Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #14: Chapter 11--Just Another Sell-sword


By Linda

Egwene POV

As she did with the Ajah Heads, Adelorna publicises Egwene’s achievements during the Seanchan attack to the Greens in an effort to bring their support to Egwene. Previously the Greens had been stand-offish because Egwene went out of her way to gain the support of the Reds, believing they were being left out. By being antagonistic, the Greens risk losing political clout in the Hall and with the Amyrlin, when the Last Battle—the very reason for the Greens’ existence—is on. Egwene may be surprised at their capitulation, but is pragmatic about it.

Adelorna could have pulled the Ajah into line before this, because the Greens are obedient to their Captain General. However, perhaps Adelorna lost face being captured by a sul’dam. Adelorna recognises that Egwene would have chosen Green and therefore would have been “their” Amyrlin. The Ajah Head rightly feels indebted to Egwene for saving her from the Seanchan.

It’s true that Egwene is literally not of any Ajah; but the Amyrlin should also be of all Ajahs—a fact most Aes Sedai seem to forget. While Egwene has tried to be unifying, she has not much in common with Browns or Whites. She feels more engaged with the Yellows, Reds, Blues, Greys—and now Greens.

The Red—Green antagonism is like reverse colour blindness. (Instead of not being told apart, they won’t appear together.) Aes Sedai are colour blinded because they obsess over colours, not because they can’t see them.

Egeanin wants to serve and protect Egwene, but Egwene only wants to interrogate Egeanin. Egwene’s distrustfulness is reasonable but her fear and anxiety of Egeanin is not. Her PTSD kicks in whenever she looks at Egeanin. Yet Egwene had a dream that one would save her—a fact she seems to have forgotten:

“As if Egwene would trust her safety to one of the Seanchan.”

A Memory of Light, Just Another Sell-sword

Suddenly a woman appeared, clambering down the sheer side of the cliff out of the clouds, making her way as deftly as if she were walking down stairs. There was a sword strapped to her back. Her face wavered, never settling clearly, but the sword seemed as solid as the stone. The woman reached Egwene’s level and held out one hand. “We can reach the top together,” she said in a familiar drawling accent…

She had dreamed of a Seanchan before, a Seanchan woman somehow tied to her, but this was a Seanchan who would save her.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In The Night

The dream refers to Egwene being out of control after her Warder’s death, and Bonding Egeanin to save herself so she could pour her emotions into anger at the Shadow. Contrary to the implication of this dream, it was temporary—Egwene only lasted long enough to destroy Taim and the Sharan channellers and stabilise reality in that part of the battlefield. In turn she saved Egeanin by releasing the Warder bond before she died.

When writing the last three books, Brandon Sanderson did not feel right inventing new weaves in someone else’s magic system, so he worked out new uses for old ones. In this chapter, novel gateways have been developed—essentially a hole over the battlefield. Egwene cautions that they could be attacked through it, especially by channellers. Ironically the gateway saves lives when the Sharan channellers attack. Yukiri is contemplating “window” gateways, including a one-way glass type effect.

Egwene says to Bryne:

“You are a resource. One of our most valuable. Risks are unavoidable, but please take care to minimize them."

Yet the Aes Sedai didn’t protect him against Compulsion. More of this anon.

Bryne has factored in the Aes Sedai into his battle plans, but shows the Amyrlin conventional battle plans first. It’s best to let your boss think of your ideas, especially one that is jealous of their prerogatives. It saves time and stress.


Mat POV

Tinkers have flocked to the Seanchan in Ebou Dar for protection. Elsewhere, nations wanted the Tinkers to abandon their lifestyle or move away. Seanchan policy is not to change lifestyles or customs of people that swear to them. In fact, they accommodate people by finding appropriate tasks for them. Or encourage them to adopt them.

Speaking of customs, the Seanchan are preventing duelling deaths in Ebou Dar with bureaucracy—using it as a brake. Petra has left Valan Luca’s menagerie to work as a guard at the gates to Ebou Dar. Perhaps the menagerie disbanded due to the chaos of the times and drafting of horses for the war.

Mat managed to slink back into Ebou Dar; last time he was there he kidnapped Tuon and tied up Tylin. He hides his missing eye behind a bandage, yet the irony is that no one in Altara knows that Mat has lost his eye, so wearing no bandage might have been a better disguise.

The Yearly Brawl inn is a reference to JordanCon, held annually on the third weekend of April in Atlanta, and the innkeepers represent JordanCon directors Jennifer (screen name Kathana) and Jimmy Liang. Many a JordanCon panel has discussed Mat, so it’s cheeky that the hosts take a little while to recognise the real thing. Jame thought Mat wasn’t one-eyed because he carried throwing knives. But his condition is recent.


Rand POV

Due to long experience, the Borderlanders are more ruthless—or more pragmatic—in war than people were in the Age of Legends.

For all that Moiraine talks to everyone about following the Pattern, she is pushing Rand hard to Shayol Ghul, when he wants to show himself on the various battlefields. She thinks it is too risky a mission, even if well meant. But it is not yet time to confront the Dark One and Rand does convince Demandred that he is out there on the battlefields. Moiraine ignores Rand’s plan to make sure Shayol Ghul is not full of the Shadow’s forces, but he is correct in trying to spread out the Shadow’s armies.

