Spoilers for books 1-11 and The Gathering Storm to ch.50| 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 42-50.
Before the Stone of Tear
Rand is leaving Arad Doman in defeat. Not military defeat – he still controls the place, but defeat in the sense that he came to restore order and bring peace to the place, but failed. There’s still food shortage, since the food he brought got spoiled, there is no peace because he messed up the meeting with Tuon. He couldn’t even get a new king elected. I feel really bad for him. And for the Domani too. Rand brought so many of them to the city with promises of food and safety, and now he’s just abandoning them.
And of course, this means Ituralde will probably abandon his post at the Blight and take his army back to fight the Seanchan, and so Rand finally decides to meet the Borderlanders.
Rand arrives in Tear, and the contrast in the reception he gets is striking. Here, people actually cheer for him. He meets Darlin, and tells that his forces won’t be going to Arad Doman, but with Rand. To Shayol Ghul.
Sealed to the Flame
Egwene is back in the rebel camp, and she’s pissed. At Siuan and Gawyn for taking her out of the Tower when she could’ve finally gotten something significant done. But I like how she approaches the situation:
And it was a failure. Yes, it had been forced on her by others, but those others were her followers and friends. They would know her anger for their part in this fiasco. But first she needed to look inward, to judge what she should have done better.
After a bit of thought, Egwene decides that the only viable course of action left on her is to attack now, when the Tower is still reeling from the Seanchan attack.
Gawyn comes to meet her, and Egwene really lays into him. I feel a little bad for him, but not much because he really needs to learn to stop and listen to what people are telling him instead of stubbornly sticking to what he thinks.
Meanwhile, the Ajah Heads are meeting, and at last we get to know what they’ve been up to. It turns out to be pretty simple and quite similar to what they tried with Egwene – appoint young, inexperienced Sitters and then control the Hall themselves. But they realise it hasn’t worked. Elaida has still done all sorts of damage to the Tower, and now they are left without an Amyrlin. And here Egwene’s work pays off. They realise that she’s the best one for the job now. Finally, we can start to get this division behind us.
In the rebel camp, Egwene is meeting with the Sitters. First order of business is for Egwene to take the Three Oaths with the Oath Rod that she’s filched from the Tower. And after taking the Three Oaths, she tells them about Verin’s big reveal. Not the whole thing, but the part where they have a bunch of Black Ajah amongst them. And then she implements the idea Pevara and co. came up with – using the idea to confirm someone’s allegiance. Also, I love how Egwene bullies Sheriam into telling a lie:
Egwene stepped forward. “Are you Black Ajah, Sheriam?”
“What? Of course not!”
“Do you consort with the Forsaken?”
“No!” Sheriam said, glancing to the sides.
“Do you serve the Dark One?” “No!”
“Have you been released from your oaths?”
“Do you have red hair?” “Of course not, I never—” She froze.
Egwene has all the Sisters present retake the Oath, and then plans to purge the whole camp, Ajah by Ajah. Once that is done, she tells them the assault on the White Tower will begin.
Nynaeve is still trying to convince Rand not to leave Lan to die, with just as much success. That is, none. We get some sweet braid pulling action after what feels quite a long time. I know how we all get a bit fed up with the braid pulling and skirt smoothing, but once in a while is nice.
Rand tells her his plan – to not fight the invading Trolloc forces at all. Instead, he and his army will jump straight into the heart of the Blight, to Shayol Ghul, and engage the Dark One. The Shadowspawn won’t be able to respond since they can’t use gateways. A good enough plan, although I don’t know whether an army, however large, will be any use whatsoever against the Dark One.
They arrive at the meeting with the Borderlanders and find only one guy there – Hurin, the fellow with the special sense of smell that Rand travelled with in The Great Hunt. Rand just up and lifts him with weaves of air, asking him about the time they met Lanfear to confirm his identity. Dude is going paranoid. Poor Hurin. I hate how Rand’s treating him. I mean, yeah, killing all those people in Graendal’s fortress was kinda necessary, but this is so unjustified.
Anyway, Hurin tells Rand that the Borderlanders want to meet with him, but in Far Madding. Inside the protection of the Guardian. This makes Rand angry, which is kinda understandable, and he Travels to Far Madding. And then this happens:
“Perhaps they need to be taught,” Rand said. “Given encouragement to do their duty and obey me.”
