The Wheel of Time Re-read: Monthly Summary (November)

Please note: This article contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time, particularly The Shadow Rising.

The Shadow Rising, Chapter 15-42

After a slow start, the book picks up here. It doesn’t have the frantic pace of the Great Hunt, but a lot happens. The scenes where Rand learns the history of the Aiel are some of my favorite in the series; which explain many of the cultural behaviors, such as not touching a sword, veiling before killing, and the way they avoid the Tua’athon. Though as the majority of the Aiel don’t know these things, we don’t learn what they think the reasons are. Perrin taking charge in the Two Rivers are his most interesting scenes to date.

We see considerable character development for many of the characters. Rand has accepted that he is the Dragon Reborn, and shows little hesitancy in going to Rhuidean to be the Aiel chief of chiefs. He is pretty isolated here – he seems to trust Mat, but no one else.  He has also started to think more of Min and how, unlike other women, she does not make him feel stupid.  Mat gains hints as to his future, but doesn’t know what to do with this. He also gets the holes in his memory filled, largely with battles, but also with dances and other memories of men long dead. He is now fluent in the Old Tongue, and has learned from those memories how to fight with his new spear weapon. 

Of the boys, Perrin has perhaps the most growth.  Initially planning to go to the Two Rivers to hand himself over to be hanged, he tries to manipulate Faile, which does not go well. Of all the leads, Perrin is least suited to manipulating people. He learns his family has been killed, so abandons the idea of sacrificing himself; instead dedicating himself to saving the village from the Trollocs and to a lesser extent the Whitecloaks. He succeeds in persuading people to abandon their farms and seek refuge in the villages, his ta’veren nature at work, though he is not comfortable admitting it. He also leads his first skirmish with Trollocs, which comes out badly – they are clearly betrayed here. The Two Rivers folk have begun to look to him – chanting “Goldeneyes” for example, but it is not complete – Wil reacts angrily to Perrin’s suggestion that he might prefer to go home and relax rather than hunt Trollocs. He is also much less willing to follow the led of Aes Sedai – even challenging Verin and Alanna directly, to the horror of Loial and Faile. 

Egwene goes to the Waste, as she wants to learn, but immediately starts lying to the Wise Ones and thinking of ways to get round her rules.  She also seems to have changed her loyalties – getting mad at Rand for the way Aviendha treats him, rather than at her; or when she thinks it is childish that Rand tells Moiraine to ask before Healing him. In general, she seems to take a few steps back from her growth while a damane, and is frequently immature, though not as impulsive as she was immediately on escaping the Seanchan.  Elayne and Nynaeve go off on their own, but we see little growth from them.  We get to know Aviendha, who goes from dislike of Rand because she thinks he mistreated Elayne, to hatred of him because of something she learned in Rhuidean – though not the Aiel past as he assumes.

In terms of Worldbuilding, the biggest aspect of these chapters is that we see the History of the Aiel, and glimpses of the Breaking and Age of legends. For me, the revelation that the ancestors followed the Way of the Leaf as unexpected, but it was hinted back as early as the meeting with the Green Man in book one; and made sense of what we knew of their refusal to touch a sword – even if it would mean death.  We also learn a little of the Warrior Societies and the relationship between clans; plus learn that Wise Ones can channel and have their own system for training, separate from that of the Aes Sedai. We also get our first glimpses of Seafolk culture, including that they also have women who can channel, that they hide from the Aes Sedai. They believe Rand is their Coramoor and that they will serve him, but seem to misunderstand the relationship between him and the Aes Sedai

Of the plotlines that run through the series, Rand fully accepting he is the Dragon Reborn moves that plot; and the Padan Fain and Whitecloak sub plots are fully intermingled. With Dain Bornhald’s hatred of Perrin leading him to ignore Fain’s murder of Perrin’s family and his suspicions that Fain may have killed Whitecloaks. The Aiel subplot gathers pace, with Rand coming out of Rhuidean at dawn, but not being accepted by Couladin and his Shaido. And the Black Ajah subplot also advances a little, with them in Tanchico, looking for something that could control Rand; and realizing there is dissention amongst the Forsaken. We don’t have many examples in these chapters of people refusing to adapt to new information, or acting on incorrect information; and generally, the characters are aware of their ignorance and make accommodations for their uncertainty. Aviendha and her attitude with Rand is a striking exception.

