This are the Wheel of Time Reread! It are yum!
Today’s entry covers Part 2 of Chapter 37 of A Memory of Light, in which I contemplate the different forms of LURB, badassery, and headdeskery, because grammar? HAHAHA WHAT GRAMMAR.
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, continue at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 37: The Last Battle [Part 2]
Despite resting, Gawyn stills feels tired as he, Bryne, Siuan, Silviana, Doesine, and Egwene look through one of Yukiri’s aerial gateways over the battlefield. Bryne comments softly that they are getting slaughtered out there, and Gawyn agrees; no one had expected the amount of Power Demandred had brought to bear. Egwene wonders what Mat is planning, and Bryne replies that he is “baiting the trap.” She asks what kind.
“It is a guess,” Bryne said, “and Light knows, my own assessment cannot be trusted as it once was. It looks like Cauthon is planning to heap everything into one battle, no delaying, no trying to wear the Trollocs down. The way this is going, it will be decided in days. Maybe hours.”
“That sounds exactly like something Mat would do,” Egwene said, resigned.
Egwene says Demandred is not only in a full circle, but is wielding a sa’angreal. As they watch him slaughter their troops, suddenly his voice booms over the field, demanding that Lews Therin come and fight him. Gawyn thinks that he is an army unto himself with the amount of destruction he’s causing. Silviana comments that they are going to have to deal with him soon, but Egwene replies that he’s trying to draw them out. Lelaine replies that he is killing them by the thousands. Gawyn slips out of the tent without attracting notice, telling the guards outside that he is going to rest.
You promised, he thought to himself. You said you were willing to stand in her shadow.
That didn’t mean he had to stop doing important work, did it? He fished in his pouch and took out a ring of the Bloodknives. He put it on, and immediately his strength returned, his exhaustion fleeing.
He hesitated, then took out the other rings and slipped them on as well.
Secure in the void, Tam al’Thor shoots five Trollocs with five arrows as the enemy tries to ford the river Mora. He is with Abell and the other Two Rivers archers, flanked by crossbowmen, holding the Trollocs on the other side of the river. Tam shoots a Fade right between the eyes, causing the mercenary leader nearby, Bayrd, to whistle in appreciation and comment that he needs to get him one of those bows.
“I think,” Galad Damodred said from horse back nearby, “that you’d likely do more harm to yourself than to the enemy, should you try to use one of those. Al’Thor, how long?”
Tam released another arrow. “Five more,” he said, reaching for the next arrow in his side quiver.
After five more, Tam shouts for the archers to halt; he is still technically in charge of all Perrin’s forces, but he is mostly in charge of the archers. He hopes Perrin heals quickly in Mayene. They are positioned near the Dragonsworn, who are led by a woman named Tinna, and Alliandre is also approaching their position. Dannil arrives with a message from Mat that says they are to hold their position no matter what, and that infantry from the Legion of the Dragon is on their way. Tam wonders aloud what that boy is up to.
“I don’t know, Tam,” Dannil said. “Mat… he’s changed. I hardly think I know him any longer. He was always a bit of a scoundrel, but now… Light, Tam. He’s like someone from one of the stories.”
Tam grunted. “We’ve all changed. Mat would probably say similar things about you.”
Dannil laughed. “Oh, I doubt that, Tam. Though I do wonder, sometimes, what would have happened if I’d gone with the three of them. I mean, Moiraine Sedai was looking for boys the right age, and I guess I was just a little too old…”
He seemed wistful. Dannil could say, and think, what he wanted—but Tam doubted he would have liked to endure the things that had forced Mat, Perrin and Rand to become the people they now were.
Tam tells Dannil to take charge of the reserves while he goes to consult with Galad and Arganda.
On the Heights, Pevara desperately defends against Trolloc arrow volleys as they retreat down the slope. Androl finds her through their bond and gates to her location with Emarin. Pevara is incensed to realize they were escaping from the Sharan army, and tells Androl mentally that he is insufferable. He just compliments her defense weaves.
“Thank you.” She glanced at the sword.
“I’m a Warder now.” He shrugged. “Might as well look like one, eh?”
He could cut a Trolloc in half with a gateway at three hundred paces, and summon fire from inside Dragonmount itself, and he still wanted to carry a sword. It was, she decided, a male thing.
I heard that, Androl sent her.
They head southwest, and Pevara reflects that Androl’s confidence in himself had grown greatly since they’d left the Black Tower. She feels his anguish when he can’t help all the fleeing soldiers escape via gateway, and reminds him to stay focused. They find Jonneth, Canler and Theodrin fighting off Trollocs. All but Theodrin duck through two gateways in quick succession, ending up on the opposite side of the Sharan army. Androl dumps an avalanche of snow on the Sharans while Pevara and the others kill Fades and Trollocs. Emarin points out that they are drawing attention, but Androl replies that maybe they will draw out the Dreadlords then. Pevara is amused at his declarations, and offers to link with him. He accepts.
As always, linking with him was an overwhelming experience. She felt her own emotions bounce back against him and to her again, and that made her blush. Did he sense how she was starting to regard him?
Foolish as a girl in knee-length skirts, she thought at herself—careful to shield her thoughts from him—barely old enough to know the difference between boys and girls. And in the middle of a war, too.
Androl uses gateways in creatively lethal ways until Pevara warns him of powerful channeling on the Heights above, someone in a circle. Androl immediately concludes it is Taim, but Pevara warns him that they can’t be sure of that. The channeler sends an enormous column of Fire at them, and Androl just barely manages to get up a gateway in time to redirect the flame back at their attacker. But then his gateway collapses and lightning strikes almost on top of them. Androl and Pevara go down.
