Spoilers for books 1-12 and Towers of Midnight to ch.23| 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 13, Towers of Midnight. This post covers chapter 10-23.
After The Taint
Perrin is taking a walk through the camp. He discusses the Whitecloaks. Grady is pretty unconcerned – seeing as he and Neald can probably wreck them by themselves. But Perrin doesn’t want it to come to that. I respect that. They check on Neald, who’s practising making circles with the Wise Ones, and it seems to be working fine.
He mentions that he can make larger gateways, but only if he could already make gateways on his own. That’s a bit weird. I mean, weaves are weaves. Why should it matter whether one person alone can do something, so long as a circle has enough strength for it?
Grady asks Perrin for leave to visit his family. This leads into a discussion of the cleansing has had on the Asha’man. They’re no longer doomed – they actually have something to look forwards to besides dying in a battle or going mad. Good for them. For now though, Perrin tells him to hang around until the situation is handled, then he can go later.
Bornhald comes to invite Perrin to a meeting with Galad. Perrin goes to meet him. The meeting does not go well. Galad basically gets confirmation of sorts that Perrin killed two of his Whitecloaks, and of course that’s enough for him. He refuses to talk any further, and wants a battle in exchange for releasing the captives. I was afraid it would go like this. Damned Byar and Bornhald.
An Unexpected Letter
Her Royal bloody Majesty Queen Elayne the prim is pissed at a request sent to her by Ellorien. She wants the captive nobles freed. Elayne doesn’t want that. Dyelin points out that if they keep them too long then they become worthless. Whatever, I don’t really care what happens to them. Elayne also reveals what she plans next – taking the Sun Throne. I like this move. It should show the people that she’s a strong Queen and make her kingdom stronger.
Norry comes to meet with her. He’s got Mat’s letter. Turns out the reason Elayne hasn’t met Mat is that she doesn’t know he’s around – Norry followed her instructions for generic mercenary bands, and didn’t believe Mat’s claims of knowing Elayne. But he’s brought her the letter just in case:
Your Royal Bloody Pain in My Back,
We’re bloody waiting here to talk to you, and we’re getting
angryperturbed. (That means angry.) Thom says that you’re a queen now, but I figure that changes nothing, sense you acted like a queen all the time anyway. Don’t forget that I carriedhalled your pretty little backside out of a hole in Tear, but you acted like a queen then, so I guess I don’t know why I’m suprised now that you act like one when you really are a queen.
So I’m thinking I should treat you like a bloody Queen and send you a bloody letter and all, speaking with high talk and getting your attention. I even used my ring as a signet, like it was
paperproper. So here is my formal salutation. So BLOODY STOP TURNING ME AWAY so we can talk. I need your bellfounders. It’s bloody important.
p.s. Salutation means greeting.
p.p.s. Don’t mind the scratched out words and bad spellings. I was going to rewrite this letter, but Thom is laffing so hard at me that I want to be done.
p.p.s. Don’t mind me calling your backside pretty. I hardly ever spent any time looking at it, as I’ve an awareness that you’d pull my eyes out if you saw me. Besides, I’m married now, so that all doesn’t matter.
Great letter. I was looking forward to reading it, did not disappoint. And it’s good to see Elayne’s reaction too. She goes all happy and teary-eyed, mixed with some outrage of course. She tells Norry to arrange a meeting with Mat. Once he’s gone, she discusses the possibility of using the Band in her seizing of Cairhien. There shouldn’t be too much trouble, what with her having Rand’s support, but it’s nice to have a badass army at your back just in case.
An Empty Ink Bottle
Min is chilling in Tear. Nynaeve is not pleased with her chilling. She’s worried about Rand, but Min probably sensed the whole epic epiphany and knows that all is well. They receive news that Alanna is missing. They go to her room, and find signs that it was a deliberate departure, except no one saw her leaving, and no one knows where or why she went. There is an envelope on the floor, the letter inside missing.
Cadsuane is surprised to find her tea suddenly tasting great. That’s explained soon enough – Min senses Rand arriving in Tear. Everyone rushes to meet him. Min tells him about Alanna’s disappearance, but Rand is not worried.
