Monday, November 3, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 5

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 35.

We had 18 inches of snow and a 12 hour power outage yesterday, so I am a little late with this post . . . and it is only just November! :(

1. We journey to yet another impressive city. What are your impressions of Bander Eban and its inhabitants? Do you think that Rand will succeed in bringing peace and unity to the region, or will it all dissolve into chaos again as soon as he moves on?

I am always impressed by the way that Mr Jordan could create such different cultures for each of the nations in Randland. Although we have already met Domani, and so are aware of the women’s scandalous clothing and methods for manipulating men, there are plenty of aspects of their culture that we have not explored. I find the concept of an elected monarch rather interesting, and it is good to see a variety of methods for selecting a ruler. I am not sure that any one of the methods we have seen in this series is demonstrably better than any of the others, but at least they offer a nice variety!

It seems as if the Council of Merchants are going to be a problem for Rand because they are so accustomed to being in control. Whilst not all of them might be self-serving as Milisair, I suspect that she is fairly typical of the group. This makes me very concerned for Arad Doman’s ability to remain organized after Rand withdraws. I suspect that the Merchants will return to their habits of personal aggrandizement rather than continuing to feed the hungry and protect the helpless. However, I am not sure that Rand can afford to spend much more time restoring order here: I suspect that once he deals with Graendal he will move on to more important nations.

2. I feel as if I am being overly harsh towards Gawyn, but he does seem to be very slow on the uptake! Do you think that he will ever see sense and stop trying to rescue Egwene? Will their reunion be all magical and gushing, or will Egwene take exception to Gawyn’s image of her as only a helpless puppet and not the awesomely powerful woman that she has become?

It seems certain that Elayne got more than her fair share of brains and common sense in this pair, and even she is totally hopeless at times! :D

As with so many characters in this series, Gawyn is very frustrating. Whilst he was still ignorant of the true situation it was a little easier to cut him some slack and understand his delusional attitude towards Egwene. However, now that he has been given the truth by multiple people, some of whom he trusts implicitly, he is getting dangerously close to ‘needing a slap’ territory with his dogged refusal to alter his world view. I can understand that he does not want to admit that he was wrong about just abut everything, or that he has been fighting for the wrong side for a long time. I just wish that he would grow up a bit, admit his mistake and move on.

I suspect that the only thing that will stop his determination to rescue Egwene is for the woman herself to give him a good slap around the head. In fact, I think that they will both be very unhappy once they are reunited. She will have to deal with his unnecessary attempts to protect her when she is more than capable of looking after herself: and I doubt that she will spend too much time on protecting his ego. Meanwhile, he will suddenly be confronted by a person who is totally different from the woman he knew before, which may be too much for his stubborn mind to accept. I suspect that they will have a very frosty relationship for quite some time before they finally work it out and get a chance to have some good old-fashioned sexytimes.

3. Cadsuane has decided to enlist the Wise Ones in her efforts to ‘guide’ Rand. Do her thoughts suggest that she is starting to truly understand him and do you think that her efforts will have a positive or negative result?

She certainly seems to have finally worked out that the repeated, public humiliation was A Very Bad Idea. It certainly took her long enough to see that he was not succumbing to her methodology, but she is very old and has probably not had to rethink her approach to dominating people for several centuries, so I can almost forgive her for being somewhat rigid. Unfortunately, I doubt that she will get a second chance with Rand now that she has failed him so completely. Perhaps if she could explain how the male a’dam was secured he might just be able to let himself understand her mistake, but I think we are way past the point of explanations or forgiveness.

The Wise Ones are one of the few groups who have managed to not totally alienate Rand, so they appear to be a good choice of allies. However, they may not agree to work with Cadsuane if they see no value in her proposal. Fortunately for her, I suspect that Sorilea at least will see the value in it and they will move ahead with her plan. At the moment I am not sure what she will suggest, mainly because it seems that she is highly unlikely to be able to soften him now. We know that she is destined to teach him something massively important, but unless it is something that helps him to control his desire to use the True Power, I cannot guess what she might possibly know that he can learn from her. 

4. Nynaeve decides to go off and ‘help’ Rand behind his back. Were you surprised by what she discovered or how she went about it? Do you think that there is any chance at all that she will be able to moderate her behavior to guide Rand in a similar way to Moiraine?

