Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #20: Chapter 17—Older, More Weathered

By Linda

Mat and Rand have not been in the same place since Lord of Chaos. They won’t be again until the last moments at Shayol Ghul, and then only approximately. There is also the period after Rand has “died”, until he sneaks away, but by this time Rand, at least, may have ceased being ta’veren.

Rand is wearing red, black and white. Mat notes that he is regal, older and more weathered—like Lews Therin, but in Moridin’s colours. These are also the colours of the Aes Sedai banner.

Tuon and her entourage panic when Rand is brought in. Even Mat starts to, because he thinks Rand is mad. In Mat’s opinion, proof of this is that Rand is not afraid of being taken captive. Mat has done all he could to avoid Rand—including avoiding thinking about him. The first thing Rand says is that Mat led him to Tuon. This makes Tuon furious because she feels betrayed by Mat.

It doesn’t last; Mat indignantly discovers that Tuon has his medallion. While she is embarrassed a little at the theft, she is ruthless enough that her feelings of shame are brief. Yet in Knife of Dreams Tuon was outraged at being disguised as a thieving servant in the menagerie.

Rand says that it is futile for Mat to try and keep away from him because the Pattern will never allow it. That’s true, but they have been apart more often than not. The two have a funny bragging contest, typical of Celtic culture.

Mat tells Rand in an offhand way that he cares about him–despite expecting him to go mad—and that he is looking a lot better, even like a winner. And Tricksters have an eye for winners. Mat tries to pass off his poor treatment of Rand during The Great Hunt as teasing, but it rings hollow.

Convinced that Rand is in over his head, Mat offers to talk to Tuon, but the Dragon addresses her formally himself. Tuon claims Rand as a captive ruler who has resisted her, and says he should have remembered his oaths to Hawkwing. To her surprise, he turns her own arguments against her. One of Tuon’s major roles is as a Nemesis figure, including to herself.

It is obvious from her words that if Hawkwing’s heir were still ruling on the mainland that the Seanchan would not have submitted to the heir’s rule but contended with them. After all, the Seanchan are Hawkwing’s heirs also, and contend continually among themselves for the opportunity to rule. Tuon dismisses Rand’s scenario as a non-issue.

Then Rand overturns her claim as the only legitimate heir of the only man to unite and rule the empire. Rand says that he, as Lews Therin, has an older and more complete claim and scares all of them with his powers. There are timely threatening rumblings of thunder that are unexplained. More explicable is how Rand restores the land while shielded; he uses Singing, as Mat observes.

Like his “cleansing of the temple” at Maradon, it has a mundane explanation and yet also shows great skill. There is a show of force and power with nothing to attack. It also demonstrates Rand’s fitness to rule—just as Tuon is fit to rule due to her establishment of social order, so Rand is fit to rule because he restores health and fertility—natural order—to the Land. Rand says he could have easily killed her, but she has done well for nations under her, and so he has stayed his hand.

Mat and Rand both point out to the Empress that her rule is not strong and she has nothing to spare to fight on more fronts. Tuon insists on keeping damane she has—the unspoken reason being that her rule is too dependent on them. It’s not surprising that Mat and Tuon want to get away from Rand; he is someone they can’t control or outwit.

Rand bows to Tuon on one knee as he offers her peace and alliance in exchange for her help in fighting Last Battle and fulfils a Seanchan prophecy that he would bow or kneel—the paraphrasing varies—to the Crystal Throne:

"I must find a way to make contact with the Dragon Reborn as soon as possible. He must kneel before the Crystal Throne before Tarmon Gai'don, or all is lost.” The Prophecies of the Dragon said so, clearly.

Winter’s Heart, What a Veil Hides

He must bow before the Crystal Throne before the Last Battle can begin.

The Gathering Storm, Gambits

Bowing among the Seanchan bowing is formal, either signifying an oath made, as when Egeanin bowed to Elayne, Nynaeve and co in Tanchico after making a vow to them ( The Shadow Rising, Into the Palace); or obeisance of one lower to one higher. Naturally, the Empress would see bowing and kneeling as the same, since everyone makes obeisance to her, and she would not conceive of anyone merely making a courtesy to one who sat the Crystal Throne. The Prophecy indicates that the Dragon Reborn and the Empress as a personification of the Throne must make a courteous agreement before the Last Battle begins. The more Dragon-centric mainland prophecies foretold that he would “bind the Nine Moons”—the name of the Seanchan Court—"to serve him”, which seemed to be in conflict with the Seanchan prophecy and pointed to the latter as an impostor. As it happened, both were true.

By her stated reckoning, the Empress and the Dragon are of equal rank, although his display of restoring the Land shows him as more powerful and holy than her, and therefore Rand’s extra courtesy actually puts her at a disadvantage because she is obligated to him. His prestige is such that his excessive courtesy makes her look inferior or arrogant, and his argument over their respective lineages makes her look like a Johnny-come-lately and lower than he, especially after he exercises his powers. This is not how Tuon expected the prophecy to be fulfilled. Rand undermined her but also offered her help. Balance.

The prophecy was certainly useful: it was the belief that Rand needed to kneel to her which brought Tuon to parley with Rand; otherwise she would never have gone near him.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #19: Chapter 16—A Silence Like Screaming

By Linda

While the thinking and talking continues, the action definitely steps up its pace in this chapter. The silence like screaming is the agony of those whose voices are never heard—or who don’t have a voice, but still suffer the horror of corruption and destruction.

