Monday, July 3, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #32: Chapter 29—The Loss of a Hill


By Linda

Egwene POV

Egwene witnesses one of Bryne’s “mistaken” orders born of Graendal’s Compulsion and is going to investigate why it occurred. Without seeing it herself, she would not be willing to entertain the idea that there is something wrong with him and his tactics.

She also notices how sickly Gawyn looks, but cannot imagine the cause—the bloodknives’ ter’angreals leeching his life away. However, she is well aware of his resentment at not yet fighting directly in battle. As Elayne’s First Prince of the Sword. Gawyn would not be a good incumbent because he acts like senior military positions are more about the literal sword than the generalship, advisory and responsibility. Despite having received appropriate training, he is too hungry for personal glory to be anything but a liability.


Lan POV

Agelmar is making inspirational speeches—and they are almost platitudes—as though convincing himself by convincing others. Worse, he is contradicting plans he made on previous days. Nevertheless, such is the trust in him, that Lan finds him rather convincing, even though he knows Agelmar’s maps are not up to date. This leads Lan to start having qualms, until his messengers arrive to prove Agelmar is wrong. Then the whole fa├žade cracks and falls down. Agelmar breaks through his Compulsion and wants to commit seppuku—there is a strong Japanese influence in Shienaran culture—but Lan stops him. Lan deduces that Agelmar has been Compelled.

One outcome of the mess is that they observe Queen Tenobia of Saldaea being killed. Like Gawyn, she was obsessed with glory and war and paid the price. Appalling as this is, it is far from their worst problem. Agelmar has carried out Graendal’s orders too well and they will be lucky if they don’t lose the entire army. Tenobia’s death brings Faile, and Perrin, one step closer to the Saldaean crown.


Mat POV

Much to Mat’s dismay, Min has informed Tuon about the viewings she sees around him; in fact, he makes it obvious to her that he would much rather she misled Tuon. Min refuses to use her talent in an unethical and untrustworthy manner. Selucia is another woman annoyed with Mat: over the likelihood that Tuon will follow Mat into potential danger.

Mat complains about how the Pattern has pushed him where he is—to lead armies and battle Forsaken. The Pattern and women. However, Mat is a great complainer about small things rather than large, so he can’t be too put out by it.

His fear of channelling has not abated, and he still clams all male channellers are crazy, not just Demandred and Rand. This negativity has nothing to do with the taint, because he was told in The Gathering Storm that it is gone. He just fears channelling as much as any Seanchan or Whitecloak does.

Once in sight of battle, Mat boldly, even recklessly, gallops into the fray to find out why the Seanchan troops have not been given orders to fight and assist Bryne’s army. Quite the reverse, Bryne has ordered Tylee to do nothing. Mat sees that Bryne’s plans are rubbish, and leads the Seanchan to undo the damage. Ironically, his ashandarei is not an effective weapon in this battle and Mat pulls out. This is when he captures an overconfident Sharan channeller. She is slow to get over the shock of her weave melting when it touched him and try an indirect weave. The Ayyad are too used to fighting with the One Power to quickly adapt and use other means, as another Sharan channeller complemented Egwene:

“Few of the Ayyad would reach for a dagger so quickly, rather than for the Source. You have been trained well.”

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

Mat breaks a nail—supposedly an omen of very bad luck, according to Tuon in Winter’s Heart, What A Veil Hides. Or at least he cracks it, and then accidentally ennobles an officer who has just been converted into a devoted follower by biting the nail off and spitting it at his feet. This is a funny example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Like Lan, Mat can see that the forces here have been used badly and will undoubtedly lose. If he steps in immediately, with absolute control of the army, he can turn things around. Tuon frets that betting on Mat might be a mistake, but he blithely reassures her.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #31: Chapter 28—Too Many Men


By Linda

This is one of a series of shorter chapters with quick scenes that show the pace accelerating as everything tips into the abyss of the Last Battle.

Lan POV

With some thorough investigation and analysis, Lan’s doubts have become real concerns that the battle plans of the Borderlander army are being sabotaged. Agelmar’s efforts are not good enough to counter the Shadow, even though they have evaded suspicion until now. Baldhere, who originally raised doubts, is convinced that only tiredness is behind the “errors”, and feels no hint of “I told you so”.

Lan deduces what Agelmar’s underlying disastrous battle plan is, and is able to circumvent the final order that would set the trap, and also begins undoing some of the damage. However, he won’t act further until he knows all the facts, which is fair, but potentially risky. Great Captain Pedron Niall said:

And never wait to know everything. The man who waited to know everything was still sitting in his tent when the enemy burned it over his head.”

Lord of Chaos, Red Wax

Although the Whitecloak commander was also prepared to reconsider his approach if he had qualms.

Actually either approach is risky here: investigate and more damage may be done meanwhile, or stop everything and be seen to be unjust, which is bad for trust and morale.