“The Shadow does not need her to find me, Min, nor will it ever again. All its eyes are fixed directly upon me, and will be until I blind them.”
“What? But Rand—”
“It’s all right, Min. The time when it could silence me quietly—and therefore win—has passed. The confrontation is assured and the scream that begins the avalanche has been sounded.”
OK, what is going on with Rand and his newfound superpowers? Now he’s Shadow-proof? If we don’t get an explanation for all this, I am going to be so pissed.
Rand meets with the Aiel, and apologises with his behaviour towards them, and promises to meet his toh. Now that he’s come to his senses, he’s going to have so many apologies to make. He tells Narishma to inform the Borderlanders that he’s willing to meet with them in Far Madding, and pardons Cadsuane, and identifies two Darkfriends among the nobles just by looking at them. He meets Tam, breaking down crying and apologising for what he did, but Tam is quick to forgive him. Now that was heartwarming.
Egwene is chilling out in Tel’aran’rhiod. Must be fun. I mean, it’s basically a Virtual Reality with the ability to do whatever you want. But eventually she has to get to work, so she moves to the Heart of the Stone for a meeting with the Wise Ones. They exchange news, and discuss Egwene’s plans to associate the Wise Ones with the Tower. As a first step, she suggests sending Accepted to be apprenticed, like what she herself went through. I like it. Best of both worlds and everything.
Then she meets Nynaeve, and under guise of asking her advice on how to handle being a young Amyrlin, maneuvers Nynaeve into accepting to treat Elayne with the proper respect her position deserves. Nicely done. She also asks Nynaeve to return to the Tower and take the test for the Shawl. Elayne arrives, and the three exchange more news. Egwene is about to tell them about Verin when her wards against eavesdropping are triggered. She teleports to the hallway outside to find a Black sister. Egwene shields her, and dodges a weave of fire from Alviarin, who escapes.
Nynaeve and Elayne come to see what’s up, and Egwene notices another eavesdropper, but there’s no one when she goes to check. They really should have more variation in their meeting places. Why make it so easy for people to spy on them? They can meet anywhere in the world. And yet they keep meeting in the Heart of the Stone and other familiar places. I remember Egwene meeting Siuan in a random shoe shop once. Now that’s good. They should meet in such inconspicuous places.
Use A Pebble
Nynaeve and Naeff go to check out the aftermath of a bubble of evil. This one’s turned everything in an area to brittle dust, collapsing at the slightest touch. Including all the people who were in it. Nynaeve tries to delve some, but it’s clear there’s no helping them. So they gather all the dust and burn it.
Feeling rather frustrated at her inability to do something for the dead people, Nynaeve turns her attention on Naeff. The guy’s a bit off, in that he sees Fades lurking in the shadows all over the place. She delves him, and focuses on her mind, and finds a net of sorts around it, with thorns into his mind. She removes the stuff, and lo and behold, Naeff’s madness has been healed. Take that, Dark One.
When Rand comes to talk to her, she tries to heal him too. Sure enough, there’s a huge patch of darkness around his head too, with thousands of thorns. So many that Nynaeve’s abilities are not enough. Fortunately there’s a layer of brilliant white stuff isolating it from Rand’s mind. Interesting.
In the White Tower, Egwene and some others discuss how Mesaana could’ve gotten around the Oath Rod. They come up with several interesting possibilities. Going deep into a magic system, doing creative crazy stuff with it. Trademark Sanderson. I love this sort of stuff.
Faile and Perrin celebrate their marriage anniversary with a candlelight dinner under the stars, with a lot of great honest sharing of experiences and emotions. Nice mellow chapter. Good to see this sort of stuff in the middle of all the end of the world madness.
Partings, and a Meeting
The day after the gholam attack, Mat goes to see off the Aes Sedai and the ex-sul’dam, who’re leaving for Tar Valon. Juilin and Thera are going along too. Well, poor guy deserves some peace after all the crazy stuff these protagonists have dragged him through. Egeanin and Domon are leaving too. (Mat might have given up, but I’m not going to start calling her Leilwin). He sends them all off with some soldiers – including Vanin to guard them and to bring back his horses, a packed of sweetbuns and a message for Egwene – he’s going to want the Horn of Valere back. Once they’re gone, Mat has a chat with Mistress Anan, and asks her to take care of Olver for a bit.
