Monday, May 27, 2013

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan Read Along: 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 you can find links to everyone else’s thoughts at Musings on Fantasia. We begin reading Book 4: The Shadow Rising straight away and you can find the posting schedule at Dab of Darkness.

This week we read through to the end of the book.

1) We saw Rand at the beginning of TDR, and then VERY briefly throughout, and then at the end. Overall, for the main character, he wasn't in the book much. What do you think of this format? Did it work? 

I can understand why some people would find this a little unsettling, as they are used to a story with a single hero whose story is the most important. However, I really like the complexity of the story that Mr Jordan is telling, and I find it a pleasant change to see that our hero’s success is actually built upon the actions of many others. It is ironic that so much Fantasy ignores the pattern that Tolkien set in the Lord of the Rings when he split the narrative in half for almost two-thirds of the overall story arc. By showing the importance of the other characters along the way, we are given a sense that defeating the Dark One is not just a case of our hero doing one simple act and then living happily ever after. This confrontation is something that has played out repeatedly and each time before the Dragon has failed because there are so many variables that have to be just right for him to succeed. This gives us an unusually pessimistic feeling as we can see so many ways in which everything will go wrong and the Pattern will need to start all over again in a different Age.

Also, in this book, Rand has not actually done a great deal apart from travelling to Tear and going ever more crazy along the way. Yes, we could have followed him and seen his effect on the people as passed through, but I found it much more effective to see only the chaos swirling in his wake. Plus, the one scene that we did have, when he killed that group of people and then played with their bodies, was so disturbing that I think we might have found it difficult to continue liking him if we had seem too much of that kind of behavior. We are left with the suspicion that he might have done more, and worse, but we can still cling to idea of the ‘nice’ Rand that we saw in the earlier books.

2) This time when Rand "killed" Ba'alzamon, there was a body left behind, and everyone seemed to agree that he was dead this time. Yet, Moiraine insists this isn't the Dark One, but probably Ishmael, one of the Forsaken. What do you think of this explanation? Is she right? Is it believable? If so, what does it mean for Rand and his friends?

I find it hard to believe that Ba’alzamon is actually dead in a final, permanent way, although I have more optimism about it this time around than before. However, I agree with Moiraine that he is not The Dark One, who I am fairly certain is still bound behind the failing seal. We have seen various Forsaken loose on the world, but they were placed closer to the outside of the prison, I believe, and so have reached the surface and freedom first. The Dark one would be buried in the lowest level and all of the seals must break before he can finally be free.

We know that there are many more books and that there are lots of other Forsaken running around being a nuisance, so, even if Ba’alzamon / Ishmael is actually dead, this is only the first minor victory. It is a step in the right direction, because it removes one of the Forsaken, but there is still a very long way to go before we even reach the Final Battle and the confrontation with the Dark One. In that time they must defeat the other Forsaken, deal with the Seanchan, the Black Ajah, the Children of the Light and the other assorted Darkfriends, unite the nations behind the Dragon Reborn and Rand needs to learn how to control his powers. This is all going to take some time!

3) Julian Sandar betrayed our girls, but then felt guilty and helped Mat get into the Stone. Do you think we'll see him again? Will he will be ally or foe from here on out? (Also he's totally crushing on Nynaeve. Do you see that coming back into the story at all?)

I feel as if Julian is going to be one of those secondary characters, like Hurin or Masema, who will pop up again. He is tied to their fate and also feels terrible about leading the Black Ajah to them. He will feel honor bound to serve them in recompense for his behavior, probably to the point where they get annoyed that he will not forgive himself even though they already have.

I did not really notice his attitude towards Nynaeve, but if he hangs around like a lovelorn puppy it will be interesting to see how she deals with it. At least it will be a constant source of irritation so that she can always touch saidar! :D  

4) Perrin sort of had a meltdown and went into full knight-in-shining-armor mode when Faile was suddenly in danger. He defied both Moiraine and Hopper, putting his life (and perhaps more?) in danger to save her. Did you see that coming? What do you think their relationship will be now?

These two are meant for each other, I think that is fairly obvious. She is the falcon that Min saw in her viewing and I predict a marriage in the not too distant future, even though Perrin is likely to fight it every step of the way.

The tie between them was very palpable from the first time they met, so I was not at all surprised that he went into full hero mode to rescue her. It is interesting that we have the typical Romance trope of her irritating the life out of him, which means that they are meant for one another, so he should now realize that he is in love with her. Anyway, Perrin always feels responsible for everyone, and he would have done the same thing for any of the others in the group, even Moiraine.

5) Quite a bit is revealed at the end of TDR about the role the Aiel will play. This was an earlier question we had. What do you think of their role and how will it impact the story?

I really love the Aiel, even though I struggle to forget the Fremen when I read them. I assume that they will be among the first people to swear fealty to Rand now that he has declared himself to be the Dragon Reborn. They also seem to have a lot of ancient knowledge that might be useful for both Rand and the Aes Sedai, although I doubt that Tar Valon will want to acknowledge any ignorance.

So, it seems that they will form the backbone of Rand’s army in the Last Battle. However, nothing is ever straightforward in this story, so I imagine that their role will be far more complex than that.

6) There were some people who didn't like how nebulous the endings of books 1 and 2 were. How did you feel about this ending? Did it work? Did you have any complaints?

I was reasonably happy with the previous endings, although their dream-like qualities made it difficult to decide how ‘true’ they were. I felt that this ending was more substantial, mainly because we were not so totally dependent on Rand’s experiences and interpretation of events. I liked the way that the different strands of the story were woven together so that all the important players were in position for the final act in the Stone: it really felt as if the Pattern were pulling them all towards one goal.

My only complaint is that I still do not know what has happened to Bella! :D


  1. I liked the format as well. I thought it worked very effectively in this case. I also agree that Perrin and Faile are totally meant for each other. Gotta love the sappy stuff! ;)

    1. Some romance is fine, just as long as it is realistic and doesn't make me dry heave all the time! :D

  2. Sorry I am late to the party.

    I too enjoyed seeing that the success of the story arc (for this book) was built upon many characters, and not just our hero Rand. And you are so right to point that out about Tolkien - that is one thing I really like about his work: that we don't just focus on Frodo and Sam, but on the other characters and their efforts to make it possible for Frodo to do what must be done.

    Since we have taken out a Forsaken, I wonder if one of our good guys will be taken out soon, kind of the equality/balance of good and bad in the big story line.

    I kind of want to see Nynaeve permanently irritated because a lovelorn puppy of a man is following her around ;).

    I expect Jordan will string things out for many more books before a marriage happens. And I am not convinced the first will be Perrin and Faile. Though I do like them as a couple.

    While I am really looking forward to more Aiel, I have to wonder how fractured they are as a society and how easy, or not, it will be to unite them under Rand. Either way, going to be lots of entertainment for us readers.

    Dammit! How could I forget Bella! She's my girl! Oh, shame on me. I love having equines in a story line and she's an excellent tie to Two Rivers without feeling all Hobbity.


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