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????


  1. I expect most of the young women who come to the Tower for training already have some idea of the different Ajahs and have some preconceived disposition towards one or the other - or against the Reds. Makes me wonder how the Reds recruit, really. Is Randland really about 20% man-haters (among the female populations)?

    Hmm...Verin handing out herbs to help Moiraine sleep....and Moiraine having such recurring dreams. Just saying that Verin may be running yet another experiment. And that is what I like about her - no animal testing is involved in her experiments. She goes straight for the human subjects. ;)

    Good point that the final test to be raised is way more daunting, and telling, than swearing on the Oathrod. I can see how many of the tested Sisters are hesitant to acknowledge the Super Girls (now that you brought up this good point).

    I agree that Moiraine should be able to act independently as long as she stays away from Tar Valon. In this case, the secretive nature of the Tower works very well for Moiraine.

    Hmm.. Where is Mandarb indeed? I think most equines live to be somewhere between 30-40 years old (if they die of old age). So, perhaps Mandarb needed to come in later so that he could survive through to the end of the series.

  2. I have to assume that the man-hating women gravitate towards the Reds of their own accord . . . or perhaps there is some brain-washing involved! :D

    I agree, it is very difficult not to be slightly suspicious of Verin and anything she does. Although we have not had a definitive revelation about her in the series yet, I think it is pretty obvious that there is something very wrong with her. Her ability to lie and use Compulsion suggest that she is Black Ajah but she hasn't tried to kill any of the good guys, which seems to be a little odd . . .

    I just thought it was strange that the sticking point so far in the series has always been the Oaths, and yet I would be much more upset about them missing out on this nearly impossible task if I were a Sister. It is also a really good reason to have a way to allow those who have not passed the test to continue to have some role in the Tower. I'm sure that it was a good idea at some point in time, but now they need to work with less powerful women and not waste the few that come forward.

    The Mandarb Question is just something that I have found really jarring . . . I hadn't realized how much I expect to hear about him when Lan is mentioned, but it does give us the chance to see him as a foal I suppose . . .


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