Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #23: Chapter 20—Into Thakan’dar

By Linda

Egwene POV

Romanda uses traditional Aes Sedai Healing as battlefield emergency medical aid, which is how this type of Healing was actually used in the Age of Legends.

Gawyn makes a good observation about the senselessness of the Trollocs trying to hold the area against all odds and with huge losses.

"It's like . . . like the Fades think that even after a rout like this one, they're in a good position.”

A Memory of Light, Into Thakan’dar

Egwene listens to him and orders the army to pull back. Too late; the Sharans arrive. The coin armour of the soldiers is very typical of ancient Chinese soldiers, and the dresses of the channellers are also Asian in style—Korean and Mongolian, mainly (see Sharan fashions). The Ayyad’s black dresses symbolise their link to the Shadow, and also parallels Chinese history. In the Qin dynasty, the most popular clothing colour was black, since the Qin Emperor believed that the Qin dynasty should eclipse the Zhou dynasty like water extinguishes fire, and black is the colour of yin and water.

Egwene realises that Aes Sedai should be in Warders’ cloaks—the ultimate camouflage—in battle so they can hide, if necessary. They can’t always drive off attacks with channelling and are as helpless as anybody when outnumbered by hostile channellers.

Aviendha POV

Forgers are perhaps more like androids than Shadow constructs, since the Aiel are adamant that they are not alive and Demandred said that they can’t live outside Thakan’dar, but turn to dust if take away from the area (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). They use the blood of people to temper the blades—one person for each.

Rhuarc is now a siswai’aman and perhaps the highest ranked of them. It does not appear to mean that he has abdicated his position as clan chief.

Aviendha owns more than one necklace: the snowflake one from Egwene, plus, judging by what Cadsuane said, one from Rand as a remembrance/regard gift. She is prepared for her own people to pay the ultimate price for the Light’s victory:

Seeing the end of her people had nauseated and horrified her, but also awakened her. If the end of the Aiel was the sacrifice required for Rand to win, she would make it. She would scream and curse the Creator's own name, but she would pay that price. Any warrior would. Better that one people should end than the world fall completely under Shadow.

A Memory of Light, Into Thakan’dar

Like Rand, Aviendha has prepared herself for the enormity of sacrifice to come, and understands Rand wanting to get on with that fight. She feels that they are very alike, and that this comes out in the way they treat each other:

She stepped up to him, and he moved so that he stood just beside her, his shoulder touching hers. He did not drape an arm around her, and she did not take his hand. He did not own her, and she did not own him. The act of his movement so that they faced the same direction meant far more to her than any other gesture could.

A Memory of Light, Into Thakan’dar

Rand also uses an Aiel expression of love to her for the first time.

Aviendha realises that Rand intends to kill the Dark One. Unlike everyone else, she thinks this idea reasonable, but says that the greatest victory would be making the Dark One gai’shain. Rand is dismissive, but Aviendha is correct, as she also is in wondering if sealing the Dark One up is equivalent to taking him gai’shain. She lectures Rand about ji’e’toh, which amuses him—but she thinks the subject too serious for amusement.

The new crossbow crank first mentioned by Mat and Talmanes in Knife of Dreams, As If All the World Were Fog, has arrived among troops outside the Band and it may even hve been improved upon (See Inventions article for further details).

Some gai’shain have temporarily put aside white to fight with the Dragonsworn in the Last Battle—following the prophecy of the Dragon breaking oaths and ties:

"It is said," the one-eyed man said carefully, "that when the Dragon is Reborn, he will break all oaths, shatter all ties."

-The Great Hunt, What Was Meant To Be

Aviendha is inclined to dismiss their abandonment of custom, even honour, as foolishness but then thinks she should reserve judgement. In a way, the prophecy is self-fulfilling when it is being used to justify breaking their oaths. Other people, including Uno, have done this with the prophecy in mind and some were compelled by events without any consideration of the Karaethon Cycle. We also see people—gai’shain and Tinkers—refusing to break their oaths even though they have the bitter realisation of why it is not wrong for others to have done so.