“Rand. . . .” Nynaeve tried to think. She couldn’t let this happen again!
The access key began to glow faintly. “They want to capture me,” he said softly. “Hold me. Beat me. They did it once in Far Madding already. They—”
“Rand!” Nynaeve said sharply. He stopped, looking at her, seeing her as if for the first time. “These are not slaves with their minds already burned away by Graendal. That is an entire city full of innocent people!”
“I wouldn’t harm the people of the city,” Rand said, voice emotionless. “That army deserves the demonstration, not the city. A rain of fire upon them, perhaps. Or lightning to strike and bite.”
“They have done nothing other than ask you to meet with them!”
Holy shit. Did Rand just almost kill a bunch of innocent soldiers just because they wanted to meet with him inside Far Madding? I mean, getting angry is one thing, but this… Oh my god, Rand, what have you become!
Fortunately, Nynaeve’s pleas work, and he decides to stop. Also, props to Nynaeve for telling him to cut it out – it’s not easy telling this crazy, super powerful person to stop. It takes courage and guts.
So Rand tells Hurin that there will be no meeting. The Borderlanders can either return with the help of his channelers, or sit here while the Last Battle happens.
As they are leaving, Rand tells her where Perrin is – she’d asked about him earlier, as instructed by Cadsuane. More important is the reason he gives:
“Why tell me?” she asked.
“Because,” he said, striding toward the keep, voice growing almost too soft to hear, “I . . . have a debt to you for caring when I cannot.”
So I guess there is still some part of him that realises he’s getting out of control.
Returning to the Stone of Tear, Nynaeve goes to meet Cadsuane and tells her where Perrin is.
The Tower Stands
The purge is done – most of the Black were caught and executed, though some still escaped. Executed, because Egwene has learned her lesson after Moghedien – it’s not worth risking them getting away by keeping them around to interrogate.
The army is ready. Egwene goes to them, talking with Lelaine on the way. The Sisters sent to the Black Tower are still gone, with no word from them. I’m afraid Taim might have them captive or something. We’ll find out eventually, I guess.
Getting to Bryne, Egwene decides to wait until the attack absolutely must begin, mostly out of a desire to delay the fighting by as much as possible. Just as she’s turning to give the order to attack after waiting for an hour, they spot a group of Sister approaching from the Tower. Well of course we knew this was going to happen, with the Ajah heads accepting Egwene as Amyrlin. Still, the split second timing is a bit jarring and a coincidence that really stretches my suspension of disbelief.
The meeting goes pretty much as expected – they tell her that Elaida’s been captured, and the Tower has decided to raise (re-raise?) her as Amyrlin. Egwene accepts, of course. They go to the Tower, and the ceremony is performed again, this time in the actual Hall. First order of business is getting Silviana out of captivity, and taking the Sitters to task for allowing thing to come to this – by not being strong enough against Elaida, by letting her get away with all her crazy antics.
Then Egwene asks Silviana to be her keeper. Makes sense – in one stroke, she sends a signal of peace and friendship both to the non-Rebels and to the Reds. Plus Silviana has shown that she does her duty and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes is right. I’d have expected her to take Siuan though. I guess Egwene is still pretty mad at her.
Then Egwene goes to formally accept the Rebels back into the Tower, and end the division, and gives a nice little speech to cheer them up.
Man, what a ride is has been. This Tower plotline could’ve been its own series. Elaida’s scheming against Siuan, the escape, the gathering in Salidar, Siuan being crafty as hell, raising Egwene, the march to Tar Valon, the siege, Egwene’s capture and solo war, the attack on the Tower and finally here we are. Quite a ride indeed.
The One He Lost
Returning to the Stone, Rand walks around, trying to think things over, to order his thoughts. It’s rather painful to see the state he’s in. The sheer pressure of having to save the world, the feeling of being a pawn of prophecy, the frustration with the Seanchan and the Borderlanders and the Aes Sedai. He remembers Moiraine, wishing she were still here. She’s coming Rand! Just hang in there buddy.
Finally, Rand decides to use the Choedan Kal to destroy the Seanchan. Oh no. That’s not what you want to do Rand, that’s not what you should be doing at all! He order the Maidens to get ready for battle, and returns to his rooms to find Tam there.
