Sunday, July 27, 2014

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan: Week 2

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 7.

1) Beonin, Ashmanaille, & Phaedrine chat about theories on who the channeling male murderer is. Did you enjoy Beonin's logic? Do you think other Aes Sedai are drawing the same conclusions? Will such assumptions and conclusions hinder Rand's plans in preparing for the Last Battle?

I suppose that Beonin has come to some fairly sensible conclusions, given the limited information that she has to work with. She is unaware that a male Forsaken is wandering around camp in a female body, so she can hardly be faulted for not spotting the person who seems to be the most likely culprit. However, I do think that she carries her deductions a little too far and ignores the obvious problem of motive: what would a male channeler have to gain from the murders of these particular women?

We all know that the Aes Sedai each have their own interpretation of the world and are rather reluctant to accept anything else: this alone will give Rand a very difficult time in persuading them to do anything. However, some powerful Sisters see the value in supporting him in the last Battle, primarily I am thinking of Egwene and Cadsuane, but even some of the Reds see the sense of at least trying to survive Tarmon Gai’don and recognize his importance to that effort. Rand will struggle with the Aes Sedai no matter what else happens, and I doubt that this will add significantly to his woes: after all, it is going to be like herding cats anyway! :D

2) Elaida had thought to show the world her power by snatching a monarch in the night and she plans to show even greater power by putting that monarch back on his royal seat. Do you think Mattin Stepaneos, king of Illian, will be cooperative? What other setbacks to Elaida's plan can you predict?

I have to say that he did not sound awfully cooperative during his determined ranting session. To be honest, he sounds fearful to me and this is likely to make him irrational and uncooperative with everyone, not just Elaida. I have to admit that I did enjoy his rant, even though he finally ran out of steam, because it was so good to hear someone giving Elaida a good telling off! :D

Elaida’s plans have so many holes in them that it is difficult to know where to begin. Firstly, Rand is never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER going to cooperate with her, so that is just delusional on her part. Nobody is going to bend his knee to a woman who had him tortured and locked in a chest for weeks on end. Secondly, she has as much chance of reuniting the Tower as my cat has of writing a sequel to War and Peace: mainly because everyone hates her and thinks she is an idiot. Thirdly, Egwene is now in the Tower and she is going to start looking more and more like the true Amyrlin as she withstands Elaida’s petty punishments and tries to undo the damage caused by the coup. Fourthly, Elaida discounts Egwene’s Dream of the Seanchan attack as impossible . . . which strikes me as the usual prelude to exactly that kind of thing happening.

I could go on, but that seems like enough to keep Elaida busy for now, even though she has no idea that these are issues that she needs to address. Oh dear, what a shame! :D

3) Once again the Forsaken get together for a tickle and tell dinner party. We saw some new technology on display. Do you think we will see further advanced tech and in more prominent use as the series continues? Do you think Moiridin can keep them all in line?

We keep hearing about things called stasis boxes, which I have to assume keep things in some form of suspended animation until they are opened. I guess the only limit to the technology that we will encounter is that these boxes may have been in limited supply, and only for personal use, which means that they contain almost random items. It seems unlikely that they were used to lay down caches of useful supplies for a future war if they contained such items as the zomara and streith cloth: neither of which are anything other than luxuries. I guess that the Forsaken can recognize such boxes and know how to open them, but they are much like random items of mail, or safety deposit boxes, and will probably contain very little that they find directly useful.

We are back to herding cats again! Moridin has control over Lanfear and Moghedien because of the mind-traps, but even that will vanish if they ever take the traps from him. As for the rest: they are all convinced that they have a shot of becoming the Nae’blis if they can just get rid of Moridin. This selfish delusion is one of the major reasons why the Shadow is destined to fall before the cooperative forces of Light. I guess that it will be fun to see how they work against one another and ultimately ruin the excellent chance that they have of ruling the world forever. It is interesting to note that Aran’gar is even determined to go against the strict order not to harm Rand: such reckless individualism is not a good way to survive for long in the service of the Dark One! :D  

4) Perrin meets with the Seanchan. Were you impressed with his display of martial capability? What about that sulfur stench? Even if this plan goes off without a hitch, do you see continued friendly relationships between Perrin's forces and the Seanchan?