Since Rand declared himself, many people have broken their oaths or ties: soldiers and channellers that were pledged to others have pledged themselves to Rand, some against their rulers’ wishes: Shienarans, Saldaeans, Tairens, Illianers, Cairhienin, Asha’man, Aes Sedai. Gawyn’s choice to put aside his Warder’s oath led to the bond between him and Egwene being broken.

Others are revealed as Darkfriends and so shown to be faithless to whatever ties they were thought to have. People also left their homes, marriages and jobs to wander aimlessly. The breaking of oaths is encouraged (if not caused) by the Shadow as part of the chaos.

With prophecy so prominent, it is easy to see only the workings of destiny in the characters’ lives as though they have little free will and are wholly beholden to follow the Pattern. However, fate is not more powerful than free will; as with the other complementary forces in the series, there is a balance between the two. Some characters have one attitude to this, some another. Rand uses prophecy as a guide to recognising patterns of events and what may arise from them. Aviendha does the same for what she saw in the three rings and is trying to prevent the future she saw in the glass columns. Earlier, in The Gathering Storm, The Ways of Honour, she had expressed dislike of being fated to marry Rand. She wanted to ensure choice, and therefore uncertainty and free will, in her life. Mat uses prophecy as an instruction manual because when he tried to deny fate, he failed; he went from one extreme to the other. But it’s not simple—there is an interplay of choice and the Pattern in people’s lives. Min knew that Gawyn would make a hugely fateful choice between two futures, with no indication which way he would decide. In Jordan’s world history and fate are broadly determined but each individual has the choice to work towards fulfilling their role in the Pattern or to reject this.

Rand proved that the dull dagger worked, preventing the Dark One from sensing him—see ter’angreal article for more information—and feels the touch of the Pattern in the way events have led to it being in his hand at the crucial time. Aviendha wants Rand to stay serious, but he tries to laugh. When she realises something is bothering him, she openly asks what the problem is, instead of telling him off or abusing him as so many others seem to do. Not surprisingly, the theft of the Seals has him concerned that they will not be broken at the right time. Breaking the Seals allows Rand to reforge the prison—clearing rubble so he can build, as Herid Fel said. This is why someone (Logain) will have the role of Sealbreaker once they are stolen back.

Despite earlier criticising Rand for levity, Aviendha makes jokes. He gives her command of the channellers at Thakan’dar to fight Dreadlords and Forsaken. Both Min and Aviendha each wanted to go into Shayol Ghul with Rand, but this would be unwise, since neither would have an actual role there, whereas they certainly would (and will do) elsewhere. As each sees the unsuitability of the other’s wishes, it quietens their own objections.

Nynaeve doesn’t want Rand to use Callandor because it is a trap. But that is the point of it. It’s a trap actually aimed at Moridin, but it has to appear as though Rand is the vulnerable one to lure him into it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #22: Chapter 19—The Choice of a Patch

By Linda

On the surface, the chapter title refers to Mat choosing a patch for his eye, but Elayne has to choose which ground to fight on, and Egwene has to choose whether to avoid Tel’aran’rhiod.

Elayne POV

The chapter also shows the danger of not looking below the surface. Years ago, Bryne advised Gawyn and Elayne against being over-confident or lulled by appearances.

Be careful of currents, he'd said. River currents are one of the most dangerous things under the Light, but only because men underestimate them. The surface looks still because nothing is fighting it. Nothing wants to. The fish go along with it and men stay out of it, all except the fools who think to prove themselves.

A Memory of Light, The Choice of a Patch

Elayne remembers his lesson, but Gawyn did turn out to be a fool that had to prove himself.

Bashere looks well, but isn’t, and that is the case for Bryne, too. The Saldean’s oversight in not thinking of the river is pretty damning, even if he isn’t used to large rivers, since maps have been emphasised all along. To his surprise, Elayne talks of trust:

"You show surprising faith in me for someone you have known a very short time." "Rand trusts you," Elayne said. "Even during the dark times, Bashere—when he would look at every second person around him with darkness in his eyes—he trusted you."

