Friday, August 17, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #47: Chapter 41—A Smile


By Linda

Pevara POV

Pevara and Androl want to protect Mat’s dragons, but Logain is determined to find the sa’angreal Sakharnen so that he becomes unassailable to anything except a very strong ring.

The group heard the Horn of Valere being sounded. Pevara thinks the sound was significant, so maybe she realises what it means, but she’s not informing the others, just insisting that they fight and not look for the sa’angreal. Androl’s group will not technically disobey Logain’s orders, although some in the group think they should obey Logain in spirit. They are going to follow a preceding order that they think should indeed have precedence—to neutralise Taim’s lackeys. All are too tired to open a gateway, but Pevara thinks that they can just march to the area where the dragons are firing, because surely Taim’s Asha’man are there attacking them.

Moghedien POV

Moghedien thinks Demandred a fool for focussing on his grudges. (Yet it is said of Moghedien that she could remember a slight until the Wheel stopped turning. Of course, at this stage of the books, the world is at risk of exactly that happening). As she quickly disguises herself as Demandred, Moghedien hints that she has impersonated other Forsaken before: for example, she may have ordered Isam to kill Rand in Winter’s Heart.

The Dark One is allowing Moghedien access to the True Power, encouraging her that she may not be punished for her failures among the Seanchan. There are four Forsaken alive, and only two of them are actually fighting in battle right now. Moghedien doesn’t care that she’s effectively the dregs of the Forsaken in the Dark One’s eyes. She’s always been wholly pragmatic.

The Forsaken doesn’t understand how Min saw through her servant disguise. (Min realised that she must be a channeller since she had a large number of images in her aura.) Ironically, while Moghedien muses on this, Mintel sees through her Demandred disguise and denounces her. Moghedien orders Trollocs be sent to attack a large group of civilians, which ultimately results in Logain fighting off the Trollocs rather hunting for Sakharnen, and thus his redemption.

Just as Moghedien hopes that Taim’s Asha’man have destroyed the dragons, they fire upon her. It’s not her lucky scene. She felt exposed moving openly and it did result in her capture. Punished not by the Dark One but by the Light.

Talmanes POV

For once the Whitecloaks love a technology.

No one knows that the dragons are hidden away in an underground cavern. It’s a clever move, because they can’t be tracked by their noise or smoke, and the dragoners don’t have to worry about moving them around. However, they do depend on Aludra spying out the position of opposing forces and calling coordinates.

The chapter title refers to Talmanes smiling for once, and to Pevara’s smile on hearing the dragons fire and on working out how to get around Logain’s orders and defend them.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #46: Chapter 40—Wolfbrother


By Linda

Aviendha POV
Aviendha gives us an update on how the Windfinders are faring with the Bowl of Winds on a ledge above the entrance to Shayol Ghul. They are utterly exhausted, with only one third of their numbers operational to combat the Dark One’s storm.

Wolves are fighting Darkhounds even though they can’t kill them. Everyone is buying time until Rand wins his battle. But Mat correctly thinks that his forces also need to win their own battles conclusively, as well as Rand his, because the Land is one with the Dragon.

Aviendha is using the turtle angreal to fight off Graendal’s ring of channellers. The Aiel has also masked her ability to channel—but the wolves sensed it anyway, so the weave works on channellers, but not wolves. Masking may not work on Shadowspawn that can distinguish channellers (eg Myrddraal and gholam) either.

Elayne POV

The Andoran queen puts herself at risk to inspire her troops to fight, since they were on the edge of breaking. I love how Birgitte is sarcastic about her recklessness. She had been wanting to fight among the other Heroes, but Elayne asked for her to stay, and she is needed to moderate Elayne’s enthusiasm, just as she does Gaidal Cain’s when they are reborn.

Mat POV

The Light’s forces are inadequate and exhausted, but that makes their efforts all the more impressive and heroic. At last, the cards are turning Mat’s way. The Shadow has a far greater army, but little to no leadership. Moreover, the Seanchan finally arrive.

Grady POV

Grandy follows his orders to open gateway to Hinderstap again, despite being furious at villagers being futilely sent to fight Shadowspawn. Humble folk in all the armies have suffered the same fate and they don’t have the advantage of the villagers. (They don’t have their disadvantage, either). It was a brilliant move making the most of Hinderstap’s characteristics and have them make a valuable contribution to the Last Battle. The hundred members of Mat’s Band that joined the village, knowing they could be trapped forever in a hideous recursion, were also noble. We never find out if the re-sealing of the Dark One lifts Hinderstap’s terrible fate.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #45: Chapter 39—Those Who Fight


By Linda

Rand POV

Rand makes the huge declaration that the fight is not all about him. In fact, Rand says it was never about him—possibly an exaggeration, but he has been copping the Dark One’s lies for some time, so why not? The Dark One responds like a schoolyard bully, saying “I can still hurt people”.

Rand acknowledges those who have suffered from the Shadow but continue to fight. The woman torn and beaten down, cast from her throne and made a puppet is Morgase (who is helping with the wounded) or Siuan. The storytelling man is Thom and the woman who hunted before others could is Moiraine. Perrin is the man who lost his family but protected others, and Nynaeve the woman who thinks she can Heal anything. The hero who insists he is not may well be Loial (since Rand does not describe this figure as a man), but could also be Mat, while the woman who would not bend is Egwene.

The Dragon is in the place of nothingness and the Dark One is lord of it. Lord of nothing. The Dark One calls Lan the King of Nothing, when he is every inch a king, which is why the entire Borderlands follows him. Rand sees that the Dark One is also wrong about Lan being dead, and his declaration of this is heard by everyone on the battlefield. With so many dying, I guess even the Dark One loses track of individual souls. Demandred had remarked before that the Dark One is not omniscient.

Rand sees everyone fighting the Shadow over the Ages. The Dark One can’t win so long as people fight him and don’t despair. It’s why the Shadow tried so hard to break Rand. Turning Rand to the Shadow would not have resulted in a win:

Robert Jordan: Yes, the Champion of the Light has gone over in the past. This is a game you have to win every time. Or rather, that you can only lose once—you can stay in if you get a draw. Think of a tournament with single elimination. If you lose once, that's it. In the past, when the Champion of the Light has gone over to the Shadow, the result has been a draw.

Robert Jordan interview, January 2003

We have arrived at the climax of the Last Battle—and it is a triple one of the sounding of the Horn of Valere, Rand announcing that Lan is not only alive but still fighting, and Rand realising that the Dark One has no hold on him or on anyone that doesn’t give up.

Had the Dragon despaired at Shayol Ghul during an eclipse, it would be a win for the Ages. The eclipse is still occurring at the Pit of Doom, even though it has long finished elsewhere. Rand is a solar character, being Lord of the Morning, He Who Comes With the Dawn and Sol Invictus, and is currently feeling eclipsed at Shayol Ghul by the darkness there. An eclipse being an conjunction of the sun and the moon, it can also symbolise male (sun) and female (moon) uniting for the Great Work, the Magnum Opus of defeating the Shadow—which is what actually happens, but not yet. With his realisation in a vulnerable time of darkness (the eclipse) that despairing is losing, the risk of defeat has decreased, but is not over.

Elayne POV

Now that Elayne is literally in the clutches of Darkfriends, including Hanlon, she realises her stupidity in risking herself and the babies. Birgitte was not only right all along, she also rescues foolish Elayne.

Mat POV

Mat realises that he can win. All his forces are united; he just needs a little more luck as he pushes everyone to take advantage. The Raven Prince wonders how the Horn could have been sounded and realises this means that he isn’t tied to it any longer. He wrongly assumes the link was broken when he was hanged in Rhuidean. Wondering who did blow it, he stresses out that the Shadow may have control of it.