Loial POV

The Ogier had started to accept that Elayne’s army would lose its battle against the Shadow, when Loial defiantly Treesings as a weapon, making the wooden hafts of the Trollocs’ weapons sprout leaves and become useless. His Song of Life undoes the Shadow’s wrongness with something positive, even if dead wood does not usually re-sprout. It’s a reminder to never say die. Loial is appalled at the human loss of life and wanted to counter it with more life. For his own part, the Ogier really wants to live to finish his book.

Mat POV

Mat is dissatisfied with second-hand information on how the battle is going and suspects it has been simplified:

Looking back at the maps, Mat felt like cursing again. Maps, maps and more maps. Pieces of paper…How could he know they were accurate?...More and more, he was thinking that battle maps were about as useful as a heavy coat in Tear. He needed to be able to see the battle, not how someone else thought the battle looked. The map was too simple.

A Memory of Light, Too Many Men

He has a point; although, it is perhaps coloured by his own preferences since, while fully literate, he has never had patience with sitting and studying as Min does. Likewise, Tuon would like to see the battlefield herself, and so she agrees that Mat should go. The Seanchan military commanders are offended that Mat judges them and their messengers lacking.

Like Mat, Min, has also been dressed in green and black by the Imperial tailor in recognition of their Andoran country heritage. However, I doubt that Min has literally hundreds of silver hair pins in her hair.

Personal nudity is shaming to the Seanchan, according to RJ’s notes, and therefore a high-ranked Seanchan stripping off in public is lowering his eyes. It is even more embarrassing for a prince to do this; but, as the Seanchan will learn, tricksters like the Raven Prince are shameless. In fact, his bold rebellion inspires Min, and when she says she is tempted to follow suit (unsuit?), he dares her to do it. She glares at him.

Mat has subverted regular Seanchan guards with bribes to get his clothing back—a small undermining of discipline but still significant. Again, so typical of a trickster. He also tried it on the Deathwatch Guards, and won’t do it again. Thoroughly intimidated by them, he is glad they are incorruptible for Tuon’s sake.

Speaking of holding people to their duty, the Seanchan prince reminds Min that Rand would like her to stay with the Seanchan to act as a bridge between them and the Aes Sedai and other Mainland nations. His manipulation angers her.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #30: Chapter 27—Friendly Fire


By Linda

Bryne POV

From Bryne’s viewpoint, his battlefield dispositions are working well; there is no conflict or confusion over them, unlike the evident cracks in the Borderlanders’ army. It was a shot-down raken that disrupted the camp—Egwene’s forces not being used to large aerial fighters. The Tower army are increasingly needing the Seanchan to augment them, although if the Seanchan were under Bryne’s command at this time, they would have been needlessly wasted in the near future like his own forces. The Empress’ refusal for her legions to serve under Aes Sedai preserved them.

Min POV

The Aes Sedai are making minimum size gateways to conserve energy, but Min does not think this is reasonable. Once a upon a time, she would not have baulked at all. The Empress remarks that Min thinks herself high and there is an element of truth in this: she has risen high and it has left its mark.

The Seanchan are very careful about infiltrators and assassins; but they have already been infiltrated by Moghedien. Min reluctantly admits the Seanchan are well-organised. She makes excuses for Bryne’s army, but he had the rebels’ army neat and organised, so this may be a symptom of his Compulsion rather than solely an effect of being fired upon. The Empress’ army stands ready, but they take time to make measured decisions along the chain of command, which Min chafes at. She repeatedly comments that the Seanchan could make a big difference to the battle—and so they will, because they aren’t in the control of a general under Compulsion. Part of Min’s mood derives from her resentment that she is not with Rand at Shayol Ghul. She feels insignificant because she is not a channeller; she does not have a proper position in the war, or outside it—but soon will.

Mat thinks well of Bryne’s defensive positions, and Tylee is happy to lead a legion onto the field so she can study hiss methods. The Seanchan, Mat included, make no criticism of Bryne yet. He has worked his troops hard, but well, and tired them out. Soon will come the “errors”.

Our seeress is not surprised Mat has an eye-patch… Interestingly, Mat sees Min as an opportunity for some insight into the future. He wants to know what the omens are! The Raven Prince (and he is very much that now) thinks the Seanchan are mad, but fun. Min thinks Mat is mad to enjoy teasing them, or even living with them. As a trickster, he likes stirring them up and making them uneasy by flouting their rules. Mat loves the challenge of finding loopholes in rules or ignoring customs, and the Seanchan have a lot of both. But the outsider is also an insider, now—he has embraced his high position.

Ironically, Mat spouts old tongue sayings he’s never read or heard, while claiming others are mad. Then he complains about people not reading widely enough to recognise his quotes, when he rarely touches a book himself.

Min grudgingly bows to the Empress while Mat doesn’t. Mat is the butt of his own joke about embarrassing himself:

"How curious," Fortuona said. "That would make her your equal, Knotai. Of course, you seem to have forgotten to bow again…You embarrass me in public again."

"Only as much as I embarrass myself." He smiled, then hesitated, as if thinking through those words a second time.

A Memory of Light, Friendly Fire

There is a point to social rules, and a fine line between “rules are unimportant to me” and “I don’t understand how this society works”.