Loial POV

Loial doesn’t truly understand hastiness, especially the other side of it—impatience. Humans won’t listen to someone all day, and yes, they do miss out on a lot because of that. The Ogier notice that people live faster because of their shorter lives, but they don’t realise this gives humans a very different perception of time. Loial feels that the Ogier are complacent about the long time they have and so achieve far less. Of course, currently, the risk is that the Ogiers’ very long lives will be cut short.

On the other side, humans do not sense the health of the land as well or deeply as Ogier do. With the Ogier being quiet and deep, the intensity of their arousal into battle fury is all the more unexpected. Loial’s rage is at the corruption and ruination of the land and living things, and at being deprived of peace and forced to kill. The Ogier feel forced to live like Trollocs, and in their rage turn around and out-Trolloc the Trollocs—at least in battle.

Ogier were named after ogres as well as after Ogier Street (itself named after the Ogier family) in Charleston. This scene is when they really show that they are ogres.

Galad POV

The Ogiers’ transformation into ogres scares the Whitecloaks. One of the Children—Golever—thinks that they must be Darkfriends. On the whole, anything that scares the Whitecloaks is believed by them to be allied to the Shadow. The best thing Galad can do for the Children is stop this simplistic thinking.

Rand and Moiraine POV

Rand’s thoughts of “If what Thom said was true, Mat might be the key [to making a pact with the Seanchan]”—refers to the fact that Mat has married the Empress.

Rand kind of regrets not trusting Moiraine. Although she counters him that he did trust her, but wanted to do everything himself. He now freely says that he can’t. Yet even while thinking that he should trust Moiraine, Rand doesn’t tell her anything about Callandor—especially that it is a True Power sa’angreal. Ironically, he destroyed the male Choedan Kal because it was too dangerous, yet Callandor is at least as dangerous as the Choedan Kal was, if not more. The immensity of the One Power that could be pulled through the Choedan Kal balanced the lure of channelling the True Power unaided, yet Callandor is a sa’angreal for the True Power…

However, Rand does tell Moiraine that he aims to kill the Dark One. He thinks he will be able to do this more easily than sealing it way. I am reminded of the Aiel saying that “Even a child can kill”. Re-sealing the Dark One in its prison would be harder, but also much more constructive, as the system of toh would indicate. Moiraine says the Dark One is part of the Wheel and implies that destroying it would damage the Pattern. From what we see when the Dark One and Rand exchange visions at Shayol Ghul, she is probably is right about this, but for the wrong reason. She is worried about causality, but the Dark One offers people choice, and that is its most important role in the Pattern. Rand thinks killing the Dark One will be another of his impossible tasks, his “nine impossible things” as Nicola Foretold, and a parallel with Hercules’ labours.

Moiraine is not fooled by Rand’s bluff that his memories make him old. If that were so, Mat would be old, and Perrin with the wolves’ collective memory probably even older.

Moiraine has apparently heard about the previous failed meeting with Tuon—from her agents, or perhaps from Nynaeve. Like Rand’s abilities, Moiraine’s seemingly magical ability to know things and acquire information may have a mundane explanation.

While Moiraine regards the pact with the Seanchan as an unnecessary distraction, Rand sees it as essential to winning. This time, Rand is right: the Seanchan must join in the fight in the Last Battle. After that, it is important that they be part of the peace pact, as Aviendha’s visions in the glass columns showed. Moiraine has emphasised Rand’s destructive and divisive side, but in order for him to right Lews Therin’s mistakes, he must also be unifying.

Moiraine now acknowledges that Rand is mature, probably because he did not snap at her when she says he is just a youth. She broods that doesn’t know if his ideas are right. What is unspoken, is that her ideas may not be right either. In actuality, each has some things correct, and some not. The Blue sister trusts in the Wheel to weave things right, yet wishes she could understand it.


Unsurprisingly, everyone is in awe of Lan’s feat of killing two Myrddraal simultaneously. As Lan(celot), he is the best of the best, truly “the highest knight on life”. The scene looks ahead to when he does what no one else can do and kills Demandred.

Kaisel is concerned that the Saldaean women, including the queen, are fighting in battle. Lan believes that it is not worth objecting about. Yet Tenobia is killed later on after Agelmar’s judgment is corrupted. Of course, many other rulers and nobles perish in the Last Battle. Everyone has to do their part, and Lan thinks Kaisel is stupid about women in thinking they shouldn’t fight. The Malkieri King’s been among Aes Sedai a long time; it has changed his Borderlander views.

Lan’s plan relies on the Trollocs being so ravenous that they are distracted with eating their dead. It works until the channellers arrive. Asha’man Deepe refuses to retreat when M’Hael attacks and is killed. Realising Deepe’s error of judgment, Lan is also nearly killed, which would have been a triumph indeed for the Shadow if he had been.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #18: Chapter 15—Your Neck in a Cord

By Linda


Like any Trickster figure, Mat knows all the entries and exits of the palace; Tricksters need such knowledge for daring coups and escapes (see Trickster essay).

Mat is sensitive at the neck, and his scarf feels like a chain and a ribbon—perhaps even the pink ribbons that he so dreaded when in thrall to Queen Tylin. It’s also a reference to him being hanged. He had just dangled high above the ground, a position nearly as dangerous as being hanged—having your neck in a cord. This neck symbolism has been continuing throughout the series, since The Eye of the World, when Trollocs tried to lasso his neck with a catchpole.

