This article contains spoilers for the entire series.
Any time a person reads a book, they are bound to miss things. While I have lost count of how many times I have read each of The Wheel of Time books, I still always catch new things when I read through them again. Here is a list of some of the things that I missed when I read through the series for the first (or second… or third…) time.
Padan Fain’s Influence Is Everywhere
We see him everywhere from the Two Rivers to Tar Valon to Shayol Ghul to the Ways. He interacts with our heros, as well as Lord Luc, Mordeth, Agelmar, Barthanes, Elaida, etc. with varying levels of influence. I definitely noticed that he popped up a lot, but I didn’t realize just how much he mucked up everything Rand tried to do.
Rand Is King Arthur
He takes a sword from a stone and becomes recognized as The Dragon Reborn.
It’s no secret that Robert Jordan liked tying this world to events and stories from our world, but this one is shockingly obvious… and yet I missed it.
Mat Died in Caemlyn, Freeing The Horn of Valere to be Blown by Someone Else
There had been more than one bolt [of lightning] in that first volley, but not all had been aimed at him. Mat’s smoking boots lay a dozen paces from where Mat himself sprawled on his back. Tendrils of smoke rose from the black haft of the spear, too, from his coat, even from the silver foxhead, hanging out of his shirt, had not that had not saved him from a man’s channeling.
( The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 54, To Caemlyn )
Of course, he was also un-killed by balefire, which was apparently enough to prevent him from dying. However, the tie to the Horn must not have reasserted himself. Time travel is confusing and causes problems, which is kind of the point of balefire; to bend the laws of time, but keep in mind that it causes problems in the Pattern. I actually like this handling of pseudo-time travel here. Robert Jordan acknowledges that it causes problems but doesn’t try to explain them away. He says the Pattern can handle the problems in small quantities, but if it happens too much, it can pull the entire Pattern apart.
Chemtrails and Lasers, For Real
While traveling by way of Portal Stone in The Great Hunt, Rand, Loial, and Hurin stumble into a land that has pretty convincing evidence of chemtrails and lasers. If I’m being perfectly honest, I’m pretty sure I missed everything in this point of the story on my first read through. I really didn’t find this sequence particularly gripping, but I am a bit surprised that I missed the lasers and chemtrails…
Again they crossed land blackened and burned, even the soil crunching under the horses’ hooves as if it had been seared. The burned swaths, sometimes a mile wide, sometimes only a few hundred paces, all ran east and west as straight as an arrow’s flight. Twice Rand saw the end of a burn, once as they rode over it, once as they passed nearby; they tapered to points at the ends.
There was no sign of life; at least, Rand thought it must be so. Twice he saw a wispy streak crawling across the sky like a line drawn with a cloud. The lines were too straight to be natural it seemed, but he could not imagine what might make them.”
( The Great Hunt, Chapter 15, Kinslayer )
Now imagine how much fun it would have been if they had landed in a downtown area of that world!
Sheriam was Totally Black Ajah
Another darkfriend slipped past my radar. Sheriam always seemed like a wise, dependable Aes Sedai; she wasn’t unhinged or blatantly evil like Liandrin. Looking as back as The Dragon Reborn, I should have caught it.
He was an average-appearing man, of average height and average built, with features so ordinary Egwene did not think she would have noticed him in a group of three.
“Calm yourself,” Nynaeve said, but she peered both ways along hte gallery, jerking at her braid. “Just be calm, and we will figure out what to—” Her words cut off at the sound of steps on the ramp leading up to their level.
Sheriam Sedai stopped at the top of the ramp, frowning at what she saw. “What in the name of the Light has happened here?” She hurried forward, her serenity gone for once.
“We found him,” Nynaeve said as the Mistress of Notices knelt beside the corpse.
Egwene curtsied, and tugged at Nynaeve’s sleeve, but Nynaeve said, “Why did you come up here, Sheriam Sedai?”
