This article contains spoilers for the entire series.
—Saerin to Egwene about Silviana, The Gathering Storm, Chapter 38
At two critical points in The Gathering Storm, Silviana’s fate is used to figure a potential turning point for the Red Ajah. Portrayed by one Amyrlin as a traitor and another as a near martyr, Silviana’s fate gestures alternately towards crisis or union, dissolution or renewal.
As Mistress of Novices during Elaida’s tenure as Amyrlin Seat, Silviana is known to be fair but exceedingly strict. She takes pride in her own effectiveness at governing her charges, telling Egwene that “I record a third of the punishments in a month that Sheriam did, because I make sure that everyone I punish leaves here wishing above all things never to be sent to me again” (KoD, Prologue). She appears to hold the respect of the Tower at large for her careful attention to duty; even Egwene, who frequently suffers under her discipline while in captivity, concedes that Silviana is “an exemplary Mistress of Novices” (TGS, Ch. 38).
As with the rest of the Red Ajah, Silviana initially supports Elaida’s reign, abiding by her commands and sometimes even supporting them. She fully agrees with Elaida’s decision to demote Egwene to the rank of novice, believing that Egwene was raised to Accepted too quickly in the first place, and is resolved to make Egwene see the error in her persistent claims to the Amyrlin Seat. Egwene counts it amongst her most definitive victories when Silviana begins to express resignation over her continued defiance.
When Silviana eventually sides with Egwene and publicly declares that Elaida should be stripped of the stole, it provokes an outburst that threatens to devastate an entire Ajah. Elaida insists that Silviana be stilled and executed, subsequently casting the Hall of the Tower into unmitigated chaos. Elaida’s reaction here is one of the most extreme we have seen from her to this point—exacerbated, no doubt, by the fact that this is the first open act of rebellion from a member of her former Ajah. Should the Hall concede to Elaida’s demands, as Saerin tells Egwene, the most likely result would be the fragmentation of the entire Red Ajah—a breaking point for a sisterhood that is already facing a crucial transformation following the founding of the Black Tower and the cleansing of saidin. Other Red sisters show distinct unease at the situation, and Egwene recognizes that the Red Ajah is “collapsing” (TGS, Ch. 38).
If Elaida’s attempt to have Silviana stilled and executed for treason ultimately reveals the extent to which the Red Ajah has “undermined itself” since the split in the White Tower, then Egwene’s decision to appoint Silviana to the position of Keeper of the Chronicles is, at least in part, an attempt to bolster the Red. Although Saerin considers it a practical move to allow the Ajah to be disbanded, Egwene insists that “The White Tower needs all of the Ajahs, even the Red, to face what is coming” (TGS, Ch. 38). Egwene’s vehement praise of Silviana in front of the Hall is not just an exoneration of the former Mistress of Novices. It is also an overt act of reinforcement for an Ajah that is in something near to disgrace—particularly coming, as it does, so closely on the heels of the disaster nearly instigated by Elaida. Egwene is intent on using Silviana not only to tie the Red Ajah to herself as Amyrlin, but also to help “guide” the Red Ajah towards an “expanding of vision, a renewal of duty” (TGS, Ch. 46).
In the end, it is unknown whether or not Silviana survives the Last Battle—and therefore whether or not she has a direct hand in shaping that “expansion of vision” and “renewal of duty” for the Red Ajah in the Fourth Age. The last we see of her, Silviana is attempting to convince Egwene not to return to the field of battle after Gawyn’s death.
For a brief time, however, Silviana’s fate is in many ways tied to the fate of her Ajah itself.