Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #18: Chapter 15—Your Neck in a Cord

By Linda


Like any Trickster figure, Mat knows all the entries and exits of the palace; Tricksters need such knowledge for daring coups and escapes (see Trickster essay).

Mat is sensitive at the neck, and his scarf feels like a chain and a ribbon—perhaps even the pink ribbons that he so dreaded when in thrall to Queen Tylin. It’s also a reference to him being hanged. He had just dangled high above the ground, a position nearly as dangerous as being hanged—having your neck in a cord. This neck symbolism has been continuing throughout the series, since The Eye of the World, when Trollocs tried to lasso his neck with a catchpole.

Not only is Mat’s neck motif prominent in this chapter, so is his fool motif:

Well, he would not be a fool and try this sort of thing again, that was for certain. Just this once, and grudgingly. Matrim Cauthon knew to look out for his own neck. He had not survived this long by taking fool chances, luck or no luck.

A Memory of Light, Your Neck in a Cord

Tricksters are often fools; they achieve their objectives by unconventional means, and get out of their scrapes, but are more often than not the butt of jokes in the process. Selucia calls Mat a fool three times in this scene—and something said or done three times in the series is true. Her first words are:

Selucia scowled. "What are you doing here, you fool?"

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

Selucia is the Empress’ truth-speaker. No fool herself, she quickly deduced how Mat lost his eye.

"Hush," Selucia said. "You just tried to convince me you weren't an assassin, now you bring up that? Fool man."

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

As well as calling him a fool, she mentions his neck:

"There is another way," Selucia said. "Come before you break your fool neck.”

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

The joke is on Mat that there was an easier way in and out of the palace unknown to him, the Trickster.

Part of Mat being a fool involves him being forced by circumstances into risking his fool neck no matter how hard he tries not to. The Fool is a wild card—literally so in the tarocco or tarot family of card games—but low in rank. Another wild card in games is the Joker, but it is usually high rank. (And Mat is the only main character to play cards.) Fools like the freedom of having little or no rank, and Mat is grateful Selucia doesn’t refer to his title and his noble rank. He is determined to be a fool here, not the Joker. She and the Empress are well aware that he is both (see Fool and Joker essay).

Rand POV

Unlike Mat, who tries to avoid responsibility, Rand feels the burden of being responsible for peoples’ safety and lives. Making himself harder was the wrong way of handling this, as was deadening himself to pain. Only recently has he discovered that he needs to accept the pain, as the Aiel do physical pain.

Somewhat awkwardly, Rand gives Tam Artur Hawkwing’s sword. Tam tries to deny Rand’s gift, and, in turn, Rand makes him feel obliged to accept it. The gift is an expression of love and also obligation; Rand explains to Tam that his sword and the void kept him alive.

Tam knows that the flame and void is a meditation technique. This is a side of Tam of which Rand is ignorant until now; he never saw his father as a skilled fighter—a blademaster—or as a meditator. It makes sense: Rand thinks about how he has to be calm or at peace with himself to lead well. And the wise and experienced Ogier assure people that only decisions reached in calm can be sure (The Great Hunt, Among the Elders). The Oneness leads to that.

Rand feels weighted down by the burden of duty. Tam uses sparring as another kind of meditation: living in the moment, concentrating on one thing to the exclusion of all else. Such a purposeful activity offers a respite in the waking world, comparable to making a haven of one’s own dreams while asleep.

Rand hasn’t adapted his fighting to reality, to his lack of a hand. He is not living in the now and clings to ways of thought that are crushing him. Tam has anticipated problems—disaster, even—and practised fighting one-handed. He has not pretended that he is all powerful and invincible, or that the Pattern will look after him. Many powerful channellers fall into this trap of self-aggrandisement. Rand did; and he has come a long way out of it, but this is the last of its symptoms and Tam will literally wear it away. Rand sees that one-handed swordsmanship is possible and useful; and is encouraged and pressured by the fight to let go and follow his own instincts.

Interestingly, Rand attributes to Lan the opinion that one-handed fighting is futile—but Lan believes that you don’t surrender until you are dead, so he would acknowledge the necessity of fighting on without a hand.

By focussing on something straightforward, Rand leaves his worries behind. Emphasising the positive helps deal with the negative.


Tuon is also sparring to take her mind off things and stay sharp—with her eyes shut. Mat realises how dangerous she is and how she could have killed him. Except that Mat is dangerous, too, which is why they have a healthy respect for each other.

Their marriage is a self-fulfilling prophecy: they only said their vows because prophecy said they ought to. Mat realises that he has to live with it now. For a long while, he thought of courting her as a game, but marriage is not a game. It’s not an accident, either. Responsibility can’t be passed off. Like all fools, Mat tries to avoid responsibility–yet promptly protects his wife.

Mat acts on instinct—as Rand is doing—and kills a Grey Man. The slightest sound alerts Tuon. She showed that she trusts Mat implicitly, which he found moving.

Tuon calls her guards fools when they catch the wrong guy, then pretends that she never called Trollocs myths. Acceptance is one thing, denial another. This is why the Empress needs a Truthspeaker: to force her to accept that she can and does make mistakes and wrong assumptions, and to remind her of her fallibility and humanity. Selucia is covering too many roles at present, and consequently is not being an effective Truthspeaker, particularly as it does not fit with her previous relationship with Tuon. She is both very attached to her mistress and has obeyed her for a long time.

Tuon deduces that Mat went to save someone—or she was well-informed. Perhaps Selucia listened in to Mat’s plans after he read Moiraine’s letter at the menagerie.

The Empress expects people to serve her well, and therefore doesn’t express pleasure or gratitude when they do. She openly takes people for granted: they should just be grateful that their efforts are accepted and that they are not supplanted by another.

It seems that Mat won’t let his wife push him around too much. He won’t be trivialised, unless he wants to play the fool. She respects that. Tuon sees him as one who has survived great danger, and, moreover, is also glad to see him –an admission that is a major concession from her.