For a moment, Sheriam looked startled, but on the instant she frowned. Fists on her hips, she regarded Nynaeve with all the firmness of her office. “Does the Mistress of Notices now need an excuse for coming to the novices’ quarters, Accepted?” she said softly. “Do Accepted now question Aes Sedai? The Amyrlin means to make something of you two, but whether she does or not, I will teach you manners, at least. Now, the pair of you, go, before I haul you both down to my study, and not for the appointment the Amyrlin Seat has already set for you.”
( The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 15, The Gray Man )
When people are lying, they are more likely to get defensive when questioned. Reading through this again, it sends flashing lights and blaring horns, but I completely missed it on my first read through.
Combining that defensiveness with her rather convenient timing of coming upon the girls in the hall way, as well as the knowledge that a Gray Man was found dead in her bed sometime later, Robert Jordan really did give us plenty of clues as to her allegiance.
Moiraine Used Compulsion on the Boys?
I always thought she was just really persuasive, and yet on a subsequent read through, it definitely seems like there was a bit more going on than just a significant look. It wasn’t full Compulsion, but it was meant to make them a little more open to her suggestions – looking back at how disagreeable they were, she needed every bit of help she could get – as well as to track them.
“I may have some small tasks to be done from time to time while I am in Emond’s Field,” she said. “Perhaps you would be willing to assist me?” She laughed as their assents tumbled over one another. “Here,” she said, and Rand was surprised when she pressed a coin into his palm, closing his hand tightly around it with both of hers.
“There’s no need,” he began, but she waved aside his protest as she gave Ewin a coin as well, then pressed Mat’s hand around one the same way she had Rand’s.
( The Eye of the World, Chapter 2, Strangers )
She pressed the coin into Rand’s and Mat’s hands, but just hands it to Ewin. Right away the boys knew that there was something different about their coins than Ewin’s coin, as they tell him that he ought to spend his while they keep their own.
Flirting Between Moiraine and Thom
After Mat was Healed from his connection to the dagger from Shadar Logoth, he discovered Thom drunk as a skunk in Tar Valon.
“Rand is still well, then?” Thom’s eyes sharpened to almost the keenness Mat remembered. “I am not sure I expected that. Moiraine is still with him, is she? A fine-looking woman.” A fine woman, if she were not Aes Sedai. Meddle with that sort, and you get more than your fingers burned.”
( The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 31, The Woman of Tanchico )
Okay, full disclosure, I did not miss this one, but apparently my entire family did. I remember reading this and wondering, “Wow, are they going to end up together?” and then my entire family was flabbergasted by it.
All of Verin’s Shenanigans
Verin was totally my BFF throughout my first read! I would have followed her anywhere. And then she was evil (eh… evil-ish). I completely missed all the red flags from her on my first read through. I think I might have trusted her even more than I trusted Moiraine.
There were the slightly sketchy things she did, such as in The Great Hunt when discussing The Prophecy of the Shadow they had discovered with Mioraine and Siuan. She intentionally let “slip” that she knew one of the boys Moiraine was traveling with was able to channel and was The Dragon Reborn. She apparently did this mostly to verify that the two of them were working together.
Then, there’s her outright lie:
“Moiraine Sedai sent me, Lord Ingtar,” Verin announced with a satisfied smile. “She thought you might need me.”
( The Great Hunt, Chapter 14, Wolfbrother )
She also had the uncanny ability to show up at unexpected times. If she had truly been off in unrelated studies, her path might have crossed the story a time or two, but in hindsight, the way she kept coming back was not unlike the way Padan Fain kept coming back (though decidedly less overtly).
Did anyone else miss these, or was I the only one?
This article contains spoilers through Knife of Dreams.
All excerpts featured in this article can be found in Knife of Dreams, Chapter 20, “The Golden Crane”.
Lan was nothing if not attentive to his duties. He knew it was the responsibility to ride for Malkier in the Last Battle, and he had no expectations of surviving. When Nynaeve confessed her feelings to him in The Eye of the World, he turned her down, letting her know that he wouldn’t marry her because he was not willing to leave her a widow.
