Sunday, November 23, 2014

Towers of Midnight 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 the Chapter 4.

1.  Everyone who thought Graendal might not be dead can pat themselves on the back.  With Aran'gar's death that leaves six.  Are there any others, thought dead, that you fear we might see again?

For once it seemed much too obvious that we had a nice and neat confirmation that could not possibly be wrong even though we did not witness her actual demise. I am glad that Mr Sanderson chose to reveal this surprise soon afterwards, because it would have been annoying for Graendal to reappear during the Last Battle without a hint before then. I am not wildly happy that she deceived Rand, but it is nice to have at least one Forsaken who is not a moron . . . and I am delighted that she is a female!

I am trying to remember if we have had confirmation that Cyndane is actually Lanfear, but I fear that my aged brain is starting to suffer from Wheel of Time overload! Other than the infuriating Lanfear, I think we are fairly certain that all of the other dead Forsaken are staying firmly out of the action in the future. Egwene’s Dream of thirteen black towers reduced to only six seems to confirm that, unless someone can suggest a different interpretation.

2.  Is this the first time we've seen Padan Fain since book nine? Running around the Blight setting world records for creepiness... What role do you think he has to play in what is coming?

Good grief, is it really that long since he showed up? I seem to be suffering from some sort of strange time distortion effect as well as memory overload!!

Whilst Fain is possibly the most awesomely horrifying character of all time, though Shaidar Haran runs him a close second, he is very entertaining to read. His sections are so mind-bendingly wrong that they are always a surprise, even though they feel a little like being unable to tear one’s eyes away from a horrific car crash.

I suspect that he will play a role similar to that of Gollum, a character that he seems to mirror in many ways. Whilst he plans to murder Rand and eat his brains before taking on the Dark One himself, I expect him to inadvertently aid the Light at the very end. Or Rand will simply swat him like a bug . . .

3.  The blightborder in Kandor is attacked and will probably not hold for long.  Meanwhile, Lan is in Saldaea, heading east. Will he even make it to Tarwin's Gap, or will he be caught up in the invasion?  How many followers do you expect to see before he gives up the lone wolf plan?

The attack on the towers made me wonder if this invasion was the important information in Verin’s letter. I imagine that it takes quite a bit of organization to gather and target so many Shadowspawn, so she could have learnt about it in time to warn people who could be useful in stopping it. I suspect that the letter delivered to Rand in Tar Valon is also from her.

But to get back to Lan . . . Of course he will make it to Tarwin’s Gap: he is Lan the mighty, if grumpy, warrior-king, so he is guaranteed a spot in the Last Battle! He will also gather a mighty army of people too scared of Nynaeve to refuse to help him. Plus, he seems to have impressed quite a lot of people in his earlier life, so they will be happy to fight at his side. However, I am rather hoping that he does not end up with an army of undead oathbreakers that only he can summon as that would feel a little too similar to Tolkien.

4.  Yet another reunion happens as Rand reveals part of his plan to Egwene, but she is not pleased.  Rand looks quite sane but Egwene is not so sure.  Do you expect this to be a big conflict before the Last Battle?  Who do you think is right?

I was rather surprised by how low key this was, especially as the Chapter was titled “The Amyrlin’s Anger”. I was expecting more fireworks and shouting, especially from Egwene, but it was all very civilized.

I suspect that Egwene will be angry at first, but will eventually come to see that Rand is correct. It does make sense that you need to clear away the rubbish before building a new door to the Bore, but I can understand why any sane person would be more than a little reluctant to remove that last impediment to the Dark One’s freedom. Hopefully a combination of Browns and Whites can help her to see the logic of doing what is necessary.

5.  It looks like we'll be spending a lot of time this book with Perrin and Hopper in T'A'R.  Excited?  Anything special you want to see?  Will we maybe run into Slayer again?

Yay! Any time spent with Hoper is great fun, because the wolves have such a unique perspective on the world. However, I am increasingly concerned that he will finally die in the Dream and leave the world forever, possibly at the hands of Slayer. We have not seen or heard from Slayer for a very long time, so I am quite sure that he will return very soon and try to remove Perrin before the Last Battle.

6.  It also looks like we'll see a confrontation between Perrin and the Whitecloaks, world champions in grudge-keeping.  How will this play out?  How do you think Galad is doing as Lord Captain Commander?

Oh crumbs! This could be very, very bad, especially if Bornhald and Byar have anything to say about it. However, Galad is a sensible guy, with his eyes firmly set on reaching the Last Battle, so I am not sure that the Children will attack Perrin’s army en masse. But, then again, we know that he will always do what he considers to be right, so perhaps he will challenge Perrin to a duel to prove his innocence. Also, I am not sure if Morgase is with Gill’s party, but she could talk some sense into her stepson if necessary.

