Spoilers for books 1-12 and Towers of Midnight to ch.38| 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 32-38.
A Storm of Light
Ituralde is still clinging to Maradon. It’s no longer about defending the city, it’s about making the cost as high as possible for the Trollocs. The Asha’man are gone, the help supposedly signaled by the watchfires nowhere in sight. He executes another one of his trademark traps, distracting a bunch of Trollocs with “cavalry” that’s just a group of tired horses while the real cavalry flanks them and his soldiers rain arrows from the nearby buildings.
He hears another group approaching, but it turns out to be Saldaeans. Help has arrived. I guess it’s supposed to be a big moment, but I always knew it would arrive so it’s not that impactful. Ituralde is taken to meet Bashere, who compliments him, Great Captain to Great Captain, on his defense of the city. He also finds out that Yoeli is dead. RIP Yoeli, you were a good guy, even if you didn’t get much screen time.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t change much. Even with Bashere’s men, there’s not enough to hold off the Trollocs given the broken city wall, especially when a huge force is seen coming, many times what they face now. That is, until Randy T hits the floor. And he will not let the city fall to the shadow after all this sacrifice. And then it begins.
It’s kind of like Dumai’s Wells, only it’s just Rand instead of a bunch of Asha’man, and instead of Shaido it’s hordes upon hordes of Shadowspawn. There’re all sorts of special effects – clouds and lightning and tornados and deathgates. Pretty damn epic scene. If Perrin’s chases would be fun to watch in an adaptation, this would be jaw-dropping. Not to mention probably bankrupt the studio.
Once Rand is done, Ituralde goes to investigate a scream he’d heard but couldn’t be bothered to check out. Torkumen’s wife has jumped from the window, and Torkumen himself has destroyed his eyes. It seems he really was a Darkfriend, and can’t handle Rand’s glory.
Rand returns to Tear and chats with Min. He tells her that while he protected Maradon, he can’t keep doing it. For one thing, he can’t be everywhere at once, for another, the feat has really tired him out and made him vulnerable. For better or worse, the armies of men must fight the war to come. It reminds me of the climax of The Great Hunt, with Rand and Ishamael battling it out in the skies while the Whitecloaks and the heroes of the Horn fought the Seanchan. Min also talks to him about Callandor. Yes, Rand is supposed to use it in a circle of three with two women, but Min thinks that even then it is not safe – there is some deeper flaw in the sa’angreal:
Light is held before the maw of the infinite void, and all that he is can be seized.
Rand’s not really concerned. He might have chilled out a bit, but he’s still got no hopes of living through the Last Battle.
They go to meet Cadsuane, who’s managed to dig up the Kind of Arad Doman. Turns out Rand received a tip that he was taken by the White Tower like Mattin Stepaneos, but the party got stuck on the way back. I suspect Verin is behind this, and that this was in the letter he got at the beginning of the book.
A Good Soup
Siuan, Nynaeve, and Egwene are hanging out. Nynave seems to have just finished giving Egwene an in-depth report of her adventures with Rand.
“I suppose,” Nynaeve said, lips turning down. “If it matters, Rand didn’t approve the men bonding women.”
“It doesn’t matter if he did or not,” Egwene said. “The Asha’man are his responsibility.”
“As the Aes Sedai who chained him and beat him are yours, Mother?” Nynaeve asked.
It appears Nynaeve listened to Rand and has upped her trash talk skills.
They next talk about Mesaana. Egwene wants to place a trap by spreading news about a top secret super duper important meeting in Tel’aran’rhiod and catch Mesaana when she comes snooping.
Perrin is still training in hard mode. The current nightmare is Titanic meets Jaws. But this time, Perrin is strong enough to undo it, returning him back to a normal city street. Hopper approves.
Gawyn is chilling in Caemlyn, smelling roses and stuff. Elayne comes to talk with him, and it’s nice to see their friendly bro-sis banter. She too tries to make him stop hating Rand for something he didn’t do:
“He did nothing to her,” Elayne said. “I can produce witness after witness that will confirm it, Gawyn. Mother vanished before Rand liberated Caemlyn.” There was a fond look in her eyes as she spoke of him. “Something is happening to him. I can feel it, feel him changing. Cleansing. He drives back the clouds and makes the roses bloom.”
Gawyn raised an eyebrow. She thought the roses bloomed because of al’Thor? Well, love could make a person think strange things.
So can hate Gawyn, so can hate.
