Sunday, September 14, 2014

New Spring by Robert Jordan: Week 1

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 6.

1. We find ourselves back at the end of the Aiel war, with a long-lost friend. Are there any other time periods you would have liked to see instead? Other characters you would have liked to follow?

I would dearly like to learn more about the Age of Legends and how the Aes Sedai functioned within that society. We have only hints about what it was like from the memories of the Forsaken, but it would be fascinating to have more detail about the technology and scientific capabilities of the time. Chiefly, I would like to know if the existence of channelers made our form of science somewhat redundant, or if there were similar developments in technology for non-channelers to use. Learning more about the Ogier, Nym and Da’shain Aiel would be good as well.

As for other characters, my main interest would be in following the Forsaken on their journeys into the service of the Dark One. However, I would also be interested in learning more about Thom Merrilin and Noal Charin, who I am quite sure have numerous entertaining stories in their pasts.

2. Gitara Moroso foretells Rand's birth. If you recall, she was also the one who told Tigraine (Rand's mother) to leave and go to the waste. What do you think about one person having such an impact on history?

In the series, we follow many individuals who each have an improbably large impact upon the Pattern. Some of those are known to be ta’veren, but not all: some are merely in positions of power that allow them to wield a great deal of influence over world events. This seems fairly consistent with our understanding of human history, so I do not see it as too far-fetched to accept, even in Fantasy fiction. As a powerful Aes Sedai, especially one with the gift of Foretelling, it would have been very surprising if Gitara had NOT played an integral part in the fulfillment of the Dragon Prophecy.

3. Tamra Ospenya hopes to catch the Dragon Reborn in a big list of names. What do you think of this idea? Knowing what we know about Rand, do you find it likely that he'll be in the lists somewhere?

This seems like a very faint hope to me: as witness by the huge lists of birth that Moiraine and Siuan have to struggle through. We know that Tam found Rand and decided to adopt him, but there is no indication that he was a replacement for a stillbirth or miscarried child. This means that Kari al’Thor was not pregnant before the Aiel withdrawal and would probably not be mentioned by the other women as someone who had possibly given birth at about this time. It is also entirely possible that Tam would want to keep Rand’s Aiel origin a secret and so he would be unlikely to mention where exactly he had found the child. All of this makes it very unlikely that Rand’s name will jump out of the lists, although it will be interesting to see if he is mentioned at all.

4. Elaida has apparently never been nice in her entire life. Was she even at this point seeing herself as a future Amyrlin, or has she just gotten ambitious later?

It seems that Meilyn is a very important Sister, so I can only assume that Elaida has attached to her in the hopes of gaining prestige and influence. We know that Elaida was one of the most powerful channelers before the arrival of the Super Girls and the other, newly discovered, channelers, so perhaps Meilyn was one of the few Sisters who could surpass her in strength. Her subservient behavior seems to be somewhat out of character, so I have to assume that it is all part of a ploy on her part.

I suspect that Elaida had a Foretelling at some point that suggested that she would be Amyrlin one day. It certainly seems possible, as she has other Foretellings of events that affect her own life. It might also go some way to explaining her pig-headed sense of self-righteousness . . . or that could just be a major flaw in her personality! :D

5. Am I the only one who can't help drawing comparisons with Hogwarts? Do you have any funny ones?

I had not really noticed a lot of comparisons, but Moiraine’s point of view certainly seems a little like Harry’s at the moment. She and Siuan certainly seem to be at the center of Significant Events in much the same way as Harry, Ron and Hermione. However, I do not really see Tamra as Dumbledore, or Elaida as Draco . . . although I would be quite happy to see Elaida do a few turns as the amazing bouncing ferret! :D

6. Both Moiraine and Siuan are close to being raised to the shawl. Will we see that in this book? What do you think the testing will be like, and what new might we learn about Moiraine and Siuan from it? Lan is around also... will we see a warder bonding?

It seems likely that they will both be raised in the very near future, as I expect them to be out of the Tower and secretly searching for Rand before the end of this volume. I assume that they will indeed need to complete the required one hundred weaves whilst being goosed and assaulted with itching powder by a group of Sisters. It is highly likely that a ter’angreal of some type will be involved, as we saw in the test to become Accepted. However, this does not seem to offer the same opportunity to reveal something about their character or history, unlike a trip through the Silver Arches, so I doubt that we will learn much about them.

