Spoilers for books 1-13 and A Memory of Light to Chapter 17| 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 14, A Memory of Light. This post covers chapter 9-17.
To Die Well
Lan is fighting. It’s turning into such a prolonged battle that people are taking shifts fighting the front lines. Lan and his men are relieved and they return, exhausted. Bulen collapses and falls off his saddle, and Lan rushes to him only to find him dead from a wound he’d been hiding. Noticing the men noticing dead Bulen, Lan gives a big speech about how he died a death and should be cheered not mourned. It rings hollow for me – but it does cheer the men up and they all begin telling stories of how their friends died gloriously.
Lan also stores away Bulen’s body in a cold mountain somewhere with Narishma’s help, which to me feels like a huge waste of the channeler’s strength which is going to be needed sorely in the days to come. But then I’ve never faced such loss so maybe I should shut up about it.
There’s another quake, and this one leaves spooky cracks like cracks in reality – though they fade away in a while. Lan goes to meet Agelmar, who tells him that though the forces hold for now, eventually they will be forced to retreat. Lan is not happy about it, but Agelmar reminds him that duty is heavier than a mountain, and Lan realises that he can’t just throw away his and his men’s lives.
Meanwhile, Egwene’s forces Travel to Kandor, and sets up in preparation to hold the shadow in Kandor.
Rand goes to meet Elayne. They have a nice talk. Elayne wants to name one of the kids Rand, but Rand wisely tells her to not do it – it’ll be a hard life enough for them without carrying Rand’s name too. They continue talking, the conversation moving to tactics and battle plans. Rand also gives an explanation for his powers like undoing food shortage (/u/Nygmus, did you just copy that? And here I was all wonderstruck on how insightful you were!). They exchange gifts, Rand gives her something called a Seed, which can be used to make angreal. Wow. Elayne in turn gives him the dagger ter’angreal that can hide someone from the Shadow.
The Use of Dragons
Perrin and some of Elayne’s men are trying to rile the Trollocs to chase them, so far it hasn’t worked.
Back in Braem wood, Elayne is getting restless and wants to go check the fighting herself, but Birgitte puts a stop to it with some really savage snark:
“You try anything like that,” Birgitte said, eyes still forward, “and I’ll throw you over my bloody shoulder like a drunken man with a barmaid on a rowdy night and carry you back to camp. Light help me, I’ll do it, Elayne.”
Elayne frowned. “Remind me why, exactly, I gave you one of those medallions?”
“I’m not sure,” Birgitte said. “It showed remarkable foresight and an actual sense of self-preservation. Completely unlike you.”
“I hardly think that is fair, Birgitte.”
“I know! It is extremely unfair for me to have to deal with you. I wasn’t certain you’d noticed. Are all young Aes Sedai as reckless as you are, or did I just end up with the pick of this particular litter?”
So Elayne instead goes around getting reports. Everything is okay-ish, though the Borderlanders as we know are going to have to fall back soon. Rand still hasn’t moved to Shayol Ghul. What is he waiting for? Elayne realises that she needs to win her fight fast or the other fronts will lose the war of attrition.
Androl and Pevara are still captive in the Black Tower. I wonder what is even the point of writing this line, but I also don’t want to skip a whole POV. Damn Sanderson and his ADHD style character switches! Well, not really, it does make the pace feel faster, but it does make it hard to cover all of them and keep the posts to a reasonable size.
Anyways, Lan’s already crappy day is further ruined when he finds that the channelers are here. The Shadow’s channelers, that is. It’s time to retreat.
Meanwhile, Elayne’s plan has finally worked. There’s now a huge forces of Trollocs coming her way. But Elayne has a plan. That plan is the title of the chapter. But first are the Two Rivers archers. Elayne is worried that they’ll end up hitting her men which the Trollocs are chasing, but Tam tells him that they’re all badass archers who never miss, so Elayne gives the go ahead, and is duly impressed when they don’t miss. The crossbowmen and soldiers come next, and they draw the Trollocs deeper into the woods.
