The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Re-read: Winter’s Heart, Part 23

That’s great, it starts with an earthquake! It’s the Wheel of Time Re-read as we know it, and I feel fine, y’all.

Today’s entry covers Chapters 34 and 35 of Winter’s Heart, in which World almost fall down go boom—but doesn’t. There’s a good world!

“Distinctions”, the Prologue for Towers of Midnight, the upcoming newest release in the series, is now available for download, and a preview of Chapter 1, “Apples First”, is available here. The audio version of Chapter 2, “Questions of Leadership” is here, and a special preview of Chapter 8, “The Seven Striped Lass”, can be found here. If you would like to read my completely spoiler-free advance review of Towers of Midnight, you can find it here.

Please refrain from posting spoilers for all this preview material in the posts for the Re-read, in order to protect those who have not yet read them, or do not intend to before the release of the entire book. Spoiler discussion is going on here and here, in special posts just for discussion of preview material; please keep all spoilers there. Thanks.

Also, good news, everyone! I’m sure most of you have heard already, but in case you haven’t: the Wheel of Time FAQ has been updated through The Gathering Storm, thanks to the lovely folks over at Dragonmount. Go and give it a gander, whydontcha? I promise it is very shiny.

(And speaking of Dragonmount, you may want to go over and check out a certain podcast that just got put up there. It might have something sorta interesting in it. Maybe. Possibly. *whistles*)

Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to all of the above plus links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general.

This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 12, The Gathering Storm. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And since this intro’s not NEARLY long enough: As you know, Bob, Towers of Midnight goes on sale in the U.S. on Tuesday, November 2nd (or in other words in FOUR DAYSOMG), and in accordance with ancient tradition, that is also the day when my second and absurdly spoiler-soaked review of the new book goes live—and, incidentally, provides you a place on Tor.com to discuss and revel in new-bookness to your heart’s content.

So be there or be square—but I highly highly highly recommend finishing the book first. No, like, really. For true.

Correspondingly, the Re-read will be going on another wee hiatus in the wake of the new release. But don’t worry; it will not be as long as the one after TGS. As of now I am tentatively planning the Re-read’s return on November 16th, and in the meantime there will be many fun things to play with like signing reports and such, and oh yeah NEW BOOK. So, I’m pretty sure you’ll be jes fine.

And that is more than quite enough for one intro, so without further ado, the post!

…Except wait, I forgot I have to talk about the cover art! Last post, you know.

And… erm.

It’s… blue? Blue is pretty.

Okay, moving on!

Chapter 34: The Hummingbird’s Secret

What Happens
Nynaeve waits in the alley, pretending to be shopping. Suddenly there is a commotion, and a large number of Guardsmen storm the area, knocking bystanders aside and even trampling someone. Nynaeve realizes with panic they are all converging on the bootmaker’s shop; she knows that her Well is half-empty already, but decides it will have to be enough. Before she can go to help, though, Alivia and Cadsuane appear and drag her away from the bootmaker’s. Min is with them, and tells them, flinching, that Rand is unconscious and hurt, though she doesn’t know how badly. Cadsuane answers that they can do them no good here, and she wants to be away before the Guard start asking women to show their faces. Nynaeve demands that they let her go back and help Rand and Lan.

“You have done quite enough already, you fool girl.” Cadsuane’s voice was cold iron. “I told you about Far Madding’s watchdogs. Phaw! You’ve put a panic in the Counsels with your channeling where no one can channel. If the Guards have them, it is because of you.”

Nynaeve says weakly that she thought saidar wouldn’t matter, and Cadsuane gives her a disgusted look. Nynaeve appeals to Min, but Min glares at her and tells her that if Nynaeve had helped Min convince Rand not to go in the first place, they wouldn’t have to rely on Cadsuane now. Nynaeve wants to know what Cadsuane could possibly do, and Cadsuane observes that “the boy” isn’t the only one who needs lessons in manners, and threatens to have Alivia sit on Nynaeve unless Nynaeve does exactly what she says. Nynaeve grimaces, but tells herself she can do it for Lan’s sake.

