Sunday, December 21, 2014

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan: Week 5

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 36.

1.  Slayer prowls the World of Dreams, where a strange violet dome prevents access.  Meanwhile, gateways fail in the real world.  Is there a connection?  It's building to a battle between Perrin and Slayer very soon.  Do you think Perrin's work with nightmares will bear fruit or is it still too soon?

I think that it is pretty obvious that there is some sort of link between the dome and the no-Gateway zone. We know that Tel’aran’rhiod is not a function of the One Power, however, it seems too much of a coincidence that teleportation is blocked there and Gateways do not work in the waking world. We know that Moridin gave Slayer to Graendal and also some device from the Age of Heroes. I can only assume that it is this device that Slayer is using to hold Perrin in place.

I have to assume that Perrin, as one of our Heroes, will be successful in his battle with Slayer. So far he has surprised his enemy on several occasions and has shown that he is getting stronger and more capable of controlling the Dream. Slayer has the advantage of familiarity with Tel’aran’rhiod, but this could lead him to be complacent and overconfident, giving Perrin the necessary advantage. Also, I suspect that Hopper will play a pivotal role in Slayer’s demise. I suspect that Perrin will need to act in the near future as time is slipping away at an alarming rate: he needs to get back to Rand and start to prepare for the Last Battle.

2.  Perrin avoids a battle by submitting himself to a possibly pointless trial.  Do you agree with this choice?  How risky is it for Perrin?  At the same time, Morgase is finally revealed and will act as judge!  What do you think about that?  Does Berelain strike you as smitten by Galad?

I commented last week on how Perrin was sitting about doing very little at the moment, but I understand his desire to avoid an unnecessary battle. I had suspected that he might try to persuade Galad to agree to a dual, but this is actually a better alternative because both of them will be pivotal leaders in the Last Battle. Although Byar is still frothing at the mouth, I suspect that Perrin will be shown to have acted reasonably in killing those particular Children.

I believe that Morgase will be harsh but fair and that Perrin has nothing to fear from her as his judge. Unlike Galad, she has had plenty of time to observe Perrin and his actions, and she is already convinced that he is not simply evil. I suspect that Galad’s shock at discovering that he wrongly killed Valda for murder and Byar’s increasingly insane ranting will help to persuade him that Perrin could be a good man who was placed in a horrible situation.

Galad and Berelain making calves’ eyes at each other could get very irritating very quickly . . . but at least it will solve Faile’s problem! :D

3.  Sitters attempt to undermine Egwene (again) and Egwene wraps them up neatly (again).  Have we seen the final political battle or do you expect more?  What do you think of Egwene's proposed changes?

I sincerely hope so, because it is getting rather tiring to see them trying to seize control and have Egwene slap them down. Whilst there humiliation is somewhat gratifying, it would be even better to see them finally acknowledge that there are more important things to worry about. At the moment they still seem to be trying to ‘rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic’, but at least Egwene can predict their idiocy before it arises.

Her changes to the law seem so obvious that I am surprised that they were not included in the first place. But then, of course, when the laws were written the idea of the Sitters overthrowing the Amyrlin was probably beyond anyone’s imagination. Unfortunately, the Aes Sedai have drifted from their original goals and intentions over the centuries of peace and have become a highly inefficient gathering of power-obsessed individuals. This should hopefully focus everyone onto more immediate, and important, problems.

4.  Shots fired!  The dragons are in production and work well, but the Last Battle is near and time is short.  How many will they be able to make, and much of an impact will they really have?  Birgitte thinks the world has changed.  What are your impressions?

It is hard to predict how many dragons will be forged, but they will certainly be excellent for at least a short time when they are first deployed. As fixed positions they will be very vulnerable to targeted attacks from Channelers, but they will be devastating as long as they keep firing and might be pivotal in the Last Battle.

It seems that Birgitte’s sadness comes from her understanding of what it would be like to stand against the dragons as an attacking soldier. I am not sure if she has ever had to stand against Aes Sedai attack, but we know that she has seen damane at work, and they are the only things similar to the dragons in their power. As an eternal soldier, she can only be sad when she sees something that is designed to be such an efficient killer of men.   

5.  Wolves gather at Dragonmount and Perrin observes the “Veins of Gold” event from the World of Dreams.  The Last Hunt is now upon us and the wolves are mobilizing.  What are your thoughts?  Did you enjoy seeing this scene from another perspective?

