Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan: Week 6



It seems like the end of an era: this is the last time that I will set questions for this Read Along because we only have two more weeks of reading to complete. It seems only yesterday that we started this epic journey . . .


This week we read through to the end of Chapter 36.


1. Finally, Graendal’s Compulsion of the Great Captains has been uncovered. Do you think that Mat’s medallion will protect him from her ‘advances’? It seems as if Ituralde was the only Captain to resist the Compulsion: any ideas about why that might be?

I certainly hope that the medallion will provide some protection from her, although her ugliness will probably cause Mat to steer clear anyway! :D

Graendal’s plan almost succeeded, and it may still have been the greatest blow that the Shadow has managed to inflict upon the armies of Light. Not bad for an appearance obsessed shrink! If only the other Forsaken could have caused such devastation with so few resources then we might be facing a real possibility that all Rand’s efforts would be in vain. I know that we are now at the low point of the Last Battle, where everything looks desperately bad and the Dark One may soon be cackling wildly over the remains of Life As We Know It. Of course, I have unshakeable faith that we will have a (more or less) happy ending and that no matter how dark things look we will not all want to slit our wrists at the final outcome.

I was rather surprised that Ituralde seemed able to almost overcome the Compulsion. I am not sure if this is supposed to be because Graendal had just started trying to manipulate him or if he is supposed to have greater self control than the other Great Captains. Perhaps it was simply because we saw this section through his eyes, whereas we saw the others confronted by other POV characters. Perhaps they had all been having a similar response, but we just did not witness it. I like to think that all three of the other Captains are equally tough . . . although his nickname of The Little Wolf suggests that he might end up with golden eyes at some point . . .


2. Mat rides into battle and is suitably awesome. Do you think that Tuon is reassessing her ability to control her Prince? Could this be the end of formal Seanchan society as it has existed for thousands of years?

Mat is always entertaining, and his actions here were pretty much what I have come to expect from him. I can only imagine the amazingly effortless way in which he mows down ranks of the enemy with his ashandarei. I have a mental image of all the Seanchan soldiers standing around with their mouths hanging open as he goes all ‘bullet time’ on the Sharans.

I hope that Tuon is wise enough to give Mat enough independence to allow him to be effective as the overall General of the combined forces. I suspect that she continues to struggle with his inability to simply do as he is told, but she has already had quite some time to see how he operates so perhaps she is becoming resigned to it by now. At the moment it seems that her subjects are much more scandalized by his behavior than she is, which I find rather encouraging.

I would rather hope that Mat manages to make the Seanchan a little more flexible in their adherence to etiquette, but that will only happen if Tuon allows it. There have been times recently when her inability to move away from established procedures and protocol has seemed to slow her actions and possibly even damaged the Light’s chances of success. Her use of a giant throne in the command tent seems like at least one tradition that could be forgotten. Perhaps she will see that Mat can inspire devotion and loyalty without having to sit on a ten foot tall chair all the time.


3. Perrin and Slayer clash again. It seems like Perrin is still outmatched, although he is continuing to improve, but will he ever be able to dispatch his enemy? Were you surprised that Lanfear proved to be as fickle as we had suspected? Will Perrin take any further part in the Last Battle now that he has returned to the waking world?

It seems like every time Perrin improves he is still not good enough to best Slayer. This is becoming rather frustrating and I am not overly convinced that Perrin is being very useful running around on this personal vendetta. I know that Slayer has been sent to attack Rand, and that Perrin uncovered Graendal’s actions against Ituralde, but I hope that his efforts will have a more concrete outcome. I wonder if his prolonged stay in the Dream has weakened him, which might be why Slayer still has the upper hand: he certainly seemed to be struggling towards the end even before Slayer’s arrow found its target.

The only aspect of Lanfear’s betrayal that surprised me was that she gave up on Perrin so easily. It seems like forever since she first attached herself to Rand and he has spent almost the entire series trying to get rid of her, but she has hung around like a particularly bad skunk smell. Perhaps the poor girl is finally beginning to learn from her mistakes and will now take “Argh! No!” as an answer! :D

If this is the end of Perrin’s role in the Last Battle then I will be very disappointed, as he does not seem to have really accomplished a great deal. However, he seems to have been overcome with both mental and physical exhaustion, never mind having an arrow stuck in his chest. I suppose that a bit of Healing and a square meal will have him fighting fit in no time, but I still worry that he has over-reached himself. Of course, he will need to return to the Dream, if only to collect Rhuarc and help out the wolves.


