Minor Key: Ingtar Shinowa

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

 

“The prophecy says, ‘Let who sounds me think not of glory, but only salvation.’ It was my salvation I was thinking of. I would sound the Horn, and lead the heroes of the Ages against Shayol Ghul. Surely that would have been enough to save me. No man can walk so long in the Shadow that he cannot come again to the Light. That is what they say. Surely that would have been enough to wash away what I have been, and done.”

–Ingtar to Rand, The Great Hunt, Chapter 46​

 

As The Great Hunt draws to a close, a Darkfriend is revealed and a redemption arc laid bare. Rand listens, heartsick, to Ingtar’s confession of guilt and his yearning for salvation and Light. It is one of the earliest betrayals of the series, and for Rand, who has counted Ingtar a hero and friend, it is almost beyond the realm of belief.

 

Lord Ingtar of House Shinowa is one of the first Shienarans we meet in The Wheel of Time. An experienced warrior stationed in Fal Dara, he maintains a trusted position within the command of Agelmar Jagad. In The Eye of the World, he escorts Moiraine and the others to the edge of the Blight on their quest to seek the Green Man’s aid. Later, in The Great Hunt, he is chosen to lead twenty men in search of the stolen Horn of Valere, charged in public with the fate of the Last Battle and “the hope of the world” itself (TGH, Ch. 9).

 

Outwardly, Ingtar strives to project an unflagging confidence that Shienar will withstand the Shadow. His apparent pride is remarked upon by Agelmar himself: “If Ingtar had to ride alone to Tarwin’s Gap,” the Lord of Fal Dara tells Moiraine and Lan, “he would ride the whole way proclaiming that the Trollocs would be turned back once more” (TEoTW, Ch. 46). And yet, from the very beginning we see cracks in Ingtar’s façade—a slight hesitation before boasting, a smile that won’t quite stay in place. These slips gesture to what lies behind Ingtar’s mask: a categorical despair he seems unable to shake. Convinced, in truth, that Shienar will otherwise fall to the inevitable advance of the Blight, Ingtar has chosen to “make […] peace” with the Dark One in the hope that his nation will be spared (TGH, Ch. 46).

 

Guilt-ridden over his own abandonment of the Light, Ingtar hopes to redeem himself by performing a legendary feat. He becomes consumed by a desire to retrieve the Horn of Valere, thinking to use it against the Shadow in atonement for his crimes. His dream is, of course, never realized. Instead, trapped in an alley in Falme with the Seanchan a breath away, Ingtar gives his life so that Rand and the others can escape with the Horn. It is, he tells Rand, the price he has chosen to pay for his oaths to the Dark One.

[​IMG]“Ingtar’s Last Stand.” Credit: Corporal-Nobbs on DeviantArt.​

Although Ingtar’s story concludes early in the series, it is intriguing to read it retrospectively in light of later events. The parallels between Ingtar and Verin, who both die defying oaths to the Dark One, cast a curious light on their interactions in The Great Hunt. We might wonder, for instance, about the alternate lives they experience when travelling to Toman Head via Portal Stone. Verin admits to being unnerved by some of the choices she might have made, and Ingtar is likewise shaken. He later reveals to Rand his recurring inability to break free of the Shadow: “I tried to escape what I’d become, but I never did. Always there was something else required of me, always something worse than the last” (TGH, Ch. 46).

 

Aravine Carnel’s exposure as a Darkfriend in A Memory of Light, along with her relationship to the Horn of Valere, offer equally interesting lines of comparison. Aravine’s fate recalls Ingtar’s fear of eternal service to the Shadow. She, too, expresses a wish to return to the Light, confessing to Faile that she had hoped herself forgotten by the Dark One. Like Ingtar in his alternate lives, however, Aravine ultimately learns her mistake, and it is here that their paths diverge. Where Ingtar chooses death to prevent the Horn from falling into enemy hands, Aravine obeys her orders to deliver the Horn to Demandred, failing only when Faile overcomes her.

