Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 4

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 28.

1. We finally learn Rand's logic for swapping Bashere and Ilturalde. Do you agree with his logic? Will it work?

I think most of us were fairly sure that Bashere should stay with Rand and that it might cause problems if he returned to Saldaea. I was simply relieved to discover that Rand had very sensible reasons for his decision. So far we have spent too little time in the poor lad’s head to understand some of his decisions, which has been both irritating and led us to be somewhat uncharitable in our assessment of his intelligence! :D

2. Rand balefires Semirhage, then banishes Cadsuane. He says he has become "cuendillar" but Cadsuane sees darkness around him. What do you think it is? Is this a good thing? Will it help or hinder him in the Last Battle?

First, I have to say “HOORAY!” that he actually balefired Semirhage and the creepy Elza into nothingness. I had expected some more whining about not killing women, so this was another huge relief. Perhaps Rand is finally coming to his sense: I do hope so!

I think that Cadsuane is right to be very worried about the new Rand. I assume that she, and mostly everyone else, will see this as a symptom of his imminent descent into madness. As this would be A Very, VERY Bad Thing, I fully understand why she is terrified of what will happen next. I also assume that she now realizes that she has mishandled rather spectacularly and bitterly regrets her decision to berate and bully him in public. I was rather surprised that she was exiled, even though it is a very logical decision from Rand’s point of view. We know that she is supposed to teach him something very important, and I have not seen any evidence that she has achieved this outcome already.

The darkness must be associated with Rand’s use of the True Power. As this is linked directly to the Dark One, I can understand why it might produce an aura of evil around the user. As for its usefulness in the Last Battle, that is difficult to predict. The True Power seems like the ultimate power source, and spectacularly useful at destruction, however, it would seem wise to avoid using it if at all possible. We know that the other Forsaken are very worried about the effects that it will produce in Moridin, so I cannot expect it to leave Rand untouched. It also seems to be even more addictive than saidin, which suggests that Rand will now be tempted to use it at every opportunity. As with Callandor and the Choedan Kal, this might be a weapon that Rand should put away and leave well alone if he can.

I found it interesting that Semirhage’s attack was the catalyst for bringing Rand to an even more dangerous and powerful state of awareness. This makes me wonder if his ability to access the True Power will prove pivotal at some point, thus making this incident vitally important.

3. Gawyn reaches Gareth Bryne where he IDs an Aes Sedai in hiding, and is told the truth about his mother, Elayne, and Egwene's situation. Even after he sees Egwene, do you think he'll go to be at Elayne's side, or stay to be Egwene's warder? Do you think he'll ever accept that Rand wasn't responsible for what happened to Morgase? What will the discovery of Shemerin do for the rebels?

He seems to have some crazy idea of dragging Egwene off to Caemlyn to play happy families with Elayne . . . he really is delusional! :D

He may very well want to fulfill his role as Elayne’s protector, but I suspect that his manly organs will overwhelm his sense of responsibility and the lifetime of training that he has received. If she asks him to Bond with her he will stay with Egwene, and even if she rejects him for some bizarre reason I suspect that he will be unable to tear himself away from her side. I expect much mooning, whining and teenaged angst before these two sort things out . . . I also expect to want to slap them both repeatedly during this period! :D

I can understand why Gawyn is resistant to accepting the reports of his mother turning into a brainless trollop and letting some man ruin Andor. However, he will finally accept this version of events because he will be presented with so much evidence that it is the truth. He already knows that Gareth Bryne is not lying about this; he is just struggling to come to terms with it. I am pretty certain that Morgase will eventually reemerge as herself and admit the source of her horrible behavior. Either that or Elayne will slap some sense into him.

In many ways, Shemerin’s discovery is rather unimportant. She reinforces the evidence for Elaida being a bad Amyrlin, but that is somewhat beside the point at this stage. Of much more significance is her knowledge of a way to get into Tar Valon undetected. This could be very useful if a bunch of soldiers need to get inside to rescue Egwene or help to defeat the Seanchan.

