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

 

Please note, this post contains major spoilers for The Wheel of Time series.

 
The second half of The Eye of the World continues in much the same vein as the first. The quest narrative continues after they meet up again, with them heading to the Eye of the World on an incredibly important mission. We’ll see a similar structure again in books 2 and 3, where everyone ends up heading to the same place; though unlike the Eye of the World, they don’t meet up till the end. There is less of this in book 4, though Rand is heading towards Alcair Dal for much of the book. But later books, although they do head to a conclusion, don’t follow this pattern.
 

Character development is fairly minimal in the second half of the Book. Rand is Rand, and doesn’t really begin to change until he learns he can channel and more once he accepts he is the Dragon Reborn. In case anyone was doubting, we are again told he is an Aiel. Mat grows more suspicious for a while; but once he is healed (albeit temporarily) of his link to the Shadar Logoth dagger, he is back to normal. And Perrin rarely thinks of wolves. We do at least see that Perrin is able to reason things out, but likes to take his time, something we got a hint of when he escaped Shadar Logoth. We do see more of Nynaeve and Lan’s feelings for each other develop, but it still feels like a big jump when they talk of marriage – I think we have to assume here that a lot happened we didn’t see. Nynaeve also accepts she can channel and that she is going to the White Tower.
 

Once more we see several of the themes of the series – characters assume what they expect is the actual truth, and rarely question what they believe, or just dismiss as untrue things they don’t want to believe. We see news about the characters (in this case Perrin and the Whitecloaks) moving faster than they do, something it will take them a long time to learn, if they ever do.
 

We are introduced to a couple more of the characters who will continue to play a major role throughout the series; though of these, only Loial actually stays with the group in this book. We do meet our first Darkfriends, in Paitr and Gode, and see just how harsh the Shadow is with failure. After three thousand years of no reward, it is a little surprising that people are willing to take such a chance with little being offered in return.
 

In terms of Worldbuilding, we get more details on the Aiel War, with further confusion on why the Aiel retreated – people seem to know they came to kill Laman and left once they had, but for some reason, few of them put this together. We learn of ta’veren, which is a fairly convenient way of having interesting things happen to our characters, and also to have them meet people who will come into the story again in later books. The idea that all three boys are ta’veren seems to come out of nowhere. Mat and Rand at least stay together the whole time, so there is no reason to think ta’veren effects are not due to one of them – most likely Rand, as he fell into the palace and met Morgase, Elayne and Elaida. All Mat did was be dumb enough to steal a dagger. We also learn of the Ways, which will feature frequently in the rest of the series.
 

The idea that Ba’alamon is actually Ishamael is hammered home a little more, though we also get a few references – such as the way Aginor talks about him that could distract people who thought Moiraine knew what she was talking about when she identified Ba’alzamon as the Dark One.
 

Finally, we do see more things that don’t seem to be continued. The idea that the Dark One’s powers are weakest during the day for instance, and the suggestion by the Green Man that he hadn’t rested under Avendesora in two thousand years is never revisited. We are also left with a mystery over what the point of the Eye of the World was in the first place – the way it seems to have been used was for Aginor to kill himself by drawing too much Saidin. But it seems convoluted, if not unlikely to imagine this is why it was created, as well as a mystery, never solved of how Rand got to Tarwin’s gap and back.
 

The pace of the re-read worked well for this book, so now that it is finished, we can also ask what we learned.
 

The series itself so far followed a fairly well established “villagers go on a quest, one of them is the chosen one” trope, but we have seen hints – from prophecies and in what we learn of the wider world, plus all the characters who we met and who will come back – that things are not as simple as that.
 

We have also seen a couple of the main themes of the series feature heavily – that men and women process things differently, and that people may have to work with incomplete or incorrect information. The related themes, that people often don’t adapt when they learn new information, instead continuing as though what they knew was true; and that other people may have unexpected access to information are also present, though they don’t have the negative consequences they will later in the series.
 

The World Building got off to a good start. For most nations, we still know little, but we know they exist, and we know of the Aes Sedai, though not how the White Tower works. We also know of the Aiel and Sea Folk, and that both are expecting the coming of their chosen ones, plus the existence of the Seanchan was hinted at. We learned that there is a network of Darkfriends, who have a way of communicating outside of the norm, and that people generally think Darkfriends a thing of big cities, though they are found in even small villages. Not the Two Rivers apparently. We also learned of Ta’veren, and saw the first examples of Ta’veren effects, though it is not always clear what happened because of this, and what would have just happened because of the personalities of the Two Rivers boys. Additionally, we learn of the dangers of dreams, and see some aspects of Tel’aran’rhiod when Ishamael talks to the boys, but as is often the case, we don’t know what is happening until a later book. This is something that happens frequently – some strange occurrence, or mysterious event seems to make little sense, and is even forgotten, but we get an explanation much later in the book, or even in the series.
 

Character development was mixed. Rand learns he can channel, as does Egwene, but both really end the book just as they start it. Rand has begun to think of Min’s warning that she is not for him in the way they both want, but hasn’t even begun to move into “yeah, I don’t actually want her that way” territory. Mat basically starts the book as he began it – he does develop and become more responsible, but it is later thought that he changed least, just became more like himself. Moiraine also doesn’t really change – she seems aware that Lan has developed feelings for Nynaeve, but hasn’t developed her jealousy over it. Lan and Nynaeve do get the most development, firstly in their relationship, but also in their general attitude – Nynaeve goes from hating the Power and not wanting to admit being able to channel, to agreeing to learn so she can get revenge on Moiraine, to the beginnings of how much she can do with Power based healing. Lan also begins to relate to the other Two Rivers folk, as an extension of them being important to Rand, but this also doesn’t really come into it until he starts spending a lot more time with Rand, training him.
 

