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.


  1. Yeah, I think everyone has trouble sympathizing with Alviarin and Mesaana. Or Elaida for that matter. You aren't alone there. Loial + Erith = Loyith? Eral? Whatcha think? :D
    My WoT Post

  2. Yep, Alviarin was pretty shaken up with her visit with Mesaana and Shaidar Haran (who said something about being the Dark One - which I don't quite understand yet). Her snooping and subterfuge skills probably won't be so keen for at least several weeks. :)

    Verin is such an interesting character simply because we don't know where she really stands. She hasn't done anything outright (that we know of) to go against Rand or the Light, and yet....compulsion, lying, the fascination with knowledge.....

    I fear we will come upon Ogier Darkfriends. Of course, this could be the thing that rouses the others to join the fight.

    Total agreement on the Ogier wedding bed!

    A Warder with a taste for murder, and perhaps for torture, etc. *shivers*

    Why hasn't plague hit Harbor? I mean they aren't washing, throwing out the trash, eating healthy food. So while they are miserable and dirty, no plague has struck. more odd thing about the city to ponder.

  3. Hey, sorry for being a bit late this week!

    1. I am not sure if Elaida really believes that Alviarin is a darkfriend. When she set Seaine to hunt what she called "traitors" I think she had just that in mind: find some dirt, whatever it is, on Alviarin. Perhaps she has asked Seaine for an update and was told that the search is progressing, and that is why she now has the guts to go against her. I don't think she knows that Seaine is doing something totally different than what she thinks, and it's a fortunate coincidence for Elaida that Alviarin really IS a darkfriend, so Elaida's threat became more credible than it should have been.

    As for Alviarin, I'm really not sure. I doubt her mark will help in that regard.

    2. I'm not sure what Elaida would do if she heard, but I doubt she would have thought of this on her own. She has foretold that the Black Tower will be devastated and that sisters will walk its grounds, and she has fixated upon her own interpretation of this. If I know Elaida half as well as I think I do, I doubt that interpretation involves bonding warders. So I guess she would stop it if she could, not necessarily because it's a bad idea, but because she thinks the future must be different.

    3. Knowing what we know about Verin (she can apparently lie and has no compunction for compulsion), it would seem that Cadsuane's distrust is well founded, even if she herself probably has other reasons. Then again, Verin appears to be working fully for the good guys.

    I wish you guys knew how hard it to not spill the beans on her. :(

    4. Ogier are like Ents in more ways than one. I belive they would rather be left alone and not interfere with the outside world unless absolutely necessary. Certainly the Ways make them uneasy, for good reasons! So no, I'm not entirely surprised. I can only hope they come to their senses and that Ogier neglect is not what will bring about the downfall.

    The Ogier have an artifact called the Book of Translation, which they use to travel between worlds. (This is not 100% explained in the main series.) They used it at one point in the Age of Legends, or perhaps before, to enter this world, and they will leave at one point. This must be the case because if we accept that history is cyclic and that our own world is a different age (of which there are many hints), then the Ogier must one day leave because there aren't any around right now. In any case, they stayed put during all the hardships of the Breaking, the Trolloc Wars and the War of the Hundred Years, each time debating whether to open the Book of Translation and leave, and each time rejecting the notion and helping humanity out instead. One may assume they will have a similar discussion this time.

    (The same cyclic history argument lies behind the theory that the One Power will eventually go away only to return at some point. Actually, one of my own pet theories was that at the end of the series, the One Power vanishes. This would also solve the Seanchan problem, since they presumably have no reason or ability to enslave damane if they can't channel.)

    1. 5. Yes, with the benefit of hindsight, I think Taim's influence went too far when Rand took him to that farm all the way back in book 6. The Black Tower is in some serious need of saving, but it might already be too late.

      I don't think this was Logain "finally deciding" to warn Rand. He just got permission to take over the recruitment parties in the prologue, and I think he went straight after Rand the moment he could. He's a hard man to find, after all, and so I think this was just as soon as Logain could manage.

      6. Elza was revealed as Black Ajah during the cleansing, actually. So no, I can't say I was surprised (although I was, then). As for her warder murdering people, I really have no memory of this.

      7. So Habor (not Harbor) :). This is often used as an example of the plot slowdown: the joy of reading about Perrin going grocery shopping. Myself, I thought So Habor was delightfully creepy, and the image of a sack of grain crawling with maggots is the most significant proof we have so far that the Dark One is definitely influencing things. All the previous comments about spoiling food (yes, there have been some) are now clear. Together with the supernatural effects, this is something you'll see more of.

      Then again, I could have done without chapter 25 ("When to Wear Jewels"), which was perhaps the most void chapter I've seen so far.


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