Lan is certainly in the vicinity of Tar Valon, and we can expect Moiraine to be riding about being bossy in the near future, so they are obviously going to meet. However, he does not seem to be training to be a Warder, nor massively interested in the workings of the White Tower, so I am not sure what will make him agree to the Bonding. At the moment, it seems likely that Something Bad will happen, wiping out his men and providing a Very Good Reason for him to start obeying her every whim.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Knife of Dreams 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. As we predicted, Birgitte was left to rescue Elayne from certain maiming at the hands of the evil Black Sisters. Were you surprised by her solution to Elayne’s capture? What did you think of the way that she manipulated the Windfinders: do you see this causing problems for Elayne in the future?

I had expected Birgitte to take a much more direct approach to rescue Elayne, so her decision to dash off and gather as many soldiers as possible surprised me quite a bit. However, I suppose that she has very clear memories of trying to fight Aes Sedai in her former lives, so perhaps I should have expected her to be this cautious when going into such a fight. Her knowledge that at least one of the Sisters with Elayne was Black would also make her more cautious as well, so perhaps I was being rather stupid to expect her to rush into the house with her bow drawn!

I thought that she handled the Windfinders and everyone else quite beautifully. She repeatedly thinks of herself as not being a general, but she seemed to have a very good tactical understanding of what resources she had to use. It was also interesting to note that everyone is quite happy to follow her commands without question, which suggests that they have no doubts about her command ability. The way that she manipulated the Windfinders showed a good understanding of their culture and attitudes, and was the only effective way to gain their cooperation without the prolonged negotiation of a bargain to buy their services. It showed that Birgitte may not have true memories of all her previous lives, but the residual wisdom has remained: she has a true understanding of what motivates people and knows how to exploit that knowledge. I suspect that the Windfinders will never mention this episode again, because it touches on the matter of their shame and a threat to the crucial Bargain that they have with Elayne. I am quite sure that they will try to pretend that it never happened.

2. Arymilla is defeated and Elayne is suddenly alone in her claim to the Lion Throne. Did you expect a more difficult fight for the Far Madding Gate, or did you think that Arymilla’s plan was doomed to fail? What did you think of Elayne’s assessment of Sylvase Caeren: did Lord Nasin’s sudden incapacity surprise you at all?

We know that Arymilla had numerous advantages over Elayne, such as superior numbers, but I think it was pretty obvious that she would never succeed in claiming the Lion Throne. Or, at least, I really hoped that Mr Jordan would not push the plotline in that direction because we have wasted enough time dealing with it when there is the small matter of the Last Battle looming large ahead of us. Throughout our encounters with Arymilla she has been shown to be relatively competent in her manipulation of the other nobles but also over-confident. This is admirably demonstrated by her choice of clothing for the attack and her mistake of not setting a rearguard. I was quite surprised that she had not foreseen the use of a Gateway to attack her forces from behind, which I thought was a blazingly obvious choice.

As I had mentioned previously, I was pretty certain that Sylvase was not as vague or useless as Arymilla had assumed. I think that Elayne’s assessment of the young woman is a much more realistic appraisal and will allow the new Queen to treat the new House Head in a more sensible way. One of Arymilla’s major faults was that she made assumptions about others motivations and personalities without truly observing their behavior: this made her vulnerable to making miscalculations in how her followers would react in certain situations. I had always thought that Lord Nasin was not really as crazy as he pretended, because it allowed his House the option of supporting either side without accruing serious suspicion. I am quite sure that his sudden inability to lead the House was simply a very convenient ploy to allow his heir to swap sides without being labeled a traitor. A very smart ploy, and one that has worked stunningly well for them.

3. We finally get to really meet one of the Ogier Gardeners, who are surprisingly similar to their cousins on this side of the Sea. Were they what you expected or did you expect them to be more violent or aggressive than Loial? What do think that each group of Ogier would think of the other?

I have been very intrigued by the Gardeners ever since we learned of their existence. I found it very difficult to imagine that they would be somehow very different from Loial and the other Ogier that we have seen on this side of the sea, simply because they are so long lived. Even with a total separation from their cousins in Randland, I could not imagine that they would be all that different culturally or in their underlying personality. Rather than being violent or aggressive they seem to be grim and determined, which matches Loial and Elder Haman during the recent Trolloc attack.

I suspect that both groups of Ogier are aware of the other’s existence, but there may be a degree of sadness about their separation and the differences in their lifestyles. I would expect Loial to be regretful of the Gardeners’ decision to be lifelong soldiers, although we do not know if all Ogier in the Seanchan Empire are actively involved in a military lifestyle. However, I suspect that he would be very interested to learn their reasons for serving the Empress and he would want to know why they have chosen such a seemingly un-Ogier lifestyle: they would also add weight to his argument that the Ogier should choose to stay and fight in the Last Battle.