Several of the major plotlines that run through the series are introduced. Tarmon Gaidon, of course, and related to that, the Forsaken returning, but we also see Padan Fain and the Whitecloaks introduced. The weather continues to be a major problem until about halfway through the series, and the Aiel plot is hinted at – both that they expect the Cara’carn and that in the past, they had followed a different way of life. From “Strange clothes you wear child of the dragon… Do the People of the Dragon return to the first Covenant. But you wear a sword. That is neither now nor then,” we can probably work out that the Aiel are the People of the Dragon as mentioned in the prophecies, but not that they were once pacifists.
 

Finally, we saw our first prophecies – a little of the prophecies of the Dragon, Min’s first viewings, and Elaida’s foretelling. These hints of what is to come will really take off in the next few books, as Rand and others start to look at the prophecies for hints of what is to come, and Egwene and to a lesser extent Perrin start to have prophetic dreams.
 

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Tarvalon.Net began a re-read of The Wheel of Time on May 2, 2021. We are currently reading The Great Hunt – join us HERE to follow along and join in the discussion!
 

We also have designed a special signature to follow our progress during the Re-read: https://i.imgur.com/vZNIDtx.png
 

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The Wheel of Time Re-read: Monthly Summary

 
Please note – this article contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time.
 
Tarvalon.Net began a re-read of “The Eye of the World” on May 2, 2021. The discussion thread is HERE to follow along and join in the discussion! Our Tower Archivist, Toral Delvar, brings us his perspective in a recap of the first month’s passages.
 

This set of chapters does have something of the feel of a fairly traditional fantasy series. Since then, there have been many series not remotely following this formula (and even before), but the Lord of the Rings was probably the best known then. There were others, such as the Belgariad and Shannara series, so the idea of simple village folk forced to flee by a strange evil in the company of a mysterious magic user has an element of familiarity. Which continues as they split up and it develops into a fairly standard quest-type plot.
 

We do see elements of what is to come – Min’s visions for example give a lot of hints; though much of this is not apparent until it happens, and maybe not even then. We also see some things such as the identity of Ba’alzamon, and which of the boys he is after, laid out pretty explicitly. But this is easy to miss, at least on a first read, in part because of one of the themes of the series — people believing and acting on incomplete, or even outright incorrect information. In this instance, we have Moiraine tell the reader that Ba’alzamon is the Dark One, and it is very easy to accept this, rather than ask ourselves “where is she getting this information from, does she have any real reason to be confident it is correct?” When the village folk make such statements however, we already know they are basically ignorant, so when Mat claims Lan can’t be a Warder because Warders spend all their time in the blight in gold covered armor, we don’t think “oh, he must be right.” If anything, we think “yeah, that’s an Aes Sedai and her Warder, shut up Mat.”
 

Further to this, we see characters refusing to learn from their mistakes, because they think they already know what they need to know. Despite knowing how reckless Mat is, Moiraine and Lan just assume he has the sense not to investigate Shadar Logoth, because they know how dangerous it is. Similarly, he had previously had it hammered into him “just because we don’t specify something is dangerous, doesn’t mean you should look for a loophole,” but persuades the others to wander off because it wasn’t explicitly said not to. We also see a fair amount on one of another common theme — “men and women are different” — along with the idea that “we can’t trust the men to know what to do.” The subplots regarding Padan Fain and the Whitecloaks also get their starts in these chapters.
 

We get a good feeling for Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene. They are all very much village folk, and somewhat immature, especially Egwene and Mat. But we also see at their core, much of who they later become. Similarly with Nynaeve and Thom. Moiraine and Lan remain more of a mystery, which is likely intentional; so the reader doesn’t really know if they should be trusted, and will largely accept the boys’ decision not to tell her important information such as their dreams. We do see some hints that Lan and Nynaeve had made an impact on each other, and they are responding to each other differently than how they respond to most people.
 

One of the things that really stood out to me, some 30 years ago when I first read this was the visions, prophecies, and foreshadowing. Min throws out about a dozen, some of which we can be fairly confident of what they are – the sword for Rand for example. Others are still something of a mystery, to me at least, such as flowering around Perrin. Ba’alzamon tells Rand that by sending one of Artur Hawkwing’s sons over the Aryth Ocean, he sealed a “doom yet to come” – What did he mean by this? Was this a dark prophecy, or was he just rambling? A lot of his actions here, from sending trollocs after the boys, to creating bizarre mazes in dreams seem to make little sense. What did he mean that the Eye of the World would not serve Rand? Did that mean anything, or was that just an attempt to direct him towards it?
 

We see a good amount of worldbuilding. We learn something of Aes Sedai and Warders, and the existence of the Aiel and Sea Folk. Plus both are expecting their prophesied figure, He who comes with the Dawn and the Coramoor; neither of which are really re-visited in any depth until book 4.
 

Finally, there are many mysteries –- comments about the world that don’t make much sense at the time. Sometimes, these are resolved almost right away, others not until much later in the book, or even series. And some that never really get resolved. There are also things that seem not to come up again. Moiraine’s statement that touching the Source gives her protection from the Dark One – I don’t even know what that means. Nynaeve’s ability to know when someone she has Healed is around, or the “feelings” Elyas gets – are they a Wolfbrother thing? I don’t recall Perrin having them, but that may be something I missed.

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