Spoilers for books 1-13 and A Memory of Light to Chapter 49| 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 38-49.
The Place That Was Not
Rand is still being assaulted by the Dark One, not to mention all the pain he’s feeling at the deaths, with Lan added to that list now. But Tam’s advice is still ringing around in his head. Let go.
He realises that, in the end, he has to let the people fend for themselves. He can’t be doing all the saving and sacrificing for himself. And then, Egwene talks to him. Well of course, we know WoT has souls and stuff, but isn’t Rand outside the normal Pattern? Whatever, I’m just happy we get to hear from her again. She tells him the same thing he’s realising, except with an added “You fool.”. Good old Egwene.
Let go, Rand. Let us die for what we believe, and do not try to steal that from us.
You have embraced your death. Embrace mine.
Damn these ninjas cutting onions.
And so Rand lets go. He throws away all the guild and the sorrow he’s been carrying for all of the deaths he felt responsible for. All the women, and the men. He rolls backwards through his list, removing all his burdens, all the way back to Ilyena. And he finds that the Dark One’s attack don’t hurt him that much, that he can continue to fight. So he does.
The Dark One is like “See I’m totally murdering and breaking them all”. But Rand is not bothered by this anymore. They’re still fighting, they will keep fighting. The Dark One can not make them give up.
Although I am glad that Rand has gotten over his overprotectiveness, I don’t think that just because one doesn’t give up doesn’t make the Dark One’s attacks pointless. You can keep fighting but still lose. Maybe the Dark One’s influence is kind of like how things work in Tel’aran’rhiod, in that you can beat it by sheer willpower.
Back in Merrilor, Loial brings back news of Lan’s epic badassery, and Mat decides that now is the time to charge, while the Shadow’s forces are in disorder following Demandred’s death.
Rand and The Dark One continue their philosophical debates. Interestingly, this time all of Rand’s speech is in ALL CAPS as well. I feel this is supposed to be significant, but I don’t know how. He says that the fight is not about him. It’s about all the people who struggle against the Shadow. Let’s try and guess them all!
It was about a woman, torn and beaten down, cast from her throne and made a puppet—a woman who had crawled when she had to. That woman still fought.
It was about a man that love repeatedly forsook, a man who found relevance in a world that others would have let pass them by. A man who remembered stories, and who took fool boys under his wing when the smarter move would have been to keep on walking. That man still fought.
Thom! The taking fool boys under his wing gave it away.
It was about a woman with a secret, a hope for the future. A woman who had hunted the truth before others could. A woman who had given her life, then had it returned. That woman still fought.
It was about a man whose family was taken from him, but who stood tall in his sorrow and protected those he could.
It was about a woman who refused to believe that she could not help, could not Heal those who had been harmed.
It was about a hero who insisted with every breath that he was anything but a hero.
It was about a woman who would not bend her back while she was beaten, and who shone with the Light for all who watched. Including Rand.
Probably Egwene, but could be Aviendha too, I feel.
The point, Rand realises, is that the Dark One can’t defeat them until they give up. That’s why the Dark One attempted to break Rand at every step, not kill him outright.
Weirdly, I kind of agree with the Dark One – that even if he can’t break them, he can still kill them. I mean, imagine a world where humanity is just a bunch of starved, weakened, struggling to survive people, but proud. Imagine the fades hunting them down, one by one by one, until all those who did not bend were broken. Is that not a world where the Dark One is, to all intents and purposes, victorious?
Mat’s army is fighting, but the Trollocs, though unorganised, still outnumber them three to one. They need something, something more. And that happens in the form of Olver, desperate and terrified, blowing the Horn of Valere. And contrary to my fears, it works!
Simultaneously, as Rand’s voice is somehow heard by everyone at the battlefield:
That one you have tried to kill many times, Rand said, that one who lost his kingdom, that one from whom you took everything . . .
Lurching, bloodied from the sword strike to his side, the last king of the Malkieri stumbled to his feet. Lan thrust his hand into the air, holding by its hair the head of Demandred, general of the Shadow’s armies.
That man, Rand shouted. That man still fights!
Lan’s alive!!! Holy shit! YAYY!!!
And then Birgitte, returned as a Hero of the Horn, finally takes out Mellar and rescues Egwene yet again.