Mat tries to get Min to leave the room in case the Empress realises what she does and grabs her for her own, but Min blabs on unthinkingly, despite his warning. Now she has a new job—as a sacred woman, an oracle. She is shocked she made such a simple mistake, but Mat’s ta’veren pull played a part. Min is needed here. Tuon is in awe of her—the only time we see such a reaction to someone from her. With her regard for omens and the Pattern she sees Min as blessed to be able to see parts of it, and also a blessing to impart these visions to her. Fortuona also gives Mat huge credit for telling her about Min.

Min was not asked if she wanted to join Tuon’s court, just co-opted, as Mat warned, even though Tuon knows Min is Rand’s love (and also Bryne’s messenger, but she was not told that). A true truthspeaker was not an omen Tuon could ignore. Even better, Selucia will be pleased to not be Sofeia anymore.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #29: Chapter 26—Considerations


By Linda

Egwene POV

Until the advent of the Sharans, Egwene had thought the Seanchan one of the worse groups around. Like the Whitecloaks, she will ally against those she is against because of something that is actually far worse.

The Amyrlin is not willingly meeting with Tuon; she is going because Tuon demanded it.

"I needed to meet you," Fortuona said. "You are my opposite.”

A Memory of Light, Considerations

Egwene had expected that Rand’s treaty with the Seanchan would be enough. She assumed Tuon was childish because of her small size, but revised her opinion so far during the meeting that she called Tuon “woman”. Then she stopped Tuon making a speech at her—even though it was in her own voice. Egwene was deaf to the honour of the latter.

The two women quickly get to the crux of their enmity: damane. Egwene argues that her behaviour is proof that the Seanchan attitude to channellers is a fallacy. (While ever the Aes Sedai do not go out into the community and improve lives with their knowledge and ability, they are vulnerable to being forced to do so. This is why the Wise Ones said that those who can channel have an obligation to their people and make such women become Wise Ones.) Tuon lies about how well damane are treated, but Egwene has first-hand knowledge to the contrary (and post-traumatic stress disorder from it). Egwene did go out into the community to help Rand and this is what happened. Had she led a life of shelter, and ultimately privilege, in the Tower, she could never have countered Tuon’s arguments so well—or done many other things.

Tuon thinks she loses face speaking to an escaped damane—shock horror!—but to the Aes Sedai and the reader she lost face by lying. Especially since Egwene had just finished saying that her behaviour shows that Tuon is a liar about channellers with the spark.

Egwene assumes that Mat is playing a part to some end or has been trapped by the Seanchan—she, in turn, is shocked to discover he is with the Seanchan willingly. The incongruity of the pairing (the Queen of Spades (Tuon) with the Jack of Diamonds (Mat), so to speak) makes her laugh. More incongruity follows when Tuon says they were fated to marry and then that belief in ta’veren is mere superstition. Obviously no damane has the rare ability to see ta’veren, or, as Jordan indicates, channelling talents are influenced by the culture and society:

”Certain groups are better at some abilities but it's a matter of need. The Atha'an Miere are dependent on the sea, the wind and water, and it would be natural for them to develop high skills to deal with control of weather and winds. For the Aiel, Dreaming is one of the ways to find new water; using need is how they find water. When the population in a hold is too great, and they have to find a new hold, the Dreamwalker uses need to find it. So yes, there are more Dreamwalkers there. “

2006 book signing

Mat’s sour joke:

"I suppose I should be grateful the Pattern didn't haul me by my boots over to Shayol Ghul.”

A Memory of Light, Considerations

is foreshadowing that he will be heading that way.

Egwene argues minutely over what the Seanchan borders currently are, and succeeds in getting Tuon to admit that the Seanchan haven’t conquered the Sea Folk. The Empress very much wants legitimacy for her rule in the westlands because she claims her right to rule as deriving from being a descendent of Hawkwing rather than an invader.

Tuon insists on the right to recruit for damane in areas she doesn’t hold. In turn, Egwene insists on some equality—or balance—in the rules: especially in damane having the right to be released if they wish, especially women about to be collared. The Seanchan see damane as a resource to be used. Further, Tuon thinks it is better to collar Darkfriend channellers or Sharans than execute them. The Empress effectively sees such damane as bound by the a’dam against committing further crimes (whether or not she knows about binders being used in the Age of Legends), whereas Egwene sees those allied to the Shadow as having betrayed the Creator and no longer deserving of life. They may receive the Creator’s grace in another life—as Egwene thinks about Sheriam when she is executed.

Perhaps the Pattern would be kinder to her next time she was allowed a thread in its great tapestry. But perhaps not.

The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands

When Tuon denies that sul’dam can learn to channel, Egwene challenges her to be tested. Tuon backs off and says maybe they can learn, but this is not the same as actually channelling. Of course, those with spark may not have actually channelled when they are found during their testing, but they are collared regardless and never given the benefit of the doubt. Neither woman explores this important issue, because they are preoccupied with escalating their challenges to each other until they have to be separated by Mat.

The Raven Prince is all too accurate when he says to his wife:

“we really bloody need Egwene for the next couple of weeks or so. “

A Memory of Light, Considerations

That’s about all the time Egwene had left to live.