Not only is Mat’s neck motif prominent in this chapter, so is his fool motif:

Well, he would not be a fool and try this sort of thing again, that was for certain. Just this once, and grudgingly. Matrim Cauthon knew to look out for his own neck. He had not survived this long by taking fool chances, luck or no luck.

A Memory of Light, Your Neck in a Cord

Tricksters are often fools; they achieve their objectives by unconventional means, and get out of their scrapes, but are more often than not the butt of jokes in the process. Selucia calls Mat a fool three times in this scene—and something said or done three times in the series is true. Her first words are:

Selucia scowled. "What are you doing here, you fool?"

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

Selucia is the Empress’ truth-speaker. No fool herself, she quickly deduced how Mat lost his eye.

"Hush," Selucia said. "You just tried to convince me you weren't an assassin, now you bring up that? Fool man."

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

As well as calling him a fool, she mentions his neck:

"There is another way," Selucia said. "Come before you break your fool neck.”

A Memory of Light, Your Neck In a Cord

The joke is on Mat that there was an easier way in and out of the palace unknown to him, the Trickster.

Part of Mat being a fool involves him being forced by circumstances into risking his fool neck no matter how hard he tries not to. The Fool is a wild card—literally so in the tarocco or tarot family of card games—but low in rank. Another wild card in games is the Joker, but it is usually high rank. (And Mat is the only main character to play cards.) Fools like the freedom of having little or no rank, and Mat is grateful Selucia doesn’t refer to his title and his noble rank. He is determined to be a fool here, not the Joker. She and the Empress are well aware that he is both (see Fool and Joker essay).

Rand POV

Unlike Mat, who tries to avoid responsibility, Rand feels the burden of being responsible for peoples’ safety and lives. Making himself harder was the wrong way of handling this, as was deadening himself to pain. Only recently has he discovered that he needs to accept the pain, as the Aiel do physical pain.

Somewhat awkwardly, Rand gives Tam Artur Hawkwing’s sword. Tam tries to deny Rand’s gift, and, in turn, Rand makes him feel obliged to accept it. The gift is an expression of love and also obligation; Rand explains to Tam that his sword and the void kept him alive.

Tam knows that the flame and void is a meditation technique. This is a side of Tam of which Rand is ignorant until now; he never saw his father as a skilled fighter—a blademaster—or as a meditator. It makes sense: Rand thinks about how he has to be calm or at peace with himself to lead well. And the wise and experienced Ogier assure people that only decisions reached in calm can be sure (The Great Hunt, Among the Elders). The Oneness leads to that.

Rand feels weighted down by the burden of duty. Tam uses sparring as another kind of meditation: living in the moment, concentrating on one thing to the exclusion of all else. Such a purposeful activity offers a respite in the waking world, comparable to making a haven of one’s own dreams while asleep.

Rand hasn’t adapted his fighting to reality, to his lack of a hand. He is not living in the now and clings to ways of thought that are crushing him. Tam has anticipated problems—disaster, even—and practised fighting one-handed. He has not pretended that he is all powerful and invincible, or that the Pattern will look after him. Many powerful channellers fall into this trap of self-aggrandisement. Rand did; and he has come a long way out of it, but this is the last of its symptoms and Tam will literally wear it away. Rand sees that one-handed swordsmanship is possible and useful; and is encouraged and pressured by the fight to let go and follow his own instincts.

Interestingly, Rand attributes to Lan the opinion that one-handed fighting is futile—but Lan believes that you don’t surrender until you are dead, so he would acknowledge the necessity of fighting on without a hand.

By focussing on something straightforward, Rand leaves his worries behind. Emphasising the positive helps deal with the negative.


Tuon is also sparring to take her mind off things and stay sharp—with her eyes shut. Mat realises how dangerous she is and how she could have killed him. Except that Mat is dangerous, too, which is why they have a healthy respect for each other.

Their marriage is a self-fulfilling prophecy: they only said their vows because prophecy said they ought to. Mat realises that he has to live with it now. For a long while, he thought of courting her as a game, but marriage is not a game. It’s not an accident, either. Responsibility can’t be passed off. Like all fools, Mat tries to avoid responsibility–yet promptly protects his wife.

Mat acts on instinct—as Rand is doing—and kills a Grey Man. The slightest sound alerts Tuon. She showed that she trusts Mat implicitly, which he found moving.

Tuon calls her guards fools when they catch the wrong guy, then pretends that she never called Trollocs myths. Acceptance is one thing, denial another. This is why the Empress needs a Truthspeaker: to force her to accept that she can and does make mistakes and wrong assumptions, and to remind her of her fallibility and humanity. Selucia is covering too many roles at present, and consequently is not being an effective Truthspeaker, particularly as it does not fit with her previous relationship with Tuon. She is both very attached to her mistress and has obeyed her for a long time.

Tuon deduces that Mat went to save someone—or she was well-informed. Perhaps Selucia listened in to Mat’s plans after he read Moiraine’s letter at the menagerie.

The Empress expects people to serve her well, and therefore doesn’t express pleasure or gratitude when they do. She openly takes people for granted: they should just be grateful that their efforts are accepted and that they are not supplanted by another.

It seems that Mat won’t let his wife push him around too much. He won’t be trivialised, unless he wants to play the fool. She respects that. Tuon sees him as one who has survived great danger, and, moreover, is also glad to see him –an admission that is a major concession from her.