To be honest, I thought that this scene was rather redundant with the exception of the wolves announcing that the decision had been made. I suppose that it helped to confirm the lag between Perrin’s timeline and that of everyone else, but I could have lived without it.

6.  Mat finally disposes of the gholam, helped out by some Kinswomen and a gateway.  What do you think?  Was this the solution you had in mind?

This was a wonderfully simple way to deal with something that cannot be killed. We know that it had originally been contained in an artifact from the Age of Heroes, so it seems highly unlikely that there could be any other way to deal with it, though the Forsaken would be highly unlikely to destroy such a powerful weapon even if it scared them half to death. I just hope that we have seen the last of it: and that it keeps on falling forever . . .

7.  Rand lands in Maradon in the eleventh hour, brining aid.  He then shows off some impressive channeling.  Do you think he made a dent in the shadow army?  Do you agree with his assertion that he must stay away from the main battle?  Feel free also to comment on Torkumen and King Alsalam.

I seriously doubt that he made any significant dent in the Shadow army as a whole, but it seems that he destroyed that particular section of it. I imagine that there are uncountable numbers of Trollocs being produced wherever, and however, they are created. I suspect that Moridin and the Dark One will be more than a little miffed at this incident, but it will not really alter their plans too significantly as there seem to be armies rolling south all along the Borderlands.

I see a certain similarity with the final destruction of the One Ring. All the armies will be the distraction whilst Rand, Nynaeve and Moiraine (I am certain it will be her) slip into Shayol Ghul to do their thing with the seals and Callandor. This means that Rand needs to be whole and fully ‘charged’ when that final confrontation takes place and that he must ignore what happens to everyone else. I am quite sure that the Dark One will attempt to draw Rand into battle in many places by attacking those he loves, but the Dragon must remain focused on his role in the Last Battle.

I doubt that any of us were surprised by the revelation about Torkumen being a Darkfriend. His actions last week were pretty damning, but Bashere’s comments about how the Trollocs had ignored him were all the confirmation that we needed. Him gouging out his eyes because of Rand’s Light was simply nice to see, because he deserved to be punished for the deaths he had caused.

I do not think that we really saw enough of Alsalam to comment on him at the moment. It seems that the Little Wolf is totally devoted to him, so that is certainly a huge hint that he is quite a good chap.

I want to add a quick note about the male channelers that attacked Maradon. I predict that we will discover that it was Taim and some of his evil Asha’man: he has been suspiciously absent for far too long now.

8.  Egwene plans an elaborate trap in the World of Dreams.  Do you expect it to be as easy as she imagines it?  Meanwhile, Gawyn has discovered important information in Caemlyn, but refuses to return. Does this strike anyone as a potentially disastrous case of miscommunication?

I am always a little uneasy about elaborate plans because there is so much to go wrong . . . but that could just be because I am unable to do all that psychological analysis and plotting myself: I am far too straightforward and simple! :D

I suspect that Mesaana can be tempted out into the open by sufficiently succulent bait. She has been massively unsuccessful in her attempt to destroy the unity of the Tower, so she must be desperate to regain some standing with the Dark One. I can only assume that she will eventually feel unable to ignore Egwene when she offers herself up on a plate. I doubt that the actual defeat will be a simple affair, but the initial manipulation should work very easily.

Arghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! PLEASE CAN SOMEONE HIT GAWYN??!???!???!?

Just when he seemed to be coming to some reasonable conclusions and behaving with common sense he goes and throws a petulant fit and refuses to return to Egwene’s side when she actually needs him. Now, I know that her ‘invitation’ was rather rude, but for crying out loud!??!???! If I was watching this on film I would be throwing popcorn at the screen! :D

I was pleased to learn that my deductions about the assassins were correct, although the Bloodknives sound remarkably difficult to defeat. Hopefully Gawyn will not return to Tar Valon to attend Egwene’s funeral . . .

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan: Week 4

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 25.

1. Morgase discovers that she was manipulated by one of the Forsaken. Do you think that her discovery will finally alter her attitude towards Tallanvor, or will the poor lad have to go off and die in the Last Battle all unrequited and depressed? Does this information make it more likely that she will reveal her true identity to Perrin and Faile?

It seems unbelievable that she had not already heard about Rahvin because everyone else knows and it is presumably common knowledge around the camp. Perhaps she is very good at not listening to conversations whilst she goes about her duties as a maid! Whilst this appears to be horrible news at first glance, I can also see it coming as something of a relief because she can now shed some of the responsibility for her stupid behavior. However, I am quite sure that she will still blame herself for the evil deeds done during that time.

