Sunday, September 28, 2014

New Spring by Robert Jordan: Week 3

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. What do you think of the fact that Moiraine met Cadsuane. I don't think we knew that before. What's Cadsuane up to. Do you think Moiraine's eventual conclusion that she's Black Ajah is valid? Logical?

Any time spent with Cadsuane is always good fun, and I enjoyed this scene a great deal. I think that we had a slight hint about her and Moiraine at one point when she mentioned her in a list of things that she had failed to do or not seen as significant at the time. However, it was not clear that she had actually met Moiraine, or could have been much more proactive in the search for the infant Dragon.

I doubt that we will ever learn what Cadsuane was doing at this time, although it could simply be that she was in the Borderlands during the last months of the Aiel War to guard it against Shadowspawn incursions. However, we see here the weakness of Cadsuane’s total self-confidence and certainty of her own superior knowledge. She gives no thought to why Moiraine might be moving through the Borderlands and simply assumes that she is doing nothing of importance. If she had only considered the fact that the young Sister might be trying to accomplish something significant, she could have extracted the information from Moiraine and then helped in the search. I can understand why Cadsuane thinks that she knows everything, but this is a very good example of her making things worse by being too much of a bully. I am sure that her future self is now bitterly aware of this oversight and truly regrets it.

Given that Cadsuane is obviously not working under Tamra’s direction, but is one of the most powerful and competent Sisters for many generations, it makes some sense to think that she was not included in the search for a good reason. Given her paranoia, and her youthful assumption that she is the center of the universe, Moiraine leaps to the conclusion that Tamra could not trust Cadsuane, who must, therefore, be Black. Of course, the good reason was much more likely to be the fact that she was lost somewhere in the Borderlands when Tamra needed people close at hand that she could trust . . . or that she scared the snot out of the Amyrlin as much as everyone else! :D

2. Do you think Tamra was killed by a Darkfriend? Do you think the new amyrlin, Sierin, is Black Ajah? If so, why, and what do you think will happen next?

I think that it is very likely that the Blacks killed Tamra and her searchers. I would discount a ‘normal’ Darkfriend because of the similarity between her death and that of Meilyn. This suggests that the One Power was used to kill both these women and in a manner that would leave no evidence. It also makes a lot of sense for the Blacks to put Tamra to the question before killing her, and that again would leave evidence if done by a normal person.

I suspect that Sierin is not actually Black, even if she is a crazy man-hating ball of spite. Given the Aes Sedai tradition of manipulation and deception, it seems much more likely that the Blacks are highly placed individuals, as we see with Merean, and that Amyrlin is more of a puppet than she believes. We also know that she does not survive in place for very long, which adds more weight to my belief that she is not Black. It is likely that she became suspicious of one of the powerful Blacks, or learnt something incriminating, and they had to remove her.

3. We saw the scene with Lan, Moiraine, and the lake that was mentioned briefly clear back in book 2. What was your reaction to it? Did it play out the way you'd imagined?

I had completely forgotten the reference in The Great Hunt . . . but it is almost two years since we read it!

I thought this was hilarious, and did actually laugh out loud when she landed in the pond. I thought that the imagery was particularly well done, especially Lan’s apparent confusion that she had somehow disappeared from in front of him!

In the main series, we are constantly shown that Lan is as lethal as Moiraine, and that he has some pretty nifty talents that would make him almost super-human even without the Warder Bond. To have their initial confrontation show that he can both outwit and outmaneuver her was a delight, but also very necessary to show him as a worthy companion and true equal to Moiraine. It also made me wonder how much of his silence in later life was to cover up derisive thoughts and eye-rolling frustration over her stupidity and rashness.   

4. Someone tried to assassinate Lan. He was an idiot who was told to kill Moiraine first, but didn't. Who do you think the attack was aimed at and who was responsible for it?