Mat wastes energy trying to avoid responsibility, as Rand does worrying over it. The moral is to accept it and move on. The chapter is about necks in a cord—or a yoke—and being strangled by responsibility as well as danger. But a yoke offers the possibility of progress and achievement, even if the labour is great.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #17: Chapter 14—Doses of Forkroot

By Linda

In Tel’aran’rhiod, the wind blows hard in natural patterns, but Perrin finds it easy to impose calm on a limited area, due to his skill and also his devotion to rightness and the natural order of things. Reality in the dream looks worn and the Land is coming apart. This is a step beyond what Moridin described to Rand earlier in the book:

"It dies, and the dust soon will rule. The dust . . . then nothing."

A Memory of Light, Advantages To a Bond

Moridin saw the end as a winding down of a universe crushed by entropy rather than a big crunch:

”The end is near,” Moridin said. “The Wheel has groaned its final rotation, the clock has lost its spring, the serpent heaves its final gasps.”

The Gathering Storm, Prologue

The storm is worse where Rand is. Fragments of land are sucked up by the wind and pulled toward the black clouds. The winds herald oncoming destruction.

Gaul’s strong will, identity and focus keeps him steady in Tel’aran’rhiod. Perrin asks him what he did to deserve Gaul’s loyalty. First was freeing him, which made Gaul follow Perrin because the Aielman had toh. He continued to follow not from what Perrin did, but what he is: ta’veren, strong, wise, a fighter. Gaul was always impressed with Perrin’s fighting ability and physical and mental strength.

Lanfear surprises Perrin by appearing beside him—like a lamia or succubus apparition. A lamia is a beautiful woman from the waist up and a serpent from the waist down, who kills children, seduces sleeping men, and enchants her victims with glamour and illusion. A succubus is a female demon who takes on a human female form to seduce men in their dreams. Lanfear—or Cyndane, as we should call her, because Moridin is strict with names—is not wearing Moridin’s colours, but her own. When she learns the wolves’ name for her, she denies hunting the moon because it is hers already. The name 'Moonhunter' is derogatory as well as accurate—Lanfear is arrogant and deluded. The Forsaken declares that she wants vengeance on somebody, this obviously being Rand, whom she blames for her predicament. Moridin indicated this earlier:

"Mierin hates you now, anyway," Moridin continued. "I think she blames you for what happened to her.”

A Memory of Light, Advantages to a Bond

The two scenes are linked. Lanfear can sense when Moridin is wondering where she is and quickly flits back to a more acceptable activity.

Perrin says Lanfear has never made any sense to him. He remembers that the wolves said she wants him. He doesn’t know what for, and neither do we. Not yet.

Toveine POV

Turned, Toveine has flung aside her reservations about Logain to be openly affectionate. Logain is crucial to either side due to his influence and strength. His resistance and devotion to the Light is very impressive; he has resisted eleven or so attempts to Turn him. Only this time does he scream in agony.

The Black Asha’man are exhausted trying to Turn Logain and his faction. All Reds except Pevara have also been Turned. Graendal—Hessalam, now—is in charge of the Black sisters. With plenty of women, the procedure will be more effective, as evidenced by Logain’s screams. This is his faction's last chance to save him; a twelfth attempt (symbolic number!) will probably be successful. Women Turn men easily and men women, as with Healing stilling. It is evidence of the necessary balance between the sexes and between saidin and saidar.

The doses of forkroot have been stopped for Androl, because they are going to Turn him soon and also because he is considered negligible, particularly with the dreamspike preventing his only major Talent from working. Which is why he is triumphant when he uses Evin’s paranoia from the taint to make him strike at Abors, who is holding Androl’s shield; using the Shadow’s weapons against them. Later in the chapter he does the same with their weaves. Impressively, he is able to open a tiny gateway under extreme duress despite the dreamspike being still in place. This could well be something the Forsaken consider impossible.

Taim reveals that he has the Seals but hasn’t handed them to the Dark One yet:

"I have already provided a gift to the Great Lord himself. Beware, I am in his favor. I hold the keys in my hands, Hessalam."
"You mean . . . you actually did it? You stole them!"

A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot

Androl doesn’t know what Taim is referring to, but he can see that Hessalam does. He doesn’t know who she really is, either.

Perrin POV

Lanfear explains to Perrin that the Asha’man guards were Turned and what this process is. She puts a dose of forkroot in their wine to help Perrin because she is “fond of him”. Perrin says no one should be forced to the Shadow. She counters, saying that they could have chosen to be severed from the Source; then, as non-channellers, they couldn’t be Turned.

When she reminds him that the Pattern offers only bad choices sometimes, she implies that’s all that she had when she swore to the Shadow. Perrin is not convinced by her claim—excuse, really—that she has suffered enormously—he is aware of how many she has made suffer enormously. Any thwarting of her desires or plans is agony to such a spoiled brat.

As “the one who is punished most” (A Memory of Light Prologue) she says she is no longer one of the Forsaken due to the Dark One learning that she was planning to help Rand win. (At the time of the prologue, Moridin indicated that she was a Forsaken, tough the lowest ranked.) This sounds more altruistic and cooperative than it actually is: Lanfear planned to use Rand, not help him. He was to either beat the Dark One with her “at his side” or she would kill him as he tried to do so and thereby save the Dark One.

Perrin is impressed with her skill in Tel’aran’rhiod. Lanfear is not supposed to be able to “do this” – move around independently in Tel’aran’rhiod? The Forsaken is sticking to her usual methods of using powerful men: she tells Perrin how he will be of use to her: to win with her at his side, as though he is doing it for her or sharing it with her. Basically he is to win the battle for her as her Champion, and Lanfear would be the dark Lady of Sovereignty.