But when she asked what Cadsuane planned to do to free the men, the only answer the woman would give was “Much more than I want to, girl, if I can do anything at all. But I made the boy promises, and I keep my promises. I hope he remembers that.” Delivered in a voice like ice, it was not a reply to inspire confidence.

Rand wakes up in pitch darkness, in pain, and knows his jailers know who he is when he realizes his gloves are gone. He stands up, and soon discovers he is in a tiny cell “three paces long and just over two paces wide.”

Closed in, Lews Therin panted hoarsely. It’s the box again. When those women put us in the box. We have to get out! he howled. We have to get out!

Shaking, Rand sits in the center of the cell, as far from the walls as possible, and tries to remain calm, thinking he would be “as mad as Lews Therin” if he succumbed to panic. He thinks of how long it will take for Elaida’s sisters to get there to take him out, and almost loses it; he shouts out loud that he will not surrender. He begins going over the names on his list one by one, telling himself he has to be hard.

Cadsuane heads toward the Hall of the Counsels, irritated that Daigian, Corele and Merise had insisted on accompanying their Asha’man Warders with her, but she is particularly annoyed with Min and Nynaeve. Nynaeve keeps glowering and muttering that this will never work, and Min keeps giving increasingly worried updates on Rand’s condition; Cadsuane had not told Min what the cells were like. Cadsuane tells them both to stop whining, or she will have Alivia take them away and “give them something to whine about”; they look at Alivia and fall silent.

Nynaeve’s sullen glower irritated Cadsuane. The girl had good material in her, but her training had been cut far too short. Her ability with Healing was little short of miraculous, her ability with almost anything else dismal. And she had not been put through the lessons that what must be endured, could be endured. In truth, Cadsuane sympathized with her. Somewhat. It was a lesson not everyone could learn in the Tower. She herself, full of pride in her new shawl and her own strength, had been taught by a near toothless wilder at a farm in the heart of the Black Hills. Oh, it was a very ragtag little army she had gathered to try standing Far Madding on its head.

The party sweeps into the Counsels’ Chamber. Aleis tells Cadsuane coldly that this is a closed session, but Cadsuane interrupts to say she knows who they have in the cells. Aleis tries to feign ignorance, but Cadsuane accuses her of concealing that they have the Dragon Reborn, and offers to take him off their hands, citing her experience handling more than twenty men who could channel over the years. Aleis replies they prefer to talk to Tar Valon first, and Cadsuane knows this means they intend to negotiate a price for him. Cadsuane then mentions that the men with her are Asha’man; Damer, Jahar, and Eben step forward, looking dangerous. The Counsels are unnerved, but Aleis answers that they do not fear Asha’man. Regretting the necessity of breaking Aleis, Cadsuane reminds her that someone channeled inside the city; Aleis declares this an aberration.

“Even what we think is perfect can have flaws, Aleis.” Cadsuane drew on her own Well, taking in saidar in a measured amount. She had practice; the little golden hummingbird could not hold near so much as Nynaeve’s belt. “Flaws can pass unnoticed for centuries before they are found.” The flow of Air she wove was just enough to lift the gem-encrusted coronet from Aleis’ head and set it on the carpet in front of the woman’s feet. “Once they are found, however, it seems that anyone who looks can find them.”

Thirteen sets of shocked eyes stared at the coronet. One and all, the Counsels seemed frozen, barely breathing.

Nynaeve uses her Well to bring the coronet back to Aleis, while Damer makes a comment that implies he did it. Voice cracking, Aleis offers to release Rand to them, and Cadsuane notes the shift in attitude among the other Counsels as she accepts.

[Cadsuane] had promised the boy that whatever she did would be for his good, not the good of the Tower or anyone else’s, and now she had broken a good woman for his good. “I am very sorry, Aleis,” she said. You are building up a large account already, boy, she thought.

Commentary
So, I’m not actually claustrophobic myself, but I do know what panic attacks feel like, which I have to imagine is at least somewhat comparable to what Rand is going through here. And, well, I just really really want to hug him and wrap him in a blanket and sing him a lullaby or something right now.

(Let’s just say, if you’ve ever wondered if you’ve experienced a panic attack, stop wondering, because if you’re not sure then you haven’t had one. Trust me, when you have one, you know. Wikipedia may not be the most stellar medical reference, but its description of panic attacks as “one of the most intensely frightening, upsetting and uncomfortable experiences of a person’s life,” well, that’s pretty damn spot-on as far as I am concerned. Assuming you haven’t been, say, shot at or anything, of course.)