Artur Hawkwing thought the Horn should have been blown sooner, and unjustly criticises Mat for the apparent delay. Everyone’s a critic. Siuan’s information in The Great Hunt, Leavetakings, that the Horn would work for either side is erroneous according to Hawkwing:

"Gambler," Hawkwing replied. "Do take better care of what has been allotted you. Almost, I worried we would not be summoned for this fight." Mat let out a relaxing breath.
"Bloody ashes, Hawkwing! You needn't have drawn it out like that, you bloody goat-kisser. So you fight for us?"
"Of course we fight for the Light," Hawkwing said. "We would never fight for the Shadow."
"But I was told—" Mat began.
"You were told wrong," Hawkwing said.

A Memory of Light, Those Who Fight

But see this early statement of Jordan’s:

Pam Basham Question: Hawkwing says they follow the banner and the Dragon. Moiraine says the Heroes will follow whoever winds the Horn. Was Moiraine wrong?
Robert Jordan: *Arch look* Moiraine doesn't know everything. She was speaking the truth as she knows it. However, she is correct in that whoever sounds the Horn "controls the Heroes."
Pam Basham Question: Then what happens if the Dragon and the banner are on opposite sides of the conflict from whoever sounds the Horn?
Robert Jordan: Then we get a [rift] in the Pattern.

Robert Jordan booksigning, October 1998

This means that if the Dragon were on the side of the Shadow, then the Heroes called by the Horn would be bound to fight for the Shadow via the Dragon. However, it was misinformation:

Terez: I'm guessing you're aware that RJ told a couple of fans that the Heroes had to follow the Horn no matter who blew it (and that, if the Shadow blew the Horn, there would be some kind of 'rift' in the Pattern). What's the story there?

Brandon Sanderson: This is an interesting one for a multitude of reasons. I actually worked under the assumption that whoever blew the Horn would control the Heroes, going so far as to write several sequences in the last book referencing that to heighten tension that if the Horn were indeed captured things would go VERY poorly for the Light.

I was quite surprised, then, when Harriet wrote back to me on the manuscript quite energetically crossing out these lines and explaining that the Heroes could not ever follow the Shadow. I called and asked for confirmation and clarification, pointing out that it seemed otherwise from the text and from fandom interpretation. She explained that this was one of Jim's ruses, that the characters in book were wrong and repeating bad information, and that Jim had been very clear with her that it was not the case. I can only guess that these reports in fandom were cases where people asked Jim a question he could Aes Sedai his way out of, and something got muddled in the communication or the reporting somehow.

Brandon Sanderson, 2013 Interview

Perhaps, as is so typical of Jordan, it’s a bit more complex than stated here. Or he changed his mind over the years.

The Heroes do require at least one form of proof—that being the presence of the Dragon banner. The Heroes also must follow the Dragon. If the Dragon had been turned to the Shadow, but the Heroes can never fight for the Shadow, then perhaps they can’t fight at all in that circumstance.

Yet the banner was not made at the same time as the Horn, so this restriction evolved over time:

Question: Were the Dragon Banner and the Horn of Valere made at the same time?
Robert Jordan: No.
Question: Then why did Hawkwing need Rand to produce the banner at Falme before he could attack?
Robert Jordan: Legends change

Knife of Dreams booksigning

Hawkwing corrects Mat’s opinion that he died in Rhuidean. It was actually by lightning in Caemlyn. Both times Rand saved him, and the Heroes point out to Mat that he should be more grateful to Rand (and by extension, to the channelling that Mat so loathes and fears). Mat never did give a formal farewell to Rand as Perrin did.

Mat is not overjoyed to learn that the Heroes of the Horn are not invincible and can’t win the war on their own. Despite champing at the bit for the Horn to be blown, they are just one part of the battle. Just as Rand is one part. Everybody does their bit.

Olver POV

Noal/Jain Charin is newly promoted to Hero and justifiably happy and proud to be so. Olver is just grateful that someone came back for him. He was the little boy lost for too long. (As well as the little boy blue who blows the horn.)

Friday, June 1, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #44: Chapter 38—The Place That Was Not


By Linda

Rand POV

At the end of his strength fighting the Dark One, Rand thinks of his father telling him to let go of all the guilt and pain at others’ death that he is carrying. Even this isn’t enough, because Rand still mistakenly believes that being a sacrifice for humanity means he should be the only one to suffer, that he should do it by himself. Yet cooperation and sharing are the key to the Light’s victory. This is what Rand’s women friends have criticised him for: pushing them away and trying to do everything himself. And indeed, he hears from Egwene telling him to let her be a hero. Is he truly hearing her soul, or imagining what she would say? Bearing in mind, that he is outside the Pattern.

This is the time that Rand needs all his strength, but he is tying up a large part of it bearing the unbearable. Cadsuane spoke of how Rand confuses strength and hardness, but he also confuses taking responsibility for what he’s done and for what others on his behalf, and taking responsibility from them to make their own choices.

Rand didn’t want to let others sacrifice themselves because he wanted to protect them. However, depriving others of choice, especially moral choice, is quite bad. Choice is one of the fundamental tenets of The Wheel of Time’s theology (that, and the necessity of balance). Derailing choice is the last remaining part of Rand’s wrongness. He really resists giving up on this and feels a failure. Egwene hints to him that his mistake will result in failure:

You have embraced your death. Embrace mine.

Tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered.

Why?

"I've failed."

No. Not yet you haven't.

A Memory of Light, The Place That Was Not

In the end, Rand lets go because he is in too much pain from the deaths and the Dark One. In sheer exhaustion he allows all the dead to be heroes—including Ilyena. Lews Therin was reborn as Rand to do better and fix up Lews Therin’s mistakes.

Unburdening himself gives him the mental space to stand up to the Dark One. Rand was dragging himself down, just as Perrin hamstrung himself.

The Dragon is outside the Pattern to fight the Dark One, and able to see the entirety of the universe. The Dark One is a force—mainly, or perhaps solely, of the True Power, I guess—not a being. Rand now feels steady and entire, much to the Dark One’s surprise, and has the strength to refuse to give in. He acknowledges the fallen and their nobility, though he has not put words to that yet. Rand embraces the Oneness, the void that Tam knew is so important for mental and spiritual health. (In the previous chapters, we saw Demandred keeping himself fresh through his many battles using the Oneness). Even Lanfear told Rand that he would find uses for it that he couldn’t imagine:

"Wear this void of yours all the time, Rand al'Thor, and you'll learn uses for it you never suspected."

The Great Hunt, In the Mirror of Darkness

The Oneness, the positive void, is hugely important to Rand’s victory.

The Dark One insists that he controls everything and is breaking everything so Rand has lost. Rand finally sees his error. Giving up, despairing, means losing to the Dark One.

Mat POV

And this is paralleled among the armies on both sides, who have each just lost a major figurehead. Mat rallies the Light, but the Shadow remains stunned. So, at last things aren’t looking too good for the bad guys.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #43: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 4


By Linda

Mat POV

The scene of Mat sitting on a dead Trolloc to rest and have a drink of water is a reference to Jordan being called “iceman” in Vietnam:

I have, or used to have, a photo of a young man sitting on a log eating C-rations with a pair of chopsticks. There are three dead NVA laid out in a line just beside him. He didn't kill them. He didn't choose to sit there because of the bodies. It was just the most convenient place to sit. The bodies don't bother him. He doesn't care. They're just part of the landscape. The young man is glancing at the camera, and you know in one look that you aren't going to take this guy home to meet your parents. Back in the world, you wouldn't want him in your neighborhood, because he is cold, cold, cold. I strangled that SOB, drove a stake through his heart, and buried him face down under a crossroad outside Saigon before coming home, because I knew that guy wasn't made to survive in a civilian environment.