At the time, it seemed clear that it must be Edeyn who wanted Lan dead. However, now that we know that she intended to marry him to her daughter, that seems less than unlikely. The assassin says that he was paid to kill Moiraine, so I suspect that she is correct in thinking that he has something to do with the man Gorthanes who was so interested in her in Tar Valon. It makes sense that one of the opposing Houses would want to remove Moiraine as a potential heir to the Sun Throne, especially as she has the might of the White Tower behind her. This would also explain why the young man was told to shoot her first, and from a great distance, so that she would not have chance to defend herself with the One Power.

5. What did you think of the Lan-Edeyn relationship, and all of Edeyn's plans for Lan?

I hate to be picky, but I am a little disappointed by Lan’s apparent habit of jumping into bed with women that he does not really like. We saw the same thing with Myrelle after Moiraine’s death, which was even more unforgiveable because of his love for Nynaeve at the time. I know that men have their ‘urges’, but I thought that there were cold showers available for that kind of problem! :D

I was rather surprised that Lan not only bedded Edeyn, but that he did so after she told him of her plan for him to marry her daughter . . . eew! The Malkieri seem to have very rigid customs about the whole carneira thing, but I was seriously expecting him to send her off with a flea in her ear, not ‘reluctantly’ spend several days having rampant sexytimes. Sorry, Lan, but you disappointed me.

I suspect that Lan has not changed all that much since Edeyn first ‘cut his hair’, but she seems to believe that he has no say in how his life will unfold. Either she is blinded by her ambition, or is just plain stupid, because he is obviously not a man to be forced into something he does not want to do. Of course, once we meet his intended bride, I have to believe that he would stab her to death after only a few hours in her company, or run off into the waiting embrace of the Blight just to get away from her. I suppose we cannot blame her for how she has been trained by her mother, but I was surprised that Moiraine did not push her out of a window.

6. In the end, a Black sister is revealed, and several innocents die. The fight scene was pretty epic. Thoughts? Feelings? Regrets?

Is it bad that I was actually quite pleased about Iselle dying? She was an obnoxious twerp and I suppose that she did not deserve to actually die, but I could not feel a great deal of sorrow for her or even her grieving mother. I think that this probably makes me a bad and judgmental person . . . sorry about that! :D

If it is any consolation, I did feel bad for Diryk and Brys, both of whom seemed nice and most definitely did not deserve to die. Of course, all that talk about ‘luck’ and mysteriously survived falls had me shouting “ta’veren!” in my head, so I was very disappointed when Diryk was the first off the balcony and this time he did not survive. I thought the point about the ‘blacksmith’ was a little labored and would have been much more subtle if the man had not been a very clear amalgam of Mat and Perrin and if he had not been mentioned several times. It felt a little like being hit in the face with a sign saying “This Is A Very Important Clue!”.

I was also sorry to see the demise of Bukama. He reminded me an awful lot of Uno, so I was sorry to see him die. However, he is never mentioned in the main series and I somehow doubt that he would ever have retired to a certain comfortable inn in a nearby town. These should have been obvious clues that he would probably not survive to the end of the book, but I can be rather blind when predicting the deaths of characters I like. Wishful thinking can be powerful stuff!

7. What did you think of final scene that led to Moiraine bonding Lan? Did you like it? Want more? Think it was legit?

I thought that it played out in an understated way that was rather appropriate for both characters’ impassive personas. There was a grim practicality about it that seemed like a good way to end this chapter of the series.

Would I have liked more? Of course! I want the entire history of most things and people in this world laid out nice and neatly . . . or even not all that neatly as long as I get more detail. Unfortunately, I know that I will never have my wish fulfilled and, even if Mr Jordan were still alive, the poor guy could never provide enough detail to stop me wanting more.

Extra Thoughts

I was so pleased to learn that the infamous mice were destined for Elaida’s bed . . . and so disappointed to discover that they never made it that far . . . boo! :(

Why would the Blues keep a secret of a weave that allows them to herd around insects? Maybe it is just me, but that does not sound like the world’s most exciting secret! :D

Goodbye Mr Jordan

Finally, I just want to comment on our transition to the “Final Volume”.