Moiraine speaks of Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One as being “that moment”. However it lasts a lot longer than a moment—though it is experienced as a short time to those in the Pit of Doom.

Rand is glad Moiraine is back even though she nags him. He was carrying a Tar Valon mark around almost as a kind of amulet in the hope that she would return. He associates the mark with her because she gave one to him as a finder when they first met. This is one of the many examples of coming full circle in this book.

Lan says that Moiraine’s advice should be followed, but she thinks his rescue of Maradon was a mistake and that Rand should not save the Gap either. That gives Lan pause, and Rand insists on aiding him. There is a fine line between sheltering and helping.

Lan salutes Rand after giving him the title of sheepherder. Earlier, Lan was not so reverential of Rand’s occupation. But Rand is the Good Shepherd. In return, Rand calls Lan Dai Shan and gives him the remade Malkieri crown.

Rand reveals that he secretly used an angreal when driving out the Shadowspawn at Maradon. This is another of his miracles that has a mundane explanation.

When Rand confronts a mass of evil, the land is given strength to fight—with storms. He is the prince of peace (of the sword):

“He sought peace, the peace of destruction. He was life, but he was also death. He was the manifestation of the land itself.”

A Memory of Light, Just Another Sell-sword

One of Rand’s important parallels is the Hindu god Shiva, god of destruction, and the cosmic dancer.

Shiva is one of the most complex gods of India, embodying seemingly contradictory qualities. He is both the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Aiel call battle the dance—and Rand battles the Dark One to save the cosmos. Rand’s peace is of the sword—not just another sell-sword, though.

Just as Rand is trying to pull the Shadow away from Shayol Ghul, the Shadow is trying to draw him out into the open. Single channellers are used as a decoy until a full circle of 72 channellers is gathered a warning of many Dreadlords the Shadow now has. It forces him to retreat. Moiraine also realises that it was a trap and reinforces that it’s too risky for Rand to fight this way. In this chapter, Egwene and Moiraine both complain about essential people and generals talking unnecessary risks.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #13: Chapter 10--The Use of Dragons


By Linda

Elayne POV

Elayne complains that they couldn’t get the televisual and teleaudio ter’angreal to work. These were in the cache of ter’angreal and are detailed here. The cache also contained a reference library ter’angreal that might have information on how to activate them, which Aviendha was able to get to work. Instead, they are using messengers by gateways. Elayne complains that she could go through the gateway and look at what’s happening in Caemlyn for herself. Birgitte threatens to fetch her back by force if she does, and tells her off for her recklessness. It’s a Warder’s duty.

I believe that Jordan planned for the ter’angreal to be used for this purpose in the Last Battle, but left no notes on their operation and so they had to be written out and put aside.

Egwene is angry with Elayne over her plans to employ the Kin. In Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting, Elayne offered the Kin a place in Andor with stability, safety and freedom to channel in exchange for Travelling and Healing. Elayne plans to talk Egwene around into allowing Elayne to use them in Andor under Elayne’s “guidance”. The Amyrlin doesn’t like the thought of monarchs having their own set of channellers –even if weak ones, or Tower rejects. Suddenly Egwene and the Sitters are seeing the downside of rejecting some of the crop: somebody else will give them a place. These women want to channel, and can’t stop once they start, so it is to be expected that they want to employ their talent as channellers do in the Aiel clans, the Sea Folk and (directly or indirectly) the Seanchan. The White Tower is not as exclusive as it once was, or as powerful. In fact, by excluding channellers, the Tower has contributed to its own decline. Now that the secret of linking is out, weak channellers can achieve much with cooperation. In the Age of Legends, all channellers had a place in the Hall of Servants. Egwene did tell Elayne of her plans to have all channellers associated with the Tower, but Elayne has her own plans to corner a little of the market for herself.

Elayne is warned that the Tarwin’s Gap forces may have to retreat earlier than planned and considers overruling Agelmar’s judgment, but Bashere advises her not to. Instead she realises that they need to either lure the Trollocs into charging now, or else destroy them along with Caemlyn.

Lan’s POV supports Bashere’s advice. With many channellers attacking the Borderlanders, they need to retreat, but can’t even do that without more channellers to cover them.


Androl POV

Men only are being used to Turn the Asha’man. This takes much more time and energy and is why Logain and his faction were not turned quickly and were ultimately able to escape. If women Turn men, and vice versa, the process is much faster. Toveine is perhaps the first of the Tower Reds to be Turned. The men Turn her quickly – not merely because her allegiance or will was weak. Once the circle is mixed or there are thirteen women to link with the Myrddraal, even the most strong-willed and devout man will be Turned fairly promptly.

Taim has one of the seven Seals in his pocket. Androl doesn’t know its significance yet.


Elayne POV

In a former life, Birgitte led a band in Braem Wood and robbed a queen of Aldeshar who was regarded as a usurper. This is a reference to Maid Marian and Robin Hood, and the Band of Merry Men who fought in Sherwood Forest against the very unpopular King John, who usurped King Richard’s throne while he was crusading. Andor has a good few such references to England.

Trollocs were blown to pieces by the dragons, which are cannons. They are manned by dragoners. The names are a clever link to Rand and dragon symbolism (see article), but also to dragoons, mounted soldiers who carried guns, which are hand-held dragons by Aludra’s naming. A dragon was a type of late 18th to early 19th century hand-held blunderbuss that had a short, large calibre barrel. It shot many types of ammunition including shot and gravel. They were named dragons from the dragon head engraved on the muzzles of the early versions. All early gunpowder weapons had names and were linked to serpents, falcons, etc, just as Aludra likes to give names to all her inventions.