In many ways, Perrin seems to show the fewest ta’veren qualities of the three lads, but here we see that he is destined for greatness: he has a fine military mind and knows how to use his forces to the best advantage. He certainly impressed the seasoned leaders of the Seanchan, so he must be pretty good.

I got the impression that the sulfur stench was similar to the one mentioned in Chapter One, and is just a manifestation of the Dark One’s power increasing. My geography of Randland is not that good, so I am not sure if it could even be the same wind moving across the land.

It seems to me that Rand and the Seanchan will need to ally for the Last Battle, although this is most likely to occur via Mat and Tuon. However, I suspect that Perrin’s honest bravery will impress the Seanchan that he fights alongside, and they will be quite happy to maintain friendly relations after the Shaido are destroyed. Of course, Masema might have a hand in creating a rift there, so I am not completely convinced that everything will be happy and cozy from now on.

I have to say that I am very disturbed by Aram’s ‘conversion’ to Masema’s way of seeing the world. I predict that this will end badly for everyone involved.

5) Faile has a lot of decisions to make, and soon. She is determined to escape before Perrin can attempt a rescue; she has the Oath Rod; Galina appears near breaking; and Rolan is still putting flowers in her hair. Will her actions muck up Perrin's rescue? Will Galina's duplicity be undone? Will Rolan get even one romantic night, one which will never be spoken of again?

I doubt that she will jeopardize the rescue plan too much, but there is a good chance that her actions will increase the tension and risk involved in getting her out of the camp safely. We know that Galina has absolutely no intention of doing as Perrin asked, so that part of his plan will fail anyway, although I am not sure how vital that will be to the overall outcome. I sincerely hope that Galina remains as Therava’s plaything for the rest of her miserable natural life: she deserves it for her treatment of Rand if nothing else.

Unfortunately, I do not think that things will end well for Rolan. I doubt that Faile is the type to have a quick, ‘no regrets’, night of passion and then forget about it, no matter how many flowers he puts into her hair. I suspect that he will play a pivotal role in the escape and then get killed by ‘friendly fire’ of some type because he is mistaken for an enemy Shaido. Poor guy! :(

6) Mat has bought a new horse, razor breed, and given Tuon a pet name (Precious) to counter her little pet name for him (Toy). And then we learn that Noal is related to Jain Farstrider! Guesses as to why Noal has such strong feelings on the adventures of his cousin?

I wondered if the new horse was for Tuon, although I am not sure why she would want a horse that looks an awful lot like a zebra! :D

Of the romance plot lines that we have had to endure, I think that this one is probably my favorite. Mat is honestly in love with Tuon, as we can see from his reaction to her simply smiling at him, and he is trying to earn her respect. This is doubly impressive because Mat has been so much of a playboy up until now: I love the way that he is baffled by where Olver learnt to leer at women! Compared to all the Faile-Berelain garbage, Egwene giggling over Gawyn and Rand’s polygamy, this is perhaps the most normal of all the relationships that we have seen developing.

I think that it is pretty obvious that Noal IS Jain Farstrider. ‘Noal’ is obviously describing things that he has seen with his own eyes and his broken body testifies to a long life of adventuring. The way that he calmly fought the gholam showed that he was a man very comfortable with the strange and unusual, and possibly even the supernatural. I thought it was also obvious that the terrible regret about his wife was personal and not the disparagement of a relative as he claimed. I am not clear as to when the book was written, so I am not sure if Jain could still feasibly be alive, though it is possible that he is bound to the Wheel of Time and has been reborn like Birgitte.

7) Mat's little ter'angreal secret is out and the Aes Sedai traveling with the circus are VERY curious. Do you think this will cause a problem later? Bethamin, a former sul'dam, channeled some powerful weave, to her great distress. Could she turn out to be a powerful Aes Sedai in the future?

I suspect that anything revealed to Aes Sedai has the potential to cause problems at a later date, but this one could actually have positive repercussions. Apart from allowing people to move safely against channelers, we know that the medallion is the only thing that is effective against the gholam. As I am absolutely sure that we will see his horrible oozy body again, I would suspect that Mat will want everyone he cares about to have a copy of the medallion to keep them safe. Of course, this means that he needs to get to Elayne, who is likely to be the only person who can replicate it for him.