Robert Jordan on his blog, April 26th 2007

Demandred didn’t fall for trickster Mat’s bait and kept the Sharans in reserve. The Raven Prince feels that his luck ran well when it didn’t matter, but is in short supply when it is desperately needed—like now. When totally beset, he becomes all the more determined, ike any other stubborn Two Rivers person. The Light’s armies are finally fully unified, but all must hold and with a resolved Mat at their head they have their best chance.

Olver POV

This scene is about people not being what they seem. Olver thinks he can manipulate or trick people better than Mat does. Aravine and Faile put on convincing acts for the Darkfriends—and even the genuine Darkfriend adopted a fake style to fool Faile a little longer. It is Olver, ignored, who kills the Black Sister, thereby freeing the others from Aravine’s betrayal.

Leane POV

Leane has learned that strength in the Power isn’t everything. Skill means a great deal. Of course, when both are present, a channeller can be truly impressive, as Leane observes when Egwene weaves twelve separate weaves simultaneously.

The Aes Sedai are stunned by the number and fighting skill of the Sharan channellers. (Again, a reflection of their delusion that they were the only proficient channellers.) There must have been a lot of fighting among channellers in Shara to account for their prowess—a society like the Seanchan feared, and mistakenly imputed to Aes Sedai. Damane also fight well—but at a non-channeller’s direction; they are not independent. Only Egwene, who was damane for a short while, but long enough for a fair bit of training, can match them. Leane is shocked by something momentous like the Sharans, but also by something comparatively less earth-shattering: her discovery that a Red Sitter wants to learn the Domani seduction techniques.

Talmanes POV

As a non-channeller, Talmanes can’t understand how an Asha’man would know of a fully enclosed cavern. He sensed it with Earth.

Talamanes’ humour is very dark and most of the men don’t recognise it.

Faile POV

Faile realises that her mistaken distrust of Harnan and Vanin brought disaster upon her group. However, it may well have happened anyway.

After killing Aravine, Faile gets Olver to take the Horn to Mat while she bravely acts as a decoy.

Logain POV

Logain gives Androl his own dragon pin in acknowledgement of his accomplishment. He doesn’t trust Gabrelle, thinking her concern is fake, and an attempt to manipulate him. His hatred of Aes Sedai kept him going after being gentled and his psychological state was further eroded by the attempted Turnings.

The Aes Sedai is impressed at his courage in going to fight Demandred. However, he has an additional motive: he lusts for the sa’angreal that Demandred has.

Ila POV

Ila and Raen have suffered privations in the last year, but feel Aram’s loss far more. She is dismayed that Raen is looking at a quiver of arrows. Raen realises that the Way of the Leaf won’t save them from the Shadow and if the Dark One remakes the world it will be worse than any suffering they have known. Moreover, they can’t run away from the Shadow if the Dark One wins. The Tinker realises they can only follow the Way if others protect them, as the first Aiel protected the Jenn, whom the Tinkers were once part of—and so the Tinkers come full circle. At first Ila hopes this is a temporary depression, but Raen has some realisation that the Tinkers owe a debt to the fighters, and that the fighters’ actions are not evil.

This insight inspires Ila to reassess the rejection of Aram, who had realised that he could have saved his mother from the Trollocs if he fought them, when the Tinnkers tradition of non-violence ensured her death.

The Way of the Leaf does not have all the answers.

Olver POV

Alone with the Horn, Olver feels abandoned all over again. He had thought himself tough—and so he is, but in this horrific situation is rightly terrified. One does not exclude the other.

Noble Bela didn’t throw Olver in terror as most horses would have when near Trollocs. Olver thinks Bela is dead, but the Companion says she survived and lived in retirement in the Two Rivers. Previously, Harriet had insisted that Bela died, but implied at a booksigning that she became a Hero of the Horn. Bela is Harriet’s favourite character.

Logain POV

Logain thought that he could match Demandred because he assumed his opponent would be tired from all his channelling, but the Forsaken whipped him. One positive outcome of the clash is that he realises Gabrelle’s concern for him is real. (What she dislikes is their unequal, forced bonding and it may be that she Bonds him in turn ultimately.) For himself, Logain is humiliated almost to the point of despair.

Berelain POV

The First will ask gai’shain to help retrieve the wounded form the battlefield, contrary to ji’e’toh. Since they are pledged to non-violence, it would be a major sacrifice of their honour. Annoura sacrifices herself to rescue the wounded Galad, to atone her treatment of Berelain. Burning out can’t be Healed because the channeller’s connection to the Source is destroyed, not merely cut.

Rand POV

Watching over everyone, Rand feels responsible for all the deaths, that he should have been able to save them. The Dark One tries to make Rand despair as he is crushed by grief and responsibility. Rand’s awareness extends to all, even Nyaneve attending to Alanna.

Taim POV

Taim sneers at Demandred obsessively wasting energy calling for Rand, but the newest Forsaken was bested by Egwene. Demandred uses meditation to restore himself to freshness, which explains why Logain did not find him tired. Taim is impressed with Demandred’s presence in spite of himself. Demandred loans Taim Sakharnen, but convinces Taim that the sa’angreal is bonded to Demandred and can’t be used against him. Taim can’t believe Demandred would hand over such an object of the Power to anyone. The Shadow’s general reminds Taim of their orders to use balefire.

Elayne POV

Elayne oscillates between feeling she isn’t doing much for her troops, who don’t even know that she lives, and thinking she could be more useful fighting with the Aes Sedai.

Mellar (aka Hanlon) and his darkfriends have tricked their way close to Elayne. Their plans are to cut Elayne’s babies from her womb and take them to Shayol Ghul for the Dark One to torment Rand. This is not exactly the ultimate version of Birgitte’s warning that horrible things could happen to Elayne and her babies could still be born OK, since they wouldn’t be healthy, at best living for an hour, but it highlights Birgitte’s good sense.

Rand POV

The Dark One’s world-building scenario is the void, nothingness, this time. Rand could accept that for himself, but not for the whole world. Nothingness is what Moridin desires, but Rand thinks Moridin is wrong. Peace does not equal nothing. Nor is nothing “everything” like the Dark One says.

Min POV

Yulan criticises Mat’s generalship strongly, while being careful to not criticise Tuon’s choice of him as her consort. The Truthspeaker is horrified that she is thinking of what she sees and does in Seanchan terms. It’s a sign that she is fitting into their society as well as Mat has. Both will change it, both are being changed by it.

Beslan and Tylee press to go back to the Last Battle, while Galgan is uncertain. Tuon is troubled by Yulan’s scouts’ reports and fears that returning is what feels good rather than what is strategic.

Min makes some excellent deductions from her viewings and flushes out Moghedien. Just as importantly, she adds to the pressure on Tuon to return to the battle.

Egwene POV

Taim uses balefire to undo all the work Egwene’s forces have done in the last few hours. She thinks about what Perrin said and about the necessity for balance in the Pattern and weaves the Flame of Tar Valon, opposite of balefire. The weave is so positive that it eases her pain from Gawyn’s death. Equal to balefire at first, the flame weave is the stronger—plus Egwene was able to be reckless with the amount of power she drew, due to her sa’angreal having no buffer.

The Amyrlin almost senses that a black hole could open in the area soon:

Black lines radiated across the Heights, and her mind's eye saw them opening, the land shattering, and a void appearing here that sucked into it all life.

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

This is the danger of balefire: it destroys the Pattern, leaving Nothing.

After separating herself for Leilwin, she finishes off all the Sharans with the flame of Tar Valon weave, expending her body energy in the process. Witnessing this, Rand is overcome with even more grief and guilt.