Perrin shrugs her off. Lanfear tries a little honey and shows him how to set and unset the dreamspike. Perrin hopes that the retraction of the dome will bring Slayer to him. What it does immediately is enable Androl to make gateways again—gateways that aimed the Dreadlords’ weaves back at them.

In both scenes we see the Shadow undermining itself—Evin manipulated into attacking another Dreadlord, Dreadlords killed by their own weaves, and Lanfear plotting against the Dark One.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #16: Chapter 13—What Must Be Done

By Linda

Egwene is strong in Earth, and is able to sense voles underground and green shoots in the dying grass. As an archetypal Green, which is the colour of life and nature, the Amyrlin is a vengeful mother or earth goddess such as Rhea, the ancient Greek mother of the Gods, who saved her son Zeus (a parallel of Rand) so he could free her children from Cronus. As Mother, Egwene is a parallel of Terra, who was offered sacrifices, notably the holocaust, which were animal sacrifices wholly consumed by fire. She was one of a few stern Roman mother goddesses. Egwene has aspects of the Roman earth and agriculture goddess Ceres, including her plebeian origin. Ceres was connected with Libera (Freedom). The ancient Greek earth goddess Demeter, instituted harsh weather as she mourned the violation and loss of her daughter Persephone by Hades, the god of the underworld. Durga, the vengeful incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess Shakti, who was consort of Shiva (a parallel of Rand, Egwene’s original intended husband) and slew demons, also has some similarities with Egwene. The Forsaken have demonic parallels.

The Shadow is against the health, fertility and the natural order of things, and the Land and the Mother want vengeance:

In that moment—maiming, destroying, bringing death upon the enemy—she felt as if she were one with the land itself. That she was doing the work it had longed for someone to do for so long,

A Memory of Light, What Must be Done

Appropriately, Egwene the Mother uses Earth to kill Shadowspawn. The feelings of vengefulness and union with the Land are foreshadowing of Egwene’s sacrifice as she unleashes a healing holocaust to counter the Shadow’s destruction and balefire.

Elayne POV

Rand visits Elayne occasionally in Braem Wood. As Rand hoped, Lan and Egwene are pulling the Shadow’s forces out of the Blight.

"What must be done" is evacuate and burn cities as well as farm land in Shienar. The citizens are to go to Tar Valon.

Elayne and Bashere decide that it is time to move out of the woods to the River Erinin, heading for Cairhien. While Elayne doubts they will have to go that far, Bashere says that once they start, they won’t control how it ends so long as the Trollocs are still after them.

Perrin POV

Tam approves of the way Elayne leads, and how she knows when to let those who know what to do have their way. Perrin feels Rand tugging him to Shayol Ghul to fight; he will soon be needed there to guard Rand. As part of his preparations for when Rand needs him, Perrin hands command of his army to Tam. He explains the necessity to Tam, who then understands, but still tries to avoid the responsibility, saying the nobles should. To forestall further argument, Perrin makes Tam a noble, as he discussed with Elayne in Towers of Midnight.

Bornhald turned to brandy from the shame of allowing an atrocity to go unpunished. He owed Perrin the truth about the murder of Perrin’s family, yet it was his consciousness that they may die soon that spurred him to confess. Although the scene shows that there is some good in the Whitecloaks, even in the unsympathetic ones, arrogant and judgmental attitudes often lead them astray. The Whitecloaks condemned Perrin as a criminal because he killed two of the Children in defense, but they did far worse acts in the Two Rivers. Bornhald hates Perrin in part because he feels guilty about what he condoned, and needs to reclaim some honour by meeting his obligations. Perrin falters in shock and grief at the news, but refocuses.

Bain and Chiad are meeting their obligations even though this means not fighting in the Last Battle. They keep an eye on Gaul as they can. Perrin accepts that gai’shain should remain so and not be forced to fight.

With the worlds collapsing in together, and the barriers between weakened, it is now possible to enter Tel’aran’rhiod from the Blight. As the Dreamwalkers instructed Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod, there are some places that cannot be touched from Tel'aran'rhiod.

“There are some places one cannot enter in Tel’aran’rhiod,” Seana said. “Rhuidean. Ogier stedding. A few others. What happens there is shielded from a dreamwalker’s eyes.”

The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone

Rand reiterates what Edarra said: that entering Tel’aran’rhiod physically is very evil. Perrin says it is actually foolishly dangerous, not evil, but he has to be on equal terms there with Slayer. Rand accepts this reasoning.

The chapter title ostensibly refers to evacuating and scorching the earth in Shienar to provide nothing to the Trollocs, but Perrin must be able to enter Tel’aran’rhiod as Slayer does, and Egwene must fight on behalf of the Land.

Rand says a formal farewell to Perrin and expresses his obligation to him. They do not speak again—and perhaps never will. Another sacrifice.

Nynaeve is offended that Perrin tells her to look after Rand. She needs no instructions from Perrin; she has always looked after him.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #15: Chapter 12-—A Shard of a Moment

By Linda

Birgitte POV

Birgitte is terrified that she is losing her memories—not only of her past lives, but also of living in Tel’aran’rhiod. The latter are more precious. She fears that she has been unlinked from the Horn and will lose Gaidal forever. Yet people normally born have no memories of their former lives or the afterlife, where they waited to be reborn, and it is gradually happening to Birgitte as she settles into this life. In her normal rebirths she would start the same—unknowing, just making her own way, meeting Gaidal by chance and doing heroic things out of necessity. Nobly she puts this aside to concentrate on the Last Battle.