4. The battle outside Cairhien is almost lost and even the mighty Ogier are starting to fall when Androl produces a miracle. What did you think of Logain’s comment about the notes in Taim’s rooms: does he have a list of all the Shadow’s battle plans? Please comment on the epicness of Androl’s miracle! :D

I seriously hope that none of the Ogier died in this battle, otherwise I would have some very serious words to say to Mr Sanderson! :(

It would be nice to think that Taim had left behind some vitally important information that will help the forces of Light to be victorious, but I doubt that he would be that stupid. Also, we all know that wars are very fluid, and so plans are constantly updated, which means that these are probably out of date. I presume that it gave an overview of the three intended attacks, although I have no idea why Logain decided to help Elayne’s army. Perhaps he had scouts have a look at all three battlefields and decided that hers was most in need of assistance.

I am beginning to wish that we had met Androl much earlier in this series. His solution to the Trolloc horde was wonderfully elegant but so delightfully effective. I wonder if we will see any more innovation in how Gateways can be turned into weapons. It would be interesting to experiment . . .


5. Tuon is taking the End Of The World in her stride, with her giant travelling throne and making full use of Min’s Talent. Are you a little disturbed by her serenity at this time? Do you think that Min’s demands will be met, or will she eventually refuse to reveal her viewings?

I almost get the impression that Tuon has not quite understood the severity of this situation. As we saw last week, when she thought about going home and sorting out Seanchan before returning to fight the Dark One, she seems to be failing to grasp the consequences of failure at this time. I hope that this is simply because she is just so good at hiding her indecision and fear of what might happen and not that she is oblivious to the danger.

I was a little confused by her insistence about the viewings until she began to interpret them herself. She certainly seems completely ruthless in how she applies what she learns from them, although that was not really much of a surprise at this stage. I thought it was remarkably stupid to discuss the viewings in public because it places Min in an incredibly dangerous position: anyone wanting to ferment rebellion would need to remove Min before attempting to move against Tuon. Perhaps Tuon sees that as a reasonable risk, but I suspect that Rand would not feel that way.


6. Just for a change, things go horribly wrong. Do you think that the black spikes were a deliberate attack against Faile’s group? Can you believe that Vanin and Harnan are actually Darkfriends, or were they just after the tobacco? Is there any chance that the Horn will make it back to Mat’s hands?

It is difficult to say, but it seems very unlikely that they could have altered the destination of that Gateway, which suggests that somebody wanted to send Faile out into the Blight. Knowing that Lanfear has been trying to get inside Perrin’s pants makes me suspect that she might be behind the attack, but the evidence is certainly limited. I cannot believe that somebody has uncovered Faile’s quest to deliver the Horn, which is why I think that this might be a personal attack upon Faile herself.

I find it very hard to believe that Vanin and Harnan are Darkfriends. They have had so many opportunities to do evil deeds, especially Vanin, that this does not ring true to me. It makes very little sense that someone knows about the Horn and has chosen these two to attempt to steal it, even if they are being Compelled like the Great Captains. If Graendal were behind this attack it would make much more sense for her to simply Compel Faile. I genuinely think that they were after the tobacco and had just discovered the Horn when that giant bear thingy attacked them. However, I suspect that Faile will accuse them of being Darkfriends unjustly.

Whilst I would like to see the Horn brought into play, I think that everyone is rather forgetting about Mat’s death in Rhuidean. I suspect that the Horn is no longer bound to him, because that death has broken the link and that somebody else will be able to blow the Horn at the appropriate time. I just hope that it is not Faile, because that would be far too ironic.


7. Red veiled Aiel infiltrate the camp in Thakan’dar and cause mayhem. Do you think that even Cadsuane and Sorilea are powerful enough to defeat Graendal? Will the Aiel ever recover from the shame of learning about the fate of their male channelers?

Whilst I am pretty certain that they could join forces to fix her with hard stares, I am not sure that even Cadsuane could best one of the Forsaken, and we know that Sorilea can barley light a candle with the One Power. However, they are more than capable of mounting a formidable defense and the use of circles could give them the power that they need to defeat her. Even so, I suspect that Aviendha will be the main actor in the confrontation with Graendal: I just have a feeling that she will do something epic before she weeps over Rand’s pyre.

This did make me wonder what they imagined had happened to all those men over the years. Did they honestly think that they had all simply dies in the Blight? Shame on them for underestimating not only the survival skills of their menfolk, but also the cunning of the Dark One in exploiting a source of useful minions!


8. Rand is frozen in place as he battles the Dark One. Why is Moridin frozen as well? Do you think Nynaeve will be able to do anything to help Alanna before she can release Rand from his Bond? Is there any chance that Nynaeve can save the world by simply bopping Moridin on the head with a big rock?