Meanwhile, a portion of the Trolloc army has split off to the road that they want to hold, but the dragons are all ready and waiting for them. The dragons proceed to decimate them as expected. Elayne thinks that these will end wars, since no one will be stupid enough to fight faced with that. Oh Elayne. Although, that’s not an entirely unreasonable line of thought. We just know that’s not gonna happen. Men love fighting way too much to let the threat cannons – or even nukes – stop them.
Just Another Sell-sword
Egwene is strolling around in her camp. Adelorna, the Green Ajah leader is sucking up a bit to her. Nah, I’m being too harsh. It’s more like extending an olive branch, but notice that she did it after Egwene became the Amyrlin, and a strong one at that. So it is a bit like sucking up to her.
Egwene gets to Bryne’s tent, who has created a gateway to inspect the Trolloc forces from above, the better to understand what’s going on. Egwene tells Bryne to spice up his battle plans – to use the Aes Sedai actively, not simply keep them as a backup.
We finally get to see what Mat is up to. He’s in Ebou Dar! Once Mat manages to get into the city, he goes looking for a tavern that’s the right balance of pristine and rundown, while giving a pretty fun mental commentary of stuff:
Generations of successive rulers in Ebou Dar had allowed the Rahad to fester unchecked, but the Seanchan were not so inclined. Mat wished them luck. The Rahad had fought off every invasion so far. Light. Rand should have just hidden there, instead of going up to fight the Last Battle. The Trollocs and Darkfriends would have come for him, and the Rahad would have left them all unconscious in an alley, their pockets turned inside out and their shoes sold for soup money.
Eventually he finds a suitable one and in between being force fed by the innkeeper, enquires about what’s up in the city. Then he finds that Galgan has been sending assassins after Tuon – I remember Tuon thinking that it’s not serious, just a testing of sorts, and valiant protector of all threatened ladies that he is, Mat’s off to help Tuon.
Moiraine and Rand are talking, discussing heavy-handed philosophical stuff. She also asks him what the hell he’s waiting for, and Rand responds that he’s waiting for the “right time” to go to Shayol Ghul. Said time – I’m guessing – will come towards the end of the book. Rand also gives Moiraine a Tar Valon mark, which he’d been carrying around. It feels… forced, to me, because we never see it mentioned and now Rand is all “I’ve been carrying this around”. Lan comes, and Rand gives him a new crown, a copy of the old Malkieri one. Rand’s turning into quite the Santa.
Then Rand travels to go and fight against the Dreadlords pushing Lan’s forces back. It starts off well enough, but soon the Dreadlords start fighting back, trying to shield him. Rand is able to shrug off their attempts, until a big one from (presumably) a circle almost gets him. But Rand decides to retreat instead of fighting Taim and his channelers alone. So yeah, no more Maradon-esque miracle saves. The war really must be fought by the armies.
That is, unless Rand contributes with other channelers instead of trying to save the day all by himself. Like, why does it have to be either full solo-victory or just give up? He can still help without doing it so spectacularly that it draws attention.
A Shard of a Moment
Birgitte ambushes a bunch of Trollocs in Braem Wood. It seems the fighting has slowed down, breaking down into little skirmishes instead of big battles where the dragons can be used effectively.
Rand is dreaming, or rather hanging out in his custom dream. He comes upon a cavern that refuses to go away, so he enters, and finds Lanfear drowning there. The sight tugs at the soft side of Rand, and he’s just about to try and help her, when he realises it’s just a sham. Not the captivity, but the drowning.
Lanfear asks for his help, implying that she wants to return to the Light, but, of course, there’s no trusting one of the Forsaken. He asks her to open her mind to him so he can confirm her sincerity, and no surprise, she refuses. And Rand realises that he no longer cares, that she has no hold over him. And shows it to her, opening his mind instead. And then he leaves her. Quite an interesting scene, and really nice to see Rand get over that lingering something that he felt towards Lanfear.
Perrin asks Edarra to help him enter Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, so that he can fight Slayer on equal footing, but of course, she refuses.
