Well here it is. Time to see if the payoff is worth the wait.
We start in fine form, with the news that there is something rotten in the state of Illian. First Lan finds some Darkhound tracks, so he goes off to find Moraine, and when they come back, they have some big news. There’s a Forsaken ruling Illian. We’ve also got Lan and Faile both wondering who the hell Perrin is, who can detect Grey Men before an Aes Sedai. There’s also a wolf dream foreseeing all sorts of extra trouble (we know about it, Perrin doesn’t) and Faile turns down another chance to bail on them.
They clear out of dodge before they get to make friends with Sammael, although only as far as finding a good defensive position to deal with the pursuing Darkhounds. Things look rather grim, with Perrin needing three arrows to kill one dog, until Moraine reveals she’s got a brand new killin’ weave, and it kills real good. She’s not meant to be using it, but they’re all still alive.
Then just for an encore, she drops that Mat’s already found and blown the Horn of Valere without thinking of what effect that’ll have on Faile.
Moraine Sedai. Bad to the bone.
We now switch to Caemlyn, where Mat is trying to see the Queen and learning about Gaebril, the Queen’s new fancy strong man. His initial attempt to see Morgase goes wrong thanks to one of Gaebril’s men, so he uses the route over the wall Rand must have told him about. He gets in just fine, he gets to see the Queen just fine, but on his way he hears a man ordering Elayne’s death. A man with Gaebril’s voice. Needless to say Mat “I’m not a hero” Cauthon is off down to Tear as quick as he can go, a sentimental Thom along for the ride.
Next up are the Accepted. Nyneave enacts a cunning plan without really bothering to tell the others first; she uses her knowledge of herblore to secure lodgings and aid from a friendly Wise Woman, bending the truth about what the Black Ajah sisters did into something Mother Guenna will accept. Egwene accuses Nyneave of acting just like Moraine, which is too much for Elayne, who slaps Egwene and tells her to stop being a dick about it. Egwene knows she’s right, but refuses to apologise.
So far I’ve talked a lot about Egwene adapting to her circumstances and making the most of it, but here she’s not adapting. Or perhaps what I mean is, she’s trying to change things and it’s not really working. She wants to be Nyneave’s equal and shed all traces of the would-be apprentice from Emond’s Field, now that they’re both Accepted. I think also to an extent, her experience as a damane has made her a lot more reluctant to be under authority other than her own (or that she chooses to acknowledge). However, this doesn’t put her in the right bucking at Nyneave’s unconscious authority, even if Nyneave’s refusal to explain must be exasperating. She’s not right morally to bait her friend like that, and she’s not right practically because Nyneave’s idea on how to avoid and locate the Black Ajah is a good one. It’s the culmination of an interesting arc for Egwene, one I’d kind of not being noticing and that I’ll return to in time.
Mat pops up at the end of one of these chapters to, in an outrageous display of luck, walk into the inn where Gaebril’s sent killer is. He kills the guy, but not before the guy admits there’s other killers after them. The chase is still on. Mat also realises that the luck he seems to have developed since being healed is still with him, still strong, and works best when things are random.
Moraine’s gang arrives in the city. She leaves Perrin et al in an inn while she goes off to burnify the Forsaken Be’lal with Lan. Perrin fills in the time helping a local smith, leading to the decision between the hammer and the axe becoming real.
Nyneave is the PoV character as the Black Ajah spring their trap, hunting the hunters. The Black sisters threaten them with the arrival of thirteen Myrrdraal to turn them to the dark. Mat finds out about this a chapter later when he goes to Mother Guenna to get something for Thom’s cold. He decides to storm the Stone and rescue them. Next chapter, Faile triggers a trap meant for Moraine, and Perrin enters the World of Dreams to rescue her.
And from there it’s just one massive fight really that ends with Moraine killing Be’lal, Perrin rescuing Faile, Mat rescuing the three Accepted, the Aiel taking the Stone, and Rand killing Ba’alzamon aka Ishmael and taking Callandor, thus confirming himself to be The Dragon Reborn. That’s a lot of stuff delivered quickly and honestly, I’ve glossed over so much here. There is just so much here. Part of me thinks Jordan messed up his pacing by reserving so much to the end, part of me loves the pacing here and how breathless the end is.
