Wheel of Time Reread is GO!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 28 of A Memory of Light, in which songs are sung, clothes are removed, and there are charming cases of miscommunication and showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and yet somehow none of it is a quirky romantic comedy. Not even a little bit.
Previous reread entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general. The index for all things specifically related to the final novel in the series, A Memory of Light, is here.
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This reread post, and all posts henceforth, contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 28: Too Many Men
Andere and Kaisel watch as Lan questions the commander of the second reserve force sent to his position without knowing about the first. Kaisel points out that it is an understandable mistake, but Lan is not so sure. He rides to Queen Ethenielle’s position and asks to speak to her Swordbearer Lord Baldhere. They compare Agelmar’s orders, and then Lan asks Baldhere what he would do to undermine the entire army. Baldhere realizes that they are potentially in a position to get pinned against the river, and Kaisel protests where Lan’s insinuations are leading.
“Everything Lord Agelmar has been doing lately is a good enough plan,” Baldhere said intensely. “Good enough to avoid suspicion, but not good enough to win. Lan… something is wrong with him. I’ve known him for years. Please. I still believe that he’s merely tired, but he is making mistakes. I’m right, I know I am.”
Lan nods and heads toward the command tent with dread in his heart. He intercepts a messenger on the way, whose orders seem to confirm Lan’s suspicion, though he hopes it is only suspicion. He changes the orders; the messenger is confused, but obeys. Lan continues on.
Lan would consider the ramifications of what was happening only after he knew all of the facts.
Loial knows that though Elayne’s army have defeated the northern Trolloc army, they are losing badly against the southern one, and the Ogier sing a dirge as they fight:
“All rivers run dry,
All songs must end,
Every root will die,
Every branch must bend…”
He mourns the dying humans around him, and reprimands himself not to see them as children despite how young and small they seem to him, but in his anger at their suffering, he begins to sing a new song, a song of growing and defiance, and leaves and green begin appearing everywhere, even on the Trollocs’ weapons.
Loial fought on. This song was not a song of victory. It was a song of life. Loial did not intend to die here on this hillside.
By the Light, he had a book to finish before he went!
Mat decides that the maps he has are not showing him an accurate enough picture of the battlefield, and declares that he is going to look at the battle himself. He pulls off his Seanchan robes, which leaves him bare-chested, but he refuses to be embarrassed at the eyebrow Min raises at him. He thinks Min looks quite fetching in her new Seanchan finery, “not that he was looking,” but she wishes she could pull off her clothes too. Mat dares her to do it, which earns him a glare, and he reminds himself that he doesn’t need more knives stuck in him, from her or Tuon. He pulls out his old clothes and puts them on.
“How did you retain those?” Captain-General Galgan asked. “I was under the impression that your clothing had been burned, Raven Prince.”
[…] “These?” Mat said, gesturing to his coat and shirt. “I really have no idea. They were just down there. I’m completely baffled.” He had been very pleased to learn that Seanchan guards—for all their stoic expressions and too-straight backs—responded to bribes like other people.
Taking his ashanderei, Mat leaves the command tent, but Tuon approaches before Pip is ready. Mat asks Min in an undertone whether she’s still thinking of running (she is), and tells her that Rand would probably want her to stay. She glares, but he points out how relieved Rand would be to have someone he trusted by the Seanchan empress’s side, encouraging her to build trust and respect between the empire and the other nations.
Min stood silently for a moment. “I hate you, bloody Mat Cauthon.”
“That’s the spirit,” Mat said, raising a hand to greet Tuon. “Now, let’s see which of my limbs she cuts off for throwing away her fancy clothing.”
Tuon only looks at his outfit silently, though. Courtani tattles on Mat’s plan to go to the field himself, and is shocked when Tuon sees no problem with this.
Mat grinned at Tuon, and she favored him with a smile. Light, but he liked those smiles.
“So, you’re coming along, then?” he asked Tuon.
“Of course. You see a reason why I should not?”