It makes sense that Bethamin could be very powerful in the future. Her culture has effectively placed a block on her ability to channel, but we have seen such blocks give way to produce very powerful channelers, such as Nynaeve. I hope that she embraces her ability and learns to use it safely. Hopefully she can become a type of ambassador for the other sul’dam and help to break the tradition of the use of a’dam.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan: Week 1

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 1.

1. Eamon Valda finally buys it, and Galad is now (at least de jure) Lord Captain Commander. Do you think he will be able to muster the children and fight back in any meaningful way? Or is this effectively the end of the order?

Hang on whilst I get out the world smallest violin to play a sad tune for his passing . . . followed by a happy dance number to express my sympathies . . . :D

I have to admit that I was somewhat surprised by this opening. Not only had I almost forgotten about Valda, Galad and the whole Whitecloak mess, but also I was rather more concerned by the “Egwene being taken captive” storyline! However, it was nice to see Galad and some of the other Whitecloaks do something decent and honorable: they have almost made me not hate the whole order for their overbearing self-righteousness. I almost cheered when he talked about ignoring the Seanchan ‘threat’ and concentrating on the real danger of the Dark One and the Last Battle . . . it is good to see some leaders finally taking notice of the bigger picture and actually doing something constructive.

The reactions of most of the men present actually make me optimistic that he will be able to rally the whole order behind his intention to support Rand. It seems as if most of the normal soldiers sincerely want to fight against the Shadow and will be happiest working with other people who share that goal, at least until the Last Battle is settled. I have to assume that there will be dissenters, such as Asunawa, but I hope that they will be in a tiny minority and we can finally see the Children doing something overtly good. My only concern is that Galad may not foresee treachery from some of the more sneaky members of the Order, but he seems to be more than capable of being ruthless when necessary.

We know that Galad is Rand’s half-brother, and I am inclined to think that he may be ta’veren in some small way. I also wonder if he can channel: his description of his fight with Valda seemed eerily similar to some of Rand’s early uses of the Flame and the Void.

2. The Seanchan suffer some shocking defeats at the hands of Ituralde. Suroth is furious and sends away almost all the air scouts. Will this help Mat out? What do you think is in the future for Ituralde?

Again I reach for my tiny violin . . .

Suroth is so wonderfully over confident: I can hardly wait for Tuon to return and wipe the floor with her! It seems that her complacency and lack of respect for her opponents has affected the discipline of the whole army: their lack of distrust and suspicion of the Randlanders has left them very vulnerable. Oh dear, what a shame! Unfortunately, I think it is only a matter of time before someone comes across Mat and drags him before some aspect of the Seanchan government, and this increased vigilance will only increase the chance that he and Tuon will be discovered. Of course, Tuon will be a large factor in his survival after that, so I am not sure if this will be a bad thing or not: getting Tuon in charge of the Return instead of Suroth will be a huge improvement for the forces of Light.

I suspect that Ituralde will be at least five steps ahead of anyone that Suroth sends against him: he reminds me very much of Davram Bashere in that respect. I think we will see him in action for a long time to come, and that the Seanchan will become allies with Rand long before they get close to defeating him.

3. Semirhage has been busy in Seandar, and Seanchan as we know it (or more accurately, didn't know it), has ceased to exist. Without support from their homeland, do you think the return is now doomed (in the long term)? Might this force them into accepting an alliance with Rand, once it becomes known?

I am pretty sure that the Empress and the Royal Family were all back-stabbing and unpleasant people, so I cannot work up very much sympathy for them personally. However, this does effectively remove a massive potential ally for the forces of Light in Randland. I doubt that the Return is doomed, simply because the Seanchan are amazingly proficient and well organized, but it all depends upon who gets to take control: Suroth or Tuon.

If Tuon wins out, and declares herself Empress, I can see this making an alliance much more likely and infinitely more successful. In fact, this could strengthen Tuon’s hold over the Seanchan because she will be their one remaining rallying point. If Suroth wins, which I suspect is very unlikely in the long term, it will be a Very Bad Thing.