They decide to take a boat ride in the pond, and Elayne gives him some more sensible advice mixed with sympathy and compassion. I don’t know which of them is the elder, but Elayne sure feels like the protective older sister here. And she seems to hit upon the real reason why Gawyn dislikes Rand – jealousy. Of all the things, jealousy. But Gawyn does decide to quit his stupid mini-crusade.
And then the plot reasserts itself in the form of one of the ex-damane in the palace recognising the dagger Gawyn is carrying around from the assassin in the Tower. Long story short, it’s from a Bloodknife. So they were after the deaths all along. Wow. And Egwene has no idea. Gawyn gets more info on the Bloodknives, and sends a warning to Egwene, but doesn’t go himself, because he’s pissed at the tone her summons took.
Sidenote – it’s really fun to see the Kinswomen try and undo what the Seanchan did to the damane:
“That knife,” Marille said, pointing at Gawyn’s hand. “Marille has seen one like it before!”
“I have seen it before,” Dimana corrected. “You are a person and not a thing.”
“Yes, Dimana. Much apologies, Dimana. Marille…I will not make the mistake again, Dimana.”
The day of the trial is here. But Perrin has other worries for now. Turns out the Asha’man’s inability to make gateways is a localised thing and has nothing to do with them and is in fact caused by the dreamspike. Now that is quite something. Being able to trap people in a huge area with no easy escape? Pretty damn useful for setting up traps like this one. It’s funny – just a few years back, this ter’angreal would’ve been quite useless – because no one even knew Traveling. Imagine the impact in the Age of Legends, where people probably depended on gateways even more than now.
Perrin is well and truly spooked now, and more unwilling than ever to fight the Whitecloaks. But he’s still going to trial. When he gets there, Perrin asks Galad to promise not to turn this into a battle, but Galad in turns wants Perrin to promise that he’ll accept any punishment. That, Perrin cannot do. The trial begins.
I’d let my imagination run a bit wild with this one, imagining a full-fledged modern court style trial, but it’s a pretty simplified affair that goes something like this:
Galad: Perrin killed Whitcloaks.
Morgase : Did you?
Perrin : Yep.
There’s some more, mostly Perrin trying to show that it was self-defense and giving a speech about understanding people, but the fact remains that Perrin did murder. And so Morgase pronounces Perrin guilty, but he does soften the blow by invoking a technicality that makes it not murder but an illegal killing, and then passes the job of sentencing Perrin to Galad, since his were the men that were killed.
And there’s that issue again – does Perrin accept the punishment or fight the Whitecloaks? He manages a compromise by promising to accept whatever sentence Galad passes after the Last Battle. Galad agrees. Let’s hope the days to come convince Galad that Perrin is one of the good guys.
The Right Thing
Egwene’s big meeting-cum-trap is tonight, and after some final instructions – including sending another message to Gawyn – goes to sleep.
Perrin calms down Faile who’s understandably pissed that he decided to agree to Galad’s sentence, and then tells her to get the army ready for departure while he goes to the wolf dream to destroy the dreamspike. He gets together with Hopper and Oakdancer’s pack, and approach the dome to seek Slayer.
Suddenly Perrin feels something, and teleports just in time to avoid an arrow from Slayer. The fight begins, with plenty of teleport around and reality manipulation to spice things up. Reminds me of this fight. Slayer kills Oakdancer, but then Perrin goes Super Saiyan (continuing the DBZ references theme) and gives Slayer a run for his money. Eventually though Slayer manages to outwit Perrin by jumping around in a small area, mixing up the smell and Perrin loses his trail.
Just then Sparks find the dreamspike. Perrin goes to it and tries to destroy it by thinking, but that doesn’t work – since it’s an actual thing, not to mention a ter’angreal which are anyway pretty durable. So Perrin decides to take it away so that Faile and the rest can escape.
Meanwhile, Egwene is also in Tel’aran’rhiod, meeting with the Wise Ones and the Windfinders. There’s a lot of talk. Long story short, the three agree to set up a foreign exchange program. Just then Siuan comes. Mesaana has indeed fallen in the trap, except she didn’t come to eavesdrop, she came to attack. Egwene might have bitten off more than she can chew.
Perrin, running off with the Dreamspike, realises he can’t outrun Slayer, so he decided to make his stand in the conveniently nearby city of Tar Valon. With Egwene taking on Mesaana there, this is going to be interesting.
