Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 3

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 21.

1) We get a little more quality time with Semirhage. Cadsuane seems to have come up with a way to get under her skin. Do you think it will be enough to get answers from Semirhage? Cadsuane believes it is important to keep Semirhage alive in order to learn useful weaves from her. Do you agree with this logic? Or are you all for killing her?

I was sure that Sorilea would simply fix the Forsaken with her beady old eyes and we would see Semirhage soil herself, so I was a little disappointed with this solution. It seems to work, which is a massive improvement over everything else that they have tried, but I am not yet convinced that it will allow them to extract information from her. We saw Moghedien broken and thoroughly defeated, and yet she only gave away drips of knowledge rather than spewing out everything that she knew. I expect Semirhage to be much more tough to crack, so they could be trying to get anything useful for a very, very long time.

There is some logic in trying to get information from one of the Forsaken, but I am not at all sure that they truly appreciate the risk of trying to hold Semirhage indefinitely. As we saw with Moghedien, she will do everything in her considerable power to escape, and there are allies that might decide to help her (Shaidar Haran springs to mind). Personally I would balefire her as soon as possible, but that would be a whole lot less fun than having her escape and then try to get revenge for her humiliation.

2) Moridin and Rand have a heart to heart. Rand seems to understand the two of them are connected somehow. Do you think he will make use of this information? Upon waking from this chat, Rand confesses to Min about Lews Therin. Will Min tell others as she told others about Rand's time in the box? And would that be a good or bad thing?

I doubt that Rand can use the connection for spying purposes, because it would risk revealing his own actions to Moridin, which is a shame. Other than preventing further injury until Moridin can work out how to kill Rand without dying himself, there seems to be few advantages in this link.

I suspect that Min will end up telling some people, most likely Cadsuane or her sister-wives. However, it is not made clear that she believes that he actually has Lews Therin inside his head. Perhaps she thinks that he is merely hearing voices and will, therefore, keep this information to herself. The possible implications of her sharing her knowledge will depend a great deal on what exactly she shares and with whom, so it is difficult to make a prediction at this point.

3) Egwene matches wits with three White Sisters (Ferane, Miyasi, & Tesan). And then she is forced to match wits with Elaida in front of the Sitters. Will there be harsh punishment for Egwene, beyond the beating Elaida gave her? How will the Sitters react to this? Or will we still have to wait for the Seanchan to invade before the Aes Sedai get their act together?

I seriously doubt that anyone, apart from Elaida, will see Egwene as deserving punishment for this confrontation. It was very clear from their reactions that the Sitters were horrified by Elaida’s attack on a supposed novice. This is a clear violation of the Third Oath and can only be excused by Elaida’s assertion that Egwene is a Darkfriend. Even so, she has clearly lost any power she had to influence the Sitters: they are actively speaking out in support of Egwene in the run up to the attack. The only thing that will save Elaida from a public removal from office is the Hall’s desire to avoid the disaster of removing a second Amyrlin in such a short space of time.

I suspect that the Hall will be unwilling to remove Elaida, but her power is now truly broken. However, I suspect that the Seanchan attack will provide the Sitters with the excuse that they need to replace the Amyrlin, or she may even be killed or captured if we are exceptionally lucky. Either way, I am sure that Egwene will prove very useful in the defense of the Tower and be unanimously accepted as the true Amyrlin in the aftermath.

4) The rebel Aes Sedai have word that the White Tower now has the art of Traveling. Do you believe Elaida is aware of this weave? Or is it just a handful of Red Aes Sedai testing it out? And what do you make of Lelaine's latest actions? What can Siuan do from this point on in holding the Aes Sedai together?

I am pretty sure that if Elaida knew about the weave then we would have heard about it by now: she would not have been able to resist gloating to Egwene about her newfound knowledge. I am also not sure if the Reds involved are actually Blacks because I am starting to lose track of the multitude of Sisters that we have encountered. It is certainly bad news for the rebels, but I suspect that the Seanchan will swoop in before anything significant comes of this discovery.

I suspect that Lelaine is rather less talented at manipulation than she believes. It certainly seems rather obvious that she is trying to create panic as a way to seize control of the rebels, but she obviously thinks that she is being terribly subtle. I suspect that many Sisters will resent her clumsy attempts to gain power and will, therefore, act against her out of pure spite. However, I imagine that all of this will become somewhat irrelevant once the Seanchan attack occurs, so Siuan only needs to hold out a little longer.