Mat wastes energy trying to avoid responsibility, as Rand does worrying over it. The moral is to accept it and move on. The chapter is about necks in a cord—or a yoke—and being strangled by responsibility as well as danger. But a yoke offers the possibility of progress and achievement, even if the labour is great.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #17: Chapter 14—Doses of Forkroot

By Linda

In Tel’aran’rhiod, the wind blows hard in natural patterns, but Perrin finds it easy to impose calm on a limited area, due to his skill and also his devotion to rightness and the natural order of things. Reality in the dream looks worn and the Land is coming apart. This is a step beyond what Moridin described to Rand earlier in the book:

"It dies, and the dust soon will rule. The dust . . . then nothing."

A Memory of Light, Advantages To a Bond

Moridin saw the end as a winding down of a universe crushed by entropy rather than a big crunch:

”The end is near,” Moridin said. “The Wheel has groaned its final rotation, the clock has lost its spring, the serpent heaves its final gasps.”

The Gathering Storm, Prologue

The storm is worse where Rand is. Fragments of land are sucked up by the wind and pulled toward the black clouds. The winds herald oncoming destruction.

Gaul’s strong will, identity and focus keeps him steady in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin asks him what he did to deserve Gaul’s loyalty. First was freeing him, which made Gaul follow Perrin because the Aielman had toh. He continued to follow not from what Perrin did, but what he is: ta’veren, strong, wise, a fighter. Gaul was always impressed with Perrin’s fighting ability and physical and mental strength.

Lanfear surprises Perrin by appearing beside him—like a lamia or succubus apparition. A lamia is a beautiful woman from the waist up and a serpent from the waist down, who kills children, seduces sleeping men, and enchants her victims with glamour and illusion. A succubus is a female demon who takes on a human female form to seduce men in their dreams. Lanfear—or Cyndane, as we should call her, because Moridin is strict with names—is not wearing Moridin’s colours, but her own. When she learns the wolves’ name for her, she denies hunting the moon because it is hers already. The name 'Moonhunter' is derogatory as well as accurate—Lanfear is arrogant and deluded. The Forsaken declares that she wants vengeance on somebody, this obviously being Rand, whom she blames for her predicament. Moridin indicated this earlier:

"Mierin hates you now, anyway," Moridin continued. "I think she blames you for what happened to her.”

A Memory of Light, Advantages to a Bond

The two scenes are linked. Lanfear can sense when Moridin is wondering where she is and quickly flits back to a more acceptable activity.

Perrin says Lanfear has never made any sense to him. He remembers that the wolves said she wants him. He doesn’t know what for, and neither do we. Not yet.

Toveine POV

Turned, Toveine has flung aside her reservations about Logain to be openly affectionate. Logain is crucial to either side due to his influence and strength. His resistance and devotion to the Light is very impressive; he has resisted eleven or so attempts to Turn him. Only this time does he scream in agony.

The Black Asha’man are exhausted trying to Turn Logain and his faction. All Reds except Pevara have also been Turned. Graendal—Hessalam, now—is in charge of the Black sisters. With plenty of women, the procedure will be more effective, as evidenced by Logain’s screams. This is his faction's last chance to save him; a twelfth attempt (symbolic number!) will probably be successful. Women Turn men easily and men women, as with Healing stilling. It is evidence of the necessary balance between the sexes and between saidin and saidar.

The doses of forkroot have been stopped for Androl, because they are going to Turn him soon and also because he is considered negligible, particularly with the dreamspike preventing his only major Talent from working. Which is why he is triumphant when he uses Evin’s paranoia from the taint to make him strike at Abors, who is holding Androl’s shield; using the Shadow’s weapons against them. Later in the chapter he does the same with their weaves. Impressively, he is able to open a tiny gateway under extreme duress despite the dreamspike being still in place. This could well be something the Forsaken consider impossible.

Taim reveals that he has the Seals but hasn’t handed them to the Dark One yet:

"I have already provided a gift to the Great Lord himself. Beware, I am in his favor. I hold the keys in my hands, Hessalam."
"You mean . . . you actually did it? You stole them!"

A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot

Androl doesn’t know what Taim is referring to, but he can see that Hessalam does. He doesn’t know who she really is, either.

Perrin POV

Lanfear explains to Perrin that the Asha’man guards were Turned and what this process is. She puts a dose of forkroot in their wine to help Perrin because she is “fond of him”. Perrin says no one should be forced to the Shadow. She counters, saying that they could have chosen to be severed from the Source; then, as non-channellers, they couldn’t be Turned.

When she reminds him that the Pattern offers only bad choices sometimes, she implies that’s all that she had when she swore to the Shadow. Perrin is not convinced by her claim—excuse, really—that she has suffered enormously—he is aware of how many she has made suffer enormously. Any thwarting of her desires or plans is agony to such a spoiled brat.

As “the one who is punished most” (A Memory of Light Prologue) she says she is no longer one of the Forsaken due to the Dark One learning that she was planning to help Rand win. (At the time of the prologue, Moridin indicated that she was a Forsaken, tough the lowest ranked.) This sounds more altruistic and cooperative than it actually is: Lanfear planned to use Rand, not help him. He was to either beat the Dark One with her “at his side” or she would kill him as he tried to do so and thereby save the Dark One.

Perrin is impressed with her skill in Tel’aran’rhiod. Lanfear is not supposed to be able to “do this” – move around independently in Tel’aran’rhiod? The Forsaken is sticking to her usual methods of using powerful men: she tells Perrin how he will be of use to her: to win with her at his side, as though he is doing it for her or sharing it with her. Basically he is to win the battle for her as her Champion, and Lanfear would be the dark Lady of Sovereignty.

Perrin shrugs her off. Lanfear tries a little honey and shows him how to set and unset the dreamspike. Perrin hopes that the retraction of the dome will bring Slayer to him. What it does immediately is enable Androl to make gateways again—gateways that aimed the Dreadlords’ weaves back at them.