By the end of this section, Rand, along with Mat, Egwene and Moiraine, is on the way to Alcair Dal to announce he is the Cara’carn. They are accompanied by peddlers, who Rand suspects and have been attacked by Trollocs. Min is in Tar Valon; and Elayne and Nynaeve are hunting the Black Ajah in Tanchico, where they have encountered Bayle Domon again, and are likely to run into Egeanin.

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The Wheel of Time Re-read: Monthly Summary (October)

Please note: This article contains major spoilers for The Wheel of Time.

A lot happens in these chapters!

This month we finished the Dragon Reborn and started the Shadow Rising. Reading this way, a few chapters a week, the change in pacing was stark. The second half of the Dragon Reborn moves along extremely quickly – people decide to do something, and then do it, usually within the same chapter and often within the same page. There is very little of people standing around and discussing things, a stark contrast to how the Shadow Reborn starts, which is basically 12 chapters of people standing round discussing things, with a little action thrown in. Of course, the previous books also start a little slow, but this is different, partially because the kinds of discussion have changed. In the first three, we saw Rand being moved around by other forces, with little opportunity to discuss in depth, but here, he is now a ruler, and we get to see scenes of him meeting with High Lords and other rulers; which is probably important to show, but does slow down the narrative.

In the chapters we read last month, we did get to see a lot of character development, Mat continues to be heroic, even though he denies it; and his transformation into “city boy” is basically complete – he has little interest in returning to the Two Rivers. People are now typically taking him for a lord, though this may just be because he is wealthy, rather than his bearing. Of the three boys, he is the one who most easily adapts to his change in situation, though he does perhaps whine about it more than either Rand or Perrin. 

Perrin meets Faile. He is unsure of her at first, not even being able to decide if she is beautiful, and insisting on calling her Zarine. He does decide she is, and then worries if she could be the beautiful woman Min warned him about, but only really drops Zarine for Faile when he throws himself into Tel’aran’rhiod to save her. I think this probably took him a couple of weeks. He is also beginning to accept he probably won’t ever go back to being a blacksmith, though it is still what he wants from life.  We do see Perrin try his hand at manipulation, when he tells Faile he likes Berelain, in a futile effort to stop he from coming to the Two Rivers.  Not only does this seem needlessly cruel, it fails. The only thing it really achieves is to turn the simmering dislike Faile feels into genuine animosity between Faile and Berelain. After meeting Faile, we already know her fairly well – she seems very limited in her thinking and unable to adapt to the idea not everyone thinks and acts like a Saldaean.

Rand also grows, but not always in a good way. He continues to develop a strong commanding presence, but also begins to get short tempered and impatient. This is not helped by everyone trying to manipulate him.  He is thrown into a leadership position with no experience, and rather than seeing what she can do to help, Egwene joins in.

Egwene realises she doesn’t love Rand and tells him, but is not mature enough to believe him when he says the same thing. She also spends much of the time bickering with Nynaeve, largely because neither of them know how to adapt to their change in status. She also decides to go to the Waste to learn Dreamwalking. The Aiel don’t seem the sort to put up with her foolishness. Then again, neither were the Seanchan and she reverted as soon as she was free of them. All three of the girls have picked up the Aes Sedai attitude of “I’m stronger than you so I can make you do what I say.” Moiraine learns balefire somehow, and describes herself as “more dangerous” than she was before.

In terms of major themes — one of which is people acting on incomplete or even inaccurate knowledge, or refusing to adapt when new information shows them wrong — we actually see Moiraine learn here. She finally accepts that three ta’veren from the same small village might mean something and that Perrin could be important.  A big improvement on “I’ll destroy you if I think you are in my way.”  We also learn the Aiel are the people of the Dragon and so are in the prophecies – despite Moiraine stating they were not mentioned. How many other times are prophecies fulfilled but no one notices because it is not what they were expecting? This happens again when Moiraine tries to force the prophecy of leading the spears to war to match Rand attacking Illian.