5) Tuon holds court in Ebou Dar. Did you find her offer to Beslan fair? Now that she has seen the heads of trollocs, creatures she believed to be of myth, do you think she will be more open to listening to Randlanders?

It was pretty much what I would expect from a ruler who makes use of existing monarchs to impose power upon a vast Empire. It is the same methodology that has worked well throughout our history, and something similar was implied with Tylin, so I was not surprised. However, I expected Beslan to be somewhat less practical in accepting the inevitable simply because he has always struck me as being rather immature.

I would hope that the Trolloc heads would have some effect, but her decision to attack the White Tower suggests that Tuon still has not understood how to deal with the locals on this side of the sea. Rand will be more than a little cross once he hears the news.

6) Mat opens by comparing women to goats. Did you find his behavior to be 'husbandly'? Was his own ta'veren-ness working against him in keeping the Aes Sedai with him or was it his own goat-like behavior?

Ah, yes: it is always nice to be compared to a goat! :D

In many ways, Mat has been behaving quite like a husband ever since he met Tuon. He has certainly been a lot less like his roguish, old self and has kept away from barmaids and girls with dainty ankles (as far as I can tell). I find this rather hilarious, but it is very pleasing to see a character grow and change as he matures. I just wish that he was still Tuon so that he could point out what a terrible mistake she is making by attacking Tar Valon. Of course, the attack is needed to remove Elaida, but it would be nice if it could be avoided.

I suspect that the Aes Sedai are determined to stick to him like glue because of his newly acquired role as consort to the Seanchan Empress. Mat’s ta’veren quality will no doubt add to this impulse, but there are more than enough reasons for them to hang about without it.

7) Perrin returns to the dream-wolf world, promptly insults the wolves, and is tossed out. Will he be able to conquer his own fears? And if he does, what will he do with the wolves then? Faile has yet more secrets from Perrin. Do you find this good or bad?

Yay, Hopper! I am so pleased to spend more time in his company: who doesn’t love a happy, flying wolf?

I am sure that Perrin needs to accept his ‘inner wolf’ and unify his character in the same that Mat has done with his multiple memories, and Rand will do with Lews Therin. Unfortunately, Perrin will lead the wolves into the Last Battle and many of them will die, which makes me very sad even though it will be wonderfully epic to imagine.

Faile has good reasons to keep these secrets, and not only because she is ashamed of how she acted towards Rolan. She is quite right that Perrin will berate himself about killing an innocent man, so this is one truth that she is correct to withhold from him. I was rather touched by their little ceremony, and it was certainly the honorable thing to do. I am a little less certain about Masema’s disappearance. She could say that one of her followers found the Prophet’s body, which would remove Perrin’s worry that the idiot is still out there to cause trouble whilst avoiding any suggestion of how he died. On the whole I find it difficult to trust Faile because she often behaves in an overly secretive way, which causes no end of mistrust and angst for Perrin.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 2

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 13.

1. Questions are being raised about the loyalty of the Aiel, and that Rand keeps misusing them. What are your thoughts? Could we really see another Shaido-like uprising?

I think that Rand is very lucky to have both the Wise Ones and the Clan Chiefs on his side: if either of these groups decide to rescind their support he will be in very dangerous waters indeed. It sounds like the Wise Ones in particular are doing a great deal to soothe the Clan Chiefs and their wounded honor, so we may be much closer to a break down of Aiel support than Rand understands. I am not even sure that Cadsuane and Nynaeve would see the dishonor that he is heaping onto their broad shoulders with all his talk of kidnapping and forcing peace upon Arad Doman.

However, I am not convinced that we are likely to see another collapse in Aiel unity similar to the one caused by his revelation of their pacifist origins. Rand may be somewhat blinded to their unhappiness by his multiple worries, but he has learnt a little of how to satisfy their honor whilst getting them to do what he wants. Despite all their grumbling, the remaining Aiel do seem to be doggedly loyal to their Carn’a’carn and there are many of them who would tell him directly if mutiny was likely to occur.

2. Siuan and Bryne have a heart to heart. Do you see this relationship to finally blossoming? Everyone still thinks Moiraine is dead. What impact do you think she could have on the story when she returns?