Mat POV

Even with the Sharan channellers gone, Mat’s troops are outnumbered by the Trollocs. Symbolically, he raises the Age of Legends Aes Sedai banner, the unbalanced yin-yang symbol. (“Under this sign shall he (Rand) conquer”…) When all seems grim, he gets news that the Seanchan will come back. They will return; just as it was important that Mat return to Sindhol to rescue Moiraine and subsequently return to Tuon (who herself prosecutes the Return). There is a strong theme of “I will return” in the Mat-Tuon story line, a reference to General Macarthur, a parallel of Mat, declaring “I will return” to re-take territory invaded by Japan in World War II. It’s also a reference to Persephone (or Kore, which is one of Tuon’s names) spending time between her mother Demeter above ground and her husband Hades (a parallel of Mat) in the underworld. In this case, it is Mat who splits his time between his wife and his homeland.

Mat would almost rather Tuon stayed safe. She is returning to help him despite misgivings that she would gain more politically by letting the Aes Sedai be damaged by the Shadow. But there is no safety anywhere. It’s obvious that they can’t win the Battle while Demandred is alive, even if he no longer has the sa’angreal.

Loial POV

Loial pretends he will get to write his book, but believes he won’t live to do it. Nevertheless, he intends to witness Lan’s fight. Sadly, this happened to Jordan, who did not live to complete his series.

Tam POV

Rand’s father helps Lan get through the Trolloc barrier by raining fire arrows on them, and has one of the best lines of the book in my opinion:

"Let's give Lord Mandragoran a little something to guide his way!"

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

He is given…Light.

Lan POV

A small thing that had huge consequences was Lan’s offer to check whether there were Healed troops in Mayene, resulting in him intercepting Berelain’s note to Mat with the weave-stopping medallion. The best of the knights seizes the opportunity to duel the Forsaken. But first he must get through the Trollocs, impossible in itself except that Tam helped. Like Tam, Lan is completely within the void. He immediately wounds Demandred.

Rand POV

Rand is witness to everyone dying and desperate. He feels a failure until he is prompted to let go. His father’s words save his sanity, while the man himself enables Lan to save the Last Battle.

Lan POV

One with the Land in the void, Lan is a stand-in for his protégé Rand, while Rand fights a greater duel for the Land.

Demandred demands Lan’s name, but, unlike Gawyn and Galad, Lan refuses to reveal his identity, in violation of chivalric code and protocol, saying he is just a man and one who is there to kill Demandred. This is a way of showing contempt to this evil person. In New Spring, Lan is disgusted when an arrogant Tairen noble (as it turned out, a Darkfriend—probably Weiramon) passes him orders in the Aiel War without introducing himself first. The duel is very Arthurian. Demandred is a parallel of Meleagaunt, who was a treacherous enemy of King Arthur’s court that duelled Sir Lancelot (a parallel of Lan) three times, and was killed by him in their last duel. Rather than fight Lan three times, Demandred duelled three different knights with Arthurian names, falling to Lan last. Three is the most important number in the series.

Amazingly, Lan dodged Demandred’s diversions and did not let them disrupt his attacks at all. Demandred is shocked. Lan reads him like a book. In contrast, Demandred assumes Lan came to win, but he came to kill him, expecting to die also, and fulfilled his aim.

And so ends the longest chapter in this series, with a huge number of POVS. The quick changes of POV in the second half of the Last Battle chapter speed up the action and stop the reader feeling bogged down, but instead, hit with woe upon woe.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #42: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 3


By Linda

Juilin POV

The irony of a Tairen in charge of protecting Aes Sedai is not lost on Juilin. He’s also rather stunned that he, a mere commoner, is now leading his group. Such is this war of attrition that many who expected to follow are now leading.

Pevara POV

Androl’s social awkwardness shows in his tactless complement to Pevara. He also missed that Emarin is gay, whereas Pevara is aware.

The Red sister doesn’t understand the reality of fighting—the need to eat and sleep during longer battles. She has only read about battles, whereas Androl has fought and also learned tactics. Pevara is considerably older than Androl, but he has lived a far more varied life. He likes her courage and reliability, she likes his many and varied skills and experiences. Androl is feeling more responsible for the Turning of friends than she is: he wants to avenge Evin and the others, whereas Pevara doesn’t even think of Tarna much. When Pevara considers how Asha’man would be great Warders, Androl is jealous. Most Aes Sedai are not married to their Warders, whereas the Asha’man’s warder bond was originally conceived as a way of knowing the status of their spouse.

Pevara distances herself from smells as well as heat and cold. It is she who leads their group over to the Sharans. Sharans are disgusted by Trollocs but unanimously hold to playing their part in the Pattern. Were dissenters purged back in Shara, or did they refuse to come with Demandred?

The old man that Androl’s goup encounter is Demandred’s mentor, Mintel, who was very positive toward their role, not seeing it as evil, merely necessary, even crucial, to the Pattern. However, instead of revering the monk warrior, the Sharan nobles sneer at him—or at least at his weapons.

Galad POV

Gawyn confesses his mistakes to Galad, and then drops the bombshell that Rand is Galad’s half-brother. The Land soaks up the blood of the dying fighters, including that of Gawyn. The grieving Galad determines to fight Demandred.

The Children with Galad see extreme channelling in action and are no longer afraid. Although if these Whitecloaks were put off by it, they would be useless for this engagement. They have superstitions though—that they must separate the head from the body of Sharan channellers that they kill, or otherwise they can regenerate. This is legend creation in action. Whitecloaks realise the fighting they are (finally?) doing is what should have been doing since their beginning. Just like the Green Ajah, they should have been fighting Shadowspawn in the Blight, not trying to influence world politics. Leading by example.

EgwenePOV

The broken Warder bond is driving Egwene mad with pain. In the face of rude reality, she realises that she was naïve and over-confident about the bond; it is incapacitating when broken.

Tam POV

Out of arrows, Tam keeps the Two Rivers forces operational with hand weapons. He has a flashback to the Blood Snow in the Aiel War, when Rand was born. Full circle. He humbly feels the sword Rand gave him is too good for him, when the reverse is the case.

Fortuona POV

The Empress shares her consort’s reluctance for One Power Healing. As a small honour, she personally gives the Deathwatch Guard their death-marching orders for failing to keep her safe. To redress her obligation, she resolves to do a personal penance later for sending Karede to his death when she owes him so much.

As arranged, Tuon and Mat use the situation as a trigger for their staged spat and separation to dupe the Shadow’s spy into thinking that their immaturity has led them to disunity.

Rand POV

Rand: just one man and yet the world’s hope. A t this stage he still thinks it’s all about him. That his duel with the Dark One will decide the outcome. However, all the battles and sacrifices are necessary.

Peaches are believed to be toxic but are not (The Wheel of Time Companion). They were safely and happily eaten in the Age of Legends, but people in the Third Age erroneously believe they are poisonous, and who will dare to test this? More erroneous knowledge that is effectively a myth.

The right of might prevails in this world of the Dark One’s weaving. He says his world has no good or evil. More accurately, the people in the Dark One’s world have no knowledge of good and evil, just base and basic mental functions. Everyone is out for themselves. The psychopaths in it seem sociable but have no feelings or values. Interestingly, everyone needs to belong to a faction, just as with Rand’s visit to Caemlyn in The Eye of the World.

The Dark One’s action backfires to a degree: Rand is so outraged that he rushes without thought to make its opposite.

Mat POV

First, Mat convinces Min to watch over Tuon while he is not there, and then Karede to join him in fighting—for his and their protection. For once, he follows the Seanchan social rules for referring to that the Empress so the omen is good. Quite a concession for a guy who literally lives by rule-breaking.