Rand POV

Lews Therin learned every technique—in case it was useful—but rarely used some of them. While it’s tempting to think of Lews Therin as a jack of all trades, this probably would be doing him an injustice. He had a well-rounded training.

Rand returns to his roots in his dreams with simple Two Rivers clothing. It symbolises a respite from his responsibilities. Walking with a staff alone, he represents the Hermit figure of the Tarot. This is reminiscent of when he wandered through Ebou Dar and scaled Dragonmount in The Gathering Storm.

Rand is walking in the wild like Birgitte, but the land is healthy where he is, not dying. Just as the Hermit takes time out alone for self-development, Rand enters a dreamshard to meditate.

There is no rest for Rand, for even his dreamshard is invaded by Shadow. Exerting his will is not enough to dispel the invasions. The Shadowy cavern persistently breaks into new areas, tempting him to stop and look in, which Rand inevitably does, but he knows enough not to do anything impulsive because any object in the dream may be real, or symbolic of something else. (As mentioned above, this whole episode is also symbolic). This is why the three ta’veren were at such risk in the first two books when they were pulled into dreams by Ishamael to be tempted with wine, etc. Not knowing what they were really doing, they could have been trapped or suborned by taking something voluntarily from Shaitan’s advocate (see The Dragon Reborn read-through post here.)

Speaking to Lanfear triggers Rand’s memories of this life and his previous one. He wants to give her a second chance, but sees it is an act. Rand points out that since she swore to the Shadow she has to take the consequences. However he senses that she is genuinely captive—feels a shadow surrounding her. It is the effect of her mindtrap.

The Dragon still resents that Lanfear used him but didn’t love him for himself, just for what his status could do for her. When she says he doesn’t understand her, he challenges her to reveal herself to him so he can be enlightened. She hasn’t the confidence, although she is tempted to, which is quite a change and shows the horror of her punitive captivity. She says she can’t do it because she has been betrayed, and implies that it is Rand who is at fault. Lanfear never accepts responsibility. Rand sees that she can’t love anyone but herself. None of the Forsaken can. They are all extremely selfish, and in the case of at least one—Asmodean—likely destroyed whatever family they had. It was the Shadow’s monstrous crime to corrupt the Dragon into doing the same.

Lanfear is the only Forsaken whose backstory involves a close love relationship, but from seeing Lews Therin’s side we know that his love was “used” to raise her up in society. (Sammael and Demandred had a close competitive relationship.) Lanfear wanted the Dragon to love her completely but didn’t return the favour. She wanted to be worshipped by the most powerful man for the kudos. Anything less is not her due. It’s all about her. This scene resolves the remaining issues with this on his side so he can move on to his final destiny. Further enlightenment is consistent with the Hermit.

Rand is able to do what Lanfear couldn’t and opens himself to her. The Dark One knows his heart anyway. He shows her that he is better raised this time and a different person. She is shocked that he doesn’t feel much for the most irresistible of women, but has three women dear to him and a fourth—Ilyena—that he remembers with fondness.

Rand’s three loves may not be a physically beautiful as Lanfear—or as strong in saidar—but they are more loving, caring and skilled. Apart from their care for Rand, all make outstanding contributions in their own right: Min with her ethical, just application of her viewings and her diligent study; Aviendha with her honour and determination; and Elayne with her courage and leadership.

Enlightened, and supported by those close to him, Rand is also able to do what Lews Therin couldn’t and lets go of hatred and scorn. Of course, thanks to Moiraine, he was not sucked in by Lanfear this time.

Rand’s compassion is essential but dangerous. Moiraine was right to drive this home to him. However, she mistakenly thought that Rand should not be compassionate, though. He knows he needs to be and that any of his characteristics can be used against him.

It was Perrin’s compassion that brought Galad to ally with him. That and his openness—the same qualities that Rand displays.

Perrin POV

Perrin looks after everyone, then seeks the Wise Ones. When he asks Edarra about a way to enter Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, she won’t help—and nor will any other Wise One—because it’s evil.

He wants to do it for a pragmatic reason: it’s easier to manipulate Tel’aran’rhiod if he is there physically. If he enters too strongly while dreaming, he could be cut off from his body, which would die. His aim is to kill Slayer, who bodily enters Tel’aran’rhiod, and he needs to be on equal terms to do so. In his opinion this is worth the risk of losing his humanity or dying forever, and sacrificing opportunities for rebirth. After all, Perrin’s beloved teacher, Hopper, sacrificed his rebirths helping Perrin fight Slayer. Other people, too, did things that were less than noble, even dishonourable, but directly helped the Light. Verin is a good example.

Both Rand and Perrin are warned against things that are very necessary, such as entering Tel’aran’rhiod bodily or being compassionate—things that turn out to be essential in winning the battle. They had to go against advice and live and win on their own terms. The Hermit is alone. Rand is “the Man who channels stands alone” (The Great Hunt, Blood Calls Blood).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #14: Chapter 11--Just Another Sell-sword

By Linda

Egwene POV

As she did with the Ajah Heads, Adelorna publicises Egwene’s achievements during the Seanchan attack to the Greens in an effort to bring their support to Egwene. Previously the Greens had been stand-offish because Egwene went out of her way to gain the support of the Reds, believing they were being left out. By being antagonistic, the Greens risk losing political clout in the Hall and with the Amyrlin, when the Last Battle—the very reason for the Greens’ existence—is on. Egwene may be surprised at their capitulation, but is pragmatic about it.