An agreement is reached: the Seanchan will fight, but their army is not subject to Egwene. However, in the near future all the armies are going to be subject to a—the—Seanchan general: Mat. Then the two really will be as one for the Last Battle, as the Aelfinn advised Rand:

“The north and east must be as one. The west and south must be as one. The two must be as one.”

Knife of Dreams, News For the Dragon



Elayne POV

Elayne worked herself to exhaustion fighting Shadowspawn. Symbolically, while she was incapacitated, the sunny sky that has followed her since Rand’s epiphany clouded over. Or maybe it was due to the approaching Shadowspawn army that will threaten her.

Just as her army’s trap appears to be working, the second Trolloc army arrives early and without warning. All Bashere’s suggestions to counter this are futile, and Tam accuses him of being a Darkfriend. Elayne notices he isn’t behaving properly. When Bashere is arrested, Elayne is too focussed on salvaging the situation to react.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #28: Chapter 25—Quick Fragments


By Linda

Siuan POV

Siuan boldly tests the Amyrlin (despite being a VERY junior Aes Sedai) but then realises that even more intimate memories could have been passed on to the Shadow. Myrelle, who, incidentally, now has new Warders (plural) from the Black Tower, informed the Aes Sedai about the Turning and how that could be seen in the person’s eyes. However, Siuan is not sure what form this difference takes and how obvious it is really is:

If we can't tell, Siuan thought, then we're already doomed. She would have to trust the Amyrlin as she had so many times before.

A Memory of Light, Quick Fragments

She can’t bring herself to think about it in a plain fashion, which may be adding to the problem. There has been too much pretending there is no Black Ajah and no corruption of channellers. Siuan decides she just has to trust the Amyrlin. Ironically, as far as trust goes, she is looking in the wrong direction. Her own Warder has been corrupted under her nose—the guy she trusts above all other men—and a large portion of their army is doomed.

Egwene is not sure if she trusts Rand’s statement that the Seanchan fight the Shadow. Note that the Seanchan’s top general was not Compelled or corrupted through his dreams, only a second-tier general was. Moghedien’s mode of operation is indirect, as against Graendal’s bold, direct methods. It succeeded for longer, too.


Rand’s POV

Rand’s firmness prevents the Dark One from closing the way down to the Pit of Doom upon the party. Dark One tries to intimidate them with sound, instead. It works on Moiraine, not much on the other two.

At the end of the road, there is no fire, only nothingness. No illusions. Not even Shaidar Haran, now. They also find Moridin being the Dark Knight: on one knee, head bowed, sword “held before him, tip resting against the ground”. Most tellingly, he is at the edge of the light, neither fully in one or the other, but his eyes are almost completely covered in saa.

Moridin wants that nothingness, a negative nirvana in which he will be freed from the cycle of rebirth. Nirvana is a Buddhist concept in which the person reaches non-self and Emptiness—has no consciousness. It is the end of rebirth by stilling the fires (apt!) that keep the process of rebirth going. Moksha, on the other hand, is a Hindu concept in which the cycle of rebirth ends with the soul being united with, and understanding, the whole universe as the Self. To gain his Nirvana, he is prepared to destroy the whole world’s reincarnation cycle and doom them to rebirth into a dark universe. He will weaken Rand, if he can, to help the Dark One win in exchange for the promised oblivion, even though he knows that Dark One is a liar.

The woman that Rand senses is in trouble is Elayne, who has channelled to exhaustion.


Lan POV

Lan realises he is a target of the Shadowspawn army. The only thing surprising about this is that Lan took so long to consider that they would target him.

When he goes up a hill to view the battlefield for a change, he is just in time to see that too many reserves were sent to fill a gap in their lines. He will check the mistake, which leads to the unmasking of Agelmar’s Compelled mind—but not soon enough.


Perrin POV

The chapter title refers to the “quick fragments of an enormous battle” that Perrin sees; plus the quick fragments of a few POVs. No one can see it all. Of interest is that Perrin sees snake-like people in the dream fighting—these are Aelfinn, I expect. Perrin is the only one of the three ta’veren who has never seen them before.

When Perrin sees wolves waiting near Shayol Ghul, he remarks that they don’t say what they’re waiting for. The Last Hunt; they have told Perrin this before.

From Min’s viewing, Perrin knows that Rand will need him at some point, but can’t wait here for that like the wolves are. There is too much for him to do.

Perrin uses Mah’alienir (which does miss sometimes, for all that it's named after Thor’s hammer) to smash Slayer’s arrow from the air, and is led into a troop of red-veiled Aiel. He shows mercy to the two Aiel channellers and doesn’t kill them in Tel’aran’rhiod in case they can't be reborn, a mercy they didn’t show to the wolves. This is before he learns that they were Turned. By Aiel terms, this earns him great ji. He outdoes Gaul, who killed one who could channel. Lanfear says that people don’t die forever if killed in Tel’aran’rhiod, but Perrin realises she could be lying. Gaul kills them after Perrin determines that he cannot Turn them back to the Light. Slayer escaped back to the waking world, and Perrin sets up a message relay service among the wolves to let him know when Slayer returns. He's efficiently set up the final confrontation with Slayer.