Still, panic attacks, not of the fun. Which perhaps explains why I’m about ready to haul off and smack Cadsuane into the next Age here, even as she is essentially saving the day. Rand is building up a large account here? Excuse me, who locked up who in a box in this chapter? Out of Aleis and Rand, who is having a bad career day, and who is HANGING ON TO SANITY BY A FUCKING THREAD because of the other person?

Oh, right, that would be “the boy.” God, shut UP, Cadsuane. Why is compassion such an alien concept to so many of these people?

Okay, fine, I’m overidentifying here or whatever, I know, but I’m kind of really pre-disposed to be wanting to demand for Rand what I know I would want in the wake of such a horrible experience—which, needless to say, does not include cold assessments of “well, it was your fault you ended up there,” because really, Shut. Up.

Given all that, while I probably should have enjoyed Cadsuane and Co.’s clever hoodwinking of the Counsels—and it was very clever—let’s just say I found it a little difficult to concentrate on. Although it was nice the Asha’Warders got to participate.

Also in conjunction with the above, while I suppose Cadsuane has cause to think Aleis is a good ruler who didn’t deserve to be broken, in the sense that she was a good administrator or whatever, I have to say I hesitate to ascribe good leadership skills to someone who would imprison the prophesied savior of the world and then make plans to sell him to the highest bidder. When “mind-bogglingly stupid” is the most charitable possible phrase for describing a course of action, it might be time to reexamine a thing or two, is what I’m saying. Gah.

I saw some folks railing against Nynaeve in the comments to the last post for being so unutterably stupid as to use saidar within the city limits even after Cadsuane told her about the “watchdog” ter’angreal, but I’m wondering now whether Cads was actually quite as clear on that as she could have been. If she’d told Nynaeve in so many words that the ter’angreal detects both saidin and saidar, then Nynaeve’s protest that she thought saidar “wouldn’t matter” doesn’t make a lot of sense. Of course, she immediately follows that up with excuses about how it was only a tiny amount and she thought no one would notice, so maybe I’m overanalyzing and Nynaeve’s just an idiot. You know, all prior evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

Also, I feel compelled to point out that Nynaeve did have some independent evidence already that the watchdog wouldn’t detect a sufficiently small amount of saidar, from when she demonstrated the use of the Well to Rand at the inn. Since the consensus seems to be that’s not a gaffe, then it at least downgrades Nynaeve from “utterly moronic” to a mere “recklessly overconfident.”

 

Chapter 35: With the Choedan Kal

What Happens
Rand rides out of Far Madding with a small smile, “colder than any winter could be”; Nynaeve has Healed both him and Lan of their injuries. The officer at the gate is astounded by the paper Cadsuane hands him, which instructs that their party is to be neither inspected nor recorded as ever having been in the city. Min tells Rand softly that it is over and he doesn’t have to think about it anymore.

“I’m grateful to Far Madding, Min.” His voice was emotionless, distant, as it had been when he seized saidin in the early days. He would have warmed it for her, but that seemed beyond him. “I really did find what I needed here.” If a sword had memory, it might be grateful to the forge fire, but never fond of it.

He realizes that he’s still not strong enough to send Min away, though. They ride until the Source suddenly appears again, and Rand fills himself with it, feeling the Asha’man do the same; Lews Therin sighs in relief. He rides on to a particular spot, followed by the others, including Harine and her entourage, and Rand thinks of Cadsuane’s first advice to him, that he made a bargain with them and either must keep it or break it and be done. Using saidin, he unearths Callandor from where he’d hidden it, then turns to Cadsuane.

“I am going to remove the taint from the male half of the Source,” he announced.

Cadsuane is skeptical, and wants to know if he plans to use Callandor, but he tells her that he will use the Choedan Kal, the two immense sa’angreal buried in Cairhien and Tremalking, via the access key ter’angreal he possesses; Nynaeve will link with him to use the female one. Cadsuane only watches him, but Kumira and Nesune ask him if he has considered the consequences of failure, and that he might end up cracking the world “like an egg.”

