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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #35: Chapter 32—A Yellow Flower-Spider

By Linda


Mat’s damane, unnamed as yet, despite being immediately eager to cooperate with and please her captors, is making gateways, a weave she learned by watching Aes Sedai. Such prompt acceptance of the collar is rare, but no one doubts that it is genuine—Stockholm syndrome.

Mat feels guilty about enslaving the Sharan damane. He also hugely admires Tuon, even while thinking about how she also is a channeller—just one that hasn’t let herself touch the Source. Yet. Tuon is a Nemesis figure (Greek goddess of justice and retribution) and all it will take will be great desperation. Considering what Seanchan court life is like, if nothing else, the day will come, but we readers won’t see it.

Tuon insists on a description of Min’s viewing before her explanation of the meaning. All this time, Min has assumed that if she doesn’t know, no one else can figure it out. But the Seanchan have their own omen interpretation system, so it’s understandable that they want to test Min’s out or expand it or their own. Perhaps Min’s reticence is a response to having those viewings she does understand rejected by the receiver, often quite violently. Min protests vehemently when Tuon commands that someone be executed for what they think she may do. But no one collars sul’dam for all that they may channel one day. Min defies Tuon and implies that torturing her would be a crime that would be punished by the Pattern. (Nemesis again.) Tuon is pleased and reassured that Min won’t misuse her talent for spite, power or ignorance.

Mat rather hypocritically thinks Min should show more respect to Tuon. Or he’ll have to rescue her—which also follows on from Egwene’s thoughts in the previous chapter about Mat rescuing people. And that brings us to the meeting between the Seanchan and the Aes Sedai. Mat is Tuon’s Voice in the meeting with the Hall and Saerin Egwene’s.

Pressed up against a river, the Aes Sedai armies’ situation is grave and Mat wants to move to a more advantageous position. It is time for last stands. This is where the novel starts to curve back in on itself to come full circle. First, Mat rejects the suggestion of Tar Valon, the scene of the Aiel War. He does not want to fight in a city, but in a place in the Borderlands…as in Book 1, and so we are back at Merrilor, where the pact was made. It is a very risky strategy; but as Rand said, drawing everything out only exhausts the Light more and allows the Shadow to invade further and be harder to eradicate. Mat is betting on rolling a winning last throw.

Looking over the maps, he mentally reminds himself about damming the river. It’s one of his more striking battles, as we shall see.

Galad POV

The Lord Captain Commander realises that not everyone is perfect, and that’s OK so long as they do their best. He thinks he is morally better than they—and while that is often the case, perhaps he forgot his mistake with Valda. One mistake, true, but he isn’t perfect. And that’s OK, because he does his best. In this case, Galad did the right thing, as it happened, but for the wrong reason and not for what he thought. Elayne finds Galad’s perfectionism intolerable, yet her rash and ambitious brother does not and loves Galad deeply.

Galad knows that he annoys Elayne and regrets it, while she realises that she misjudged him this time. He is not refusing Healing out of false heroics, or fear of channelling, but for a good cause. It is to remind himself of how the average soldier is feeling, and that his men don’t all have the privilege of Healing. Galad wishes that Perrin was there; they are two honest open men able to speak freely to each other as equals without offense. This is quite ironic, considering that Perrin was accused of being a Darkfriend and a criminal. It shows how much the Whitecloaks have changed under Galad’s moral compass. I wonder how many other times Galad’s actions were misjudged by his family, and if there had been some dialogue between the two half-siblings, he might have moderated his judgement in response to the feedback. Some of Elayne’s reactions may be envy, as well as the resentment of the youngest child to any restriction of their will.

Galad thinks it is a lie to say they won the battle when so many died, but there is such a thing as a pyrrhic victory. And they are winning one, though it has to be. It’s the best they can expect, sadly. Elayne knows how to keep focussed and boost morale. They must not dwell on the dark side, but do, and sacrifice, what they have to.

Galad’s wish for Perrin leads into the next chapter.

Thursday, September 14, 2017


By Linda

The Wheel of Time is steeped in symbolism - layers and layers of it, like an onion.

Here is a copy of the presentation I gave at JordanCon 2016 on symbolism in the series.

For further reading, there is my essay on Robert Jordan and Freemasonry

I have written detailed analyses of some of the different forms of symbolism:

Animal Symbolism

Number Symbolism

Alchemical Symbolism

even the Inns are symbolic:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Memory of Light Read-through #34: Chapter 31—A Tempest of Water

By Linda

Egwene POV

At first, Egwene feels immediate and extreme hatred for the Seanchan noble arriving at her camp, only to discover it’s someone she knows and likes—Min. Min’s message from Mat that Bryne is leading their army to destruction is discounted, even though the Aes Sedai and their army just barely survived the last disaster. Part of the problem is that the Amyrlin discounts Mat’s abilities as a general as well as his good sense. She thinks Mat is trying to save her from shadows—but the Shadow’s danger is real. Egwene admits to being disturbed at Bryne’s error level, but can’t believe there is worse underlying danger. While there is a good reason for Bryne’s faulty judgment, there really isn’t for Egwene, who is particularly dismissive in this scene.

Ituralde POV

Next we turn to Ituralde and have our first view inside a Compelled man’s mind since Noal/Jain Charin’s POVs. The Domani general is fighting Compulsion more effectively than the other generals. Likely, he has a stronger sense of self than they because he is a self-made man, having risen entirely through his ability and his own efforts, with no head start from being a noble. Not only is Graendal torturing him in his dreams, but he has underlying PTSD from the horrors of Maradon. Thanks to Perrin, Ituralde is saved by Elyas just before he was finally about to give a wrong order. He had made heroic efforts to resist saying it up until that point.

Egwene POV

Like most tricksters, Mat is not taken seriously even when he is right. Egwene remembers times that Mat saved people—including her, when she was convinced she didn’t need saving. (Mat and Gawyn have previously remarked that Egwene often mistakenly believes she doesn’t need saving.) Her review of the past—and perhaps her own misgivings about Bryne—leads her to reconsider her attitude and not ignore Mat. The Aes Sedai will investigate Bryne’s errors and either dismiss Mat’s accusations or act on them.

Once Egwene hears that Bashere has been stood down, she questions Bryne hard. From Bryne’s confession that he doesn’t know what’s wrong with his mental state, she realises that the Great Captains have been Compelled. The Aes Sedai have their camp under watch for channelling, but Graendal is making her weaves in Tel’aran’rhiod, not the waking world, as well as manipulating their dreams.

The Forsaken know how to reverse their weaves, which then aren’t detectable except through testing for residues. Only Mat is immune to direct weaves while wearing his ter’angreal against his skin and so the Hall and Egwene finally assent to transferring the command of the armies to him.