Darkness in the Tower
In Caemlyn, Gawyn is busy having end-of-the-book epiphanies:
Elayne was right. Much of Gawyn’s hatred of al’Thor came from frustration. Maybe jealousy. Al’Thor was playing a role closer to what Gawyn would have chosen for himself. Ruling nations, leading armies. Looking at their lives, who had taken on the role of a prince, and who the role of a lost sheepherder?
Perhaps Gawyn resisted Egwene’s demands because he wanted to lead, to be the one who accomplished the heroic acts. If he became her Warder, he would have to step aside and help her change the world. There was honor in keeping someone great alive. A deep honor. What was the point of great acts? The recognition they brought, or the better lives they created?
To step aside. He’d admired men like Sleete for their willingness to do this, but had never understood them. Not truly. I can’t leave her to do it alone, he thought. I have to help her. From within her shadow.
Good for you mate. That done, he decides to return to Egwene. He tries to say goodbye to Elayne, but she’s busy in Tel’aran’rhiod. He realises that Egwene is probably asleep too and remembers that the Bloodknives will wait for a moment of weakness before striking, and he rushes off in an even greater hurry.
Egwene and the Wise Ones arrive at the Tower, and Egwene starts formulating battle plans. They also notice the dreamspike’s dome. Gawyn arrives there too – except in the real world, and gets some men and rushes to Egwene’s rooms. They’re ambushed by not one but two Bloodknives, and Gawyn’s men fall quickly to them. And then another one arrives. One versus three.
Gawyn fights well, but they’re wearing him down, tiring him, wounding him. He manages to take down one, but the other two press him even more. And then Gawyn realises that to eliminate shadows he must eliminate light as well, and extinguishes the lantern, plunging the room into darkness, putting him on equal footing with the other two at least in terms of vision. He takes down one, and uses a desperate move which reminds me of Sheathing the Sword to take down the last one, as he himself collapses from his wounds and blood loss.
Perrin and Slayer fight on, with some damn cool tricks, including one from Slayer where he fools Perrin with a statue of himself. Hopper arrives to help, and they chase Slayer into the Tower itself. Where Perrin stumbles into Egwene for one of the wackiest reunions ever. Egwene tries to bind Perrin up to keep him safe or something, but at this point Perrin is probably better than her in Tel’aran’rhiod. Slayer manages to wound Hopper, and Perrin rushes off to help.
Slayer throws Hopper off the top of the Tower, who can’t help himself because he’s wounded, and Perrin jumps after him to help. He manages to catch the wolf, but at the cost of getting wounded himself. Perrin tries to heal himself by imagining it, but it doesn’t work. But then Perrin spots a nightmare, something in which he’s explicitly trained, and so he tumbles into it, taking Slayer with him.
Meanwhile, Mesaana fools Egwene by disguising Katerine as herself, and manages to collar Egwene with an a’dam. Egwene has a moment of sheer panic, but fights it down, and wonder of wonders, manages to refuse to accept the a’dam, and it becomes useless. The two of them enter a battle of wills of a sort, each trying to force reality to bend their way, struggling against each other, until finally something snaps in Mesaana and it seems she sort of loses her wits. Fighting in Tel’aran’rhiod – Aes Sedai 2 : Forsaken 0.
In the nightmare, Perrin has finally gained the upper edge. Disguising himself, acting like the rest of the scared people running around, he manages to fool Slayer, taking the dreamspike back from him and throwing it into a lake of lava. That does the trick. The dreamspike gone, Perrin retreats from the wolf dream, with a final message from Hopper to seek Boundless. Rest in peace Hopper.
Egwene wakes up to find three dead Bloodknives and one barely alive Gawyn in her rooms. She screams for help, but there is no time, and so she bonds him on the spot, giving him strength and saving his life.
Perrin wakes up to find the army mostly gone, and once he’s healed, he moves with the last of the people to Whitebridge.
In her Lair, Graendal learns of the failure of her plan. But she decides to spring the trap anyway:
Never mind. She still had one tool left to her, one she had positioned so very carefully. One she had prepared for a moment such as this.
She needed a tempest with him at the center of it. And then, the blade would fall. This is not done yet, Fallen Blacksmith. Not by an inch or by a league.
I thought Perrin had escaped this danger. Damnit!
Well this was quite the mini-climax. Buttload of action with the Maradon, Mesaana and <insert word for Perrin’s plot starting with M> coming to explosive conclusions, and our protagonists have done pretty well, all things considered. Yay! I would say one more post to go until we start A Memory of Light, but at the rate things are happening, it’ll probably be two.