I find it much more difficult to predict the Gardeners’ attitude to the Ogier in Randland. Without knowing their history and the reasons for their service in the Deathguard, it is difficult to anticipate their attitude to the more traditional, peaceful lifestyle. They could envy their cousins’ isolation and ability to lead peaceful lives, or they may see this as weakness and a choice to avoid taking a role in world events. I wonder if we will see a schism similar to the one shown between the Aiel and the Tuatha’an, whose histories mirror those of the Ogier groups to certain extent. Either way, I look forward to seeing these two groups encounter each other and I am sure that we will learn more about them when this happens. 

4. Frankly, I was amazed by the way that Luan and the others capitulated so easily, giving Elayne an uncontested path to the Throne. Were you surprised that we finally saw the resolution of a plotline? Do you think that Ellorien will cause any real trouble, or will she remain loyal to Andor?

I have to admit that this book and the last one have set up far too many unresolved plotlines for my liking. Last week we saw Faile’s rescue and the fall of Sevanna, so I was not really expecting anything else to be tied up before we moved on to Book Twelve: I had assumed that we would finish the book with both Elayne and Egwene held captive. Whilst I am not complaining about Mr Jordan’s decision to free Elayne and remove all opposition to her position as Queen, the very fact that I had expected a more drawn out and protracted episode meant that I was left somewhat dissatisfied by the sudden turn of events.

The capitulation of Luan and the others came too quickly after Arymilla’s defeat to my mind. I know that this is completely illogical and that her total defeat would cause any wavering support to switch over to Elayne very swiftly, but it still left me feeling slightly dissatisfied. Perhaps if we had simply had a different ordering to the chapters, so that there was more reading away from this plotline between the victory at the Gate and the audience with Luan then I might have felt that it was all too easy and hasty.

I suspect that Ellorien will be unswervingly loyal to Andor. She may never be an unquestioning supporter, but I doubt that she will do anything to endanger the country or directly undermine Elayne’s rule. In some ways, I am happy to see that Elayne still has some opposition amongst the ruling Houses: it will help to keep her honest. I also think that it adds a little depth to the characters and storylines if our heroes do not simply get their own way all the time.

5. Speaking of resolutions: Mat is married! We knew that it would happen, but how far did your jaw drop when Tuon made her declaration? We learn some of her reasons for saying the words, but do you think that the marriage can survive their positions on opposite sides of the Seanchan invasion?

I had already realized that I had little idea about Tuon’s true motivations, so I guess that I should not have been surprised by this abrupt change of status for our favorite scoundrel. However, it did rather fall out of a clear sky, so I was as shocked as Mat when she spoke the words. We knew that it would happen eventually, but that did not prevent the surprise when it finally occurred. I notice that I seem to be doing a lot of complaining about the way in which Mr Jordan choose to resolve some of the plotlines in this volume. I cannot decide if this is because he is really good at manipulating his readers’ expectations or because he has been annoying in the way that he has handled the pacing and foreshadowing of the resolutions in question. Certainly my expectations have been jarred by his decisions, and I am not sure that I am happy about it! 

I was interested to learn a little about the Foretelling that Tuon had been given about her future and how Mat figured into it. They certainly helped to explain a lot of her confusing behavior and tolerance earlier in their journey together. I can see why she would be very cautious when confronted by the man that she is ‘supposed’ to marry, especially as he seems so unlikely at their first encounter. However, she obviously takes the prophecy very seriously, along with many other Seanchan superstitions, and so she does not fight against it. In exactly the same way as Mat, she accepts her future as inevitable and yet is wary about rushing into it.

I suspect that their union will eventually help to create an alliance between Tuon and Rand against the Dark One, because it will help her to understand and trust Mat’s oldest friend. However, I predict that their marriage will remain very exciting and interesting until they are separated by death: it will certainly never be dull! :D

6. Suroth’s treachery is revealed and Tuon takes direct control of the Return. Did you expect Suroth to be removed so easily? Do you think that the remaining Seanchan nobility, such as Galgan, are loyal to Tuon or do you suspect that further Darkfriends are lurking in their ranks?