Galad seems to be doing a remarkably good job of making the Children into a useful force for the Light rather than an annoying bunch of self-righteous prats. Some of it seems very fortunate, which makes me wonder if he shares some ta’veren aspects with his half-brother, Rand. He is mirroring Egwene in his ability to unite a divided force, but I am not sure that he will be able to persuade both Bornhald and Byar to forgive Perrin.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 7

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 the book.

1.  Egwene appears very reluctant to forgive Siuan and Gawyn for having rescued her from Tar Valon.  Do you think she went overboard?  Has Siuan lost her status for ever?  What sort of thing might it take for Egwene and Gawyn to finally get together as they should?

I suppose she did seem a little harsh, but she was much more concerned with her efforts to reunite the Tower than her own personal safety. Her disappearance after the attack could have been very problematic because she could have been accused of deserting her Sisters in their time of need, although I think her defensive actions would have countered that complaint. Still, she did not know that Elaida had been captured, or that the Ajah Heads would finally see sense and make her the true Amyrlin.

I am certain that Siuan will retain much of her status with Egwene, probably by becoming the head of the Blue Eyes and Ears network in the newly unified Tower. Her actions were based upon much more sensible reasons that Gawyn’s, which were still driven by the idea of Egwene as a helpless little puppet. I imagine that their hormones will finally push the lovers together, but Gawyn’s attitude needs some very serious adjustment before they can have a healthy relationship.

2.  The Black Ajah is purged and all its members are now either dead or missing.  Do you agree with Egwene's plan, or would you have waited until after the reunification, to get all of them at once? Would you have liked to see the hunters in the White Tower (Saerin et al) play a larger role?

This seemed like the most sensible approach because it meant that Egwene could trust all of the rebel Sisters as her forces attacked the Tower. She did not anticipate the Tower allowing her to enter without a fight, so I can fully understand why she did not want Blacks ‘accidentally’ killing people or causing other problems. Also, it would have been very difficult for Egwene alone to subdue the entire Tower: this way she only had to bend a few to her will before then relying upon them to help with the others in the camp and then back in Tar Valon itself.

I did not expect Saerin or the others to step forward because they were too few in number to risk exposure. However, I assume that they were the ones who handed over the Oath Rod. It is a shame that secrecy is such an integral part of life as an Aes Sedai, but in this case I think that they were right to stay quiet.

3.  The Aes Sedai are reunited, eight books after the split, with no more bloodshed.  What do you think of everything?  Do you agree with the decision to take Silviana as a keeper, and to distribute the blame?  What will now happen with the Red?  And just how epic were those speeches?

Egwene has become my favorite character during the last few books because she has shown the most growth and huge heapings of common sense, which seems to be in short supply in this world! I loved the way that she handled every step of this journey, and I cannot fault her motives or plans.

I thought that Silviana was an excellent choice. She is a remarkably competent woman who will do almost anything to fulfill her duty. However, she was also the only person to openly stand against Elaida and rebuke her for her treatment of a lowly Novice. She grew to admire and respect Egwene and she has a uniquely intimate knowledge of just how strong the new Amyrlin really is.

I hope that the Reds can see Silviana’s position as an olive branch and start to trust again. Egwene’s decision to berate everyone, including herself, should help this a little as they must surely expect retribution and petty revenge from the Blues if nobody else. I suspect that it will be difficult to persuade everyone to try to be one happy family, as it seems like the inter-Ajah bickering is a centuries old tradition. We can see how difficult it is for Cadsuane to change her way of behaving and I suspect that she is fairly typical of most Aes Sedai in that respect.

4.  Were you happy to see Hurin again?  Do you think he was happy to see Rand?  What can be done now, from Rand's side, to fix this problem with the Borderlanders?

I was certainly surprised, but it made sense to send someone that Rand had known personally as a messenger. However, the message he carried was highly likely to get him killed, so I was rather annoyed with the Borderlanders for putting him in such danger. Of course, he was probably overjoyed at the chance to reunite with ‘Lord’ Rand . . . poor guy!

I rather hope that Rand will simply send Bashere to grab hold of Tenobia, by the ear if possible, and drag her out of Far Madding. Their message was incredibly insulting and I would not blame Rand for choosing to just ignore them for the duration. Of course, he has sent them a massive insult by suggesting that they are cowards sitting in Far Madding to save their own hides, so he might provoke them into a meeting. However, it could be that the ‘new’ Rand will have a different opinion, so we may see him submit to their demands and face them in Far Madding after all.

5.  Rand has a surprise meeting with Tam, for the first time since book one, and it does not go well!  Even though Rand was insane, how much blame rests with Cadsuane and Nynaeve here?

