Monday, May 21, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #43: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 4


By Linda

Mat POV

The scene of Mat sitting on a dead Trolloc to rest and have a drink of water is a reference to Jordan being called “iceman” in Vietnam:

I have, or used to have, a photo of a young man sitting on a log eating C-rations with a pair of chopsticks. There are three dead NVA laid out in a line just beside him. He didn't kill them. He didn't choose to sit there because of the bodies. It was just the most convenient place to sit. The bodies don't bother him. He doesn't care. They're just part of the landscape. The young man is glancing at the camera, and you know in one look that you aren't going to take this guy home to meet your parents. Back in the world, you wouldn't want him in your neighborhood, because he is cold, cold, cold. I strangled that SOB, drove a stake through his heart, and buried him face down under a crossroad outside Saigon before coming home, because I knew that guy wasn't made to survive in a civilian environment.

Robert Jordan on his blog, April 26th 2007

Demandred didn’t fall for trickster Mat’s bait and kept the Sharans in reserve. The Raven Prince feels that his luck ran well when it didn’t matter, but is in short supply when it is desperately needed—like now. When totally beset, he becomes all the more determined, ike any other stubborn Two Rivers person. The Light’s armies are finally fully unified, but all must hold and with a resolved Mat at their head they have their best chance.

Olver POV

This scene is about people not being what they seem. Olver thinks he can manipulate or trick people better than Mat does. Aravine and Faile put on convincing acts for the Darkfriends—and even the genuine Darkfriend adopted a fake style to fool Faile a little longer. It is Olver, ignored, who kills the Black Sister, thereby freeing the others from Aravine’s betrayal.

Leane POV

Leane has learned that strength in the Power isn’t everything. Skill means a great deal. Of course, when both are present, a channeller can be truly impressive, as Leane observes when Egwene weaves twelve separate weaves simultaneously.

The Aes Sedai are stunned by the number and fighting skill of the Sharan channellers. (Again, a reflection of their delusion that they were the only proficient channellers.) There must have been a lot of fighting among channellers in Shara to account for their prowess—a society like the Seanchan feared, and mistakenly imputed to Aes Sedai. Damane also fight well—but at a non-channeller’s direction; they are not independent. Only Egwene, who was damane for a short while, but long enough for a fair bit of training, can match them. Leane is shocked by something momentous like the Sharans, but also by something comparatively less earth-shattering: her discovery that a Red Sitter wants to learn the Domani seduction techniques.

Talmanes POV

As a non-channeller, Talmanes can’t understand how an Asha’man would know of a fully enclosed cavern. He sensed it with Earth.

Talamanes’ humour is very dark and most of the men don’t recognise it.

Faile POV

Faile realises that her mistaken distrust of Harnan and Vanin brought disaster upon her group. However, it may well have happened anyway.

After killing Aravine, Faile gets Olver to take the Horn to Mat while she bravely acts as a decoy.

Logain POV

Logain gives Androl his own dragon pin in acknowledgement of his accomplishment. He doesn’t trust Gabrelle, thinking her concern is fake, and an attempt to manipulate him. His hatred of Aes Sedai kept him going after being gentled and his psychological state was further eroded by the attempted Turnings.

The Aes Sedai is impressed at his courage in going to fight Demandred. However, he has an additional motive: he lusts for the sa’angreal that Demandred has.

Ila POV

Ila and Raen have suffered privations in the last year, but feel Aram’s loss far more. She is dismayed that Raen is looking at a quiver of arrows. Raen realises that the Way of the Leaf won’t save them from the Shadow and if the Dark One remakes the world it will be worse than any suffering they have known. Moreover, they can’t run away from the Shadow if the Dark One wins. The Tinker realises they can only follow the Way if others protect them, as the first Aiel protected the Jenn, whom the Tinkers were once part of—and so the Tinkers come full circle. At first Ila hopes this is a temporary depression, but Raen has some realisation that the Tinkers owe a debt to the fighters, and that the fighters’ actions are not evil.

This insight inspires Ila to reassess the rejection of Aram, who had realised that he could have saved his mother from the Trollocs if he fought them, when the Tinnkers tradition of non-violence ensured her death.

The Way of the Leaf does not have all the answers.

Olver POV

Alone with the Horn, Olver feels abandoned all over again. He had thought himself tough—and so he is, but in this horrific situation is rightly terrified. One does not exclude the other.

Noble Bela didn’t throw Olver in terror as most horses would have when near Trollocs. Olver thinks Bela is dead, but the Companion says she survived and lived in retirement in the Two Rivers. Previously, Harriet had insisted that Bela died, but implied at a booksigning that she became a Hero of the Horn. Bela is Harriet’s favourite character.

Logain POV

Logain thought that he could match Demandred because he assumed his opponent would be tired from all his channelling, but the Forsaken whipped him. One positive outcome of the clash is that he realises Gabrelle’s concern for him is real. (What she dislikes is their unequal, forced bonding and it may be that she Bonds him in turn ultimately.) For himself, Logain is humiliated almost to the point of despair.

Berelain POV

The First will ask gai’shain to help retrieve the wounded form the battlefield, contrary to ji’e’toh. Since they are pledged to non-violence, it would be a major sacrifice of their honour. Annoura sacrifices herself to rescue the wounded Galad, to atone her treatment of Berelain. Burning out can’t be Healed because the channeller’s connection to the Source is destroyed, not merely cut.

Rand POV

Watching over everyone, Rand feels responsible for all the deaths, that he should have been able to save them. The Dark One tries to make Rand despair as he is crushed by grief and responsibility. Rand’s awareness extends to all, even Nyaneve attending to Alanna.

Taim POV

Taim sneers at Demandred obsessively wasting energy calling for Rand, but the newest Forsaken was bested by Egwene. Demandred uses meditation to restore himself to freshness, which explains why Logain did not find him tired. Taim is impressed with Demandred’s presence in spite of himself. Demandred loans Taim Sakharnen, but convinces Taim that the sa’angreal is bonded to Demandred and can’t be used against him. Taim can’t believe Demandred would hand over such an object of the Power to anyone. The Shadow’s general reminds Taim of their orders to use balefire.

Elayne POV

Elayne oscillates between feeling she isn’t doing much for her troops, who don’t even know that she lives, and thinking she could be more useful fighting with the Aes Sedai.

Mellar (aka Hanlon) and his darkfriends have tricked their way close to Elayne. Their plans are to cut Elayne’s babies from her womb and take them to Shayol Ghul for the Dark One to torment Rand. This is not exactly the ultimate version of Birgitte’s warning that horrible things could happen to Elayne and her babies could still be born OK, since they wouldn’t be healthy, at best living for an hour, but it highlights Birgitte’s good sense.

Rand POV

The Dark One’s world-building scenario is the void, nothingness, this time. Rand could accept that for himself, but not for the whole world. Nothingness is what Moridin desires, but Rand thinks Moridin is wrong. Peace does not equal nothing. Nor is nothing “everything” like the Dark One says.

Min POV

Yulan criticises Mat’s generalship strongly, while being careful to not criticise Tuon’s choice of him as her consort. The Truthspeaker is horrified that she is thinking of what she sees and does in Seanchan terms. It’s a sign that she is fitting into their society as well as Mat has. Both will change it, both are being changed by it.

Beslan and Tylee press to go back to the Last Battle, while Galgan is uncertain. Tuon is troubled by Yulan’s scouts’ reports and fears that returning is what feels good rather than what is strategic.

Min makes some excellent deductions from her viewings and flushes out Moghedien. Just as importantly, she adds to the pressure on Tuon to return to the battle.

Egwene POV

Taim uses balefire to undo all the work Egwene’s forces have done in the last few hours. She thinks about what Perrin said and about the necessity for balance in the Pattern and weaves the Flame of Tar Valon, opposite of balefire. The weave is so positive that it eases her pain from Gawyn’s death. Equal to balefire at first, the flame weave is the stronger—plus Egwene was able to be reckless with the amount of power she drew, due to her sa’angreal having no buffer.

The Amyrlin almost senses that a black hole could open in the area soon:

Black lines radiated across the Heights, and her mind's eye saw them opening, the land shattering, and a void appearing here that sucked into it all life.

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

This is the danger of balefire: it destroys the Pattern, leaving Nothing.

After separating herself for Leilwin, she finishes off all the Sharans with the flame of Tar Valon weave, expending her body energy in the process. Witnessing this, Rand is overcome with even more grief and guilt.