In The Great Hunt, Lan started to crack. He gave Nynaeve his signet ring and let her know that if she were in the Borderlands, she would receive any aid she might need.
As the Last Battle began to draw near, Lan grew restless to fight in it. His duty to Malkier and her people lay in the Blight, and that was where he needed to be.
”[Rand] should be marshaling all the force he can gather and taking it to the Blight. The Last Battle will be there, and at Shayol Ghul. The war is there, [Lan said.]
Sadness welled up in [Nynaeve], yet she managed to keep it out of her voice. “You have to go back,” she said quietly.
At last he turned his head, frowning down at her. His clear blue eyes were so cold. They hell less of death than they had, of that she was certain, but they were still so cold. “My place is with you, heart of my heart. Ever and always.”
She gathered all of her courage and held on to it hard, so hard that she ached. She wanted to speak fast, to get the words out before courage failed, but she forced herself to a steady tone and an even pace. “A Borderland saying I heard from you once. ‘Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain.’ My duty lies here, making sure Alivia doesn’t kill Rand. But I will take you to the Borderlands. Your duty lies there. You want to go to Shienar? You mentioned King Easar and Shienar. And it is close to Malkier.”
He looked down at her for a long time, but at last he exaled softly, and the tension left his arm. “Are you sure, Nynaeve? If you are, then, yes, Shienar. In the Trolloc Wars, the Shadow used Tarwin’s Gap to move large numbers of Trollocs, just as it did a few years back, when we sought the Eye of the World. But only if you are completely sure.”
No, she was not sure. She wanted to cry, to scream at him that he was a fool, that his place was with her, not dying alone in a futile private war with the Shadow. Only, she could not say any of that. Bond or no bond, she knew he was torn inside, torn between his love of her and his duty, torn and bleeding as surely as if he had been stabbed with a sword. She could not add to his wounds. She could try to make sure he survived, though. “Would I make an offer if I wasn’t sure?” she said dryly, surprised at how calm she sounded. “I won’t like sending you away, but you have your duty, and I have mine.”
The key there was that she knew she couldn’t hold him back from his duty, but she darn well could do her best to ensure that he survived it. And then her Aes Sedai plotting came into play.
“I want a promise from you,” Nynaeve said quietly as they waited. […] An oath. I mean it, Lan Mandragoran. We aren’t alone any longer.”
“What do you want my oath on?” he asked warily. […]
“That you’ll ride to Fal Moran before you enter the Blight, and that if anyone wants to ride with you, you’ll let him.”
His smile was small, and sad. “I’ve always refused to lead men into the Blight, Nynaeve. There were times men rode with me, but I would not—“
“If men have ridden with you before,” she cut in, “men can ride with you again. Your oath on it, or I vow I’ll let you ride the whole long way to Shienar.”
“How far south of Shienar do you mean to leave me?” he asked. When she said nothing, he nodded. “Very well, Nynaeve. If that’s what you want. I swear it under the Light and by my hope of my rebirth and salvation.”
It was very hard not to sigh with relief. She had managed it, and without lying.
Being every so helpful, Nynaeve weaved the gateway to the Borderlands. As they rode through, Lan noticed it.
Lan led Mandarb a few steps westward, staring. Land ended abruptly in what was obviously a cliff no more than twenty paces from him, and from there ocean stretched to the horizon. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded, turning back. “This isn’t Shienar. It’s World’s End, in Saldaea, as far from Shienar as you can get and still be in the Borderlands.”
“I told you I would take you to the Borderlands, and I have. Remember your oath, my heart, because I surely will.” And with that she dug her heels into the mare’s flanks and let the animal bolt through the open gateway. She heard him call her name, but she let the gateway close behind her. She would give him a chance to survive.
Part of what makes this scene so great is seeing the man’s understanding progress from “some random woman is interrupting me” to laughing and crying for joy. It is a beautiful and touching moment.
“Master Aldragoran?” a woman said, leaning on the table. “You were pointed out to me as a merchant with a wide correspondence by pigeon.”