I know that Brandon Sanderson is no stranger to monster tomes of epic Fantasy, as I have copies of both The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance weighing down my coffee table. However, I am staggered that anyone could have expected this series to be finished in only one more title, even a real doorstopper. There are so many plot lines to resolve that I cannot believe that readers genuinely expected the series to end after book twelve. In fact, I imagine that even a summary of the upcoming volumes would still be a substantial work! However, I hope that we will see many characters reunited and plot lines tied off as we stagger towards the Last Battle and I doubt that Mr Sanderson will disappoint us.

Monday, September 22, 2014

New Spring 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 16.

1) Throughout this section, we see that Moiraine is still having dreams about the babe born on Dragon Mount. Since we know dreams can have deeper meanings in this series, do you think it is just an anxiety nightmare? Or do you think it is something more?

Good point! I had assumed that the dreams were simply a result of Moiraine’s obsession with the Dragon’s birth and her anxiety about trying to find him. After all, Gitara’s Foretelling and sudden death would be enough to shock anyone, never mind all the secrecy about it and Moiraine’s somewhat obsessional personality traits. We know that she had already decided to join the Blues and this self-imposed quest is certainly a classic example of their dedication to Causes, what with Rand’s birth signaling the Last Battle and the possible End of the World! What Blue could resist sticking her nose into that?

We know that Moiraine will dedicate her life to finding Rand and then guiding him towards fulfilling his destiny, and that one major component of that is her fear that the Reds will find him first and somehow destroy Man’s last, best chance of defeating the Dark One. I find it interesting that her distrust of the Reds is already firmly in place when she becomes a full Sister, and it no doubt adds to her anxiety and frustration about being unable to begin her quest immediately. All of this makes me doubt that she is actually Dreaming, especially as she sees very few details and only vague abstractions in the dreams themselves. I am pretty sure that her obsession and anxiety are more than enough to provide all the nightmares that she could possibly have.

2) There were several side characters/minions from the series in this section too. Who do you wish we got to see a bit more of? Is there anyone you wanted to snuff out here and now?

I guess the most significant appearance has been that of Elaida. If I try to be generous I can see how she is used by the Pattern to increase Moiraine and Siuan’s distrust of the Reds, which no doubt adds plenty of fuel to their desire to help the baby Dragon. This is obviously important because they will help to shape his perception of Aes Sedai and, therefore, the way in which he deals with the Tower. Later, Elaida’s utter uselessness as Amyrlin will weaken the Tower sufficiently that a young nobody from nowhere (Egwene) will be able to seize control and mold it into the fighting force that it will need to be . . . at least I hope that is where we are heading with that plot line. Still, I would dearly love to stick a fork into Elaida’s eye . . . several times! :D

I enjoyed seeing Leane and Sheriam in their earlier forms, though it is a little strange to see Sheriam at this age because she is so much less impressive. I guess that this simply goes to show how quickly these women morph into the ageless serenity that is an Aes Sedai. I loved getting a brief glimpse of Elyas as a Warder, though I would have liked to have spent a little more time in his company. The Sisters that we encounter both here and later in the series seem little different in their younger days, although I was interested to see Verin handing out herbs to help Moiraine sleep.

3) Moiraine and Siuan are raised to the shawl. Do you think the ter'angreal used in the testing was created for that purpose? Or do you think it has another, long lost purpose, and the Aes Sedai of old found it and put it to this use?

I got the distinct impression that it was some sort of link to Tel’aran’rhiod, but I have no idea what it was originally designed to do. Perhaps it was some sort of mental agility course or a form of entertainment: extreme role-playing of some type seems like a real possibility. It is difficult to know how the channelers were affecting the content, so we do not know how deadly or harmless it could be in other circumstances. It certainly seems like a very extreme form of testing, and the high chance of failure and death makes it a very wasteful way to treat channelers that have spent years training.

I am a little confused though, as we know that Moiraine is one of the most powerful Sisters before the arrival of the Super Girls. This makes me wonder how the weaker sisters managed to survive this trial, as it certainly pushed Moiraine to the absolute limit. However, it makes me understand why so many Sisters are unwilling to acknowledge Egwene and the others as full Aes Sedai until they pass this test: swearing on the Oath Rod is nothing in comparison.