Mat POV

Even with the Sharan channellers gone, Mat’s troops are outnumbered by the Trollocs. Symbolically, he raises the Age of Legends Aes Sedai banner, the unbalanced yin-yang symbol. (“Under this sign shall he (Rand) conquer”…) When all seems grim, he gets news that the Seanchan will come back. They will return; just as it was important that Mat return to Sindhol to rescue Moiraine and subsequently return to Tuon (who herself prosecutes the Return). There is a strong theme of “I will return” in the Mat-Tuon story line, a reference to General Macarthur, a parallel of Mat, declaring “I will return” to re-take territory invaded by Japan in World War II. It’s also a reference to Persephone (or Kore, which is one of Tuon’s names) spending time between her mother Demeter above ground and her husband Hades (a parallel of Mat) in the underworld. In this case, it is Mat who splits his time between his wife and his homeland.

Mat would almost rather Tuon stayed safe. She is returning to help him despite misgivings that she would gain more politically by letting the Aes Sedai be damaged by the Shadow. But there is no safety anywhere. It’s obvious that they can’t win the Battle while Demandred is alive, even if he no longer has the sa’angreal.

Loial POV

Loial pretends he will get to write his book, but believes he won’t live to do it. Nevertheless, he intends to witness Lan’s fight. Sadly, this happened to Jordan, who did not live to complete his series.

Tam POV

Rand’s father helps Lan get through the Trolloc barrier by raining fire arrows on them, and has one of the best lines of the book in my opinion:

"Let's give Lord Mandragoran a little something to guide his way!"

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

He is given…Light.

Lan POV

A small thing that had huge consequences was Lan’s offer to check whether there were Healed troops in Mayene, resulting in him intercepting Berelain’s note to Mat with the weave-stopping medallion. The best of the knights seizes the opportunity to duel the Forsaken. But first he must get through the Trollocs, impossible in itself except that Tam helped. Like Tam, Lan is completely within the void. He immediately wounds Demandred.

Rand POV

Rand is witness to everyone dying and desperate. He feels a failure until he is prompted to let go. His father’s words save his sanity, while the man himself enables Lan to save the Last Battle.

Lan POV

One with the Land in the void, Lan is a stand-in for his protégé Rand, while Rand fights a greater duel for the Land.

Demandred demands Lan’s name, but, unlike Gawyn and Galad, Lan refuses to reveal his identity, in violation of chivalric code and protocol, saying he is just a man and one who is there to kill Demandred. This is a way of showing contempt to this evil person. In New Spring, Lan is disgusted when an arrogant Tairen noble (as it turned out, a Darkfriend—probably Weiramon) passes him orders in the Aiel War without introducing himself first. The duel is very Arthurian. Demandred is a parallel of Meleagaunt, who was a treacherous enemy of King Arthur’s court that duelled Sir Lancelot (a parallel of Lan) three times, and was killed by him in their last duel. Rather than fight Lan three times, Demandred duelled three different knights with Arthurian names, falling to Lan last. Three is the most important number in the series.

Amazingly, Lan dodged Demandred’s diversions and did not let them disrupt his attacks at all. Demandred is shocked. Lan reads him like a book. In contrast, Demandred assumes Lan came to win, but he came to kill him, expecting to die also, and fulfilled his aim.

And so ends the longest chapter in this series, with a huge number of POVS. The quick changes of POV in the second half of the Last Battle chapter speed up the action and stop the reader feeling bogged down, but instead, hit with woe upon woe.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #42: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 3


By Linda

Juilin POV

The irony of a Tairen in charge of protecting Aes Sedai is not lost on Juilin. He’s also rather stunned that he, a mere commoner, is now leading his group. Such is this war of attrition that many who expected to follow are now leading.

Pevara POV

Androl’s social awkwardness shows in his tactless complement to Pevara. He also missed that Emarin is gay, whereas Pevara is aware.

The Red sister doesn’t understand the reality of fighting—the need to eat and sleep during longer battles. She has only read about battles, whereas Androl has fought and also learned tactics. Pevara is considerably older than Androl, but he has lived a far more varied life. He likes her courage and reliability, she likes his many and varied skills and experiences. Androl is feeling more responsible for the Turning of friends than she is: he wants to avenge Evin and the others, whereas Pevara doesn’t even think of Tarna much. When Pevara considers how Asha’man would be great Warders, Androl is jealous. Most Aes Sedai are not married to their Warders, whereas the Asha’man’s warder bond was originally conceived as a way of knowing the status of their spouse.

Pevara distances herself from smells as well as heat and cold. It is she who leads their group over to the Sharans. Sharans are disgusted by Trollocs but unanimously hold to playing their part in the Pattern. Were dissenters purged back in Shara, or did they refuse to come with Demandred?

The old man that Androl’s goup encounter is Demandred’s mentor, Mintel, who was very positive toward their role, not seeing it as evil, merely necessary, even crucial, to the Pattern. However, instead of revering the monk warrior, the Sharan nobles sneer at him—or at least at his weapons.

Galad POV

Gawyn confesses his mistakes to Galad, and then drops the bombshell that Rand is Galad’s half-brother. The Land soaks up the blood of the dying fighters, including that of Gawyn. The grieving Galad determines to fight Demandred.

The Children with Galad see extreme channelling in action and are no longer afraid. Although if these Whitecloaks were put off by it, they would be useless for this engagement. They have superstitions though—that they must separate the head from the body of Sharan channellers that they kill, or otherwise they can regenerate. This is legend creation in action. Whitecloaks realise the fighting they are (finally?) doing is what should have been doing since their beginning. Just like the Green Ajah, they should have been fighting Shadowspawn in the Blight, not trying to influence world politics. Leading by example.

EgwenePOV

The broken Warder bond is driving Egwene mad with pain. In the face of rude reality, she realises that she was naïve and over-confident about the bond; it is incapacitating when broken.

Tam POV

Out of arrows, Tam keeps the Two Rivers forces operational with hand weapons. He has a flashback to the Blood Snow in the Aiel War, when Rand was born. Full circle. He humbly feels the sword Rand gave him is too good for him, when the reverse is the case.

Fortuona POV

The Empress shares her consort’s reluctance for One Power Healing. As a small honour, she personally gives the Deathwatch Guard their death-marching orders for failing to keep her safe. To redress her obligation, she resolves to do a personal penance later for sending Karede to his death when she owes him so much.

As arranged, Tuon and Mat use the situation as a trigger for their staged spat and separation to dupe the Shadow’s spy into thinking that their immaturity has led them to disunity.

Rand POV

Rand: just one man and yet the world’s hope. A t this stage he still thinks it’s all about him. That his duel with the Dark One will decide the outcome. However, all the battles and sacrifices are necessary.

Peaches are believed to be toxic but are not (The Wheel of Time Companion). They were safely and happily eaten in the Age of Legends, but people in the Third Age erroneously believe they are poisonous, and who will dare to test this? More erroneous knowledge that is effectively a myth.

The right of might prevails in this world of the Dark One’s weaving. He says his world has no good or evil. More accurately, the people in the Dark One’s world have no knowledge of good and evil, just base and basic mental functions. Everyone is out for themselves. The psychopaths in it seem sociable but have no feelings or values. Interestingly, everyone needs to belong to a faction, just as with Rand’s visit to Caemlyn in The Eye of the World.

The Dark One’s action backfires to a degree: Rand is so outraged that he rushes without thought to make its opposite.

Mat POV

First, Mat convinces Min to watch over Tuon while he is not there, and then Karede to join him in fighting—for his and their protection. For once, he follows the Seanchan social rules for referring to that the Empress so the omen is good. Quite a concession for a guy who literally lives by rule-breaking.

Tam POV

Tam was always known for his steadiness, and here we see it to perfection—literally holding the wedge formation firm against the Trolloc onslaught. He impresses even Lan. The last time he fought like this may have been in the Aiel War. Utterly within void, he does not think of the past. Only the now. His bending like a reed reminds me of Cadsuane’s saying that the willow bends while the oak breaks (Knife of Dreams, News for the Dragon).

A gentle wind refreshes him after—the wind of life, chai, prana, that flows through the books. The sun shines on the dragon banner, but nowhere else.

Refugees—even children—volunteer to tend the wounded and retrieve arrows (that the Two Rivers folk need badly) rather than await the outcome of the battles.