In both scenes we see the Shadow undermining itself—Evin manipulated into attacking another Dreadlord, Dreadlords killed by their own weaves, and Lanfear plotting against the Dark One.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #16: Chapter 13—What Must Be Done

By Linda

Egwene is strong in Earth, and is able to sense voles underground and green shoots in the dying grass. As an archetypal Green, which is the colour of life and nature, the Amyrlin is a vengeful mother or earth goddess such as Rhea, the ancient Greek mother of the Gods, who saved her son Zeus (a parallel of Rand) so he could free her children from Cronus. As Mother, Egwene is a parallel of Terra, who was offered sacrifices, notably the holocaust, which were animal sacrifices wholly consumed by fire. She was one of a few stern Roman mother goddesses. Egwene has aspects of the Roman earth and agriculture goddess Ceres, including her plebeian origin. Ceres was connected with Libera (Freedom). The ancient Greek earth goddess Demeter, instituted harsh weather as she mourned the violation and loss of her daughter Persephone by Hades, the god of the underworld. Durga, the vengeful incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess Shakti, who was consort of Shiva (a parallel of Rand, Egwene’s original intended husband) and slew demons, also has some similarities with Egwene. The Forsaken have demonic parallels.

The Shadow is against the health, fertility and the natural order of things, and the Land and the Mother want vengeance:

In that moment—maiming, destroying, bringing death upon the enemy—she felt as if she were one with the land itself. That she was doing the work it had longed for someone to do for so long,

A Memory of Light, What Must be Done

Appropriately, Egwene the Mother uses Earth to kill Shadowspawn. The feelings of vengefulness and union with the Land are foreshadowing of Egwene’s sacrifice as she unleashes a healing holocaust to counter the Shadow’s destruction and balefire.

Elayne POV

Rand visits Elayne occasionally in Braem Wood. As Rand hoped, Lan and Egwene are pulling the Shadow’s forces out of the Blight.

"What must be done" is evacuate and burn cities as well as farm land in Shienar. The citizens are to go to Tar Valon.

Elayne and Bashere decide that it is time to move out of the woods to the River Erinin, heading for Cairhien. While Elayne doubts they will have to go that far, Bashere says that once they start, they won’t control how it ends so long as the Trollocs are still after them.

Perrin POV

Tam approves of the way Elayne leads, and how she knows when to let those who know what to do have their way. Perrin feels Rand tugging him to Shayol Ghul to fight; he will soon be needed there to guard Rand. As part of his preparations for when Rand needs him, Perrin hands command of his army to Tam. He explains the necessity to Tam, who then understands, but still tries to avoid the responsibility, saying the nobles should. To forestall further argument, Perrin makes Tam a noble, as he discussed with Elayne in Towers of Midnight.

Bornhald turned to brandy from the shame of allowing an atrocity to go unpunished. He owed Perrin the truth about the murder of Perrin’s family, yet it was his consciousness that they may die soon that spurred him to confess. Although the scene shows that there is some good in the Whitecloaks, even in the unsympathetic ones, arrogant and judgmental attitudes often lead them astray. The Whitecloaks condemned Perrin as a criminal because he killed two of the Children in defense, but they did far worse acts in the Two Rivers. Bornhald hates Perrin in part because he feels guilty about what he condoned, and needs to reclaim some honour by meeting his obligations. Perrin falters in shock and grief at the news, but refocuses.

Bain and Chiad are meeting their obligations even though this means not fighting in the Last Battle. They keep an eye on Gaul as they can. Perrin accepts that gai’shain should remain so and not be forced to fight.

With the worlds collapsing in together, and the barriers between weakened, it is now possible to enter Tel’aran’rhiod from the Blight. As the Dreamwalkers instructed Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod, there are some places that cannot be touched from Tel'aran'rhiod.

“There are some places one cannot enter in Tel’aran’rhiod,” Seana said. “Rhuidean. Ogier stedding. A few others. What happens there is shielded from a dreamwalker’s eyes.”

The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone

Rand reiterates what Edarra said: that entering Tel’aran’rhiod physically is very evil. Perrin says it is actually foolishly dangerous, not evil, but he has to be on equal terms there with Slayer. Rand accepts this reasoning.

The chapter title ostensibly refers to evacuating and scorching the earth in Shienar to provide nothing to the Trollocs, but Perrin must be able to enter Tel’aran’rhiod as Slayer does, and Egwene must fight on behalf of the Land.

Rand says a formal farewell to Perrin and expresses his obligation to him. They do not speak again—and perhaps never will. Another sacrifice.

Nynaeve is offended that Perrin tells her to look after Rand. She needs no instructions from Perrin; she has always looked after him.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #15: Chapter 12-—A Shard of a Moment

By Linda

Birgitte POV

Birgitte is terrified that she is losing her memories—not only of her past lives, but also of living in Tel’aran’rhiod. The latter are more precious. She fears that she has been unlinked from the Horn and will lose Gaidal forever. Yet people normally born have no memories of their former lives or the afterlife, where they waited to be reborn, and it is gradually happening to Birgitte as she settles into this life. In her normal rebirths she would start the same—unknowing, just making her own way, meeting Gaidal by chance and doing heroic things out of necessity. Nobly she puts this aside to concentrate on the Last Battle.

Rand POV

Lews Therin learned every technique—in case it was useful—but rarely used some of them. While it’s tempting to think of Lews Therin as a jack of all trades, this probably would be doing him an injustice. He had a well-rounded training.

Rand returns to his roots in his dreams with simple Two Rivers clothing. It symbolises a respite from his responsibilities. Walking with a staff alone, he represents the Hermit figure of the Tarot. This is reminiscent of when he wandered through Ebou Dar and scaled Dragonmount in The Gathering Storm.

Rand is walking in the wild like Birgitte, but the land is healthy where he is, not dying. Just as the Hermit takes time out alone for self-development, Rand enters a dreamshard to meditate.

There is no rest for Rand, for even his dreamshard is invaded by Shadow. Exerting his will is not enough to dispel the invasions. The Shadowy cavern persistently breaks into new areas, tempting him to stop and look in, which Rand inevitably does, but he knows enough not to do anything impulsive because any object in the dream may be real, or symbolic of something else. (As mentioned above, this whole episode is also symbolic). This is why the three ta’veren were at such risk in the first two books when they were pulled into dreams by Ishamael to be tempted with wine, etc. Not knowing what they were really doing, they could have been trapped or suborned by taking something voluntarily from Shaitan’s advocate (see The Dragon Reborn read-through post here.)