4) The Amyrlin Seat, Tamra Ospenya, died. How, do you think? What do you make of the new Amyrlin Seat, Sierin Vayu?

I may just be a very suspicious person, but I doubt that she simply died of old age and eating too much chocolate! Despite her best efforts, it seems that the Tower is well aware that Gitara had a Foretelling that may have been so severe that it caused her death. I have no idea how this rumor started, but her sudden death, plus the surprising Aiel withdrawal and then the search for children born at that time does all add up to Something Very Significant. We see Moiraine making such deductions from the tiny clues that she uncovers, so it makes sense that some of the older Sisters would be even more adept at the Game of the Houses.

Of course, some of those Aes Sedai are probably very nice and cuddly, and would be more than willing to support Tamra in her efforts, but others are undoubtedly Black. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the Dark One has possibly noticed the birth of his Ultimate Nemesis and has sent out orders for the Black Sisters to find the child. This would be a very good way for the rumor to have started, as I assume that the Dark One is pretty all knowing. This would also provide an excellent reason to remove the Amyrlin who is trying to find the child and guide him to fight alongside the Tower in the Last Battle . . . and we know that the Blacks are not worried by a little murder when it is needed.

As for the new Amyrlin: I am very surprised that she is not a Red. She seems to carry man hating to all a whole new level of crazy, even going so far as to banish the male servants. This seems very excessive and makes me wonder if she is either Black herself, or has been maneuvered into position by the Blacks to sow dissent and weaken the Tower at this critical time. After all, how can Sisters with Warders remain in the Tower when all other men have been banished?

5) What do you think of Moiraine's decision to leave the White Tower? Is she leaving for the right reasons? Do you think Siuan will be punished for Moiraine's actions?

I can understand why Moiraine does not want to become embroiled in the politics of the Sun Throne. If Elayne’s troubles are anything to go by, it would be a prolonged series of political campaigns, with no guarantee that Moiraine would gain the throne in the end. Unlike Elayne, she does not seem to have the temperament or even the desire to take that role, and her Uncle Laman has rather ruined House Damodred’s reputation at the moment. In this way she mirrors Elayne very strongly, but she has not been groomed for the Throne in the same way and does not want to remain a pawn for the rest of her long life.

It seems very clear that the only way to escape this fate is to leave the Tower: if she were to remain she would inevitably be controlled by the desires of the new Amyrlin. Although she will incur Sierin’s wrath, the Tower’s secretive nature will not publicize her disobedience and so she should be able to act relatively independently as long as she stays away from Tar Valon. Of course, we know that she will ultimately succeed in her mission, so it seems difficult to argue that she should sit in the Tower and be a good little Aes Sedai when we know that it will take her nineteen years to find the child.

I am not sure about Siuan and whether or not she will be punished. It seems that she is unaware of Moiraine’s actions and can hardly be held accountable for them. Also, I suspect that she is making herself invaluable in her position in the Blue Eyes and Ears, so she will have strong allies to protect her against any backlash. 

6) We spent some time in Lan's head in this section. How does young Lan compare to the Lan we know from the main series? What are your expectations of the possible forthcoming reunion between Lan and his first lover, Edeyn?

Lan seems to be carved from stone already, so he is not much different from the man we see in the later books. However, he does seem to have a much more casual attitude to his life and be somewhat nihilistic about his future, which is somewhat reduced by that time we meet him later in life. By then his Link with Moiraine has given him an important purpose to fulfill, which seems to have tempered his youthful disinterest in his own survival.

He certainly does not seem to have many warm feelings towards Edeyn, and it will be interesting to see what happens when they reunite. She is much older than him, so I have to assume that she was the aggressor in their liaison, possibly trying to progress her family’s fortunes by seducing the heir to the Malkieri Crown. It seems that tradition gives her a tie to him, but he almost seems to despise her now. This could be a reflection of his own self-disgust for having allowed her to seduce him, but it hardly seems a great basis for romance! It is certainly nothing that Nynaeve should worry about! :D

One aspect of Lan feels very wrong though: where is Mandarb????