 

Finally, in some ways we might see a kind of affinity between Ingtar and Rand. As Rand leaves Ingtar to his sacrifice and flees Falme with the Horn, he wishes that “he did not feel as if he were running away from Ingtar’s cry, running from what he was supposed to do” (TGH, Ch. 47). In the moment, Rand is thinking of his own wish to stay in Falme, to face the Seanchan and free Egwene from her captivity. He is torn between what he sees as competing duties—to Egwene, to Mat, to the Horn—and any decision he makes thus feels like a betrayal.

 

However, we can trace deeper connections as well. Like Ingtar, Rand is terrified of what he is and will become, continually seeking routes of escape. And like Ingtar against the Seanchan, Rand will make the choice in Falme to face what he is and Sheathe the Sword against Ba’alzamon. Considered by many to be little better than a Darkfriend himself, the Dragon Reborn knows that he is prophesied to sacrifice his own life after bringing devastation in his wake. It is perhaps, then, no wonder that Ingtar’s final desperate words ring in Rand’s ears: “The Light, and Shinowa!”

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Ranking The Wheel of Time Books – Part 2

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

 

Previously I made a case for why five WotT books should be ranked the lowest. Now we’re at the middle five, and these spots are the weirdest for me. The books in this group aren’t favorites but neither are they the bottom of the barrel. There are enough interesting scenes to keep the reader hooked but at the same time those scenes mostly aren’t memorable. This makes the books forgettable and we sometimes stop to wonder, what exactly did happen in that book? You know that feeling? Yes, me too. 

 


NUMBER 10 – Towers of Midnight

Many people rank The Towers of Midnight somewhere in the middle or toward the bottom of their list. This book is sort of a sequel to The Gathering Storm (which we waited a LONG time for) but some of the scenes overlap with scenes from the previous book.

 

A lot of things happen, and to me the most precious moment is the saving of Moiraine. I waited so long for this! Another important event is Aviendha’s travel to Rhuidean and using the glass columns to see the future of the Aiel. I was shocked when I read those scenes. But the uncertainly of the futures portrayed here is a bit of a disappointment to me.

 

The first Power-wrought weapon of this Age is created! That gives new and exciting possibilities for the future! Too bad they didn’t really use this later, but I guess there wasn’t really much time to create more Power-wrought weapons.

 

I believe the best thing we got to finally experience in this book is Rand’s changed character. He finally accepts who he is and what he has to do to save the world and he becomes a character worth reading about.

 

NUMBER 9 – New Spring

 

You may argue that New Spring shouldn’t be included in the ranking as it is a prequel novel. But I think it’s a really well written backstory for Moiraine, Lan,and Siuan, and it gives us some more insight into life in the White Tower, so I think it deserves a place in the list.

 

This book is solidly in the middle because although the events don’t drive the overall plot forward, readers love getting to know Moiraine and Lan in a new way.

 

NUMBER 8 – A Crown of Swords

 

I can understand why some people think this book is slow and boring. It has mostly to do with Aes Sedai business, the Game of Houses, and the Kin in Altara. But all of these things drive the story forward and were necessary to the plot development.

 

The mere existence of the Kin is a huge revelation for readers. Then they aid in finding the Bowl of the Winds, so they’re actually useful in addition to being interesting. Plus this book shows us Nynaeve overcoming her block, which I believe we have all been waiting for!

 

Also important: Rand kills Sammael, reducing the number of Forsaken, and takes the Crown of Swords, becoming king of Illian and continuing on his journey to unite the world.

 

NUMBER 7 – The Gathering Storm

 

I am so excited for this one. I really like The Gathering Storm and it seems to fall in the middle of the ranking for most readers. We waited for this one for several years and I believe we were not disappointed.

 

There are a lot of things happening in this book. I will jump straight to the point and say that the most interesting thing happened with Egwene. Her character grew to unbelievable heights in everyone’s eyes. She did not attack Elaida like an unruly child but instead united the Tower behind herself in a very interesting way – by showing everyone that she is the rightful Amyrlin, that she cares more about the Tower being whole. It cannot go unmentioned how she took it upon herself to resist the attack on the Tower by the Seanchan. Now that was what we’ve been waiting for, am I right?

 

On the opposite side, this book was the lowest point for Rand. He continues to think that he must become stronger to save the world. Finally, at the end of the book it dawns on him that he mustn’t. That gives hope to the reader that we may finally experience how Rand should have been from the beginning.

