Sunday, January 11, 2015

Towers of Midnight 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. Aviendha’s visions finally show us the decision that will place the Aiel upon their path to destruction. That first step seems so logical, so will she be able to persuade the Wise Ones to avoid it when only she has seen this future? Can you see any way that Randland can avoid being overwhelmed by the Seanchan, even if the Aiel try to preserve the Dragon’s Peace?

This plays into some of the things that the mysterious Nakomi hinted at a couple of weeks ago: what exactly should the Aiel do once they have fulfilled their destiny of supporting the Dragon? I hope that Aviendha’s warning will prove convincing enough to stop this future from happening because it was rather depressing to see the Aiel losing their honor and resorting to warfare as a way to recapture some sort of purpose. Of course, we do not know if all Wise Ones see these future visions if they enter the columns for a second time, so the others might be persuaded by a quick trip to Rhuidean.

In some ways, I find this aspect of the visions more worrying and also more difficult to avoid. Given what we know of Tuon’s thinking, it seems highly unlikely that the Empire will maintain a treaty that allows any channelers to remain free. So far she seems to be ignoring the Asha’man but I expect her to notice their potential very soon and start moving against the Black Tower. I wonder if someone could provoke her into realizing that she really is marath’damane herself and, therefore, show her that not all channelers are dangerous animals that need to be leashed. Somehow I find it difficult to believe that she will ever change her mind, no matter the consequences to her personally.

2. Elayne takes the Sun Throne without bloodshed. Were you impressed by her method of uniting the two countries or do you think that it will offer her enemies a neat way to gain power? Will she ever beat the Daes Dae’mar out of the Cairhienien nobility?

One thing I have learnt from this series is that I am woefully useless at politics! I was as clueless as Birgitte during this section and so I was very impressed by how it all worked out in the end. Whilst I can see how the unification of the nations offers an amazing prize to Elayne’s enemies, I would also hope that the improved stability might make the general populace much less likely to support the nobles’ political maneuvering. It certainly seems that the vast majority of normal folk were happy to see her arrive in the city to take the Throne. Plus, as she pointed out to Birgitte, Elayne knows who her enemies are, so she can keep a close eye on them and hopefully work against their personal ambition.

Whilst it would be very nice to see the end of the Game of Houses, I suspect that it would take either a massively traumatic event or many generations of stability to remove it from Cairhienien society. Perhaps, if enough of the leading nobles happen to die in the Last Battle Elayne will see a slight reduction, but I would expect lesser nobles to rush to fill the power gap, which will probably make the situation worse. I am just very glad that I do not have to deal with it! :D

3. It seems that I was wrong for wanting Rand to deal with the Borderlanders earlier. Do you feel as if this plotline has reached a satisfying resolution or do you think that the Borderlanders should have been keeping a watch on the Blight instead? Where do you expect Rand to send them next: to their respective homes or to Tarwin’s Gap?

As I read this encounter I almost felt as if Mr Sanderson was saying “See! There WAS a really good reason why we didn’t deal with this earlier!” I have to believe that plenty of people had complained about Rand ignoring this very obvious problem, so it was good to see that an earlier resolution might have been a disaster. This did not make it any less frustrating that the Borderlanders were cooling their heels in the South rather than doing their job and watching the Blight. I can understand why they felt the need to check Rand’s identity, but their actions have allowed the Shadow to rampage through a lot of their defenses and kill an awful lot of people.

4. Both Pevara and Androl have detected people who have undergone mysterious changes. I guess that we all think that Taim is responsible, but do we have any idea of what has actually happened to them? I was a little unsure of Javindhra: has she undergone a similar transformation to Tarna, or does she have some other reason for wanting to stay in the Black Tower?

It seems that both Tarna and Mezar have been changed or broken in some way. The descriptions of their changed eyes and smiles suggest that they have both been subjected to the same process, although I am unsure of what that might be. However, I am positive that Taim is responsible: perhaps it is some form of Compulsion.

At first I thought that Javindhra must have also been ‘possessed’ or whatever it is that has happened to the other two, but Pevara does not describe the same physical changes in her appearance. I find it very difficult to trust any of the Reds, with the exception of Silviana, so I wonder if she is a Darkfriend.

5. Foxes and Snakes and blindings, oh my! The Tower of Ghenjei certainly took its toll on our heroes, but at least Thom and Moiraine are happy now! This section was so jammed with action, revelations and fulfilled prophecies: did you manage to follow it all or were you a little overwhelmed? It seems that the second red doorway, in the Stone of Tear, has also been destroyed: do you think that Finn will finally stop receiving visitors now?