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Spring 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 6.

1. We find ourselves back at the end of the Aiel war, with a long-lost friend. Are there any other time periods you would have liked to see instead? Other characters you would have liked to follow?

I would dearly like to learn more about the Age of Legends and how the Aes Sedai functioned within that society. We have only hints about what it was like from the memories of the Forsaken, but it would be fascinating to have more detail about the technology and scientific capabilities of the time. Chiefly, I would like to know if the existence of channelers made our form of science somewhat redundant, or if there were similar developments in technology for non-channelers to use. Learning more about the Ogier, Nym and Da’shain Aiel would be good as well.

As for other characters, my main interest would be in following the Forsaken on their journeys into the service of the Dark One. However, I would also be interested in learning more about Thom Merrilin and Noal Charin, who I am quite sure have numerous entertaining stories in their pasts.

2. Gitara Moroso foretells Rand's birth. If you recall, she was also the one who told Tigraine (Rand's mother) to leave and go to the waste. What do you think about one person having such an impact on history?

In the series, we follow many individuals who each have an improbably large impact upon the Pattern. Some of those are known to be ta’veren, but not all: some are merely in positions of power that allow them to wield a great deal of influence over world events. This seems fairly consistent with our understanding of human history, so I do not see it as too far-fetched to accept, even in Fantasy fiction. As a powerful Aes Sedai, especially one with the gift of Foretelling, it would have been very surprising if Gitara had NOT played an integral part in the fulfillment of the Dragon Prophecy.

3. Tamra Ospenya hopes to catch the Dragon Reborn in a big list of names. What do you think of this idea? Knowing what we know about Rand, do you find it likely that he'll be in the lists somewhere?

This seems like a very faint hope to me: as witness by the huge lists of birth that Moiraine and Siuan have to struggle through. We know that Tam found Rand and decided to adopt him, but there is no indication that he was a replacement for a stillbirth or miscarried child. This means that Kari al’Thor was not pregnant before the Aiel withdrawal and would probably not be mentioned by the other women as someone who had possibly given birth at about this time. It is also entirely possible that Tam would want to keep Rand’s Aiel origin a secret and so he would be unlikely to mention where exactly he had found the child. All of this makes it very unlikely that Rand’s name will jump out of the lists, although it will be interesting to see if he is mentioned at all.

4. Elaida has apparently never been nice in her entire life. Was she even at this point seeing herself as a future Amyrlin, or has she just gotten ambitious later?

It seems that Meilyn is a very important Sister, so I can only assume that Elaida has attached to her in the hopes of gaining prestige and influence. We know that Elaida was one of the most powerful channelers before the arrival of the Super Girls and the other, newly discovered, channelers, so perhaps Meilyn was one of the few Sisters who could surpass her in strength. Her subservient behavior seems to be somewhat out of character, so I have to assume that it is all part of a ploy on her part.

I suspect that Elaida had a Foretelling at some point that suggested that she would be Amyrlin one day. It certainly seems possible, as she has other Foretellings of events that affect her own life. It might also go some way to explaining her pig-headed sense of self-righteousness . . . or that could just be a major flaw in her personality! :D

5. Am I the only one who can't help drawing comparisons with Hogwarts? Do you have any funny ones?

I had not really noticed a lot of comparisons, but Moiraine’s point of view certainly seems a little like Harry’s at the moment. She and Siuan certainly seem to be at the center of Significant Events in much the same way as Harry, Ron and Hermione. However, I do not really see Tamra as Dumbledore, or Elaida as Draco . . . although I would be quite happy to see Elaida do a few turns as the amazing bouncing ferret! :D

6. Both Moiraine and Siuan are close to being raised to the shawl. Will we see that in this book? What do you think the testing will be like, and what new might we learn about Moiraine and Siuan from it? Lan is around also... will we see a warder bonding?