Tam POV

Tam was always known for his steadiness, and here we see it to perfection—literally holding the wedge formation firm against the Trolloc onslaught. He impresses even Lan. The last time he fought like this may have been in the Aiel War. Utterly within void, he does not think of the past. Only the now. His bending like a reed reminds me of Cadsuane’s saying that the willow bends while the oak breaks (Knife of Dreams, News for the Dragon).

A gentle wind refreshes him after—the wind of life, chai, prana, that flows through the books. The sun shines on the dragon banner, but nowhere else.

Refugees—even children—volunteer to tend the wounded and retrieve arrows (that the Two Rivers folk need badly) rather than await the outcome of the battles.

Elayne POV

Bryne was the last of his long line. Both his and Siuan’s deaths mark the end of an era. As the sun sets on this day, the battle outlook is very bleak. Elayne fears only hours remain.

Birgitte gets Elayne away from Demandred’s attacks just in time. She thinks Demandred is not just trying to kill Elayne as Rand’s love, but also as an army commander. To make it harder for him to locate Elayne, Birgitte insists that she not channel. Elayne reluctantly accedes.

Galad POV

As Galad arrives at the Forsaken’s command post, he sees Demandred going for another member of his family while yelling for the blood of a third. For the first time, he feels guided by not just the Pattern, but also the Light. Although barely over the shock that Rand is his brother as much as Gawyn was, he announces it defiantly at Demandred and offers himself in Rand’s place. Galad is not sure how he feels about his half-brother—whether proud or ashamed. At least he met Rand at Merrilor, after thinking Rand disreputable-looking when saw him in Caemlyn at the beginning. It’s interesting that Galad senses a similarity between Rand and Demandred.

Demandred almost realises Rand is ignoring him—but can’t really comprehend the ultimate ignominy of Rand really being so far above him. Poor Mr Second-Best. Appropriately, he fights the second-best knight when he briefly wonders about this.

Nynaeve POV

Using supposedly mundane methods, Nynaeve sews Alanna’s wounds and gives her effective herbal medicine. Without her ministrations, Alanna would die and Rand go mad.

Mat POV

Bashere feels so corrupted by the Shadow that he is not able to be King. Galad has distracted Demandred, which has taken some pressure off Elayne’s troop, but Mat sends Bashere to tell Lan to bolster Elayne’s right flank. Bashere feels inadequate and Mat yells at him—a sign of respect that reassures Bashere and thus pleases Deira.

Mat feels the Andorans are weakening, then watches Ogier save them. Like Galad, he finds them terrifying—well, they are Ogres. The Prince of the Ravens discovers that the Gardeners are with the mainland Ogier, but the two are not mixing well. In war, the Ogier are as quiet as they are loquacious in peace.

Mat doesn’t see a vision of Rand when he thinks of him, only darkness. Rand is outside the Pattern at this point, having touched the Dark One’s darkness.

Teslyn left the White Tower, preferring to fight with Dragonsworn. It is not known if she left when the Amyrlin was Elaida or Egwene. I think the former is more likely.

Egwene POV

An archetypal Red, Silviana regrets Egwene’s relationship with Gawyn. In contrast, Yellows are accepting. Silviana sees Warders as a weakness, instead of also a source of strength or reassurance. She does not agree that the price paid is at all worth it. Egwene reminds Silviana that Gawyn saved Egwene’s life. Egwene is determined to return to fight in the Armageddon.

Rosil explains to Egwene that the only way to overcome the grief is with a stronger emotion. Not a problem, Egwene has plenty of anger to use, but also needs the steadying bond of a Warder, and asks Egeanin if she will accept it. The Amyrlin still feels some revulsion at a Seanchan but overcomes it.

Galad POV

Galad sees through Demandred’s ploys easily. Demandred is less talkative fighting him—an indication that Galad is testing him. Furthermore, Galad’s lack of response may be unsettling to him; Galad is no easy meat. He does have some difficulty against objects thrown at him with the Power, but not too badly, and even manages to cut Demandred. However, he is not fast enough to go on the attack, and mostly just responds to Demandred’s attacks. He loses a forearm to this Forsaken, as his brother lost a hand to another. Demandred wins but was fairly pressed.

Galad’s tactics worked in that Demandred stopped attacking Elayne’s armies. This helped Galad’s sister, if not his brother.

Androl POV

Androl is bold and quick-thinking in tricking Taim and putting him off-guard while getting close enough to pickpocket the Seals. Cleverly, he blames returning to Taim on Demandred. In a neat reversal, Taim overlays Androl’s own face on him to kill Logain. This is such a contrast to the Aes Sedia, whose weaker members are rarely able to have opportunities to shine, no matter how skilled, experienced or intelligent they are.

Arganda POV

Tam’s timing in battle is perfect. Knowing nothing of Tam’s time in the Illianer Companions, Arganda wonders how he learned it. Arganda is impressed with how everyone is fighting together. However, he realises that they can’t win, as does Lan. Lan is determined to fight to the death.

Rand POV

Rand manifests another possible world: this one, with the Dark One dead, is very unlikely and takes some effort to show. Yet in the Age of Legends, the Dark One was unknown. Rand’s version is more extreme still. He enters the world in Caemlyn, as he did in the previous world, although it is the very opposite of how it was in the Dark One’s vision. The Dark One can’t enter this world (a logical impossibility).

The Dragon is exploring the result of killing the Dark One so he can’t appear in another Age. The Dark One’s death resulted in the annihilation of the Trollocs. Here and now, Mat is aware that the Light’s forces will wipe them out themselves. Like in the test for Accepted, Rand has to be on guard against staying in this world.

No one needs to see the Queen; there are no problems for her to solve. National borders also mean nothing. She is an anachronism—and also a husk of what she was spiritually. She shows a wrongness like that of being Turned to the Shadow. I guess she has been Turned to the Light. Rand’s ‘perfect’ world is not turning out how he intended. It changes people in horrible ways.

The Dark One claims victory in this part of the duel. Rand discovers that a world without choice is evil. Rand and Dark One will be effectively the same—it little matters which of them is the sole ruling entity. This is why Cadsuane tried to make Rand more balanced and emotionally expressive. Regardless, Rand holds onto his erroneous idea of killing Dark One until the Last Moment.

This world proves that you can’t force perfection, only aim for it.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #41: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 2


By Linda

Egwene POV

Egwene thinks that she hasn’t finished with the Empress—but alas, she has. After leaving their hostile meeting, she sees the cracks in reality for the first time. These are mainly, but not entirely, due to balefire. Egwene promptly develops a weave that doesn’t heal them of itself, but cushions the cracks in the Pattern while they heal themselves, and is one of her greatest feats. It leaves a film of crystals.

With all this distraction, she finally notices that Gawyn is not there with her. Bryne volunteers to go and bring him back. (They assume the Warder has gone to the Andoran armies to fight). Egwene permits Siuan to go with Bryne, but indicates that she would like her to be the Tower’s spy among the Seanchan. This tragically means Siuan’s death. If Egwene had known, would she have still asked this of Siuan? I believe so, but she would probably have phrased it differently.

Siuan actually commends her; says Egwene is a great replacement, a wonderful legacy. Most of Egwene’s legacy will be her part in the reform of the Aes Sedai, and her legendary battle with Taim and the Sharans, plus the Flame of Tar Valon weave. It is an outstanding legacy, but as Amyrlin, she is a short-lived replacement. And for Siuan the swan who can’t sing, what shall be her swan song? The fact that she kisses a man openly for the first time. Their last and only public kiss.

Egwene realises her hypocrisy in thinking Captain Chubain is too young for his job. He’s about 10‒15 years too young, she’s about 200.

Mat had the clever idea of setting the dry bush alight around the Shadow’s army to force them back, and for the smoke to cover the Aes Sedai army’s movements (and also the sight of their channelling.)