Birgitte repeats her misgivings about gunpowder weapons, but Elayne believes that their great destructive power is an effective deterrent to battle. From our own world’s use of not just guns, but also nuclear weapons, we can agree with Birgitte that this is idealistic.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #12: Chapter 9--To Die Well


By Linda

Lan POV

Lan and his men remember the deaths of their cohorts in a way that celebrates their deeds in battle when they were killed. The sacrifice of the fallen is appreciated and the grief and trauma of seeing their friends die is eased a little. They are as affected by this horrific attrition as much as Rand is later in the chapter, and, like him, have accepted the likelihood of their own deaths in the war. This helps them, too, to die well.

Lan regards Bulen as a noble fallen because he was the first Malkieri to swear to him as King, and by doing so, made Lan accept his responsibilities as a king. Bulen swore directly to the monarch as a noble would.

Earthquakes are prevalent at the Gap, due to its proximity to Shayol Ghul, but Lan is the first to notice that the cracks in the ground they cause contain nothingness. As usual, Lan is accurate in his assessment: they are fractures in reality, due to balefire and the Dark One unravelling the weakened Pattern. The cracks are breaks in the weave as it wears thin. It is temporary; the Land Heals itself at this stage.

Tenobia shows the zeal for battle, and the idealising of it, that will see her killed. For some time she has surrounded herself with soldiers only and has wanted to do as they did:

As expected, the Queen of Saldaea was accompanied only by Kalyan Ramsin, one of her numerous uncles, a scarred and grizzled man with the face of an eagle and thick mustaches that curved down around his mouth. Tenobia Kazadi tolerated the counsel of soldiers, but no one else.

The Path of Daggers Prologue

“Even Tenobia has never led men in battle. She wanted to once, when I was eight, but Father had a talk with her alone in her chambers, and when he rode off to the Blight she stayed behind." With a rueful grin, she added, "I think you and he use the same methods sometimes. Tenobia exiled him, but she was only sixteen, and the Council of Lords managed to change her mind after a few weeks. She will be blue with envy when I tell her."

The Shadow Rising, Goldeneyes

Battle is necessary, but it is not great. Like the Pattern, it is good and bad.

Lan contrasts her glorification with the praise for fighters and the dead that he has encouraged:

There was a difference, he could feel a difference. Teaching the men to accept that they might die and to revere the honor of the fallen . . . that was different from singing songs about how wonderful it was to fight on the front lines.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

The usual cure for such zeal is weeks of drill.

Lan is appalled that Agelmar’s plan includes retreating. He wasn’t present at Merrilor, where it was agreed that the Tarwin’s Gap forces would only delay the Trolloc incursion to buy time for the Caemlyn invaders to be destroyed, and likely would have dissented if he were.

"We reinforce Lan, but tell him that his job will be to hold there as long as he can. We place a second force at the border of Kandor, with the purpose of delaying there as well—perhaps a slow withdrawal, as conditions dictate. While those two fronts are held, we can focus our true attention—and our largest army—at breaking the Trollocs in Caemlyn."

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

Lan refuses to countenance retreat. Agelmar reminds him of duty. Since the Shienaran general is following the agreed strategy, he is not yet affected by Compulsion.

Lan compares himself to Rand, who he actually taught:

He remembered teaching that same concept to a youth out of the Two Rivers. A sheepherder, innocent of the world, fearful of the fate laid out before him by the Pattern.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

Agelmar points out that Lan evades responsibility—the burden of it, when it comes to leading others. Then Lan compares himself to Tenobia:

They will follow me. Like Bulen did. Leading them to death in the name of a fallen kingdom . . . leading myself to the same death . . . how is that any different from Tenobia's attitude?

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

Tenobia’s role in this chapter is to help Lan realise and accept the difference between needless death and noble sacrifice. Dying well and not.

It is so hard for him to abandon Malkier again, but they need to live to fight another day, not sacrifice themselves—unless there is no other choice. Then they will be dying well—the “To Die Well” chapter title.


Egwene POV

Egwene now appreciates the knowledge and experience of Sitters in battle and planning. This is a contrast with The Gathering Storm and even Towers of Midnight, when they looked like fools. Although her assertion that

"I trust General Bryne's battlefield assessment, as does the Hall,"

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

will be bitter words in future.

Elayne suggested that the Aes Sedai establish a hospital far from battle, to protect the Yellows. Silviana is against it—perhaps because Elayne insisted. Egwene isn’t that keen on the idea either, although Gawyn is because he realises that Aes Sedai are not invincible and proved it in Towers of Midnight. The Amyrlin feels she has to respect Elayne’s authority though, but also ponders rejecting Elayne’s idea to maintain Aes Sedai authority. She considers this a strain on their friendship. The clincher in favour of Elayne’s idea is her concern that the Seanchan might capture Yellows if they are not well-protected away from the battle. She fears them more than any Shadow-aligned group. This was na├»ve, as it turns out. They decide on Mayene, as suitable for a hospital, because it is small, unimportant politically and not prominent. Wisely, Egwene gets the Tower trainees to help the Yellows.