I am not sure if this is an indication that Moridin is an embodiment of the Dark One somehow. Alternatively, I thought it might be a product of their strange connection, although we have seen much less evidence of that since Rand had his epiphany. Of course, it would be rather unfair if Rand froze and then Moridin got to chop him into tiny pieces unimpeded! :D

I was very surprised to find Alanna chained to the wall. I think we last heard of her disappearing and leaving behind one of Verin’s letters. At the time it seemed as if she had dashed off in response to the letter, but I suppose that she might have been kidnapped and that the letter was simply a red herring. It would have been nice if Rand had noticed her being mistreated or terrified, but I suppose that he has been rather busy and has kept her boxed up in his head for most of the time since she Bonded him.

It seems like a bit of improvised field dressing is all that Nynaeve could offer Alanna at this point as I rather doubt that she brought her full first aid kit with her when she packed for this very brief journey. You would rather hope that Alanna would have the good sense to release Rand from her Bond now that it looks like she is going to die, but she has never struck me as overly gifted with common sense. Hopefully Nynaeve will knock some sense into her and get her to release him before it is too late.

Bopping Moridin on the head with a boulder may do no good at all, but I am quite sure that it would make me, and Nynaeve, feel a whole lot better about the situation if she tried it! :D


Other

Not trying to be a nitpicker or anything, but why is the Shadow taking so long to arrive at Merrilor? Surely they can just open a few Gateways and zap over there to finish the bloodshed and mayhem: are they taking the scenic route? :D





10 comments:

  1. "Appearance obsessed shrink." Love it! Like you, I thought the plans Logaine found in Taim's office were suspect. He's arrogant, but not stupid. Good point about Moridin. I hadn't thought of it that way: that maybe he's affected because he's so close to the DO, so far gone, as to almost be an embodiment of him. Interesting. :D Yeah, the Shadow does seem to be taking it's sweet time, doesn't it?

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    1. Maybe The Dark One is just being sporting? :D

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  2. 1. Yes, the implication seems to be that Mat is uncompellable due to his medallion. As we have seen, Graendal seems to be using some kind of invasion via dreams, and it's an open question whether the medallion can block this kind of thing, but it seems clear that this is how it was intended to work: a justification of sorts for Mat's place in the Last Battle. So I don't mind.

    I propose that Ituralde is simply badass. As badass as Bashere has been all series, and especially as badass as Agelmar has been in this book ("Yes, Lan, I'm telling you you're selfish"), Ituralde takes the cake for me.

    2. She seems to have increasingly given up on the controlling for now, and one can only hope that the next grand chapter will be suitably free of meddling. And as I said before, I can only speculate on what Jordan had in mind for the future of the Seanchan, but the fact that he had SOMETHING in mind can only mean that Mat has a role to play in that context. I'm not sure I would say it is the end, however. (The Wheel of Time has no endings, remember.)

    3. This is why I love Slayer as an antagonist so much. They've been at this for 10 books now, and Perrin has yet to come even close to defeating him. As many steps forward as he has taken (and we have seen him take), Slayer just always another trick. It's just such an uphill struggle. It would be unsatisfying to see the saga of Perrin and Slayer end here, after so many books of build up, so I expect Perrin to return, all ablaze with vengeance. And it will be great to read!

    Lanfear... no, not really.

    4. Yes, Androl is really thinking with portals now! Major fistbump moment. I like how gateways are being used for a bit more than just traveling.

    I also think it stretches belief that Taim would have detailed battle plans for everything, and I suspect Logain made his way to Elayne through a combination of notes and scouting. But who cares, now that the showdown on Merrilor is happening, all plans are presumably out the window anyway!

    5. Min is clearly extremely valuable to Tuon, so I rather feel that the Empress, may she live forever, will bend over backwards to keep her talking. Min is strong-willed enough to fight with the best of them, too, so it would be an interesting thing to see.

    6. No, I don't believe that Vanin and Harnan are darkfriends. As I said before, with very few exceptions, darkfriends have generally been outed within a couple of books at most. They were probably looking to have a smoke. Faile is letting her suspiciousness run amok here, and I don't like it.

    It feels a little jarring to have this lost-in-the-woods adventure suddenly shoehorned in between all the battlefield action, but it does really get tiring to read about battle all the time. (In fact, it was written like this to make the reader feel some of the exhaustion that the characters are feeling, but more on that next week after the chapter of DOOM.) Still though, the resolution to this storyline is so awesome that I have no hard feelings. :-)

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    1. 7. Sorilea is clever, but she can barely channel. I know that the Shadow tends to overestimate channeling, but it would be good for us who walk in the Light (hi, Galad) to not underestimate it either. Cadsuane is very powerful, and she could probably make a fight of it with Graendal, but I would not give her even odds, exactly. But with Aviendha in the mix... that could probably work.

      I also have to give props to Graendal for giving our heroes a really tough fight. She's been characterised as a pleasure freak, but she's really not averse to doing the dirty work when she needs to, and right now she's doing it very well indeed.