 

NUMBER 6 – A Memory of Light

 

Some people will agree and others will not, but I have seen a Memory of Light in the middle 5 in the rankings more often than not. While we wanted an ending, I think many people were disappointed by the ending we got. It didn’t give us the satisfaction of having everything wrapped up nicely. Which is understandable. For one thing, the author is different. For another, we can really expect to know all the answers, right? Maybe Robert Jordan wanted to leave some endings open so that we can theorize on them. I think that’s a nice touch.

 

This book was a total mix of emotions. Happy, sad, angry, glad … I don’t know which emotion was missing! I believe it was a good ending to an amazing story overall.

 

____

And here we stop with the middle 5 of the ranking. I believe you know which 5 are on the top, but how are they placed? Come back for Part 3 to find out!

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Board Game Spotlight: Tak

This board game might sound familiar for fans of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, as it appears in the second book of the series, A Wise Man’s Fear. Rothfuss worked with game developer James Ernest to create a real-life version of the game, and it is now available to purchase! Tak is a two-player game which can be described as having the strategy of chess and similar mechanics to checkers. However, that doesn’t tell the full story.

The game comes with a double-sided board, one side with a five-by-five grid, and one with a six-by-six. There are also wooden playing pieces, half cream and half brown. These have flat sides that can either lay flat or stand up, as well as stack on top of each other. Each color also has one capstone, which has special abilities.

The goal of Tak is to use your pieces, called Stones, to create a road from one side of the board to the other. You can connect in any way you would like, though the pieces have to lay side-by-side, not diagonal. A player has several options when it is their turn. They can play a Stone on any square of the grid to try and build their road. They can move a stone they’ve already place, including on top of another player’s Stone to capture that stack. They can place a Wall, which is a stone placed standing on its end. This prevents the other player from taking that square of the grid, but Walls do not count towards building a road. The player can also place a capstone, which cannot be captured, counts towards building a road, and crushes walls.

Play continues until one person completes their road, or all pieces have been placed.

The game itself is well-constructed, with quality wooden pieces and a simple board design which makes it durable. The openness of game play means strategy often changes quickly, and each game feels different from the last, even when played several times with the same person. This is great since the game is a little bit on the expensive side (~$55 USD). You don’t have to be a fan of the Kingkiller Chronicles to play, but fans of the book will likely enjoy having a little bit of Kvothe’s world brought to life.

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Ranking The Wheel of Time Books – Part 1

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

 

So, you have finished the great story that is Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. Of course, there are neither beginnings, nor endings, to the turning (reading) of the Wheel of Time. But it was an ending.

 

It is now the next turning of the Wheel and the time has come for a reread. While you re-read you can clearly remember some of parts in the books, which… were really difficult to get through the previous time around. I can’t be the only one, right? I think we all have those parts, just as we all have parts we can reread time and time again.

 

While the books as a whole are great, (almost) everyone agrees that while the earlier books are filled with world-building and character development, there is slump somewhere in the middle of the series. It makes sense that we will prefer reading some books over others. 

 

I have my own ranking of the WoT books, based both on my personal opinions and what I found online. Mostly my ratings are based on how much I enjoyed the book as a whole, but I also took into account that some books contain important story development that I think make them worthy of a higher ranking.  While all books have some important events, a few trump the other for sheer EPICNESS! 

 

All right, all right, let’s get to the ranking shall we?

 

DISCLAIMER: While some books will necessarily be at the bottom of my ranking, I want to say that I love all the books and do not skip any scenes or *gasp* whole books while I reread.

 


 

NUMBER 15 – Crossroads of Twilight

 

This is one of everyone’s least favorite books; almost all of the rankings I have seen online have this book on last or second to last place. So why is that?

 

As you may remember, the previous book, Winter’s Heart, ended with a VERY important event: the cleansing of saidin. After reading that ending everyone was looking forward to finding out what happens next. Instead what we get in Crossroads of Twilight is the story of what everyone else was doing while Rand and Nyneave were busy cleansing saidin. This book does not provide us with the satisfaction we were craving.

