The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: The Fires of Heaven, Part 24

Tor.com!! Omigod, hi! It’s me, Wheel of Time Re-read! Eeeeee! I KNOW, it’s been FOREVER, I can’t believe it! You look FABULOUS, have you lost weight? Oh, THANK you, no really. No, it’s amazing to see YOU! Isn’t this AMAZING? It’s AMAZING! EEEEEEEE!

Ahem. You’ll have to excuse me, I’ve just come from an experience remarkably similar to the one I’ve just horrified you with above, and my ears are still ringing a little.

But seriously, folks, I had a lovely vacay, except for the part where I was sick for most of it, but even so, there was fabulous music, awesome catching up with old friends, more amazing food than should be legal for one person to consume, and the opportunity to utter the phrase, “Would you please turn off your duck?” with no irony whatsoever. What more could a girl ask for?

And now we’re back, with Chapters 54-55 of The Fires of Heaven! Hooray!

Previous entries are here, and as always there are spoilers for all currently published novels in the Wheel of Time series herein and therein and everywherein, so beware…in.

Right? Right!

[Edited to add: And if you haven’t seen it yet, check out Jason Denzel’s early review of  The Gathering Storm over at Dragonmount.]

Chapter 54: To Caemlyn

What Happens
Rand, Aviendha, Asmodean, and Mat return to the Palace with five hundred Maidens in tow, and meets Bael and thousands more Aiel (and Pevin) in the courtyard. Rand thinks back to the exchange between Aviendha and the Wise Ones he doesn’t think he was supposed to hear, in which Bair told her it would have been easier if she had “succeeded” by now, and Amys began to reply that she had done better than they knew, but cut off when she realized Rand was listening.

Shaking his head, Rand reached up as Aviendha swung a leg over to slide down, and lifted her from the dapple’s back. For a moment he held her by the waist, looking down into her clear blue-green eyes. She did not look away, and her expression never changed, but her hands tightened slowly on his forearms. What success was she supposed to have?

He rejects the notion that it was supposed to be something like Colavaere’s young women as being beneath her, and thinks on it until Mat makes a snarky comment about public “canoodling”, and Rand and Aviendha both flush and let go of each other. Rand observes wryly to Bael, looking at Pevin, that his secret mission was apparently not so secret, and warns Bael that he doesn’t know how many he can take. He seizes saidin and opens a four-pace-wide gateway to the Skimming place, which Asmodean had called “a dream of a dream”, and experiments to see how big of a platform he can make. It turns out he can’t seem to make it much bigger than his initial attempt (the size of the courtyard), and wonders if that’s because that’s really the limit, or because it’s the limit he unconsciously set himself.

We all make our limits. The thought slid up surprisingly from somewhere. And we set them further out than we have any right.

The Aiel (and Pevin) do not react to this display, and Mat just mutters about dice in his head, but Asmodean comments that it is very impressive. Aviendha steps through first to join him on the platform, followed by Bael, Pevin, Mat, Asmodean, and Sulin, and then everybody else; Rand warns them all to stay away from the edge, and asks if it’s full. Lamelle shouts back that it is, and Rand calls for the rest to stand clear and closes the gateway. They don’t seem to move, but Rand knows they are, and knows exactly where he is going. Halfway through the trip, someone falls off the platform, and Sulin gives him a flat look when Rand starts to ask if it had been a Maiden. Rand opens a gateway to the spot outside the Palace walls where he had climbed the wall and fell inside the day he met Elayne, and waits as all the Aiel dash out into the street, then follows as they begin scaling the walls and spreading out. Rand notices that there are no people on the street right before the walls topple in multiple places and Trollocs and Fades pour out. Lightning falls from the sky, and Rand weaves a shield that covers half the Inner City, but not before some of the strikes meet.

Mat’s smoking boots lay a dozen paces from where Mat himself sprawled on his back. Tendrils of smoke rose from the black haft of his spear, too, from his coat, even from the silver foxhead, hanging out of his shirt, that had not saved him from a man’s channeling. Asmodean was a twisted shape of char, recognizable only from the blackened harpcase still strapped to his back. And Aviendha… Unmarked, she could have laid down to rest — if she could have rested staring unblinking at the sun.