Elayne POV

Bryne was the last of his long line. Both his and Siuan’s deaths mark the end of an era. As the sun sets on this day, the battle outlook is very bleak. Elayne fears only hours remain.

Birgitte gets Elayne away from Demandred’s attacks just in time. She thinks Demandred is not just trying to kill Elayne as Rand’s love, but also as an army commander. To make it harder for him to locate Elayne, Birgitte insists that she not channel. Elayne reluctantly accedes.

Galad POV

As Galad arrives at the Forsaken’s command post, he sees Demandred going for another member of his family while yelling for the blood of a third. For the first time, he feels guided by not just the Pattern, but also the Light. Although barely over the shock that Rand is his brother as much as Gawyn was, he announces it defiantly at Demandred and offers himself in Rand’s place. Galad is not sure how he feels about his half-brother—whether proud or ashamed. At least he met Rand at Merrilor, after thinking Rand disreputable-looking when saw him in Caemlyn at the beginning. It’s interesting that Galad senses a similarity between Rand and Demandred.

Demandred almost realises Rand is ignoring him—but can’t really comprehend the ultimate ignominy of Rand really being so far above him. Poor Mr Second-Best. Appropriately, he fights the second-best knight when he briefly wonders about this.

Nynaeve POV

Using supposedly mundane methods, Nynaeve sews Alanna’s wounds and gives her effective herbal medicine. Without her ministrations, Alanna would die and Rand go mad.

Mat POV

Bashere feels so corrupted by the Shadow that he is not able to be King. Galad has distracted Demandred, which has taken some pressure off Elayne’s troop, but Mat sends Bashere to tell Lan to bolster Elayne’s right flank. Bashere feels inadequate and Mat yells at him—a sign of respect that reassures Bashere and thus pleases Deira.

Mat feels the Andorans are weakening, then watches Ogier save them. Like Galad, he finds them terrifying—well, they are Ogres. The Prince of the Ravens discovers that the Gardeners are with the mainland Ogier, but the two are not mixing well. In war, the Ogier are as quiet as they are loquacious in peace.

Mat doesn’t see a vision of Rand when he thinks of him, only darkness. Rand is outside the Pattern at this point, having touched the Dark One’s darkness.

Teslyn left the White Tower, preferring to fight with Dragonsworn. It is not known if she left when the Amyrlin was Elaida or Egwene. I think the former is more likely.

Egwene POV

An archetypal Red, Silviana regrets Egwene’s relationship with Gawyn. In contrast, Yellows are accepting. Silviana sees Warders as a weakness, instead of also a source of strength or reassurance. She does not agree that the price paid is at all worth it. Egwene reminds Silviana that Gawyn saved Egwene’s life. Egwene is determined to return to fight in the Armageddon.

Rosil explains to Egwene that the only way to overcome the grief is with a stronger emotion. Not a problem, Egwene has plenty of anger to use, but also needs the steadying bond of a Warder, and asks Egeanin if she will accept it. The Amyrlin still feels some revulsion at a Seanchan but overcomes it.

Galad POV

Galad sees through Demandred’s ploys easily. Demandred is less talkative fighting him—an indication that Galad is testing him. Furthermore, Galad’s lack of response may be unsettling to him; Galad is no easy meat. He does have some difficulty against objects thrown at him with the Power, but not too badly, and even manages to cut Demandred. However, he is not fast enough to go on the attack, and mostly just responds to Demandred’s attacks. He loses a forearm to this Forsaken, as his brother lost a hand to another. Demandred wins but was fairly pressed.

Galad’s tactics worked in that Demandred stopped attacking Elayne’s armies. This helped Galad’s sister, if not his brother.

Androl POV

Androl is bold and quick-thinking in tricking Taim and putting him off-guard while getting close enough to pickpocket the Seals. Cleverly, he blames returning to Taim on Demandred. In a neat reversal, Taim overlays Androl’s own face on him to kill Logain. This is such a contrast to the Aes Sedia, whose weaker members are rarely able to have opportunities to shine, no matter how skilled, experienced or intelligent they are.

Arganda POV

Tam’s timing in battle is perfect. Knowing nothing of Tam’s time in the Illianer Companions, Arganda wonders how he learned it. Arganda is impressed with how everyone is fighting together. However, he realises that they can’t win, as does Lan. Lan is determined to fight to the death.

Rand POV

Rand manifests another possible world: this one, with the Dark One dead, is very unlikely and takes some effort to show. Yet in the Age of Legends, the Dark One was unknown. Rand’s version is more extreme still. He enters the world in Caemlyn, as he did in the previous world, although it is the very opposite of how it was in the Dark One’s vision. The Dark One can’t enter this world (a logical impossibility).

The Dragon is exploring the result of killing the Dark One so he can’t appear in another Age. The Dark One’s death resulted in the annihilation of the Trollocs. Here and now, Mat is aware that the Light’s forces will wipe them out themselves. Like in the test for Accepted, Rand has to be on guard against staying in this world.

No one needs to see the Queen; there are no problems for her to solve. National borders also mean nothing. She is an anachronism—and also a husk of what she was spiritually. She shows a wrongness like that of being Turned to the Shadow. I guess she has been Turned to the Light. Rand’s ‘perfect’ world is not turning out how he intended. It changes people in horrible ways.

The Dark One claims victory in this part of the duel. Rand discovers that a world without choice is evil. Rand and Dark One will be effectively the same—it little matters which of them is the sole ruling entity. This is why Cadsuane tried to make Rand more balanced and emotionally expressive. Regardless, Rand holds onto his erroneous idea of killing Dark One until the Last Moment.

This world proves that you can’t force perfection, only aim for it.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #41: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 2


By Linda

Egwene POV

Egwene thinks that she hasn’t finished with the Empress—but alas, she has. After leaving their hostile meeting, she sees the cracks in reality for the first time. These are mainly, but not entirely, due to balefire. Egwene promptly develops a weave that doesn’t heal them of itself, but cushions the cracks in the Pattern while they heal themselves, and is one of her greatest feats. It leaves a film of crystals.

With all this distraction, she finally notices that Gawyn is not there with her. Bryne volunteers to go and bring him back. (They assume the Warder has gone to the Andoran armies to fight). Egwene permits Siuan to go with Bryne, but indicates that she would like her to be the Tower’s spy among the Seanchan. This tragically means Siuan’s death. If Egwene had known, would she have still asked this of Siuan? I believe so, but she would probably have phrased it differently.

Siuan actually commends her; says Egwene is a great replacement, a wonderful legacy. Most of Egwene’s legacy will be her part in the reform of the Aes Sedai, and her legendary battle with Taim and the Sharans, plus the Flame of Tar Valon weave. It is an outstanding legacy, but as Amyrlin, she is a short-lived replacement. And for Siuan the swan who can’t sing, what shall be her swan song? The fact that she kisses a man openly for the first time. Their last and only public kiss.

Egwene realises her hypocrisy in thinking Captain Chubain is too young for his job. He’s about 10‒15 years too young, she’s about 200.

Mat had the clever idea of setting the dry bush alight around the Shadow’s army to force them back, and for the smoke to cover the Aes Sedai army’s movements (and also the sight of their channelling.)

Gawyn POV

The rings hide Gawyn so well that even a Myrddraal does not see him, and neither does a Trolloc that passes close by him. Nor does Gawyn feel pain. When he runs through the Trollocs, they hear and smell him, but he is a blur. Gawyn is almost like a Myrddraal himself in the way the shadows hide him:

“There were shadows here and shadows were protection.”

- A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

and Myrddraal are slightly out of phase with time and reality, according to their creator, Aginor. The Amyrlin’s Warder is quite knowledgeable in what he can do while wearing the rings, showing some practise.

Gawyn is not going to kill Demandred for pride or glory, but for necessity. Nevertheless, he wants to do something that matters and he thinks he can be risked, but not Egwene or Logain. The fool still hasn’t learned what the Warder bond is because he refuses to listen. He is too impulsive to be a good choice as a Warder.

Demandred tries to balefire Gawyn but he dodges it, thanks to the rings, which make the encounter an actual duel and not an execution. Demandred challenges Gawyn’s loyalties and ethics as they fight. The Forsaken truly outclasses Gawyn—runs rings around him. He asks if Elayne or Rand is any better than Demandred in killing for advantage? Yet for them, it is a last resort against those who are committing crimes; for Demandred it is a first resort to gain advantage.