Like an egg! Lews Therin agreed. They were never tested, never tried. This is insane! he shrieked. You are mad! Mad!

Rand tells the Aes Sedai that so far one in fifty Asha’man have already gone mad, and more will follow, maybe Rand among them; he’s not sure the world could survive that. He considers it worth the risk. He watches Cadsuane, silently considering what he would do if she tries to stop him, but Cadsuane only asks where he will do it.

“In Shadar Logoth,” he told her, and she nodded.

“A fitting place,” she said, “if we are to risk destroying the world.”

Lews Therin screamed, a dwindling howl that echoed inside Rand’s skull as the voice fled into the dark depths. There was nowhere to hide, though. No safe place.

He weaves a gateway to a hilltop a few miles from Shadar Logoth, and his wound from Fain’s dagger begins to throb in counterpoint with the wound from Ishamael. Cadsuane starts issuing orders, and Min kisses Rand before going to stand with the horses; Rand is astonished by her feeling of complete trust in him. Eben grins and comments to Rand how wonderful it will be to channel without the taint. Jahar joins Cadsuane and the rest of the Aes Sedai (and Alivia and Shalon), holding Callandor. Nynaeve comes up to Rand, muttering about Cadsuane, and Rand tells her they might as well begin, to her surprise and hesitation. Alivia comes over and tells Nynaeve Cadsuane says to give her the ter’angreal Nynaeve is wearing; Nynaeve glares, but obeys, giving her the bracelet angreal as well. Alivia heads off, and Nynaeve asks if Rand’s going to wait all day before sitting; Rand seats himself in front of her on the ground and takes the male figurine from her. She explains how he must be to link with her; he sees a man’s face that he almost recognizes for a moment, then puts himself on the brink of seizing saidin so Nynaeve can establish the link. Shuddering, Nynaeve asks how he can stand all that “chaos and rage and death,” and Rand is equally astounded by saidar when he takes control of the link from her.

Alongside the turmoil of saidin, saidar was a tranquil river flowing smoothly. He dipped into that river, and suddenly he was struggling against currents that tried to pull him further in, swirling whirlpools that tried to yank him under. The harder he struggled, the stronger the shifting fluxes grew. Only an instant since he had tried to control saidar, and already he felt as if he was drowning in it, being swept away into eternity. Nynaeve had warned him what he must do, but it seemed so foreign he had not truly believed until now. With an effort, he forced himself to stop fighting the currents, and as quickly as that the river was tranquil once more.

That was the first difficulty, to fight saidin while surrendering to saidar. The first difficulty, and the first key to what he had to do. The male and female halves of the True Source were alike and unalike, attracting and repelling, fighting against each other even as they worked together to drive the Wheel of Time. The taint on the male half had its opposite twin, too. The wound given him by Ishamael throbbed in time with the taint, while the other, from Fain’s blade, beat counterpoint in time with the evil that had killed Aridhol.

Rand uses saidar to weave a sort of conduit that touches saidin on one end and Shadar Logoth on the other, and forces saidin through it to touch the tainted city. For a moment he thinks it hadn’t worked, but then feels a stir in the taint on saidin, moving in the same direction. Nynaeve urges him to go on.

He drew more deeply on both halves of the source, strengthening the conduit as he forced more of saidin into it, drew on the Power until nothing he did would bring more. He wanted to shout at how much was flowing into him, so much that it seemed he did not exist any more, only the One Power. He heard Nynaeve groan, but the murderous struggle with saidin consumed him.

Elza watches Rand and Nynaeve, and envies the wilder, who is channeling more saidar than all the Tower combined could have. Cadsuane comments that what they’re doing will be felt on the other side of the world, probably, and that “it” will begin soon. She orders everyone to their places. Elza forms a circle with Merise and Jahar with Callandor, astounded by the foulness of saidin; Sarene and Corele link with Flinn, Beldeine and Daigian [and Erian?] with Hopwil, and Verin and Kumira link with Shalon. Alivia strides off by herself, and Elza thinks of what she would give to have those ter’angreal she’s wearing. The other three circles move off to encircle the hilltop, but Elza’s circle stays with Rand and Nynaeve (and Cadsuane). Elza asks Merise if she may lead the circle, and Merise, surprisingly, agrees.