Rand bent to touch her cheek. Cooling already. It felt . . . Not like flesh.

“RAAAAHVIIIIN!”

It startled him a little, that sound coming from his throat: He seemed to be sitting somewhere deep in the back of his own head, the Void around him vaster, emptier, than it had ever been before. Saidin raged through him. He did not care if it scoured him away. The taint seeped through everything, tarnished everything. He did not care.

Two Trollocs move to attack him; Rand smiles, and they burst into flame right before being sliced in half by the gateway he opens to a throne room with Rahvin inside. Rahvin starts up in surprise as Rand steps through.

Nynaeve and Siuan are standing in Tel’aran’rhiod’s reflection of Salidar, both of them intensely annoyed at the other as Nynaeve tries to teach Siuan how to control the Dreamworld. Siuan’s clothes keep changing to show the Amyrlin’s stole around her neck, and she complains about the foul-tasting concoction Nynaeve had given her to make her sleep. Nynaeve is angry in general: at having to deal with teaching Sheriam and the others, at the lack of time she has for investigating stilling and gentling, and at Faolain’s promotion to “something more than Accepted” and her abuse of her new authority that resulted – but none of those are the real reason. Siuan wants to know what Nynaeve’s problem is, and then remembers today is the first day of Nynaeve’s sessions with Theodrin to try to break her block; Nynaeve is not about to admit how upset her failure had made her to Siuan, and snipes back that she heard Siuan had thrown Gareth Bryne’s boots at his head the night before.

“— so he turned you upside down and —”

Siuan’s full-armed slap rung her ears. For an instant she could only stare at the other woman, eyes going wider and wider. With a wordless shriek, she tried to punch Siuan in the eye. Tried, because somehow Siuan had tangled a fist in her hair. A moment later they were down in the dirt of the street, rolling about and screaming, flailing wildly.

This goes on for a minute, until Nynaeve realizes Siuan is shaking with laughter. She demands to know what’s so funny, and Siuan chuckles that she hasn’t done anything like that since she was twelve. She says they can settle their disagreements like adults, but hesitates and adds it would probably be better if Bryne were not mentioned. Nynaeve thinks about what she would have done as Wisdom if she’d found two grown women rolling around in the dirt, and hastily agrees. As they straighten themselves, Nynaeve thinks she sees a face in a window across the street, just for a second. She swallows down fear and tells Siuan she thinks they should go back now, but Siuan is not about to be cheated out of her full lesson’s worth, and refuses. Nynaeve snatches the ring from around Siuan’s neck; Siuan vanishes, as does the ring, and Nynaeve instantly flees to Jurene, a village that she knows Moghedien cannot possibly know about. She wonders, though, why she didn’t just step out of the dream altogether.

I am so . . . so bloody tired of being afraid.

She tells herself she’s being foolish; with the lesser ter’angreal keeping her here, she can barely channel, and doesn’t stand a chance against Moghedien. She decides to go back and tell the Salidar sisters about the Forsaken and deal with the consequences, and says so aloud.

“Light, they will give me to Faolain. I’d almost rather die!”

“But you seem to enjoy running little errands for her.”

Nynaeve leaps up and tries to shield Moghedien, but the Forsaken smiles and brushes her weak weaves aside with ease. She tells Nynaeve she grew careless watching her and Siuan fight, lazily weaving something while Nynaeve stands rooted to the ground in fear. She starts to lay the weave on Nynaeve, but suddenly Birgitte calls out from behind them. Both Nynaeve and Moghedien are shocked, but Moghedien quickly recovers and snares Birgitte, taunting her about living without Gaidal. Nynaeve gathers her courage and staggers toward Moghedien, pleading for her life. Moghedien turns Birgitte into a small girl, and Nynaeve gets down and crawls toward her, begging. Moghedien comments contemptuously that she thought Nynaeve was stronger than this.