Her presumed death offers her an opportunity to leave her old life behind, so she could simply choose to marry Tallanvor and have a fine time with him in the remaining time before the Last Battle. This might be quite tempting, but I suspect that her sense of duty will force Morgase to try to reach Elayne and offer her as much motherly advice as the poor girl can stomach. Poor Tallanvor!

I doubt that she will volunteer to reveal her identity until she is forced to, probably by an encounter with Galad when there are some final attempts at negotiation. This makes perfect sense, as it will be very awkward for Perrin and Faile to have the former Andoran Queen in their camp, especially as they have been using her as a maid. I would also suspect that she is unwilling to risk exposing her presence to the Whitecloaks.

2. Phew! Maradon has finally opened its gates for Ituralde and his troops. Personally I could have kissed Yoeli at first, but do you think that he will really refuse to continue fighting Shadowspawn in order to submit to execution for his actions? What did you make of Lord Torkumen: Darkfriend or idiot?

I was getting rather worried that the Little Wolf would become Trolloc fodder when his army started to fall apart. I can only wish that Yoeli had not needed to kill some of his won people in order to offer assistance. I rather hope that he decides to be a little less honorable and slightly more useful by continuing the fight against the Shadow. However, these Borderlanders do have a very strange sense of honor, so I would not be surprised if he remained pig-headed and threw his life away in a pointless gesture.

I have to agree with Ituralde’s assessment that the man is a Darkfriend. Surely even an idiot would have been slightly more upset at the thousands of Trollocs swarming towards the city walls. Also, I cannot imagine that Queen Tenobia allows idiots to take control of any of her cities, especially those that are tactically important.  

3. Speaking of idiots . . . yet again Gawyn rushes in and ruins Egwene’s plans. Do you feel any sympathy for the poor lad, with his love-addled brain, or are you getting frustrated with his inability to let Egwene take care of herself? Any more thoughts on the identity of the assassin and Egwene’s assumption that it is Mesaana? Will Gawyn be any more sensible once he returns to Caemlyn?

Argh! I am beginning to wonder if it will be Gawyn’s fate to become Egwene’s Warder, or if he will instead become a smoking smudge on the carpet when she zaps him out of pure frustration. He STILL has not got the message that she is very powerful and actually capable of taking care of herself, but I am not quite sure what will persuade him to trust her even slightly. I can offer an intensive course of head slapping, but even that might not prove successful! :D

This latest incident makes me even less convinced that the assassin is Mesaana, or even a Black sister or Darkfriend. I am pretty certain that we are dealing with those super ninja/assassins sent into the Tower by Tuon. We know that one was killed by Siuan and Bryne, but I believe that five were sent on the mission. Whilst the attacker has powers that could very easily be ascribed to the One Power, we were given some heavy clues that the ninjas were very, very dangerous, probably due to ter’angreals of some description.

I sincerely hope that Gawyn will start to change his mind about many things once he has time to talk to Elayne and think about Egwene’s situation. I would not be surprised if his sister, or Birgitte, feels the need to slap some sense into him, but I think that he just needs to get a better perspective on the situation and apply some reasoning to his future choices. A little more thought before he rushes into action would do him a world of good.

4. So, Birgitte entered the Tower of Ghenjei, wandered around it for a few weeks and then died. Can we expect a better outcome for Mat, Thom and Noal? Obviously they are going to survive, but apart from Mat’s luck, do they have any other advantage that you can think of that Birgitte was lacking?

I find it very hard to believe that Mat, Thom or even Noal will die in the Tower. So far this series has been remarkably kind to its lead characters and we are getting too close to the Last Battle to have a few meaningless deaths. Also, I feel certain that Moiraine will be rescued and marry Thom, so that makes me think that he will certainly escape unscathed (otherwise I will cry . . . a lot!). Mat is highly unlikely to die because of his previous experiences with the Finn, huge caution and astounding luck. Although we still have not had the reveal that Noal actually IS Jain Farstrider, which is very obvious but surely needs to be acknowledged at some point, I suppose that he is the most likely to die a heroic death. This will be a shame, but definitely worth another chapter in his memoires.

The fact that Birgitte was defeated by the Tower is very worrying. It does not sound like our heroes have an advantage that she did not, apart from Mat’s luck. This is the main reason why I worry that Noal will not survive this particular adventure. At least the should be able to stop Olver going with them . . .