Good grief: that was intense!

I was a little disappointed with this section. As we approached the end of the book I was becoming increasingly convinced that we would end with our heroes still within the Tower. The cover made me fairly certain that they would begin their rescue mission, but I could not see how the entire thing could possibly fit into such a small section of writing. This is one of the few sections that I felt was rushed and could have used a slightly less break-neck pace. Whilst I appreciated the breathless excitement of their race against the Foxes, I would have liked a little more description or just a chance to catch my breath! However, I was thoroughly impressed by how it drew together so many prophecies and experiences from the earlier books: it emphasized how much thought went into the whole story arc even right back at the beginning of the series.

I am trying to think of an event that could have destroyed the second doorway, but I am at a loss at the moment. As Mat was stood over it, I did wonder if its destroyed state was actually an illusion and that it was still functional. Of course, by that stage it was difficult to trust that anything was actually as it seemed. It would be very satisfying to believe that the Finn are now deprived of their source of highly enjoyable emotions, but I am pretty certain that they will get their ‘fix’ some way or another.

6. So, Noal WAS Jain Farstrider. Were you surprised by this revelation? What did you think of his ‘death’: is he really gone, or trapped like Moiraine? Alternatively, did he die such a hero’s death that he might become bound to the Horn like Birgitte?

I have been saying for some time that I thought that Noal was Jain and not his cousin, so this was more of a nice “Yes, I was right!” moment for me. I was glad that the hints were confirmed because I hate to be left with unanswered questions at the end of a series. When we discussed Mat’s preparations for their trip, I said that I thought it unlikely that they would all survive, and that Noal seemed to be the one in most danger of dying heroically. I was sad to see that my prediction was correct, although there is always the possibility that he has replaced Moiraine as the Finn’s new plaything. After all, we saw human blood but no body . . .

If only a small fraction of the tales about Jain Farstrider are actually true, then I find it very difficult to believe that he does not qualify to be bound to the Horn. We have seen him display some amazing fighting skills, even with his horribly broken fingers. These skills are eerily reminiscent of Birgitte’s instinctive use of the bow and I wonder if he was actually her lover, Gaidal. However, I am not sure if he is ugly enough . . .

7. Olver seems to mirror Mat quite a lot, from his way with serving girls to his ability to beat a game that is supposedly impossible to win. It seems that his nosiness was rather fortuitous, but do you think that Verin’s letter will prove at all useful now that the Trolloc attack has already started? Do you think that she should have left instructions that would have actually made Mat open the letter in time to prepare for the attack?

I had to snigger at Olver’s thoughts about looking after Mat: those two are quite a pair! :D

Argh! Verin’s letter to Mat obviously contained something Very Important, so I have to admit that I was rather frustrated that Mat ignored it for so long. Whilst I assume that she did not know the precise timing of the attack, I do not understand why she did not insist on a much shorter waiting period before Mat was to open it. The news of a Trolloc invasion is hardly something that would be problematic if you got it too early! Perhaps she expected him to rip it open ten seconds after she left, but that shows a sad lack of understanding of Mat’s stubborn refusal to be told what to do.

Now that the attack has begun, her letter could still be useful because it points to the incursion point for the attacking forces. This might allow someone to fight to the Waygate and close it, preventing further Shadowspawn from joining the battle. However, I suspect that the Dragons will be more useful in repelling the screaming Horde and Olver’s nosiness was almost irrelevant as the glowing sky would have caught someone’s attention fairly soon.

8. Evil Aiel with filed teeth!!?!??!? Discuss!


I suppose it was almost inevitable that the Shadow would have its own warped version of Aiel. It would seem that these ones are not massively concerned with honor as they attack a man who is badly injured and apparently unarmed. They show some rather obvious differences from the Aiel we have seen already, even the Shaido. They have dark eyes, which are uncommon amongst the Aiel, they wear red veils, instead of black, and uncover their faces before a kill. All of this makes me wonder of they are under Compulsion or turned in some way similar to the channelers in the Black Tower. We know that all male channelers amongst the Aiel walk off into the Blight once they discover their ability and it is not difficult to imagine that some of them would be captured by Shadowspawn. Along with other Aiel captives, there could be quite a sizeable population sitting in the Blight and sharpening their fangs.

9. Lanfear barges into Rand’s happy place and asks him to help her. I suspect that we were supposed to be surprised that she was still alive, especially after Moiraine’s report of her death at the hands of the Finn, but had you already suspected this? Do you think that Rand will dash off to save her, and, if so, will she finally turn from the Shadow, be a decent person and help the man that she supposedly loves?