Adelorna could have pulled the Ajah into line before this, because the Greens are obedient to their Captain General. However, perhaps Adelorna lost face being captured by a sul’dam. Adelorna recognises that Egwene would have chosen Green and therefore would have been “their” Amyrlin. The Ajah Head rightly feels indebted to Egwene for saving her from the Seanchan.

It’s true that Egwene is literally not of any Ajah; but the Amyrlin should also be of all Ajahs—a fact most Aes Sedai seem to forget. While Egwene has tried to be unifying, she has not much in common with Browns or Whites. She feels more engaged with the Yellows, Reds, Blues, Greys—and now Greens.

The Red—Green antagonism is like reverse colour blindness. (Instead of not being told apart, they won’t appear together.) Aes Sedai are colour blinded because they obsess over colours, not because they can’t see them.

Egeanin wants to serve and protect Egwene, but Egwene only wants to interrogate Egeanin. Egwene’s distrustfulness is reasonable but her fear and anxiety of Egeanin is not. Her PTSD kicks in whenever she looks at Egeanin. Yet Egwene had a dream that one would save her—a fact she seems to have forgotten:

“As if Egwene would trust her safety to one of the Seanchan.”

A Memory of Light, Just Another Sell-sword

Suddenly a woman appeared, clambering down the sheer side of the cliff out of the clouds, making her way as deftly as if she were walking down stairs. There was a sword strapped to her back. Her face wavered, never settling clearly, but the sword seemed as solid as the stone. The woman reached Egwene’s level and held out one hand. “We can reach the top together,” she said in a familiar drawling accent…

She had dreamed of a Seanchan before, a Seanchan woman somehow tied to her, but this was a Seanchan who would save her.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In The Night

The dream refers to Egwene being out of control after her Warder’s death, and Bonding Egeanin to save herself so she could pour her emotions into anger at the Shadow. Contrary to the implication of this dream, it was temporary—Egwene only lasted long enough to destroy Taim and the Sharan channellers and stabilise reality in that part of the battlefield. In turn she saved Egeanin by releasing the Warder bond before she died.

When writing the last three books, Brandon Sanderson did not feel right inventing new weaves in someone else’s magic system, so he worked out new uses for old ones. In this chapter, novel gateways have been developed—essentially a hole over the battlefield. Egwene cautions that they could be attacked through it, especially by channellers. Ironically the gateway saves lives when the Sharan channellers attack. Yukiri is contemplating “window” gateways, including a one-way glass type effect.

Egwene says to Bryne:

“You are a resource. One of our most valuable. Risks are unavoidable, but please take care to minimize them."

Yet the Aes Sedai didn’t protect him against Compulsion. More of this anon.

Bryne has factored in the Aes Sedai into his battle plans, but shows the Amyrlin conventional battle plans first. It’s best to let your boss think of your ideas, especially one that is jealous of their prerogatives. It saves time and stress.


Tinkers have flocked to the Seanchan in Ebou Dar for protection. Elsewhere, nations wanted the Tinkers to abandon their lifestyle or move away. Seanchan policy is not to change lifestyles or customs of people that swear to them. In fact, they accommodate people by finding appropriate tasks for them. Or encourage them to adopt them.

Speaking of customs, the Seanchan are preventing duelling deaths in Ebou Dar with bureaucracy—using it as a brake. Petra has left Valan Luca’s menagerie to work as a guard at the gates to Ebou Dar. Perhaps the menagerie disbanded due to the chaos of the times and drafting of horses for the war.

Mat managed to slink back into Ebou Dar; last time he was there he kidnapped Tuon and tied up Tylin. He hides his missing eye behind a bandage, yet the irony is that no one in Altara knows that Mat has lost his eye, so wearing no bandage might have been a better disguise.

The Yearly Brawl inn is a reference to JordanCon, held annually on the third weekend of April in Atlanta, and the innkeepers represent JordanCon directors Jennifer (screen name Kathana) and Jimmy Liang. Many a JordanCon panel has discussed Mat, so it’s cheeky that the hosts take a little while to recognise the real thing. Jame thought Mat wasn’t one-eyed because he carried throwing knives. But his condition is recent.

Rand POV

Due to long experience, the Borderlanders are more ruthless—or more pragmatic—in war than people were in the Age of Legends.

For all that Moiraine talks to everyone about following the Pattern, she is pushing Rand hard to Shayol Ghul, when he wants to show himself on the various battlefields. She thinks it is too risky a mission, even if well meant. But it is not yet time to confront the Dark One and Rand does convince Demandred that he is out there on the battlefields. Moiraine ignores Rand’s plan to make sure Shayol Ghul is not full of the Shadow’s forces, but he is correct in trying to spread out the Shadow’s armies.

Moiraine speaks of Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One as being “that moment”. However it lasts a lot longer than a moment—though it is experienced as a short time to those in the Pit of Doom.

Rand is glad Moiraine is back even though she nags him. He was carrying a Tar Valon mark around almost as a kind of amulet in the hope that she would return. He associates the mark with her because she gave one to him as a finder when they first met. This is one of the many examples of coming full circle in this book.

Lan says that Moiraine’s advice should be followed, but she thinks his rescue of Maradon was a mistake and that Rand should not save the Gap either. That gives Lan pause, and Rand insists on aiding him. There is a fine line between sheltering and helping.