Let us all have a solemn moment of sad reflection for the passing of Suroth as she passes into her new life a slave . . . I am playing a sad, sad tune on my tiny, tiny violin to mark the occasion! :D

As with so much in this week’s reading, I have a mixed reaction to this event. Given the strict protocol and adherence to hierarchy and order, it makes sense that Tuon could remove anyone from their position in the wave of one tiny finger. However, I had expected Suroth to be a little more difficult to displace, like a tick that has dug itself very deeply into a difficult to access position on the nether regions of a very nervous tiger. Of course, this was merely an illusion reinforced by our occasional visits to her point of view, where her smug overconfidence gave us a false impression of how much true power she could wield. In the end, she was completely delusional in believing that she could stand against Tuon and her position as the Empress’ heir.

It certainly seems that Suroth is unaware of any other Darkfriends amongst those leading the Return, as she never thinks of any of them in those terms (as far as I can remember). Of course, this does not mean that they have not been turned to the Shadow, but it does suggest that they are less likely to have been corrupted. It is easy to see why those loyal to the Empress would be antagonistic to Suroth, but the politics of Seanchan culture make it very difficult to guess the real motivations of many of them.

7. Taim ‘welcomes’ a delegation of Reds looking to find Warders. Does Taim’s demeanor, trappings and attitude give you any hint that he might NOT be a Very Bad Man? Do you expect the Red Sisters to leave the Black Tower alive and will any asha’man agree to Bonding?

Taim really should just get a sign that says, “Hey, Rand, I am an enemy, you idiot!”

I know that Rand has a lot to do, but I cannot help thinking that his lack of action over the Taim problem is a huge mistake that will return to bite him in the backside at the very worst moment. He has Lews Therin crawling around in his head, so he should already know that the Forsaken began their lives as apparently good, upright citizens. If Taim does not aspirations to become one of a new order of Forsaken, then I will eat my hat! Logain has already split the Black Tower and told Rand that he needs to deal with Taim, but I suspect that we will see him go into full cackling evil mode before the Dragon Reborn decides to deal with this viper in the nest. This is a great shame, as he appears to have corrupted a great number of Asha’man, thus creating many more enemies for the forces of Light to defeat in the Last Battle.

I am not sure if Taim intends to let the Reds live, but I suspect that he would have simply killed them if he wanted to harm them. He obviously sees their idea of Bonding Asha’man as a way to create more chaos. Possibly he expects his corrupted men to somehow twist the Sisters to the Shadow once the Bonding has occurred, although I find it difficult to believe that any of them would agree to becoming Warders. I have no doubt Taim that has something evil in mind, but I am not sure what it is just yet.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan: Week 7

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 31.

1) Why do you think Semirhage's disguise of the Power failed? Did you see the Rand-losing-his-hand thing coming?

Mr Jordan specifically mentions that both Cadsuane and Nynaeve are wearing all their many, many angreals and ter’angreal, so I have to assume that one of them disrupted the disguise weave that Semirhage was using. This came as a definite shock to her, so I suspect that the specific object is very rare, or was considered lost in the War of Power. Now we just need Cadsuane to wander through the White Tower until she uncovers Mesaana!

Rand losing his hand was a complete surprise to me and rather abruptly done, I thought. At first I thought that Semirhage would use balefire and so I was confused by her choice of the fireball, but the discovery of the ‘male’ a’dam showed why she did not want to risk zapping him out of existence. We know that Moridin’s instructions have been very clear on this front, but taking Rand captive would not really go against his wishes. I am not sure if she was actually aiming at Rand, though I cannot imagine that targeting Min would have been a very sensible way to overpower him. I have to say that I was rather underwhelmed by Rand’s response to the attack. Considering that he is supposed to be the most amazing channeler of the age, etc, etc, I rather expected him to throw up a shield when it became obvious that the expected trap had been revealed. This does not bode well for his ability to survive until the Last Battle!

Also, did anyone else get a flashback to The Empire Strikes Back???

2) Do you think Mat's plan against the Seanchan is a good one? Will it turn the tide?

I was a little confused at first when we found ourselves following Mat in to attack the Seanchan. I thought I must have missed out a chapter or a few pages! :D

I can understand Mat’s reasoning, and it seems like the only possible way for him to get out of the area unmolested. However, I was surprised by Tuon’s lack of emotion when hundreds of her men were massacred. I did not expect her to get upset or angry, but I thought that she might have persuaded him to try a different way to accomplish the same goal. But then, I suppose she is used to the idea that her subjects die in battle all the time, so perhaps she is simply far more pragmatic than I had expected. However, I am not sure that she will stay quiet for a prolonged campaign against her own troops.