Let me start the after action report by just marveling at Moraine. She is implacable. Watching her be an icy cool bundle of refined destruction is one thing when it’s a bunch of hapless Trollocs, but when it’s the Forsaken? It’s like taking someone who’s beaten up a few bullies at school and asking them to fight Surtr. Moraine’s simply nodded, asked for a moment to talk with her friends, then returned with a magical rocket launcher and gone legend hunting. No fuss no muss. More than just being a stone cold badass though, Moraine’s humanity pokes through more and more. Yes, she’s arrogant and high-handed, but on several occasions we see her go the extra mile to try and help people, despite how tired with her mission she must be.
Speaking of being tired and having missions, the extent to which this series is about seeing what happens when someone finds out they have great power and responsibility. Rand has been the poster child, taking on the most earliest, and that’s clearly hit him very hard. But we’re finding out more about the others.
Nyneave’s position as an undermined authority figure has been clear from the start. She’s spent a lot of time trying to fight against this and plotting a revenge on Moraine for being the face of this situation. Here we see a mix of fighting and acceptance. It’s mostly acceptance though, particularly by the end. Yes, she still clings to her herbs in certain situations, and her role as a healer, but the world has asked her to be more. She’s recognising this. She’s recognising that the person she was can’t negotiate the situations she’s facing. What happens next?
Egwene, in contrast to Nyneave and also the Daughter-Heir Elayne, has never really been an authority figure. She’s been a daughter, an apprentice, a novice, a slave. She has seized the opportunity to be other things offered by the world far more enthusiastically than most of the others, probably for the obvious reason that maybe she had more to gain and less to lose. It’s not that she hasn’t given up dreams, but perhaps her dreams never felt enough for her? But now she’s being given authority and a task. She’s Accepted. She’s a hunter of the Black Ajah. She’s seeking to embrace that as she’s embraced everything so far, with mixed results. She’s not been particularly thoughtful of other people while doing it, as Elayne points out. But her hunger for responsibility and confidence – sometimes overconfidence – shine through. The others may have lived with authority before, but she has a gift for it.
If you turn to the boys, we’ve seen a lot of Perrin. He’s a very dutiful soul when it comes to responsibility, but he has no taste for it. He fears his power. This is the book where he starts to embrace it, not for his own sake but for others. I have say that how things go with him and Faile all make sense but, with the knowledge of the future I have, I can’t help but feel a little grumpy. Weirdly, Mat is quite similar, just from a different direction. He hates responsibility but if you put a fire in front of him he instinctively runs towards it. His power of luck so far seems easy come, easy go for him, beyond the initial burst of realising he can’t lose at gambling. Sometimes I wish they were more different, to reflect their different personalities. But in a way, it makes perfect sense to me. Pressure has a way of levelling people down to their core, and Perrin and Mat have after all been giving very similar lessons of what someone should be at their core.
One final thing. I haven’t really talked about all the dreams there’s been here. Perrin’s had them, Egwene’s had them, everyone about a major channeler like Rand or one of the Forsaken has had them. They’ve been a useful storytelling tool for Jordan, offering foreshadowing and information, and they add a dimension of weirdness and fantasticalness that helps offset the sometimes very mundane nature of the series. Here, he’s just getting going with it, but just you wait.
And that’s it really. To me, this is the sort of book that leaves me wanting something more. In a lot of ways, it feels like a transition between two parts of the series. The first two books were Rand discovering he might be the Dragon Reborn. From the next book, Rand has to be the Dragon Reborn. Here, Jordan has to link up the two, and develop the other characters to catch up with him, for the sake of the series. But what else is this book doing? Is this story really worth reading in its own right? I don’t want to say it’s not but I don’t want to say it is.
Well, that was the book. It might be a while before I get to the next one because I’ve got a lot else on but then again, I’ve always loved The Shadow Rising, so perhaps that will happen very soon.
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