Demandred believes no one—Rand or anyone else—can defeat the Dark One. Apparently, the best way to save the world is to let him destroy it and protect people after. The Forsaken says Rand claims he can do the same.

Demandred believes that it must be Rand with Lews Therin’s memories who is the Light’s general, and therefore keeps looking for him on the battlefield. No one else could be so skilled in his opinion. He assumes that Rand wove Night’s Shade around Gawyn, not that he could have a ter’angreal with the same effect.

So many beliefs, false assumptions and outright lies. Desperate to be at the forefront of the war himself, Demandred thinks that Rand is personally orchestrating everything. (Mind you, Rand thought the same until he was convinced by Moiraine and others at Merrilor that he can’t do everything.)

Gawyn is not one enough with his sword—it is still a thing he manipulates instead of a part of him. Demandred efficiently wears Gawyn down and then stabs him fatally, although the Warder bond keeps Gawyn alive a little while.

Faile POV

Faile is rightly convinced that there is a Darkfriend among her group, but wrongly that they are one or both of the two men who ran off. She thinks Vanin’s terror is at being caught and not at what he was holding, not understanding how religiously Mat’s men try to avoid danger. Since she believes that it is pointless to hide the Horn, Faile is wearing it openly.

Perrin POV

Berelain pointedly has a chaperon for Perrin while he is in the hospital in her palace. This consideration is partly due to being pulled into line by Faile, but also due to her own desire for marriage to Galad.

Janina is able to selectively Heal. After more than one session, Perrin is finally Healed fully but is exhausted, so Janina probably Healed in the way Samitsu does and not the full five Powers Healing that Nynaeve weaves, that doesn’t take so much out of the patient.

Perrin deduces that three battlefronts moved to Merrilor, but Rand still fights. He informed them that time moves differently at the Bore—much more slowly—which they are all glad of and pass along to the battle command. At first, Berelain held back that Faile’s caravan was destroyed and she has vanished. Perrin insists his beloved is alive, because the alternative is too terrible to contemplate. He is determined to return to Gaul, but finally accepted that he would die without sleep.

Androl POV

Pevara looks down on Theodrin as not being “proper” Aes Sedai. However, Pevara hasn’t behaved as a “proper” Red in decades. She is otherwise understanding and positive towards Theodrin, though, and can accurately identify her feelings.

It’s taken a while, but Androl and Pevara are taking stock of their bond, and then their relationship. To Androl, Pevara is solid and reliable and their relationship life-saving. Androl is awkward around women. Even if they can see into his mind, they see awkwardness there. Pevara has been mentally comparing Androl to her figurines of her family. He will be her new family. All Aes Sedai see their family fade away over time, but Pevara’s family was cut off short.

Androl realises that Pevara’s achievement with the gateway, when she can’t do them easily, and didn’t have control and wasn’t the leader of the ring, was because she acted as him. She is able to overcome her fear of male channelling upon herself.

An inveterate traveller, Androl knows where he is relative to everywhere he’s ever been. He also “knows” any place he’s at in a very short time. He has an extreme sense of location, of place. Androl says that “small things matter.” He is a perfect example of that: his channelling ability is small, but really matters to the whole world.

They laugh at themselves, which is such a positive trait. They need all the mirth they can get in such times. It is something to fight for, something to help them fight. Respite, positivity—things the Dark One knows are the most dangerous—keep them from despairing.

Rhuarc POV

Rhuarc gives us an informative assessment of how the battle is going at Thakan’dar. Ituralde’s defences were finally broken, but they efficiently reduced the numbers of Shadowspawn. He is impressed by the dedication of the Dragonsworn; which is something, coming from an Aiel. As for the red-veiled Aiel, Rhuarc calls them Honorless. Impressively, he himself kills a red-veiled channeller. More concerningly, he feels the Light are losing the battle here.

And then Graendal strikes. She didn’t kill him, but has Compelled him to use his considerable fighting talents for herself, her protection. Rhuarc is robbed of his mind—judgment and values—and is now walking dead. A sad end to a much-loved character. It really shows the vileness of the Shadow. The Dreamwalkers knew something of his fate, we see them earlier in the series asking him if he wants to die old and fat in bed. Graendal turns everyone to herself; these days it’s a compensation for being robbed of her beauty by the Dark One. But she was always a monster even before being reborn as Hessalam.

Rand POV

Rand creates his “perfect” world out of one of the “If worlds” that is an alternate reality that may be less likely. Ogier are rebuilding Emond’s Field as compensation for Rand’s sacrifice. Originally, the Ogier thought of a monument to Rand, but the Two Rivers people made the more practical choice of reconstruction. They worked closely with the Ogier and learned off them.

The Two Rivers is more diverse, and more egalitarian than before and is now a place of pilgrimage or tourism. With the development of gunpowder weapons, the people are renowned riflemen as well as archers. But the only war is in the east, along Sharan border.

A monument was still made, but instead of commemorating just Rand, it honours all the fallen in the Last Battle. Rand rejects the sight of his friends on that monument as not definite fact, and this makes his vision wobble. He is still insisting it’s his sacrifice only, no one else’s.

Darkness only exists when Light falters. The Dark One can’t win so long as Rand is steadfast, which is why he tries to make Rand despair. The Dark One tells Rand that his world is flawed, because it can’t be perfect. There is still crime. The Dark One, being openly and fully evil, is more honest, more true, than Rand’s world—supposedly. Though who would believe such a liar? It’s just another attempt to make Rand give up.

This short vision is the “true” world that Rand should aim for: high ideals, but still with choice and messiness, and not draconian or extreme. Balanced. The Dark One is trying to force Rand to give up, or to be an extremist. Good forced on people is the evil of Shadar Logoth. The Dark One’s contention that if Rand can’t have perfection then his world is inadequate, that a grey world is the same as a black world, and that since criminals break rules there should be none, sounds sadly familiar in the real world.

Silviana POV

Still Silviana digs at the Blues. She is on the whole a very sensible and thorough woman, but Blues (and men) are her blind spots. She carries deep prejudices, which, from time to time, Egwene pulls her up on.

The Keeper assumes that Demandred attacked Egwene—she almost forgot about Gawyn (because good riddance) even though he isn’t there but has gone off on his own. Courageously, she offers to stand in Egwene’s place in the Warder bond. Silviana doesn’t understand the emotional attachment and intimacy of the bond, augmented, in this case, by love and a long-term commitment of marriage. She really misses the point. Instead, Egwene’s group will fight their way to Gawyn.

Elayne POV

Elayne judges that Mat’s plan to send Egwene’s army to attack the rear of the Shadow army fighting Elayne was genius.

Birgitte is fretting over how many of her memories have been lost. Unlike if she were born a baby, she can remember that she knew things she doesn’t now know. She is like an adult baby, or someone in the early throes of Alzheimer’s. It is a cruel situation.

While Galad is Elayne’s big brother, and certainly feels this way toward her, she doesn’t like him enough to accept his advice or criticism, seeing as she outranks him on a social scale. Yet she takes liberties to read a letter written to Galad and not her. She is an entitled miss. Galad doesn’t know the depth of Elayne’s rejection of him (which originated in part due to jealousy of Galad’s place in their father’s heart), but continues as though she feels everything that he thinks she should.

Mat’s letter is more educated than the “joke” letter he sent Elayne in Caemlyn to manipulate her into giving him a hearing (and that upset many fans with its style). Mat sent Galad to Elayne and a messenger there with his orders for Galad, so the spy at military headquarters can’t determine what is going on.

For a long while, as Galad notes, he wouldn’t have killed women (which Whitecloaks certainly would if they believed the women were Darkfriends or could channel), but not now. Galad has seen that women can be evil. Elayne says for once she agrees wholeheartedly with him. Galad thinks that Elayne is joking when she says that she doesn’t want to strangle him for what he says. His belief in right makes him oblivious of his family’s failings, at times. Probably just as well. Galad becomes increasingly appealing over the series. Early in the books we only know him through Elayne’s eyes, and they are highly biased. Away from her, his actions can speak for themselves and although a little stiff (as many Cairhienin are), he is good-hearted, just and reasonable.

Mat POV

Mat is loving the gamble of war, and he admires Demandred’s willingness to gamble also.

