Sunday, June 29, 2014

Crossroads of Twilight 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 20.

1) Nicola and Areina are still around causing trouble. Do you think they'll stay around? Reveal Egwene's secrets? Get sent home?

I am pretty certain that we have not seen the last of their ability to cause a nuisance. Nicola seems to be very full of herself and has not yet been broken by the rigors of her training as a Novice. I suspect that even Sorilea and Cadsuane acting together would struggle to mash her ego down to size!

I doubt that she will reveal what she knows about Egwene, but she certainly does not seem willing to be a Novice and learn at a pace that the Aes Sedai consider appropriate. We have seen Egwene and the other Super Girls racing ahead of the Aes Sedai schedule, and so we know that it does not always have a happy ending. Unless Nicola learns to swallow her ego and slow down she is likely to burn herself out or do something incredibly stupid in her attempts to rush her education.

2) What do you think Egwene is planning with the newly-rediscovered method of making Cuendillar?

At the moment it seems to be a simple money-making scheme. However, I wonder if she intends to create a stock-pile of Cuendillar for Elayne to make into angreal? That could be very useful, but I am not sure if it is as simple as that. There was quite a lot of emphasis on the chains across the harbors of Tar Valon, so perhaps she intends to turn them into Cuendillar as well, but I cannot see how that will be useful for the siege as she wants to get past the chains to enter the city.

3) Siuan has discovered a strange trend of sisters too young to be Sitters being made Sitters. What do you think it means? Who or what is behind it?

The suggestion seems to be that the youthful Sisters are possibly easier to control or manipulate, which points to the Heads of the Ajahs as the ones behind this trend. We see it in both the rebels and the White Tower because both needed to elect new Sitters after the schism, although I am not sure if the rebels had their own Ajah Heads or were still indirectly controlled by those in the Tower. I cannot remember if the Reds also follow the same trend, but it makes sense that the other Heads would distrust a woman willing to overthrow a sitting Amyrlin by force. They have probably also noticed that Elaida is a rubbish Amyrlin and are trying to wrestle power away from her before she totally destroys the entire Order. This would also explain the meetings between the possible Ajah Heads that has been noticed in Tar Valon.

4) There is talk in Egwene's camp of taking the Red Ajah out of her stole entirely. Given that the Red's main purpose had to do with controlling men who can channel, and now things have changed, both because of Rand and because saidin has been cleansed, do you think the Red Ajah has become obsolete? Will they disappear completely?

I think that it is far too simplistic to see the Reds as all evil or useless because we have seen some very good examples of that in Liandrin, Galina and Elaida. We have seen at least one Red who is not a raving lunatic: Pevara Tazanovni has proven to not only NOT to be Black, but also to be willing to work with members of other Ajahs to hunt for the Black Sisters in the Tower. This gives me hope that the Reds are certainly worth a second chance, and I hope that Egwene gives them the opportunity to join the Hall once Elaida is removed.

Up until now, the Reds have had a vital role in protecting the world from male channelers who would inevitably go mad. I do not see how anyone can argue that their contribution has not been important. However, we know that Rand and Nynaeve have removed the Taint, which effectively removes the necessity for the Reds to exist in their current form. Perhaps they can channel their tenacity into another cause, but I do not think that Egwene will want to disrupt the structure of the Tower by forcing them to disband.

5) Egwene's Hall is arguing about a possible agreement with the Black Tower. It's based on bad information (or just a lack of info, I suppose) but it sounds like it might happen. Do you think this is a good or bad thing? What will it lead to? What form will it take?

In theory this is a good thing in my opinion. It makes sense that the two Towers should work together in order to maximize their capabilities, and we have seen that Bonding could be an excellent way for them to do this. However, I have reservations at the moment because I do not trust Taim as far as I could spit him. Approaching him might place the sisters involved in harm’s way, but if they encounter Logain first this could be a significant step in the right direction.

As we saw with the cleansing of saidin, the greatest uses of the One Power involve male and female channelers working together. We can also assume that the Forsaken will take advantage of this knowledge when it comes to the Last Battle, so it makes sense for the good guys to make use of the same techniques.

