Sunday, December 28, 2014

Towers of Midnight 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 the Chapter 40.

1) Perrin goes through his trial. What did you think of it? Morgase provides judgment but hands off the punishment decision to Galad; why do you think she did so? What do you think Galad has in mind for punishment? Will Perrin ever see that punishment? 

To be brutally honest I found it rather anti-climactic. We did all that waiting around and postponing so that the injured could be Healed and then the trial took about five minutes: I had rather expected something a little more prolonged and dramatic! :D

Apart from that, I thought that the judgment was pretty much the only one that Morgase could reasonably reach based upon the very biased evidence offered up by Byar. The fact that we could almost feel the spittle flying off his lips did very little to help his cause and I am sure that his intense hatred made it much easier for her to give Perrin the benefit of the doubt.

I was impressed by her decision to give Galad the task of pronouncing the nature of the punishment. Although the Whitecloaks ‘lost’ the trial by Perrin being found innocent of murder, this gave the impression that they still ‘won’ by having him punished in a manner that they found suitable. I also imagine that Morgase would know that Galad would be unlikely to chose a horribly vindictive punishment. She was probably also hoping that it would make him think about the ‘grayness’ of Perrin’s guilt: he seems to be making some progress in this area of his thinking, which makes him a much more sympathetic character than Byar who is really starting to annoy me at the moment. I suspect that Perrin may never be punished in a way that we would see as negative: Galad will probably demand that he must fight the Shadow in the Last Battle or something equally token.

2) Perrin spent a lot of time in the Wolf Dream during this section. He and his small band of wolves fought Slayer more than once. What did you think of these multiple fights? How about Egwene's reaction to Perrin (and vice versa) in the Wolf Dream/T'A'R? 

I have to admit to shedding a tear or two when Hopper died . . . he was such a terrific character! :(

It seems that Perrin has met his match in Slayer, certainly when they are in the Wolf Dream, so I am not sure that he will be able to kill the man there. This is a shame because of what he did to Hopper, but it seems like sticking a knife into whilst he is awake will be much easier. We know that he is, in some way, the man naming himself Lord Luc and yet he refers to Luc in the third person, which makes me wonder about his sanity: perhaps he has a split personality or is similar to Fain in his being possessed by some ancient evil. Whatever he is, he needs to die but will probably be around for a little longer to annoy Perrin and kill more wolves.

Perrin’s interaction with the Aes Sedai was rather funny because it showed how much Tel’aran’rhiod is based upon what you accept as the truth: they are so wrapped up in their ability to wield the One Power that they see it as the ultimate weapon. It is no wonder that Bair is as dangerous as anyone else in this world because she has an iron will and does not have the delusion that she has a special power that only she can control. I assume that this revelation will improve Egwene’s abilities quite dramatically, as was shown in her confrontation with Mesaana. Of course, the is also quite correct to say that she has trained during a time of great peril whilst the Forsaken spent most of their time as the dominant, dangerous elements stalking the Dream and so they are not actually as powerful as they think they are.

Also, everyone get out your tiny violins to play a sad tune for Mesaana drooling away the rest of her life whilst sitting in a puddle of her own waste . . . :D

3) Egwene has a meaningful meeting in T'A'R with the Sea Folk, the Wise Ones, and some of her Aes Sedai. Why do you think the Kinswomen were not invited? Will these leaders be able to convince their folk that trading apprentices is a good idea? 

Good point about the Kin: I had not thought about their absence. However, Egwene sees them as a part of the Tower’s future, so I assume that she sees them as being subject to her authority. This is probably one case where Egwene is simply thinking as the Amyrlin: the Kin are a branch of the Tower and so will honor the agreement in that capacity.

I almost cheered when this agreement was being beaten out. Finally, some people showing common sense and sharing their strength in the fight against the Shadow! Whilst I can see most channelers having an instant opposition to this proposal, this will mostly be due to their desire to remain independent and self-governing. Just as long as none of the groups, especially the Tower, try to place themselves above the others this will work out beautifully. Of course, it would have been much better if this all could have happened hundreds of years ago so that they were not scrabbling to do it ten minutes before the start of the Last Battle, but better late than never. So much about this world is weakened by the lack of trust between various groups that this kind of open exchange of information is a breath of fresh air.