Logain won’t take orders at all easily from Mat, and tries to deny that he should cooperate. There’s resentment in his belief that he declared himself Dragon too soon and so was not the one. Yet Logain doesn’t want the Dragon’s destiny. Now he wants the glory and honour of killing Demandred as compensation for how the Reds treated him. Some of this is post traumatic stress and the effects of almost being turned to the Shadow. Mat was probably unrealistic in trying to get Logain to aid the Aes Sedai, considering what they did to him. Sure, everyone needs to work together, since the war is everyone’s—as Mat says—but Logain would be far more motivated to aid a group that had not damaged him.

Mat hasn’t worked out how to get rid of Demandred. He correctly doubts Logain would do much good against such a powerful Forsaken. The Shadow attacks the command tent as Mat wonders how to save Elayne’s forces and Tuon begins their pretend rift.

Min POV

Sharans wear lamellar armour (typical of their strong “Chinese” origins). Tuon breaks free of her ceremonial clothes and runs to save Mat from Grey Men. It is ironic that Tuon is highly mobile, while Min, who used to be admired for wearing men’s clothes, is stuck in her cumbersome dress.

Min is appalled that her rescuer, Siuan, is here and not with Bryne. The two must stay near each other to live. Siuan doesn’t care since if Mat dies, the Last Battle is lost, and insists they must help him. While Min saves Tuon, Siuan is killed by a fiery explosion after attracting attention with her channelling. Another much-loved character is lost.

Demandred POV

Demandred is peeved that his “advantage” in using the eyes of scouting bird with the True Power is overtaken, even eclipsed, by gateways that look down on a battlefield. The people of this Age are not the primitives that the Forsaken had convinced themselves. They have open minds, and are therefore free to experiment, whereas the Age of Legends people had such extensive knowledge that they are comparatively closed to new ideas and techniques.

The Forsaken won’t Travel to Mat’s command post for fear that Lews Therin is there. This is a gamble he won’t take. He’s being cautious, not afraid! It shows just how much he respects and fears the abilities of his despised Lews Therin. He’s also wary of M’Hael, who has been promoted rapidly due to his successes. Demandred’s grudging respect to M’Hael shows how strong-willed and persistent M’Hael is.

Rand showing himself in various battlefields has made Demandred wonder where he is. It adds credence to Demandred’s belief that there’s a trap somewhere. He can’t believe that the master general of this Age isn’t Lews Therin in disguise. This is consistent with his attitude to Third Age people even after expressing surprise at their innovation. His assessment that they are too young and can’t be experienced enough is correct. Mat had a very unexpected genesis: he was manufactured by the Pattern and the Eelfinn—and is a concert of generals.

The Forsaken reluctantly admits that Lews Therin was stronger in the One Power and more popular. (And if he thinks Lews Therin is Mat, a pretty damn good general.) But Demandred was better at war—plus it is an outlet for his anger and resentment. He acknowledges Mat is a very good gambler, as Mat also said of him.

Shendla does not see Demandred as evil. For the Sharans, the Pattern is about fate and balance, and not so much which side you’re on or the choices you make, as it is for the other nations. The Sharans have had little choice until now, but perhaps after the Last Battle they will feel differently about choice and the Pattern. Judging by their conversations in this book and in River of Souls, they accept that since the Pattern calls for two sides, there’s no shame in either side. It could be that they have had to be constrained the entire Third Age to be the sort of people that would fight wholesale for the dark side. Yet they worry about the existence of their nation after this apocalyptic event as much as the fate of the world. Shendla is satisfied that Demandred will try to save Sharans when he remakes the world, and Demandred is surprised that he wants to do well by them. Having been locked into his sterile feelings of envy and resentment for centuries, he is almost surprised to find he has developed feelings for Shendla, too.

M’Hael is roundly punished for insulting Demandred. A True Power shield sucks up the One Power like an a’dam when touched by a man or like a gholam. The shield might have given the idea of a gholam to Aginor—or at least how to craft one using similar weaves and principles.

Rand POV

The Dark One has to work within time’s rules when he touches Pattern. This is why balefire prevents the Dark One from capturing a soul. He is bound by the logic of causality when he reaches into the Pattern.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Memory of Light Read-through #40: Chapter 37—The Last Battle Part 1


By Linda

This chapter is very long so I will be breaking up my read-through into parts.

Loial notes

Loial writes that it was the darkest time before the dawn. The dawn will be of a new Age; the risk is that it will be of Shadow and not Light—a false dawn.

Lan POV

If a man is knocked down and gets back up to fight, then he is truly dangerous. In this chapter, Lan and Rand, in particular, are referenced as dangerous, but many of the men—and women—qualify. This scene sets the scale of the chapter: everyone is fighting.

Elayne POV

Elayne is seduced by a draghkar until Birgitte warns her, then she deafens herself and everyone else so they can’t hear its siren song. This is a reference to the Ancient Greek hero Odysseus and his crew encountering the Siren on their voyage. Odysseus had arranged for everyone but himself to wear earplugs; he wanted to experience the song and didn’t wear them. To prevent him throwing himself overboard to his death, he was tied to the mast. As reckless as Elayne… A draghkar is a fusion of the siren and the vampire. Typical of the Shadow, the draghkars don’t make the most of their attack because they are greedy. The Seanchan archers missed the draghkar altogether despite being warned, and even Elayne was nearly caught by one, which emphasises Birgitte’s skill and vigilance.

Elayne thinks that her babies may be reacting to her weaving Healing. Yet they didn’t when she wove a thunderclap loud enough to deafen everyone nearby. Apparently, they didn’t respond to the draghkar ‘s song, either. Yet babies can hear when in the womb, and back in Caemlyn Elayne was reading aloud to them and also having music played for them.

Sul’dam and damane are polite to Elayne, but she behaves arrogantly to them. She could have acknowledged her obligation for the damane’s Healing. I think this is what Birgitte raised an eyebrow about, and not that Elayne would not speak to the sul’dam directly herself. The Seanchan are starting to be pragmatic about the usefulness of Healing. The sul’dam is highborn, which increases the insult. She retaliates by saying that she can’t understand why Elayne accepts Healing from an animal.

Mat wears partly Seanchan, partly mainland clothing. The conspicuous pink ribbon on his hat was the Seanchan’s hint to Mat that they know a lot about his relationship with Tylin. They are trying to keep him a little in line with some embarrassment. However, tricksters are shameless, so it doesn’t work well.

Mat planned or expected that Elayne would drop into his HQ to complain about the changed battle plans. Elayne tries to disconcert him with a sudden arrival and a curse but it didn’t work. (Just as women snipe at Rand, so women try to abash Mat.) Elayne noticed immediately that Tuon’s throne is higher than hers. The two women have a petty competition going on between them about seating height. Peoples’ foibles are always there, no matter the occasion.

Mat is changing the battle plans ad hoc because he expects the Shadow has spies among them. Nor will he tell anyone what the new plans are. He was sincere enough when they made the original plans, but slightly uncomfortable—he didn’t actually think things through until just before the Sharans arrived.

Uno POV

Despite disliking dragons, Cairhienin and Seanchan, Uno accepts that their contributions are needed.

Mat sent a message to Uno’s forces to retreat from the Heights. The Shienaran thinks it’s stupid, but soon sees how timely the order was. Sharan channellers are trying to destroy the dragons, while Demandred, in a circle of 72 with Sakharnen, is looking for Rand. Hatred and fear are causing the Shadow to misuse their resources. Had Demandred used his circle more effectively, the Light would have lost. Evil is portrayed as not promoting its own cause due to character flaws. The Forsaken are heavily based on Nazis (see Three Influences on the Forsaken article ) and they also threw opportunities (and victory) away.

Logain POV

Logain fears releasing saidin because the loss of power reminds him of being gentled and unable to get the Power back. He lusts for a sa’angreal to assuage that fear. The trauma of being gentled and the resulting depression still haunt him, and have since been overlaid with the efforts to turn him to the Shadow. No wonder he is in bad psychological shape.

Rand’s orders to Logain are to find the Seals. Androl has passed on information that Taim appears to have them. Logain considers ignoring the order to concentrate on getting a sa’angreal, but it fits in with his desire for revenge on Taim.

Logain originally declared himself the Dragon to save mankind. He is in an ugly mood, which is why Gabrelle envies Toveine, because Logain has released her bond. Her reaction makes Logain assume she feels little for him, and he can’t trust her. Logain’s own feelings are overwhelmingly about wanting Demandred’s power, and wanting to fight a Forsaken—to hit back and regain adulation, and with it, hopefully self-respect. Not much affection for Gabrelle there, but there might be some disappointment. He is using Rand’s fat man angreal that Rand sent to him along with the orders. Formerly, Logain was very trustworthy at a time when Rand didn’t trust him, now the Dragon does trust him, but the extreme attempt at Turning him have left Logain damaged. Logain needs redemption, just as Rand did and for similar reasons.