      The male Aiel can only be classified as a massive classic fuck-up.

      8. I guess it's no coincidence that the only Aes Sedai who can heal with herbs is her in the Pit of Doom to help Alanna! :-)

      Other.

      I didn't get to answer last week, but really don't think the voice Rand heard at the entrance to the cave was the Dark One. We have seen three (now four) instances of all-capitalised text so far in the series:

      - End of Eye of the World: This is probably the Creator. It is clearly aiding Rand.

      IT IS NOT HERE.

      It was not Rand's thought, making his skull vibrate.

      I WILL TAKE NO PART. ONLY THE CHOSEN ONE CAN DO WHAT MUST BE DONE, IF HE WILL.

      "Where?" He did not want to say it, but he could not stop himself. "Where?"

      (Steps appear.) NOT HERE.

      - Prologue of Lord of Chaos: Demandred speaks with the Dark One, using the same text style.

      - Rand enters the cave. This is BEFORE Rand thinks that the Dark One notices him.

      IT IS TIME. LET THE TASK BE UNDERTAKEN.

      Rand then realizes he has heard the voice once before (Eye of the World) and realizes he had been hoping for it. He says thank you.

      - Rand is swallowed by the black (this week). This is also clearly the Dark One.

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    2. 1. I would love to see Graendal try to Compel Mat and then watch him laugh at her!

      I agree about the Little Wolf: I really wish we had met him earlier in the series . . .

      2. I just can’t see Mat ever giving up the fight and resigning himself to all that tedious etiquette, no matter how pretty Tuon’s eyes are.

      3. My only worry is that the final trick to defeating Slayer will feel lame because we have always seen him be totally badass.

      4. As you say, it’s all beyond the realm of planning now.

      5. I wonder if Min’s adoption into the Seanchan is why she never became a first-sister to Elayne and Aviendha . . . as I assume she will return with Tuon to squash the rebellions back over the ocean.

      6. I’m glad that I’m not the only one feeling a little derailed by this little side-trip: it did rather come out of nowhere. I have to say that I think that Faile is one of the least likeable of the major characters: it would be nice if she could do something right for once, as she really doesn’t deserve Perrin at the moment.

      7. I still think Sorilea might just pin Graendal to the ground with a stare and stab her through the eye with a knife! :D

      I have been very impressed by Graendal’s work so far. I think she has been the most effective of the Forsaken by quite a considerable margin. I had expected more of Demandred after his Big Reveal, but his giant army has not proved to be as dangerous as I had worried it would be.

      8. To be honest, as long as Alanna releases Rand I will be OK with her dying: she has been a nuisance most of the time.

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    3. I like the idea of Ituralde being simply a badass. How many folks tell Lan he is selfish and get to walk away?

      I really wish we someday get to see what happens with Mat, Tuon, and Min all going to the Seanchan homelands and sorting shit out. That would possibly be another 14 book epic!

      Totally agree with you on Graendal - she's getting her hands dirty, getting stuff done, and is causing massive heartburn to the good guys. Having at least 1 competent foe in the mix sure does make this more intense!

      Thanks for pointing out the capitalized verbiage. In the audio, that doesn't come through clearly.

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  3. I don't think Mat died in Rhuidean! His prophecy of dying and living again must have been fulfilled at Caemlyn, where he was killed by Rahvin, whom Rand later balefired.

    Shadowspawn can't go through gateways. That's why Demandred is taking his sweet time getting to Merrilor. Sure, he could get the Sharans there earlier, but I guess he wants to attack in bulk?

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    1. I thought Rand had to revive him, but the Caemlyn incident was definitely death, so I was almost right! :D

      DOH! They have mentioned that several times recently as well . . . I must be going senile in my old age! :D

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  4. I think Ituralde wasn't sleeping much so Graendal had less time to mess with his head. Imagine if all our Great Captains were getting full nights of sleep!

    Will Tuon notice that folks follow Mat because he is a good guy, amusing and charming and just trying to do the right thing? Or will she hold to the tradition of threatening to behead anyone who doesn't see things her way? I am guessing she will need a few months of therapy in order to change her views.

    Androl became one of my favorite characters pretty quickly too. :)

    My man has already finished the book and I asked him about Mat's death at Rhuidean too. But then neither of us could recall exactly if his heart had actually stopped. Was he definitely dead? And if so, why does everyone, including Mat, still assume the Horn is tied to him?

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    1. True, although I'm not sure if the others were getting much more. I prefer to believe that he is simply badass! :D

      I had rather hoped that Tuon was flexible enough in her thinking to change the way she does things . . . of course, it might be much more difficult to alter the way that society functions without everyone waiting from the shock!

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