Gawyn POV

The rings hide Gawyn so well that even a Myrddraal does not see him, and neither does a Trolloc that passes close by him. Nor does Gawyn feel pain. When he runs through the Trollocs, they hear and smell him, but he is a blur. Gawyn is almost like a Myrddraal himself in the way the shadows hide him:

“There were shadows here and shadows were protection.”

- A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

and Myrddraal are slightly out of phase with time and reality, according to their creator, Aginor. The Amyrlin’s Warder is quite knowledgeable in what he can do while wearing the rings, showing some practise.

Gawyn is not going to kill Demandred for pride or glory, but for necessity. Nevertheless, he wants to do something that matters and he thinks he can be risked, but not Egwene or Logain. The fool still hasn’t learned what the Warder bond is because he refuses to listen. He is too impulsive to be a good choice as a Warder.

Demandred tries to balefire Gawyn but he dodges it, thanks to the rings, which make the encounter an actual duel and not an execution. Demandred challenges Gawyn’s loyalties and ethics as they fight. The Forsaken truly outclasses Gawyn—runs rings around him. He asks if Elayne or Rand is any better than Demandred in killing for advantage? Yet for them, it is a last resort against those who are committing crimes; for Demandred it is a first resort to gain advantage.

Demandred believes no one—Rand or anyone else—can defeat the Dark One. Apparently, the best way to save the world is to let him destroy it and protect people after. The Forsaken says Rand claims he can do the same.

Demandred believes that it must be Rand with Lews Therin’s memories who is the Light’s general, and therefore keeps looking for him on the battlefield. No one else could be so skilled in his opinion. He assumes that Rand wove Night’s Shade around Gawyn, not that he could have a ter’angreal with the same effect.

So many beliefs, false assumptions and outright lies. Desperate to be at the forefront of the war himself, Demandred thinks that Rand is personally orchestrating everything. (Mind you, Rand thought the same until he was convinced by Moiraine and others at Merrilor that he can’t do everything.)

Gawyn is not one enough with his sword—it is still a thing he manipulates instead of a part of him. Demandred efficiently wears Gawyn down and then stabs him fatally, although the Warder bond keeps Gawyn alive a little while.

Faile POV

Faile is rightly convinced that there is a Darkfriend among her group, but wrongly that they are one or both of the two men who ran off. She thinks Vanin’s terror is at being caught and not at what he was holding, not understanding how religiously Mat’s men try to avoid danger. Since she believes that it is pointless to hide the Horn, Faile is wearing it openly.

Perrin POV

Berelain pointedly has a chaperon for Perrin while he is in the hospital in her palace. This consideration is partly due to being pulled into line by Faile, but also due to her own desire for marriage to Galad.

Janina is able to selectively Heal. After more than one session, Perrin is finally Healed fully but is exhausted, so Janina probably Healed in the way Samitsu does and not the full five Powers Healing that Nynaeve weaves, that doesn’t take so much out of the patient.

Perrin deduces that three battlefronts moved to Merrilor, but Rand still fights. He informed them that time moves differently at the Bore—much more slowly—which they are all glad of and pass along to the battle command. At first, Berelain held back that Faile’s caravan was destroyed and she has vanished. Perrin insists his beloved is alive, because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate. He is determined to return to Gaul, but finally accepted that he would die without sleep.

Androl POV

Pevara looks down on Theodrin as not being “proper” Aes Sedai. However, Pevara hasn’t behaved as a “proper” Red in decades. She is otherwise understanding and positive towards Theodrin, though, and can accurately identify her feelings.

It’s taken a while, but Androl and Pevara are taking stock of their bond, and then their relationship. To Androl, Pevara is solid and reliable and their relationship life-saving. Androl is awkward around women. Even if they can see into his mind, they see awkwardness there. Pevara has been mentally comparing Androl to her figurines of her family. He will be her new family. All Aes Sedai see their family fade away over time, but Pevara’s family was cut off short.

Androl realises that Pevara’s achievement with the gateway, when she can’t do them easily, and didn’t have control and wasn’t the leader of the ring, was because she acted as him. She is able to overcome her fear of male channelling upon herself.

An inveterate traveller, Androl knows where he is relative to everywhere he’s ever been. He also “knows” any place he’s at in a very short time. He has an extreme sense of location, of place. Androl says that “small things matter.” He is a perfect example of that: his channelling ability is small, but really matters to the whole world.

They laugh at themselves, which is such a positive trait. They need all the mirth they can get in such times. It is something to fight for, something to help them fight. Respite, positivity—things the Dark One knows are the most dangerous—keep them from despairing.

Rhuarc POV

Rhuarc gives us an informative assessment of how the battle is going at Thakan’dar. Ituralde’s defences were finally broken, but they efficiently reduced the numbers of Shadowspawn. He is impressed by the dedication of the Dragonsworn; which is something, coming from an Aiel. As for the red-veiled Aiel, Rhuarc calls them Honorless. Impressively, he himself kills a red-veiled channeller. More concerningly, he feels the Light are losing the battle here.

And then Graendal strikes. She didn’t kill him, but has Compelled him to use his considerable fighting talents for herself, her protection. Rhuarc is robbed of his mind—judgment and values—and is now walking dead. A sad end to a much-loved character. It really shows the vileness of the Shadow. The Dreamwalkers knew something of his fate, we see them earlier in the series asking him if he wants to die old and fat in bed. Graendal turns everyone to herself; these days it’s a compensation for being robbed of her beauty by the Dark One. But she was always a monster even before being reborn as Hessalam.

Rand POV

Rand creates his “perfect” world out of one of the “If worlds” that is an alternate reality that may be less likely. Ogier are rebuilding Emond’s Field as compensation for Rand’s sacrifice. Originally, the Ogier thought of a monument to Rand, but the Two Rivers people made the more practical choice of reconstruction. They worked closely with the Ogier and learned off them.

The Two Rivers is more diverse, and more egalitarian than before and is now a place of pilgrimage or tourism. With the development of gunpowder weapons, the people are renowned riflemen as well as archers. But the only war is in the east, along Sharan border.

A monument was still made, but instead of commemorating just Rand, it honours all the fallen in the Last Battle. Rand rejects the sight of his friends on that monument as not definite fact, and this makes his vision wobble. He is still insisting it’s his sacrifice only, no one else’s.

Darkness only exists when Light falters. The Dark One can’t win so long as Rand is steadfast, which is why he tries to make Rand despair. The Dark One tells Rand that his world is flawed, because it can’t be perfect. There is still crime. The Dark One, being openly and fully evil, is more honest, more true, than Rand’s world—supposedly. Though who would believe such a liar? It’s just another attempt to make Rand give up.

This short vision is the “true” world that Rand should aim for: high ideals, but still with choice and messiness, and not draconian or extreme. Balanced. The Dark One is trying to force Rand to give up, or to be an extremist. Good forced on people is the evil of Shadar Logoth. The Dark One’s contention that if Rand can’t have perfection then his world is inadequate, that a grey world is the same as a black world, and that since criminals break rules there should be none, sounds sadly familiar in the real world.

Silviana POV

Still Silviana digs at the Blues. She is on the whole a very sensible and thorough woman, but Blues (and men) are her blind spots. She carries deep prejudices, which, from time to time, Egwene pulls her up on.

The Keeper assumes that Demandred attacked Egwene—she almost forgot about Gawyn (because good riddance) even though he isn’t there but has gone off on his own. Courageously, she offers to stand in Egwene’s place in the Warder bond. Silviana doesn’t understand the emotional attachment and intimacy of the bond, augmented, in this case, by love and a long-term commitment of marriage. She really misses the point. Instead, Egwene’s group will fight their way to Gawyn.