Perrin’s perspective shows that the Pit of Doom is a black hole, a negative singularity—the end of everything.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #27: Chapter 24—To Ignore the Omens


By Linda

Tuon POV

Tuon believes her cumbersome garments are assassin-proof and will let her free quickly if she is attacked. However, she has to promptly recognise an attack to be able to save herself.

Beslan doesn’t understand Mat anymore – he has changed since his visit to Sindhol, and yet not. After some pressure from the Empress, the King of Altara has accepted that he has to remain to rule and not go off to battle.

Tuon consciously followed omens—fate—to marry Mat, and have a child by him. So did Mat also follow prophecy. Tuon’s following of omens—regarding them as an indication of event in the Pattern—is no more foolish than going to another world to ask aliens to tell your future and following that. Neither would have married the other if they had not felt pressured by divination to do so.

Divination by omens is augury in its widest sense. It follows the ancient principle of “as above, so below” or that microcosm reflects macrocosm. For more on this, see the Workings out of Fate and Omens articles. We only see passive divination such as dreams, sooth-saying or omens in the series; there is no cleromancy, sortilege or star-gazing.

The chapter title refers to the validity of omens alongside the other types of divination in the series, and also to what the consequences would have been if Tuon had not married Mat—if she ignored the omens. She also followed the omens regarding Rand, which were the strongest possible, and now perhaps Min:

Perhaps the omens would show Fortuona someone else fitting as a Truthspeaker.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens

The Empress is on the lookout now for a new one. “Seek and you shall find.” After all, a diviner very much participates in their divination process. As does the querent. The *Finns chose how to answer Mat’s questions from what they saw, and he “chose” what questions to ask. Even being impulsive and changing your mind about what to ask is a choice.

The Seanchan very much follow social Darwinism—the fittest survive or rise to the top in society—as does the Shadow. It is something important that they have in common. For the Seanchan, it is a way of accepting a coup rather than being outraged at a violation of proper order. The sudden replacement of one ruler for another stronger, bolder or luckier one is all for the good of the empire and not a usurpation. Yet Tuon is a parallel of an order goddess and brings order to the world.

In contrast, Mat is an outsider and not easily confined in an elaborate uniform or social structure. This is symbolised by the way he “kept snagging [his uniform] on things” in this chapter. Tuon appreciates how his dis-orderliness keeps her rivals off balance, although it does the same to her, too, at times. The fact that he isn’t a rival to her makes her want to protect him. In many ways, Mat challenges Fortuona’s beliefs and values most of all.

Fortuona is undecided how to fit Mat into her military command structure, at least in part because she is unsure of his full capabilities. Galgan is even more unsure, and is waiting to see if Mat undoes himself. Of course, the risk is that Mat outdoes Galgan. The outsider has Galgan unsettled. Betting on Mat because he impressed Karede, Fortuona gives Mat a new name—one with much symbolism—and pronounces him second to Galgan in command of her armies. Galgan must now include him in all decisions.

Tuon is aware that doing battle against the Shadow leaves her exposed in Altara—but to what? The Shadow is the battle that everyone is fighting. All selfish land-grabbing has been postponed to well beyond the Last Battle. With some effort, Mat pushes Tuon to agree to move to save Egwene’s army. Tuon is tempted to capture all the Aes Sedai so she would be invincible in Seanchan. But the Last Battle must be fought. The Empress considers breaking the treaty she signed even though she is a law and order figure. She is weighing everything here until Mat pushes her to keep her word. She thinks Mat is chaos; but she would have aided it, not he. Finally she decides to contribute to the Last Battle. The Seanchan Essanik prophecies gave the Empress a nice mention and it would have been quite a paradox if she ignored that:

The prophecies clearly showed that the Empress would defeat those who served the Shadow, and then she would send the Dragon Reborn in to duel with Lighteater.

The Gathering Storm, A Halo of Blackness

On Seanchan terms, that would be quite an omen to ignore. Galgan thinks Tuon has made a big mistake, but she is betting on Mat and the omens she couldn’t ignore that she hasn’t.


Lan POV

Even Lan is affected by the foreboding, menacing black clouds. In part this is because he doesn’t think they have delayed the Trollocs well enough and won’t be reinforced in time.

Lan disregards Agelmar’s complaints of troubled dreams. Yet they must be unusual if such an experienced soldier and general is concerned by them. Perhaps his own have been protected for so long that he takes this for granted. Agelmar’s concerns are a sign that Graendal’s attacks on the generals’ dreams are starting to bite.

Despite what Lan says about Nynaeve being at Shayol Ghul some time earlier, the eclipse happens in this chapter and it occurred shortly before the party entered Shayol Ghul. Lan is referring to Rand taking his party near Thakan’dar to testing the artham dagger prior to entering the Shadow’.


Elayne POV

The eclipse occurs as Elayne’s exhausted troops are in position. The Queen makes a fine rallying speech convincing her troops that they must fight to save the Land so the Light will return. Resistance is not enough; they must destroy the Shadow. As Rand gives his blood for salvation, so the Land also gives the blood of the people for salvation.