Fire and ice and filth welled up in Elza, and she shuddered. Whatever the cost, the Dragon Reborn had to reach the Last Battle. Whatever the cost.

 A farmer named Barmellin is on his way to the Nine Rings Inn to sell brandy when he sees that the monstrous statue they’d unearthed last year is glowing like the sun. He turns around and dashes home, deciding to drink the brandy himself instead.

Timna walks on Tremalking’s hills, troubled by the Sea Folk being in an uproar about their Coramoor, until she comes upon a great stone hand sticking out of a hill, grasping a glowing sphere. She smiles to think that she might “see the fulfillment of prophecy and the end of Illusion.”

Cyndane is distracted from the Darkfriend before her when she feels the huge amounts of saidar being drawn to one spot.

So he had found a woman to use the other access key. She would have faced the Great Lord—faced the Creator!—with him. She would have shared the power with him, let him rule the world at her side. And he had spurned her love, spurned her!

She beheads the man in front of her to get rid of him and weaves a gateway to where the saidar is flowing, ready to kill him and the woman he had betrayed her with.

Cadsuane just barely holds the shield over the hilltop as lightning crackles off it, and uses her swallow-shaped ornament to track where the Power is being wielded. She points, and notes that Elza must be directing the resulting fountain of flame from Callandor. Merise murmurs “steady, my pretty” to Jahar, who smiles at her, and Cadsuane shakes her head, but her attention is on Rand. She wonders if he is even aware of what’s around him.

Rand could not see Nynaeve any longer. He could not see anything, feel anything. He swam in surging seas of flame, scrambled across collapsing mountains of ice. The taint flowed like an ocean tide, trying to sweep him away. If he lost control for an instant, it would strip away everything that was him and carry that down the conduit, too. As bad, or maybe worse, despite the tide of filth flooding through that odd flower, the taint on the male half of the Source seemed no less. It was like oil floating on water in a coating so thin you would not notice till you touched the surface, yet covering the vastness of the male half, it was an ocean in itself. He had to hold on. He had to. But for how long? How long could he hold on?

Stepping into Shadar Logoth, Demandred thinks that if he can “undo what al’Thor had done at the source,” he could kill or sever him, which he deems a risky but brilliant scheme.

The city… quivered. He could feel it through his boots.

He observes saidin-created explosions in the forest and Travels there, immediately running from the gateway site as he observes the explosions come toward him, noting that al’Thor must have a new kind of ter’angreal that detects a man channeling. He heads toward where he senses the access key, and sees two women accompanied by a white-haired old man in the trees ahead. Demandred intends to sneak by them, but the old man suddenly attacks with saidin, much more strongly than he should have, and Demandred realizes the three are in “a ring.”  Demandred tries to counterattack, but the old man holds him off, and Demandred is forced to retreat.

Cyndane runs from her third gateway to get away from the tracking explosions, cursing, determined to get closer.

Osan’gar hides behind a log, panting, and thinks his months pretending to be Corlan Dashiva had not kept him in shape. He grouses that he was never meant to be a soldier (“his genius” lay elsewhere), and plainly the other Chosen hadn’t taken care of this already like he had hoped. He doesn’t want to be there, but is terrified of Moridin, who he thinks had been mad even “before they were sealed into the Bore”, and is convinced Moridin will find out if Osan’gar flees. He skulks on, hoping someone else will get to al’Thor first.

Verin watches the woman in the color-shifting gown walk through the woods, and decides a captive Forsaken “might prove very useful.” Leading the circle with Kumira and Shalon, she tries shielding the woman, only to discover she is already embracing saidar even though no light shines around her, and is incredibly strong. Verin fights for her life, thinking she had come too far to die here.

Eben wishes he could ignore the cold as well as the three women linked to him, and smiles at Daigian, who is leading the circle, feeling her affection for him through the bond.

With time, he thought he might come to love this little Aes Sedai.

He feels the battle going on all around them, but so far they had not been engaged; Eben doesn’t mind, though he is a tad annoyed that Damer had been given control of his circle and he had not (neither had Jahar, but Eben figures Merise amuses herself “by making Jahar balance a cookie on his nose”). Suddenly a lushly beautiful woman steps out of the trees, asking them for help, claiming to be lost.