Speaking to Lanfear triggers Rand’s memories of this life and his previous one. He wants to give her a second chance, but sees it is an act. Rand points out that since she swore to the Shadow she has to take the consequences. However he senses that she is genuinely captive—feels a shadow surrounding her. It is the effect of her mindtrap.

The Dragon still resents that Lanfear used him but didn’t love him for himself, just for what his status could do for her. When she says he doesn’t understand her, he challenges her to reveal herself to him so he can be enlightened. She hasn’t the confidence, although she is tempted to, which is quite a change and shows the horror of her punitive captivity. She says she can’t do it because she has been betrayed, and implies that it is Rand who is at fault. Lanfear never accepts responsibility. Rand sees that she can’t love anyone but herself. None of the Forsaken can. They are all extremely selfish, and in the case of at least one—Asmodean—likely destroyed whatever family they had. It was the Shadow’s monstrous crime to corrupt the Dragon into doing the same.

Lanfear is the only Forsaken whose backstory involves a close love relationship, but from seeing Lews Therin’s side we know that his love was “used” to raise her up in society. (Sammael and Demandred had a close competitive relationship.) Lanfear wanted the Dragon to love her completely but didn’t return the favour. She wanted to be worshipped by the most powerful man for the kudos. Anything less is not her due. It’s all about her. This scene resolves the remaining issues with this on his side so he can move on to his final destiny. Further enlightenment is consistent with the Hermit.

Rand is able to do what Lanfear couldn’t and opens himself to her. The Dark One knows his heart anyway. He shows her that he is better raised this time and a different person. She is shocked that he doesn’t feel much for the most irresistible of women, but has three women dear to him and a fourth—Ilyena—that he remembers with fondness.

Rand’s three loves may not be a physically beautiful as Lanfear—or as strong in saidar—but they are more loving, caring and skilled. Apart from their care for Rand, all make outstanding contributions in their own right: Min with her ethical, just application of her viewings and her diligent study; Aviendha with her honour and determination; and Elayne with her courage and leadership.

Enlightened, and supported by those close to him, Rand is also able to do what Lews Therin couldn’t and lets go of hatred and scorn. Of course, thanks to Moiraine, he was not sucked in by Lanfear this time.

Rand’s compassion is essential but dangerous. Moiraine was right to drive this home to him. However, she mistakenly thought that Rand should not be compassionate, though. He knows he needs to be and that any of his characteristics can be used against him.

It was Perrin’s compassion that brought Galad to ally with him. That and his openness—the same qualities that Rand displays.

Perrin POV

Perrin looks after everyone, then seeks the Wise Ones. When he asks Edarra about a way to enter Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, she won’t help—and nor will any other Wise One—because it’s evil.

He wants to do it for a pragmatic reason: it’s easier to manipulate Tel’aran’rhiod if he is there physically. If he enters too strongly while dreaming, he could be cut off from his body, which would die. His aim is to kill Slayer, who bodily enters Tel’aran’rhiod, and he needs to be on equal terms to do so. In his opinion this is worth the risk of losing his humanity or dying forever, and sacrificing opportunities for rebirth. After all, Perrin’s beloved teacher, Hopper, sacrificed his rebirths helping Perrin fight Slayer. Other people, too, did things that were less than noble, even dishonourable, but directly helped the Light. Verin is a good example.

Both Rand and Perrin are warned against things that are very necessary, such as entering Tel’aran’rhiod bodily or being compassionate—things that turn out to be essential in winning the battle. They had to go against advice and live and win on their own terms. The Hermit is alone. Rand is “the Man who channels stands alone” (The Great Hunt, Blood Calls Blood).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #14: Chapter 11--Just Another Sell-sword

By Linda

Egwene POV

As she did with the Ajah Heads, Adelorna publicises Egwene’s achievements during the Seanchan attack to the Greens in an effort to bring their support to Egwene. Previously the Greens had been stand-offish because Egwene went out of her way to gain the support of the Reds, believing they were being left out. By being antagonistic, the Greens risk losing political clout in the Hall and with the Amyrlin, when the Last Battle—the very reason for the Greens’ existence—is on. Egwene may be surprised at their capitulation, but is pragmatic about it.

Adelorna could have pulled the Ajah into line before this, because the Greens are obedient to their Captain General. However, perhaps Adelorna lost face being captured by a sul’dam. Adelorna recognises that Egwene would have chosen Green and therefore would have been “their” Amyrlin. The Ajah Head rightly feels indebted to Egwene for saving her from the Seanchan.

It’s true that Egwene is literally not of any Ajah; but the Amyrlin should also be of all Ajahs—a fact most Aes Sedai seem to forget. While Egwene has tried to be unifying, she has not much in common with Browns or Whites. She feels more engaged with the Yellows, Reds, Blues, Greys—and now Greens.

The Red—Green antagonism is like reverse colour blindness. (Instead of not being told apart, they won’t appear together.) Aes Sedai are colour blinded because they obsess over colours, not because they can’t see them.

Egeanin wants to serve and protect Egwene, but Egwene only wants to interrogate Egeanin. Egwene’s distrustfulness is reasonable but her fear and anxiety of Egeanin is not. Her PTSD kicks in whenever she looks at Egeanin. Yet Egwene had a dream that one would save her—a fact she seems to have forgotten:

“As if Egwene would trust her safety to one of the Seanchan.”

A Memory of Light, Just Another Sell-sword

Suddenly a woman appeared, clambering down the sheer side of the cliff out of the clouds, making her way as deftly as if she were walking down stairs. There was a sword strapped to her back. Her face wavered, never settling clearly, but the sword seemed as solid as the stone. The woman reached Egwene’s level and held out one hand. “We can reach the top together,” she said in a familiar drawling accent…

She had dreamed of a Seanchan before, a Seanchan woman somehow tied to her, but this was a Seanchan who would save her.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In The Night

The dream refers to Egwene being out of control after her Warder’s death, and Bonding Egeanin to save herself so she could pour her emotions into anger at the Shadow. Contrary to the implication of this dream, it was temporary—Egwene only lasted long enough to destroy Taim and the Sharan channellers and stabilise reality in that part of the battlefield. In turn she saved Egeanin by releasing the Warder bond before she died.