Nynaeve’s hand wavered a span from Moghedien. It had to be close enough. There was only her. And Tel’aran’rhiod. The image formed in her head, and there it was, silver bracelet on her outstretched wrist, silver leash linking it to the silver collar around Moghedien’s neck. It was not just the a’dam she fixed in her head, but Moghedien wearing it, Moghedien and the a’dam, a part of Tel’aran’rhiod that she held in the form she wanted.

In growing rage and horror, Moghedien tries to channel, but Nynaeve suppresses the flows easily; then Moghedien tries change the dream to get rid of the collar, and Nynaeve brushes her with imaginary nettles until she stops. She forces Moghedien to turn Birgitte back, and asks how she got there; Birgitte explains that she knew something must be wrong, so she took the ring and what was left of the sleeping draught Siuan had used. Nynaeve confesses to her that she almost ran away and abandoned Birgitte; Birgitte replies, but she didn’t. She asks what Nynaeve intends to do with Moghedien, who is standing calmly now, watching them, but Nynaeve can tell through the a’dam that she is terrified. Moghedien points out that she has valuable information. Nynaeve says, give her some then, and Moghedien tells her that Lanfear, Graendal, Rahvin and Sammael are plotting together.

Nynaeve gave the leash a short tug, staggering her. “I know that. Tell me something new.” The woman was captive here, but the a’dam only existed so long as they were in Tel’aran’rhiod.

“Do you know they are drawing Rand al’Thor to attack Sammael? But when he does, he will find the others as well, waiting to trap him between them. At least, he will find Graendal and Rahvin. I think Lanfear plays another game, one the others know nothing about.”

Nynaeve yanks her close and tells her she knows what Moghedien is up to, and if she’s not completely honest with them Nynaeve will do to her everything Moghedien thought to do to Nynaeve. Moghedien babbles that al’Thor means to attack Rahvin because he thinks Rahvin killed Morgase, but he’s walking into a trap. She starts protesting her innocence in the scheme, and Nynaeve blocks her mouth and ears with Air. She and Birgitte agree it is almost certainly the truth, and Nynaeve says she has to go to Caemlyn. Birgitte points out that she won’t be able to affect the real world from Tel’aran’rhiod.

“I know! I know, but I have to do something.”

Birgitte threw back her head and laughed. “Oh, Nynaeve, it is such an embarrassment being associated with such a coward as you.” Abruptly her eyes widened in surprise. “There wasn’t much of your potion left. I think I am wak —” In mid-word, she was simply no longer there.

Nynaeve unties the flows around Moghedien and tells her they are taking a little trip, and she’d better do her best to help, because whatever happens to the one wearing the bracelet, happens ten times over to the one in the collar. Moghedien nods sickly, and Nynaeve takes them both to the reflection of Caemlyn.

Commentary
For some reason the moment between Aviendha and Rand where they just stare at each other was extremely touching and sad to me; all this weight between them, and yet neither one can or will say anything about it.

I’m pretty sure that what the Wise Ones mean by Aviendha’s “success” is not sleeping with Rand per se, but what Melaine blurted out waaay back in TSR: “I will make you know your blood for ours if I have to lay the – “ Obviously, the goal here was marriage, laying the bridal wreath, and the reason was to tie Rand emotionally to the Aiel. I guess the reasoning was if he cared for one Aiel individually it would be more likely that he would care for all of them as a group. And, I guess, that also makes sense.

Still sucks for Aviendha, though, since my impression is the Wise Ones didn’t know about her vision that she would fall in love with him, so the whole thing veers kind of creepily close to the Wise Ones’ pimping Aviendha out. However, it’s been previously established that the Wise Ones’ (and the Aiel in general’s) view is that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.

Speaking of KHHHHAAAANNNNNN!!!!!, hi Rand! Guess we’ve figured out how to really, really piss you off, not that it wasn’t extremely obvious before.