It seems likely that they will both be raised in the very near future, as I expect them to be out of the Tower and secretly searching for Rand before the end of this volume. I assume that they will indeed need to complete the required one hundred weaves whilst being goosed and assaulted with itching powder by a group of Sisters. It is highly likely that a ter’angreal of some type will be involved, as we saw in the test to become Accepted. However, this does not seem to offer the same opportunity to reveal something about their character or history, unlike a trip through the Silver Arches, so I doubt that we will learn much about them.

Lan is certainly in the vicinity of Tar Valon, and we can expect Moiraine to be riding about being bossy in the near future, so they are obviously going to meet. However, he does not seem to be training to be a Warder, nor massively interested in the workings of the White Tower, so I am not sure what will make him agree to the Bonding. At the moment, it seems likely that Something Bad will happen, wiping out his men and providing a Very Good Reason for him to start obeying her every whim.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Knife of Dreams 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. As we predicted, Birgitte was left to rescue Elayne from certain maiming at the hands of the evil Black Sisters. Were you surprised by her solution to Elayne’s capture? What did you think of the way that she manipulated the Windfinders: do you see this causing problems for Elayne in the future?

I had expected Birgitte to take a much more direct approach to rescue Elayne, so her decision to dash off and gather as many soldiers as possible surprised me quite a bit. However, I suppose that she has very clear memories of trying to fight Aes Sedai in her former lives, so perhaps I should have expected her to be this cautious when going into such a fight. Her knowledge that at least one of the Sisters with Elayne was Black would also make her more cautious as well, so perhaps I was being rather stupid to expect her to rush into the house with her bow drawn!

I thought that she handled the Windfinders and everyone else quite beautifully. She repeatedly thinks of herself as not being a general, but she seemed to have a very good tactical understanding of what resources she had to use. It was also interesting to note that everyone is quite happy to follow her commands without question, which suggests that they have no doubts about her command ability. The way that she manipulated the Windfinders showed a good understanding of their culture and attitudes, and was the only effective way to gain their cooperation without the prolonged negotiation of a bargain to buy their services. It showed that Birgitte may not have true memories of all her previous lives, but the residual wisdom has remained: she has a true understanding of what motivates people and knows how to exploit that knowledge. I suspect that the Windfinders will never mention this episode again, because it touches on the matter of their shame and a threat to the crucial Bargain that they have with Elayne. I am quite sure that they will try to pretend that it never happened.

2. Arymilla is defeated and Elayne is suddenly alone in her claim to the Lion Throne. Did you expect a more difficult fight for the Far Madding Gate, or did you think that Arymilla’s plan was doomed to fail? What did you think of Elayne’s assessment of Sylvase Caeren: did Lord Nasin’s sudden incapacity surprise you at all?

We know that Arymilla had numerous advantages over Elayne, such as superior numbers, but I think it was pretty obvious that she would never succeed in claiming the Lion Throne. Or, at least, I really hoped that Mr Jordan would not push the plotline in that direction because we have wasted enough time dealing with it when there is the small matter of the Last Battle looming large ahead of us. Throughout our encounters with Arymilla she has been shown to be relatively competent in her manipulation of the other nobles but also over-confident. This is admirably demonstrated by her choice of clothing for the attack and her mistake of not setting a rearguard. I was quite surprised that she had not foreseen the use of a Gateway to attack her forces from behind, which I thought was a blazingly obvious choice.

As I had mentioned previously, I was pretty certain that Sylvase was not as vague or useless as Arymilla had assumed. I think that Elayne’s assessment of the young woman is a much more realistic appraisal and will allow the new Queen to treat the new House Head in a more sensible way. One of Arymilla’s major faults was that she made assumptions about others motivations and personalities without truly observing their behavior: this made her vulnerable to making miscalculations in how her followers would react in certain situations. I had always thought that Lord Nasin was not really as crazy as he pretended, because it allowed his House the option of supporting either side without accruing serious suspicion. I am quite sure that his sudden inability to lead the House was simply a very convenient ploy to allow his heir to swap sides without being labeled a traitor. A very smart ploy, and one that has worked stunningly well for them.