When writing the last three books, Brandon Sanderson did not feel right inventing new weaves in someone else’s magic system, so he worked out new uses for old ones. In this chapter, novel gateways have been developed—essentially a hole over the battlefield. Egwene cautions that they could be attacked through it, especially by channellers. Ironically the gateway saves lives when the Sharan channellers attack. Yukiri is contemplating “window” gateways, including a one-way glass type effect.

Egwene says to Bryne:

“You are a resource. One of our most valuable. Risks are unavoidable, but please take care to minimize them."

Yet the Aes Sedai didn’t protect him against Compulsion. More of this anon.

Bryne has factored in the Aes Sedai into his battle plans, but shows the Amyrlin conventional battle plans first. It’s best to let your boss think of your ideas, especially one that is jealous of their prerogatives. It saves time and stress.


Tinkers have flocked to the Seanchan in Ebou Dar for protection. Elsewhere, nations wanted the Tinkers to abandon their lifestyle or move away. Seanchan policy is not to change lifestyles or customs of people that swear to them. In fact, they accommodate people by finding appropriate tasks for them. Or encourage them to adopt them.

Speaking of customs, the Seanchan are preventing duelling deaths in Ebou Dar with bureaucracy—using it as a brake. Petra has left Valan Luca’s menagerie to work as a guard at the gates to Ebou Dar. Perhaps the menagerie disbanded due to the chaos of the times and drafting of horses for the war.

Mat managed to slink back into Ebou Dar; last time he was there he kidnapped Tuon and tied up Tylin. He hides his missing eye behind a bandage, yet the irony is that no one in Altara knows that Mat has lost his eye, so wearing no bandage might have been a better disguise.

The Yearly Brawl inn is a reference to JordanCon, held annually on the third weekend of April in Atlanta, and the innkeepers represent JordanCon directors Jennifer (screen name Kathana) and Jimmy Liang. Many a JordanCon panel has discussed Mat, so it’s cheeky that the hosts take a little while to recognise the real thing. Jame thought Mat wasn’t one-eyed because he carried throwing knives. But his condition is recent.

Rand POV

Due to long experience, the Borderlanders are more ruthless—or more pragmatic—in war than people were in the Age of Legends.

For all that Moiraine talks to everyone about following the Pattern, she is pushing Rand hard to Shayol Ghul, when he wants to show himself on the various battlefields. She thinks it is too risky a mission, even if well meant. But it is not yet time to confront the Dark One and Rand does convince Demandred that he is out there on the battlefields. Moiraine ignores Rand’s plan to make sure Shayol Ghul is not full of the Shadow’s forces, but he is correct in trying to spread out the Shadow’s armies.

Moiraine speaks of Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One as being “that moment”. However it lasts a lot longer than a moment—though it is experienced as a short time to those in the Pit of Doom.

Rand is glad Moiraine is back even though she nags him. He was carrying a Tar Valon mark around almost as a kind of amulet in the hope that she would return. He associates the mark with her because she gave one to him as a finder when they first met. This is one of the many examples of coming full circle in this book.

Lan says that Moiraine’s advice should be followed, but she thinks his rescue of Maradon was a mistake and that Rand should not save the Gap either. That gives Lan pause, and Rand insists on aiding him. There is a fine line between sheltering and helping.

Lan salutes Rand after giving him the title of sheepherder. Earlier, Lan was not so reverential of Rand’s occupation. But Rand is the Good Shepherd. In return, Rand calls Lan Dai Shan and gives him the remade Malkieri crown.

Rand reveals that he secretly used an angreal when driving out the Shadowspawn at Maradon. This is another of his miracles that has a mundane explanation.

When Rand confronts a mass of evil, the land is given strength to fight—with storms. He is the prince of peace (of the sword):

“He sought peace, the peace of destruction. He was life, but he was also death. He was the manifestation of the land itself.”

A Memory of Light, Just Another Sell-sword

One of Rand’s important parallels is the Hindu god Shiva, god of destruction, and the cosmic dancer.

Shiva is one of the most complex gods of India, embodying seemingly contradictory qualities. He is both the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Aiel call battle the dance—and Rand battles the Dark One to save the cosmos. Rand’s peace is of the sword—not just another sell-sword, though.

Just as Rand is trying to pull the Shadow away from Shayol Ghul, the Shadow is trying to draw him out into the open. Single channellers are used as a decoy until a full circle of 72 channellers is gathered—a warning of how many Dreadlords the Shadow now has. It forces him to retreat. Moiraine also realises that it was a trap and reinforces that it’s too risky for Rand to fight this way. In this chapter, Egwene and Moiraine both complain about essential people and generals talking unnecessary risks.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #13: Chapter 10--The Use of Dragons

By Linda

Elayne POV

Elayne complains that they couldn’t get the televisual and teleaudio ter’angreal to work. These were in the cache of ter’angreal and are detailed here. The cache also contained a reference library ter’angreal that might have information on how to activate them, which Aviendha was able to get to work. Instead, they are using messengers by gateways. Elayne complains that she could go through the gateway and look at what’s happening in Caemlyn for herself. Birgitte threatens to fetch her back by force if she does, and tells her off for her recklessness. It’s a Warder’s duty.

I believe that Jordan planned for the ter’angreal to be used for this purpose in the Last Battle, but left no notes on their operation and so they had to be written out and put aside.

Egwene is angry with Elayne over her plans to employ the Kin. In Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting, Elayne offered the Kin a place in Andor with stability, safety and freedom to channel in exchange for Travelling and Healing. Elayne plans to talk Egwene around into allowing Elayne to use them in Andor under Elayne’s “guidance”. The Amyrlin doesn’t like the thought of monarchs having their own set of channellers –even if weak ones, or Tower rejects. Suddenly Egwene and the Sitters are seeing the downside of rejecting some of the crop: somebody else will give them a place. These women want to channel, and can’t stop once they start, so it is to be expected that they want to employ their talent as channellers do in the Aiel clans, the Sea Folk and (directly or indirectly) the Seanchan. The White Tower is not as exclusive as it once was, or as powerful. In fact, by excluding channellers, the Tower has contributed to its own decline. Now that the secret of linking is out, weak channellers can achieve much with cooperation. In the Age of Legends, all channellers had a place in the Hall of Servants. Egwene did tell Elayne of her plans to have all channellers associated with the Tower, but Elayne has her own plans to corner a little of the market for herself.