“Not a one,” Mat said, groaning inside. “Not a single bloody one.”
So, it probably says something terrible about me that the very first thing I thought of when I saw the title of this chapter was this. (Don’t click on that if you’re at work.) I probably need help. But c’mon, that’s hilarious—and also not an inaccurate assessment of the situation, oooooohhhh.
…Although, joke or not, that last statement is actually unfair of me, because WOT is one of the few fantasy series (or fictional works in Western culture, period) where that statement is actually not true. In fact, I dare everyone reading this to come up with another fictional battle situation in which more than half of the fronts therein are being commanded by women, either technically or overtly, as they are here. (Not least because if there are other stories this inclusive, I want to read them, where are they? Tell me!)
It’s really quite awesome, when you think about it. It makes me happy.
…Even if the most pivotal positions for Team Light end up being taken by men, in the end. Namely, Mat—and Lan and Perrin and Androl, depending on how you look at it. Yeah, well. Still, Elayne and Tuon and Egwene all make incontestably significant contributions to the leadership of Team Light, and that is a fuckload more than most situations like this one generally give to the female characters, and so I am Pleased.
Loial’s snippet in this chapter was, I must say, pretty awesome, mostly for being one of those scenes I would desperately like to see on screen, because there’s nothing like a good dirge to bring home the resonance of a scene. It put me in mind of Pippin’s song in Return of the King, in the sense that it would at least have the potential to be that powerful if staged correctly. Though coming up with a believable and (hopefully) equally powerful “growing song” would be quite the challenge for a production’s music composer.
Also, it may be a tad obvious but I have a certain sympathetic appreciation for Loial’s determination to not die before he finishes his book. I feel you, bro. I may not, like you, be currently fighting a losing battle against eldritch abominations upon which the fate of the world hangs, but nevertheless, I feel you.
Mat’s point to Min about the usefulness of her position vis-à-vis Tuon is, I reluctantly admit, pretty legit, actually. It doesn’t make me any happier about the way she was shanghaied into the position, but, well. Her response to his logic was just about perfect, as well. I’m pretty sure I snickered out loud when I first read it.
As for Mat himself, well, anyone who didn’t see that move (putting on his old clothes) coming from a million miles off was just not paying attention as far as I am concerned. I’m a giant fan of it, personally. Mat’s become an iconic—and distinctive—enough figure to me that picturing him not wearing his trademark outfit—you know the one I mean—is actively disconcerting to me. It didn’t help that every description of his Seanchan “finery” made me cringe in contact embarrassment. So learning that he was finally giving Seanchan fashion the finger and wearing his own clothes was definitely a moment of Yay! for me.
Though it does highlight the frankly astonishing degree to which Tuon lets Mat get away with shit. I mean, y’all know I’ve had my issues with this relationship and its development, and I still do, but what I’m thinking right now is that whatever she claims, she must be ridiculously in love with this guy to let him get away with basically stomping all over every tradition of her people ever, and then giving him fond looks as he does it! I seriously can’t think of any other explanation for why Mat hasn’t been strung up by his heels long since.
Of Lan’s portion of this chapter I have little to say, since it’s basically the buildup to the very unpleasant Scene he is about to have with Agelmar, so there’s not much to discuss there except maybe to mention all the mental yelling I did at Lan on first reading to figure it out already before it was too late.
Although, one comment of Lan’s that I did find intriguing (and yet, for some reason, failed to include in the summary) was this one:
Agelmar was commanding general of this army, but Lan— as Dai Shan— had final word on all orders, and the only authority greater than his in this battle was that of Elayne.
On first reading, I sort of was like “wow, Lan, way to aggrandize yourself there,” until I realized that Lan was saying his authority was second only to Elayne’s on this particular battlefield, not across the entire war. Which made much more sense, and as a bonus didn’t make Lan sound like a self-important douche, i.e., way out of character. So yay for re-reading and better comprehension, yes?
And that’s about what I got for this one, gals and guys. Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!