4. Yup. It's official. Sheriam is a Darkfriend. Were you surprised? Does it bring any clarity for you of her past actions? Do you think she'll be successful at stealing the dream ter'angreal?

I was rather surprised and yet we had a brief glimpse of her being tortured by someone several books ago. It makes sense that it would be Halima, who could successfully use saidar to beat and then Heal Sheriam without anyone sensing the channeling. This also explains her increasingly tearful and disheveled appearance in the recent past.

Her role in the Salidar Six is now given a much greater significance and suggests that there may be other Blacks among the rebels. It makes sense that they would be ordered to join both factions and, therefore, have influence over both groups. However, I am not sure who else will be revealed as Black, although I suspect it will not be the obvious choices such as Lelaine and Romanda.

I suspect that she will try very hard to get all the ter’angreal: the possible loss of her fingers will be a great motivator. However, I suspect that she is unlikely to get all of them because I doubt that she knows who has possession of all of them. For example, Siuan has one, but that is a secret as far as I can tell.

5. Aviendha gets her honor back and we finally learned what all the punishments were about. What did you think of the Wise One's tactics? What will Aviendha see in Rhuidean, and what's next for her?

Oh, for crying out loud! As we had predicted, the answer was something mind-blowingly simple and really rather irritating. It makes perfect sense and everything, but I was rather exasperated by it! :D

I guess that it would be too much to hope that she will see a way to trap the Dark One forever or to save Rand from certain death. Her earlier visions were about the Aiel’s past, so I suspect that this time she will see their future. However, I have no predictions of what exactly that will entail, although it will probably be bleak and full of death and destruction. Happy, happy!

After that, I suspect that she will return to Rand and spend a considerable amount of time getting pregnant with the four babies that she is supposed to have. She will need to hurry though, if those buns are to get started before Rand enters the Last Battle.

6. The cockroach incident was pretty gross. It was definitely a dark omen. What do you think this incident is foreshadowing?

I actually thought that this was rather funny, especially when they all decided that bringing the tent and all its contents was the very best idea. I seriously doubt that I could have used anything from inside it ever again!

After the revelation of Sheriam’s allegiance, I suspect that this foreshadows the exposure of the other Blacks in the rebel camp. Somehow, seeing them as cockroaches seems rather appropriate.

7. Hinderstap. (Oh good heavens!) What do you think that was all about? And what does it mean for Mat?

I thought it was rather obvious that they should have left before sunset because the clues were hardly subtle. I had assumed that the villagers must be werewolves, so I was not overly surprised when everything went horribly, horribly wrong. However, it was interesting that there was some sort of ‘reset’ happening to the Pattern here. All the other bubbles of evil have left only death and destruction, but this seems unique in having an almost positive outcome. I am quite sure that the villagers would rather be dead than to live like this, but they seem to be developing strategies for coping and are trying to remain productive. This is actually rather inspiring, and I hope that they get some respite eventually.

I hope that this makes Mat a little more likely to follow the rules in future. It was blazingly obvious that staying after dark was a very bad idea . . . yet another case of a character needing a good slapping! :D

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Gathering Storm 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 Chapter 21.

1) We get a little more quality time with Semirhage. Cadsuane seems to have come up with a way to get under her skin. Do you think it will be enough to get answers from Semirhage? Cadsuane believes it is important to keep Semirhage alive in order to learn useful weaves from her. Do you agree with this logic? Or are you all for killing her?

I was sure that Sorilea would simply fix the Forsaken with her beady old eyes and we would see Semirhage soil herself, so I was a little disappointed with this solution. It seems to work, which is a massive improvement over everything else that they have tried, but I am not yet convinced that it will allow them to extract information from her. We saw Moghedien broken and thoroughly defeated, and yet she only gave away drips of knowledge rather than spewing out everything that she knew. I expect Semirhage to be much more tough to crack, so they could be trying to get anything useful for a very, very long time.