3. We finally get to really meet one of the Ogier Gardeners, who are surprisingly similar to their cousins on this side of the Sea. Were they what you expected or did you expect them to be more violent or aggressive than Loial? What do think that each group of Ogier would think of the other?

I have been very intrigued by the Gardeners ever since we learned of their existence. I found it very difficult to imagine that they would be somehow very different from Loial and the other Ogier that we have seen on this side of the sea, simply because they are so long lived. Even with a total separation from their cousins in Randland, I could not imagine that they would be all that different culturally or in their underlying personality. Rather than being violent or aggressive they seem to be grim and determined, which matches Loial and Elder Haman during the recent Trolloc attack.

I suspect that both groups of Ogier are aware of the other’s existence, but there may be a degree of sadness about their separation and the differences in their lifestyles. I would expect Loial to be regretful of the Gardeners’ decision to be lifelong soldiers, although we do not know if all Ogier in the Seanchan Empire are actively involved in a military lifestyle. However, I suspect that he would be very interested to learn their reasons for serving the Empress and he would want to know why they have chosen such a seemingly un-Ogier lifestyle: they would also add weight to his argument that the Ogier should choose to stay and fight in the Last Battle.

I find it much more difficult to predict the Gardeners’ attitude to the Ogier in Randland. Without knowing their history and the reasons for their service in the Deathguard, it is difficult to anticipate their attitude to the more traditional, peaceful lifestyle. They could envy their cousins’ isolation and ability to lead peaceful lives, or they may see this as weakness and a choice to avoid taking a role in world events. I wonder if we will see a schism similar to the one shown between the Aiel and the Tuatha’an, whose histories mirror those of the Ogier groups to certain extent. Either way, I look forward to seeing these two groups encounter each other and I am sure that we will learn more about them when this happens. 

4. Frankly, I was amazed by the way that Luan and the others capitulated so easily, giving Elayne an uncontested path to the Throne. Were you surprised that we finally saw the resolution of a plotline? Do you think that Ellorien will cause any real trouble, or will she remain loyal to Andor?

I have to admit that this book and the last one have set up far too many unresolved plotlines for my liking. Last week we saw Faile’s rescue and the fall of Sevanna, so I was not really expecting anything else to be tied up before we moved on to Book Twelve: I had assumed that we would finish the book with both Elayne and Egwene held captive. Whilst I am not complaining about Mr Jordan’s decision to free Elayne and remove all opposition to her position as Queen, the very fact that I had expected a more drawn out and protracted episode meant that I was left somewhat dissatisfied by the sudden turn of events.

The capitulation of Luan and the others came too quickly after Arymilla’s defeat to my mind. I know that this is completely illogical and that her total defeat would cause any wavering support to switch over to Elayne very swiftly, but it still left me feeling slightly dissatisfied. Perhaps if we had simply had a different ordering to the chapters, so that there was more reading away from this plotline between the victory at the Gate and the audience with Luan then I might have felt that it was all too easy and hasty.

I suspect that Ellorien will be unswervingly loyal to Andor. She may never be an unquestioning supporter, but I doubt that she will do anything to endanger the country or directly undermine Elayne’s rule. In some ways, I am happy to see that Elayne still has some opposition amongst the ruling Houses: it will help to keep her honest. I also think that it adds a little depth to the characters and storylines if our heroes do not simply get their own way all the time.

5. Speaking of resolutions: Mat is married! We knew that it would happen, but how far did your jaw drop when Tuon made her declaration? We learn some of her reasons for saying the words, but do you think that the marriage can survive their positions on opposite sides of the Seanchan invasion?