6) Egwene dreams both of a Seanchan woman who will save her, and of the Seanchan attacking the Tower. What do you think these dreams mean?

As the Amyrlin is titled The Flame of Tar Valon, it seems likely that the Seanchan attack will disrupt, or possibly change, the Amyrlin. Hopefully this means that Elaida will be removed and Egwene steps into her place. However, the dream mentions the lamp wobbling even after the attack, which suggests that the Tower will remain unsteady and fragile afterwards. This makes perfect sense, as nothing will be able to reunite the Tower completely or heal the wounds caused by the schism and the revelation of the Black Ajah.

The Seanchan woman is described as having a sword on her back, which makes me immediately think of Egeanin. Obviously, she has some important role to play in the future plot line, but I have no idea how she will end up saving Egwene. At this stage, just about anything is possible.

7) Who do you think killed Anaiya and her warder, and why? What was she doing on the outskirts of the camp in the middle of the night?

We know that they were killed using saidin, which immediately makes me suspect Halima, who was suspiciously absent earlier in the evening. This also makes much more sense than some random Asha’man showing up, murdering a random Aes Sedai and then moving on.

It seemed clear from Delana’s reactions that Halima would be massively opposed to the rebels joining forces with the Black Tower, and this murder could help to disrupt those plans. Perhaps it will not prevent them, but it should delay them for some time, allowing Halima time to try to work on a better plan to block them all together.

I have no idea what they were doing out and about in the dark, unless she really was heading to the latrines! Perhaps she was meeting with an informant from another Ajah or even Romande and did not want to be observed.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Crossroads of Twilight 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 Chapter 16.

1) Chapter 13 starts with Elayne returning to her bath and Aviendha alludes to some joke Birgitte played that relied upon the feedback loop built into her bond with Elayne. Any guesses as to what this joke was?

Knowing that Aiel humor is rather strange, and that Birgitte herself has a rather earthy approach to life, I can only assume that it involves sexual activity of some type. Perhaps Birgitte got out a pack of ‘naughty’ playing cards or the Randland equivalent of Playgirl to wave in front of Elayne’s nose . . . or perhaps she got Aviendha to give a VERY detailed description of Rand’s anatomy or technique . . .

2) Dyelin returns with the High Seats of Mantear, Haevin, Gilyard, and Northan. Do you foresee any issues concerning the ages of these High Seats? Dyelin seems to have an unhealthy curiosity about Brigitte. Do you think she is merely in disbelief about Brigitte's abilities, or do you think Dyelin is studying her for more nefarious reasons?

Apart from wanting to slap that obnoxious girl, I think that Elayne will not have much trouble with them. However, they are all so young that they could easily be seen as her hostages: something that might have been less of a problem if only Dyelin had brought their advisors with them. I am not sure that their youth reduces their influence amongst the other Houses because of the hereditary system that they follow, but Elayne could certainly be accused of exploiting their inexperience.

Dyelin is obviously a smart woman and she realizes that Birgitte is hiding something. She must also notice that Birgitte sometimes says things that could not possibly be true for someone of her age: she has far too much experience of war and the world in general. All of this makes Dyelin suspicious of the woman, especially as she is one of Elayne’s closest advisors. I think that Birgitte’s unladylike behavior rubs Dyelin the wrong way, but her animosity is mostly due to her concern for Elayne. I seriously doubt that there is any dark motive behind her curiosity as she has repeatedly proven herself to be totally loyal.

3) While Elayne met with Master Norry and Mistress Harfor (just how many spies does Elayne have in the her Palace, and can she keep them ignorant and in play?), Aviendha sheilded their conversation. Once the meeting was concluded, she told Elayne someone had attempted to listen in. Who do you think that was, and why?

It does seem as if Mistress Harfor would have an easier time rooting out the non-spies! :D

I think that most of the spies will be people simply trying to earn some extra cash by passing along what they hear, rather than evil Darkfriends and potential assassins. This means that they will be fairly easy to manipulate into spreading misinformation or being bought out by the threat of Aviendha and her belt knife, assuming that Mistress Harfor is not frightening enough!