Elayne is warned that the Tarwin’s Gap forces may have to retreat earlier than planned and considers overruling Agelmar’s judgment, but Bashere advises her not to. Instead she realises that they need to either lure the Trollocs into charging now, or else destroy them along with Caemlyn.

Lan’s POV supports Bashere’s advice. With many channellers attacking the Borderlanders, they need to retreat, but can’t even do that without more channellers to cover them.

Androl POV

Men only are being used to Turn the Asha’man. This takes much more time and energy and is why Logain and his faction were not turned quickly and were ultimately able to escape. If women Turn men, and vice versa, the process is much faster. Toveine is perhaps the first of the Tower Reds to be Turned. The men Turn her quickly – not merely because her allegiance or will was weak. Once the circle is mixed or there are thirteen women to link with the Myrddraal, even the most strong-willed and devout man will be Turned fairly promptly.

Taim has one of the seven Seals in his pocket. Androl doesn’t know its significance yet.

Elayne POV

In a former life, Birgitte led a band in Braem Wood and robbed a queen of Aldeshar who was regarded as a usurper. This is a reference to Maid Marian and Robin Hood, and the Band of Merry Men who fought in Sherwood Forest against the very unpopular King John, who usurped King Richard’s throne while he was crusading. Andor has a good few such references to England.

Trollocs were blown to pieces by the dragons, which are cannons. They are manned by dragoners. The names are a clever link to Rand and dragon symbolism (see article), but also to dragoons, mounted soldiers who carried guns, which are hand-held dragons by Aludra’s naming. A dragon was a type of late 18th to early 19th century hand-held blunderbuss that had a short, large calibre barrel. It shot many types of ammunition including shot and gravel. They were named dragons from the dragon head engraved on the muzzles of the early versions. All early gunpowder weapons had names and were linked to serpents, falcons, etc, just as Aludra likes to give names to all her inventions.

Birgitte repeats her misgivings about gunpowder weapons, but Elayne believes that their great destructive power is an effective deterrent to battle. From our own world’s use of not just guns, but also nuclear weapons, we can agree with Birgitte that this is idealistic.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #12: Chapter 9--To Die Well

By Linda


Lan and his men remember the deaths of their cohorts in a way that celebrates their deeds in battle when they were killed. The sacrifice of the fallen is appreciated and the grief and trauma of seeing their friends die is eased a little. They are as affected by this horrific attrition as much as Rand is later in the chapter, and, like him, have accepted the likelihood of their own deaths in the war. This helps them, too, to die well.

Lan regards Bulen as a noble fallen because he was the first Malkieri to swear to him as King, and by doing so, made Lan accept his responsibilities as a king. Bulen swore directly to the monarch as a noble would.

Earthquakes are prevalent at the Gap, due to its proximity to Shayol Ghul, but Lan is the first to notice that the cracks in the ground they cause contain nothingness. As usual, Lan is accurate in his assessment: they are fractures in reality, due to balefire and the Dark One unravelling the weakened Pattern. The cracks are breaks in the weave as it wears thin. It is temporary; the Land Heals itself at this stage.

Tenobia shows the zeal for battle, and the idealising of it, that will see her killed. For some time she has surrounded herself with soldiers only and has wanted to do as they did:

As expected, the Queen of Saldaea was accompanied only by Kalyan Ramsin, one of her numerous uncles, a scarred and grizzled man with the face of an eagle and thick mustaches that curved down around his mouth. Tenobia Kazadi tolerated the counsel of soldiers, but no one else.

The Path of Daggers Prologue

“Even Tenobia has never led men in battle. She wanted to once, when I was eight, but Father had a talk with her alone in her chambers, and when he rode off to the Blight she stayed behind." With a rueful grin, she added, "I think you and he use the same methods sometimes. Tenobia exiled him, but she was only sixteen, and the Council of Lords managed to change her mind after a few weeks. She will be blue with envy when I tell her."

The Shadow Rising, Goldeneyes

Battle is necessary, but it is not great. Like the Pattern, it is good and bad.

Lan contrasts her glorification with the praise for fighters and the dead that he has encouraged:

There was a difference, he could feel a difference. Teaching the men to accept that they might die and to revere the honor of the fallen . . . that was different from singing songs about how wonderful it was to fight on the front lines.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

The usual cure for such zeal is weeks of drill.

Lan is appalled that Agelmar’s plan includes retreating. He wasn’t present at Merrilor, where it was agreed that the Tarwin’s Gap forces would only delay the Trolloc incursion to buy time for the Caemlyn invaders to be destroyed, and likely would have dissented if he were.

"We reinforce Lan, but tell him that his job will be to hold there as long as he can. We place a second force at the border of Kandor, with the purpose of delaying there as well—perhaps a slow withdrawal, as conditions dictate. While those two fronts are held, we can focus our true attention—and our largest army—at breaking the Trollocs in Caemlyn."

A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It

Lan refuses to countenance retreat. Agelmar reminds him of duty. Since the Shienaran general is following the agreed strategy, he is not yet affected by Compulsion.

Lan compares himself to Rand, who he actually taught:

He remembered teaching that same concept to a youth out of the Two Rivers. A sheepherder, innocent of the world, fearful of the fate laid out before him by the Pattern.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

Agelmar points out that Lan evades responsibility—the burden of it, when it comes to leading others. Then Lan compares himself to Tenobia:

They will follow me. Like Bulen did. Leading them to death in the name of a fallen kingdom . . . leading myself to the same death . . . how is that any different from Tenobia's attitude?

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

Tenobia’s role in this chapter is to help Lan realise and accept the difference between needless death and noble sacrifice. Dying well and not.

It is so hard for him to abandon Malkier again, but they need to live to fight another day, not sacrifice themselves—unless there is no other choice. Then they will be dying well—the “To Die Well” chapter title.