Of course, they could also learn a great deal from the damane, but that will be a much more difficult challenge to overcome. 

4) Egwene battles Mesaana and wins. Do you think Egwene received a valuable nudge from Perrin (he blocked Balefire!!!) and was able to apply that to the a'dam? Who do you think Mesaana was impersonating in the real world?  

I have no doubt that Perrin’s skills were the revelation necessary for Egwene to escape from the a’dam and then turn Mesaana’s brain to mush. As an aside, how sick was it that she could actually hear her mind snap? We have had constant reminders that non-channelers can be just as powerful in the Dream, but Egwene had never really considered how Bair could survive against weaves that she could not even see. This short-sighted approach to the strange world of Tel’aran’rhiod could have been her downfall, but Perrin saved her from her own blinkered view of ‘power’.

We know that Mesaana was masquerading as a woman with short brown hair and blue eyes. I assume that she was posing as an Aes Sedai, but I have not complied a list of descriptions for those that we have met, so I am afraid that I cannot suggest a name. I was a little surprised that none of the other Sisters identified her as I was expecting a gasp of horrified recognition, especially from Siuan or Leanne. Hopefully we will get a name eventually: I am sure that we will have encountered her before, but that she was someone who did not stand out in any particular way.   

5) Gawyn and Egwene are now Bonded! But at what cost? Was it too little too late? Or are these stubborn lovesick fools going to have a lifetime to irritate each other? 

This took rather longer than I had hoped, but at least Gawyn finally got his thick head around the concept of what Egwene actually needed from him. Now that he has worked past his stubborn need to be in charge of everything he should be an excellent Warder and they will probably get along quite wonderfully. However, with the Last Battle approaching rapidly I would not predict a long and happy life for them. It seems very likely that one or both of them will be killed before the end of the series because Egwene is immensely powerful and, therefore, a prime target for the Shadow. She is also very likely to sacrifice herself in order to win the Battle because she will not be held back by simple sentiment.

Did anyone else notice that Gawyn’s warning about the bloodknives went missing? I wonder what happened there?

6) We spent just a tiny amount of time with Aviendha as she is headed to Rhuidean. She meets a mysterious woman, Nakomi, in the wastes. What did you get out of their conversation? Any guesses as to who/what Nakomi is? 

It seems highly likely that this was a vision of some sort because Nakomi was too knowledgeable about world events and used her questions to guide Aviendha’s thinking in a way that almost suggested telepathy. I wonder if Aviendha is already in Rhuidean and has passed through the Glass Pillars: if this is a vision from the ter’angreal she might not be aware that she is not still in the real world.

If this is the real world then I can only suggest that Nakomi is a personification of the Creator. Her appearance and words will no doubt have a significant impact on what the visions in the Pillars reveal and also on the counsel that Aviendha will offer to the Aiel as the Last Battle draws near. We know that the Car’a’carn is supposed to destroy them, but this could simply be by allowing them to fulfill their destiny and then return to a more ‘normal’ life outside of the three-fold land. Yet again, I am reminded very powerfully of the Fremen in Frank Herbert’s Dune: their way of life is totally destroyed by their decision to follow their prophesized messiah.

7) Perrin has forged a new hammer. Feel free to comment on this scene. What powers do you think the hammer has? Will Perrin & his Channelers make more weapons for the coming Last Battle? 

This was certainly a very cool scene and it makes perfect sense that Perrin would have a Talent for making power-wrought weapons. It seems that the hammer is always warm to the touch, so perhaps it burns Shadowspawn?

Whilst it sounds like a grand plan for Perrin to churn out a ton of mega weapons for the Last Battle, I suspect that he will not have enough time to make many. Even with the possibility of swapping out the channelers helping him, assuming that Neald is not unique in his ability to help in their production, I doubt that he could make very many before the fighting starts.  

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.

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