Elayne presses Birgitte into obedience. She is very much in Queen mode, and not an Aes Sedai needing protection or counsel. For the good of all, she has to make a contribution to the battle with her channelling. Birgitte is hurt at first, but concedes that Elayne has a point.

The Andoran queen doesn’t mention the sun shining again in this scene, but eclipses last about seven minutes at the longest, and they can’t be total everywhere. This eclipse is total from Shayol Ghul to Cairhien. It doesn’t end until after Elayne’s speech.

Elayne finally sees what Birgitte saw in Towers of Midnight—that anyone can use the cannon for large-scale devastation with a modest amount of training—and it frightens her. Ironically, this is the effect that the One Power has on non-channellers. It’s a reminder of how right Rand was to make the peace treaty between all parties.


Ituralde POV

Even prior to the battle, Windfinders are using the Bowl of Winds that they earned to counteract the Dark One’s storms. The Sea Folk are interested in technology, such as the steamwagons. The Sea Folk see their potential as land transport of heavy goods in bulk along regular, perhaps ultimately railed, routes, performing a similar role to rakers and cargo ships in shipping lanes. In contrast, Ituralde thinks they are not as good as a team of horses.

Unlike the other armies, who are under threat, Ituralde feels adequately prepared. Nevertheless, he doesn’t expect to win, because he is outnumbered. Like Mat, he can assess when an army is about to break before it is obvious. Ituralde has post-traumatic stress disorder and has flashbacks as he watches the Trollocs advance. Alsalam calms him enough to refocus. The Domani general knows he has to win here and keep the Shadowspawn out of Thakan’dar. All other fights are lesser; this one is to protect Rand.

Every other fight—every battle man had fought, and was fighting—would be meaningless if Ituralde lost here.

A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens

Ituralde is a bit of a trickster, like Mat and unlike the other generals, and he will use all the tricks he can think up to buy Rand time. He is the right one of the generals for this job. He is also the strongest in himself of the generals, as it happens, and resisted and survived Graendal’s Compulsion—no mean feat, especially as he feels a wreck compared to how he was before Maradon.

Aes Sedai recognise eclipses as short-lived natural phenomena, but everyone else is ignorant of them, even nobles. In keeping with the chapter title, this eclipse is an omen. As discussed in the previous chapter, it symbolises the potential end of world and the fight of light and darkness, but also the conjunction of saidin and saidar fighting together for good or ill. It also symbolises Rand as the unconquered sun hidden from the Dark One by the artham dagger.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #26: Chapter 23—At the Edge of Time


By Linda

Gawyn POV

Gawyn doesn’t recognise Demandred’s original name. Who and what the Forsaken were before their fall has been completely dwarfed by what they became. Their demonization was well-earned—and they gloried in the fame and power it gave them.

Egwene’s Warder relies on the bloodknife rings to keep himself from being seen. He knows this may kill him—or that is how he interpreted what Egeanin said. The rings endow power similar to that of Myrddraal—to be not easily seen, especially in shadows, and to have increased speed. However, they don't give the ability to move from one shadow to another as Myrddraal can. Gawyn realises their power makes him overconfident, but does nothing to correct this.

He rationalises that he is only using the ter’angreal to protect Egwene and therefore it is justified. What he ignores, or doesn’t understand, is that when, not if, this kills him, she will suffer horribly. Egeanin’s actions show that Gawyn’s risk was probably unnecessary to save Egwene.


Egwene POV

Sharans speak in an emotionally flat way. This may be the result of being trapped by the Pattern, and their lack of choice, or, more properly, that they allowed—felt their duty was—to be trapped by it. The Sharan system of demotion or lower status is forever, because tattoos can’t be removed. Hence people are trapped in their social position.

Egwene acknowledges that Demandred is worse than one of the Seanchan. Until now it is as though the Seanchan were the worst thing she had met—and she has encountered Shadowspawn, a couple of Forsaken—if she but knew it—and Black sisters:

The Seanchan captured and used Aes Sedai, but they didn't slaughter the common people with such recklessness.

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

She needs to escape if only to tell the Tower that Demandred has a large nation behind him. She is puzzled that Demandred doesn’t know where Rand is. He appears to be so busy demanding (that word) Rand come and challenge him that he didn’t sense where he is. And by the end of the chapter it’s too late: Demandred has missed his chance at a duel and Rand has gone to challenge the Forsaken’s boss. The Wyld’s further, increasingly strident, challenges are futile.

To Egwene’s horror, she realises that she has no power at the moment because she can’t use it without being discovered. This is comparable to Siuan’s situation and, like Siuan, Egwene won’t let it break her.

The Sharan channeller is not impressed with Demandred:

She walked around Egwene, looking curious. "You watched the Wyld's little show all the way through, did you? Brave. Or stupid."

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

The woman is quite strong, since she was able to shield Egwene and use two weaves of Air at the same time and also make a light without difficulty. The average Aes Sedai has trouble splitting her weaves more than two ways.