As well as learning of prophecy, we also get more of Min’s visions – something is going to happen to the White Tower; plus prophetic dreams and learned that Elaida attached herself to the Andoran royal family because she had a foretelling that the Royal line was key to defeating the Shadow. We also see the Whitecloaks are in the Two Rivers, hunting Perrin, which was something hinted at in Egwene’s dreams

We had considerable progression in various plotlines. Of course, the main plot of the Dragon being Reborn to fight the Dark One takes a leap forward, with Rand accepting his status and taking Callandor. For the Forsaken subplot, after seeing Lanfear free in book 2 and being hit over the head with Ba’alzamon being Ishamael, we do get confirmation of that, and also see him killed. We also see that Be’lal is ruling Tear, Sammael ruling Illian; and though not stated, it is clear another Forsaken ruling Andor.  Other sublplots, such as the Black Ajah, Padan Fain and the Whitecloaks also feature, though there is no great advance in any of these.

We didn’t really find out much about the world we didn’t already know. We meet the Aiel, and do learn a little about them, but in reality not much. We saw characters pass through Illian, and in Tear, so learned a little about the governance of those countries. We were also introduced to bubbles of evil – strange events caused by the Dark One disrupting the pattern. Unlike Ta’veren effects, these are negative, and are not necessarily just unlikely events that happen more frequently (though as I noted before, the ta’veren events we have seen do not  always fall into that class).  

These sections end with Elayne and Nynaeve deciding to go to Tarabon to hunt the Black Ajah. Egwene to go to the Waste to learn Dreamwalking, and Perrin back to the Two Rivers.  Rand hasn’t said anything yet, but it is clear he will be going to the Waste with the Aiel. The only ones who we really don’t know is Mat and Thom.

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The Wheel of Time Re-read: Monthly Summary (September)

Please note: This article contains major spoilers for the Wheel of Time.

 

This month, we continued through the Dragon Reborn.  After a fairly slow start, the pace soon picks up and we mostly split into three stories — Perrin and Moiraine; Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve; and Mat. Rand is mostly absent, just occasional glimpses, mostly when Perrin or Egwene see him in dreams.  

 

We begin to get more of a sense of the world. In TarValon, the girls are treated as runaways, ostensibly so that no one will link them to Liandrin, though really, does Siuan think that Novices and Accepted could tell an Aes Sedai no?  She manipulates them into hunting the Black Ajah, something Lanfear helps them with. Her motivations here are mysterious, as they have always been. We do see the Forsaken acting in opposition to each other, and even at this stage, we can see that if they weren’t setting up such convoluted plans, and were working with rather than against each other, they could have removed Mat and Perrin, and maybe Rand, if they truly wanted him dead.

 

 

We get the first point of view chapters from Mat, so he probably gets the most character development of any. All we have seen of him before is that he is irresponsible and doesn’t think things through, but the Mat we see here values keeping his word and does like to have as much information as possible before acting. We also see him acting heroically, to save Aludra; and with generosity, giving coin to a beggar in Illian — though he denies both. He is also taken for a Lord, though this is largely because of his wealth, rather than his bearing. We additionally see him fighting and that he is very skilled with a quarterstaff, and extremely lucky.

 

Perrin is still struggling with being a wolfbrother, though he now feels an absence when they are not there. He also meets Faile, and their relationship — though still adversarial in this part of the book — develops quickly. He is still insisting on calling her Zarine, but is willing to defend her against Lan. He also begins to assert himself more with Moiraine, though she is able to quickly shut him down most of the time.

 

We don’t see as much from the girls. Nynaeve learns to Heal at will, but is still blaming Moiraine for them leaving the Two Rivers, long beyond the point where it was remotely plausible to do so.

 

Although we spend more time in the Tower, we don’t really get to see more of how Aes Sedai work, or why certain of them are chosen for particular tasks, such as Healing Mat, or being present for Egwene’s raising. There is confirmation that the Black Ajah exists, though there was little doubt about Liandrin. And we know there must be a relatively large number of them, as they can send 13 away without there being any obvious pattern. But other than an attack from a Gray man, they seem to have lost interest in Egwene and Nynaeve.

 

We end the month with a convergence – Rand heading for Tear to get Callandor; Moiraine to protect him and the girls to go after the Black Ajah; Mat is heading to Caemlyn, but it is pretty clear at this stage that something there is likely to send him on to Tear for the conclusion. 

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The Wheel of Time Re-read: Monthly Summary (August)

 
Please note, this article contains major spoilers for The Wheel of Time.
 
In August we read the second half of the Great Hunt and got started on the Dragon Reborn.
 