Gawyn POV

Gawyn’s tiredness is due to activating the rings with his blood and them leaching his vitality away. Once he puts the rings on, his strength increases. The fallen prince has convinced himself that killing Demandred is more important than protecting and aiding Egwene. He’s right, but there is a high price for the Forsaken’s death. Without Gawyn’s sacrifice others would not have tried.

Tam POV

It is one day since Perrin was found nearly dead on the battlefield. Tam assumes Perrin won’t be fighting further.

Pevara POV

The Red sister is using all her channelling ability in battle and has nothing left over to maintain calm and not sweat. She is aware that she is in love with Androl and is having trouble keeping her own identity separate when they link. In the shock of an attack, they meld, and Pevara is able to weave a gateway easily for once, and this while Androl led the circle. It’s an interesting result of their double link.

Mat POV

Galad and Elayne are disagreeing with Mat’s plans because Demandred is getting the better of Mat in battle. This is Mat’s strategy—to deliberately lose, while waiting for a lucky break. He is walking the world along a razor edge:

A feint, ever so subtle. It was dangerous, possibly disastrous. He had to walk on a razor edge. There was no way to avoid cutting his feet. The question was not whether he would be bloodied, but whether he would reach the other side or not.

A Memory of Light, The Last Battle

which is a reference to the Sword Bridge of Arthurian myth. There is quite a bit of Arthurian myth around Mat, Demandred, Galad, Lan and Gawyn, and, of course, Rand al’Thor the Dragon (Arthur Pendragon). Demandred is a parallel of Meleagant, one of the most treacherous and cruel enemies of Arthur’s court, who Lancelot fought three times, killing him in their last duel. For one duel, Lancelot had to cross the Sword Bridge—a bridge consisting solely of a razor-sharp blade. In Jordan’s variant, Demandred wants to challenge and defeat the High King, but instead duels three different knights with Arthurian names, killing two of them and falling to Lan in the last. At the same time, Demandred and Mat duelled with their armies, with Mat thinking he was walking the edge of a razor, as Lancelot did crossing the Sword Bridge.

The cute so’jhin who brings Mat kaf as he calls his orders is Moghedien. Just as well he is making deceptive commands after realising that someone is relaying his orders to the Shadow before they even arrive at their intended group. He correctly deduces that this person must be a channeller, and is pretending that the dragons are inoperable. At the right moment, Mat will use them to great effect. So many “right moments” are needed for victory.

Elayne’s competition with Tuon for highest throne is noticed by Mat, right before he pulls her aside and explains that 1) there’s a spy/spies; 2) Demandred could arrive and wipe them out, only his fear of an ambush has stopped that; and 3) Mat must gamble in battle. The betting tactics are like those for cards, not dice—get the other side betting heavily and wait for the right hand. Note that Mat’s luck runs better for dice than for cards, because dice are more random. Great. In the meantime, Mat is (they are all) riding their losses—real losses—until that right moment. He will know it when it comes. Mat has convinced Elayne; now to manipulate Tuon.

Galad POV

The Whitecloak commander realises that Mat’s orders have merit, notably in expecting the Shadow would stop the river Mora, and planning how to counteract the Trollocs there. He is glad to be checking in on Elayne—he has more care for duty and family than Gawyn does. It is disconcerting for Galad to fail at deducing what Mat’s tactics are: usually, he is able to work out tactics. But this is a very complex battle, so he should be alarmed if he did work it out.

Rand POV

Rand is enduring a psychic and “physical” attack by Dark One when is he holding the power in this scene, but is not “doing anything” with it in Nynaeve’s opinion. The Dragon just endures and holds together. Nothing else. If he’d gone to the duel only with the idea of killing the Dark One, he would despair or lose. (After all, despairing IS losing). At the end of this attack, he defies Dark One thinking that nothing can break him.

In turn, the Dark One thinks he is softening Rand up; his weaves a reality where the taint is very strong because the Dark One won. His aim is to make Rand despair (and lose). In this “reality”, the Dark One is all, nothing else is remembered from before. The people don’t even know there was a before. This is a warning that Rand’s idea of killing the Dark One is not for the best.

This scenario is designed to build on Rand’s guilt over people he could not save or keep safe, those who died “for him”. In Rand’s mind, he is supposed to die for others, not the other way around. Actually, both should happen, and do.

The three goddesses of sovereignty that are Rand’s consorts, counterbalances to him, are tortured as the Dark One tries to torture Rand. The Last Battle is lasting indefinitely in this reality.

In actuality, Rand denies guilt and shame. He resists, and exerts his will. (We can see how, with his will hugely strengthened by this duel, and his ability to weave or make alternative realities, Rand was able to light his pipe by thought alone at the end of the book.) He denies failure and defies the Dark One as one would a bully.

Then he picks up the Dark One’s broken, discarded, unravelled threads. His weaves are more basic than the five powers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #39: Chapter 36—Unchangeable Things


By Linda

Nynaeve POV

The Pit of Doom is like a black hole sucking everything into a vacuum. It affects time: fifteen minutes have elapsed since they entered, while days pass elsewhere. Also notable is that the eclipse that heralded their entry no longer applies even here.

However, Rand froze after touching the empty darkness, and is not affected by the pull of the Pit. Giving his all to the duel, Rand can’t spare any effort to keep from sweating.

Nynaeve thinks Rand is not weaving, but simply holding all the Power that he can. Her judgment may be coloured by her restlessness at being constrained and not playing a more active role. To relieve it, she works out how to move around the cavern. She is of the opinion that she or Moiraine could have channelled something while Rand fought, if either led the circle, since he is not “doing” anything with the Power. Because of this, she finds Alanna, and realises the repercussions for Rand of the Green succumbing to her injuries. Moridin set his own trap—to drive Rand mad when she dies. Nynaeve wonders why Rand never felt Alanna being stabbed, but it was perhaps only just before the group entered Shayol Ghul, or else she might have died before Moridin was ready.

Eventually Nynaeve realises that Rand is weaving with the Power he holds, she just can’t see the weaves, or feel them much. Nor can she attract Rand’s, and thus Moridin’s, attention.

Dissatisfaction of a geologist reader: the cavern has been depicted as a limestone cave—the Carlsbad cave was used as inspiration for the cover illustration—but it is actually a basalt cavern inside a volcano and nothing to do with limestone or conventional stalagmites and stalactites at all.

Mat POV

Dragonsworn are humble folk that have come to do their bit in the Last Battle, even though they have never fought before. Mat thinks they are crazy, and that he would never have done so. Two years ago, he was one of them, except that he had been well-trained with a quarterstaff as a sport or martial art. This scene really shows how the Pattern has forced Mat to where he is. Amongst the humble fighters, he half recognises from his lost memories the old guy Almen Bunt, who took Mat and Rand to Caemlyn in his cart after they watched a Fade talking to a Darkfriend in a village. After Rand restored health to his family’s apple trees at the base of Dragonmount, Almen has journeyed north to fight.

The young Sigmont who wants to learn the sword, and whose over-optimism Mat quells, is a reference to the hero Sigmund of Norse mythology earning a sword from Odin (a parallel of Mat). In the Völsunga saga, Odin, disguised as a beggar, plunges the sword Gram into the central tree in King Völsung's hall at a wedding feast and announces that the man who can remove the sword will have it as a gift. Only Sigmund is able to free the sword from the tree. Later in his life, Sigmund matches up in battle against an old man who is Odin in disguise, and who shatters his sword so that he is killed by others. His posthumous son Sigurd becomes a dragon slayer.

Mat is wearing a red leather eyepatch now, instead of black with rubies—symbolising that his life is bloodier. He runs away from Tuon’s Deathwatch Guards into Aes Sedai. Egwene assumes he is defecting when he says that Tuon’s guards are after him. He’s just trying to avoid work, and his current line of work is dangerous. Specifically, he doesn’t want to be responsible for executions. He is aware of his own major foibles and unwilling to judge those of others, plus he also just doesn’t like responsibility in general. That’s not to say that he isn’t unsuited to weighing up people: he’s right about Gawyn being quick to judge others. Egwene, too, was upset at ordering the executions of the Black sisters exposed among the rebel Aes Sedai, but now seems more inured to this part of the job.