5. What is it about idiot Trakands this week?!!??! So, just for a change of pace, Elayne dashes off and places herself in terrible danger and then somehow manages to survive by the skin of her teeth. I doubt that any of us were surprised by her rashness, but what did you think of her disguise: effective or not? Was anyone at all surprised to discover that the secretary/torturer was a Darkfriend? How much do you want to see Mellar with a knife through his eye?

Good grief! Yes, I know that Elayne is pregnant, but surely most women do not become suicidal maniacs during their pregnancies?!??!? If Lini was there she would have quite a few things to say to Elayne: and none of them would be at all complimentary! :D

Having said that, I was rather impressed by her idea to trick the Blacks. Her disguise most certainly worked: I was completely unconvinced by Chesmal’s assertion that she had seen through it all along. It seems that she learnt about some sort of impending attack on Andor, which makes me wonder if that was the content of Verin’s letter. The revelation that Darkfriends are searching for Mat and Perrin was hardly surprising as they have been on the hit list for quite some time now, but at least we know that these are not still Verin’s flyers circulating after her death.

Strangely, I did not expect any man so ‘dedicated’ in the pursuit of torture to be anything other than a Darkfriend. This does make me wonder about Sylvase’s allegiance: so far I have not suspected that she is a Darkfriend, but this makes me even more cautious of her.  

I presume that Mellar took care of the torturer, but I wish that we could finally get rid of him as well. The man makes my skin crawl and I suspect that he will return to be a nuisance either before or during the Last Battle. His possession of a copy of Mat’s medallion makes me even more nervous, because it will make him even more difficult to kill.

6. It seems that Perrin may be coming to terms with his inner Wolf. Do you think that this will happen in time for the battle with the Whitecloaks, or will he need a few more ‘training sessions’ with Slayer before he can take that final step?

I had rather expected the battle against the Whitecloaks to occur this week, so I was rather surprised that it simply did not happen. I find it rather strange that two armies can camp close to each other and send letters back and forth before they finally decided to actually have a fight. Something about that seems far too polite to me! :D

After waiting so long for this battle, I am beginning to wonder if it will ever actually happen. Of course, we know that a few words from Morgase could prevent a lot of unnecessary bloodshed, but I feel as if we are waiting for something else to happen before the two armies face each other. I am not sure what that might be, but I am pretty certain that something is coming.

I hope that Perrin makes his breakthrough fairly soon, as he really needs to deal with Slayer. I get the impression that he is making progress rather quickly, so hopefully he will be able to save any other wolves from dying permanently.

7. Lan’s little army is growing steadily and he is thoroughly annoyed by it! How funny is this? I was disappointed that we did not get to experience the swapping of his Bond to Nynaeve in this section: am I just impatient, or are you looking forward to that scene as well?

I love these little snippets of Lan’s journey to becoming king: they are so funny, and he is so grumpy about all these brave and loyal people showing up to help him! :D

I find it hard to believe that we will not experience this pivotal moment from Lan’s perspective, but this disconnect in the timelines is my one major criticism of this volume in the series. This one is nowhere near as irritating as the lag in Perrin’s plot. I find it rather jarring that Nynaeve has obviously not Travelled to collect Tam yet, even though I can understand that it was necessary to follow his story in this volume in order to divide the twelfth ‘book’ into three roughly equal segments. I hope that we do get to see him reaction, as I am sure that it will be both funny and touching at the same time.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Towers of Midnight 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 the Chapter 20.

1. Egwene gets Nynaeve and Elayne to agree to obey her as Amyrlin. Then she slays a member of the Black Ajah and catches a glimpse of Alviarin. What do you think Alviarin is up to these days. How big a part will she continue to play? How will this turn of events change the relationship between our girls?

I have to assume that Alviarin is desperately trying to gain approval from Mesaana by killing Egwene. At the very least her spying will gain useful information, but only so long as she is unnoticed. I presume that her exposure this time will make it very unlikely that she will be able to do very much productive from now on. I suspect that her days of being an influential player are behind her, but one good shot in Tel’aran’rhiod could be all that she needs to regain her status.

Hopefully this incident will finally convince both Elayne and Nynaeve that Egwene is the Amyrlin in more than name. They have not witnessed her remarkable transformation over the last few months, so it is probably quite good that they have had the chance to see her in action. They are the ones most likely to find it difficult to accept her status, so their compliance is vital.