I suppose the person trying to eavesdrop could have been any of the channelers in the Palace, so we have a fairly large list of candidates. I am not sure if Aviendha would have been able to identify someone that she had already seen channeling, so there is no real way to reduce the list at the moment. I suppose that the most obvious candidates are the Wise Ones, simply because they are so nosey, but it could have been just about anyone.

I imagine that they were simply trying to find out what was said at the meeting. If it was one of the Aes Sedai, it could have been because she suspected that one of eyes and ears had been compromised. However, that would assume that Mistress Harfor was not good at her job, and I would find that hard to believe.

4) It appears that Arymilla, who is vying for the crown of Andor, isn't above holding prominent people hostage in order to strengthen her claim. Do you think she is as daft as Elenia believes she is? Elenia has a plot to use Naean Arawn in order to further her own claims for the thrown; do you expect that to go well for Elenis? What is up with the seemingly mad and definitely violent Nasin?

I seriously doubt that she is quite as stupid as she appears, because she seems to have been far too successful in gathering a large army for a total airhead. Of course, she could be a puppet being used by a much more clever person in the background, such as one of the Chosen or even a different House, but I suspect that her wide-eyed appearance is all an act. After all, she does employ a ruthlessly efficient torturer . . .

Elenia seems to be allowing herself the luxury of quite a lot of wishful thinking. It is quite obvious that Arymilla has warn her down to a truly desperate state, so I seriously doubt that her plans will come to anything. Both she and Naean are desperate, but hopelessly caught in a rather clever trap. As far as I can see, her only course of action is to wait until Elayne defeats Arymilla and then hope to persuade the new Queen that they were unwilling supporters in the rebellion. Unfortunately for Elenia, I doubt that Elayne will be easily swayed.

I am not sure if Nasin is truly mad or just a very good actor. Either way, he is not to be trusted and is probably working on plans to seize the throne for his own House. Of course, his granddaughter might be the actual person to watch in this case, and he could be suffering from poisoning that causes his unpleasant behavior. She seems far too passive for my liking.

5) We spent some more time in Hanlon's head. He and Falion have some sort of an agreement wherein they exchange info behind Shiaine's back. Which of the three do you expect to end up dead first? Shiaine asks three things of Hanlon: free some sul'dam and/or damane, shift some guards away from the food warehouses, and entertain Elayne in bed. Which of the three do you expect Hanlon to accomplish and what do you think is the master plan?

Being in Hanlon’s head always makes me want to take a shower . . . yuck! :(

I suspect that Falion will die first: both Hanlon and Shiaine are far too cautious to be outwitted by a simple Aes Sedai. Also, Shiaine is completely ruthless, so she will have little compunction about knifing a Sister if she proves untrustworthy.

I think he has the best chance of freeing some of the sul’dam and damane. We know that Birgitte is responsible for the guard patrols, so he has little chance of altering her orders without being caught. As for bedding Elayne: I suspect that the Pit of Doom will freeze over and we will see the Dark One dancing the can-can in a frilly dress before Hanlon gets to lay one grubby little finger on her. Even if she does not blast him into a greasy spot on the ground, I doubt that he could survive an attack by both Aviendha and Birgitte . . . although I would certainly like to see him try . . .

The attacks on the warehouses seem fairly pointless, but they could simply be a way to create confusion and chaos. This would also be true for releasing some of the Seanchan, although that could also be part of some agreement that has been made to gain their cooperation. Shiaine obviously assumes that Hanlon can manipulate Elayne by sleeping with her, which does not say much about her respect for other women, but seems like an obvious way for Moridin to gain some control over Andor. 

6) Delana shares a few shocking tidbits with Egwene: 1) Several Aes Sedai suspect Egwene has bonded Gareth Bryn; and 2) Many Aes Sedai are considering negotiations with Elaida. Which did you find more amusing? Would either benefit Egwene's efforts to make the Tower whole before the end of the world?