Suddenly, Eben felt the blood drain from his face. What he felt was impossible! The green-eyed woman frowned in surprise, and he did the only thing that he could.

“She’s holding saidin!” he shouted, and threw himself at her as he felt Daigian draw deeply on the Power.

Cyndane approaches the blond woman waiting for her cautiously, noting that she is not Aes Sedai, but preparing a reversed web just in case. She sends a ball of fire at the woman, but it falls apart before it reaches her, though Cyndane’s never heard of a ter’angreal that could break a web.

Then the woman struck back at her, and she suffered her second shock. She was stronger than Cyndane had been before the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn held her! That was impossible; no woman could be stronger. She must have an angreal, too.

She fights back, determined to see Lews Therin die.

Moghedien had deliberately arrived late, only forced there by Moridin’s playing with the cour’souvra, and does not intend to come any closer.

…in widely separated places in the forest spread out before her, lightnings and fires woven of saidar and others that must have been saidin flashed and flared beneath the mid-afternoon sun. Black smoke rose in plumes from burning clumps of trees, and thunderous explosions rolled through the air.

She notes a giant flattened black dome rising in the forest beyond where the access key is being used, and settles down to watch.

Inside his head, Rand was screaming. He was sure that he was screaming, that Lews Therin was screaming, but he could not hear either voice in the roar. The foul ocean of the taint was flooding through him, howling with its speed. Tidal waves of vileness crashed over him. Raging gales of filth ripped at him. The only reason he knew that he still held the Power was the taint. Saidin could be shifting, flaring, about to kill him, and he would never know. That putrid flood overwhelmed everything else, and he hung on by his fingernails to keep from being swept away on it. The taint was moving. That was all that counted, now. He had to hold on!

Exhausted, Cadsuane asks Min for news; they haven’t been attacked for a while now, and she cannot detect any channeling other than what Rand and Nynaeve are doing. Min is sullen at having been forcibly restrained from going to Rand, but answers that he’s alive, although in agony. Cadsuane looks at the black dome over Shadar Logoth, now over a thousand feet in height, and considers that interrupting them now could have dire consequences, but then Nynaeve slumps over, whimpering that she can’t take any more. Cadsuane knows that Nynaeve should be buffered by the sa’angreal against taking more of the Power than she can handle, despite currently channeling “more of saidar than the entire White Tower could have handled using every angreal and sa’angreal the Tower possessed,” but thinks that she could still die from simple exhaustion. Cadsuane hesitates, and then weakens the shield she is holding over them enough to try to wash some of Nynaeve’s tiredness away.

Osan’gar crawls up to the top of the hill and smiles to see al’Thor on the next one over, with Narishma and other people he dismisses as unimportant. He readies balefire, regretting that the access key would also be destroyed, but planning to take Callandor.

Elza stops in her circuit of the hill, seeing movement. She thinks that today had been a difficult day for her despite the conviction she’d come to as a prisoner in Cairhien, that it was paramount that the Dragon Reborn reach the Last Battle.

Today, she had been forced to fight the Chosen. Surely the Great Lord would understand if she had actually killed any of them, but Corlan Dashiva was only one of those Asha’man.

As Dashiva raises his hand, she draws on Callandor through Jahar and obliterates the entire top of the hill Dashiva was standing on.

Moghedien watches the dome over the city, now two miles or more high, and wonders why she is not afraid. Suddenly the dome boils “with Stygian fire” and abruptly collapses in on itself, creating a vortex which sucks Moghedien (and everything else in the vicinity) toward it.

Strangely, she still felt no fear. She thought if she survived this, she would never feel fear again.

Cadsuane drops the twisted ruin of the female access key, and puts the undamaged male key in a saddlebag. There is nothing but a huge crater where Shadar Logoth once was. Min is curled up with Rand on the ground; Lan runs to where Nynaeve lies, but Cadsuane assures him they are just unconscious, though privately she is concerned that Damer said the wounds in Rand’s side were unchanged. Damer is Healing Beldeine, having already done similar for Sarene and Alivia, but Kumira is dead, and Nesune is trying to comfort a sobbing Daigian, who is cradling Eben’s body in her arms.