2. Nynaeve heals madness. Will she be able to heal Rand? Does she even need to?

I am beginning to wonder if there is anything that Nynaeve cannot Heal if she decides to, although it seems that Rand’s madness would defeat her if she tried. It is rather fortunate that the Light has somehow formed a barrier between it and his mind so that she can leave him alone without worrying.

Removing the madness from the Asha’man could be a very significant step in the preparations for the Last Battle. However, I wonder if Taim and his supporters will be cooperative . . . they have been far too quiet recently.

3. Sounds like Egwene wants to use herself as bait to capture Mesaana. Do you think this is wise? Will it work? Will she and Gawyn ever be married?

Yes and yes! :D

Mesaana is a formidable opponent and so Egwene has to outwit and outpower the Forsaken. Somehow or other she has managed to circumvent the Oath Rod test, although that could be something as simple as her not thinking of herself as a Darkfriend. We know that the Aes Sedai all seem to be able to bend the truth without breaking their oaths by being very selective about their wording, so there may have been no convoluted trick to Mesaana’s ability to pass the test.

Of course Egwene is going to trap Mesaana and burn her into a crispy crisp: at the moment she seems all powerful and becoming even more awesome every time we meet her! She will also marry Gawyn eventually, but I suspect that it will be a much longer road and more difficult that killing one of the Forsaken.

4. Ituralde seems to be in big trouble in the Borderlands. Do you think Rand will come through for him and keep his promise?

I sincerely hope so, as I like the Little Wolf. I am not sure that Rand will get there in time, but I am very disappointed that the Saldaeans in Maradon are sitting on their hands at the moment. You would think that they might be enclined to assist someone who is fighting off the massive waves of Shadowspawn heading towards their city, but obviously I am not Saldaean enough! Hopefully they will finally decide to help out and defend themselves by helping Ituralde’s forces before they are completely minced.

5. Berelain and Faile have a heart to heart. Do you think their plan will work to dispel the rumors? Can they pull it off when they hate one another so much?

As they discussed all the alternatives that I could think of and showed how none of them would work, I hope that this one will help the situation. Whilst I can understand Faile’s desire to tear off Berelain’s head and then use it as a football, it would certainly not stop the rumors from circulating. I also agree with her that the First allowed this stupidity to go on for far too long in the face of complete disinterest from her ‘prize’. I am afraid that I cannot have any sympathy for someone who decides to steal another woman’s husband just because it seems like a good idea at the time. It is very obvious that Berelain has no real romantic interest in Perrin, and her motivation for trying to tear him away from Faile is beyond me.

I know that I could never succeed in hiding my intense dislike of Berelain if I were Faile, so I hope that she is a much better actor than I am. Perhaps she will be able to give herself hope by searching for a nice gullible man to divert Berelain’s attention from Perrin. However, I am not sure where she will find a suitable candidate as nobody has proved an obvious choice in Perrin’s merry band. Perhaps she will swoon when she meets Galad . . . although the prospect of the world’s two most beautiful people falling for each other makes me want to vomit! :D

6. What do you think of Mat and Elayne's contract about Aludra's dragons. Will this work? Cause contention?

This seems like a very sensible compromise. It gives them both what the want and need so it is likely to work out quite well. I suspect that Mat will eventually become Elayne’s general once she leads the forces of both Andor and Cairhien into the Last Battle, but he will not be happy about the responsibility.

I have to say that I am really enjoying Mr Sanderson’s Mat chapters: he gives the lad a much funnier voice than the one supplied by Mr Jordan. I particularly like Mat’s constant mental womanizing: I wonder if that will continue once Tuon returns to his immediate are.

7. Share your thoughts--anything that stood out to you--on Nynaeve's testing and her finally obtaining Lan's bond.

Good grief: they really do not want much from Nynaeve do they? We already had some idea of what would happen in the testing because of New Spring, but their determination to push her harder than any other candidate proves how stupid this is as a method for testing competence. If those administering the test can alter it so dramatically then it is massively unfair and open to corruption. I was not overly surprised that Lelaine tried to prove her power by voting against Nynaeve because she did not stick strictly to the rules. Good grief: she destroyed their shield blocking her ability to channel when not in position on the symbols and then gave them a demonstration of superior weave handling. I can only assume that their negative votes are based mostly upon anger and jealousy.

I was actually expecting that Nynaeve would punch Myrelle in the face: it is ironic that she controlled her anger so well in this situation after the testing debacle. She truly is Aes Sedai and I am glad that she finally has her link to Lan. They deserve it and have waited long enough for it to become a reality.

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