Yet another for the list of People Who Need A Good Slapping! :D

I was rather surprised by the intelligence that Nynaeve displayed in her reasoning here. It is not that I think that she is stupid, but she is so rigid in her thinking, and so ruled by her emotions, that I do not expect her to apply logic to any situation. She always strikes me as more of a ‘yank on my braid and fireball everything’ kind of girl! :D

However, in this case her reasoning was very sound and her experience of dealing with the Forsaken would have helped her to see the hidden meaning behind the facts. I thought that the raid was very well written because there was so much humor injected into the account whilst the underlying story was really rather sad and depressing. It is always fun to ride around in Nynaeve’s head because she is such a bundle of anger and judgmental fury that she produces a wonderfully snarky diatribe as her running commentary on the situation!

I was particularly amused by her thoughts about how to control Rand, and how she was the only person who could possibly know what was right: she and Cadsuane are so very similar! Indeed, she shares her older Sister’s understanding of how Rand needs to be more human and her fears that he will not survive to even begin the Last Battle. I hope that she can control her temper enough to maintain Rand’s trust, because he really does need at least one Aes Sedai that he can rely upon completely, and I suspect that Nynaeve is the only candidate for that position. Having read New Spring, we now know how fiery Moiraine was in her younger years, so we can appreciate how difficult she found it to bite her tongue and play nice with the young Dragon. I suspect that Nynaeve might surprise us all by proving to be almost as successful. Assuming that she does not slap him for putting Lan in danger.

5. Mat spent hours coming up with very interesting, and thorough, backstories for his group of spies. Was this a justifiable use of his time or were his men correct in finding it all rather funny? Aludra demands all the resources in the world for her ‘dragons’: will Rand go along with this plan or see it as pointless?

I loved this chapter and the way that his men were playing with Mat. Yet again I have to praise the writing, because it showed how much understanding and affection his men have for him. They knew that the stupidly intricate backstories were a product of his intense concern for their safety, but they did nothing to openly criticize the amount of time and effort he had wasted in creating them. Whilst his plan did not need such elaborate plotting, it certainly seemed like a massive improvement over the blind ignoring of all the danger signs in Hinderstap. I do not feel that I can criticize Mat for being more cautious after that near disaster.

I am not at all sure what Rand will think of this plan. I suspect that he will probably see the value of it as an alternative to relying upon channeling, but the need for so many resources may force him to discount it as impossible. However, Travelling might make it more feasible than it sounds at the moment, and I am not sure that the Dark One will have an answer to such a new weapon.

6. Verin has returned! Any ideas why she has been hanging around in the mountains distributing flyers rather than Travelling about trying to find Mat and Perrin?

This seemed like a rather passive way for her to find the young men. Surely she could have been hopping about trying to get news of battles and armies on the move and then following the Band. I cannot imagine that such a large army could be moving about without anyone noticing them at all. However, I suppose that she had her own reasons for more or less sitting and waiting for him to arrive, and I suspect that we will be none the wiser once she talks to Mat.

I have no idea why she has suddenly decided to meet up with the lads. Perhaps she has been sucked in by their ta’veren quality, but I am not sure why they need her just now. I suppose she might be able to provide Mat with a vital clue about the Tower of Ghenjei, but other than that I am stumped.

7. Could Rand’s meeting with Tuon have gone any more badly? Do you think that this will signal open warfare between Rand and the Seanchan, or is there still a chance of a truce?

Good grief! :(

I suppose they could have ended up having a bitch slapping fight, but otherwise this was pretty hopeless. Neither of them is good at understanding alternative points of view, so it was pretty much doomed to fairly from the beginning, but I had hoped that they could have reached a compromise. In fact, I was very surprised that Rand’s ta’veren quality did not overwhelm Tuon’s thinking and force an agreement. The fact that she could refuse his pull says a great deal about her strength of character, but in this case it was possibly a bad thing.

However, I think we have already realized that the Seanchan attack on the White Tower will be the catalyst to remove Elaida and install Egwene as the true Amyrlin. This will allow her to unify the Aes Sedai and purge the Black from their midst, creating an effective fighting force just in time for the Last Battle. Perhaps the Seanchan attack is vital in order for this to happen, as we can expect the Sisters to keep dithering for a long time if they are not pushed into a decision. I hope that either Rand or Tuon will see sense and that they can finally come to a Truce, but it looks very unlikely at the moment.