Elayne POV

Elayne judges that Mat’s plan to send Egwene’s army to attack the rear of the Shadow army fighting Elayne was genius.

Birgitte is fretting over how many of her memories have been lost. Unlike if she were born a baby, she can remember that she knew things she doesn’t now know. She is like an adult baby, or someone in the early throes of Alzheimer’s. It is a cruel situation.

While Galad is Elayne’s big brother, and certainly feels this way toward her, she doesn’t like him enough to accept his advice or criticism, seeing as she outranks him on a social scale. Yet she takes liberties to read a letter written to Galad and not her. She is an entitled miss. Galad doesn’t know the depth of Elayne’s rejection of him (which originated in part due to jealousy of Galad’s place in their father’s heart), but continues as though she feels everything that he thinks she should.

Mat’s letter is more educated than the “joke” letter he sent Elayne in Caemlyn to manipulate her into giving him a hearing (and that upset many fans with its style). Mat sent Galad to Elayne and a messenger there with his orders for Galad, so the spy at military headquarters can’t determine what is going on.

For a long while, as Galad notes, he wouldn’t have killed women (which Whitecloaks certainly would if they believed the women were Darkfriends or could channel), but not now. Galad has seen that women can be evil. Elayne says for once she agrees wholeheartedly with him. Galad thinks that Elayne is joking when she says that she doesn’t want to strangle him for what he says. His belief in right makes him oblivious of his family’s failings, at times. Probably just as well. Galad becomes increasingly appealing over the series. Early in the books we only know him through Elayne’s eyes, and they are highly biased. Away from her, his actions can speak for themselves and although a little stiff (as many Cairhienin are), he is good-hearted, just and reasonable.

Mat POV

Mat is loving the gamble of war, and he admires Demandred’s willingness to gamble also.

Logain won’t take orders at all easily from Mat, and tries to deny that he should cooperate. There’s resentment in his belief that he declared himself Dragon too soon and so was not the one. Yet Logain doesn’t want the Dragon’s destiny. Now he wants the glory and honour of killing Demandred as compensation for how the Reds treated him. Some of this is post traumatic stress and the effects of almost being turned to the Shadow. Mat was probably unrealistic in trying to get Logain to aid the Aes Sedai, considering what they did to him. Sure, everyone needs to work together, since the war is everyone’s—as Mat says—but Logain would be far more motivated to aid a group that had not damaged him.

Mat hasn’t worked out how to get rid of Demandred. He correctly doubts Logain would do much good against such a powerful Forsaken. The Shadow attacks the command tent as Mat wonders how to save Elayne’s forces and Tuon begins their pretend rift.

Min POV

Sharans wear lamellar armour (typical of their strong “Chinese” origins). Tuon breaks free of her ceremonial clothes and runs to save Mat from Grey Men. It is ironic that Tuon is highly mobile, while Min, who used to be admired for wearing men’s clothes, is stuck in her cumbersome dress.

Min is appalled that her rescuer, Siuan, is here and not with Bryne. The two must stay near each other to live. Siuan doesn’t care since if Mat dies, the Last Battle is lost, and insists they must help him. While Min saves Tuon, Siuan is killed by a fiery explosion after attracting attention with her channelling. Another much-loved character is lost.

Demandred POV

Demandred is peeved that his “advantage” in using the eyes of scouting bird with the True Power is overtaken, even eclipsed, by gateways that look down on a battlefield. The people of this Age are not the primitives that the Forsaken had convinced themselves. They have open minds, and are therefore free to experiment, whereas the Age of Legends people had such extensive knowledge that they are comparatively closed to new ideas and techniques.

The Forsaken won’t Travel to Mat’s command post for fear that Lews Therin is there. This is a gamble he won’t take. He’s being cautious, not afraid! It shows just how much he respects and fears the abilities of his despised Lews Therin. He’s also wary of M’Hael, who has been promoted rapidly due to his successes. Demandred’s grudging respect to M’Hael shows how strong-willed and persistent M’Hael is.

Rand showing himself in various battlefields has made Demandred wonder where he is. It adds credence to Demandred’s belief that there’s a trap somewhere. He can’t believe that the master general of this Age isn’t Lews Therin in disguise. This is consistent with his attitude to Third Age people even after expressing surprise at their innovation. His assessment that they are too young and can’t be experienced enough is correct. Mat had a very unexpected genesis: he was manufactured by the Pattern and the Eelfinn—and is a concert of generals.

The Forsaken reluctantly admits that Lews Therin was stronger in the One Power and more popular. (And if he thinks Lews Therin is Mat, a pretty damn good general.) But Demandred was better at war—plus it is an outlet for his anger and resentment. He acknowledges Mat is a very good gambler, as Mat also said of him.

Shendla does not see Demandred as evil. For the Sharans, the Pattern is about fate and balance, and not so much which side you’re on or the choices you make, as it is for the other nations. The Sharans have had little choice until now, but perhaps after the Last Battle they will feel differently about choice and the Pattern. Judging by their conversations in this book and in River of Souls, they accept that since the Pattern calls for two sides, there’s no shame in either side. It could be that they have had to be constrained the entire Third Age to be the sort of people that would fight wholesale for the dark side. Yet they worry about the existence of their nation after this apocalyptic event as much as the fate of the world. Shendla is satisfied that Demandred will try to save Sharans when he remakes the world, and Demandred is surprised that he wants to do well by them. Having been locked into his sterile feelings of envy and resentment for centuries, he is almost surprised to find he has developed feelings for Shendla, too.

M’Hael is roundly punished for insulting Demandred. A True Power shield sucks up the One Power like an a’dam when touched by a man or like a gholam. The shield might have given the idea of a gholam to Aginor—or at least how to craft one using similar weaves and principles.

Rand POV

The Dark One has to work within time’s rules when he touches Pattern. This is why balefire prevents the Dark One from capturing a soul. He is bound by the logic of causality when he reaches into the Pattern.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #40: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 1


By Linda

This chapter is very long so I will be breaking up my read-through into parts.

Loial notes

Loial writes that it was the darkest time before the dawn. The dawn will be of a new Age; the risk is that it will be of Shadow and not Light—a false dawn.

Lan POV

If a man is knocked down and gets back up to fight, then he is truly dangerous. In this chapter, Lan and Rand, in particular, are referenced as dangerous, but many of the men—and women—qualify. This scene sets the scale of the chapter: everyone is fighting.

Elayne POV

Elayne is seduced by a draghkar until Birgitte warns her, then she deafens herself and everyone else so they can’t hear its siren song. This is a reference to the Ancient Greek hero Odysseus and his crew encountering the Siren on their voyage. Odysseus had arranged for everyone but himself to wear earplugs; he wanted to experience the song and didn’t wear them. To prevent him throwing himself overboard to his death, he was tied to the mast. As reckless as Elayne… A draghkar is a fusion of the siren and the vampire. Typical of the Shadow, the draghkars don’t make the most of their attack because they are greedy. The Seanchan archers missed the draghkar altogether despite being warned, and even Elayne was nearly caught by one, which emphasises Birgitte’s skill and vigilance.

Elayne thinks that her babies may be reacting to her weaving Healing. Yet they didn’t when she wove a thunderclap loud enough to deafen everyone nearby. Apparently, they didn’t respond to the draghkar ‘s song, either. Yet babies can hear when in the womb, and back in Caemlyn Elayne was reading aloud to them and also having music played for them.

Sul’dam and damane are polite to Elayne, but she behaves arrogantly to them. She could have acknowledged her obligation for the damane’s Healing. I think this is what Birgitte raised an eyebrow about, and not that Elayne would not speak to the sul’dam directly herself. The Seanchan are starting to be pragmatic about the usefulness of Healing. The sul’dam is highborn, which increases the insult. She retaliates by saying that she can’t understand why Elayne accepts Healing from an animal.

