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.