Again, I was fairly certain that Lanfear was not dead, but had been reborn as Cyndane. What a shame that she died horribly at the hands of the Finn . . . my heart bleeds for her! :D

I really hope that Rand ignores her cries for help, mainly because I do not trust her as far as I could spit her. We know that she is manipulative and deceitful, and that she was considered very skillful in Tel’aran’rhiod, all of which makes it almost impossible for me to imagine her having an epiphany and turning to the Light. Considering how much time she has spent telling everyone about her love for Lews Therin, she has been one of the most dangerous of the Forsaken to Rand personally, and I am quite sure that she is still scheming against Moridin, even though she is controlled by the mindtrap. If she does prove herself to be a hero in the Last Battle, I will eat my hat! :D


  1. Hi all, I've been away traveling for the last few weeks, but I'm back now. I am wondering if I should really go back and write answers to the previous three weeks. I feel a little removed from the action by now. A few things I wanted to mention, though.

    I saw everyone enjoyed the chapter where Perrin forged his hammer! That's great, I read that at the time Sanderson wrote it, he thought it was the best single chapter he had ever written.

    The identity of Nakomi is possibly the single greatest mystery that remains with us to the end. We don't know who she is, and it's one of the things Sanderson has been explicitly forbidden to reveal, so there will only be speculation. There is one minor hint left in the last book, but nothing substantial. I saw someone (Sue?) mention that she might be a personification of the Creator, which is a common theory. Perhaps taking the form of Tigraine/Shaiel (Rand's mother).

    1. There were some major hints going on here that the ultimate cause for this depressing fate was that the Dragon had abandoned the Aiel in some more or less unspecified way. Hopefully now that Rand is reasonable again, Aviendha can identify the crucial moment and fix it.

    As for the Seanchan, that really depends on Tuon. There will have to be another meeting with her and Rand, and hopefully this one will turn out better.

    2. Yes, quite impressed. I can follow the logic when it's pointed out to me. Also thankful that it was relatively void of drama, since we don't have much time for things to go wrong any more!

    I doubt the Game of Houses is going away any time soon, but one might hope for a respite for the Last Battle, much like the Aes Sedai.

    “Birgitte, you can't sit on the SUN THRONE!”

    3. Well, yes and no. I don't like to say you are wrong when you don't have all the information. Everything indicated that this was a problem that should be dealt with sooner rather than later, and Rand's decision to wait was, based on the information he had, perhaps the wrong one.

    I don't expect them to go home just yet. Kandor is by all accounts wiped off the map and Saldaea is not much better off. They're better off coming to the meeting on the Field of Merrilor, backing Rand. And yes, of course Lan will need backup.

    4. What's happening here was actually mentioned in passing back in book two? Three? Somewhere around there. It's been swept under the rug since then, though, so I don't blame anyone for not remembering. Just wait and see. :-)

    I had a look in the wiki for information about Javindhra, but it's not at all clear what is going on with her. But she's got more than her fair share of supicious behaviour so far, so I wouldn't trust her exactly.

    5. We know so little about the Finns that anything would just be speculation. The doorways are destroyed somehow, but the Tower of Ghenjei still stands, and anyone can get in that way with only a bronze knife (although almost nobody knows about it, thank goodness). I'm not sure how the doorways came to be, but given the cyclical nature of the history of this world, someone will surely make new ones at some point. I can only guess how long that might be, and whether there are other ways to interact with the Finns in the meantime.

    I found this section to be surprisingly action-filled compared to earlier visits to the Finn's realm (Finnland, you might say).

    Back in book four when Mat went to the Eelfinn I mentioned that there was some hidden idea there that nobody had realized until it was revealed. At least, I never saw anyone suggest that Mat's spear actually was literally the way out of the Finn's realm. I thought that was a very nice piece of misdirection.

    1. Continued!

      6. Yes, as you all guessed. I don't want to begin speculating about his current status, but the circumstances of his death/capture were very different from that of Moiraine's. From the amount of myths and stories surrounding Jain Farstrider, it would not be too far out to think he might be a new Hero of the Horn. Maybe we'll see... when the Horn is blown?

      7. I wonder why Verin had to insist that Mat do what the letter said. She could have just asked him to read it in a week's time or two, and then toss it away or whatever. Obviously, knowing what was in the letter, Mat would have acted on it. Verin was risking a bit much by forcing him that way. It's also clear now that the time limit was meant to keep Mat in Caemlyn until the attack came, unless he read the letter, so as to have a ta'veren general ready. I'm sure she thought that would help. Unfortunately she must have missed only by a day or two, and it's now up to Talmanes to play the hero.