 

Another thing that put many readers off was the focus on Perrin chasing after Shaido to save Faile. I realize this book moves Perrin’s storyline a little bit with this, but I think none of the happenings while he is hunting the Shaido are important to the main arc.  

 

Even so, it is safe to say that the book ended with a unexpected twist: Egwene is betrayed and captured by the White Tower Aes Sedai. This a step forward in Egwene’s story for sure, but it isn’t epics enough to save this book from the bottom ranking.

 

NUMBER 14 – Path of Daggers

 

Another popular opinion is that Path of Daggers should be somewhere at the bottom of the ranking, either last or second to last. I understand this. While we finally get to experience the Bowl of the Winds’ power, which was hinted at in previous books, there isn’t much more happening here.

 

Perrin gets a lot of attention in this book. He adds Morgase (even though he doesn’t know it) and Alliandre added to his party. Shortly thereafter Faile is captured by the Shaido and the whole LONG storyline of saving her starts.

 

Rand goes to fight against Seanchan and we get to can experience his madness up close. Am I alone in saying it made me uncomfortable reading that whole battle? Not alone? Great.

 

What drives the story forward in this book is Egwene and her declaration of war on Elaida. I think the way Egwene managed to convinces the Hall to do this is brilliant, and it clearly demonstrates how much she’s grown.

NUMBER 13 – The Great Hunt

 

You might be surprised (or maybe not, given some of the online rankings) to see Great Hunt on my list at number 13.

 

My reason for putting it here is … well … the plain truth is that I don’t enjoy reading it. There is something about Rand traveling with Loial and Hurin through the Portal Stone world that makes me uncomfortable. Those three plus Selene are such a weird combination of characters to me. Their “adventures” make for such an uninteresting series of events that I just don’t want to read it. (Some people may like this part – I am not judging. Hopefully you don’t judge back.)

 

To top it off, Rand beats a sword master in his first serious sword fight. I mean … what? By this time we know he is the Dragon Reborn and that he will play a very significant role in the series, but to me this scene seems a bit overdone.

 

What IS interesting in this book is that we learn about the Seanchan and we get to hear the Horn of Valere being sounded. Very cool. And, we find out how important our Two Rivers boys actually are.

NUMBER 12 – The Fires of Heaven

 

Quite a few people put The Fires of Heaven book at the very bottom of their lists but I rank it a bit higher. I think the reason people don’t like The Fires of Heaven is because it isn’t as good as the previous book, The Shadow Rising (which is ranked higher – we’ll get to that later).

 

For those of you who like battles, this book is probably way higher in your ranking because of the battle of Cairhien. For me it is just a slow paced explanation of Rahvin’s manipulation of Morgase.

 

Another reason I put this low on my list is because of Moiraine’s (perceived) death. I loved all the books up to this point in part because she was in them, and after this book I missed her so much!

 

One epic moment in this book is when Nynaeve captures Moghedien with an a’dam. Finally some justice, am I right?!

 

NUMBER 11 – Winter’s Heart 

 

I think Winter’s Heart has won some fans’ hearts (hehe) because of the cleansing of saidin at the end. No one can deny that this is one of the major plot points in the Wheel of Time; it is what drives the series forward from this point. I don’t know about any of you, but the cleansing came as a complete surprise to me when I read it for the first time. I didn’t think that Rand was planning something so big and I don’t believe it is ever mentioned or hinted in the previous books.

 

We find meet the Daughter of the Nine Moons and so does Mat. And the Tower Aes Sedai are making some interesting findings about the Black Ajah within the Tower. But all in all that’s about it for Winter’s Heart, isn’t it? Not much happening except for at the end. Many stop reading the series at this point because it has been so slow for the past two books that their desire to find out what happens next disappears.

 

 

Part 2, the middle ranked books, coming soon!

 

 

 

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Minor Key: Talmanes Delovinde

This article contains spoilers for the entire series.

Talmanes pulled off one steel-backed gauntlet and put out his hand, but for a moment Mat only stared at it. Lead? Him? I’m a gambler, not a soldier. A lover. Memories of battles long gone spun through his head, but he forced them down. All he had to do was ride on. But then maybe Talmanes would leave Estean and Daerid and the rest to roast. On the spit Mat had hung them from. Even so, it was a surprise to him when he grasped the other’s hand and said, ‘You just be there when you’re supposed to be.’”