This is possibly the cutest romance in the whole series. I am fairly certain that Gareth Bryne knows exactly what is going on, but is waiting for Siuan to finally accept the inevitable and admit her feelings for him. I am sure that it will happen eventually . . . although it is likely to be almost unrecognizable because of her use of fish-based metaphors! :D

So, I guess we can assume that Mat, Noal and Thom manage to rescue her quite successfully then? Phew! :D

Apart from lots of surprised exclamations of “I thought you were dead!” I suspect that we will people moving along quite nicely. After all, we have the End Of The World on the horizon and I am quite sure that everyone will be happy to have an extra Aes Sedai of her strength to joint he forces of Light. Rand might actually be nice to her for a change when she reappears!

3. Perrin is belabored by refugees, but is still reluctant to take on his lordly duties. Will something more have to happen here, before Perrin achieves his "final form" before the Last Battle?

I am not sure that Perrin, or Mat, will ever become comfortable with their roles as Leaders Of Men. Neither of them is happy about their talents and their positions in History. However, both have managed to acquire wives who are most definitely going to insist upon them becoming the Heroes that they are destined to be. I suspect that we will still see plenty of moaning and self-doubt from both lads, but the inevitable will finally happen.

In many ways, I think that Perrin has already started to think like a true leader. His feeling of responsibility towards the refugees is a good case in point and mirrors a lot of the things we see Elayne worrying about. However, I am quite sure that his journey back to Rand will be full of interesting diversions that will provide him with many opportunities to grow into his role as King of the Wolves.

4. Ituralde is delivered from his death trap and is sent to Bashere's homeland, while Bashere is in Ituralde's. Would it perhaps have been prudent to switch places? If a shadow invasion of the Borderlands really is imminent, wouldn't it be good to actually approach the Borderlanders instead?

Yes, this did seem a little backwards to me as well. However, Bashere has been very creative in following his orders from Queen Tenobia, so it also seems prudent to keep him away from her. I can also see the wisdom of removing Ituralde himself from Arad Doman, where the Seanchan are likely to continue pursuing him with their usual dogged persistence.

However, I would like to see Rand actually spend five minutes spinning a Gateway to go and have a quiet word with the Borderlanders. That is all it would take and then he could put them to good use and move on to something more important. It seems highly unlikely that they are trying to find him in order to murder him or tell him that they will not support him, so I am not sure why he simply does not get this over and done with. In fact I am getting rather frustrated with his lack of effort in this regard: but he does sometimes seem to have strange priorities.

5. Egwene's infiltration is gathering momentum. She's talking to sitters as a near equal and has even been in contact with the Black Ajah hunters. Meanwhile, Lelaine is winning the political war on the outside. Should Egwene start hurrying? Having earned the respect of these sisters, what would be her next step?

We know that the Seanchan are going to attack the Tower, so I have to admit that they are my primary concern in this regard. At the moment, I am not sure that Tar Valon will be able to withstand their attack, even with the Rebel Sisters helping in the defense. I can only hope that we reach the tipping point soon and Egwene is able to rally an effective force to repel the attack. Somehow, I am not convinced that Elaida will be very effective in this regard . . . but perhaps she will look good wearing an a’dam . . .

It seems that her actions are bringing increasing numbers of Sisters to support her stance against Elaida, so the key is to allow them to realize this. Once they see that they are in a majority, Elaida’s fall should be fairly swift. At least, I hope that it is! I am not sure that there is any more that Egwene can do to engage this critical mass of support, so she will probably be alright if she simply carries on in the same way. Of course, one of her admirers could trigger a sudden switch in mood: at the moment my money is on Silviana finally refusing to continue with the absurd punishments that Elaida has imposed.  

6. Gawyn is finally on the move, but where? Egwene does not want a rescue... do you expect him to listen or will he just make a mess of things?

Ah, Gawyn! Last week we were moaning about his uselessness and now he is rushing off to almost certain death in his effort to rescue Egwene. If only she wanted to be rescued, or even needed it!

I suspect that he will go to the Rebels and try to encourage them to rescue Egwene. In fact, I predict that he will be most indignant that they have not tried this themselves already. Of course, Siuan will simply tell him that Egwene does not want to be rescued and that they could pull her out of the Tower whenever they wanted to by using a Gateway. This will be very embarrassing for the poor lad and he will go back to being depressed and feeling useless.

Sadly, I still want to slap him around the head . . . I had hoped that he would improve once he made a decision! :D

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 1

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 6.

