that satisfied Aviendha.
Nicely reasoned. Of course, what Aviendha is missing is that wetlanders aren’t all hung up on honor like Aiel, and so arrives at the wrong conclusion.
Just then, the guard who’s bitching prompted this all starts to get hot. So hot that he bursts into flames. and in fact starts to burn down the whole manor with his heat. Surprisingly, Aviendha’s attempts to use the Power to extinguish the flames don’t work and so she tries to smother it with sand before realising that she can use water to do it too. I would say duh!, but it does make sense for an Aiel to not think of using precious water to stop a fire. But she does now, and with help from one of the Asha’man, finally manages to stop the fire.
Of course, there was never even a chance to save the guard. RIP Adrin.
Egwene is going for one of her private “lessons”, this time to Benna the Brown. After a bit of pretense, Bennae gets to the point. Egwene revealed the existence of the secret histories to her, and her superiors in the Ajah are not happy about it. Egwene gives some solid advice and the Brown seems satisfied. The same happens in her other lessons. I’m kinda surprised at this development. I mean yeah, Egwene was getting through to them that Elaida kinda sucks, but for them to actually ask advice from her seems a bit too much.
Anyway, eventually she gets to Meidani, who’s summoned her at last. Egwene takes her to task for not fleeing the Tower once Elaida found out about her, and of course the fact that Meidani can’t tell her what’s up with that makes her even more curious. Finally, Meidani agrees that she can show Egwene, and so Egwene teaches her Traveling and they Travel to the basements, thereby avoiding Egwene’s Red guards.
There they meet the little hunting party. The women are dismissive of Egwene at first, but Egwene out-logics them and has them all but convinced that she deserves to be the Amyrlin. Man, if Egwene is like this now I wonder what she’ll be like when she’s old like Cadsuane.
An Offer and a Departure
Gawyn is shown sparring with two Warders at once to establish his badassery, but I’m not that impressed because at this point all the protagonists are basically blademasters. Plus I still remember Mat beating the shit out of him and Galad with a stick when he was almost still too weak to walk.
Also, I really like the way Sanderson handles the fighting. With RJ, stuff like “Lightning strikes the serpent met Salmon swimming upriver” was a bit too abstract for me. Sanderson still has elements of that, but he adds concrete touches that make it way easier to visualise what’s going on, and I like that. Check it out:
Sleete was advancing again. Gawyn brought his sword back in to guard as the Warders approached in tandem. Gawyn immediately moved into Apple Blossoms in the Wind. His blade flashed three times, pushing a wide-eyed Marlesh back. Marlesh cursed, throwing himself forward, but Gawyn brought his sword up from the previous form and moved fluidly into Shake Dew from the Branch. He stepped forward into a series of six sharp blows, three at each opponent, knocking Marlesh back and to the ground—the man had stepped back into the fight too quickly—and forcing Sleete’s blade aside twice, then ending with his blade against the man’s neck.
Anyway, Gawyn beats them both, and later one of them asks him to be his Green’s second Warder. Gawyn respectfully declines.
He finds out about an Aes Sedai meeting, and wants to see what’s up, but they basically slam the door in his face. He hangs around stewing and all indignant, and when the meeting is over he overhears about Egwene’s capture and beatings, and this finally pushes his wavering loyalty to the breaking point. And he finally decides to ditch Elaida and co. About time too. So he makes up an inspection of outlying guard posts, and rides out into the night, riding for (I presume) the Rebel camp.
You know, I kinda want to like Gawyn. He’s clearly got his heart in the right place. But there’s the fact that without his interference, Siuan might well have gotten freed and escaped stilling. And more importantly, his almost irrational hatred of Rand. I mean, one random merchant tells him Rand killed his mother and now he’s just convinced that the poor guy is a monster that he’s gotta kill. So I’m still on the fence about him. Let’s hope he redeems himself in the future.
Cadsuane and Sorilea have one of their talks where they don’t actually do anything but discuss stuff, this time Semirhage and the male a’dam and of course, Rand. I was so hopeful that these two would be able to do something about Rand’s downward spiral, but so far they don’t even seem to be trying. I mean, Cadsuane just considers Rand as some stupid kid and even treats him the same. Can’t she understand the sheer pressure Rand’s under? Can’t she be nice? Or at least treat him with some respect?
A Place to Begin
Rand wakes up to find himself still asleep, and in one of those dreams he used to have with Ishamael/Ba’alzamon. This time though there’s none of the intimidating and posturing from Ishamael, instead they just kinda sit and chat. Surprisingly, it seems Moridin hasn’t brought Rand into this dream – it’s just kinda happened.
He also brings up a rather worrying point – even if Rand manages to close the Dark One’s prison again, he’ll have another shot at destroying everything forever a few ages down the line. Some day, he will bring about the end. Rand responds that he’ll just kill the Dark One this time and finish it forever, but I’m really skeptical. Wouldn’t all the previous people who ended up sealing the Dark One back tried it? How can he succeed where everyone so far has failed? Chillingly, Moridin realises that even those who follow the Dark One are doomed:
“There is no path to victory,” Moridin said. “The only path is to follow the Great Lord and rule for a time before all things end. The others are fools. They look for grand rewards in the eternities, but there will be no eternities. Only the now, the last days.”
Rand tries to reach for the Power, maybe to kill Moridin, but is yanked out of the dream. Curious.
When he wakes, Min almost forces him to share his worries and fears with her. I think Rand needs a lot more of this. And then Min tells him that he has to destroy the seals on the Dark One’s prison before he can seal it for good. To her surprise, Rand calmly accepts this. Well, that should be easy enough, seeing as they’re pretty fragile nowadays. Although, does Rand have all the remaining ones? I can’t recall. I think maybe there’s one still missing, but I’m not sure.