I’m trying desperately to remember what my initial reaction to Mat, Asmodean, and Aviendha’s “deaths” in this chapter was. As in, did I believe they were for real, or had I twigged by this point to the distinct dearth of important character deaths in WOT? I really can’t remember. I think I was reading this part so fast that I don’t know that their “deaths” actually really registered. I’m pretty sure that for Mat, at least, I was like “uh uh, no way”, but that may be hindsight talking. It’s not like anyone’s last name is “Stark” here, after all. Ba dum dum. That said, it was still shocking, viewed through Rand’s perspective.

As a slight digression, I find that in a lot of ways rereading a book, especially multiple times, makes me employ some of the mental techniques stage actors use in order to perform the same role over and over again, and yet find a way to make it feel fresh to themselves and to their audience each time. The trick (for me, anyway) is to visualize it, especially in the reactions of the characters. To kind of put yourself through the evolution of their realization, if that makes any kind of sense, and feel what they must be feeling. (Of course, it’s also quite effective to do the first time around, although I note that this is occasionally way more visceral an experience than I might prefer, and why, for example, I would kind of like to smack John Steinbeck around for writing The Red Pony. Or alternately, my sixth grade English teacher for making me read it. Jeez, woman, why don’t you just rip my heart out with a pair of white-hot tongs and stomp on it while you’re at it?)

Anyway. Nynaeve and Siuan: HA! I’m sorry, but the image of the two of them rolling around having a hair-pulling contest is frickin’ hilarious. The best is Siuan cracking up at it herself; I knew there was a reason I liked her so much. And I’m liking her exponentially more this reread than before, too. She’s just cool.

You’ll note, however, that I am heroically ignoring Yet Another Implied Offscreen Spanking between supposedly adult quasi-love interests. Sigh.

Of course, the coolness of Siuan notwithstanding, Nynaeve gets the Crowning Moment of Awesome here. And of course, the real triumph for her is not so much the way she defeated Moghedien (though it was, in my opinion, a stroke of genius that I truly did not guess ahead of time the first time around), but the underlying accomplishment – that she conquered her fear of even trying. Yay, Nynaeve!

This also finishes up Nynaeve’s particular character arc for TFOH, even though she’s not quite finished doing things yet, of course. It’s only in retrospect that I’ve realized a case can be made that Nynaeve is arguably the other main character of this particular novel, after Rand. The other Supergirls are featured prominently, of course, but Nynaeve’s evolution as a character and resolution of her mano a mano with Moghedien is really one of the two major driving forces of the plot in TFOH, even more so than Mat’s arc, judging from my overall impression. This is mostly because Mat’s crisis of character is much more drawn out, and doesn’t really resolve until, well, KOD, really. Huh.
Chapter 55: The Threads Burn

What Happens
Rand stands in a ruined hallway in the Palace, memories of the day he had met Elaida and Morgase warring with Lews Therin’s memories of Ilyena dead in a similar corridor.

Gareth Bryne would have killed me, had he known. Morgase would have ordered my death. Morgase would be alive, perhaps. Elayne’s mother alive. Aviendha alive. Mat. Moiraine. How many alive, if I had died?

I have earned my torment. I deserve the final death. Oh, Ilyena, I deserve death.

I deserve death.

He is attacked by Darkfriends led by a Fade, and freezes them to death before walking on, bypassing two terrified servants, searching for Rahvin. He throws himself flat as balefire streaks through the hall, and returns in kind; he runs after the source to find that Rahvin has disappeared through a gateway that seems different from the ones before, like the one he had made in Tear. Rand makes one like it, and steps through to what looks like the same room, except the damage from the balefire keeps flickering in and out of existence. He’s not sure where he is, but knows it’s a very strange place. He continues on, looking for the Forsaken, and suddenly realizes he is becoming misty and insubstantial.

No! It was not his thought. An image began to coalesce. A tall, dark-eyed man with a worry-creased face and more white in his hair than brown. I am Lews Ther—

I am Rand al’Thor, Rand broke in. He did not know what was happening, but the faint Dragon was beginning to fade from the misty arm held in front of his face. The arm began to look darker, the fingers on his hand longer. I am me.