Elayne is taking a stroll through one of her gardens. A rooftop garden, no less, complete with an artificial stream. Such wealth. Much luxury. Very royal. Wow.
Birgitte tells her that she’s vulnerable to surprise attacks, standing in the open like this. And Elayne brings up the same “Min’s Prophecy” stuff:
“I’m safe, Birgitte. Nothing will happen to me.”
“Oh, well, I apologize,” Birgitte said flatly. “The Forsaken are loose and angry with you, the Black Ajah are undoubtedly furious that you’ve captured their agents, and you’ve humiliated various nobles who tried to seize the throne from you. Obviously you’re in no danger whatsoever. I’ll run along and take lunch, then.”
“You might as well,” Elayne snapped. “Because I am safe. Min had a viewing. My babes will be born healthy. Min is never wrong, Birgitte.”
“Min said your babies would be strong and healthy,” Birgitte said. “Not that you would be healthy when they arrived.”
“How else would they come?”
“I’ve seen people knocked in the head so hard that they’re never the same, girl,” Birgitte said. “Some live for years, but never speak another word and have to be fed broth and live with a bedpan. You could lose an arm or two and still bear healthy children. And what about the people around you? Give you no thought to the danger you could cause them?”
It must be frustrating as hell trying to keep this overconfident headstrong woman safe. You have my sympathy Birgitte.
Sumeko and Alise come to meet with Elayne just then. They discuss the Kin’s future. They decide that while the Kin will be connected to the Tower and be under the Amyrlin’s authority, they will stay in Andor. Elayne will in turn use them for Healing and Gateways, and share any profits from that with them. It sounds like a decent deal for the Kin, and of course it’ll be great for Andor to have this huge group of channelers available to them all the time – even if not for fighting.
The Strength of This Place
Perrin is running about in the wolf dream. He goes to check out the Whitecloak camp, while pondering over what to do about them. Hopper comes to him, and they resume WD101. He takes Perrin to Emond’s Field, and tells him to remember his home to avoid coming too strongly into the wolf dream. But for Perrin, Emond’s Field is no longer home (which makes me a bit sad) – it’s wherever Faile is.
Then Hopper introduces Perrin to the fact that in the wolf dream/Tel’aran’rhiod, you can affect reality just by imagining it to be a certain way. They take a run, Perrin trying to find the balance between being too strongly in the dream and not strongly enough, when they encounter a huge violet barrier that vanishes when Perrin tries to touch it. Hopper takes him somewhere else to practice. What was that? Was that the dreamspike?
Ituralde is fighting trollocs in Saldea. He’s holding out so far, with the advantage of terrain and fortifications, but his men are getting worn down bit by bit. Poor guys have to deal with the Trollocs using trebuchets to launch dead trollocs mixed with Draghkar now. Although, could be worse. Could be their own dead, like in LoTR. Surprisingly, he and his men are being given no help from the nearby city of Maradon – the Saldeans claim they’re an invading force and so won’t help them, or allow them refuge in the city. This is just crazy! Poor guy’s defending their county from Trollocs!
Back in Perrin’s camp, Faile goes to meet with Berelain, to do something about those vile rumors she’s spread about her and Perrin sleeping together when Faile was gone. Faile goes and challenges the woman to a duel to the death for this affront on her honor. Not really – Faile’s just bluffing, hoping to scare Berelain into stopping the rumors, because she herself can’t figure out how to do it. And Berelain falls for it. Nice. That woman needs to be taught that she can’t get away with this crap.
Talk of Dragons
Mat is getting ready, and not doing a good job without Lopin. It was brought to my attention in the last post’s comments that Mat tends to often lie to himself. And now I’m seeing this all the time. Like now, telling himself that he doesn’t need a manservant. Or when Olver comes to meet him before going off with Mistress Anan, blaming the soldiers for his tendency to swear.