The idea of Egwene bonding Gareth Bryne made me giggle, because it is such a great idea. If we did not know about his relationship with Siuan, I would say that it was a brilliant idea and she should have done it ages ago. As it is, I wish Siuan would just drag him off to bed and have some sexytimes before the Last Battle arrives: I am sure that she would be an entirely different person if she did! :D

The idea of negotiations with Elaida just shows how deluded and scared many of the Sisters really are. They were quite happy to sit in Salidar denouncing her as a false Amyrlin, but are completely unwilling to actually do anything about it. We saw this when some of them threw up after Egwene announced the declaration of war. We also know that there is not even the tiniest chance that Elaida will put aside her personal grievances to let the Tower reunite: she will want her revenge on every single person who has opposed her, and that revenge will have to be very public and very humiliating. This alone proves that she could never be a successful Amyrlin after the reunification of the Tower.

I find it strange that the rebels actually believe her proclamation about Rand. I know that the Three Oaths mean that she should not be able to lie, but it strikes me as very odd that they refuse to think that she could be bending the truth at all. Of course, we know that it was actually drafted by a Black Ajah who can lie as much as she wants, but even that possibility is one that they refuse to even contemplate. I seriously do not know how Egwene withstands the urge to give them all a good slapping: they are such idiots!    

The only way that negotiations can help Egwene is by momentarily letting Elaida think that she has won some advantage over the rebels. Other than that, it seems like a complete waste of time to me.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Crossroads of Twilight 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 Chapter 12.

1. Well, I suppose that we now know that Faile is alive and well, more or less. Do you think that Nadric will avoid her from now on, or will he simply wait until she is more alone? What do you think is going on between Galina and Therava?

I have to admit that I found that whole episode with Nadric rather unpleasant to read because I could not see any way that Faile could escape him. I had pretty much forgotten about Rolan, but at least he came to her rescue in the nick of time. I know that Nadric made that comment about her not being all that pretty, but I would not be surprised if he now nursed a grudge against her. Of course, he might not behave as expected because of the whole strange Aiel ethos, but I would be constantly looking over my shoulder if I were Faile.

OK, I have to ask this because it is making me question myself: does anyone else get the impression that Galina and Therava have some sort of sexual relationship going on? It sounds as if it is not exactly consensual on Galina’s part, but that seemed to be the hints that I was picking up from all those comments about Therava enjoying dominating the Aes Sedai . . . or perhaps I am totally wrongheaded in this case. We know that Galina has been forced to swear an oath to be obedient to the Wise Ones, but Therava seems to be taking this to an extreme.

2. Still with Faile, what do you think of her growing relationship with Rolan? Do you think that he might even help her to escape, or is that simply wishful thinking on her part?

I was very relieved when he showed up and saved her, but I can see this being a possible problem for her. It seems as if she is already feeling drawn to him, and it might be very easy to do things that she might regret later once she has escaped. Of course, he might play a part in actually allowing her to survive that escape, but I doubt that everything will end well for both of them.

It is difficult to say whether or not he will help her to escape because the Aiel have such strange ideas about what is honorable. He does seem to question Sevanna’s warping of Aiel tradition, but that does not mean that he will feel strongly enough to commit a dishonorable act. We see both Chiad and Bain willing to fulfill their obligations as gai’shain, so I imagine that he will behave in a similar way to them. However, I do worry that, if he does help Faile to escape,  we will find both she and Berelain playing with Perrin’s affections later on, which will drive me even further to distraction! :(

3. Poor Elsie sees a ghost, but Elayne dismisses it as nerves. We do not seem to have had much supernatural activity in this series, so this seemed very significant to me. Was the ghost real or do you think that there might be some other explanation? Feel free to say if you think I am simply being overly suspicious! :D

I do not know why this jumped off the page at me: perhaps because we have had so little of a similar nature. I worry that it might have been a Forsaken eavesdropping on Elayne or simply a Darkfriend, though it seems unlikely that they would be able to follow her because she has been Travelling.