It is easy to see this meeting as a total disaster. However, it acts as the catalyst to Rand’s epiphany, which can only be considered a Very Good Thing. It was certainly a very risky maneuver, but I cannot think of anything else that could have worked. Whilst it seems that Cadsuane is the author of this plan, I imagine that all the Wise Ones had a chance to persuade her of its foolishness if they thought it was hopelessly stupid, and I am sure that Nynaeve would see the possibility of Tam being able to reach Rand when nobody else could.

6.  We got some more hints about the nature of Callandor, and now that the male Choedan Kal is also destroyed, they are more relevant than ever.  Does anyone want to try guessing what it's for?

Callandor is shaped as a sword, which would rather suggest that it is intended to be used as a weapon. It places no limit on the amount of power that the user can draw, which is probably a good thing if you are planning to use it to destroy the Dark One. So that is my prediction: Rand must use it to defeat the Big Bad Guy.

That only leaves us with one other puzzle: whom will he choose as the two women in the Circle? One obvious pairing would be Elayne and Aviendha. These are both very powerful channelers and Rand trusts them completely. However, he did not ask either of them to help him with cleansing saidin, so they might not be his first choice for this task either. Elayne’s confirmed pregnancy and Aviendha’s supposed quadruplets might also make him unwilling to risk their deaths in such a risky action. Plus, we know that Elayne is struggling with her channeling and might be too busy leading her armies against the Shadow. That makes me think that good old Nynaeve might be called upon to tug her braid at the Dark One, possibly with the help of a certain annoying Blue that is going to be rescued in the next book . . . he trusts both of these women as much as anyone else, and they are both certainly stubborn enough to stick with him to the bitter end.

7.  Rand travels to Dragonmount and has his epiphany.  Is he now sane for good?  What do you think he will be like when we see him again?  Was this what Cadsuane needed to teach him?  Feel free to speculate on the nature of the Lews Therin voice.

I am not sure that he is entirely sane, but he has certainly come to terms with what he has to do. Releasing all that anger and frustration will hopefully help him to be slightly more agreeable and approachable to his allies. I hope that he will be a little more like the Rand we first met in Book One, although there may be an overtone of sadness. At least he will be less likely to simply balefire people for being a little annoying! :D

Cadsuane’s actions have certainly helped him to integrate Lews Therin and find a way to go forward without despair and anger. In this respect, she has certainly taught him something massively important. However, this may not be all she has to do to fulfill Min’s viewing.

I am still not sure what to make of Lews Therin. Is he really a separate personality inside Rand or simply a figment of his madness? The fact that he knows things from the past suggests that he cannot be just an aspect of Rand himself, but that might be far too logical for this series! :D

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 6

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 42.

1) Verin demands a deal for Travelling his army & Mat demands a compromise. What do you think is in Verin's sealed letter of instructions? Will Mat hold to his bargain?

Even the Big Reveal about Verin’s Blackness offers no hint at what she has included in her letters. I wonder if they are all the same, independent of who receives them, and if she managed to deliver anymore of them. The fact that they were pre-written simply adds to the mystery. I have no idea what they might contain, because she seems to have passed all her relevant knowledge to Egwene. I am officially stumped! :D

I am not sure if Mat intends to keep this bargain or not. He may very well try to avoid it but then find that he gives in at the last moment, with lots of moaning and whining. I have to assume that the letter contains something rather important, and not just a request for someone to feed Verin’s cats after her suicide, so I rather hope that Mat actually does as he has agreed. But then again, this series has been filled by incidents that could have been prevented by simple communication, so I could be wrong and Mat will ignore the letter until it is too late and then wish that he had opened it on time.

2) Tuon, now referred to as Fortuna, carried through with her decision to attach the White Tower. What did you think of her discussion with Selucia concerning how this action might very well turn the Dragon Reborn against the Seanchan? Is Fortuna's concerns well founded, or should she be more concerned about how the Aes Sedai will react?

I am not altogether sure about how Rand will view this attack on the White Tower. Whilst he distrusts most Aes Sedai, he knows that they are a very valuable resource and that he will need all of them in the Last Battle. Tuon’s actions have reduced the pool of the Light’s channelers, so I doubt that he will be overly happy with her. Of course, we have seen him take a very pragmatic stance towards her refusal to become an ally, so he may simply see this as unfortunate and then pretty much ignore it.

In theory, the Aes Sedai should be a force to be feared by the Seanchan now that they have been attacked. However, I doubt that they will do anything in retaliation because it would simply place them back in danger and increase their risk of being made damane.