Lan salutes Rand after giving him the title of sheepherder. Earlier, Lan was not so reverential of Rand’s occupation. But Rand is the Good Shepherd. In return, Rand calls Lan Dai Shan and gives him the remade Malkieri crown.

Rand reveals that he secretly used an angreal when driving out the Shadowspawn at Maradon. This is another of his miracles that has a mundane explanation.

When Rand confronts a mass of evil, the land is given strength to fight—with storms. He is the prince of peace (of the sword):

“He sought peace, the peace of destruction. He was life, but he was also death. He was the manifestation of the land itself.”

A Memory of Light, Just Another Sell-sword

One of Rand’s important parallels is the Hindu god Shiva, god of destruction, and the cosmic dancer.

Shiva is one of the most complex gods of India, embodying seemingly contradictory qualities. He is both the destroyer and the restorer, the great ascetic and the symbol of sensuality, the benevolent herdsman of souls and the wrathful avenger.

- Encyclopaedia Britannica

The Aiel call battle the dance—and Rand battles the Dark One to save the cosmos. Rand’s peace is of the sword—not just another sell-sword, though.

Just as Rand is trying to pull the Shadow away from Shayol Ghul, the Shadow is trying to draw him out into the open. Single channellers are used as a decoy until a full circle of 72 channellers is gathered—a warning of how many Dreadlords the Shadow now has. It forces him to retreat. Moiraine also realises that it was a trap and reinforces that it’s too risky for Rand to fight this way. In this chapter, Egwene and Moiraine both complain about essential people and generals talking unnecessary risks.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Memory of Light Read-through #13: Chapter 10--The Use of Dragons

By Linda

Elayne POV

Elayne complains that they couldn’t get the televisual and teleaudio ter’angreal to work. These were in the cache of ter’angreal and are detailed here. The cache also contained a reference library ter’angreal that might have information on how to activate them, which Aviendha was able to get to work. Instead, they are using messengers by gateways. Elayne complains that she could go through the gateway and look at what’s happening in Caemlyn for herself. Birgitte threatens to fetch her back by force if she does, and tells her off for her recklessness. It’s a Warder’s duty.

I believe that Jordan planned for the ter’angreal to be used for this purpose in the Last Battle, but left no notes on their operation and so they had to be written out and put aside.

Egwene is angry with Elayne over her plans to employ the Kin. In Towers of Midnight, Partings and a Meeting, Elayne offered the Kin a place in Andor with stability, safety and freedom to channel in exchange for Travelling and Healing. Elayne plans to talk Egwene around into allowing Elayne to use them in Andor under Elayne’s “guidance”. The Amyrlin doesn’t like the thought of monarchs having their own set of channellers –even if weak ones, or Tower rejects. Suddenly Egwene and the Sitters are seeing the downside of rejecting some of the crop: somebody else will give them a place. These women want to channel, and can’t stop once they start, so it is to be expected that they want to employ their talent as channellers do in the Aiel clans, the Sea Folk and (directly or indirectly) the Seanchan. The White Tower is not as exclusive as it once was, or as powerful. In fact, by excluding channellers, the Tower has contributed to its own decline. Now that the secret of linking is out, weak channellers can achieve much with cooperation. In the Age of Legends, all channellers had a place in the Hall of Servants. Egwene did tell Elayne of her plans to have all channellers associated with the Tower, but Elayne has her own plans to corner a little of the market for herself.

Elayne is warned that the Tarwin’s Gap forces may have to retreat earlier than planned and considers overruling Agelmar’s judgment, but Bashere advises her not to. Instead she realises that they need to either lure the Trollocs into charging now, or else destroy them along with Caemlyn.

Lan’s POV supports Bashere’s advice. With many channellers attacking the Borderlanders, they need to retreat, but can’t even do that without more channellers to cover them.

Androl POV

Men only are being used to Turn the Asha’man. This takes much more time and energy and is why Logain and his faction were not turned quickly and were ultimately able to escape. If women Turn men, and vice versa, the process is much faster. Toveine is perhaps the first of the Tower Reds to be Turned. The men Turn her quickly – not merely because her allegiance or will was weak. Once the circle is mixed or there are thirteen women to link with the Myrddraal, even the most strong-willed and devout man will be Turned fairly promptly.

Taim has one of the seven Seals in his pocket. Androl doesn’t know its significance yet.

Elayne POV

In a former life, Birgitte led a band in Braem Wood and robbed a queen of Aldeshar who was regarded as a usurper. This is a reference to Maid Marian and Robin Hood, and the Band of Merry Men who fought in Sherwood Forest against the very unpopular King John, who usurped King Richard’s throne while he was crusading. Andor has a good few such references to England.

Trollocs were blown to pieces by the dragons, which are cannons. They are manned by dragoners. The names are a clever link to Rand and dragon symbolism (see article), but also to dragoons, mounted soldiers who carried guns, which are hand-held dragons by Aludra’s naming. A dragon was a type of late 18th to early 19th century hand-held blunderbuss that had a short, large calibre barrel. It shot many types of ammunition including shot and gravel. They were named dragons from the dragon head engraved on the muzzles of the early versions. All early gunpowder weapons had names and were linked to serpents, falcons, etc, just as Aludra likes to give names to all her inventions.

Birgitte repeats her misgivings about gunpowder weapons, but Elayne believes that their great destructive power is an effective deterrent to battle. From our own world’s use of not just guns, but also nuclear weapons, we can agree with Birgitte that this is idealistic.