Egeanin publicly admits the magnitude of her error with the male a’dam. Her eyes are lowered; and her mistake is almost enough for them to be permanently so. Egwene offers her a way of repaying her debt through information on the Seanchan.

Egeanin doesn’t own even her name – it was given to her by the Empress and everything else taken away. Including her honour. Egwene is surprised that Egeanin swore a strong oath to her because she feels Seanchan are almost Darkfriends. Her role will be to temper Egwene’s attitude to the Seanchan slightly and also to save her. Her information perhaps helps Egwene negotiate with the Empress.

The Amyrlin isn’t quite worrying about the wrong things—more like in the wrong order.


Rand POV

Rand feels a responsibility for the casualties of war, which parallels Lan’s feelings. Thanks to his epiphany on Dragonmount, he is further down that road than Lan. The Malkieri king has dreaded this for over 20 years, and probably would have died needlessly in the Blight years ago if Moiraine hadn’t bonded him in New Spring. His wife and queen, Nynaeve, considers dying well to be dying of old age in bed:

She wanted to howl with fury. People should die after a long life, in their own beds, surrounded by family and friends. Anything else was waste. Pure miserable waste!

Lord of Chaos, Dreams and Nightmares

Elayne is trying to sort out in her mind where her relationship with Rand will go—or might go. Rand doesn’t know. After all, he doesn’t know his survival prospects. If one woman was Rand’s wife, she would be above all other people except Rand. With three, no single person is so elevated. There is also the implication that Rand’s burden is so great that he needs three to help, and sustain, him.

The Dragon expects to leave his children fatherless and that he will never know them. He never knew his biological father, and yet appears to be alright. Rand has to be dead to his father at least, and probably his children for many years, if not forever, for his death to be convincing. This was his true sacrifice—his and theirs. Being free of the burden of being the Dragon was his reward. He advises Elayne not to call her boy Rand because the expectations will be too large. They should live their own lives without that. There will still be bad enough expectations though: in Aviendha’s vision, her four children were treated very atypically by the Aiel and this did not turn out well. Elayne says Rand must have some hope. Rand says he hopes for the world but expects, and accepts, own death.

Rand thinks Elayne is a good coordinator of battle plans. Elayne brushes his praise aside and says it is due to her training from Morgase and Bryne. Rand compares this dinner with their time in Tear, when he really began to know her and love her. They share common responsibilities and interests. Elayne notices that Rand finds being responsible for peoples’ lives and deaths a great burden. He wasn’t trained to this from an early age like her. (However, Lan was and also finds it very hard to bear.) Rand realised on Dragonmount that he made himself hard, so the burden wouldn’t hurt, but became uncaring. Being hunted down and abused did not help. He needs to care or else his strategies become unscrupulous—as Mordeth’s were.

Elayne is impressed that Rand has Lews Therin’s knowledge now. She sees the opportunity:

"I am him. I always was. I remember it now."

Elayne breathed out, eyes widening. "What an advantage."

Of all the people he had told that to, only she had responded in such a way. What a wonderful woman.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

whereas Nynaeve saw the danger and the pain:

No man should have to remember the failures of Lews Therin Telamon.

The Gathering Storm, A Conversation with the Dragon

Here he admits to himself that growing grass was “some other trick”—and not being ta’veren, or channelling, as so many have suggested. In A Memory of Light, Older, More Weathered, we find out that this trick is the technique of Singing gained from Lews Therin’s knowledge.

Elayne insists that everyone has the right to do their bit in the war. It is not only important to her, but also to the Pattern. This is the starting point of what Rand needs to realise at the last. He thinks that he knows this now, but it is not really the case.

Because the Dark One is pushing evil into the Pattern, only good events surround Rand now. Earlier, he attracted both positive and negative events; extremes of the Pattern, but balanced. Rand was everyman then – representative of all. Now he represents the Light to balance the Dark One. The more the Dark One touches the world, the more the Pattern gets Rand to provide change to undo it.

When Elayne asks if there can be never be good in the world, she means lack of evil. There is good right then and there, but there is also evil. The world is not a Paradise and cannot be. The Age of Legends thought it was—but they were mistaken and the result was terrible apocalyptic war.

"There were many good years. Good decades, good centuries. We believed we were living in paradise. Perhaps that was our downfall. We wanted our lives to be perfect, so we ignored imperfections. Problems were magnified through inattention, and war might have become inevitable if the Bore hadn't ever been made."

A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

Rand thinks the Pattern is not about good or evil. Moiraine would add that it is about both of them and choosing between them.

“The Creator is good, Perrin. The Father of Lies is evil. The Pattern of Age, the Age Lace itself, is neither. The Pattern is what is. The Wheel of Time weaves all lives into the Pattern, all actions. A pattern that is all one color is no pattern. For the Pattern of an Age, good and ill are the warp and the woof.” Even riding through late-afternoon sunshine three days later, Perrin felt the chill he had had on first hearing her say those words. He wanted to believe the Pattern was good. He wanted to believe that when men did evil things, they were going against the Pattern, distorting it. To him the Pattern was a fine and intricate creation made by a master smith. That it mixed pot metal and worse in with good steel with never a care was a cold thought.

The Dragon Reborn, Within the Weave

Perrin thinks that the Pattern should be good only, and the world a paradise. Rand sees the impersonalness of Pattern and has found it hard to bear. His role is so overwhelming he’d rather make it obsolete.