3) Rand is certain he has removed Graendal from the picture. Do you agree? Will Nynaeve forgive Rand for having her play a part in his ruse?

Whilst it would be very nice to think that she has been removed from the War, I am a little suspicious that we did not see a body or have a witness to her destruction. We know that she is extremely cunning, so I am not sure that Rand actually managed to outwit her with his plan. Somehow it all seemed a little too easy . . . However, I have no idea how this can be true when the Compulsion on Ramshalan was removed by the balefire blast.

I am sure that Nynaeve will eventually move past her shock and horror to accept the necessity of Rand’s actions. However, I am sure that she will hold herself for it somehow: because she is responsible for absolutely everything! :D

4) Nynaeve swallows her pride and asks Cadsuane and the Wise Ones to let her in on The Plan. Why do you think they want Perrin? Any ideas on what The Plan is?

I found it strange that they mentioned only Perrin, and not Mat at all. This suggests that it may not be Perrin himself, but one of his followers that they actually want to find. This makes sense because Perrin has a contingent from the Two Rivers in his army. As Rand has no particular friends left in that group, I can only assume that they want Tam to talk some sense into his son. However, I have no idea how the poor man could have any more success than Nynaeve at making Rand ‘normal’ again.

5) And the big reveal for this section concerns Verin. Did you see that coming? What more did she leave in her notebook for Egwene to decipher?

I think that we had worked out that she must be Black because she had lied in the past and was quite happy to use Compulsion on the sisters that she drove to swear fealty to Rand. However, her apparent lack of evilness made this a little difficult to accept. Discovering that she was a mole made a lot of sense, although it does rather make me worry about the oversight and management of Darkfriends, as we never saw her do anything remotely useful to the Shadow. I can only suggest that her direct supervisor has been a little lax in monitoring her evil doings: I suspect the Verin failed to make a quota on a regular basis! :D

As well as the lists of Black Ajah, I suspect that she has gathered lots of juicy information on the Forsaken and their actions. Other than that it could be just about anything. I hope that most of it proves to be useful in a strategic way, rather than just interesting snippets of information filed away for posterity. However, Egwene’s assessment that Verin had been acting much more absentminded and ‘Brown’ than she really was leads me to think that it will all be solid gold.

I do have one worry, though. Why now? What made Verin decide to do this at this particular moment in time?

6) The Seanchan finally attack the Tower! Feel free to gush about your favorite parts. What did you think of Bryne's demand of Warder status of Siuan (and his still unnamed second demand)? Was Egwene bad-ass enough for you? Pleased or surprised by the actions/reactions of the other Aes Sedai?

Obviously, Egwene’s awesomeness was well worth the wait and I expect some spectacular artwork portraying her defense of the Tower. It is hard to believe that she is the same person as the naive country girl that we met in the first book because she has changed so much. Surely this will convince the Hall that she is truly suitable as the Amyrlin of the reunited Tower.

Whilst I was a little frustrated by the need to spend time with Siuan and Bryne, I did enjoy their little moment of ‘profound love revealed’. Somehow I expect that the second demand will be a little more romantic: marriage would seem like a very safe bet.

I was pleased to see some of the Reds behaving in a sensible way and was even more happy to see Saerin take control and tell Katerine to get stuffed when the Red started blustering. I was more than a little disappointed by the apparent uselessness of the Greens during the attack, although Adelorna, the Battle-Captain seems competent enough.  

7) The aftermath: Do you think the Seanchan raid on the White Tower will be seen as a success or a loss by the Seanchan? How will Egwene react to being removed from the Tower? How will the Tower react to it's loss of Elaida?

Yet again, I am not sure about this question. Whilst they certainly captured some new damane, I suspect that the raid was a loss overall for the Seanchan. The loss of so many men is not vey important, but the number of to’raken killed will be much more significant, as will the number of fully trained damane who were killed or captured. I suspect that Tuon will not be pleased.

I am pretty sure that Egwene will demand to be returned to the Tower straight away and be very cross with her ‘rescuers’. I also suspect that she will forgive them and understand why they chose to carry her away to safety. As she is likely to be accepted back into the Tower with open arms, I doubt that this action will have a negative impact on her rise to power.

I think that once they calm down most Sisters will see that the Seanchan have actually done them a favor. This effectively removes the necessity of deposing Elaida, which would have been a very difficult decision for them to make. Now they have a perfect excuse for raising Egwene to the Amyrlin Seat and can do it with a clear conscience. The Seanchan attack will also focus everyone’s minds on the really important events happening outside the Tower, which should help in the reunification and the preparations for the Last Battle.

Can we have a brief moment for the playing of my tiny, tiny violin to mark Elaida’s passing into servitude . . . I hope that we will not be troubled by her again! :D

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