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.

3 comments:

t ball said...

I have often wondered if Jordan wrote himself in as Loial. Your note about the Vietnam pic/Mat made me consider this in a new light. I also have wondered if my feeling about this was partly due to Sanderson manufacturing it during the writing of the final books, or if it was something he either picked up on or was hinted at by Harriet and he reinforced in rather deft ways here.

That I have to wonder is a tribute to Sanderson's handling of a thankless task.

t ball said...

Deserving a separate thought: Though I have not reread the book all the way through yet, I have very vivid memories of my frantic, sleepless first read and the high emotional points. Most of them were in this very long chapter. Olver, Egwnene, Lan. In turns, delight, shock mixed with resigned thoughts of how right it was, and then for Lan's scene a very unexpected life after victory.

I suspect that most people reading expected Egwene to survive and Lan to die and it was really right and great (though somewhat sad) that we got the opposite. It was fitting even as it was surprising. Lan's death had been foreshadowed so heavily it was practically laughable that he lived, and yet it worked really well. The same for Egwene backwards.She's like JFK or Lincoln, the leader that is supposed to lead us into the next great era until they are shockingly cut down. It's great writing that we don't quite suspect this until it happens.

Linda said...

Loial has bits of RJ in him, but maybe some other characters have different bits or aspects of his life. After all, RJ said that each female character has some aspect of Harriet.

I agree that the image of Mat was very well done. The anecdote may be a well known one (though I have only seen it on that one blog post, unlike the one about him being called Ganesh in Vietnam.

I agree that Egwene's death was shocking, and all the more ironic after the Ajah Heads started sweating at how long a reign she would have. She was but a brilliant comet in the end.

Lan always found death far more easy than life, in many ways; a result of his tragic childhood. And so it was apt that he got to live, and Nynaeve to teach him how to do it happily.