Rand’s error has led him to want to kill the Dark One and remove evil from the Pattern. He sees the Dark One as alien to Pattern and sabotaging it. Yet sabotage can be foreseen—or at least expected—and woven into the Pattern, along with measures to counteract it. Rand is viewing the Pattern from one side only and his perception is flawed.

Rand gives Elayne a Seed, which Cadsuane thinks is a type of ter’angreal. Where did Rand obtain it? From one of his hoards of ter’angreal? (He is a typical dragon in having hoards.) Hopefully Elayne studies the Seed so she learns how to make them before she turns it into an angreal.

In exchange she gives him the artham dagger. He didn’t recognise it at first, so he can’t read ter’angreal. Yet Lews Therin knows of artham, although no one had succeeded in making one when he was alive. They exchange gifts as equals. No one else does that with Rand.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #11: Chapter 8--That Smouldering City


By Linda

Elayne POV

This is a short chapter to quicken the pace as we go into the Last Battle.

Viewing Caemlyn, Elayne quotes what Birgitte said in Towers of Midnight immediately after seeing the dragons tested:

If dragons can do that to a city, she thought, surveying the hole that Talmanes had made in the nearest wall, the world will need to change. Everything we know about warfare will change.

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

Defensive city fortresses will no longer be the protection they once were; they are becoming obsolete. Channelling—especially using powerful angreal or sa’angreal or in a ring—would also be able to destroy fortresses, but Aes Sedai are bound to not use the Power as a weapon and other channellers didn’t have the angreal or the knowledge to link.

Elayne is disappointed that Talmanes is respectful and polite to her—his Queen. She expected that Mat would have “corrupted” him. However, none of the Band’s officers became casual to royalty due to Mat’s influence. Vanin was already disdainful of nobles when he joined up; and the others follow the social customs of the time. In fact, many of Mat’s officers are nobles. Mat is outside the normal social order, as trickster figures are. (Vanin is also a trickster figure, the only other trickster in the Band, see Tricksters article).

Yet Bashere is not formal with Elayne and she complains about that—from a noble who is almost of equal rank with her. She reminds herself he is worth cultivating because he is Tenobia’s heir (and was therefore her equal a few months earlier.) Elayne is often excitable—she has a tendency to think in italics—but she is particularly illogical here.

Bashere persuades Elayne to announce that Rand is the father of her unborn children. The Saldaean general doesn’t object to her going to war while pregnant—because it shows the seriousness of the situation and reminds them of what they are fighting for. Also there are no safe places. Elayne resents being advised by her advisors—by men, she says, but she doesn’t like it when Birgitte does it either. Nevertheless she follows his, and Birgitte’s, good advice.

Elayne has given orders to destroy Caemlyn and steels herself to watch it happen. In the face of serious things she is brave and focussed; like Mat, she fusses about the small stuff—such as protocol.

The scene also perhaps references the apocalyptic book Revelation, which features as a large inspiration for Tarmon Gaidon, Armageddon. Apart from the breaking of the Seven Seals and the Horn being the Last Trump, Elayne is a parallel of the distracting pregnant woman in Revelation, and M’Hael is a dark St Michael fighting the (good) Dragon. Chapter 18 of Revelation speaks of the fall of the city of Babylon:

“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit…Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire…The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’…‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’ “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

Revelation 18, verses 2, 8, 10, 19-20

A city overrun comprehensively by the Shadow is a parallel of Babylon. The good guys stand far off and watch Caemlyn burn. (Babylon, city of fornicators, is also a parallel of Graendal—the whore of Babylon—as I will discuss in the chapter where she falls.)


Androl POV

The Darkfriends took the trouble to dig Logain’s faction out of the collapsed area so they could Turn them to Shadow. There are not enough Dreadlords, so they are going to the trouble of forcibly making them—and it is expensive of time, Myrddraal and Dreadlords’ energy. As an example of the Shadow’s lack of Dreadlords, the shields on Logain’s faction are tied off.

Turned Dreadlords are the weakest quality of Darkfriend, though, according to Lanfear. They lack creativity or perhaps even much will. Evin is a good example. Killing the opposition’s channellers deprives the Light of channellers, whereas Turning them adds to the loss since the Shadow gains the channellers. Just not as useful people as the original. This parallels the situation with the Seanchan taking damane; most of which are broken so they accept their fate and perform as meekly as possible. Fortuona thinks it is a waste to kill free channellers, she prefers the Seanchan use them against the other side. Those at risk of being enslaved or broken disagree: better to die as Nalaam did than be Turned or collared.

The scene shows the effect of character strength on fighting the Shadow. Stronger characters don’t give in and are much more effective in staving off the Shadow. While the strongest people don’t succumb, they suffer more during the lengthy efforts to break them. This logically leads to Rand and his battle with the Dark One, who is/will be surely harder to battle than even 13 fades and 13 Dreadlords.

The assault is mostly psychological—not physical—torture and is very traumatic, as Logain’s and Emarin’s psychological condition will show, again paralleling Rand. There seems to be a brief period in the process without channelling:

The silence taunted him. Why couldn't he hear any sounds? Then he sensed something. Channeling… A few moments later, Taim's cronies returned. Evin squatted down beside Androl.