I suspect that Mat’s plan will succeed, not only because he is very good at strategy, but also because his guerilla tactics take advantage of the highly organized Seanchan military machine. It is unlikely that any of the high-ranking officers will see the pattern of his attacks until it is too late and he has rode off into the sunset.

3) Tam showed up! (Yea!) What did you think of his reaction to confirmation that Rand is the Dragon Reborn?

I assume that he suspected the truth all along, but was saddened to hear it confirmed by someone whose opinion he could not dismiss. As someone who spent a great deal of time as a soldier, and fought in numerous wars, he knows how terrible battle can be and so he would not want his son to follow in those footsteps. He must also be aware of the prophecies that suggest that the Dragon will either go mad, and kill everyone he loves, or die during the battle with the Dark One. Neither of these is something that you would want to see someone go through, let alone your child.

4) Masema shows up at an inconvenient time to (somewhat) ruin Perrin's plans. What do you think he's doing? What's his endgame?

I suspect that Masema has lots of plans that involve getting rid of anyone who can challenge his position as the Prophet for the Dragon Reborn. He obviously spent some considerable time working on Aram until he could twist the young man’s thinking to his own ends. I suspect that he does not actually believe that Perrin is Shadowspawn, but it provides a very convenient excuse for murdering one of Rand’s friends and primary supporters.

Masema has shown again and again that someone needs to take him into a secluded spot and remove some of the more important bits of his anatomy, such as his head. He obviously has no real intention of moving his ‘army’ to join Rand, but is more interested in the power that he can wield when the Dragon is a conveniently long way away and cannot point out to all and sundry that Masema is actually a raving lunatic and has nothing to do with him! I suspect that his attempts to remove Perrin will become increasingly overt until Faile stabs him in the eye . . . at least I hope that someone does, because he is getting very irritating! :D

5) All kinds of crazy stuff in this chapter! Aram tries to kill Perrin and dies himself. Tylee captures Sevanna. And Galina ends up in Therava's clutches, headed for the Waste. What did you think of all these twists? Did you wish for other outcomes? How do you think they'll affect the story going forward?

Aram’s treachery was fairly well signaled I thought, and it was monumentally stupid of Perrin to take the young man with him on the attack. Even the mighty ex-blacksmith thinks that Aram might be looking a little more deranged than usual . . . good going there, Lord Perrin! I can only hope that the return of Faile will keep other totally obvious assassins away from Perrin’s immediate vicinity in future. Otherwise he really does deserve to get a sword through his ribs.

Oh dear, Sevanna naked and angry strung across a horse! I have to admit that I did chortle quite a bit at that scene and there may have been a little bit of gloating as her jewelry slowly all slid off onto the ground. I am glad that she did not simply die in the battle, as she deserves to suffer long and hard for all the chaos and destruction that she has caused. I sincerely hope that this is the last we see of her, but that she spends her remaining days doing something truly horrendous and menial . . . such as wiping the bottoms of a huge herd of very incontinent and flatulent elephants! :D

As for Galina: she is another that does not deserve a quick and easy death. We only know about her very recent activities, but I am quite sure that her list of atrocities is both long and impressive. As a person who was willing to do absolutely anything to gain power over others, I believe that it is very fitting that she will be a helpless slave for the rest of her very long life. However, I suspect that her sanity will break and she will eventually forget her previous life as the leader of the Black Ajah.

Of the three incidents, the only one that I think could have unexpected ramifications is Galina’s. Now that she is lost to the Black Ajah, they may be leaderless for a short period. However, the way that they are organized into cells makes me think that her loss will not have serious consequences. After all, she has been away from the tower now for quite some time and the Blacks have been carrying on quite happily without her leadership. I guess that Therava has saved her from the ignominy of being denounced in front of the whole Tower and then Stilled, so perhaps this is actually a good ending for her.

6) Elayne encounters some black Sisters and, in her haste, ends up in hot water. We had a cliffhanger on this. What do you think will happen next? Were you surprised that it was actually Careanne that was Black Ajah, contrary to Elayne's suspicions?

Why are so many of the characters in this series really, really, REALLY stupid and blind to the blazingly obvious!???!???! First we have Perrin and the obviously deranged Aram, and now Elayne runs into yet another trap! How many times is that now for the supposedly wise and intelligent future Queen of Andor? I think I may have lost count! :D

Now, I know that Elayne is supposed to be pregnant, but can that really explain why she continues to behave in such a rash and stupid manner? The very fact that the unidentified Black sister was not more frantic to prevent this plan from going forward should have been a huge warning sign. Plus, we have Elayne’s impressive history of always underestimating the danger and walking straight into deadly situations. When is the girl going to learn some caution?