“It’s clean,” Jahar said softly yet again. This time, Merise was the one sitting, with his head resting in her lap. Her blue eyes were as stern as ever, but she stroked his black hair gently. “It’s clean.”

Cadsuane and Merise are not so sure, but saidin is so alien to them they can’t tell. Cadsuane announces they are leaving as soon as the Warders return.

Night fell. On the hilltop, the wind blew dust across the fragments of what had once been a ter’angreal. Below lay the tomb of Shadar Logoth, open to give the world hope. And on distant Tremalking, the word began to spread that the Time of Illusions was at an end.

Commentary
Whew.

So that was pretty cool, eh?

And also, a bitch to recap, but you know.

This probably rates as one of the best—or at least one of the most significant—Big Ass Endings of any WOT book, even given that we haven’t actually seen them all yet. This is not just because it was suitably stupendous on the action front (though it was), or because it employed some seriously fantastic imagery (though it did), but because it represents what may be the single most important leap forward in the overall storyline we’ve seen thus far. Meaning, naturally, the cleansing of the taint on saidin.

I remember I was left stunned at the notion that it had really happened. After so many years and books of the taint being such a central factor in the makeup of the world and the plot of WOT, not to mention its overwhelming and ongoing impact on our central character, for it to actually be gone… well, golly, said me. I mean, this is Major, you know?

This also means that this is probably the most hopeful ending to a WOT book in the entire series up to this point, which after the rather downer endings to the last few installments in particular was equally stunning in its own way. Don’t get me wrong, Dumai’s Wells was extremely awesome, for instance, but I don’t think anyone would make the claim that it was also Happy Rainbow Fun Time, even so.

So, cleansing the taint = totally awesome. Oh yeah. Happy sigh.

…And then of course the fandom proceeded to have a huge fight over how exactly the mechanics of Rand’s TaintSucker2000 trick worked, which on the newsgroup at least included a lengthy semi-tangential argument about the physics of stealing gasoline, which made me laugh and shake my head at the same time. Geeks. So adorable. That said, I am so not getting into this, mostly because it’s already been explained better by others, so go read that iffn you’re interested.

I will note, in light of the importance of the whole saidin/saidar dynamic to Rand’s plan, that the Cleansing also represents (to my recollection) the first time in the series proper that Lightside channelers of both genders have cooperated together on a large(ish) scale, which is also pretty darn significant in the grand scheme of things—not least in that it enabled them to fight off a whole posse of supposedly badass Forsaken.

(Dumai’s Wells, I’m not really counting, because even though both male and female channelers were there on behalf of Rand, they still weren’t really working together, really—more like in unhappy conjunction. If that, even.)

The Forsaken, by the way, were another topic of spirited discussion in the wake of WH, mostly centered on disbelief that they could have sucked so much in their assault. But see, this is the entire point here: the Forsaken are each ridiculously powerful by Third Age standards, yes, but as long as they refuse to work as a cohesive group, their individual might can always be trumped by those who do work together. This is part and parcel of Jordan’s larger thematic point regarding the two halves of the Source being most powerful when working in conjunction instead of in opposition, and how the refusal to work in concert has been both sides’ biggest flaw, if for different reasons.

This, of course, is also the mistake Rand keeps making, his belief that he can go it alone, that he needs no help from anyone—and in particular not from Aes Sedai. For all my dislike of her, there’s no doubt that in this extremely important instance Cadsuane pretty much saved the day, for if she hadn’t insisted on dragging her ersatz army with him on this venture, Rand and Nynaeve wouldn’t have stood a chance of succeeding. So, okay, fine. Yay, Cadsuane!

(ow that hurt)

We also learned quite a few things about the Forsaken in this chapter. For one, two major Mysteries/Conspiracy Theories/Whatever are cleared up (three if you count Osan’gar=Dashiva, but that one was kind of a gimme): Cyndane’s Hell Hath No Furyness pretty much cemented her identity as our favorite psycho hosebeast Lanfear, and Demandred’s failure to recognize Flinn, on the heels of Kisman’s POV earlier in Far Madding, drove the last nail in the coffin of the Taimandred theory. Which, if you ask me, makes this chapter worth it for those two things alone. The only thing missing that would have made it perfect would have been a revelation on who killed Asmodean, but I guess you can’t have everything. (Where would you put it?)