–Mat, The Fires of Heaven, Chapter 43​

As he finds himself inexorably drawn into Rand’s war against the Shaido, Mat meets a character who will prove indispensible to his narrative. Determined to escape Rand’s ta’veren influence and head south on his own, Mat stops only to offer advice to a force of Tairen and Cairhienin men he spies walking into a trap. It is an invitation from Talmanes Delovinde, a Cairhienin noble of no little note, which ultimately impels Mat to delay his departure and join the battle instead: “I will lead one half, if you lead the other.” Their shaking of hands symbolically initiates the campaign that will eventuate in Mat’s legendary victory over Couladin and the formation of the second Shen an Calhar, the Band of the Red Hand.[1]

 

Approximately three years older than Mat, which places him in his early twenties, Talmanes is a careful and reserved man who prefers the plain dress of a soldier to that of a lord. Rarely one to smile, he is often considered by those around him to possess nothing in the way of humour—although we certainly see glimpses that suggest just the opposite. Indeed, when the prologue to A Memory of Light gives us our very first scenes from Talmanes’s point of view, we learn that he frequently finds it amusing when others fail to comprehend his deadpan jokes.

 

Talmanes Delovinde. Precedence Entertainment.

In the aftermath of Couladin’s defeat, Talmanes is one of those who pledges to follow Mat, telling him that “Until yesterday I have followed men of other lands because I must. You I will follow because I want to” (TFoH, Ch. 45). From its very creation, Talmanes holds a position of leadership within Mat’s Band. He initially commands the First Banner of the Horse, who call themselves “Talmanes’ Thunderbolts” (LoC, Ch. 22); when the Band increases exponentially in size, he is promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General. Invariably one of Mat’s most trusted officers, he is left in charge of the Band on multiple occasions when Mat is required to travel without it—into Salidar, to Ebou Dar, to the Tower of Ghenjei.

 

Although at one point Mat thinks in consternation that Talmanes “could be almost as eager to go off and charge somebody as Nalesean” (LoC, Ch. 38), his actions reveal him to be a careful observer and a solid commander. From his first meticulous assessment of Mat, Talmanes’s watchful nature continually receives comment within the series. He is consistently among the first to perceive a problem and to grasp the solution. “Wide-eyed and alert” (LoC, Ch. 5), with his “head swiveling constantly” (KoD, Ch. 26) to survey his surroundings, he works to evaluate all conceivable risks on a potential battlefield. On their first meeting, Tuon is impressed by his apt appraisal of the area and the way he accounts even for the possibility of raken, a Seanchan military asset of which he has heard tell but never seen in person.
Though Mat is the undisputed leader of the Band, Talmanes is responsible for a significant portion of its success. It is under Talmanes’s supervision, for example, that the Band more than triples in size, a statistic that astounds Mat when he and Talmanes are reunited in Knife of Dreams after a separation of more than four books. Although it is Mat’s reputation that draws recruits, Talmanes is the one to oversee the intake of thousands of new soldiers while simultaneously securing a contract with the King of Murandy that yields more than a year’s pay for the entire Band.

 

Caemlyn, by Jan Walker.

Likewise, at the dawning of the Last Battle, Talmanes plays a crucial role in rescuing the dragons from the ruins of Caemlyn—an act that has immense significance for both the Band and the fate of humankind itself. Knowing that Caemlyn is lost beyond saving with the forces at hand, Talmanes refuses to commit his men to a senseless attempt to hold the city. Instead, he opts to concentrate on what is absolutely necessary: securing escape for as many civilians as possible and preventing the dragons from falling into enemy hands. Although Talmanes knows that he cannot “reproduce Mat’s blend of insanity and inspiration,” he is also fully aware of what he must do and how he can best do it: “We will retrieve the dragons,” he assures the Band, “but we’ll do it smartly” (AMoL, Prologue).

 

Which is not, of course, to say that they will do it without flair.

 

Footnote:
[1]The first Band of the Red Hand died protecting Aemon al Caar al Thorin, the last King of Manetheren. Mat’s Band is named after it.

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