Sharan channellers are not particularly peaceable, judging by what she says:

” Few of the Ayyad would reach for a dagger so quickly, rather than for the Source. You have been trained well."

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

Egwene lets herself panic by comparing her situation with that of when she was a damane. Cue a Seanchan to the rescue rather than Egwene’s knight out of King Arthur’s tales—much to her surprise. Egwene always thinks the worst of the Seanchan, and Egeanin’s role is to change this perception. Egeanin’s skill and bravery rival Egwene’s and cast Gawyn into the shade.

The omens Egeanin speaks of would be Demandred and the Sharan invasion. This is her only reminder of what she braved to go back into the camp to find and save Egwene. Gawyn assumes Egwene found someone rather than was rescued by her. He did not recognise Egwene’s alarm through the bond at all, which may be an effect of the ter’angreal, but could just be that he is a very self-centred, emotionally obtuse person.


Aviendha POV

Shadowforgers are like Trolls in their size, strength, and ferocity, and the way they turn to stone and dirt when killed. Killing them all will stop construction of the Myrddraal’s swords.

The eclipse occurs. Those who witness it think it literally is the end of the world. Certainly, it symbolises the potential end of world and the fight of light and darkness, but also the conjunction of saidin and saidar fighting together for good or ill. It has potent alchemical symbolism, as we shall see later in the book.

Aviendha realises the disadvantages of leadership—responsibility and problem-solving. I love the way she and Rand salute each other.

The passage where Aviendha

thrust her hands forward, letting loose a raw weave, only half-formed. This was almost too much power for her to shape.

A Memory of Light, At the Edge of Time

does not make sense, because Aviendha is a particularly skilful weaver. Caire was able to craft intricate weaves in the Bowl of Winds with her powerful circle (that included angreal). Aviendha’s is a larger circle, though far from full. Perhaps it was that Aviendha’s uses saidin as well, which she is not experienced with.

Sarene thinks that there is a difference between Dreadlords and Black Ajah. Maria of Team Jordan verified that there is not, really. It may be that Sarene sees a difference in Black sisters if they are openly fighting in battle.

Graendal uses the True Power to Travel away and leave her minions to bite the dust.


Rand POV

The Eclipse shows the danger to Rand, who is Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun (see Rand essay), as he meets the Dark One. The conjunction is wearing off as Rand goes up the path to enter Shayol Ghul.

Thom stays outside to guard the entrance. His smile is infectious and keeps their spirits up—as he has done in inns throughout the lands.

Moiraine enters Shayol Ghul armoured in her shawl, Nynaeve in her best yellow gown. Rand thinks that Nynaeve looks older without her braid, which puzzles him because it is the traditional sign of womanhood in the Two Rivers. Perhaps Nynaeve looks more timeless when not bound by one culture. Or perhaps Rand has also changed, so to him, the braid doesn’t mean what it once did. Maybe Rand is reacting to Nynaeve’s weight of responsibility and not her outward appearance. Another possibility is that what Rand sees is genuine, and the three oaths may be starting to take effect. For all his memories, Rand is still making clueless remarks about women’s clothing. Nynaeve could not have afforded such an expensive gown in the Two Rivers. No Two Rivers woman could.

Rand wears an outer layer of royalty, but underneath his shirt is in the Two Rivers style, a symbol that he and the series have come full circle. Then and now. The Two Rivers is closest to Rand’s heart, and being raised so well there has been his saving grace. As he enters his wound opens and he drips blood on rocks of Shayol Ghul, fulfilling prophecy.

Rand asks the women politely to make a circle, unlike Aviendha in this chapter commanding the formation of hers. The women are concerned that Rand keeps the lead of their circle. He intends to be seized by Moridin, as portended by the eclipse.

Rand is no longer worried about survival; he is worried about doing it right. This is probably the optimal frame of mind to approach the contest. He is reassured by the Creator that it is the right time, which confirms that the Creator spoke at the end of The Eye of the World, where Rand fought and defeated Ishamael. As the next chapter shows, the Dark One can’t sense Rand on the threshold of Shayol Ghul because of the Artham blunt dagger, so it wasn’t he who spoke.


Friday, January 27, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #25: Chapter 22—The Wyld


By Linda

Egwene POV

The higher the status of the Sharans, the fewer tattoos they have (see Costume article). Their male channellers are feral, and take pride in how dangerous they are. They have been dehumanised in their upbringing, and glory in that, because the fear they now arouse in others is a type of power. As former breeding stock, they have never had power. The male channellers wear rampant, aggressive vine tattoos from an early age, while the female channellers have a tree tattoo on their back with its branches bearing leaves onto their face. The Sharans appear to be starving their former rulers. Or have they withered away under the contempt of their ex-subjects at how they are puppets bound to the Pattern?

Egwene wonders why the Sharans have invaded now. We will find out that they are the antagonists of the mainland armies, fighting on the side of the Shadow in the hope of liberation from the Pattern that has held them in thrall until this moment. As unforseen and deadly invaders, they represent a combination of the Mongol Horde invading the West and also the Carthaginians invading the Ancient Roman Empire with Demandred as the Great Khan (a mirror and rival to Rand, the Car’a’carn) and the great general Hannibal, respectively.