Meanwhile, Aviendha is still doing her punishments. Sigh. She and Amys are talking when they spot someone arrive in the Traveling ground and go to check it out. The Seanchan have agreed to a meeting with Rand. The maiden who tells them the news is not happy about it, especially given the Seanchan’s capture of Wise Ones, even if they were of the Shaido, but Aviendha rightly points out that they have a bigger enemy to worry about. If only everyone had this attitude.
In The White Tower
Egwene is attending a bunch of Whites, cracking nuts for them but also discussing Elaida’s bungling of the whole Rand situation. They ask Egwene how she would deal with Rand, and she manages to impress them with her suggestions. The conversation moves to the rift between the Ajahs, and after some convincing, the Whites agree to start taking steps to heal it.
As Egwene leaves, pleased with her progress so far, Katerine tells her that there’s a new plan for her. From now on, Egwene is only to do chores all day – which means no talking to Sisters, no impressing them with her calm badassery or making them realise Elaida’s unsuitability. It’s a disaster. Egwene considers bowing a bit to make Elaida relent, but realises that there’s no backing off now – she’s got to stay strong.
And so Egwene finds herself cleaning a fireplace in the kitchens. Laras offers to spirit her away but Egwene, though tempted, decides to stay. After the work, it’s time to attend Elaida once again. Egwene is surprised to find Elaida dining with a bunch of Sitters. As is her nature, Elaida spends the evening bullying and belittling the Sisters. Eventually, the conversation turns to the Seanchan, and things come to a head.
Elaida accuses Egwene of spreading lies about the Seanchan, forcing her to break her silence and respond to her at last. And it is equal parts awesome and terrifying. Egwene handles the conversation masterfully. She points out all her errors and mistakes as Amyrlin, and Elaida is clearly losing the debate, but then Egwene pushes her a bit too much, pushes her over the edge, with this:
“You are a coward and a tyrant. I’d name you Darkfriend as well, but I suspect that the Dark One would perhaps be embarrassed to associate with you.”
And Elaida goes nuts, beating Egwene bloody with the Power, raving and screaming at her and the Sitters. And then she names Egwene Darkfriend and has her thrown into a cell.
On the one hand, I really respect Egwene for the way she managed to talk circles around Elaida and the way she’s been handling her captivity in general. On the other hand, I’m afraid that she’s gone too far too fast. Now she’s going to be imprisoned in a cell, and no way to communicate with other sisters. I think it’s time to accept a rescue from the Rebels.
Questions of Control
Cadsuane is eavesdropping on one of the Aes Sedai trying to interrogate Semirhage. She’s also worrying over how she’s failing – failing to get a handle on Rand, failing to crack Semirhage, and suddenly she realises what she’s been doing wrong in handling Semirhage – treating her with awe and wariness. And so, in traditional WoT style, goes ahead and spanks the Forsaken. This time it does make sense though – even if they were allowed torture, it maybe wouldn’t work on Semirhage. But shaming her, treating her like a stubborn child in front of everyone, does work.
I love how her worrying over maintaining her image is what allowed her to break Semirhage and maintain her image.
A Perrin POV where Grady tells him that there’s not going to be any gateways for a while because the Asha’man are way too tired, and Perrin decides to return to the wolf dream to find answers. I doubt he’ll find any answers there.
Siuan watches a meeting of the Hall where it’s revealed that Elaida has access to Traveling. The rebels are all worried, though Siuan is the only one who realises what it means for their siege – that it’s basically over now, and sends a messenger to Bryne. Of course, it’s not that bad, since Elaida is at least keeping the knowledge a secret from the rest of the Tower.
Tuon is holding court in Ebou Dar. She’s in a rather precarious situation. Yes, she’s technically the Empress now and has enormous power, but there’s rebellion in Seanchan and her armies in the wetlands aren’t doing that well of late. But she’s nothing if not determined. I want her to succeed, but I also don’t want the wetlands to fall under Seanchan rule. Maybe the best thing would be for the Seanchan to realise that their whole system of slavery and damane is wrong. Unlikely.
The first task of the day is dealing with Beslan, who’s been organising a rebellion according to Tuon’s information. Instead of executing him though, she gives him a second chance, to rule his people as king under the Seanchan Empire. The right choice is clear to me, and Beslan makes it, swearing fealty to Tuon on the spot.
Next order of business is the attack on Tar Valon that Egwene dreamed of. The plan is to send a bunch of elite soldiers on raken for a surprise attack. But three hundred soldiers doesn’t sound that much – Aes Sedai can after all use the Power in self-defense, and even factoring in them sending damane along, that’s definitely not enough to pose a big threat to the Tower. Though they could grab some of the Aes Sedai and run. Tuon judges the risks worth taking, and gives the go-ahead for the plan.
Tylee arrives just then. So she made it through the attack. Nice. She shows Tuon some of the dead Trollocs and tells her of the attack. She even goes so far as to say that Tuon should make an ally of Rand. Good woman. And so Tuon agrees to a meeting with Rand. Wait, does this mean this chapter actually happens before the one where Aviendha finds out that the Seanchan have agreed to meet?
Well, that’s that for now. The highlight of this part was definitely Egwene. If only she didn’t have this mistrust of Rand, she’d probably compete with Mat for favorite character right now. Yes, I realise that it makes sense for her given all that’s happened to not treat him as her old village friend, but I wish she did.
Plus we finally know what the cover is about – the whole burning manor scene. Said cover, by the way, is so bad it’s kinda funny:
I really respect people who picked up the early books when the covers were like that. Although EoTW had a better looking one.
This post is a bit late, by the way, because I spent the weekend watching Attack on Titan. Totally great series, you should definitely check it out – if nothing else then for the epic fights with epic background scores.
Next post will be this weekend.