He fights to hold to his own image against that of the older, dark-eyed man, and finally succeeds. He wonders why Lews Therin had tried to do that, but realizes that Lews Therin had said “no”, and that it must be Rahvin’s work, and that there is some property of this place that allows him to alter reality. Rand tries it on a rosebush and discovers it has limits, and decides to rely on saidin. He sends lightning throughout the balconies and windows surrounding the courtyard he’s in, snarling, and continues on.

Nynaeve throws herself flat, dragging Moghedien with her, to avoid the bars of light like those she had seen in Tanchico slashing through the walls. She’s not sure if that was from Rand or Rahvin, not that it mattered, and has not seen either man so far. Moghedien is dry-heaving, having tried to remove the a’dam again; her cooperation had faded fast once she realized Rand and Rahvin were here in Tel’aran’rhiod with them. She clutches Nynaeve’s skirts and begs her to let them leave, saying they are here “in the flesh. In the flesh!” Nynaeve shuts her up, cursing Rand for being foolish enough to let Rahvin lead him here, where he could not possibly know the rules. Moghedien shouts that she doesn’t understand; in the flesh, either man could crush her and Nynaeve both like bugs. Nynaeve snaps at her to be quiet, and Moghedien refuses to go any further; Nynaeve threatens the nettles again, but Moghedien doesn’t care, and Nynaeve thinks the Forsaken must have guessed that Nynaeve wouldn’t kill her in cold blood. So she uses the a’dam to make it seem like Moghedien was receiving some of the punishments she had received for misbehaving as a younger woman.

Grimly, Nynaeve did it again. She won’t stop me short! Again. I will help Rand whatever she thinks! Again. Even if it kills us! Again. Oh, Light, she could be right; Rand could kill us both before he knows it’s me. Again. Light, I hate being afraid! Again. I hate her! Again. I hate her! Again.

Abruptly she realized Moghedien was jerking frantically in her bonds, nodding her head so violently it seemed about to come off. For a moment, Nynaeve gaped at the other woman’s tear-streaked face, then stopped what she was doing and hurriedly unraveled the flows of Air. Light, what had she done? She was not Moghedien.

She asks if Moghedien is ready to cooperate, and the Forsaken mumbles that they will be killed, but nods. Then the two women are almost thrown off their feet as the entire Palace shakes. When it subsides, Nynaeve hears the sound of booted feet running off, and drags a terrified Moghedien after them.

Rand steps into a courtyard with a fishpond in the center warily. The benches change into man-shapes and attack him; Rand bursts them into shards. Then the air becomes water, and the fish turn into piranha-like predators that attack him, ripping him up; Rand flails, and finally manages to turn the water back into air before he drowns. He detects the remnants of a gateway and heads for it, but falls down as he begins changing into some kind of animal. He fights against it, but he is losing saidin.

Nynaeve rounds another corner, still following the boots, and finally catches a glimpse of her quarry, who doesn’t look like Rand from behind. She continues after him through a labyrinth of hallways, pausing as balefire punches through a nearby window. She’s sure that was Rand, but he could kill her as easily as Rahvin without knowing it. She can tell through the a’dam that Moghedien is in a full-fledged panic, and rather agrees with her. Through Moghedien, she fills herself with saidar to the point of stilling herself, and finally comes to a hall where a man with white wings in his hair stares down through a window at something below, sweating with effort but smiling too. Nynaeve fills the entire hall with a wall of flame, and Rahvin screams in agony before shielding himself from the fire.

Every scrap of saidar she could channel was going into that inferno, but he held it at bay. She could see him through the fire; it gave everything a red cast, but she could see. Smoke rose from his charred coat. His face was a seared ruin, one eye milky white. But both eyes were malevolent as he turned them on her.

No emotion reached her along the a’dam’s leash, only leaden dullness. Nynaeve’s stomach fluttered. Moghedien had given up. Given up because death was there for them.

Rand is suddenly himself again as fire fills the hallway above the courtyard, and he sees Rahvin stumble out onto the colonnade, facing away from Rand and charred to a crisp.