Mat disputes that he didn’t contribute much to the hunt for the Horn, and considering that he was ill, he didn’t do too badly. In his indignation, he openly says that he blew it—something he has been careful to avoid saying—thereby allowing Egwene and co to escape Falme, which Egwene disputes. In truth, each group’s actions helped those of the other, as is typical of the Pattern. She reminds Mat of the Shadar Logoth dagger and he reacts before he can say that it’s nothing to him.

Egwene almost admits to Mat that the seals were stolen as well as the Horn, which would be a major loss of face. Mat’s unimpressed that she wouldn’t be plainer.

While Mat avoids the guards, he’s checking out the lie of the land for battles. Egwene is fooled by her own judgmental attitude into thinking he’s just being idle. Listening to trials and pleas right now would be a waste of Mat’s time, since he is the Light’s main general.

Delarn and one hundred of the Band have sacrificed themselves to be trapped in Hinderstap until the Pattern rights itself there. Their role in the Last Battle is to defend the Mora River. Mat is very upset at this. Even though the Hinderstap denizens are likely to live, they may remain trapped in a time loop indefinitely, while ordinary soldiers lucky enough to survive the regular battles are free once Tarmon Gaidon is over. Perhaps once the Dark One is sealed away the wrongness will die down and the Pattern restore itself at Hinderstap.

It is time for a last stand at Merrilor because there is no food left, and the populace is only going to weaken. Mat is aware that if Rand wins they also must win completely and utterly by destroying the Shadow’s armies, which otherwise would grow again. One last throw, just as in his visit to Hinderstap. Their present circumstance mirrors that situation, although on a much different scale.

Mat feels the change in the Pattern or the battlefield as the Shadow’s armies arrive; he feels Rand’s pull also.

Mat must do the unexpected. Trick them all. Well he thinks that’s unexpected.

Perrin POV

Perrin seems to draw strength from his hammer to pull himself out of the wolf dream. Another pull was acting in his favour: his ta’veren pull, which had strong Master Luhhan there to carry him to the Aes Sedai for Healing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #38: Chapter 35—A Practised Grin


By Linda

Olver POV

Olver tries to make Bela go faster, but she ignores him to stay safe in the middle of the group for her and Olver’s own good. Wisely, she conserves her energy. None of the adults in the group think a child should be at the forefront of danger, but Olver disagrees. As they travel, he daydreams of being a warrior, earning respect from the Shaido and avenging the death of his father. The caravan has lost 15 people in a few days in the Blight, and Olver wishes Noal were there because he would know how to deal with the Blight’s dangers and how to get out of it. Then he remembers that Noal died in the *Finn’s world. It was not Thom the bard who told people how Noal died, but Moiraine. Olver feels very alone—left behind by those close to him—and is determined that no one will abandon him again.

Olver rightly expects that Mat will show up at Shayol Ghul because he always ends up in danger, even though he says that he will stay out of it, and Shayol Ghul is the most dangerous place of all. Olver thinks Mat is faking being humble, but Mat genuinely doesn’t want to be a hero; he is pressed reluctantly into it by fate. Of course, he could refuse to listen to fate, but Mat won’t let others die or dishonour himself by doing so. Doing the right thing even though he’d much rather not is the best thing about Mat.

Cadsuane POV

Cadsuane respects the Aiel because they are so determined and focussed—great fighters. In her opinion, the Wise Ones don’t weave as well as Aes Sedai, but their toughness makes up for it. Yet by long custom, the Aes Sedai would never have let Sorilea test even for Accepted, which would have been a terrible waste, considering her other fine attributes.

The future Amyrlin realises the extent that the Aes Sedai have been corrupted by the Shadow to prevent them making a proper contribution to the Last Battle. Intelligent, courageous and with no illusions, she tried to do something about the problem at least as far back the Aiel War, but was prevented by events.

Cadsuane interprets Aviendha’s respect to her as acknowledgement that Cadsuane should be the leader at Thakan’dar. The Green sister works out that the Forsaken attacking the area is Graendal, even though the Forsaken looks nothing like Graendal originally did. She teaches the group what little she knows of the True Power—which again, is more than most Aes Sedai, because she is very effective at mining the White Tower archives—and also understands that Graendal used the True Power as an emergency source. Cadsuane and Sorilea make a private pact to hunt Graendal, but they aren’t successful.

Rand is using enough of the Power, including saidar, for it to be felt strongly at Thakan’dar. Cadsuane expected Forsaken to be in this area, and is determined to protect Rand from them. Her sensitivity to the atmosphere of sombre misery at Thakan’dar that emanates from the Dark One shows that she is far from unfeeling.

Speaking of feelings, Aviendha feels responsible for Graendal’s breaking her ring when she wasn’t there. She didn’t release her colleagues to defend themselves, but held them to her, never considering that they might be in danger. Cadsuane accepts that Aviendha did make a mistake and advises that in future she stay with her ring. Sorilea suggests that Aviendha call on her, Amys or Cadsuane if Graendal reappears and Aviendha counters that they must all do the same. Cadsuane and Sorilea rather reluctantly agree. Nevertheless, this plan did not happen and Aviendha battled Graendal alone.

Faile POV

Faile is trying to catch the person who tried to open the Horn’s chest, but is lured from her trap. Or so she fears. However, it was just as well that Faile decided to investigate the noise because Vanin spied her hiding something in the waste dump and dug up the Horn. Faile considers blowing the Horn of Valere for their salvation against Shadowspawn, but believes it would be futile because the Horn is still tied to Mat.

When Faile thinks of this situation

“And Light, she hoped that she hadn't been deceived more than it seemed.”

A Memory of Light, A Practised Grin

her hopes are forlorn, because she has misinterpreted the scene, but the distraction and subsequent Shadowspawn attack prevented her finding anything out. Had she hurried back to her tent, she would possibly have seen the chest moved while she was out—but she still might have blamed it on another Redarm in league with Vanin, and not Aravine.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #37: Chapter 34—Drifting


By Linda

It is Perrin who drifts into nothingness as he lies wounded, but Rand is “drifting” between the Dark One’s nothingness and reality, between all of time and here-and-now, and Faile’s group are directionless as they decide where to go next.


Rand POV

Rand’s contact with the Dark One’s blackness in his previous POV has brought him outside of Time, which is where the Dark One is imprisoned. The Dark One’s nothingness that wants to consume is a black hole personified. Shaitan can’t create independently—only eat or destroy what the Creator has made. The Creator has no other name, as though s/he has no other role. Which brings the question, can the Dark One actually make a world in his own image? He is nothingness, so is that also only what he creates? Is all his other rhetoric about (re)making the world a lie? Or does he do a cheap knockoff of the Pattern he just destroyed? So many questions.

All around him spread a vast nothingness. Voracious and hungry, it longed to consume. He could actually see the Pattern. It looked like thousands upon thousands of twisting ribbons of light; they spun around him, above him, undulating and shimmering, twisting together. At least, that was how his mind chose to interpret it.

- A Memory of Light, Drifting

Twisting ribbons of light is also how the Powers in weaves appear to those who can see them. Rand is watching the Pattern being woven.

As Rand sees, the Pattern is all of time, all possibilities, all at once. This is why if the Dark One wins in one world he will win in all: because all the worlds and times are right there.

In this chapter, Rand, like the Welsh god Lleu Llaw Gyffes, is liminal, on the threshold: he is not in the Pattern, and not entirely outside it either, but in between. This is the only place that Lleu—and his parallel Rand—can be killed, and where the greatest alchemical wedding can take place. Having seen what he is fighting for, Rand steps back into the Pattern/reality a bit so he can make sense of events and not be lost in the vastness. I was always convinced that this confrontation would not be determined by a simple “who would win in a fight”, but a theological or metaphysical solution.

It’s nice to see the Dark One pointing out to that his faithful henchman he has been effective, after he and Rand criticise Moridin.


Perrin POV

Badly wounded, Perrin is dying. He has landed in a world with wolves who have not had wolfbrothers and they reject him. Ironic, after he spent so much time fighting his wolfbrother side and finally accepted it.

Lanfear comes to check on him and is disappointed to see him beaten. Perrin is ashamed at failing her and pleads to be Healed, an indication that he is under her Compulsion. His conscious mind is shocked that he cares about her opinion, so he has some control over himself still, and is not fully under her sway.