And then the moment comes. You know, the moment where the good guys, beaten down and desperate, finally find the conditions in their favor at last. Lan back, Demandred dead, Rand’s voice across the field, the Heroes returned… One expects it, of course, but it’s still glorious.
While Mat rushes at the Trollocs, he gives one potential answer about why the Horn worked for Olver. It seems that whatever happened at Rhuidean counted as him dying, so he’s no longer the Hornsounder. I always though that he was just hanging and Rand saved him just in time, instead of him being actually dead. Maybe it was a matter of the heart flatlining before reviving, as happens often in TV Shows. Mat has a bit of a scare about it too, since the Horn could have been blown by either side. But we already saw Birgitte, and we know Olver was the one, so no worries there.
And for good measure, Hawkwing tells Mat that all that is just crap, and they’d never fight for the Shadow anyway. Typical WoT.
Olver is finally rescued by the latest addition to the ranks of the heroes – Jain Farstrider! It’s quite endearing to see Olver’s joy at seeing at least one of the people he’d lost come back to him.
Turns out not only is Birgitte back, so are her memories. That’s so great! So in the end, Moghedien’s messing did no permanent damage.
While the battle at Merrilor is turning around, Shayol Ghul is still a mess. The most recent addition to the attackers is Darkhounds. The Wild Hunt is here. But before Aviendha can worry about that, she notices Graendal, with her compulsioned slaves guarding her. She throws up a flare to alert the others, and plays cat and mouse with Graendal until they come.
Elayne is trying to rally her troops. At her arrival, they stop running, but don’t return to the fight. It takes Elayne flailing her sword at a Trolloc, trying to kill her with her noob moves, to whip them back into action.
And then the Seanchan arrive to seal the deal, splitting up to fight alongside Elayne and Mat’s forces.
Meanwhile, Grady is waiting upriver, stewing at Mat for sending simple village folk to hold the river, but still sticking to his orders. He makes a gateway to a village, and the villagers who had fought and died yesterday rush through.
Hinderstap! Mat you bloody genius!!
The dead returning to fight gives them quite the element of surprise, and they kill the Dreadlords guarding the dam in moments, leaving Grady free to destroy the dam and release the river.
Logain wants the Asha’man to focus all their efforts into looking for Taim’s sa’angreal. I’m a bit disappointed from this, but there have been plenty of signs that Logain is getting a little too power hungry owing to the things he’s been through, so it’s not a surprise.
Androl, however, is not gonna do it. Instead, he’s going to implement another genius idea that Pevara has had.
Next up, a POV from the elusive Moghedien. She burns up Demandred’s corpse, and disguises herself as him, taking command of the Sharans. Turns out she was the one Min almost nailed with a knife. Moghedien is pretty damn pleased with herself, but I doubt that she can do much to turn the battle. She’s no great commander, after all. She orders Trollocs to attack the refugees, hoping to draw away the people from the main fight.
Then another of Mat’s genius plans is revealed. A gateway opens, dragons fire at them, and the gateway closes. This both keeps them safe and they don’t have to worry about placing and aiming. You just open a gateway and bam!
Things are starting to break down in Thakan’dar. Reality is out of control. Lightning, fog, floating rocks, clouds in the form of the ancient Aes Sedai symbol, growing plants… All sorts of suitably weird stuff.
Aviendha is watching Cadsuane and Alivia fight Graendal, waiting for Amys so they can attack together. She’s ambushed by an Aiel, and only after she’s barely killed him does she recognise him. Rhuarc. Ah well, it’s better than being Graendal’s slave.
Alviarin seems to be commanding Taim’s remaining men. She plans to use one of the men to read the gateway residues and locate the Dragons. Before they can get to that though, they run into Rand. Or rather, someone pretending to be him, who runs aways when they spot him. I’m guessing this is Androl’s doing.
They use Donalo to find where Not!Rand Traveled, and chase after Rand. And suddenly, they find themselves in a stedding. Pevara you bloody genius! A bunch of Ogier appear and restrain the Dreadlords. They won’t be killed, but they’re not getting out anytime soon.
Aviendha, perhaps a bit more determined after seeing Rhuarc’s fate, goes on the offensive. She conjures what sounds a lot like a lightsaber and runs towards Graendal, slicing her weaves, until an explosion ruins her legs, but she’s already in the air and in the moment Graendal vanishes, her spear connects, and they both vanish.