“Rahvin!” he screamed, and balefire flew from his hands, molten light thicker than a man, driven by all the Power he could draw.

It struck the Forsaken, and Rahvin ceased to exist. The Darkhounds in Rhuidean had become motes before they vanished, whatever kind of life they had had struggling to continue, or the Pattern struggling to maintain itself even for them. Before this, Rahvin simply… ceased.

Rand stares, thinking it seemed too easy, and runs for a door.

Nynaeve lets go her weave as the bar of liquid fire blinds her, and then Rahvin is gone. Moghedien begins weeping with relief, and Nynaeve spins as she hears boots approaching. Rand appears, and she thinks he is not as she remembered; his face is hard, and his eyes like ice. She realizes she can’t let him know who Moghedien is, and remembering Elayne’s comments, impulsively makes the leash between collar and bracelet disappear. She is panicked for a second, but then realizes the link is still there, so Elayne had been right, evidently. Rand says he thought it might have been her, or… he doesn’t say “Elayne”, and instead asks what this place is. Nynaeve swallows, and tells him that the Wise Ones say it is an evil thing, being here in the flesh like he is, that it makes you lose your humanity.

“Do the Wise Ones know everything?” He brushed past her and stood staring at the colonnade. “I used to think Aes Sedai knew everything. It doesn’t matter. I don’t know how human the Dragon Reborn can afford to be.”

“Rand, I…” She did not know what to say. “Here, let me Heal you at least.”

She Heals the bites and wounds, noting again that unHealable wound in his side, which continues to irritate her. She confirms to Rand that she saw Rahvin die; he wonders if there are any other Forsaken about, and Nynaeve ignores Moghedien’s surge of fear to tell him he must leave. He agrees, and creates a strange gateway to the real world. He hesitates, and tells her to ask Elayne not to hate him. He face twists in pain, and she reaches out to him, but he steps back and says Lan was right. He says to tell Elayne to forget him, that he’s found someone else to love, and tells her that Lan has done the same, and wants her to forget him.

Better never to have been born than to love us.” He stepped back again, three long steps, the hall seemed to turn dizzyingly with him in it — or part of the hall did — and he was gone.

Nynaeve stared at where he had been, and not at the fitfully flickering reappearance of the damage to the colonnade. Lan had told him to say that?

“A… remarkable man,” Moghedien said softly. “A very, very dangerous man.”

Nynaeve turns to her, and Moghedien points out hopefully that she has been useful, has she not? Nynaeve creates a cup filled with liquid and tells her to drink it; it’s not poison, but forkroot, which will make her sleep too deeply to reach Tel’aran’rhiod. Moghedien considers, and agrees, downing the draught. Only then does Nynaeve remark that Moghedien had known Birgitte was not dead, and known who Faolain was too, and that Siuan used to be the Amyrlin Seat; she will see Moghedien shortly in Salidar. Moghedien’s eyes roll back in a faint, and Nynaeve lets her vanish before stepping out of the dream herself.

Rand steps outside the Palace, where the fighting with Trollocs and Fades is still going on, and stops dead in shock as he sees balls of flame envelop Shadowspawn from within the hard-pressed center. He quickly destroys most of the Trollocs with balefire, and finally sees Aviendha, fighting with a knife and saidar both. He runs toward her, and sees Mat and Asmodean both nearby, alive and well.

Balefire. Balefire that burned a thread out of the Pattern. The stronger that balefire was, the further back that burning went. And whatever that person had done no longer had happened. He did not care if his blast at Rahvin had unraveled half the Pattern. Not if this was the result.

He grabs Aviendha and whirls her around while she stares at him like he’s crazy, and tries to hug Mat too.

Mat fended him off. “What’s the matter with you? You’d think you thought we were dead. Not that we weren’t, almost. Being a general has to be safer than this!”