A Memory of Light, The Choice of a Patch

Unfortunately Bashere is no longer able to be trusted.

Egwene POV

Tel’aran’rhiod shows the wearing down of the Land. It has a time-worn look, and is in dire need of renewal; the Age has gone on too long. Such renewal was initiated by sacrifice in ancient times and it seems that the Land now desperately needs Rand’s sacrifice. Remarkably, the Stone still stands as it was, perhaps because it was wrought by the One Power.

Bair confirms Aviendha’s vision in the glass columns. Wise Ones will now need to make three visits to Rhuidean: one for the rings ter’angreal and two for the glass columns. I expect that many qualified Wise Ones will want to see for themselves what the columns show of the future. In the Wheel of Time world, anything done three times has added potency, or “trueness”. Melaine worries at the change, but the glass column ter’angreal shows that the Aiel must change. Or, looking at it another way, they must stick to the spirit of their old ways by educating and training their leaders thoroughly, even if they adapt to life outside the Threefold Land. This way they know which of their traditions are worthwhile and why. The women don’t make decisions for the men, but presumably prospective clan chiefs should also make two trips through the columns.

The vision shows that Aviendha’s children were not well-trained; they were given power too early and not by merit, but because of who their father was. An earlier wannabe Aiel aristocrat, Sevanna, planned for her children to inherit her power and ruined the Shaido before she was stopped.

The first cracks in reality are appearing in Andor, the Borderlands and the Blight, and the cause is correctly deduced to be the Shadow’s use of balefire. The Dreamers decide to not use it, although they acknowledge that some crucial people are alive because this rule was disobeyed. Nevertheless, they are not going to fight balefire with balefire. As upholders of the Pattern, Aes Sedai are already forbidden it. Egwene thinks about how Perrin said that balefire is only another weave. This hints that this most powerful of weaves could be countered, as any other weave can and gets Egwene thinking about solving this.

The Wise Ones decide that Tel’aran’rhiod is now too dangerous to visit unless there is great need. Egwene farewells the World of Dreams “until she Dreams again”. This turns out to be quite an Aiel-like farewell, since according to Aiel belief she awoke from the Dream without visiting it again and won’t be back until she is reborn. Unless she was made a Hero of the Horn. However, after she died, her spirit spoke to Rand before the Horn was blown, but did not appear elsewhere and she was not heard from or seen after the Horn was sounded.

Egwene has realised that Rand deliberately angered her at their last two meetings to manipulate her quite successfully. To her surprise, Rand wants to give her a remembrance gift. It is a ribbon, a simple gift for one of the most powerful women in the world. She feels it is an unnecessary distraction at a time of war; although when she understands that Rand seeks a reconciliation with her, she comes around. She says that he’s been difficult—but so has she. And why wouldn’t they, since they both have been through a great deal.

Lews Therin knew that the Seals would fail. The seals that Egwene hands to Rand are cuendillar, but not genuine. They were probably switched during the robbery, which was made to appear as though the thieves were successfully driven off without taking anything.

When Gawyn learns Rand is Galad’s brother, he feels that Rand and Elayne are connected too closely. As this family tree shows, they are not related by blood, sharing no parents.


In the past, Mat the trickster disliked being watched—because it was usually due to distrust or envy. Now he dislikes the way lower ranked Seanchan won’t look at him. They still watch him—just not his face. While Mat’s egalitarian values are offended, there are practical repercussions too. Mat can’t tell when he is being watched or not and will just have to assume that he is, which makes sneaking around more difficult.

The freckled woman helping the Seanchan tailor clothe Mat is Moghedien, as we find out later. She is disguised as a So’jhin.

Mat refuses to let his old clothes be destroyed, despite being distracted by the valuable jewellery. Nor will he accept any fancy clothes yet—just military wear. Of course, military clothing can be quite fancy enough.