A Field of Glass
Logain’s men have finally found the sa’angreal, with Taim’s hand still holding it. Logain tries to shatter the crystal surrounding it, but it resists, and the ground begins to shake. Makes sense – that crystal is probably what’s holding things together, and Egwene probably made it to be stable. He’s considering using Balefire, when Androl and Pevara bring news that Trollocs are attacking helpless refugees.
The shadow’s army is breaking at last. The Sharans are fleeing through gateways, the Trollocs are panicking, the river has divided them. It turns rapidly from battle to cleanup. Interestingly, Mat is not one of the Heroes, because he doesn’t want to be. At least, that’s what Mat thinks.
The battle is soon over, but The Last Battle is not yet done. Mat feels drawn towards Rand. But before he goes, he sends Hawkwing to chat with Tuon. Hopefully he can knock some sense into her. Then again, Hawkwing laid siege to Tar Valon in his time, so who knows. Wait, maybe that’s why the Seanchan are so anti-One Power – they’re descendants of Hawkwing!
Rand gives the Dark One more trash talk, saying that none of his minions have the will and determination to keep fighting when the situation becomes adverse, and that’s why he keeps losing. The Dark One threatens Rand’s death, but he’s already accepted that long ago.
BRING MY DEATH, SHAI’TAN, Rand growled, throwing himself into the blackness. FOR I BRING YOURS!
Graendal and Aviendha are on a ledge above the valley floor, both too weak to do much. Aviendha tries to flee or attract attention by making a gateway, but Graendal drags her away.
Perrin wakes up, and has a nice talk with Master Luhhan, about how he needs to push his limits, and stop worrying about hurting people. Now it the time to try his damnedest. Then Masuri suppresses his fatigue, and Perrin goes back into the wolf dream, this time on his own.
Thom is chilling near the entrance to the cave, composing a song for the battle he’s witnessing below him. After much deliberation, he settles on exquisite. A woman disguised as Cadsuane walks into the cave, and he neatly kills her with a knife, and stashes her body with the others who have tried the same thing earlier.
Mat asks Grady to make him a gateway to Shayol Ghul, but that’s not possible because of all the weird stuff happening there, so he has to settle for a Seanchan camp a day away. And he brings Olver, because the lad is now the Hornsounder.
Shaisam is rolling across Thakan’dar. I’m rather confused, until I realise it’s just Padan Fain. Or what used to be Fain – he’s morphed into a conscious fog like thing, like the one in Shadar Logoth. He’s planning to use the fact that Rand and the Dark One are both busy fighting to his advantage.
Gaul and the wolves are trying to hold off Slayer. They can’t kill him, and several wolves have died already, but they are keeping him away from Rand. Gaul is wounded, and Slayer is all “Mwahaha I’m going to kill you all”, but then Perrin arrives. And he hass – to continue the DragonballZ references – gone super saiyan, complete with blazing eyes.
Mat and Olver are taking a ride on a to’raken, Mat is not too happy but Olver is having a grand time. They hit some turbulence when the poor pilot is shot by a random arrow, but Mat manages to land them safely, if a bit roughly. Olver blows the Horn.
Rand returns to the normal world at last. It’s been only minutes in his time frame. He and Moridin resume their duel. Moridin tries to cheat by throwing a knife at Alanna. She dies, but before that she releases Rand from the bond. I can finally sort of forgive her for what she did. But Moridin has more tricks up his sleeve. He stabs his hand, and Rand’s hand drops Callandor.
Perrin fights Slayer one last time, fluidly changing from wolf to man and back, and finally Slayer goes on the defensive. He flees back to the waking world, but that’s no longer enough to save him. Perrin chases him, both of them jumping into the dream world and back until his hammer in the real world and Young Bull’s fangs in the dream world connect. Something weird happens, a resonance of sorts, so that they flicker between multiple worlds, the constant being that in each, Perrin kills Slayer.
And then things become normal, and yep, there’s Slayer, his head crushed by Mjollnir. The Darkhounds are still coming, and finally the defense breaks down. But then the Horn sounds, and wolf heroes come to help them against the Darkhounds.