  1. 1. Bandar Eban strikes me as a city of the same type as Tear is. Not one of the magnificent ones, but a dirty port town that has grown up because of trade rather than the some powerful local nobles. Although Tear has the Stone, so that comparison might be flawed. I feel like it's nice to see a capital that isn't very significant in any way. Most of the previous ones all have something unique about them.

    I don't think Rand, in his current state, is capable of bringing peace and unity everywhere. And so long as he remains like this, we're on the way to a loss in the Last Battle, or if not a loss then at least a win that might as well be a loss.

    2. Yeah, Gawyn needs to return to reality. I wish I could tell you it's just around the corner, but there's a reason why Gawyn is not rated very highly by the fans. Right now, you're right. It's probably for the better that they are not together anyway, because they wouldn't be happy with each other at all.

    3. No, I think Cadsuane has lost control. She's going to keep trying, but I didn't feel like I could see anything particularly different about her, except for her decision to involve the Wise Ones, of course. Which could turn out to be a blessing or a curse... either they "fix" Rand, or Rand loses his trust in the Wise Ones as well (whatever remains of it, that is).

    4. I love reading these characters when they go into "getting shit done" mode. Nynaeve is cool. I'm not THAT surprised, to be honest. She's had a few of these episodes before, where she gets exasperated by everyone around her and just goes to town with no regard for anyone else. And that's fine!

    If Nynaeve had more than two books to learn how to guide Rand like Moiraine did, I might say yes, but I still consider her to be relatively young and inexperienced in the wisdom department, and as awesome as she is sometimes, Moiraine really was a very together Aes Sedai.

    5. This is another example of something Sanderson's Mat did that I don't think Robert Jordan's Mat would ever do. It's not that it's not funny, but under Sanderson, Mat has turned into a much more slapstick comedy character instead of the muted and subtle humour from before. It's like he's trying too hard. It gets better though, from the next book, and if none of you notice it anyway then who are you to care?

    I'm pretty sure Rand will be able to see the value of Aludra's plans, whether in his current, previous or hypothetically "fixed" state.

    6. I guess you'll be quite a bit the wiser after the next chapter. Other than that I really don't want to say too much about Verin, for reasons that will become clear.

    7. Yeah, I can't help but wondering if normal Rand (or, more normal than current Rand) would have been able to succeed in ta'verening Tuon into acceptance right there, and if he failed just because of his personal darkness. Tuon definitely seemed to get the idea that the current Rand is not someone who can lead the world to the Last Battle.

    Let's hope it doesn't come to open war. That would be much too costly.


    Very excited about next week. There are some chapters I've been eagerly awaiting since I first found out about this readalong, and one in particular. Get hyped. You'll know it when it happens. ;-)

    1. Agreed! This is one of my favorite parts of the series! :D

    2. Poor Gawyn. He tries so hard to be the good guy and yet fails. If Egwene doesn't slap him soon, then I vote that Sue or I do.

      Yep. Rand may start looking askance at the Wise Ones just for going along with Cadsuane's plan, whatever that is. Cadsuane could be making things quite worse.

      Agreed. We saw Nynaeve getting shit done when she mobilized an army to follow the Malkieri using some well chosen words and a flock of messenger birds. I just wish she could do that a little more often as we careen willy nilly towards The Last Battle.

  2. I too am always fascinated by Jordan's ability to give us such rich, varied cultures. I loved this chapter from Nynaeve. It just goes to show that she could get a lot accomplished if she would just apply herself. Mat's chapter was definitely hilarious. And yeah, I don't think we'll get a truce between Rand and Tuon just yet. Give it time. :D

  3. 18 inches of snow!?! Damn!

    I'd like to think that Rand can sort out the Merchant's Council quickly and get back to more important stuff. But you are right, he doesn't have much time to dither. Hopefully he will call it quits if it doesn't look like it is coming together.

    Ah, yes, Cadsuane and her public humiliation technique finally backfired. I wonder why she didn't see that coming? Oh, yeah, of course even the most well intentioned people can sometimes stick their own heads up their asses.

    I too really enjoyed Mat's little backstories and the gentle ribbing his men gave him. This whole section had me chuckling throughout.

    Ah yes, I am more worried about the Seanchan now after this failed meeting. Rand feels he can spend no more time on them.....and when he makes such a decision, balefire usually follows swiftly. Tuon hasn't seen that side of him, so I doubt she can prepare for it. Hopefully, it won't come to that because Mat would then be very sad and possibly tempted to put a knife in Rand's eye.


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