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

This is when the Myrddraal contribute their true power links. Fades can’t or don’t actually channel, as this description of Semirhage’s procedure shows:

It was Semirhage who discovered that a circle of thirteen, using thirteen Myrddraal as a sort of filter, could turn anyone who could channel to the Shadow

The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Then channelling resumes at the end stage for the actual Compulsion of character motivation and traits. The weakest channellers are more vulnerable, but also suffer less. Evin was psychologically weaker because he lacked self-confidence due to anxiety:

"I feel great. No more fear, no more worry.”

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

He now looks on the bright side of the outcome because, with his faults having become the major part of his character, he has no regrets over being Turned. It's all good. And really bad.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #10: Chapter 7--Into the Thick of It


By Linda

Elayne POV

The chapter title refers to the thick of the Last Battle that they abruptly enter as well as the thick of the trees around the tent. The darkening of the meeting is explained by the rapid growth of a dozen trees, hundreds of feet tall in under five minutes, that Rand achieved—probably by singing, since none of the Asha’man reacted to him channelling. For once, positive shadows, not negative. On his approach to the meeting site, Rand made grass grow and later in the book, Mat tells us how Rand was able to make things grow rapidly.

Most of the channellers panic and reach for the source when Perrin mentions that the trees are like Great Trees in a stedding. But they are not in a stedding. Egwene reminds them all that there is a limit to Rand’s powers—and he can’t create steddings.

Elayne is quick to call a meeting before resistance grows to her being placed above the other monarchs and generals. Bryne volunteers his maps to Elayne, but declines defending Andor with her. Understandably, he has moved on from his position in Ador. After the meeting, he compliments Elayne on how well she ran it, showing her that he has no hard feelings towards her.

The generals’ plans are: to keep Tarwin’s Gap plugged as long as possible, to prevent the Trollocs from spreading out of Kandor and Caemlyn into surrounding regions, and (at Rhuarc’s suggestion) to protect Rand at Shayol Ghul. Elayne won’t let the Aiel make their own dispositions at Shayol Ghul. She overrules Amys, Aviendha and Rhuarc, following Rand’s insistence that there are to be no independent generals.

Agelmar suggests that they attack the Caemlyn Waygate from inside. In fact, Brandon wrote a scene for A Memory of Light where Perrin led forces into the Ways to close the Waygate on that side, and the Ogier showed up to drive the Black Wind off with their song. However, it was cut due to the length of the book and because the scene was a sideline to the Last Battle.

Instead, Bryne suggests a way to lure the Trollocs out of Caemlyn and a position to ambush them. It is decided to hit Caemlyn hard for a quick victory, since the Shadow’s numbers are smallest there, to reduce the battle fronts from four to three.

The generals realise the significance of having four great captains and four battlefronts—it is not a coincidence. Mind you, it is never suggested that the Aiel have a Great Captain, though in earlier books Bruan was hinted to be one:

even Rhuarc considered Bruan a deadly fighter and a devious tactician.

The Fires of Heaven, Rhuidean

While Bryne is in Kandor, Bashere in Andor and Agelmar in Shienar, Ituralde will lead the Aiel and others at Thakan’dar—and he does very well. He remarks that he never thought that he’d fight alongside Aiel.

Ituralde shows symptoms of trauma from the battle for Maradon. Considering his physical and mental state, it is all the more impressive that he held out the longest (or best) against Graendal’s Compulsion.

Perrin warns Elayne against sending someone to the Black Tower for help and to be careful about the Black Tower because something is wrong there. Without thinking, Elayne says she is always careful. Possibly Birgitte would disagree.

Loial’s mother Covril says that she argued the Ogier should open the book of translation and flee, but did not truly believe it was the right thing to do (which could mean that she believed it might be right—or half-believed it was right). I always wondered about Covril’s allegiances…All her actions had relatively innocent explanations, but had potentially dark outcomes.

In this case, she claims that she argued to test her belief and that of other Ogier, and to prove that staying was the best thing to do:

"An argument must have opposition if it is to prove itself, my son," she said. "One who argues truly learns the depth of his commitment through adversity. Did you not learn that trees grow roots most strongly when winds blow through them?"

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

Presumably through the branches and not the roots.

Rand’s growth of Great Trees proves to the Ogier that they should stay and fight the Shadow (for Rand).

Elayne wants Perrin to be quartermaster for the armies but he insists that he must help Rand. Faile volunteers for the job, but Elayne doesn’t trust her. She tries speaking circumspectly about the Horn to Perrin, but he mentions it openly. It had been hidden in a strong room in the Tower and moved just before the Shadow broke into the room.

Perrin points out to Elayne that Faile is a good choice to guard and deliver the horn to Mat because she is not close to Elayne, Egwene or Mat. They will start making supply runs now to establish a pattern, and also because they are needed.


Lan POV

The night is too dark for Trollocs to see. Dusk is a time of strength for them—they can outsee humans then. Also, as Liandrin says:

At dawn the day was born, just as twilight gave birth to night, but at dawn, night died, and at twilight, day. The Dark One's power was rooted in death; he gained power from death, and at those times she thought she could feel his power stirring.

The Great Hunt, The Shadow in Shienar

The Dark One’s power is the True Power which Shadowspawn contain, so they too are strengthened at dusk. Full sun, of course, is too bright for them.

Lan is surprised that a king, Easar of Shienar, bows to him. The Borderlanders will follow Lan as overall leader of these forces. Easar explains:

”You raised the Golden Crane. We were sworn to come to your aid, so we have."