4. The Black Ajah hunters have stalled, and Pevara is now being sent away on a mission to bond Asha'aman. Talene managed to hide, but Alviarin is still on the right track. Where do you see this storyline going?

This just goes to prove how effective the Black’s method of working in small ‘hearts’ is at preventing the whole organization being uncovered by a single capture. It is strangely satisfying to see the Bad Guys actually doing something sensible for a change! :D

With the Hunters at a dead end and Alviarin closing in on some of the Blacks that they have already uncovered, it is simply a matter of chance as to who wins in this situation. I hope that it is not Alviarin, but I am not sure how the Hunters can avoid exposure now that they have run out of leads. Perhaps Egwene’s arrival will shake things up enough to disrupt everyone’s plans.

5. Of all the things that could happen between Galina and Perrin, what were you wishing for? Do you suppose she succeeded in stalling him?

I suppose him putting his axe between her eyes was a little too much to expect from him, especially now that he has left it stuck in a tree somewhere. However, I was rather hoping that he would not let her return to the Shaido camp so easily. I wonder if Berelain recognized her, which would certainly change Perrin’s attitude towards her advice, but it was difficult to tell.

I doubt that the encounter has significantly altered his plans at all. I suspect that he plans to use forkroot to remove the Wise Ones from the battle when he attacks: there have been too many mentions of the aqueducts and water supply for it to be a coincidence. I suspect that the person he is planning to meet is a representative of the Seanchan, and the Shaido Wise Ones would be a handsome reward for their help in breaking the Aiel threat.

6. Egwene has been installed as a novice again, and sees advantages in her situation. How badly do you think will Elaida regret not having her tried? Is Egwene right in refusing rescue? And do you think she will manage to hold the rebellion together by proxy (in tel'aran'rhiod)?

Elaida will regret many of her decisions when she finally realizes what a total mess she has made of things and how much she actually aided the Dark One in his plans. This is just one more misstep amongst many, but it will prove to be her downfall.

Egwene is quite right to refuse rescue, because she is now in a perfect position to undermine Elaida whilst working to win the respect of all the other Sisters in the Tower. Simply by being seen free and walking around the grounds, she will be a constant reminder of Elaida’s folly. Her warnings about the Seanchan attack will also win her considerable respect and support: especially when Elaida inevitably ignores them.

I suspect that the rebels will hold together long enough for the Tower to reunite, but it will probably be more difficult than getting rid of Elaida! :D

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan: Week 8

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 book.

1. After letting himself go with the Shaido prisoners, Perrin abandons his axe in the forest, as predicted by Elyas. What do you think of his way of breaking the Aiel? Is this a defining moment for him, and in what ways?

We know that the Aiel are tough as really hard nails that have been trained to be extra, extra hard, so I was not expecting them to break at all. Perrin’s solution showed a good understanding of Aiel culture, but was deeply disturbing to me because it was such a brutal and ruthless action. I know that there was no other way to get information, but I was still shocked and disappointed by it.

This is a real turning point for Perrin, as far as I can see, because he has finally taken that step beyond what is normally acceptable in war. Considering how gentle and careful he has always been in the past, this is doubly important and underlines how desperate he has become in his quest to retrieve Faile. I sincerely hope that he can move beyond this decision and forgive himself for it; otherwise he could be eaten away by self-loathing and guilt. I see it as a good sign that he has finally abandoned the axe: perhaps this will be the last time that he resorts to such horrible violence.

2. Tallanvor suggests to team up with Seanchan to defeat the Shaido. Should Perrin agree? Will he just end up having to rescue people from the Seanchan instead?

Although Suroth is not exactly trustworthy, I think that she is much more honorable than Sevanna. In general, I think that the Seanchan are very likely to ally with the other forces of Light against the Dark One, whereas the Shaido are only going to be a pain in everyone’s collective backsides until Sevanna is put down and the rest are dispersed or subdued. To be honest, the Shaido may do the whole world a favor by forcing Perrin and the Seanchan to become allies sooner rather than later.

We know that Suroth is up to no good, but the other Seanchan seem to be honest, honorable types. Also, they are interested in colonization rather than destructive conquest, as we have seen already, so it makes little sense for them to turn on Perrin after defeating the Shaido. This does not mean that certain individuals might not cause trouble, but they are certainly a much more reliable ally than Masema.