He noticed her jewelry first, of course, a matter of habit. […] Then he realized she wore a fifth ring on that hand, stuck against one of the rings with a worthless stone. A golden serpent biting its own tail.
His eyes jerked to her face, and he suffered his second shock. Her face, framed by the hood of her cloak, was very young, but she wore the ring, and few were foolish enough to do that without the right. He had seen young Aes Sedai before, two or three times. No, her age did not shock him. But on her forehead, she wore the ki’sain, the red dot of a married woman. She did not look Malkieri. She did not sound Malkieri. […] Besides, he could not remember the last time he had heard of a Malkieri girl going to the White Tower. The Tower had failed Malkier in need, and the Malkieri had turned their backs on their Tower. Still, he stood hurriedly. With Aes Sedai, courtesy was always wise. Her dark eyes held heat. Yes, courtesy was wise.
“How may I help you, Aes Sedai? You wish me to send a message for you via my pigeons? It will be my pleasure.” It was also wise to grant Aes Sedai any favors they asked, and a pigeon was a small favor.
“A message to each merchant you correspond with. Tarmon Gai’don is coming soon.”
He shrugged uneasily. “That is nothing to do with me, Aes Sedai. I’m a good merchant.” She was asking for a good many pigeons. He corresponded with merchants as far away as Shienar. “But I will send your message.” He would, too, however many birds it required. Only stone-blind idiots failed to keep promises to Aes Sedai. Besides which, he wanted rid of her and her talk of the Last Battle.
“Do you recognize this? she said, fishing a leather cord from the neck of her dress.
His breath caught, and he stretched out a hand, brushed a finger across the heavy gold signet ring on the cord. Across the crane in flight. How had she come by this? Under the Light, how? “I recognize it,” he told her, his voice suddenly hoarse.
“My name is Nynaeve ti al’Meara Mandragoran. The message I want sent is this. My husband rides from World’s End towards Tarwin’s Gap, towards Tarmon Gai’don. Will he ride alone?”
He trembled. He did not know whether he was laughing or crying. Perhaps both. She was his wife? “I will send your message, my Lady, but it has nothing to do with me. I am a merchant. Malkier is dead. Dead, I tell you.”
The heat in her eyes seemed to intensify, and she gripped her long, thick braid with one hand. “Lan told me once that Malkier lives so long as one man wears the hadori in pledge that he will fight the Shadow, so long as one woman wears the ki’sain in pledge that she will send her sons to fight the Shadow. I wear the ki’sain, Master Aldragoran. My husband wears the hadori. So do you. Will Lan Mandragoran ride to the Last Battle alone?”
That right there had to be one of the most powerful speeches in the entire series, and it took only a handful of sentences. In such a brief paragraph, she reminded him of the duty of all Malkieri, showed him that his King remembered that duty and was riding for it at that moment, reminded him that he still wore his hadori which meant that duty was also his. She then put him on the spot, basically asking him if he would honor that duty or leave the last king of Malkier to carry that duty on his own.
I don’t think that’s a call any true Borderlander could ignore.
He was laughing, shaking with it. And yet, he could feel tears rolling down his cheeks. It was madness! Complete madness! But he could not help himself. “He will not, my Lady. I cannot stand surety fore anyone else, but I swear to you under the Light and by my hope of rebirth and salvation, he will not ride alone.”
Silence hung in the common room. They had not been keeping their voices low, and even the girl with the dulcimer and ceased plying her hammers. Everyone was staying at him. Most of the outlanders had their mouths hanging open.
“Well, Managan, Gorenellin,” he demanded, “do you still remember who you are? Do you remember your blood? Who rides with me for Tarwin’s Gap?”
For a moment, he thought neither man would speak, but then Gorenellin was on his feet, tears glistening his eyes. “The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don,” he said softly.
“The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don!” Managan shouted, leaping so fast he overturned his chair.