Mat and Thom go the city to meet Elayne. It’s nice to see Elayne being nice to Mat, and funny to see how this throws off Mat a bit. Once greetings are done, Mat gets down to business – Aludra’s dragons. Once Mat explains their potential to her, Elayne is willing to provide her resources, but this raises the tricky question of ownership. Mat wants to keep the Dragons for the Band, Elayne rightly wants them to be used for Andor. They reach a compromise wherein the Band will have exclusive use of the things, but they’ll be employed by Elayne. If they terminate their service, Elayne keeps three fourth of the Dragons, Mat gets the rest. Mat also gives Elayne the medallion for three days to sweeten the deal.
I think it’s a good bargain, and I’m impressed with the deals Elayne’s been cutting. First the Kin, and now the Band, and soon enough Cairhien. Andor is going to become quite formidable under her rule. Elayne also asks Thom to be the court bard, and gives him a royal pardon to boot. Hmm, what did Thom do that needed a pardon? Is it for whatever happened between him and Morgase?
Nynaeve is getting ready for her test. Should be a cakewalk. But the fact that we’re seeing it happen means that it’s not going to be quite that smooth.
They speak the ceremonial words, and Nynaeve is given the instructions, and then she goes into the ter’angreal and the testing begins. It starts off as expected – sticky situations, but nothing that Nynaeve can’t handle. But as the test goes on, it becomes clear that the sisters are trying to make life extra-hard for her. They even target her specific issues – placing her in situations where she has to leave sick children to die, for example, or the Two Rivers in danger. Poor Nynaeve is in pretty bad shape by the end. And in the end, Lan, being chased by Darkhounds. With that, Nynaeve has had enough. Instead of abandoning him, Nynaeve jumps in to fight with him. She weaves Balefire, which seems to mess with the ter’angreal itself.
Nynaeve finds herself back in the testing room, all beat up and burned and wounded. While Nynaeve is being healed, the Aes Sedai discuss what happened. Some are pissed at how much Nynaeve had to endure, some claim that she failed the test by choosing to help Lan, or even before, when she helped the people in the Two Rivers. But Nynaeve stands by her actions:
Nynaeve sniffed. “I completed the weaves I needed to. I maintained my focus. Yes, I broke my calm—but I kept a cool enough head to complete my tasks. One should not demand calmness for the mere sake of calmness, and a prohibition on running when there are people you need to save is foolish.
“My goal in this test was to prove that I deserve to be Aes Sedai. Well, then, I could argue that the lives of the people I saw were more important than gaining that title. If losing my title is what would be required to save someone’s life—and if there were no other consequences—I’d do it. Every time. Not saving them wouldn’t be serving a higher good; it would just be selfish.”
Now that’s what I love about Nynaeve. Like Rand said to her earlier – don’t let them change you. And she isn’t. The Aes Sedai always keep their precious Tower above everything. And that’s not really right, is it? It’s an institution, and an important one, but it’s not more important than the world or human lives. And it’s even worse with them and their worry about maintaining their perfect image. I love that Nynaeve refuses to accept all this nonsense.
The Aes Sedai want Nynaeve to swear never to use Balefire again, and she refuses – that’ll show them! It’s getting a bit hairy about whether they’ll raise her at all, but Egwene points out all the amazing stuff Nynaeve’s done, and so Nynaeve is formally made Aes Sedai.
Later, Nynaeve goes to Myrelle, and asks her to transfer Lan’s bond to her. When Myrelle dithers, Nynaeve goes full badass:
“I swear to you, woman, if you do not pass me Lan’s bond this very moment, I will step into that tent and teach you the meaning of obedience. Do not press me. In the morning, I swear the Three Oaths. I’m free of them for one more night.”
And so Nynaeve finally receives Lan’s bond. All around great day for Nynaeve, even though she did have to endure that horrible test. I like her more and more. Nynaeve started out strong but also with a lot of bad traits, but with time she’s gotten her anger and her stubbornness under control – a bit, and with exposure to the world she’s really matured, but still kept her rough edges, her straightforward determination and desire to help people. I like that she won’t be just another bland faced Aes Sedai.