I can only assume that some miracle of luck will allow Birgitte and the other Warders to distract the Blacks long enough for the good guys to make their escape. Or, more likely, we will finish this book with not one, but two of the Super Girls imprisoned by the ‘bad guys’. No wonder Book Twelve had to stretch so much when Brandon Sanderson came to tie up all the loose ends and complete the plotlines that need resolving. Hopefully, once she is rescued, someone will give Elayne a good slapping for being so stupid: I suspect that Birgitte might do the job!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan: Week 6

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 26.

1) Egwene is holding strong in the Tower. Have you had a similar experience to her revelation about embracing the pain?

Why does the phrase “embracing the pain” always make me think of Fifty Shades of Gray???? :D

I am not a great fan of pain, so I am not sure that I could ‘embrace’ it quite so enthusiastically as Egwene. However, I do share her ability to have a really good cry and then walk away feeling relatively normal . . . although I am pretty sure that I would be limping if someone had just been beating MY bottom!

Having said that, I do think I understand her determination to endure the discomfort and not give way to it. During my teenage years, my family and I did a lot of cycling and there were many occasions when I had to steel myself to keep turning those pedals in order to get myself home. At the time, I was not massively impressed by the exhaustion and resented my parents for making me suffer so much. However, by the time I got home to a bath and hot food I felt an unmistakable sense of achievement and pride in my own ability to push through a difficult situation. I am quite sure that it helped me to become more resilient and self-reliant . . . and I still prefer to get myself out of uncomfortable situations rather than relying on others to do it for me.

It seems that Egwene’s acceptance of her pain is having a much more significant effect on the others in the Tower, especially those who have the most contact with her. I seriously doubt that Silviana will remain quiet about Egwene’s punishments for much longer: they obviously are not having the effect that Elaida wants.

2) Egwene seems to be hoping for a mutiny from within the Tower. Do you think this will happen? If so, is it more likely to start with the initiates or with the Aes Sedai closest to Elaida?

There is so much tension in the Tower that I am almost surprised that it has not happened already. However, the inter-Ajah hostility has deflected attention away from Elaida and her total incompetence as Amyrlin: once the Sisters start to look beyond that division then Elaida is doomed.

We know that an attack by the Seanchan is coming, and that has a very good chance of being the stimulus for removing Elaida, especially as Egwene has given a very specific, and public, warning about it. However, I think it is much more likely that Elaida will eventually visit reality long enough to realize that her treatment of Egwene is being completely ineffective, and is, in fact, creating sympathy and support for the rebel Amyrlin. Once that sinks into her immensely thick skull, I predict that she will lose the plot quite dramatically and show how unstable, vindictive and petty she really is. This will provide the Hall with the excuse that it has been waiting for and she will be removed from her position so quickly that her feet will not touch the ground.

Of course, I could be wrong, and the Hall might simply sit and watch as Elaida tries to turn Egwene into a tiny pile of ashes . . .  

3) Egwene hears that Aes Sedai have been bonded to Asha'men and that some Aes Sedai have sworn oaths to Rand. What did you make of her reaction that it is inappropriate (at the least) for Aes Sedai to swear oaths to any man?

Many times during this Read Along we have discussed Mr Jordan’s apparent belief that men and women are completely different and incapable of understanding one another. I can only assume that he and his wife struggled to communicate, because I cannot think of a single pairing in this series that shows any form of easy understanding between people of opposite sexes. I would be interested to learn of an example, but none spring to mind at the moment, and the books do seem to carry a definite taint of antagonism between the sexes.

Whilst I would agree with Egwene that Sisters should not be bound to obey anyone, I also understand why Rand has demanded that they swear these oaths. I fear that Egwene has been around Aes Sedai for too long and has started to forget how they treat other people. Obviously, her time as a damane has made her extremely sensitive to being controlled, and she is unaware of the details surrounding his kidnapping and treatment by Galina and the others sent by Elaida, but I am still disappointed that she automatically sides with her Sisters rather than wondering what cause Rand to behave so tyrannically.

I hope that he gets a chance to explain it all to her, but the series is littered with so many examples of poor communication and misunderstandings that I doubt that we will see that happen. I suspect that Egwene may never know, or understand, his reasons and will simply resent his ‘male wrongheadedness’.