Mat meets up with Perrin, and tells him about Faile. He’s just telling him about the mist being Fain, when a tendril from the mist spears him from behind, and Mat falls off his horse.
Oh no, not Mat too. Not Mat!
Aviendha, desperate to do something, begins to pick apart the gateway, hoping for something devastating that would take out Graendal. Graendal, on the other hand, begins to set a weave of Compulsion on Aviendha. The gateway explodes.
Shaisam feels something is off about a part of his mist-body, and goes to check it out. He finds a corpse, who is actually not a corpse but Mat who is still alive YAY!!! Turns out Mat is sort of vaccinated against the mist. Mat grabs Fain, and rams the Shadar Logoth dagger into his heart, killing him and the mist. YES! Finally we’re rid of bloody creepy Fain.
Perrin returns to the wolf dream to take Gaul back to Merrilor. He wants desperately to go look for Faile, but finally he decides that if something happens to Rand, Faile is gone anyway, and so he goes back to guard him in the dream world.
Moridin picks up Callandor, and realises that it is a sa’angreal for the True Power as well. And then, finally, the big mystery is resolved. Nynaeve and Moiraine use the flaw in Callandor to seize control of Moridin, and feed the power to Rand. And then, using all three power – saidar, saidin and the True Power, and he reaches through the Bore to the Dark One. There can be no tainting this time, for Rand wears the True Power – the Dark One’s own essence – as a glove of sorts. Light explodes from him.
And that light is seen by everyone, from Thom, to Aviendha – who it turns out survived, and Graendal – very fittingly – is now bound to Aviendha as she bound others to her, to Logain, who finally chose to save the refugees instead of seeking more power, who recognises Egwene’s signal, and shatters the Seals.
Perrin returns to Shayol Ghul in the dream, to find Lanfear chilling out there. And she wants Perrin to kill Moiraine and Nynaeve. So that she can take control of Rand, and save the Dark One. It was lies all along. And not only that, she’s messed with Perrin’s head somehow. Lanfear directs him to kill Moiraine simultaneously as she kills Nynaeve.
But this is the wolf dream. And here, Perrin is strong. And so, using his love for Faile as an anchor, he manages to remove the compulsion from himself, and he kills Lanfear.
As the seals break, the Dark One bursts free, but Rand’s holding him tight. Here, in the Pattern, the Dark One really is vulnerable. He begins to kill the Dark One, but realises that it will lead to the (allegedly) horrible world where everyone is capable only of good. And so he pushes the Dark One back through the Bore, and seals it again, this time for real. Back to the way it had been before it all began in the Age of Legends.
Fittingly, Moiraine gets to see the culmination of her quest that began so long ago, the Dragon Reborn fulfilling his destiny, the Dark One banished for good. Or until a new cycle repeats the whole thing yet again.
There’s a more or less indecipherable POV from Rand, as he exits the tunnel carrying (presumably) Moridin’s body:
He could . . . see, just faintly. A figure kneeling down beside him. “Yes,” a woman whispered. He did not recognize the voice. “Yes, that’s good. That is what you need to do.”
He blinked, his vision fuzzy. Was that Aiel clothing? An old woman, with gray hair? Her form retreated, and Rand reached toward her, not wanting to be alone. Wanting to explain himself. “I see the answer now,” he whispered. “I asked the Aelfinn the wrong question. To choose is our fate. If you have no choice, then you aren’t a man at all. You’re a puppet . . .” Shouting.
Rand felt heavy. He plunged into unconsciousness.
Perrin bids farewell to the wolf heroes, and enters a tent. Rand’s there. Flinn has been trying to save him, but it’s not working. Nothing is working. He exits the tent to find Lan and Nynaeve having a reunion (yay!) and goes to Merrilor, to seek Faile.
Loial is looking for Mat, to get fresh accounts of the Last Battle for his book. And worrying about how it’ll be inconvenient for calendars that the Fourth Age began at noon. He spots Ituralde, being bullied into accepting rulership of Arad Doman by some Aes Sedai. He chats a bit with Nynaeve and Flinn. There is mention that none of Elayne, Min and Aviendha – who suddenly everyone is calling “the three” seem to care much for Rand dying. What do they know that we don’t?