I also wondered if this could be some sort of loosening of the barriers separating the dead from the world of the living. Mr Jordan’s world is very explicit in its use of reincarnation, but we have no idea about where the various ‘souls’ go to wait for their rebirth. This makes me wonder if there is an afterlife of sorts, and that gives us the possibility of nasty dead things crawling back from their graves. I can see how that might work in the Dark One’s favor, as it would surely cause vast amounts of chaos and distract everyone from finding and killing Darkfriends!

4. I am getting rather tired of Mellar and his evil smugness, but I am a little concerned about Elayne’s decision to berate him in public. Does this mean that she realizes that his moment of heroism was completely staged? Do you think that he might try to retaliate for the embarrassment?

As with Taim, this guy seems to have “I am a Really Bad Guy!” tattooed on his forehead, so I fail to understand why he is still alive and given a position of trust. I hope that someone makes him familiar with the pointy end of a dagger as soon as possible, but I doubt that this will happen as so few of the irritating baddies in this series get what they deserve.

I was not at all sure about Elayne’s thinking in this chapter. It seemed to hint that she knew that Mellar was untrustworthy, and yet she has not set Birgitte on him yet, which strikes me as a colossal mistake. Equally, I have no idea at all why she thinks that it is a good idea to set him up as her baby-daddy: I cannot see how that would win her any support from single person who has met him. He is truly evil and I am quite sure that he will try to stab Elayne as soon as he thinks that Mili will not punish him for the action: she is playing a very dangerous game with this viper.

5. We have lots of coming and goings in Caemlyn. Do you think that the Aes Sedai at the Silver Swan are Elaida’s, independents or parts of Cadsuane’s group? What about the group that Mellar ‘helped’ to get into the city: are they trustworthy at all?

We know that Aes Sedai at the inn want to keep Cadsuane’s name quiet, which suggests that they are part of her group. I have forgotten whether or not Elaida knows that the elderly Sister has come out of retirement, so I doubt that the group has anything to do with her. Also, it makes sense that any Sisters trying to remain impartial would be more circumspect in their movements in a city held by one of Rand’s allies.

Even if Luan’s men are as honest as the day is long they will surely now feel an obligation to Mellar, which he will try to use to manipulate them or gain information. This will make them suspicious in Elayne’s eyes, and her need to keep an eye on them has effectively reduced her useable forces rather than increasing them.

6. What is it with the Seafolk and square miles of land? I thought that Rand had granted them that as part of his agreement with them, but maybe Zaida does not know about that yet. Do you have any ideas about why this land is so important to a sea-faring people?

In more normal times it seems like a wonderful idea for the Seafolk to have an area near every major city where they can conduct trade without attracting so much taxation. However, with the Seanchan destroying their fleet and collaring all their channelers, it seems like commerce should be a little lower on their list of priorities. Of course, we do not know what their prophecies say, so it could be that they include a similar promise that Rand will destroy their way of life, just as the Aiel ones do. Perhaps it says that he is the “Great Bringer of Warehouses” or something similar! :D

Monday, June 9, 2014

Crossroads of Twilight 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 8.

(Whew! I am now officially caught up. Hurray!)

1. We learn a lot about Darkhounds from Masuri and Elyas. Do you expect that this will be the wolves' role in the last battle? Whom could this large pack be after, if it's not Perrin?

I am one of those people who gets much more upset about a dog dying in a film than a whole bus load of humans, so I really hope that we do not see any more wolf deaths. Having said that, I guess it is inevitable both that they will take part in the fight against the Dark One and that they will not all sail through miraculously unscathed. Unfortunately, it sounds as if they would not be able to stand up to Darkhounds particularly well, which makes me even more worried for them.

I automatically assumed that they were hunting Perrin when he first found the tracks, but that theory was proved wrong. It seems unlikely that they are looking for Mat, because he is not in the area, and the same is true of Rand. However, the person commanding the hounds might not know that, so the two lads might still be possible targets. I find it very worrying that there is an unusual absence of wolves from the area: perhaps the Darkhounds are busy “recruiting” from their bretheren.