4) We spent a little time in Tuon's head this reading. What surprised you the most? Did you find Tuon's reaction to her first kiss amusing?

I have to admit that I find Tuon as confusing as Mat does. I still have no idea why she suddenly decided that he could kiss her. Even being inside her head provided little extra understanding for her motives, so I am truly perplexed by her.

Her obvious ignorance about Mat’s link to Rand and his status as ta’veren make it all the more surprising that she has stayed with him for so long. What game is she playing and what does she hope to gain from her time with him? I wish I could work it out, but I simply have no clue at the moment.

5) Grady and the other Asha'men with Perrin are looking pretty haggard, worn out from making gateways to move troops around. Will they hold up for the Shaido fight? And young Aram is also looking pretty haggard, but from some different reason. Is he the weakest link in the forthcoming fight?

The Asha’man have a couple of days to rest before the assault on Malden, but I do worry that they will still be exhausted when the attack comes. Hopefully, the shock of the Wise Ones being ineffective will cause the Shaido to collapse with not much of a fight and then Perrin, Faile and the rest can go home all safe and sound. Unfortunately, I suspect that it will not by that simple and the Asha’man may be pushed to breaking point before the Shaido are routed.

Aram is very obviously going to betray Perrin: it could not be more clear if he had a hand-written sign hanging around his neck. I assume that Masema has been worming his way under the young man’s skin and filling his head with perceived slights and imagined grievances. He is a liability and I will be happier once he is removed.

6) Play a kissing game with Rolan or meet with Galina in the burned out half of Malden to pass off the Oath Rod.... Which would you choose?

That is a very easy choice, although I do not condone infidelity. I am surprised that Faile is desperate enough to trust Galina at all, but we all know that the Aes Sedai is planning something unpleasant. Hopefully, Perrin’s attack will come before Galina bops Faile over the head with a rock and buries her body in a collapsed house.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Knife of Dreams 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 23.

1. Our favorite Ogier bachelor is finally married.  Any wise words for the newlyweds?  The Ogier are torn on whether to leave this world or help humanity out.  Do you think Loial will be able to sway them?

I guess my wisest words are: “Find a really strong bed!” :D

In some ways I was a little disappointed by the speed of this wedding, but I can also appreciate the no-nonsense attitude to simply getting things done. It would have been so much easier to take this route when I married my hubby! I am not sure that Covril will find it easy to stop bullying poor Loial, but I am certain that Erith is firmly in control now. Of course, that may not give Loial much more freedom, but I guess that Erith might be slightly more open to persuasion, especially from her new husband.

I am still coming to terms with the idea that the Ogier are not originally from this world. This throws up so many questions about their origins, but I seriously doubt that we will never learn many details and they will remain as mysterious as the Aelfinn and Eelfinn. It makes me wonder how their departure would affect the Longing: will there be steddings in their new location or will they need to keep hopping to new worlds in the hope of finding one that is suitable? Also, will the move take all the Ogier, including those who live within Seanchan society, or does the book open a portal of some kind? Argghhhh!!!!!

I sincerely hope that the Ogier will stay and fight because they will be a very effective ally against the Shadow. However, I would hate to think that they would all be wiped out because they chose not to leave: I am actually quite eager to see baby Loials running around, much more so than baby Rands! :D

2. It's been a while since the last surprise trolloc attack.  Who could have been behind this one?  Why now, and why so incredibly many?  Lews Therin took control of Rand's channeling.  Will we see that again, and what kind of consequences might it have?

A much more suspicious person might see Verin’s disappearance at about the same time as a huge clue to the identity of the attacker. However, Verin continues to be a help to Rand and has not yet done anything to hurt him, as far as I can remember. This makes me very reluctant to think that she might be behind the attack. However, she does warn Rand not to trust any Sister apart from Cadsuane, which seems like a rather large hint that a Black Sister could be behind the attack. We already know that Elza is not to be trusted, so perhaps she is the culprit. However, I am not sure what she would gain from the attack, nor how she could have organized it whilst remaining glued to Rand’s side. This leaves us with the usual option in these cases: one of the Forsaken. It seems unlikely to be Moridin, who wants Rand alive for some reason, but there are still plenty of other options.

In this case, Lews Therin was actually very useful in killing Trollocs and teaching everyone some interesting new ways to wage war. His weaves may leave a bit of a mess, but they certainly seem to be effective at mowing down the enemy. However, I can see how Rand might be more than a little wary of letting Lews Therin take control: next time it could be Aes Sedai, Asha’man or anyone else in the way that get ripped into tiny, bloody pieces. I definitely feel that Rand needs to do something about Lews Therin, but I have no idea what that should be. The ideal situation would be for him to come to some sort of understanding with the man so that they can share his body in some way. We have seen Mat integrate his ancient memories relatively successfully, so I hope that Rand can do something similar. 