Mat wears partly Seanchan, partly mainland clothing. The conspicuous pink ribbon on his hat was the Seanchan’s hint to Mat that they know a lot about his relationship with Tylin. They are trying to keep him a little in line with some embarrassment. However, tricksters are shameless, so it doesn’t work well.

Mat planned or expected that Elayne would drop into his HQ to complain about the changed battle plans. Elayne tries to disconcert him with a sudden arrival and a curse but it didn’t work. (Just as women snipe at Rand, so women try to abash Mat.) Elayne noticed immediately that Tuon’s throne is higher than hers. The two women have a petty competition going on between them about seating height. Peoples’ foibles are always there, no matter the occasion.

Mat is changing the battle plans ad hoc because he expects the Shadow has spies among them. Nor will he tell anyone what the new plans are. He was sincere enough when they made the original plans, but slightly uncomfortable—he didn’t actually think things through until just before the Sharans arrived.

Uno POV

Despite disliking dragons, Cairhienin and Seanchan, Uno accepts that their contributions are needed.

Mat sent a message to Uno’s forces to retreat from the Heights. The Shienaran thinks it’s stupid, but soon sees how timely the order was. Sharan channellers are trying to destroy the dragons, while Demandred, in a circle of 72 with Sakharnen, is looking for Rand. Hatred and fear are causing the Shadow to misuse their resources. Had Demandred used his circle more effectively, the Light would have lost. Evil is portrayed as not promoting its own cause due to character flaws. The Forsaken are heavily based on Nazis (see Three Influences on the Forsaken article ) and they also threw opportunities (and victory) away.

Logain POV

Logain fears releasing saidin because the loss of power reminds him of being gentled and unable to get the Power back. He lusts for a sa’angreal to assuage that fear. The trauma of being gentled and the resulting depression still haunt him, and have since been overlaid with the efforts to turn him to the Shadow. No wonder he is in bad psychological shape.

Rand’s orders to Logain are to find the Seals. Androl has passed on information that Taim appears to have them. Logain considers ignoring the order to concentrate on getting a sa’angreal, but it fits in with his desire for revenge on Taim.

Logain originally declared himself the Dragon to save mankind. He is in an ugly mood, which is why Gabrelle envies Toveine, because Logain has released her bond. Her reaction makes Logain assume she feels little for him, and he can’t trust her. Logain’s own feelings are overwhelmingly about wanting Demandred’s power, and wanting to fight a Forsaken—to hit back and regain adulation, and with it, hopefully self-respect. Not much affection for Gabrelle there, but there might be some disappointment. He is using Rand’s fat man angreal that Rand sent to him along with the orders. Formerly, Logain was very trustworthy at a time when Rand didn’t trust him, now the Dragon does trust him, but the extreme attempt at Turning him have left Logain damaged. Logain needs redemption, just as Rand did and for similar reasons.

Gawyn POV

Gawyn’s tiredness is due to activating the rings with his blood and them leaching his vitality away. Once he puts the rings on, his strength increases. The fallen prince has convinced himself that killing Demandred is more important than protecting and aiding Egwene. He’s right, but there is a high price for the Forsaken’s death. Without Gawyn’s sacrifice others would not have tried.

Tam POV

It is one day since Perrin was found nearly dead on the battlefield. Tam assumes Perrin won’t be fighting further.

Pevara POV

The Red sister is using all her channelling ability in battle and has nothing left over to maintain calm and not sweat. She is aware that she is in love with Androl and is having trouble keeping her own identity separate when they link. In the shock of an attack, they meld, and Pevara is able to weave a gateway easily for once, and this while Androl led the circle. It’s an interesting result of their double link.

Mat POV

Galad and Elayne are disagreeing with Mat’s plans because Demandred is getting the better of Mat in battle. This is Mat’s strategy—to deliberately lose, while waiting for a lucky break. He is walking the world along a razor edge:

A feint, ever so subtle. It was dangerous, possibly disastrous. He had to walk on a razor edge. There was no way to avoid cutting his feet. The question was not whether he would be bloodied, but whether he would reach the other side or not.

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

which is a reference to the Sword Bridge of Arthurian myth. There is quite a bit of Arthurian myth around Mat, Demandred, Galad, Lan and Gawyn, and, of course, Rand al’Thor the Dragon (Arthur Pendragon). Demandred is a parallel of Meleagant, one of the most treacherous and cruel enemies of Arthur’s court, who Lancelot fought three times, killing him in their last duel. For one duel, Lancelot had to cross the Sword Bridge—a bridge consisting solely of a razor-sharp blade. In Jordan’s variant, Demandred wants to challenge and defeat the High King, but instead duels three different knights with Arthurian names, killing two of them and falling to Lan in the last. At the same time, Demandred and Mat duelled with their armies, with Mat thinking he was walking the edge of a razor, as Lancelot did crossing the Sword Bridge.

The cute so’jhin who brings Mat kaf as he calls his orders is Moghedien. Just as well he is making deceptive commands after realising that someone is relaying his orders to the Shadow before they even arrive at their intended group. He correctly deduces that this person must be a channeller, and is pretending that the dragons are inoperable. At the right moment, Mat will use them to great effect. So many “right moments” are needed for victory.

Elayne’s competition with Tuon for highest throne is noticed by Mat, right before he pulls her aside and explains that 1) there’s a spy/spies; 2) Demandred could arrive and wipe them out, only his fear of an ambush has stopped that; and 3) Mat must gamble in battle. The betting tactics are like those for cards, not dice—get the other side betting heavily and wait for the right hand. Note that Mat’s luck runs better for dice than for cards, because dice are more random. Great. In the meantime, Mat is (they are all) riding their losses—real losses—until that right moment. He will know it when it comes. Mat has convinced Elayne; now to manipulate Tuon.

Galad POV

The Whitecloak commander realises that Mat’s orders have merit, notably in expecting the Shadow would stop the river Mora, and planning how to counteract the Trollocs there. He is glad to be checking in on Elayne—he has more care for duty and family than Gawyn does. It is disconcerting for Galad to fail at deducing what Mat’s tactics are: usually, he is able to work out tactics. But this is a very complex battle, so he should be alarmed if he did work it out.

Rand POV

Rand is enduring a psychic and “physical” attack by Dark One when is he holding the power in this scene, but is not “doing anything” with it in Nynaeve’s opinion. The Dragon just endures and holds together. Nothing else. If he’d gone to the duel only with the idea of killing the Dark One, he would despair or lose. (After all, despairing IS losing). At the end of this attack, he defies Dark One thinking that nothing can break him.

In turn, the Dark One thinks he is softening Rand up; his weaves a reality where the taint is very strong because the Dark One won. His aim is to make Rand despair (and lose). In this “reality”, the Dark One is all, nothing else is remembered from before. The people don’t even know there was a before. This is a warning that Rand’s idea of killing the Dark One is not for the best.

This scenario is designed to build on Rand’s guilt over people he could not save or keep safe, those who died “for him”. In Rand’s mind, he is supposed to die for others, not the other way around. Actually, both should happen, and do.

The three goddesses of sovereignty that are Rand’s consorts, counterbalances to him, are tortured as the Dark One tries to torture Rand. The Last Battle is lasting indefinitely in this reality.

In actuality, Rand denies guilt and shame. He resists, and exerts his will. (We can see how, with his will hugely strengthened by this duel, and his ability to weave or make alternative realities, Rand was able to light his pipe by thought alone at the end of the book.) He denies failure and defies the Dark One as one would a bully.

Then he picks up the Dark One’s broken, discarded, unravelled threads. His weaves are more basic than the five powers.