Lanfear won’t Heal him because he doesn’t deserve her. A dark Goddess of Sovereignty, she only Heals those who serve her or that she thinks will. In desperation, Perrin thinks of Faile and a portal out of Tel’aran’rhiod, and manages to shift to Merrilor, then collapses. This little scene shows not only that there is still something wrong with Perrin, but how he will overthrow it and be fully himself.


Faile POV

Faile suggests Berisha sent them to the wrong place due to the trauma of the bubble of evil and her injuries from it. Setalle/Martina disputes that an Aes Sedai would fail under pressure—because those are weeded out in testing for the shawl—but we know that at least one has. Faile doesn’t think Aes Sedai are so free of error.

While Aravine says:

”Surely the Shadow has greater things to misdirect than a simple supply train."

- A Memory of Light, Drifting

she knows very well that it is not, but is trying to pass it off as an accident and cut short their concerns that it is a trap or at least a danger. Faile thinks that

If the Shadow had planned a trap for her caravan, it meant the Shadow knew about the Horn. In that case, they were in very serious danger. More serious, even, than being in the Blight itself.

- A Memory of Light, Drifting

This is quite correct, as are many of Faile’s deductions in the series. Aravine has convinced Setalle that the misdirected gateway was not intentional, but the bubble of evil’s fault. An ex-Aes Sedai would want to think that a sister did not fail under extreme pressure, and so accepted the rationalisation readily enough. Faile decides the gateway was an honest mistake that a Darkfriend took advantage of by killing Berisha to strand them. Setalle openly admits to Faile about being a burned out Aes Sedai, something that Faile thinks is suspicious in itself and leads her to wonder if Setalle is a sleeper Darkfriend. While Faile has the right idea, she is looking in the wrong direction for her sleeper. Sometimes paranoiacs are justified; but, unfortunately, Faile becomes suspicious of everyone except her close assistants. To those, she’s very trusting and loyal.

Setalle suggests they head for Shayol Ghul. That must have given Aravine quite a surprise.


Aviendha POV

Aviendha respects Sarene and the way she keeps her emotions under control. That’s something coming from a parochial Aiel, particularly when she says that Sarene would have made a good Maiden. It’s ironic that in the Tower Whites are considered the least practical and worldly, but out in the world others think they would make good fighters.

While Aviendha is killing red-veils, Graendal kills two of her ring, gravely injures another and captures the fourth by Compulsion.

For all that she rejects the red-veils as not Aiel—because ji’e’toh defines Aiel and they don’t follow it—Aviendha takes it personally that the men used to be Aiel, but the Shadow corrupted them. At least she blames the Shadow and not the men for this.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #36: Chapter 33—The Prince's Tabac


By Linda

Perrin POV

Perrin and Slayer are currently evenly matched in dreamwalking prowess; in order to beat him, Perrin needs to extend his skills some more and get ahead of the Darkfriend. At least he sees through Slayer talking as a distraction—and the fact that Slayer felt he needed to do that shows he was under pressure and will ultimately be outstripped by Perrin. Slayer’s philosophy is to kill or he will be killed. For a long time, Perrin feared that he would turn into an animal. However, Slayer is more of a predator than Perrin—and is not part animal. It took Hopper to teach Perrin that his wolf side is not responsible for his lack of restraint and proportion.

Getting rid of the Shadow’s henchman is the most important thing Perrin can do. The men fight in air, then earth, then water. The Land is in a parlous state in Tel’aran’rhiod. There are no indications of health at all.

The Dark One does not discard, according to Slayer; he endlessly uses people. Yet Perrin is right in his opinion that Darkfriends won’t be rewarded for their service. Actually, Slayer says the Dark One doesn’t discard useful tools. Slayer is wrong that the Dark One doesn’t fear tools that threaten him—these are classified as disloyal or untrustworthy and are always killed or enslaved. Slayer is kidding himself with this wishful thinking, but the exchange shows how Darkfriends think. At which point Perrin is too exhausted to continue to fight.


Faile POV


Despite taking care to make innocuous dummy caravan runs, Faile’s appropriation of fifty of the Band of the Red Hand’s best soldiers is suspicious to the Shadow. Probably not coincidentally, the very run taking the Horn is the one sabotaged. Unbeknownst to Faile, Aravine betrayed them and the Shadow has kept a very close eye on the group. Further, Aravine is the one checking the lists of supplies. The Horn is something extra, seemingly frivolous, and this has apparently flagged it.

Egwene had Laras bring out the Horn—her most reliable servant, assured by Verin. Faile sees the irony that she left home to be a Hunter of the Horn, and now has been handed it—not for her personal glory, but to guard. An irresponsible action caused her to grow up in the last year or two, and she will do brilliantly, even to the extent of sacrificing herself to save it.

Two steps forward and one step back in the process: Faile planned to object to Perrin “protecting her” by volunteering her to look after supplies and stay off the battlefield. As if there are any safe places. One of her bad habits is to play these games. When reality strikes she forgets such stupidity, hopefully for the final time.

Faile’s judgement that, with an active volcano nearby, Tar Valon should have earthquakes is sound. However, none has been mentioned previously, and this one is apparently a sign of the Land breaking, considering what happens next. Faile has heard of the cracks in reality:

She had heard more than one account of the spiderweb cracks that appeared in rocks, pure black, as if they extended on into eternity itself.

- A Memory of Light, The Prince’s Tabac

She is a good information gatherer and uses it well. (Faile’s parallels are knowledge goddesses such as Saraswati).

I think that Faile’s calm acceptance of the “betrayals of the great captains, including Faile’s own father” is not convincing characterisation. She should be more horrified, dismayed, or angry.

Aravine’s disinterest in her family is suspicious… Faile’s rationalisation that “if Aravine was determined to leave her past behind…” is ironic: Aravine couldn’t escape her past—when she joined the Shadow. Faile is too suspicious of Vanin, but too accepting of Aravine. She is loyal to her own people, but has always had a grudging opinion of Mat and therefore his people. Such as that Mat’s men, like their commander, are lazy but look after their own skins so well that they survive when others don’t.

Within the bubble of evil, Berisha’s gateway did not open where she intended. Was it her thoughts or fear of the Dark One responsible for the evil that led it to open in the Blight? Once done, she was murdered as the ever observant Faile saw. This prevented the Aes Sedai rescuing them or telling anyone where they went.


Aviendha POV

Near Shayol Ghul, people have trouble sleeping because they are tormented by terrible dreams. This could be due to the proximity of Dreadlords and Forsaken as well as the Dark One.

Aviendha considers making sure that she is following Aiel customs, such as about water consumption, and then tosses them aside for the Last Battle. Directly after this, she mistakenly trusts three strangers because they are Aiel. Two years ago, she would not have. Another custom she abandoned without noticing. Rand united the Aiel, but even above that they are united against Wetlanders. Aviendha immediately wonders if these strange Aiel are (despised) Shaido even though their customs are completely foreign to her. She admits that for all that Wetlanders misjudge Aiel, so did she.

One thing she does quickly catch on to is that the red-veiled Aiel are the channelling men that are sent to fight the Dark One—and their descendants (some of whom can’t channel). However, she doesn’t explain this to Cadsuane, even though the Aes Sedai asked about them and Aviendha has toh to her for saving her from the red-veiled Aiel.

In all this, she nearly forgot about the woman channeller she was tracking. Cadsuane notices that Graendal’s Travelling is different—she uses the True Power.

Aviendha rescues Cadsuane and point out that they are now even (ie that Aviendha no longer has toh to Cadsuane). Cadsuane thanks her, but establishes her dominance. The Green sister didn’t like being placed under Aviendha by Rand. Nor did Sorilea.

Aviendha disputes Cadsuane’s warning that there are dozens of channellers now fighting, but Cadsuane says most are men, which is why Aviendha can’t sense them. With that mistake, Cadsuane is back to thinking of Aviendha as a fool child and ordering her to do something. Aviendha smarts at this and tries ordering Sorilea and Amys to compensate, but backs down under their raised eyebrows. When she uses better manners, Sorilea is helpful; Aviendha can’t run roughshod over three-hundred-year-old ladies. Aviendha passes on the information about the red-veiled Aiel being their male channellers that the Aiel have been sending to the Blight for thousands of years.

Then Aviendha warns Darlin about the Aiel Dreadlords, and that a Dreadlord was at his tent so they must therefore make their battle plan very simple and unchanging--to hold the area until Rand’s duel is done. Their plans must be as impossible to corrupt as they can be.