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
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