There is some logic in trying to get information from one of the Forsaken, but I am not at all sure that they truly appreciate the risk of trying to hold Semirhage indefinitely. As we saw with Moghedien, she will do everything in her considerable power to escape, and there are allies that might decide to help her (Shaidar Haran springs to mind). Personally I would balefire her as soon as possible, but that would be a whole lot less fun than having her escape and then try to get revenge for her humiliation.

2) Moridin and Rand have a heart to heart. Rand seems to understand the two of them are connected somehow. Do you think he will make use of this information? Upon waking from this chat, Rand confesses to Min about Lews Therin. Will Min tell others as she told others about Rand's time in the box? And would that be a good or bad thing?

I doubt that Rand can use the connection for spying purposes, because it would risk revealing his own actions to Moridin, which is a shame. Other than preventing further injury until Moridin can work out how to kill Rand without dying himself, there seems to be few advantages in this link.

I suspect that Min will end up telling some people, most likely Cadsuane or her sister-wives. However, it is not made clear that she believes that he actually has Lews Therin inside his head. Perhaps she thinks that he is merely hearing voices and will, therefore, keep this information to herself. The possible implications of her sharing her knowledge will depend a great deal on what exactly she shares and with whom, so it is difficult to make a prediction at this point.

3) Egwene matches wits with three White Sisters (Ferane, Miyasi, & Tesan). And then she is forced to match wits with Elaida in front of the Sitters. Will there be harsh punishment for Egwene, beyond the beating Elaida gave her? How will the Sitters react to this? Or will we still have to wait for the Seanchan to invade before the Aes Sedai get their act together?

I seriously doubt that anyone, apart from Elaida, will see Egwene as deserving punishment for this confrontation. It was very clear from their reactions that the Sitters were horrified by Elaida’s attack on a supposed novice. This is a clear violation of the Third Oath and can only be excused by Elaida’s assertion that Egwene is a Darkfriend. Even so, she has clearly lost any power she had to influence the Sitters: they are actively speaking out in support of Egwene in the run up to the attack. The only thing that will save Elaida from a public removal from office is the Hall’s desire to avoid the disaster of removing a second Amyrlin in such a short space of time.

I suspect that the Hall will be unwilling to remove Elaida, but her power is now truly broken. However, I suspect that the Seanchan attack will provide the Sitters with the excuse that they need to replace the Amyrlin, or she may even be killed or captured if we are exceptionally lucky. Either way, I am sure that Egwene will prove very useful in the defense of the Tower and be unanimously accepted as the true Amyrlin in the aftermath.

4) The rebel Aes Sedai have word that the White Tower now has the art of Traveling. Do you believe Elaida is aware of this weave? Or is it just a handful of Red Aes Sedai testing it out? And what do you make of Lelaine's latest actions? What can Siuan do from this point on in holding the Aes Sedai together?

I am pretty sure that if Elaida knew about the weave then we would have heard about it by now: she would not have been able to resist gloating to Egwene about her newfound knowledge. I am also not sure if the Reds involved are actually Blacks because I am starting to lose track of the multitude of Sisters that we have encountered. It is certainly bad news for the rebels, but I suspect that the Seanchan will swoop in before anything significant comes of this discovery.

I suspect that Lelaine is rather less talented at manipulation than she believes. It certainly seems rather obvious that she is trying to create panic as a way to seize control of the rebels, but she obviously thinks that she is being terribly subtle. I suspect that many Sisters will resent her clumsy attempts to gain power and will, therefore, act against her out of pure spite. However, I imagine that all of this will become somewhat irrelevant once the Seanchan attack occurs, so Siuan only needs to hold out a little longer.

5) Tuon holds court in Ebou Dar. Did you find her offer to Beslan fair? Now that she has seen the heads of trollocs, creatures she believed to be of myth, do you think she will be more open to listening to Randlanders?

It was pretty much what I would expect from a ruler who makes use of existing monarchs to impose power upon a vast Empire. It is the same methodology that has worked well throughout our history, and something similar was implied with Tylin, so I was not surprised. However, I expected Beslan to be somewhat less practical in accepting the inevitable simply because he has always struck me as being rather immature.