3. From the female or male viewpoint, what do you make of Mat's courtship strategy, and Tuon's response? Bewildered? (I am!)

Some people seem to understand all this courtship stuff . . . but I am not one of them and I still have not really worked out how I ended up married! :D

Whilst I am totally bewildered by Mat’s plan, I have to applaud him for facing his fate rather than trying to run away from it. This seems like a massive step forward for Mat, who has been fairly feckless for most of the series, and I love to see characters learn from their experiences and change how they respond to the world. He is being very dogged and trying so hard to keep his cool in the face of almost complete indifference that I feel very sorry for the poor lad.

As for Tuon: I have no idea what she is thinking, but she certainly seems to be in total control of the situation and herself. I get the impression that she is rather attracted to Mat, but that could just be her amusement at his antics and she sees him as no more significant than a performing monkey. I hope that is not the case; otherwise their marriage is going to be awfully miserable.

4. Renna betrays our heroes and Mat is presumably forced to leave the circus. Were you surprised? How happy are you to be rid of Valan Luca?

To be honest, it seemed like only a matter of time before one of the sul’dam tried to make an escape. I was not really surprised that she tried to return to the Seanchan, especially as her information about Tuon would earn her a great deal of gratitude from Suroth. Killing her was rather unfortunate, much as the maiming of the Aiel we discussed earlier, but necessary.

I gather that many people find Valan irritating, and so we should be happy to leave him behind. Personally, I do not find him too annoying because his personality seems correct for a person who has chosen his profession. Yes, he is always interested in earning money, but that seems like a pretty obvious thing to do if you have no other source of income and a constant drain on your finances to feed and maintain the exhibits. Having said that, I am not very upset to leave the circus behind, especially as it is very slow moving, but all those extra people provide much more security for Mat and his little band.

5. Egwene's plan is revealed, and the harbor chains of Tar Valon is now cuendillar. How will this change the siege?

Paint me confused: how does changing the chains into cuendillar help at all?

We know that it is the hardest substance known to man, so they can no longer be cut . . . but that is hardly going to help the rebels. I guess that the transformation could make the chains inflexible or perhaps heavier so that they can no longer be raised when ships want to enter the harbors. This would be a huge problem for the Tower and its need to get supplies via the river.

The other effect that I can imagine is that it is a huge, and very public, demonstration of Egwene’s power. It was a skill that had been lost since the Age of Legends, so rediscovering it is a major coup for her. Also, nobody will be able to reverse it, so it will be a permanent reminder of her abilities and we know that the Aes Sedai have great respect for personal strength.  

6. Egwene is captured! Should she have sent Bode after all? Is she stupid for having risked herself? Never mind the harbor chains... how will THIS change the war?

Well, what did she expect? Fancy thinking that they would not have Sisters guarding the walls for a trace of Channeling nearby: even Elaida is not THAT stupid! :D

I think it was quite right that Egwene sent Bode back to camp. I know that one could argue that a good leader does not place themselves in danger, but I think that this could work to Egwene’s advantage. She has demonstrated that she is unafraid of Elaida and her proclamations about the rebel Sisters, which will be a slap in the face for the Amyrlin. She has also shown that she is willing to lead from the front, rather than hiding in the background and getting others to do her dirty work: I suspect that this will appeal to the Greens and Whites in the Tower, whilst her rediscovery of an ancient Talent will please the Browns.

One might think that being captured would be very dangerous for Egwene, but I sincerely doubt that she will be in much personal danger because Elaida will want to make a huge public display of punishing her. This will allow her to openly challenge Elaida and show the vulnerability of the Tower now that it is divided. Her Dream of the Seanchan attack will probably also gain her support when it happens if she can make it common knowledge. All in all, I think she is perfectly placed to undermine Elaida and cause the Tower to select a new Amyrlin.

7. Rand will meet the Daughter of the Nine Moons, but we know she's nowhere to be found (by Suroth, anyway). An obvious trap or just a really obvious trap? What do you expect to happen?