What Must Be Done
Egwene leads the White Tower to battle against the Trollocs in Kandor, but it’s more like a slaughter, the Aes Sedai decimating ranks upon ranks of Trollocs until they retreat. The soldiers cheer, but Egwene knows that it’s just a temporary respite. They’ll be back.
Elayne and Bashere are discussing the state of the battle(s). Egwene is holding, but Lan’s in trouble. As for their own fight, they decide that they need to move out of the forest so they can bring the Dragons to bear again. Bashere advises that they retreat across Andor, all the way to Cairhien, harrying the Trollocs all the way, then find a suitable place to stand and fight. I don’t like this – the longer Elayne’s fight stretches out, the harder it’s going to get for Egwene and Lan. I mean, that was the whole plan – that Elayne would win her battle fast and then help out the other fronts. That’s clearly not going to happen now.
Refused by Edarra, Perrin instead goes to Rand, giving command of his men to Tam and giving a nice little speech to keep them happy while he’s gone. He and Gaul go to Rand and ask him to make them a gateway into Tel’aran’rhiod. Rand warns Perrin too, but then he makes the gateway, and he and Gaul go in.
Doses of Forkroot
Gaul and Perrin find that the dream world is kinda falling apart, literally, with random stuff flying about and things breaking down. Perrin gives Gaul a small primer on how stuff works here, then they’re off. First order of business is to check out the Black Tower. Perrin finds the place, and is scouting it out when a wild Lanfear appears.
From what she tells Perrin, it appears she’s trying to betray the Dark One, to somehow bring about his downfall. Although it does match what she told Rand in his dream, I’m still mightily suspicious.
Meanwhile, in the Black Tower in the waking world, things are even worse, now that Taim and co. have been joined by Graendal and some Blacks to speed up the Turning. But Androl manages to spook the turned Evin into attacking one of the other Darkfriends, and in the confusion, Androl manages to free himself and the others. But the trouble is that they’re still trapped and outnumbered, and Androl can’t even use his signature powers, despite repeated attempts.
That is, until Taim throws Balefire at him and he manages to dodge it, by diverting into a gateway despite the dreamspike. That’s some next level gateway making Talent right there. I didn’t even know that was possible. And then a number of their allies arrive and attack Taim and co.
Meanwhile, Perrin is working his way towards the Dreamspike at the center of the dome. Lanfear appears again, and suits actions to words by helping Perrin take out some guards and telling him how to use the dreamspike. Could she really be serious? But then, who knows how complicated the Dark One’s plans can be? Maybe he’s willing to do this so Lanfear gains their trust then screws them over at the critical moment. In any case, Perrin tells Lanfear to go away and, his job here done but the quest for Slayer unfulfilled, moves on.
One very important side effect of this, of course, is that Androl, fighting for his life in the waking world, can now do the one thing he’s good at. And so he makes a big gateway in front of Taim’s men, which opens right behind them, killing them with their own weaves. Now you’re thinking with portals! Unfortunately Graendal and Taim both escape. The rest are sent plummeting to their death by Androl’s gateways.
Your Neck in a Cord
Mat is going to meet Tuon, sneaking into the Tarasin palace ninja-style. He manages to climb all the way to Tuon’s rooms, narrowly avoiding a crossbow bolt to the face by Selucia. Turns out as a precaution against assassins, Selucia hangs out in Tuon’s bedroom, ready to kill any assassins that come, while Tuon sleeps elsewhere. With a bit of convincing, she directs him to the gardens, where Tuon currently is.
Rand comes to Elayne’s camp. He meets Tam, and gives him a gift as well. It’s a sword, a replacement for the blade Rand took off with all those books ago. The dragon markings make me think it might’ve been Lews Therin’s sword. Didn’t Rand or someone else dig it up sometime ago? In any case, Tam accepts it after a bit of cajoling, and then after trying out a few forms with it, asks Rand to spar with him, tying one of his own hands so it’s a fair fight.