I had already realized that I had little idea about Tuon’s true motivations, so I guess that I should not have been surprised by this abrupt change of status for our favorite scoundrel. However, it did rather fall out of a clear sky, so I was as shocked as Mat when she spoke the words. We knew that it would happen eventually, but that did not prevent the surprise when it finally occurred. I notice that I seem to be doing a lot of complaining about the way in which Mr Jordan choose to resolve some of the plotlines in this volume. I cannot decide if this is because he is really good at manipulating his readers’ expectations or because he has been annoying in the way that he has handled the pacing and foreshadowing of the resolutions in question. Certainly my expectations have been jarred by his decisions, and I am not sure that I am happy about it! 

I was interested to learn a little about the Foretelling that Tuon had been given about her future and how Mat figured into it. They certainly helped to explain a lot of her confusing behavior and tolerance earlier in their journey together. I can see why she would be very cautious when confronted by the man that she is ‘supposed’ to marry, especially as he seems so unlikely at their first encounter. However, she obviously takes the prophecy very seriously, along with many other Seanchan superstitions, and so she does not fight against it. In exactly the same way as Mat, she accepts her future as inevitable and yet is wary about rushing into it.

I suspect that their union will eventually help to create an alliance between Tuon and Rand against the Dark One, because it will help her to understand and trust Mat’s oldest friend. However, I predict that their marriage will remain very exciting and interesting until they are separated by death: it will certainly never be dull! :D

6. Suroth’s treachery is revealed and Tuon takes direct control of the Return. Did you expect Suroth to be removed so easily? Do you think that the remaining Seanchan nobility, such as Galgan, are loyal to Tuon or do you suspect that further Darkfriends are lurking in their ranks?

Let us all have a solemn moment of sad reflection for the passing of Suroth as she passes into her new life a slave . . . I am playing a sad, sad tune on my tiny, tiny violin to mark the occasion! :D

As with so much in this week’s reading, I have a mixed reaction to this event. Given the strict protocol and adherence to hierarchy and order, it makes sense that Tuon could remove anyone from their position in the wave of one tiny finger. However, I had expected Suroth to be a little more difficult to displace, like a tick that has dug itself very deeply into a difficult to access position on the nether regions of a very nervous tiger. Of course, this was merely an illusion reinforced by our occasional visits to her point of view, where her smug overconfidence gave us a false impression of how much true power she could wield. In the end, she was completely delusional in believing that she could stand against Tuon and her position as the Empress’ heir.

It certainly seems that Suroth is unaware of any other Darkfriends amongst those leading the Return, as she never thinks of any of them in those terms (as far as I can remember). Of course, this does not mean that they have not been turned to the Shadow, but it does suggest that they are less likely to have been corrupted. It is easy to see why those loyal to the Empress would be antagonistic to Suroth, but the politics of Seanchan culture make it very difficult to guess the real motivations of many of them.

7. Taim ‘welcomes’ a delegation of Reds looking to find Warders. Does Taim’s demeanor, trappings and attitude give you any hint that he might NOT be a Very Bad Man? Do you expect the Red Sisters to leave the Black Tower alive and will any asha’man agree to Bonding?

Taim really should just get a sign that says, “Hey, Rand, I am an enemy, you idiot!”

I know that Rand has a lot to do, but I cannot help thinking that his lack of action over the Taim problem is a huge mistake that will return to bite him in the backside at the very worst moment. He has Lews Therin crawling around in his head, so he should already know that the Forsaken began their lives as apparently good, upright citizens. If Taim does not aspirations to become one of a new order of Forsaken, then I will eat my hat! Logain has already split the Black Tower and told Rand that he needs to deal with Taim, but I suspect that we will see him go into full cackling evil mode before the Dragon Reborn decides to deal with this viper in the nest. This is a great shame, as he appears to have corrupted a great number of Asha’man, thus creating many more enemies for the forces of Light to defeat in the Last Battle.

I am not sure if Taim intends to let the Reds live, but I suspect that he would have simply killed them if he wanted to harm them. He obviously sees their idea of Bonding Asha’man as a way to create more chaos. Possibly he expects his corrupted men to somehow twist the Sisters to the Shadow once the Bonding has occurred, although I find it difficult to believe that any of them would agree to becoming Warders. I have no doubt Taim that has something evil in mind, but I am not sure what it is just yet.

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