1. Rand has sent a message to Tuon via a released damane, but it seems that it might be some time before she hears of his invitation. Do you think that this delay will make a difference? Will the Seanchan be too distracted by the newly arrived Trolloc hordes and Rodel Ituralde’s army?

Oops: I meant to say “a released sul’dam” . . . the shame, the shame . . .

Why is nothing simple with the Seanchan and their political maneuvering? I sincerely hope that Falendre passes the message along reasonably quickly because delay is going to cause more needless fighting and many deaths that could be avoided. Of course, we should really expect people to completely ignore the approaching End Of The World in favor of their own petty concerns because that has become a recurring theme in this series. However, it is still annoying!

Whilst I think that the Trollocs might distract the Seanchan for a moment or two, I doubt that even the Shadowspawn will halt the Return for more than a few days. As Ituralde himself has noted, the Seanchan are remarkably determined and also adaptable, so they will certainly accept this new challenge with their usual relentless efficiency. Indeed, it seems as if Ituralde is almost a spent force, with most of his army destroyed and an enemy that rarely repeats the same mistake. I had expected him to eventually join Rand’s cause, especially as he is one of the Five Great Captains, but it looks like he might not survive that long. However, it seems unlikely that we would have followed him this far only to see him die a pointless death . . .

2. We had only a short glimpse of the Forsaken in this section, but there were some tantalizing hints. Given Graendal’s thoughts about Demandred, where do you think he has made his base of operations? What do you make of Moridin’s issues with his left hand?

Graendal seems to have decided that Demandred is masquerading as one of the rulers in the Borderlands, but this seems to discount the most obvious choice in my opinion. Whilst most of the Forsaken seem to be fixated on Randland, we have seen at least one work with the forces beyond its borders. Semirhage has been marvelously effective with the Seanchan, so it seems highly unlikely that none of the Forsaken would attempt to mobilize the forces of Shara. So far we have heard very little about this land, but it seems to be massive and we know that Graendal herself has visited it quite recently to select suitably exotic ‘toys’ for her collection. I find it very suspicious that we have heard no rumors of Shadow activity or political unrest in this vast nation, so I conclude that Demandred has been rather more discreet than some of the other Forsaken in his attempts to gain power and influence.

So far, we have seen Rand and Moridin sharing their power-related ‘sickness’ as well as the occasional vision of the others’ activities. With this latest manifestation, it seems that the link is much more powerful than we originally thought and could possibly be a danger to either one. This goes a long way towards explaining why Moridin has issued orders that Rand is not to be harmed: he may be uncertain of how the link was formed and fears that Rand’s death could cause his own if he does not learn how to sever their connection first. We know that the link occurred when the two men crossed their beams of balefire back in Shadar Logoth, but that does not mean that Moridin has any more idea of what happened than Rand does. I just hope that this link will not stop Rand from killing Moridin when the time comes.

3. The Prophet finally met his end, but not before we got to spend a little time inside his highly disturbing mind. What do you make of his vision of the Dragon? Do you think that his death will remove the Dragonsworn as an organized force?

Throughout this series I have had very few opportunities to pull out my tiny, tiny violin and play a sad, sad song for those annoying characters that have FINALLY died and made me happy. I was so pleased when Masema made my week and took an arrow to the chest!

Of course, the poor guy was totally insane, so he was almost pathetic in his last few moments. However, he has been responsible for so much chaos, death and destruction that I found it rather difficult to muster much sympathy for his delusional thinking. I took no satisfaction at all in learning that we were all correct in thinking that he had no real interest in serving Rand’s plans: in fact, I think that he would have decided that Rand was a False Dragon within a few minutes of their reunion. It is just a shame that Rand let this lunatic run around like a rabid dog for such a long time.

Assuming that Masema saw a real vision, and not just some delusional hallucination, I can only assume that one of the Forsaken was manipulating him. He was certainly a great candidate for fulfilling their mission to sow chaos throughout the lands, and he has ultimately weakened Rand’s support in many places. I sincerely hope that any remaining Dragonsworn will return to being the disorganized rabble that they were before he took control: Rand does not need any more problems to deal with.

4. We see Egwene go through some serious changes this week, as she realizes why the Aiel laugh at pain. Do you think that she is correct to think that Elaida’s rule would come to an end soon even without her own efforts? What do you make of the severe disruptions that are occurring in Tar Valon: are they worse than the ones we are seeing elsewhere?