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

Simple and honourable loyalty.

Lan gives a rousing speech to turn the men from despair and self-pity. Easar quotes a poem and smiles at his memories of what makes the poem relevant to him (his wife, probably, and his grief at her death). The poem speaks of someone damaged, but accepting this and continuing on nevertheless. The Malkieri king is damaged—has been from infancy after his family, home, country, and even role were destroyed.

Lan formally accepts the role of leader of the armies at Tarwin’s Gap. He has a dig at Rand when he says he will do his duty:

"What am I?" Lan asked, swinging into the saddle. "Some sheepherder from a forgotten village? I will do my duty.”

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

and declares that he will make any man under him also do his duty. Mind you, it was not that long ago that Lan was reluctant to take on the responsibility for others as part of doing his duty. Rand and Lan have some important similarities. Easar smiles again—at the dig, or at Lan taking on the role he was born and trained to do? Perhaps both. This scene has a strong undercurrent of acceptance.

Lan feels that his army—including the Asha’man—is very united. Lan has five Asha’man, all Borderlanders, one from each nation. He would prefer the Asha’man made gateways, healed or did other useful tasks rather than killed Trollocs.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ter'angreal Articles Updated


By Linda

I've now completed updating all the ter'angreal articles with information from The Wheel of Time Companion and from Robert Jordan's notes. Major changes include the Choedan Kal access keys, a'dam and jewellery ter'angreal.

The updated articles are:

  • Ter'angreal and Allied Items
    (short cut to Access Keys, A'dam and Jewellery ter'angreal) and
  • The Cache from Ebou Dar, as well as

  • Cadsuane's Ornaments.

  • Monday, May 9, 2016

    Angreal and Sa'angreal Article Updated


    By Linda

    I've been working to update blog articles with information from The Wheel of Time Companion and from Robert Jordan's notes. Today the Angreal and Sa'angreal article was updated. We now have additional information on the working of sa'angreal.

    Thursday, April 7, 2016

    A Memory of Light Read-Through #9: Chapter 6—A Knack


    By Linda

    Perrin POV

    Egwene and Rand’s spat went on long enough for Moiraine to arrive and gauge the meeting.

    Perrin’s positive thoughts are really noticeable after Egwene’s negativity in the last chapter. For instance, he is proud and impressed that Mat freed Moiraine. When he sees Mat riding through the countryside, he wonders where Mat is going—to Ebou Dar, as it happens—but doesn’t judge. With his abilities, Perrin’s POVs represent truth or accuracy in a situation. Perrin is likely the most reliable of the narrators.

    Rand is stunned into disbelief that Moiraine is back. She gives a philosophical explanation as she has so often in the past: “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills”. But then, Nynaeve and Min are also shocked. Min had given up on her viewing that Moiraine still had essential deeds to accomplish:

    She had not really lied when he asked her what viewings she had kept back. Not really. What good to tell him he would almost certainly fail without a woman who was dead and gone?

    - A Crown Of Swords, Into The Woods

    Min sighed regretfully, but it was not as if she had really expected Moiraine to turn up alive. Moiraine was the only viewing of hers that had ever failed.

    - A Crown Of Swords, Into The Woods

    —and now Moiraine is about to do one of these essential deeds.

    Egwene gives Moiraine a formal greeting as Amyrlin, which Moiraine doesn’t take very seriously. Moiraine has less strength in saidar than previously—which means by tradition she should have been much meeker around the Amyrlin—but more in everything else. She points out that she gets credit for discovering the Amyrlin, and by implication reminds Egwene that she owes a lot to Moiraine. Then Nynaeve, in turn, shocked Moiraine by hugging her. Moiraine is not used to physical demonstrations in public, and has typical Cairhienin reserve. Nynaeve has very mixed feelings about Moiraine, but from this point on, the two women work together quite well.

    Darlin may be thoughtful at Moiraine’s return because his wife-to-be is Moiraine’s cousin. Also he maybe have heard of things about her from Caraline.

    Egwene informs Moiraine—complains, really—that Rand is exacting a price for his sacrifice. She puts a negative spin on it, as she did all the previous chapter. After reading the treaty herself, Moiraine responds by quoting the Karaethon Cycle, including prophecies already fulfilled that she relates in a new way. When Egwene and Gregorin protest Rand’s conditions and plans, she counters them with prophecy.

    "'He shall slay his people with the sword of peace,' " Moiraine said, " 'and destroy them with the leaf.'…'The unstained tower breaks and bends knee to the forgotten sign . . .' "

    A Memory of Light, A Knack

    The first prophecy was about Rand breaking the Aiel, but now also the other nations, with peace. Rand’s peace is twofold: that from victory over the Shadow certainly had a lot of bloodshed, but that between the nations will hugely alter the Aiel and Seanchan, if not the other nations. In the second prophecy quoted above, the White Tower will bow to Rand and his wishes more than once. Not what Egwene wanted to hear. Moiraine doesn’t perhaps yet know the full story of the aftermath of Dumai’s Wells, but we do.

    A few people offer Rand constructive criticism. Saerin is complimentary about the treaty, but says the Seanchan need to be included in it. Elayne notices the lack of any conflict resolution procedure. Both are sensible points. The treaty will be void if the Empress does not sign. Then Aviendha says that the Aiel must be included in the peace, which is quite ironic considering other nations are complaining about being pressured into it. Quite a few rulers want to expand their nations at the expense of others. Perrin sees that the Aiel could be the enforcers of the peace, since they need to be doing purposeful things. Other nations think that the Aiel can be manipulated their way.