But it’s not, because soon it becomes clear that Tam’s practiced fighting with one hand. Rand though, is not doing well, he keeps trying to use forms that are designed for two handed use, and keeps failing. Tam tells Rand to “let go”, and Rand turns on autopilot, and turns out his body knows how to fight with just one hand. Not as well as with two, but better than when he was doing it consciously. Eventually, tired and exhausted but feeling better, they end the practice.
So, on the one hand I like the way this whole scene was done, but it felt that Rand adapted far too easily. Like, one moment he’s struggling and then Tam tells him to let go and he can suddenly fight way better? I get that a change in attitude would be helpful, but I have trouble believing it would be effective so fast. Also, I’m grateful that Tam didn’t tell Rand to let it go instead, because then I’d have that stupid song stuck in my head again. And now it’s stuck in my head anyways. Damnit!
Mat arrives at the gardens, where he spots Tuon practicing martial arts, her eyes closed. While he’s busy ogling her, Mat spots a fellow, who he assumes to be a gardener, but he soon realises that doesn’t make sense, and notices that Tuon’s guards seem to be completely ignoring the fellow. So Mat pulls out a dagger, and hits the assassin in the shoulder just as he’s about to stab Tuon. Also, I love that when Tuon hears Mat and finds him hiding, holing a dagger, her first reaction is to look behind her to see who’s the target – the implicit assumption being that Mat would never stab her. Weirdly romantic.
Once she’s ordered the Deathwatch guards off of Mat and sent them looking for the gray man, Tuon and Mat have a talk. Surprisingly, Tuon knows that Mat lost his eye rescuing Moiraine – or at least some woman. How on earth?! Then there’s this gem of an exchange:
“Good to see you, by the way,” Mat said. He waited a few moments. “Usually, when a fellow says something like that, it’s customary to tell them that you’re happy to see them as well.”
“I am the Empress now,” Tuon said. “I do not wait upon others, and do not find it ‘good’ that someone has returned. Their return is expected, as they serve me.”
“You know how to make a fellow feel loved.”
Then as a reward for saving her life, and to make Mat feel ‘loved’, Tuon allows Mat to make sweet love to her, right there in the garden, surrounded by guards.
Man, a relationship with Tuon would be so exciting but also so scary. I don’t think a lesser man could’ve handled it. But Mat’s – well – Mat.
A Silence Like Screaming
Loial and the other Ogier join in the battle at Braem wood, as Elayne’s forces make the planned retreat. As they draw closer, they get really angry, and lay about the Trollocs with their huge axes. It’s a pretty impactful scene, seeing all these Ogier go savage like we were always told they could but never saw until now. The fact that they sing as they kill makes it even more chilly.
One of the Whitecloaks goes all “OMG they’re so savage must be shadowspawn!”. Galad calmly points out that they’re in fact slaughtering Trollocs. The fellow responds that it’s just a plan to fool them. One of the others tells him to stop being a dumbass. This gives me great hope for the future of the Whitecloaks under Galad.
Rand decides that it’s time to handle the Seanchan, particularly since Mat is there as well. But first he and Moiraine have a talk about things to come. Rand tells us that Callandor is in fact a sa’angreal for the True Power as well. I wonder how he found that out? Rand seems to be considering using Callandor in that way. I hope it’s just idle thought. Also, I wish they named the Dark One’s power something else, as it is it feels a bit silly to call this super evil power the “True Power”. Not to mention it makes the One Power not be the “one” power at all. Maybe it should’ve been the Power and then the Dark One’s version could be like, the Dark Power?
Rand tells Moiraine that he’s planning to kill the Dark One, but she’s adamant that it cannot be done. But Rand’s nothing if not stubborn. Still, I’m more inclined to side with Moiraine here. Wouldn’t people in earlier ages have tried it? What’s Rand got that they didn’t? Of course, it would be nice to be rid of the Shadow forever, but I think the best that can be done is to seal away the Dark One – until someone in another age stumbles across the prison and the whole thing repeats.