The Prince still picks out rubies in preference to other jewels. Apart from being very valuable, their red colour links them to Mars, god of war. The servants take his lead and drape him in them. Mat is being outfitted in a style is similar to Chinese military clothing in the Western Zhou, or in the much later Qing dynasty, (see Costume in the Wheel of Time article), and also to costume worn by Samurai warriors and courtiers of the Edo period in Japan. The Seanchan have strong links to both China and Japan. Paltron cloths are a reference to the pauldron of armour. The Qing and Samurai robes have pronounced shoulder padding to imitate armour. The dark green colour of his clothes is for the Two Rivers—but also links him with the Deathwatch Guards.

Mat realises he doesn’t need to gamble to get money now. It’s his luck to have married someone so rich that such challenges are meaningless. He always wanted riches and now he has them; but his new position offers a lot of responsibility and no fun. Like a bargain with the Eelfinn, he got what he wanted but it isn’t turning out as expected. Mat fears that his gambling and trickery days are over, but, considering Seanchan politics, they are certainly not. It’s just that the stakes have permanently changed from money to lives.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #21: Chapter 18—To Feel Wasted

By Linda

Gawyn POV

Last POV, Gawyn made much of how he had learned and accepted his supporting role, but here he is being restless and discontented again. Instead of killing Trollocs with a long polearm, he wants to duel with the Trollocs with a sword, control the fight and beat them. He is thinking of himself and not protecting the Amyrlin, even if only by staying whole. Her attitude that she didn’t need protecting rubbed off on him, who wants a bigger, more important part on the world stage. It’s not that no Trollocs break through the lines of Aes Sedai—they do; but the killing power of the channellers makes Gawyn feel feeble in comparison. The prince envies the soldiers fighting—who are just doing what is necessary—and would not make a good general due to his hunger for glory.

On the other hand, Gawyn’s tactics for protecting the Amyrlin are sound. However, he is somewhat complacent that the Aes Sedai are winning their war. It’s noticeable that Gawyn gives all other Aes Sedai the honorific except Keeper Silviana, who does not like him, or he her.

Egwene’s group now know that some Asha’man are Dreadlords and immediately fear that all those in the Black Tower may be. Yet the Aes Sedai have direct experience of some of their own being Dreadlords, but not all. Likewise, Egwene still distrusts Leilwin because she is Seanchan.

Gawyn is in the throes of deciding to take risks with the bloodknives’ rings. (For more information on these ter’angreal see here.) Leilwin sees the rings and tells him more about them. Gawyn warns Leilwin and Domon off mentioning assassins and rings to Egwene, because he is tempted to use the rings to fight on the battlefield and Egwene would undoubtedly make him hand them over if she knew he had them. This is the early warning of Gawyn wandering off to win glory. Aes Sedai claim all ter’angreal as their property on the grounds that such objects are either useless or dangerous to others, and Gawyn’s case is a vindication of this attitude.

Rand POV

Rand debates whether killing the Dark One will remove Trollocs from the Land—in other words, whether they are linked to him. Events show that they have to be killed individually or along with their Myrddraal and will not be undone if the Dark One is cut off from the world.

Aginor made monsters because he could, not because he was cruel or mad. It appals Rand to think that the souls of people may be reborn as Trollocs. However, once they are twisted, it appears that these souls are reborn as Shadowspawn thereafter:

A Trolloc, however, bears a twisted, or corrupted soul, and would be reborn as a Trolloc. Though frankly, a Trolloc's soul is such a pitiful thing, it hardly seems worth calling a soul.

- Robert Jordan Q&A

To lift the soldiers’ spirits, Rand makes it obvious at the end of his stint fighting, that he had fought with, and for, them. It also convinces Demandred that Rand is staying in the battlefields. The Forsaken never imagines that Rand went to Shayol Ghul quite early in the war and completely overlooks even the possibility that Rand bypassed him. This highlights the extent of his obsession, since Demandred otherwise is a master tactician.