    Rhuarc fears this will be an end to the Aiel. Rand says it is a beginning. Privately, however, he remembers what Aviendha told him; that some Aiel believed that Rand would completely destroy the Aiel:

    ". . . your dream now . . . when you wake from this life, we will be no more . . ."

    -A Memory of Light, A Knack

    As mediators of peace—sworn to be via the treaty—they will have a variation of their old role in the Age of Legends, serving and helping the Dragon.

    Cadsuane is very approving. So is Elayne.

    Moiraine makes Rand see that he can’t oversee the battles. He has the wrong attitude for winning military battles. Rand is against the Amyrlin being the general—and Egwene doesn’t protest this, even though it was her aim to win this role for the Tower. Moiraine seems to have made her reconsider. Moiraine then tells Egwene that she will break the Seals, and leads her to understand her dream of Rand walking to Shayol Ghul on shards (of the Dark One’s prison):

    Him walking toward a burning mountain, something crunching beneath his boots. She stirred and whimpered; the crunching things were the seals on the Dark One's prison, shattering with his every step.

    -Lord Of Chaos, A Pile of Sand

    The shards are the broken Seals—that “what men made shall be shattered”. Moiraine makes Rand give the Seals to Egwene and Egwene promise that she will break them.

    As an Accepted, Moiraine studied philosophy, and she really shows this in this chapter. Perrin doesn’t follow Moiraine’s philosophy of trusting the Pattern to make things happen right. He believes in making his own way, and not relying on the Pattern. For all that wolves are supposed to be fatalistic, Perrin isn’t:

    Moiraine always had believed in following the weave of the Pattern and bowing to the Wheel's turnings. Perrin didn't see it that way. He figured you made your own path, and trusted in your own arms to do what needed to be done. The Pattern wasn't a thing to depend on.

    A Memory of Light, A Knack

    Perrin has been far less trusting of the Pattern since he learned how the good and bad were mixed within it. In his eyes this made it far from a masterwork, and therefore not to be relied upon.

    Rand gets Egwene to sign first. Faile sees that Rand brought all who supported him, and relied on Egwene to bring and unite the waverers and outright opponents. Then he only had to get her to sign—and the rest had to follow. Elayne is the last to sign and Rand gives her the leadership of the armies as an incentive.

    Faile then wonders about the damane the Seanchan have taken and the nations also. Rand considers damaging their forces if they don’t sign—yet all will be needed in the Last Battle. Of course the Empress considered not participating in Tarmon Gaidon and standing aside to take advantage of the weakened world after. This is selfish and short-sighted, since the Seanchan’s participation ensured victory.

    The mainlanders assume the Empress will hold to the treaty if she signs it. For all that other Seanchan take pride in honouring all oaths they take, Fortuona signed and then considered breaking the treaty. Mat was the one who insisted she keep her oath and shamed her into it.

    Rand decides publicly that he will allow the Seanchan the captives that they have taken because they have done good with the bad. Balance.

    Rand asks that the generals send some forces to save Lan’s army first. This is the reverse of his dark pronouncements that he would let Lan distract the Shadow and strike elsewhere without sending any forces to aid Lan.


    Lan POV

    Lan is pleased that Kaisel of Kandor accepts the realistic outcome of their battle. The Malkieri are proud to go down in one last charge.

    Lan realises that everyone deserves the choice of fighting for the Light. Like Rand, Lan did not want the responsibility of leading others to their deaths. He never learned how to bear the responsibilities of kingship in practise by watching his parents. Compare this with Faile instructing Perrin:

    "Perrin, my father says a general can take care of the living or weep for the dead, but he cannot do both."
    "I am not a general, Faile. I am a fool of a blacksmith who thought he could use other people to help him get justice, or maybe revenge. I still want it, but I don't want to use anyone else for it any longer."
    "Do you think the Trollocs will go away because you decide your motives are not pure enough?" The heat in her voice made him raise his head, but she pushed it back to the pillow almost roughly. "Are they any less vile? Do you need a purer reason to fight them than what they are? Another thing my father says. The worst sin a general can commit, worse than blundering, worse than losing, worse than anything, is to desert the men who depend on him."

    The Shadow Rising, Among the Tu’atha’an

    Part of the compact between noble and commoner, ingrained in Faile from her birth, was that nobles provided safety and security. And a part of giving security was to remind people that evil times were not forever. If today was bad, then tomorrow would be better, and if not tomorrow, then the day after. She wished she could be certain of that herself, but she had been taught to give those under her strength even when she had none herself, to soothe their fears, not infect them with her own.

    Lord of Chaos, Prologue

    Lan knows he must be responsible for his soldiers; he just didn’t want to have any soldiers with him to be responsible for.

    By pulling slowly out of the Gap, Lan’s forces unknowingly enabled their reinforcements to join them very easily. The timing is perfect. The Wheel weaves.

    Lan never had conventional childhood and development and had not previously sworn the Malkieri oath to defend. Andere insists Lan show pleasure at their rescue and victory and he laughs. Rarely, if ever, has Lan laughed in the series until now. It’s nice to end a chapter with joy.