Demandred uses the True Power to Travel to the site. His superior abilities are shown in how he finds Leane hidden among the tents and carries her to him with weaves. Yet he overlooks Egwene, a stronger channeller, on the perimeter. Leane is brave and controlled. Demandred uses her as a messenger to Rand to deliver his challenge and threat:

”If he does not, I will slaughter and destroy. I will seize his people. I will enslave his children, I will take his women for my own. One by one, I will break, destroy, or dominate everything he has loved."

A Memory of Light, The Wyld

Demandred’s excuse that he killed the newly captured slaves because the Sharans had no time for them and they would suffer without training, and presumably, being provided for properly, has a parallel in the Mongols enslaving who they wanted in the areas they invaded and killing the rest. Demandred and Rand both share parallels with Genghis Khan: Rand in a positive way with his union of the war-like and feuding Aiel clans (see Rand essay) whom he took back to the Westlands, and Demandred in a very negative way with his invasion of the Westlands committing atrocities. Demandred emphasised this very similarity to both Leane and Gawyn (A Memory of Light, The Wyld and The Last Battle).

Demandred also misused religion to demoralise and terrorise, as Genghis Khan did at Bukhara:

“I am the flail of god. Had you not created great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”
.
The Forsaken was an agent of Shaitan claiming to be an equivalent of the Dragon, the Creator’s champion who is as much a scourge as a saviour, and whom he threatened.

Demandred’s claim that he fulfilled Sharan prophecy is true:

"Just as the people here awaited him with prophecy, just as they showered him with glory, the people of my land awaited me. I have fulfilled their prophecies. He is false, and I am true."

A Memory of Light, The Wyld

although he didn’t believe it. His mistake is in thinking that the promised one of the Sharan prophecy was the Dragon—it wasn’t. Their prophecy was separate to the Karaethon Cycle and the antithesis of it. Both men are prophesied ones.

Demandred’s title of “He Who Is Owned Only By the Land” is a claim that is also true, and in a way that Demandred did not intend. Rand is one with the Land and the Land one with him. Demandred is owned by his hatred of, and obsession with, Rand. Demandred sees himself as an equal and rival to Rand, and wants to steal everything that Rand has. He never imagined that Rand would ignore him, and not consider him at all. It is the ultimate insult to the Forsaken.


Perrin POV

Perrin wonders why Lanfear gave him knowledge of the Dreamspike. It was to buy his trust and regard; to keep Rand safe for her to kill, and thereby earn the Dark One’s obligation; and to keep Perrin busy in the Dream until she needed him.

Perrin must call the Last Hunt for the wolves; they can’t hunt the Darkhounds on their own, just as the Heroes of the Horn need the Dragon’s banner at the least to fight. The Wolf King follows up on the wolves’ advice that Graendal is in the Dream. She was in Ituralde’s tent reading reports, which would give her intelligence of the Light’s military plans, and then went to Bashere’s dream.

In her ugly new body, Graendal is all the more determined to be the Naeblis. She now looks like Grendel the man-eating monster. It is as though her beautiful parallels, the ancient Greek Aphrodite and Circe, have been robbed of their beauty, but are still capable of destroying men. Graendal was in Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, which allowed her to channel at her full strength. She thinks that actual pitched battles against the Light are far less useful than destroying the generals of the Light’s armies, but as we see, a general can be replaced. Perrin is more than a match for Graendal in Tel’aran’rhiod, although he balked at killing her. By Aiel thinking, the greater honour would be taking her captive, as Aviendha did.

Lanfear criticises Perrin for not killing Graendal, but she has an obvious self-interest there, in reducing her competition. While she would not be allowed to kill a colleague at this time, Perrin could. She tells him that not killing women is a weakness. Ironically, he will kill one—and only one—woman, and it is her.

Lanfear tries to manipulate Perrin, but he rejects her charms. She plies him with knowledge instead; this time about Slayer being able to physically enter and leave Tel’aran’rhiod at will. Just knowing that it can be done inspires him to ask the right questions, which leads to him killing Slayer and Lanfear and protecting Rand.

Moridin is too occupied to keep a watch on Lanfear. Nevertheless, Lanfear declines to help Perrin with an action because she will be further punished if found out. She wants Perrin to become powerful in his own right, and tempts him with power and the good he could do with it. He rejects her temptations, while acknowledging her beauty. Again she dispenses knowledge as a lure and tells him whose dream Graendal just invaded: Bashere’s. Did she recognise it and if so was it because she has looked herself?

What is Moridin up to? Moghedien implied that he no longer cared to inflict for cruelty. Is this due to ennui or just being too busy? Rand hasn’t gone to Shayol Ghul yet, but perhaps Moridin has, or he is giving final orders prior to doing so. While he is despairing of his existence, and only wishes to be free of the cycle of rebirth, he assumes it will only happen with the Dark One’s victory, so he can’t sit around in a depressed state, but must continue prosecuting the Shadow’s plans.