3. Lan departs to fight his own war, but Nynaeve won't let him do it alone.  Any thoughts on the actions of either?  Any chills during the scene in the inn?

Oh, Lan, are you off to renew ‘The Blade That Was Broken’? Sometimes Lan’s similarity to Aragorn is a little too obvious, I think, although Arwen is NOTHING like Nynaeve! :D

As with Aragorn, it has always seemed very important that Lan is the last King of a dead kingdom that holds a massively important geographical position in the defense against the Shadow. Whilst it would be very cozy to see him follow Nynaeve around for the rest of the series, we now see him striking out on his own to reclaim his birthright and, no doubt, save the world by being terribly heroic and noble. That seems fitting and appropriate for a man of his talents, so I can hardly say that he should not do it.

As for Nynaeve: she has learnt a great deal about being Aes Sedai in the last few months: she does exactly as he asks, but in her own way. However, her intervention will give the other Malkieri time to gather an army to join him, which makes it much more likely that he will not face hundreds of thousands of Shadowspawn all by himself. It was a crafty move, but showed great wisdom and forethought from Nynaeve.

4. Rand again works his ta'veren magic and the rebellion in Tear is no more.  Darlin, who was a rebel not four books ago, is king.  Do you think he has sufficiently demonstrated his loyalty, or are you worried?  Rand is focusing on Arad Doman.  What do you think his plan there is?

I think that both Darlin and Caraline Damodred are trustworthy and proved their loyalty during the attack by Padan Fain on the rebel camp. I can understand why some nobles would be unhappy at some nobody from nowhere showing up and claiming to be the Dragon Reborn whilst conquering their nation. After meeting Rand in the flesh, they seem to have been persuaded that he is the real deal and are now willing to do what is best for the good of the rest of their people. If only more of the nobility could behave so sensibly in this world!

We know that Arad Doman is a huge mess at the moment, with multiple factions fighting against one another and starvation adding to the mix. I guess that Rand will try to unite the area to prevent further needless deaths and provide yet another ally for the Last Battle. I am not sure how he intends to do that, but we know that he has deployed Asha’man all over the region, so perhaps he intends to produce a massive show of force in order to scare everyone sensible.

5. The Sea Folk have chosen a new Mistress of the Ships and are being conscripted for the Arad Doman plan.  Meanwhile, a whole race of islanders commit suicide!  Where on Earth did that come from? Will it have any impact at all or is it just one of those... things?

We know that they lived on the island of Tremalking. The only other thing that I know about the island is that it was the site of the giant female statue that Nynaeve tapped into whilst she and Rand cleansed saidin. Given that she drew incredible amounts of Power through it, perhaps it glowed brightly or something and the locals took it to be a signal for the end of the world or something similar. Otherwise I have no idea at all.

As I am not sure what role the Amayar played in even Sea Folk life, I have no idea what effect their mass suicide will have. It certainly seems very tragic, but it may have no direct effect at all unless they were highly significant in some way that the Sea Folk keep secret.

6. An important sitting is called and the rebel Aes Sedai finally learn some important news (Saidin is clean, and they've been harboring a Saidin-channeling female forsaken for six books).  Are you happy that Halima was rooted out?  Sad that they weren't caught?  Will they rethink their Asha'man policy now?

I was expecting a little more vomiting from the Sisters at the news that a Forsaken had been living amongst them and wielding saidin at will.

How can anyone NOT be happy that Halima is finally revealed? Hopefully she and her slutty dresses will be hunted down and Egwene can balefire her into a teeny, tiny pile of ashes for all those intimate massages that gave me the creeps! I suppose that it was lucky that nobody tried to stop them leaving because Halima would have cheerfully zapped as many people as necessary to make her escape. At least now they can attack her in the full knowledge of her ability to wield saidin and take along a bunch of Asha’man to deal with her.

As for the policy of Bonding Asha’man: I would hope that this would encourage the Aes Sedai to be a little more pragmatic and practical. However, we know that the Sisters are as stubborn as mules and as easily led as an entire herd of cats, so I doubt that we will see much change there. It would be so much easier if the Bonding was more equal and did not confer a master-servant relationship. Then perhaps more on both sides would be willing to make the connection.

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