An Open Gate
Seonid is giving Perrin the scouting report from the trip to Cairhien. Nothing we don’t know already, and in fact they’re way behind in the storyline so it’s all old stuff. But not for Morgase, who overhears about Gaebril actually being Rahvin, and rushes off in shock. There’s more talk about the Whitecloaks – a battle still seems inevitable.
In Saldaea, Ituralde is finally forced to retreat in the face of the trollocs forces. He tries to make an organised retreat, with rows of pikemen in front to hold off the Trollocs while the rest escape. Unfortunately, one of his men goes nuts and he and his men break through the pikemen into the Trollocs. They die, but worse, they create a hole in the line through which Trollocs surge through. And things just go to shit from there. Soon Ituralde finds himself fighting just to stay alive. But then the Saldaeans finally regain their senses and rush to their rescue from the city.
Morgase tries to come to terms with the fact that she was under the control of one of the Forsaken. Well at least she escaped with her life and mind mostly intact. Tallanvor comes to say his goodbyes – he’s leaving for Tear. Poor guy is pretty torn up by how she reacted to Perrin’s suggestion that they marry. So Morgase soothes him a bit, but then leaves him hanging again, saying she needs time to think. The hell woman! It’s clear you love her and he loves you, and you don’t have any queenly responsibilities now, so what is there to think about?
The End of A Legend
Now that Egwene has forbidden Gawyn from standing guard at her door, he’s just spending his night taking a walk through the Tower. Eventually, he comes to Bryne for advice. And Bryne gives him some pretty good advice – basically that instead of making his life totally about Egwene, he should just go do some other stuff if she doesn’t want him now.
Returning to his walk, Gawyn wanders near Egwene’s rooms. He spots someone, shrouded in an unnatural darkness, and when the person flees on seeing him, gives chase, shouting to raise the alarm. Gawyn fights him, but he’s close to being outmatched, and the assailant flees. Returning to Egwene’s quarters, he gets captured in the trap she’s set. See, you went to Bryne and then you ingored his advice and did the exact thing Egwene didn’t want you to do, not to mention the result – the killed escaped instead of walking into Egwene’s trap. No wonder Egwene is pissed.
Mat, Thom and Noal are meeting in an inn, after having traversed the city for rumors and stuff. At this point, I’m pretty certain that Noal is not Jain Farstrider’s cousin, but the man himself. They discuss the upcoming rescue mission, and they’ve gathered all the items mentioned in the songs – fire, iron, music. Mat goes off, and decides to meet with Birgitte. Of course she’d know a lot about all this stuff – she’s probably had dealings with the creatures in her earlier lives. On the way he rescues a fellow from robbers, only for him to recognise Mat and try to kill him.
Birgitte meanwhile is watching a play, which is apparently a new thing in Andor. And bored to bits. One of her officers tells her of a disturbance at a gate, and she uses this as an excuse to escape. That turns out to be Mat, who apparently wanted to avoid notice and so didn’t come in through the main gate. He takes Birgitte out for a drink, and asks her about the Eelfinn and the Aelfinn. Birgitte’s answers are pretty demoralising.
Turns out in one of her past lives, she’s actually travelled to their realms in an attempt to have her lover healed. Did not work out. I was so caught up in the excitement of Moiraine being alive and her return that I did not fully consider the sheer difficulty of the task. It’s a whole new world that they don’t know anything about. Yeah, they’ve got their iron nails and lanterns, but that all feels pathetically inadequate now. I guess that is part of why this scene is there – to hammer into the readers the difficulty of the task before the rescue.
But Mat is still determined. And there’s his luck (still waiting on an explanation for that, by the way) which he demonstrates by randomly tossing a bunch of coins which all land on edge. Just then Birgitte senses Elayne in trouble, and they rush off to the palace. What has the woman gotten herself into this time?
To answer that, we switch back in time to the play, this time with an Elayne POV. Turns out the main reason for the play was to invite Ellorien. While she watches, Elayne considers the foxhead medallion. Her attempts at replicating have been successful, but only partially. The protection given by the copies is weaker, and she can’t channel while holding a copy, though she can with the original.