With the boys reunited again, these chapters are primarily from Rand’s point of view; so we see his development more than Perrin or Mat. We have more confirmation that Rand has Aiel heritage, from the response of the Aiel in the stedding; though at this point, there wasn’t really any doubt. With Selene gone, Rand also remembers Egwene exists, even if his feelings towards her have changed. He still denies he is the Dragon Reborn, even after he fights Ba’alzamon in the sky and is proclaimed by everyone, he still doesn’t really believe it. He is beginning to realize that he is unlikely to be able to just stop channeling – he misses saidin when he is in the stedding, though it takes him a while to put this together. Perrin does have a little development – he still refuses the wolves, but is starting to develop into a leader; or at least, into having people follow his lead. Mat is sick through much of this, and although he blows the horn, we really don’t see anything significant from him in terms of character development.
 
Of the other characters, Egwene probably develops most. She is captured by the Seanchan and forced to learn to channel at a greatly accelerated rate; especially compared to Elayne, who spends those weeks trying not to channel or even hold the Power at all. This leads her to using the Power in their escape attempt rather than trying to think their way free, endangering them all. She also moves on from Rand, focusing mostly on Galad – at this time, she barely notices Gawyn. Min and Elayne both admit their feelings for Rand, though Elayne is more open about it. She has also constructed a fantasy version of Rand in her mind, seemingly based on how she would want a man to be. We also get the first instance of “I’m such a coward” from Elayne, because she would rather live to fight another day than die a pointless death. This is one of the many aspects of her character I find extremely annoying. Finally, we see her relax her “we should never break the law” attitude, when she steals for food when hungry. Nynaeve has a little growth in how she is willing to use the Power, but fails to put aside her resentment of Moiraine. At one stage, after Liandrin has handed them over to the Seanchan, she still puts them at a similar level for her dislike.
 
This month also had one of the strangest chapters in the series – Rand’s trip through his alternate lives. This left us with many questions. How many lives did he live? Did he really live through all of them? How many years would that have been? How much did he retain – it should have given him clues as to the future (though he was called Lews Therin in many and this didn’t alert him to the truth of his status as the Dragon Reborn). Did anyone else live a life where Rand revealed himself? How did the time work? He existed in all of them, so presumably up to that point they had gone more or less the same way as the main world, but in some it was years or decades before the Seanchan arrival and Tarmon Gaidon.
 
We see the Black Ajah revealed. Although Liandrin doesn’t say so outright, and no one else seems to put it together, it is absolutely clear that both her and Suroth are darkfriends. Interestingly, Liandrin doesn’t seem to lie here. I think we can assume that the Black Ajah must be able to, otherwise there is no way they could keep their secret. But they may be so used to making sure everything they say has a plausible true explanation, that even when they never expect to see the person again they try to make sure they are telling the truth.
For worldbuilding in general, we see a little more of how Ta’veren work – Rand feeling himself being pulled towards Falme; and at the end Egwene, Elayne, and Min being drawn to him, though it is Nynaeve who actually saves him. We also learn a lot about the Seanchan, though some of it, such as servants killing themselves when their Lord dies, is not something we see later.
 
We also get more of the visions and prophecies in this section. More of the Prophecies of the Dragon, for example “slay his people with the sword of peace, and destroy them with the leaf” as well as more of Min’s visions. At this stage, we probably aren’t able to work out what any of them mean, though the link of leaf and sword of peace might suggest that Rand’s people, have some connection with the Way of the Leaf. If does give us a few things to look out for which we will know are significant, such as an Aielman in a cage.
 
In terms of the various themes that run throughout the series, we see more examples of people acting on poor knowledge, or refusing to update what they believe in light of new information. Everyone continues to think of Ba’alzamon as the Dark One, and the Whitecloaks decide to believe that the Aes Sedai are controlling the Seanchan and the three oaths have been shown to be lies. While they probably wouldn’t have been able to do much differently if they had realized Ba’alzamon was Ishamael, the Whitecloaks and others would have made other decisions if they knew the Seanchan controlled women who channel, rather than being controlled by them.

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The Wheel of Time Re-read: Monthly Summary (July)

 
Please note: This article contains major spoilers for the Wheel of Time.
 