Lan leads his troops into a charge against the Trollocs as part of some sort of top secret plan. Lan is a badass in battle as usual, taking down two Fades at once. Once their initial momentum is gone, Lan’s men retreat, and as the Trollocs rush to eat the fallen, they charge again, catching them by surprise. It seems to work well enough, until they are surprised in turn by the appearance of Dreadlords, led by Taim. One of Lan’s Asha’man tries to stay back to kill Taim, and is blown to bits for his pains, as the rest of the army is forced to flee. Poor Lan cannot catch a break.
Older, More Weathered
Mat wakes up in the Tarasin Palace’s gardens, Tuon is still there though she’s back to stern Empress mode:
“Tuon, why are you just sitting there?” Mat demanded, finally retrieving his shirt from under that luscious rump.
“As my consort,” Tuon said sternly, “you may call me Fortuona or Majesty. I would hate to have you executed before you give me a child.
Or rather, extra-stern Empress mode, because she’s never really in chilled out mode.
The guards have found yet another assassin sneaking into the palace, and Tuon orders him brought to her. It turns out to be Rand. While Mat is busy going oh long been so long, Tuon is treating Rand like a legit assassin, bringing in damane and shielding him. Rand takes it all in stride. While Tuon is talking with Selucia, Mat and Rand get into a bragging contest of all things:
“What did you do to your eye?”
“A little accident with a corkscrew and thirteen angry innkeepers. The hand?”
“Lost it capturing one of the Forsaken.”
“Capturing?” Mat said. “You’re growing soft.”
Rand snorted. “Tell me you’ve done better.”
“I killed a gholam,” Mat said.
“I freed Illian from Sammael.”
“I married the Empress of the Seanchan.”
“Mat,” Rand said, “are you really trying to get into a bragging contest with the Dragon Reborn?” He paused for a moment. “Besides, I cleansed saidin. I win.”
“Ah, that’s not really worth much,” Mat said.
“Not worth much? It’s the single most important event to happen since the Breaking.”
“Bah. You and your Asha’man are already crazy,” Mat said, “so what does it matter?”
Gotta love Mat.
But now it’s time for serious talk. Tuon tells Rand that she’s going to carry him off to Seanchan. But Rand is wily now, and instead of outright resisting, he draws Tuon into a philosophical argument, saying that while she derives her authority from Hawkwing, he was in fact emperor even before him and so his authority is even greater. And then to further impress, he makes the grass green and the trees bloom – while still shielded. This time though, he’s accompanying it by singing. Is it something like the Ogier treesinging?
Once he’s created enough spectacle, Rand gets down to real politics. He offers Tuon peace once more, this time going down on one knee in front of her. Well that’s once worrying prophecy resolved nicely. Mat also chips in, telling Tuon that she can trust Rand.
So finally Tuon agrees for a treaty, and she and Rand work out a compromise. Tuon gets to keep most of the land she’s captured, as well as the damane, but can’t capture any more from the nations. A fair enough compromise, though it sucks for the poor captive channelers. If only the Seanchan would give up that practice.
Before they part, Mat points out that he saved Moiraine, and so he wins. I concur.
Two-fifths of the book gone, and things are still going remarkably okay for most of the protagonists, all things considered. I’m getting worried.
The Mat scenes were certainly the highlight of these few chapters for me. Especially his and Rand’s reunion. So fun. And Androl and co. have finally managed to stop the crazy shit going on in the Black Tower, so hopefully the Asha’man can join the battle soon and Logain can earn his promised glory.
Also, we’re almost at the end, and I still don’t see any sort of plan for dealing with the Dark One. Rand gets to Shayol Ghul, and then what? He can’t just tell the Dark One “1v1 me bro!”. He wants to kill the Dark One, but how can he? Yeah, there’s the fact that Callandor is a True Power sa’angreal, but Rand can hardly use the Dark One’s own power to kill him. The other options – sealing him up – is just as hard. How can he seal the prison perfectly? By using both saidin and saidar instead of just saidin like last time? What if that just leads to the Dark One tainting both halves of the One Power?
The answer, of course, is RAFO. But I’ve been trying to figure something out myself, and I got nothing. I don’t know if it’s me being dumb or there not being enough information to figure it out yet.