Egwene POV

Egwene now appreciates the knowledge and experience of Sitters in battle and planning. This is a contrast with The Gathering Storm and even Towers of Midnight, when they looked like fools. Although her assertion that

"I trust General Bryne's battlefield assessment, as does the Hall,"

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

will be bitter words in future.

Elayne suggested that the Aes Sedai establish a hospital far from battle, to protect the Yellows. Silviana is against it—perhaps because Elayne insisted. Egwene isn’t that keen on the idea either, although Gawyn is because he realises that Aes Sedai are not invincible and proved it in Towers of Midnight. The Amyrlin feels she has to respect Elayne’s authority though, but also ponders rejecting Elayne’s idea to maintain Aes Sedai authority. She considers this a strain on their friendship. The clincher in favour of Elayne’s idea is her concern that the Seanchan might capture Yellows if they are not well-protected away from the battle. She fears them more than any Shadow-aligned group. This was na├»ve, as it turns out. They decide on Mayene, as suitable for a hospital, because it is small, unimportant politically and not prominent. Wisely, Egwene gets the Tower trainees to help the Yellows.

Egeanin publicly admits the magnitude of her error with the male a’dam. Her eyes are lowered; and her mistake is almost enough for them to be permanently so. Egwene offers her a way of repaying her debt through information on the Seanchan.

Egeanin doesn’t own even her name – it was given to her by the Empress and everything else taken away. Including her honour. Egwene is surprised that Egeanin swore a strong oath to her because she feels Seanchan are almost Darkfriends. Her role will be to temper Egwene’s attitude to the Seanchan slightly and also to save her. Her information perhaps helps Egwene negotiate with the Empress.

The Amyrlin isn’t quite worrying about the wrong things—more like in the wrong order.

Rand POV

Rand feels a responsibility for the casualties of war, which parallels Lan’s feelings. Thanks to his epiphany on Dragonmount, he is further down that road than Lan. The Malkieri king has dreaded this for over 20 years, and probably would have died needlessly in the Blight years ago if Moiraine hadn’t bonded him in New Spring. His wife and queen, Nynaeve, considers dying well to be dying of old age in bed:

She wanted to howl with fury. People should die after a long life, in their own beds, surrounded by family and friends. Anything else was waste. Pure miserable waste!

Lord of Chaos, Dreams and Nightmares

Elayne is trying to sort out in her mind where her relationship with Rand will go—or might go. Rand doesn’t know. After all, he doesn’t know his survival prospects. If one woman was Rand’s wife, she would be above all other people except Rand. With three, no single person is so elevated. There is also the implication that Rand’s burden is so great that he needs three to help, and sustain, him.

The Dragon expects to leave his children fatherless and that he will never know them. He never knew his biological father, and yet appears to be alright. Rand has to be dead to his father at least, and probably his children for many years, if not forever, for his death to be convincing. This was his true sacrifice—his and theirs. Being free of the burden of being the Dragon was his reward. He advises Elayne not to call her boy Rand because the expectations will be too large. They should live their own lives without that. There will still be bad enough expectations though: in Aviendha’s vision, her four children were treated very atypically by the Aiel and this did not turn out well. Elayne says Rand must have some hope. Rand says he hopes for the world but expects, and accepts, his own death.

Rand thinks Elayne is a good coordinator of battle plans. Elayne brushes his praise aside and says it is due to her training from Morgase and Bryne. Rand compares this dinner with their time in Tear, when he really began to know her and love her. They share common responsibilities and interests. Elayne notices that Rand finds being responsible for peoples’ lives and deaths a great burden. He wasn’t trained to this from an early age like her. (However, Lan was and also finds it very hard to bear.) Rand realised on Dragonmount that he made himself hard, so the burden wouldn’t hurt, but became uncaring. Being hunted down and abused did not help. He needs to care or else his strategies become unscrupulous—as Mordeth’s were.

Elayne is impressed that Rand has Lews Therin’s knowledge now. She sees the opportunity:

"I am him. I always was. I remember it now."

Elayne breathed out, eyes widening. "What an advantage."

Of all the people he had told that to, only she had responded in such a way. What a wonderful woman.

A Memory of Light, To Die Well

whereas Nynaeve saw the danger and the pain:

No man should have to remember the failures of Lews Therin Telamon.

The Gathering Storm, A Conversation with the Dragon

Here he admits to himself that growing grass was “some other trick”—and not being ta’veren, or channelling, as so many have suggested. In A Memory of Light, Older, More Weathered, we find out that this trick is the technique of Singing gained from Lews Therin’s knowledge.

Elayne insists that everyone has the right to do their bit in the war. It is not only important to her, but also to the Pattern. This is the starting point of what Rand needs to realise at the last. He thinks that he knows this now, but it is not really the case.

Because the Dark One is pushing evil into the Pattern, only good events surround Rand now. Earlier, he attracted both positive and negative events; extremes of the Pattern, but balanced. Rand was everyman then – representative of all. Now he represents the Light to balance the Dark One. The more the Dark One touches the world, the more the Pattern gets Rand to provide change to undo it.

When Elayne asks if there can be never be good in the world, she means lack of evil. There is good right then and there, but there is also evil. The world is not a Paradise and cannot be. The Age of Legends thought it was—but they were mistaken and the result was terrible apocalyptic war.

"There were many good years. Good decades, good centuries. We believed we were living in paradise. Perhaps that was our downfall. We wanted our lives to be perfect, so we ignored imperfections. Problems were magnified through inattention, and war might have become inevitable if the Bore hadn't ever been made."

A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon

Rand thinks the Pattern is not about good or evil. Moiraine would add that it is about both of them and choosing between them.

“The Creator is good, Perrin. The Father of Lies is evil. The Pattern of Age, the Age Lace itself, is neither. The Pattern is what is. The Wheel of Time weaves all lives into the Pattern, all actions. A pattern that is all one color is no pattern. For the Pattern of an Age, good and ill are the warp and the woof.” Even riding through late-afternoon sunshine three days later, Perrin felt the chill he had had on first hearing her say those words. He wanted to believe the Pattern was good. He wanted to believe that when men did evil things, they were going against the Pattern, distorting it. To him the Pattern was a fine and intricate creation made by a master smith. That it mixed pot metal and worse in with good steel with never a care was a cold thought.