Mat returns to the Seanchan camp, and find that Tuon is pregnant, and together they watch a fireworks show by Aludra.
Perrin collapses in the battlefield. He’s been unable to find any sign of Faile so far.
Moghedien, who’s managed to survive so far, is planning to turn even this loss to her advantage, being as she is one of the few (only?) Forsaken left. Until, that is, a random sul’dam catches her and makes her damane. I would be happy, but I still remember Elaida, and I’m worried Moghedien’s knowledge might end up making the Seanchan too powerful.
Rand’s dead. Well, I can’t say it’s a surprise. But I still hoped. Although, the three don’t display much emotion. There is a twist coming. Let’s hope a bit more.
Perrin, running around in the wolf dream, anguishing over what he should or shouldn’t have done, hears a falcon’s cry, and is able to locate Faile at last. She’s alive, and soon enough he has her healed by Nynaeve.
Birgitte and Elayne say their farewells to each other.
Tam lights Rand’s pyre.
Min and Aviendha however, have a very interesting chat:
“Now . . .” Aviendha said. “Now we make sure that everyone well and truly believes he is gone.”
Min nodded, feeling the pulsing throb of the bond in the back of her mind. It grew stronger each moment.
Oh yes! And sure enough, Rand awakens, alone in the tent. He looks into a mirror, and it turns out he’s Moridin. So, they somehow swapped bodies? Min’s viewing of Alivia helping Rand die turns out just to be her leaving some stuff for Rand to carry on his journey.
Cadsuane, for one, is not fooled by Rand’s disguise. And then Aes Sedai arrive to badger her into becoming the new Amyrlin.
As Rand is leaving, he finds – trying to light his pipe – that he can no longer channel, neither saidin nor the True Power. But I thought the ability to channel was tied to your soul? And just to mess with me more, he thinks the pipe as lit, and it is. So what, he gets to do Tel’aran’rhiod style stuff in the real world now? Does he have some new sort of power?
The wind rose high and free, to soar in an open sky with no clouds. It passed over a broken landscape scattered with corpses not yet buried. A landscape covered, at the same time, with celebrations. It tickled the branches of trees that had finally begun to put forth buds.
The wind blew southward, through knotted forests, over shimmering plains and toward lands unexplored. This wind, it was not the ending. There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time.
But it was an ending.
Wow. Well, A Memory of Light certainly stood up to my expectations, and then some. As did The Wheel of Time.
Okay, let’s talk the ending. I loved it. It made so much sense – Rand exploiting the flaw in Callandor, using the True Power against the Dark One. Both are things that we could have guessed, and I love that – even though I could not. But the pieces were there, and that’s great.
It also neatly covers why the Dark One is not dead yet – it’s not because people didn’t try, but it’s because they realised that killing him would change everything in (allegedly!) horrible ways.
But I’m still hazy on how the hell Rand survived. I’m happy that he did – of course, and that he’ll be able to have a normal life now, but how? The connection between them was strongly hinted at, but I still don’t know what kind of a connection it was, or how it allowed Rand to survive and kill Moridin instead. And as for the pipe, I’m pretty sure RJ/Sanderson are outright screwing with us.
I have only two minor complaints to make. First, that Nynaeve and Moiraine should’ve gotten more screen time. Especially Moiraine. I understand that they played a huge role and everything, but damnit I wanted more of Moiraine’s awesomeness.
Second, how the hell is Mat so lucky? I kept hoping until the end to find an explanation, and I never did. He was not always lucky – I definitely remember it becoming noticeable after he left the White Tower and gambled a bit, winning left and right, to his own surprise. What happened? And I am not going to accept “ta’veren” as the answer.
But seriously, great ending to a great series. Kudos to Sanderson for managing to do it. I can only imagine how old fans must’ve felt, the uncertainty that the series would be left unfinished, and then the fear that is always there when one author writes in another’s world. Thanks to all of you who read and loved the series, who advocated for it all over the internet, because otherwise I might not have had this amazing experience.
So is this the final post? Not quite. I’m just a bit overwhelmed right now – understandably. So I’ll be making one final post. There’s of course no new plot to talk about – it’ll be more like a spoilery review of the whole series. Or something. Basically an epilogue to this series of posts. I’ll title it Final Thoughts if that helps.