I would hope that the Trolloc heads would have some effect, but her decision to attack the White Tower suggests that Tuon still has not understood how to deal with the locals on this side of the sea. Rand will be more than a little cross once he hears the news.

6) Mat opens by comparing women to goats. Did you find his behavior to be 'husbandly'? Was his own ta'veren-ness working against him in keeping the Aes Sedai with him or was it his own goat-like behavior?

Ah, yes: it is always nice to be compared to a goat! :D

In many ways, Mat has been behaving quite like a husband ever since he met Tuon. He has certainly been a lot less like his roguish, old self and has kept away from barmaids and girls with dainty ankles (as far as I can tell). I find this rather hilarious, but it is very pleasing to see a character grow and change as he matures. I just wish that he was still Tuon so that he could point out what a terrible mistake she is making by attacking Tar Valon. Of course, the attack is needed to remove Elaida, but it would be nice if it could be avoided.

I suspect that the Aes Sedai are determined to stick to him like glue because of his newly acquired role as consort to the Seanchan Empress. Mat’s ta’veren quality will no doubt add to this impulse, but there are more than enough reasons for them to hang about without it.

7) Perrin returns to the dream-wolf world, promptly insults the wolves, and is tossed out. Will he be able to conquer his own fears? And if he does, what will he do with the wolves then? Faile has yet more secrets from Perrin. Do you find this good or bad?

Yay, Hopper! I am so pleased to spend more time in his company: who doesn’t love a happy, flying wolf?

I am sure that Perrin needs to accept his ‘inner wolf’ and unify his character in the same that Mat has done with his multiple memories, and Rand will do with Lews Therin. Unfortunately, Perrin will lead the wolves into the Last Battle and many of them will die, which makes me very sad even though it will be wonderfully epic to imagine.

Faile has good reasons to keep these secrets, and not only because she is ashamed of how she acted towards Rolan. She is quite right that Perrin will berate himself about killing an innocent man, so this is one truth that she is correct to withhold from him. I was rather touched by their little ceremony, and it was certainly the honorable thing to do. I am a little less certain about Masema’s disappearance. She could say that one of her followers found the Prophet’s body, which would remove Perrin’s worry that the idiot is still out there to cause trouble whilst avoiding any suggestion of how he died. On the whole I find it difficult to trust Faile because she often behaves in an overly secretive way, which causes no end of mistrust and angst for Perrin.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Gathering Storm 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 13.

1. Questions are being raised about the loyalty of the Aiel, and that Rand keeps misusing them. What are your thoughts? Could we really see another Shaido-like uprising?

I think that Rand is very lucky to have both the Wise Ones and the Clan Chiefs on his side: if either of these groups decide to rescind their support he will be in very dangerous waters indeed. It sounds like the Wise Ones in particular are doing a great deal to soothe the Clan Chiefs and their wounded honor, so we may be much closer to a break down of Aiel support than Rand understands. I am not even sure that Cadsuane and Nynaeve would see the dishonor that he is heaping onto their broad shoulders with all his talk of kidnapping and forcing peace upon Arad Doman.

However, I am not convinced that we are likely to see another collapse in Aiel unity similar to the one caused by his revelation of their pacifist origins. Rand may be somewhat blinded to their unhappiness by his multiple worries, but he has learnt a little of how to satisfy their honor whilst getting them to do what he wants. Despite all their grumbling, the remaining Aiel do seem to be doggedly loyal to their Carn’a’carn and there are many of them who would tell him directly if mutiny was likely to occur.

2. Siuan and Bryne have a heart to heart. Do you see this relationship to finally blossoming? Everyone still thinks Moiraine is dead. What impact do you think she could have on the story when she returns?

This is possibly the cutest romance in the whole series. I am fairly certain that Gareth Bryne knows exactly what is going on, but is waiting for Siuan to finally accept the inevitable and admit her feelings for him. I am sure that it will happen eventually . . . although it is likely to be almost unrecognizable because of her use of fish-based metaphors! :D

So, I guess we can assume that Mat, Noal and Thom manage to rescue her quite successfully then? Phew! :D

Apart from lots of surprised exclamations of “I thought you were dead!” I suspect that we will people moving along quite nicely. After all, we have the End Of The World on the horizon and I am quite sure that everyone will be happy to have an extra Aes Sedai of her strength to joint he forces of Light. Rand might actually be nice to her for a change when she reappears!