Rand laughs that he’s just happy they’re alive, but his laughter fades as he takes in the carnage all around them, and sees Lamelle’s body, as well as Pevin’s, and many others. He hears a thought telling him to take joy in what he can, and knows it is not his thought, but takes it as good advice. Aviendha demands to know where he went, and he tells her Rahvin is dead. Bael limps up, Sulin behind him, and tells him the Shadowspawn are running; Rand deliberately walks away from Aviendha and begins giving orders.

Commentary
I’m not sure I realized, the first time reading this, that this particular Big Ass Showdown is markedly different from the ones preceding it in two major ways. First, this is the first time Rand actually knows enough about channeling to not be completely making it up as he goes (though that is partially replaced by his not knowing crapola about the Dreamworld, and making that up as he goes).

Second, this is the first (but not the last) time that Rand would never have succeeded if Nynaeve hadn’t been there to help him. Even Moiraine’s defeat of Be’lal was not as decisive, in my opinion, since Rand still had to then battle and defeat Ishamael all by his lonesome. But here, Rand had essentially lost the duel with Rahvin – until Nynaeve sucker-punched him from behind.

This is an interesting position for Nynaeve’s character to be in. Obviously it ties into the running theme about the necessity for men and women to work together, balance to the Force, yin, yang, yadda, etc., but it’s interesting in that Nynaeve is not really any kind of immediately obvious mirror or counterpart for Rand, in the sense that she doesn’t represent any of the usual roles that she would, in other works, have normally been slotted into.

She’s not “the female lead” (there really isn’t one in WOT), and she’s not the often overlapping role of the male lead’s love interest (or even one of them!), either. Nor is she even his political counterpart – that role is destined to be fulfilled by Egwene (or Tuon, depending on how you look at it). Neither is she his mom or his sister or his daughter. They’re not related in any way, in fact, except for how they’re from the same village and she babysat him a lot.

In fact, the only way in which Nynaeve might be considered Rand’s true counterpart in a way that isn’t shared by half a dozen other female characters is in her strength in the Power – except for how that gets rather ruined by the appearance of Alivia the Uberdamane later on (which is why, I suspect, I was so irritated by her introduction). Although, I suppose that’s later, and I shouldn’t let it interfere in consideration of what happens here. So, assuming we pretend Alivia doesn’t exist for the moment, Nynaeve’s sole parallel with Rand is that (at the moment) she’s the strongest female channeler (for the Light) and he’s the strongest male channeler (for the Light, and probably altogether).

I… can’t decide if that’s a refreshing break with narrative tradition, or if it’s ever so slightly wonky. I’m just saying that if, in a Light vs. Shadow thematic epic battle of good and evil sense, it’s all about the symmetry, then the symmetry here seems a tad off.

Or maybe I’m overthinking this, and should just shut up and eat my yummy Titantic One Power Battle Wheaties. Om nom nom.

Other notes on this chapter: Moghedien is a wonderfully believable Crouching Badass Hidden Wussypants. And again Nynaeve brings the awesome: “See you in Salidar, bitch”. Oh, snap.

I love that Rand tries to hug Mat, and he’s all “uh, get off me, freak”. Heh. Not to mention his not-ironic-at-all snarky comment thereafter. I would almost roll my eyes if it hadn’t made me chuckle so well.

Is it cheap that Mat and Aviendha (and Asmodean, briefly) didn’t get to stay dead? Well, obviously this is a matter of opinion. I’ve noted before that one of the bigger complaints a lot of people have had regarding WOT is how no one dies ever, and I certainly can’t deny the legitimacy of the criticism. I, however, have been bolstered by a lifetime of long-running TV and film series where no one ever gets killed off because the actors are too popular/their contracts haven’t run out yet, so I have accepted that this is how WOT rolls, and you can either let it go, or not. I have let it go.

Although, I note, that does not keep me from speculating wildly about whether/if that amount of character invincibility will persist in The Rilly Big Ass Showdown we are presumably approaching come this November.


And we’re gonna stop here, even though we’ve only got one chapter left in the book. I think if you think about it you’ll understand why. See youse guys Wednesday with the endy-end of TFOH!

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