In many ways, the Great Hunt is still in the mold of many traditional fantasy epics, at least in that it largely follows the quest narrative. It flips the format from the Eye of the World, as instead of our heroes fleeing something, they are chasing after something. We also get the heroes split again, and in this case, the Egwene/Nynaeve ploy doesn’t fit into the quest narrative format. As with book one, book two starts with a prologue separate from the main plot, this time at a Darkfriend Social. We see several Darkfriends described, some of whom we can probably identify, others will remain a mystery – how does a Tuatha’an become a Darkfriend anyway? In general, the book keeps up the fast pace of the previous one, with only a few chapters feeling like a rest from the frenetic action.
 

The world continues to expand. Characters we had previously met briefly, come back to play larger roles, notably Elayne, Min and Domon. Though for Elayne and Min at least, this is just one scene. We also meet Thom again, not dead, merely wounded. He apparently is confident of his ability to sneak into a palace and assassinate the king.
 

For character development, Mat is still Mat, but both Perrin and Rand grow. Rand more so, though much of this is from other people noting it – Perrin, Thom and others all think on how if they didn’t know better, they’d believe him a Lord. We also see him obsess about Selene, during which time he tends to forget Egwene exists. We don’t really get any development for Egwene or Elayne, but do get a look into Nynaeve’s psyche in her Accepted test
 

The world building expands further. We learn more of the Aiel and their ways, even if this is not much. And we meet the Seanchan, learning that they dislike women who can channel, control them in some way, and that they consider themselves the armies of Artur Hawkwing, back to reclaim their rights. We learn more of Cairhienin culture, and Daes Daemar, which might give us some understanding of why Laman cut down Avendoraldera and started the Aiel war – they all seem obsessed with plotting against each other to gain some sort of advantage.
 

We get more prophecy – some of the prophecies of the Dragon, that the Dragon Reborn will twice be marked by Herons. Rand decides to ignore this, as living in denial is apparently preferable to accepting he might actually be the Dragon Reborn. We also get a couple of Min’s visions -one for Elayne and one for Egwene. The Elayne one teases someone close to her will lose a hand, the Egwene one is more generic – a white flame. Egwene also has her first prophetic dream (or vision of what is happening) and sees Rand transferred to another world, with the implication that a woman (ie Lanfear) was responsible.
 

In terms of mysteries, Selene and Verin are probably the big two. Verin is clearly behaving oddly, for example, why would she have a satisfied smile just because she told them Moiraine sent her? Selene however, is even odder. She got to the parallel world through a Portal Stone, knew what one was and the name, knew about Grolm, uses the phrase “Friends of the Dark” in addition to the more usual “Darkfriends,” is very insistent she isn’t Aes Sedai and has an unhealthy obsession with Rand. We probably don’t know enough to really be sure of her identity at this point, but we can be sure she isn’t just some random Cairhienin noblewoman who happened to find her way into the world by accident. Finally, we see very strange behavior from Machin Shin – waiting at a Waygate and apparently trying to escape. Is this ta’veren working its magic, or did Fain somehow persuade it? Verin is adamant that Machin Shin can’t be controlled, but as we have seen often, people are frequently totally convinced of something without good reason.
 

We also see strange behavior from Liandrin, using the Power on people to control them and having an unusual interest in Rand and the boys. I don’t know if that alone is enough to mark her as obviously Black Ajah, but we should certainly view her as untrustworthy. Later we see a Draghkar warded so that it can’t be detected by an Aes Sedai. Moiraine and the others there assume the Black Ajah did it, but we don’t find out how they got a Draghkar, or who sent it to the Aes Sedai.
 

Relating to Aes Sedai, we see trouble at the Tower and that unusual alliances are forming among the Ajah; and that Siuan is on shaky ground. We learn that she was almost barred from coming and that the Hall came close to declaring her a Blue. Based on who she said voted or abstained, it seems that the people who voted for this probably had some overlap with those who later vote to depose her, but that there were people who wouldn’t oppose her here, but later became convinced she had to go, and people who were not supporting her at this time, but were not involved in the coup against her. The Tower politics here don’t make much sense to me.
 

The book ends with the characters in a similar position to how it started – Egwene and Nynaeve (and now Elayne) learning to channel, and the boys chasing the Horn and Dagger, with an Aes Sedai hanging around, even if Moiraine from book one has been swapped for Verin. Although they have been chasing the Horn, because they weren’t on the run, there has also been more of a chance to learn about the world; and we have begun to get an idea of just how big the scope of the story could be.

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