After showing himself at the three active battle fronts, it is nearly time for Rand to go to Shayol Ghul. Rand acknowledges to himself how much of his sanity he owes to Min, who concentrated on helping him do what he wants rather than instructing him or controlling him.

Speaking of instructors, Cadsuane shows Rand that she knows what Rand is doing—giving people remembrance gifts—which is of concern to her, because it shows that Rand expects to die, and means he may not even seek to live. Rand’s feelings on his sacrifice are understandably very private and he doesn’t let on to anyone his hopes but quietly asks Alivia offscreen to prepare for his departure. Cadsuane probably always intended to use Alivia in the defense of Shayol Ghul, as Rand suggests.

Cadsuane says that she has never cared so much for Rand that she would not trade his life for the world. I think that those who love Rand would at least agonise over the choice. The Green keeps testing Rand by being annoying and pressing on his vulnerabilities—so that he keeps control of them. Rand realises this is valuable practice, though unpleasant, and indeed it does help him in his battle with the Dark One. He lets Cadsuane know indirectly that she will never get a regard gift, but it would be more of a surprise to her if she did. She knows the price for using rough techniques.

Cadsuane’s intelligence gathering is very good: she knows the Black Tower men have finally escaped. Rand realises that Perrin might have helped with that. He feels guilty about staying away from the Black Tower, and has trouble resisting going there, which irritates Cadsuane that he could risk everything trying to free the men himself. It has been a real danger since Rand’s epiphany; before it, he was too dark to make a rescue attempt. I guess Rand was going to feel bad either way, since he was responsible for creating the Black Tower, but falling into the Shadow’s trap there would have made the situation much worse. Another, even greater, danger was if Rand had not ignored Demandred.


Lan recognises that he, like Deepe, would take an opportunity to kill an important henchman if given it. This is foreshadowing of his fight with Demandred, just as Gawyn’s discontented fiddling with the ter’angreal rings is his.

The POVs of the three men in this chapter are linked, with Lan being somewhere between Gawyn and Rand. He is well beyond being a fallen Prince like Gawyn, but is a hidden monarch like Rand, expected to die fighting the Shadow; yet he has played a properly supporting role to more than one powerful woman ungrudgingly and unstintingly for twenty years. The sort of supporting role Gawyn was brought up to do.

Mandarb fought his way back to camp despite being wounded, and Lan promises his horse a peaceful retirement. For the first time, he thinks about life after the battle and the possibility of living with Nynaeve happily ever after—something he has never even allowed himself to imagine before. Like Rand, Lan is starting to hope. Lan is conscious of his similarities to Rand: both were born to fight the Shadow, and die doing so, since the Shadow is endless. Cadsuane and Elayne both encouraged Rand to hope for life after defeating the Dark One. Lan thinks his mentoring and then friendship with Rand broke through his hard shell even before Nynaeve (who also played a large part). In Rand’s case, it was Min—as he acknowledges above—and also Moiraine, with the latter also keeping Lan alive. Both men are weighted with duty and aspire to impossibly high standards.

The chapter ends on a seemingly innocuous note about being human—and therefore fallible. Baldhere has misgivings of Agelmar’s tactics, because he is making mistakes. Lan reminds him that Agelmar is human, but Baldhere still feels that there is something wrong. Unfortunately he is right.

When Lan meets with him, Agelmar faces up to these concerns calmly and admits he is making mistakes. The Great Captain says he will listen to advice, but won’t be undermined or have his command watered down. While it could be argued that Lan made a mistake in trusting Agelmar on this, it would indeed have undermined their military effort if every move was argued over by a committee. Besides, as real world experiences show, a committee is no less difficult to derail.

This is the first sign that the Great Captains are being corrupted. Aes Sedai ward their dreams against invasion and the warder bond protects their warders to a lesser degree, but it never occurred to them that anyone else would need such protection. This is another result of the Aes Sedai holding themselves apart—and above.