Also, someone on the newsgroup back in the day observed how Osan’gar was totally skulking in the woods Mr. Burns-style in this chapter, all dry-washing his hands and going Ehhhxcellent right before the last person you’d think of kills him, and I have never been able to get rid of this image since. And now, I give it to you. Because I am EVIL. Mwahaha.

Also also, Moghedien gets a new T-shirt. Heh. And you know, I know she survives this, but I can’t recall if she’s done a damn thing since then. Guess I’ll find out!

Lessee. Other notes:

Erian Boroleos: Or, Dame Supposed To Have Been Appearing In This Chapter. After WH came out, a bunch of people immediately noticed there was no mention of her at the battle at all, even though she is definitely supposed to be there. This was an acknowledged gaffe on Jordan’s part, which he said would be corrected in later editions. My (first) edition of WH, however, does not include this correction, hence my being forced to guess in the recap where she was deployed. I picked Eben’s circle even though Elza’s POV only mentions him linking with Beldeine and Daigian, because in Eben’s POV later he thinks of having three sisters linked to him, so I’m guessing Erian was the (accidentally) unnamed third.

…Although I just checked, and Encyclopedia WOT claims the third sister in Eben’s circle was Nesune, whose position I realize also didn’t get mentioned in my edition, so really I don’t know. It could be either, I guess.

Speaking of Eben, aw. Poor Eben. And of course Jordan had to twist the knife with Eben being so excited beforehand about getting to channel without the taint, and his affection for Daigian right before Aran’gar appears. Man, that sucks.

I’m mildly disappointed, by the way, that the whole loony theory about Beldeine here never panned out. As mentioned, Beldeine was in the circle with Eben that confronted Aran’gar, and thus got firsthand knowledge that there was a woman out there who could channel saidin. “Beldeine” was also the name of Egwene’s imaginary Keeper of the Chronicles in her Accepted test waaay back in TDR. So the idea was that the “real” Beldeine was also the Acceptatron™ Beldeine, and she would end up being the one to expose Halima and thus end up Egwene’s Keeper.

Of course, as things turned out it didn’t happen that way at all; Jahar exposed Halima, not Beldeine (who to date has never been anywhere near Egwene, except when presumably they were both in the Tower in the early books), and Egwene made Silviana her Keeper in TGS. Oh well.

Merise: I skimmed over it in the recap, but Cadsuane makes a mental comment about not understanding in the slightest what goes on between Merise and “her boys,” and I gotta say, I don’t get it either, and on top of Eben’s thought about cookies later, I’m not sure I want to. *fishy look*

There’s more to say about this topic, but I’m at 6,500 words already and ain’t even finished yet, so we’ll dig into that can of worms some other time.

Elza: GRRRR. She’s the only one who got to kill a Forsaken, but I do not care. I really wish I could smash her.

Did Verin know she was Black when she semi-Compelled her? I must assume so… but then again maybe not. Verin is fairly diabolically daring in her own unique way, but given her almost-poisoning of Cadsuane earlier, I don’t know that even she would knowingly leave a Black sister within arm’s reach of Rand, brainwashed or otherwise.

Well. Other than herself, of course. Ah, Verin. So sneaky. Her calmly clinical thought on the usefulness of a captive Forsaken here always cracks me up.

And… um.

I think it is pretty much a guarantee that I am forgetting something here, maybe multiple somethings, but I have been typing for thousands of years now and my brain, she is Done. So I think we’ll stop here.

 

And thus ends, most satisfyingly, Winter’s Heart! Which means, we are actually kind of sort of two-thirds of the way through this series. Amazing.

(As a corollary to this, I cannot believe I originally thought I was going to finish this whole thing in nine months. I must have been out of my mind, y’all.)


And we out! Have a lovely Samhain, my kiddies, and enjoy what freedom you have left until Towers of Midnight EATS YOUR LIFE for the foreseeable future, insert evil cackle here. Catch you on the flip side!

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