2. Perrin has no goal other than freeing Faile. Could he be fixating on her to the degree of endangering the actual mission at hand? Does he need a wake up call?

As far as I remember, Perrin’s current mission is to bring Masema to Rand. Whilst it could be argued that his pursuit of the Shaido is delaying this task, I am not sure that he would be any further along even if Faile was still by his side. Masema seems remarkably unwilling to run into Rand’s waiting arms, so I cannot imagine that he would volunteer to head east. I am pretty sure that it would end in a pitched battle and Masema’s greater numbers could prove very difficult for Perrin to overcome.

I am not sure if he needs a wake up call or not. Faile is probably going to be vitally important to Perrin’s success later in the series and I guess that it is a good idea to free Alliandre, what with her being a queen and all that. Anything that crushes the Shaido once and for all is certainly worthwhile, especially if it involves Sevanna being totally humiliated, and the whole pursuit is a great bonding experience for the disparate groups involved. I also have to believe that the Pattern should be helping Faile to escape if that was what was ‘meant’ to happen, so I will be content to see how Perrin decides to mince the Shaido.

3. Masuri and Annoura have been meeting with Masema, and so, it seems, have Suroth. What are all these characters planning?

I am pretty certain that Suroth is simply trying to deflect Masema from attacking her troops. I suspect that her plan is to use him to harass Perrin, or at least reduce his numbers, so that she can remove one opponent with the minimum of Seanchan blood shed. Once Masema has done all that she considers useful I am quite sure that he will meet a very swift end.

As for the Aes Sedai, I am really not at all sure what they are planning. Perhaps they are simply trying to understand his motives and predict his intentions. However, it seems as if he is as mad as a bag of ferrets, so I doubt that they will be able to get anything useful from him. I get the impression that Mr Jordan is trying to make us doubt these Sisters, especially Annoura, and to perhaps think that they are Black. Either that or I am just overly sensitive to Perrin’s paranoia! :D

4. Masema's letter from Suroth conveniently does not mention his name or description, so Perrin could potentially use it himself. What would be on your wishlist?

I noticed that as well. Suroth is too clever and too careful to put anything more explicit in the letter so that she can always deny whatever it is eventually used for. I am surprised that Masema would be taken in by such an obvious ploy, but perhaps he sees precisely what she has done and is simply aiming to use her for his own ends. He is certainly devious enough to sell Perrin to Suroth in a heartbeat.

In the context of the story so far, I would use it to kill Suroth and escape punishment for her murder. Removing her would make it much more likely that a non-Darkfriend will take charge of the Return and see the sense of allying with Rand.

5. Everyone in camp believes Perrin was unfaithful with Berelain, and she's not too concerned with denying it. Could she be endangering morale? Do you really believe that she's as concerned with rescuing Faile as she seems to be?

This whole thing with Berelain is really, really irritating. It was bad enough when she was flirting with Perrin in front of Faile, but at least I could understand that she was doing that to provoke a reaction and have a good giggle. Now she seems to genuinely think that she is doing him some sort of favor by maintaining this illusion: assuming that his nose is detecting her true feelings. This makes no sense to me at all, but I am not a beautiful woman used to wrapping men around her little finger, so I might not be the best person to try to understand the blatant strumpet woman.

I think that there is a good chance that her behavior is losing Perrin a lot of respect and possible support from the men in his group, which is hardly a good thing. I am also not sure that he will be able to walk once Faile learns about the rumors . . . However, Faile herself is another woman that I do not understand, so it could be that she will see this as confirmation that Perrin is desirable or something stupid like that. I have given up trying to understand either of these women and their crazy behavior: they are as incomprehensible as Aiel jokes!

6. Mat is heading north from Ebou Dar at the exact same time as Perrin finds the Shaido in northern Altara. Could we… could we have a meeting?

Somehow I doubt it. One thing I have come to realize about Randland is that it is rather large, so there could still be many miles between the two parties even if they are relatively ‘close’ to each other on the map. Also, neither party is advertising their presence, so they could pass by each other relatively closely without realizing.

Of course, all that is moot given that they are both ta’veren . . .

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