So, that’s what Cadsuane was planning. A good enough plan, but from the start, I can see it’s not working. Rand’s glad to see his dad again, but they’re grown too far apart now. The awkwardness is real.
“You have done a great service, Tam al’Thor,” Rand said. “By protecting and raising me, you have ushered in a new Age. The world owes you a debt. I will see that you are cared for the rest of your life.”
Cringe. But still, things they seem to be getting along a bit better as the meeting goes on, Tam gives Rand some solid advice – that reasons are just as important as actions. I’m reminded of Dumbledore telling Harry the same thing – that he is to fight Voldemort, yes, but is it because that’s prophecy, or because he wants to, to avenge his parents, to stop him from doing the same to others?
But then, Tam mentions Cadsuane – how she was the one who brought him here to talk to him. And Rand just goes nuts with anger, with rage. It’s legit scary.
“BE SILENT!” Rand bellowed, throwing Tam to the floor with a flow of Air. Rand wrestled with his rage on one side and saidin on the other. They threatened to crush him between them.
This was why he needed to be strong. Couldn’t they see? How could a man laugh when confronted by forces like these?
“I am the Dragon Reborn!” Rand roared at saidin, at Tam, at Cadsuane, at the Creator himself. “I will not be your pawn!” He pointed at Tam with the access key. His father lay on the stone floor of the balcony. “You come from Cadsuane, pretending to show me affection. But you unwind another of her strings to tie about my throat! Can I not be free of you all?”
He had lost control. But he didn’t care. They wanted him to feel. He would feel, then! They wanted him to laugh? He would laugh as they burned!
Horror, sadness, pity, worry, fear – I’m kinda running out of words to express my feelings. Poor, poor Rand. Every time I think it can’t get worse, but it does. So much worse. He almost kills Tam. Tam! His father, who he lived with his whole life, who he loved and respected. Oh God.
And Rand feels the same horror himself as he sees the look of sheer terror on Tam’s face:
A prick of light grew in front of Rand, sprouting from the center of the access key. The weaves for balefire spun before him, and the access key grew brighter as he drew in more power.
By that light, Rand saw his father’s face, looking up at him.
What am I doing?
Rand began to shake, the balefire unraveling before he had time to loose it. He stumbled backward in horror.
What am I DOING? Rand thought again.
No more than I’ve done before, Lews Therin whispered.
Tam continued to stare at him, face shadowed by the night.
Oh, Light, Rand thought with terror, shock and rage. I am doing it again. I am a monster.
And so Rand flees to Ebou Dar. At least he didn’t actually kill Tam. I’m just going to move on, because what can I even say that would be adequate?
Reading the Commentary
Meanwhile, Min and the others are waiting to see how the meeting will turn out. She’s reading a book of commentary on the Prophecies of the Dragon. One line in particular draws her attention:
He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one.
The blade is almost certainly Callandor. But what’s up with the second part? Min and Cadsuane think it refers to him using Callandor as part of a circle. Maybe. Weirdly, I think it refers to Rand, Lews Therin and Ishamael. Which doesn’t make that much sense, and doesn’t really go with the first part of the sentence, but that’s what I feel. I’m probably wrong, but I’m still gonna say it in case I’m right, so I can brag later.
Tam returns, and he tells how the meeting went. He’s angry at Cadsuane too, for not telling him how Rand feels about her and stuff. But Min is the one who sees what no one else seems to realise:
“This is what we all get,” Min said, “for assuming we can make him do what we want.
In Ebou Dar, Rand is preparing to destroy the Seanchan. He does notice that despite what he thinks of them, the Seanchan are good rulers and administrators. The city is doing well, the people don’t seem to mind the Seanchan – what does it matter to them who rules so long as they rule well? But he decides to go ahead anyway, seizing saidin. When he recovers from the initial shock and nausea, looking at the concern in the people around him, the worry for him, he finds that he can’t do it. And Rand Travels again, to the peak of Dragonmount.
Which is all kinds of symbolic, because as we know from the prologue, this is where Lews Therin died. And he sits down to think.