After the play, she’s talking to one of the nobles when she has an idea about getting the Black captives to talk. And so she rushes off, especially after finding out that Birgitte is gone to have a drink with Mat, since it allows her to do crazy stuff without Birgitte there to stop her.
In short order, she passes instructions to the guards, and then weaves an illusion around herself to make her look scary and intimidating. I see where this is going. Sure enough, she makes a gateway to the cell of Chesmal, and acts like one of the Forsaken. Chesmal is taken in, it seems. She tells her that they know about Mat being in the city, and that they’re planning to have him killed. But in her eagerness for more info, she makes Chesmal suspicious. She begins taking about an invasion of Andor, but I suspect she’s making shit up now.
Then the door opens to reveal the guy Elayne was using to question them, and with him two of the Blacks, freed and holding to the source. Goddamnit! Although you can’t blame Elayne too much for this one – yeah, it was rash and foolhardy, but seriously, what are the odds of these unexpected extra Blacks every damn time? Still, some of the blame is on you, stupid stubborn Elayne. But things aren’t that bad – Elayne’s got the medallion, so their weaves don’t work on her, and Elayne soon has one of them shielded, but then the questioner rams her into the wall, breaking her shoulder, and they spot the medallion in her hand. The questioner wrestles it from her. But still, Elayne is one of the most powerful channelers around, and she’s got an angreal. She’s winning the Power fight two on one, but then Hanlon surprises her from behind and stabs her. Where are you, Birgitte!
Soon they have Elayne shielded, but she’s still bleeding to death. Hanlon has one of the Blacks heal her, because he still isn’t done with Elayne. *shudders*
Once the shock of healing wears off, Elayne’s got another medallion shaped trick up her sleeve. She gives it to the Black, and this stops her channeling and removes the shield from Elayne, and she puts the woman on fire! Excellent thinking. But that still leaves her facing Mellar with two of the Foxheads. Luckily, Elayne’s knowledge comes handy, and instead of directly trying to stop Mellar, she collapses a ceiling on him. Mellar still manages to escape though, but at least he leaves the original medallion behind in his hurry.
And soon after Birgitte and Mat arrive. Whew. That was one intense scene. Like a whole story in itself with all those twists and surprises. Kudos to Elayne for managing to hold her own against three Blacks and Hanlon. This could’ve gone so much worse. Damn but Sanderson writes great fight scenes. Also, with the scare she got this time – for herself and her babes (why you never call them babies Elayne?) I hope she’ll be a bit more careful, or rather a bit less rash, from now on.
Back in the Tower, Egwene gives Gawyn a proper telling to. They also discuss the attacker, and I agree with Gawyn’s conclusion that it probably wasn’t Mesaana herself. After that, Gawyn is totally frustrated with Egwene and this whole situation. He only has himself to blame, IMO. He remember Bryne’s advice, and decides to leave the Tower and return to Caemlyn. Best decision he’s made in a while.
Another Lan scene, with his force growing from five to dozens. I like these. They’re small and mostly uneventful, but the whole one to many thing, the Malkieri all coming together for the Last Battle, it’s pretty great.
We’ll stop here for now. Wow, this post went quite long – exactly 5k words. Eh well, I’m sure you guys won’t mind much. We’re about halfway through the book now, and I’m warming up to Perrin’s plot now. I sure hope he manages t avoid an outright battle with Galad – the only winner there will be the Shadow. We still don’t have any idea what Graendal and Isam are doing, but I hope Perrin can make it through whatever they are planning. And I sure as hell hope he finds his answers, accepts himself as a wolf and a leader, so that he can focus on the fight that’s coming.
As for the other plots – Egwene, Rand, Mat, Elayne are all doing fine. I’m loving how Elayne is handling being Queen, and Rand 2.0 is just great. As for Ituralde, I’m not too worried – I’m pretty sure that Rand will turn up to save his ass eventually. And Mat just being Mat, preparing for the super risky trip, building up the hype. This all feels like the calm before the storm – a few reasonably peaceful days before everything goes to hell. I hope they all make it, but I know that’s not going to happen, and that makes me sad 😦