Hopefully Rand will be very careful when approaching this person, whoever it is. I suspect that Cadsuane and everyone else will advise him to be very cautious and to be prepared to use force if an attack occurs, which I assume it will. I suspect there will be lots of mayhem and possibly some balefire, but it all depends upon who is masquerading as Tuon.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan: Week 7

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 26.

1. I am sure that we are all so sorry for Alviarin, now that she is about to be outed as Black Ajah by Elaida and has seen Mesaana reduced to a terrified wreak by Shaidar Haran . . . or perhaps not! Do you think that Elaida actually has any evidence to use against Alviarin, or is it all bluff and self-delusion from the Amyrlin we love to hate? Has Alviarin got any hope of uncovering the Black Hunters, even with her newly minted ‘Mark’?

Maybe I am just a heartless ratbag, but I find it very difficult to feel any sympathy for either Alviarin or Mesaana. However, I have to say that Shaidar Haran shedding his armor, and presumably his clothes, was a little stomach-churning.

I am really not sure if Elaida has any concrete proof of Alviarin’s identity as Black Ajah or is just trying to bluff her way along. She certainly seemed to have plenty of ammunition to counteract the mistakes that were being used to blackmail her into submission, but I cannot imagine her allowing a Black Sister to remain free. I suspect that Elaida was not even thinking of that when she confronted her ex-Keeper, but it is the first reason that leaps into Alviarin’s mind for the Amyrlin’s newfound confidence. It certainly seems that Mesaana’s insistence on Alviarin’s absence from the Tower has backfired in a spectacular fashion and has probably reduced her standing amongst the Chosen quite considerably.

I am not sure if Alviarin is in any state of mind to be attempting subtle intelligence work at the moment. She seems to have completely lost control of her mind and emotions, which will put her at a massive disadvantage in her task. I would also suspect that her reduced station will make her a social pariah and all her previous authority has been stripped away to nothing. Finally, I think that Pevara and the others are far too wary to allow anything to slip away from them at this stage, so I think that Alviarin will ultimately fail to uncover the Hunters.

2. Last week we were thinking about what the Reds might do now that male channelers will not go mad, and now we have some actively talking about Bonding Asha’man! Do you think Elaida would have a fit strong enough to bring on a stroke if this idea was suggested to her? Or will we need to wait until she hears the news from Toviene?

I have to admit that I was very surprised to hear this suggestion from a Red Sister, although it makes a lot of sense once she had laid out her arguments. However, we know that many Reds find it difficult to deal with any man, never mind those who can channel, so I find it hard to believe that they would all be as calm about the suggestion. I can only imagine (with glee) the frothing fit that Elaida would have if she got wind of this idea, and I am quite sure that she would not be alone in that reaction.

I imagine that many Sisters will be appalled by the idea of Asha’man Bonding Aes Sedai. I am not sure if that Bonding is exactly the same as that between Aes Sedai and Warder, but the added obedience would be very difficult for the women to accept. Of course, this is all massively hypocritical of them as they see no problem with them coercing their Warders, but this is not much of a surprise from a group that regularly treats everyone else as inferior and unimportant.

3. Life seems to be throwing a lot of surprises at Cadsuane at the moment. What do you make of her distrust of Verin, an Aes Sedai who seems to have been a whole-hearted supporter from the very beginning? Were you surprised that she almost lost her cool when she discovered that the Asha’man had Bonded some Sisters?

Verin continues to be a very perplexing character. While we see her breaking the Aes Sedai oaths of not lying and using Compulsion, we never see her doing anything that can directly harm the cause of the Light (as far as I can remember). This seems very contradictory and unsettling because I am constantly nagged by an inability to trust her. I am beginning to suspect that she is actually a double agent but that we will only discover this once she dies, in much the same way as Severus Snape.

Cadsuane’s reaction to the Aes Sedai ‘Warders’ was slightly more extreme than I had come to expect from her, but it only added to my overall impression of how repellent that idea is to all Sisters. It takes a very great deal to rattle this aged Sister, but we have seen others give visceral reactions to intense aversion: such as vomiting when voting to declare War against Elaida. I suppose that the outwardly impassive exterior fools us into seeing Aes Sedai as a sort of Randland ‘Vulcan’, so that we are surprised when they actually lose control.  