Egwene is certainly developing into a real force of nature: I hope that she gets to swap notes with Cadsuane and Sorilea very soon! :D

Given the way that everything in the Tower and Tar Valon are falling apart, I think it is highly likely that Elaida will be deposed very soon no matter what Egwene does. I suspect that her continued existence as Amyrlin is being extended by the actions of the Blacks, who are probably laughing themselves stupid at how easy she has made their orders to weaken the Tower. We know that it would look extraordinarily bad if the Aes Sedai overthrew a second Amyrlin so soon, but I doubt that this reason will be sufficient to keep her in office for very much longer. Egwene’s appearance, and her stoic acceptance of Elaida’s vengeance, will no doubt speed this process, but even the most stubborn Sister will accept the inevitable eventually.

We do not seem to have evidence of such effects elsewhere, although a patch of grass moving permanently would be difficult to spot unless it showed up somewhere really unusual. It seems likely that the Dark One is targeting the Tower for special attention in the hopes of causing further disruption and unrest: plus a few half-buried Sisters to scare the rest out of their minds. Of course, it could be Mesaana’s actions, which might explain why Leanne seemed to be targeted and we do not know if the Forsaken was one of the yellows on duty when this particular bubble manifested itself.

5. Poor Aviendha is off counting tiny seeds whilst running across country. Can you offer any suggestions about what she has done wrong in the eyes of the Wise Ones?

This is a tricky one, as the Aiel seem to take offense at the strangest things. However, I am at a loss to think of anything in particular, and the tradition of not asking what is causing the problem seems likely to prolong this for quite some time to come. This is probably going to be rather frustrating and I hope that it is not because of something stupidly pointless. My only hope is that she is actually ready to be a Wise One, but needs to start acing like it: perhaps by telling them to take their seeds and shove them where the Sun does not shine! :D

6. We finally touch base with Gawyn in his efforts to disrupt the rebel siege. Can you think of anything that might make him finally see sense and join the rebel cause?

It seems that we have yet another person to add to my long list of Stupid People Who Need Some Sense Slapping Into Them. Seriously, Gawyn, what are you still doing supporting Elaida? Surely even you have notice that her last few orders have been specifically designed to get you killed? No, you want her to say it to your face whilst cackling insanely? Perhaps she could take out an advertisement in the Tar Valon Times or send Gareth Bryne you exact location?

I am beginning to think that a good blow to the head might be the only way that Gawyn will FINALLY acknowledge the decision that he made when he helped Min and the others to escape: that Elaida is unworthy and does not deserve the loyalty of any of the Younglings. I can understand how he might worry about persuading the rest of his men that she is actually the enemy, but he really needs to get out of this situation ASAP. At the moment his sense of self-preservation is sadly lacking in someone who has been trained from birth to protect his sister from the evils of the world.

The only other thing that could trigger a return to brain-owning sanity would be an encounter with Egwene, followed by a swift application of her foot to his backside before she explains the realities of recent history and then Bonds him as her Warder . . . and then uses some well-timed sexytimes to prevent any further idiotic behavior! I sincerely hope that we see a resolution to this side plot soon, otherwise I suspect that Gawyn will be proven to be Too Stupid To Live, possibly by attempting a suicide mission in order to rescue the ‘helpless’ Egwene from the Tower.

7. Cadsuane and a few other Sisters are trying to get information out of Semirhage. Do you think they have any hope at all of succeeding, or will we have to endure many more creepy stories about how she can do truly diabolical things to peoples’ bodies?

Semirhage is possibly the most disturbing person that we have met so far in the series, although Coilin Mellar comes quite close. In many ways, the idea of trying to torture her is actually quite funny and I have to agree with her announcements that the modern Sisters are puny and laughably useless. I have a sneaking suspicion that she might actually enjoy some physical torture, but even if she does not, there is likely to be very little that actually frightens her. After all, she can face down Cadsuane without a problem, and that is almost the scariest thing that I can imagine! :D

I suspect that defeating this particular Forsaken will require a great deal of thought and a deep understanding of human nature. However, Rand has one weapon that he has yet to unleash on the poor, unsuspecting creature: Sorilea! Surely the wizened old Wise One has been kept in reserve for when all else fails, so that she can stalk in, take one look at the problem and solve it as if everyone else is a total idiot. I do hope so! The solution will probably be something elegantly simple, like ignoring Semirhage or making her wash dishes all day until her nails split and then laughing at them.


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