      8. Ah, yes. :-)

    2. I don't mind you skipping on commenting on previous weeks. We've all been there and had to take a break.

      Perrin's hammer forging scene was awesome!

      Brigitte's lack of decorum was very funny, and also useful! Elayne should have to play the inconsiderate security guard more often.

      Ugh! Now I am trying to recall what went down in Book 2 or 3 that relates to what is messing up the Asha'men now - with Taim's help/blessing. Hmmm....

      Yeah, I wasn't expecting Mat's spear to be the key to the exit, but it makes total sense now.

    3. I’m a little disappointed that there will still be things unanswered at the end of the series . . . they irritate my OCD! :D

      1. Hopefully the new, happier Rand will be persuaded to include the Aiel in his peace plans. I assume that he originally left them out because he assumed that they would not need to sign a treaty in order to do what he wanted, but that their bitterness over the captured Wise Ones allowed them to ignore the spirit of his wishes. I can’t imagine that a Tuon-Rand meeting could go much more badly than last time, but perhaps he will now ‘bow’ to her in order to fulfill the prophecy and allow her to save face before they form an alliance . . . here’s hoping!

      2. I loved Birgitte’s comment about how uncomfortable the throne was! :D

      3. I have to admit that I was intending ‘home’ to mean the Borderlands in general as so much of it is now covered with Trollocs :(

      4. I’m sure the cause for the sudden personality changes will be revealed, but I was more perplexed by Javindhra because she didn’t seem to have been ‘swapped’. I think I may be getting a severe case of politicking fatigue, so I could do with everyone just being honest and straightforward for the last book! :D

      5. Finnland! Good grief!

      I’m not surprised that we never commented on Mat’s spear and questioned its significance – probably because we were all so overwhelmed by the hanging in a tree experience that it got rather lost in the rush. I’m sure that there must have been some much more detailed oriented types out in the webiverse who discussed it at great length until this book was published . . . after all, they had to find some way to pass the years!

      6. It seems hard to believe that he doesn’t qualify: what more does the poor guy have to do?? I also doubt that we will survive the Last Battle without the Horn being blown . . . otherwise what the heck was it created for??

      7. Yep: it is hard to imagine Mat deciding NOT to do anything about an imminent Trolloc invasion. Verin misjudged him in so many ways this time.

  2. In the past, Tuon has accepted the truth when it hits her full in the face - such as seeing the body of a Trolloc and having to rethink some of the Randland 'myths'. So, if someone were to show her that she is indeed a Channeler, she would have to rethink how Channelers are treated.

    When the Borderlanders were slapping Rand around, I kept thinking, 'Oh Damn! I am SO glad Cadsuane already got him use to this so he doesn't gut them all!' :)

    In retrospect, I see that the Tower scene was rushed a bit. Since Birgitte had spent like 3 months or something in the Tower, and Mat spent, perhaps 3 hours, I guess his Taveren-ness was working for him because the Last Battle is coming up pronto.

    Verin's requirements concerning her letter ensured that Mat would either open it and stick around to make sure the Waygate is closed, or that his army would be around when the Waygate was breached. Still, I want to smack him for not cheating and looking at the letter early, or having someone else 'accidentally' do so.

    I like your idea about the Evil Aiel way more than mine!

    1. I believe that Tuon has already been told that the sul'dam can channel . . . but that obviously isn't enough of a face-slapping for her. Although, from a purely military point of view the damane can outfight the Aes Sedai quite handily . . .

      Oh yes: grumpy Rand would have balefired the whole lot of them into a smoking hole in the ground.

  3. Yup, always trust Jordan. And Sanderson. Even if something is aggravating (like the Borderlander situation) there's always a reason for it.I remember thinking when I read them the first time that all of the books Sanderson worked on felt kind of rushed. I think they were just trying to smash everything they could into 3 volumes so they could finish the series. Reading it the 2nd time, I don't feel that quite as much, but that could be because I'm re-reading it. Yup, kudos to you about Jain. You're WAY more discerning than I was the first time I read it. Olver cracks me up. And you're on the right track about the evil Aiel. We'll see more of them. :D

    1. Looking back to the end of book 11, I am still amazed at how much was left to cover in the last volume . . . Mr Jordan seriously overcomplicated his plotting for a 12 book arc! :D

      Yay! More evil Aiel! :(


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