Laughing, Aldragoran joined them, all three shouting at the top of their lungs. “The Golden Crane flies for Tarmon Gai’don!”
Why I Love It
It is not often that we get to see a nation rise from the ashes, but this is exactly what this scene was. Everyone knew that Malkier was dead, even Lan had declared it dead. But Nynaeve was not willing to let it remain dead, not when that meant Lan had to ride into the Blight alone. So she found the remnants of Malkier and breathed new life into them.
I think Nynaeve was the only one who could have gotten that response from the scattered Malkieri. They had all know the fall of Malkier, and Lan felt that destruction very keenly. He would never point-blank confront these men and essentially ask them if they had any honor left, but Nynaeve was willing to, and did just that.
The Malkieri did not disappoint.
The Golden Crane flew for Tarmon Gai’don, and Lan did not ride alone.
Throughout August and September, I’ve collected book recommendations from members of our TarValon.Net community. Many of them have sent in their favorite speculative books and series. More than fifty members have together shared 146 different books with me. In this ultimate list of book recommendations, I include only those books that received multiple recommendation. Of course, more recommendations means a book is placed higher on the list. While some members have recommended their favorite book (or books) from a series, I have chosen to list only entire series here.
In this first part, we count down from fifty to forty-one.
Without further ado, the first part of TarValon.Net’s Top 50 Fantasy & Science Fiction Recommendations:
50. The Martian by Andy Weir
It’s difficult to imagine anyone who isn’t familiar with The Martian as a film starring Matt Damon. Before there was a movie, however, there was a book. The Martian is Andy Weir’s debut novel, and it’s arguably even better and more intense than the film. In this standalone science fiction novel, Mark Watney accidentally gets stranded on Mars and has to use all of his skills and knowledge to survive.
49. Shadow Ops by Myke Cole
What would happen if the X-Men were first discovered by the US military and immediately recruited and controlled? That’s the question Myke Cole asks in his debut trilogy, featuring crazy supernatural powers and a military that may not always be the good guys.
48. Spellwright by Blake Charlton
Blake Charlton was diagnosed with severe dyslexia as a child, but struggled through it, studied at Yale University, and is now a resident physician in a San Francisco hospital. In all that, he somehow found the time to write an amazing epic fantasy series featuring linguistic magic and a dyslexic protagonist.
47. Circle by Ted Dekker
Being a Biblical retelling of sorts in a fantasy setting, Ted Dekker’s Circle series might not be for everyone. Yet, enough of our community members have recommended this book to get it on the list. And really, it’s a pretty great series featuring a man who dreams about a fantasy future where the human race has been decimated by a virus, who tries to prevent the outbreak while he’s awake.
46. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is one of the greatest literary SFF authors of our time. As such, it shouldn’t be considered a spoiler that we’ll see more of him further in this list. His first entry, American Gods, is a blend of Americana, fantasy, and various strands of ancient and modern mythology, all centering on the mysterious and taciturn Shadow.
45. Howl by Diana Wynne Jones
First published in 1986, Howl’s Moving Castle is another book that is possibly better known for its movie adaptation. Yet, it is only the first instalment in the Howl Series. In the first book, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle.
44. Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews
The Kate Daniels series features an urban fantasy version of the city of Atlanta, which would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for the magic. In the first book, Magic Bites, Kate Daniels is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up these magical problems.
43. Time by Madeleine L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time is the first book in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet. In it, Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
42. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
If you ask fans what the best epic fantasy series is, you may get different answers ranging from The Wheel of Time to Lord of the Rings. The really, really diehard fantasy fans, however, will probably tell you that Steven Erikson’s Malazan books take the crown. Notoriously difficult to get into, these are some of the most intense and involved fantasy books with the greatest world building you’ll ever read. Start with Gardens of the Moon and work your way up from there.
41. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Imagine a future where humans are the warmongers of the galaxy and they use old people to fight their wars. That just about sums up John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series of loosely related space opera novels that starts with a novel of the same title.
So, what do you think of these first ten books? Have you read any of them?