3. Perrin is belabored by refugees, but is still reluctant to take on his lordly duties. Will something more have to happen here, before Perrin achieves his "final form" before the Last Battle?

I am not sure that Perrin, or Mat, will ever become comfortable with their roles as Leaders Of Men. Neither of them is happy about their talents and their positions in History. However, both have managed to acquire wives who are most definitely going to insist upon them becoming the Heroes that they are destined to be. I suspect that we will still see plenty of moaning and self-doubt from both lads, but the inevitable will finally happen.

In many ways, I think that Perrin has already started to think like a true leader. His feeling of responsibility towards the refugees is a good case in point and mirrors a lot of the things we see Elayne worrying about. However, I am quite sure that his journey back to Rand will be full of interesting diversions that will provide him with many opportunities to grow into his role as King of the Wolves.

4. Ituralde is delivered from his death trap and is sent to Bashere's homeland, while Bashere is in Ituralde's. Would it perhaps have been prudent to switch places? If a shadow invasion of the Borderlands really is imminent, wouldn't it be good to actually approach the Borderlanders instead?

Yes, this did seem a little backwards to me as well. However, Bashere has been very creative in following his orders from Queen Tenobia, so it also seems prudent to keep him away from her. I can also see the wisdom of removing Ituralde himself from Arad Doman, where the Seanchan are likely to continue pursuing him with their usual dogged persistence.

However, I would like to see Rand actually spend five minutes spinning a Gateway to go and have a quiet word with the Borderlanders. That is all it would take and then he could put them to good use and move on to something more important. It seems highly unlikely that they are trying to find him in order to murder him or tell him that they will not support him, so I am not sure why he simply does not get this over and done with. In fact I am getting rather frustrated with his lack of effort in this regard: but he does sometimes seem to have strange priorities.

5. Egwene's infiltration is gathering momentum. She's talking to sitters as a near equal and has even been in contact with the Black Ajah hunters. Meanwhile, Lelaine is winning the political war on the outside. Should Egwene start hurrying? Having earned the respect of these sisters, what would be her next step?

We know that the Seanchan are going to attack the Tower, so I have to admit that they are my primary concern in this regard. At the moment, I am not sure that Tar Valon will be able to withstand their attack, even with the Rebel Sisters helping in the defense. I can only hope that we reach the tipping point soon and Egwene is able to rally an effective force to repel the attack. Somehow, I am not convinced that Elaida will be very effective in this regard . . . but perhaps she will look good wearing an a’dam . . .

It seems that her actions are bringing increasing numbers of Sisters to support her stance against Elaida, so the key is to allow them to realize this. Once they see that they are in a majority, Elaida’s fall should be fairly swift. At least, I hope that it is! I am not sure that there is any more that Egwene can do to engage this critical mass of support, so she will probably be alright if she simply carries on in the same way. Of course, one of her admirers could trigger a sudden switch in mood: at the moment my money is on Silviana finally refusing to continue with the absurd punishments that Elaida has imposed.  

6. Gawyn is finally on the move, but where? Egwene does not want a rescue... do you expect him to listen or will he just make a mess of things?

Ah, Gawyn! Last week we were moaning about his uselessness and now he is rushing off to almost certain death in his effort to rescue Egwene. If only she wanted to be rescued, or even needed it!

I suspect that he will go to the Rebels and try to encourage them to rescue Egwene. In fact, I predict that he will be most indignant that they have not tried this themselves already. Of course, Siuan will simply tell him that Egwene does not want to be rescued and that they could pull her out of the Tower whenever they wanted to by using a Gateway. This will be very embarrassing for the poor lad and he will go back to being depressed and feeling useless.

Sadly, I still want to slap him around the head . . . I had hoped that he would improve once he made a decision! :D

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