The Dragon Reborn, Within the Weave

Perrin thinks that the Pattern should be good only, and the world a paradise. Rand sees the impersonalness of Pattern and has found it hard to bear. His role is so overwhelming he’d rather make it obsolete.

Rand’s error has led him to want to kill the Dark One and remove evil from the Pattern. He sees the Dark One as alien to Pattern and sabotaging it. Yet sabotage can be foreseen—or at least expected—and woven into the Pattern, along with measures to counteract it. Rand is viewing the Pattern from one side only and his perception is flawed.

Rand gives Elayne a Seed, which Cadsuane thinks is a type of ter’angreal. Where did Rand obtain it? From one of his hoards of ter’angreal? (He is a typical dragon in having hoards.) Hopefully Elayne studies the Seed so she learns how to make them before she turns it into an angreal.

In exchange she gives him the artham dagger. He didn’t recognise it at first, so he can’t read ter’angreal. Yet Lews Therin knows of artham, although no one had succeeded in making one when he was alive. They exchange gifts as equals. No one else does that with Rand.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #11: Chapter 8--That Smouldering City

By Linda

Elayne POV

This is a short chapter to quicken the pace as we go into the Last Battle.

Viewing Caemlyn, Elayne quotes what Birgitte said in Towers of Midnight immediately after seeing the dragons tested:

If dragons can do that to a city, she thought, surveying the hole that Talmanes had made in the nearest wall, the world will need to change. Everything we know about warfare will change.

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

Defensive city fortresses will no longer be the protection they once were; they are becoming obsolete. Channelling—especially using powerful angreal or sa’angreal or in a ring—would also be able to destroy fortresses, but Aes Sedai are bound to not use the Power as a weapon and other channellers didn’t have the angreal or the knowledge to link.

Elayne is disappointed that Talmanes is respectful and polite to her—his Queen. She expected that Mat would have “corrupted” him. However, none of the Band’s officers became casual to royalty due to Mat’s influence. Vanin was already disdainful of nobles when he joined up; and the others follow the social customs of the time. In fact, many of Mat’s officers are nobles. Mat is outside the normal social order, as trickster figures are. (Vanin is also a trickster figure, the only other trickster in the Band, see Tricksters article).

Yet Bashere is not formal with Elayne and she complains about that—from a noble who is almost of equal rank with her. She reminds herself he is worth cultivating because he is Tenobia’s heir (and was therefore her equal a few months earlier.) Elayne is often excitable—she has a tendency to think in italics—but she is particularly illogical here.

Bashere persuades Elayne to announce that Rand is the father of her unborn children. The Saldaean general doesn’t object to her going to war while pregnant—because it shows the seriousness of the situation and reminds them of what they are fighting for. Also there are no safe places. Elayne resents being advised by her advisors—by men, she says, but she doesn’t like it when Birgitte does it either. Nevertheless she follows his, and Birgitte’s, good advice.

Elayne has given orders to destroy Caemlyn and steels herself to watch it happen. In the face of serious things she is brave and focussed; like Mat, she fusses about the small stuff—such as protocol.

The scene also perhaps references the apocalyptic book Revelation, which features as a large inspiration for Tarmon Gaidon, Armageddon. Apart from the breaking of the Seven Seals and the Horn being the Last Trump, Elayne is a parallel of the distracting pregnant woman in Revelation, and M’Hael is a dark St Michael fighting the (good) Dragon. Chapter 18 of Revelation speaks of the fall of the city of Babylon:

“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit…Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire…The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’…‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’ “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

Revelation 18, verses 2, 8, 10, 19-20

A city overrun comprehensively by the Shadow is a parallel of Babylon. The good guys stand far off and watch Caemlyn burn. (Babylon, city of fornicators, is also a parallel of Graendal—the whore of Babylon—as I will discuss in the chapter where she falls.)

Androl POV

The Darkfriends took the trouble to dig Logain’s faction out of the collapsed area so they could Turn them to Shadow. There are not enough Dreadlords, so they are going to the trouble of forcibly making them—and it is expensive of time, Myrddraal and Dreadlords’ energy. As an example of the Shadow’s lack of Dreadlords, the shields on Logain’s faction are tied off.

Turned Dreadlords are the weakest quality of Darkfriend, though, according to Lanfear. They lack creativity or perhaps even much will. Evin is a good example. Killing the opposition’s channellers deprives the Light of channellers, whereas Turning them adds to the loss since the Shadow gains the channellers. Just not as useful people as the original. This parallels the situation with the Seanchan taking damane; most of which are broken so they accept their fate and perform as meekly as possible. Fortuona thinks it is a waste to kill free channellers, she prefers the Seanchan use them against the other side. Those at risk of being enslaved or broken disagree: better to die as Nalaam did than be Turned or collared.

The scene shows the effect of character strength on fighting the Shadow. Stronger characters don’t give in and are much more effective in staving off the Shadow. While the strongest people don’t succumb, they suffer more during the lengthy efforts to break them. This logically leads to Rand and his battle with the Dark One, who is/will be surely harder to battle than even 13 fades and 13 Dreadlords.

The assault is mostly psychological—not physical—torture and is very traumatic, as Logain’s and Emarin’s psychological condition will show, again paralleling Rand. There seems to be a brief period in the process without channelling:

The silence taunted him. Why couldn't he hear any sounds? Then he sensed something. Channeling… A few moments later, Taim's cronies returned. Evin squatted down beside Androl.

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

This is when the Myrddraal contribute their true power links. Fades can’t or don’t actually channel, as this description of Semirhage’s procedure shows:

It was Semirhage who discovered that a circle of thirteen, using thirteen Myrddraal as a sort of filter, could turn anyone who could channel to the Shadow

The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time

Then channelling resumes at the end stage for the actual Compulsion of character motivation and traits. The weakest channellers are more vulnerable, but also suffer less. Evin was psychologically weaker because he lacked self-confidence due to anxiety:

"I feel great. No more fear, no more worry.”

A Memory of Light, That Smouldering City

He now looks on the bright side of the outcome because, with his faults having become the major part of his character, he has no regrets over being Turned. It's all good. And really bad.