4. Loial has returned, but with mixed news. Were you surprised that not all the steddings were willing to listen to his advice? What do you think will be discussed at the Great Stump and will Loial’s mother be there to force him into marriage?

It is always great to see Loial, although I could really do with a different simile for the size of his eyes in the next book . . .

Most of the Ogier that we have met in Randland have been very peaceful and slow to act, so in some ways it was reasonably easy to believe that they would be difficult to rouse. This would not have been helped by Loial’s youth and supposed inexperience: I am quite sure that many of the Elders would discount his reports as a product of his overactive imagination. However, I would also expect them to be wary of the possibility of Shadowspawn using the Ways, most especially in the Borderlands. Something about this feels wrong, and I am not sure that the Ogier reluctance to take part in human affairs is the only reason that they are reluctant to guard the Waygates. Hopefully we will not encounter Ogier Darkfriends.

Unlike some of the steddings, I sincerely hope that many of them will see the very real threat posed by the rising Shadow and have called the Great Stump to propose that they join the fight against the Dark One. I am not sure if the steddings would be destroyed if the Shadow was victorious, but we can hope that the Ogier still themselves as a part of the whole world and not separate from it. The very fact that they are known to be implacable when angered suggests that they have fought alongside mankind in the past at some point and so I am hopeful that they can be mobilized again.

Loial + Erith is totally going to happen and I pity the Ogier bed that sees their wedding night! :D

5. Logain has finally decided to warn Rand about Taim. Do you think that Taim’s influence has gone too far, or can Rand save the Black Tower from becoming a center of Darkfriend recruitment? Also, were you surprised that Rand had decided to seek a compromise with the Seanchan?

I sincerely hope that Rand moves against Taim before it is too late. I know that he has lots of things to do, but he seems to spend far too much time mooching around feeling sorry for himself and avoiding some Really Important Stuff. Taim is a perfect example of this, and a confrontation for the control of the Black Tower is long overdue and I hope it happens sooner rather than later. The fact that Taim has not moved against Logain openly suggests that he is not yet strong enough to seize total control of the Asha’man, which gives me hope that he will get balefired out of existence with a minimum of fuss. Of course, that would be far too simple, so I expect much more evil doings before he finally bites the big one.

An alliance with the Seanchan? AT LAST!!! Good grief, Rand, this has been a no-brainer for several books now! Even so, I was surprised that he stopped navel-gazing long enough to make the decision.

6. Elza is revealed as Black Ajah. Were you surprised and who do you think she will send her evil Warder to kill?

I believe that she was the Sister who zapped Dashiva in the battling around Shadar Logoth, which was a rather large clue that she was not a very nice person, and possibly a bit evil. Also, she seemed to be far too anxious to do Rand’s every bidding and too jealous of everyone else around him, so the big reveal here was not too much of a surprise. The evilness of her Warder was much more surprising to me, as they are almost all lovely blokes who are just super good at fighting and stuff.

I am not sure whom she has on her list, although I would imagine that Min and Cadsuane are both there. I seriously doubt that she has much skill at being subtle, given her behavior so far, but she could still be a nuisance with her Warder doing the dirty work of assassination.

7. So Harbor: I have to admit that I was expecting trouble because Masema sent Perrin to the town, which seemed unusually helpful of him. Please discuss how freaky and spooky the place is: what stood out to you as the most chilling aspect? Do you think that the Seanchan have had a good look at it and decided to stay away?

I was totally amazed that they even went into this place: the only thing that could have made it more obvious that it was full of EVIL would have been a huge, flashing neon sign over the gate!

The bags of weevils gave me a serious case of the creeps and made me itch for ages afterwards, but I thought that the most chilling aspect was the peoples’ resignation. They seemed to have completely lost all ability to react in a rational way: by running away screaming, for example. I could not understand why they were not throwing their refuse over the walls at the very least, but they seem to have been afflicted with some sort of mass hopelessness that has sapped of all their initiative. I am surprised that Masema did not feel right at home!

I would not be surprised to discover that the Seanchan had looked at the place and decided to leave it well alone: they seem moderately sensible most of the time. They could possibly have taken the state of the city as an indication of plague and decided not to risk exposing themselves to it, which would seem like a very wise precaution for an army invading from a distant land.

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