Veins of Gold
Rand realises that his attempt at being a hard, emotionless stone of a man hasn’t really worked out:
He hadn’t been able to stamp his feelings out. The voice inside had been so small, but it had pricked at him, like a needle making the smallest of holes in his heart. Even the smallest of holes would let the blood leak free. Those holes would bleed him dry.
And the anger comes again. And he wonders whether all of this is even worth saving. People, with their selfishness and stupidity, with their ambitions and violence. What’s even the point of anything, if everything is going to fade away eventually anyway?
“What if he is right?” Rand bellowed. “What if it’s better for this all to end? What if the Light was a lie all along, and this is all just a punishment? We live again and again, growing feeble, dying, trapped forever. We are to be tortured for all time!”
Rand draws power through the access key, more and more and more, preparing to destroy himself and everything else, but then Lews Therin speaks up.
Maybe . . . Lews Therin said, shockingly lucid, not a hint of madness to him. He spoke softly, reverently. Why? Could it be . . . Maybe it’s so that we can have a second chance.
Rand froze. The winds blew against him, but he could not be moved by them. The Power hesitated inside him, like the headsman’s axe, held quivering above the criminal’s neck. You may not have a choice about which duties are given you, Tam’s voice, just a memory, said in his mind. But you can choose why you fulfill them.
Why, Rand? Why do you go to battle? What is the point?
All was still. Even with the tempest, the winds, the crashes of thunder. All was still.
Why? Rand thought with wonder. Because each time we live, we get to love again.
So you see Rand, it does matter. The cycle of rebirth is not an eternal torture, but a chance to do things again, do them right. And Rand turns the power upon the Choedan Kal, destroying it.
And Rand opened his eyes for the first time in a very long while. He knew—somehow—that he would never again hear Lews Therin’s voice in his head. For they were not two men, and never had been.
He regarded the world beneath him. The clouds above had finally broken, if only just above him. The gloom dispersed, allowing him to see the sun hanging just above.
Rand looked up at it. Then he smiled. Finally, he let out a deep-throated laugh, true and pure.
YES!! He laughed! He finally laughed!! Oh, the relief is so real. I’m just so happy, for the world and its future, but more for Rand. He’s finally found some peace, found the answers. Found laughter.
It reminds me of butterflies – you know, how the larvae make this shell around them, hard and dull and cut off from the world, and then they burst free, beautiful and transformed? Eh, maybe I’m just being stupid. I don’t care, I’m happy! Wheeeee!
In the Tower, Egwene has settled in as Amyrlin. In the aftermath of the reunion, most of the Blacks have escaped, presumably warned by their colleagues in the rebels. Also, they still haven’t found Mesaana.
Silviana brings Egwene to the Hall to show her something. The light, shining down on Dragonmount. Rand, of course.
Oh boy, this was a huge one. We finally wrapped up the Tower plotline, which ended about as I expected, but still pretty satisfying. Egwene is going to bloody rock as Amyrlin.
And of course, Rand. What an ending. It’s so unconventional – you expect some sort of big fight – a battle, or taking down some baddies – but this was way different. And yet it was done so beautifully. Rand’s gradual descent, breaking him blow by blow by blow, and then that moment when he laughs again… Wow. Just wow. That was definitely one of the best moments of the series. Yes, there was stuff like Dumai’s Wells and so on, but despite being epic, it’s not like we don’t see big fights and battles in other books. Yes, there were big reveals like Verin, but there have been other plot twists. But Veins of Gold was so unique and special. I kinda fell in love with the series all over again.
The only complaint I have to make is that it was a bit sudden. In the space of a few hours, Rand basically shook off all the pain and anger that’d been building up, and was basically all right again. It’s not a big complaint – I still think it was incredibly well done and worked great. Just something I thought. Maybe it should’ve been a bit more gradual. Although in that case the impact on the readers would also be spread out, so there’s that.
We’re also done with The Gathering Storm, and boy, it was a great one. Rand stole the show at the end, but I think Egwene was the star throughout otherwise. Her change from this petulant little girl to the Amyrlin was quite great to watch. Egwene rocks. As for Sanderson writing the book, beyond a couple hiccups, it was pretty damn great. The transition was totally smooth – I basically forgot that it was a book by another author, and just enjoyed the story as always. Kudos to him for managing that.
So I guess next we’ll finally get to see more of Perrin and Mat. Which means Moiraine’s return. Which means GET HYPE!