In that moment, she let go of herself.
She did it by accident because of the shock of impact. In most cases, the link would have slipped away, but Androl had a powerful grip. The dam holding back Pevara’s self from his own broke, and they mixed. It was like stepping through a mirror, then looking back on herself.
Pevara weaves a complex gateway, and only realizes afterwards that she shouldn’t have been able to do that while Androl controls their circle. Androl points this out, stunned, but Pevara shoves him through the gateway before they can discuss it further.
So this is something I may have talked about before, but whatever: I love Androl and Pevara and their whole romance storyline, but I do have to note that it is not very like a typical WOT romance at all, and is in fact a lot less… hm, idiosyncratic than most of the romantic storylines in this series have been.
This is not, actually, a bad thing, at least not in my book, but as Androl’s entire storyline (indeed, if I’m not mistaken, his entire existence as a character) is the strongest mark on the collaborative latter three novels in the series of Brandon Sanderson’s personal influence on the story, then this is a thing, as a critic of the story, it is necessary for me to acknowledge and examine.
So I’m gonna. Thbbt!
(I am so mature.)
Yeah, so. The definition of “idiosyncratic” is “a structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group,” and though the more common connotation of the term tends toward a peculiarity or oddness of that individual or group, it can also be interpreted as being merely traits consistent with a theme or style of that individual or group. In other words, a particular thing, but not necessarily a bad thing.
(Like my tendency to overuse italics, for example. Feh.)
I have often spoken of how much I appreciated Jordan’s portrayal of women in WOT, and I stand by that, but it cannot be denied that most of his female characters do tend to lean toward a particular set of characteristics (insert your “sniffing” joke here). As do, actually, many or most of his male characters, for that matter. Which, for better or worse, did tend to lend a kind of contentious sameness to how many of the romantic plotlines in WOT progressed. If you were to compare, for instance, the ins and outs of the love stories of Faile and Perrin, Rand and Aviendha, and Siuan and Bryne, there is no denying you would probably find more similarities between them than you would find differences, at a baseline level. And that is, I think, at least a little bit true for all of the love stories we’ve seen so far in WOT. I don’t think I am the only one to find WOT romance in general to be, not bad or unrealistic, but definitely… idiosyncratic.
Androl and Pevara’s romance is, on the other hand… different from those, in ways which are difficult for me to articulate coherently, but evident nonetheless. If I had to define it, I would say that their romance seems to lean far more toward a “typical” portrayal of a romance storyline than anyone else’s in WOT. “Typical”? “Mainstream”? Something like that.
Which sounds like a condemnation of it, and I guess it could be, depending on how committed you are to maintaining the overall style of WOT. But it also is, I suspect, the reason why so many of the readers (including me) responded to it so strongly. I don’t care who you are, everyone likes a good classic love story, and while I actually do enjoy the Slap Slap Kiss dynamic of other WOT romances (don’t click that), it’s refreshing to see at least one lovematch in the series progress less… contentiously. At least in comparison to the others. Make of that what you will.
Aside from that (but definitely contributing to it), the whole mind-meld/telepathy thing Androl and Pevara have going on (which got an inadvertent level-up in this chapter), is also atypical of WOT. Again, in ways which it is a little difficult for me to define. The closest I can come is to say it’s something I would expect to find in an urban fantasy, or in a story which has a generally much more esoteric and less rigidly defined magic system in place than WOT does. Which is amusing when you consider that Brandon Sanderson is the past master of sharply defined magic systems, but there you are.
Saying it was urban-fantasy-like (which I am not even sure is a term that makes any sense, but I bet you guys get what I mean), is not an insult either, because I love that kind of thing. Soul bonds gone out of control and super-deep and full of feelings? Sign me up, yo. If Brandon had to put his own mark on WOT (and I totally support the idea that he should have been able to), then what’s going on between Androl and Pevara is an awesome way to do it, as far as I am concerned.
Oh, and also, there is a war going on! Maybe I should talk about that!
…Nah. I’ll get to it next time.
Tam al’Thor: is badass. To the shock of precisely no one, except possibly Tam himself. Which I can only infer from the way he doesn’t even seem to realize how significant it is that people like Galad and Arganda and Alliandre still listen to him even though he is (to their eyes) a common farmer. Do not fuck with Tam al’Thor, y’all. He is METAL.
And of course we have to mention the sly meta reference in Tam’s POV re: Dannil, and his comment that he could have been one of the ones going with Moiraine et al when they left Emond’s Field waaaay back in TEOTW. Which is, of course, a reference to the mysterious ninth person in the cover art for the first novel. Team Jordan tells us (in various interviews I’m not going to track down at the moment) that originally there was a fourth boy character (who was probably Dannil) that was supposed to go with Rand, Mat, Perrin, Lan, Moiraine, Egwene, Nynaeve, and Thom on their journey in TEOTW, but that Harriet convinced Jordan to cut him, for the very good reason that he had nothing to do.
However, the decision was made too late to change the cover art, and so there he is, the mysterious extra rider forevermore. I’m not entirely certain I caught this reference on the first go-round, but I definitely did this time, and it made me grin.
And then there’s Gawyn.
I am reliably informed that I have headdesk-ed over Gawyn more than I have over anything else in the series, which seems wrong in an overarching sense, but OH MY GOD HE DRIVES ME NUTS.
It’s not even that I can’t see where he’s coming from here, but—but—AGGGH. Nooooo! Don’t do the thing!
…But of course he’s going to do the thing. I was upset about it even before I knew how the thing was going to turn out, and now that I do know how the thing is going to turn out… AAGGGHH.
You moron. You brave, stupid, noble MORON.
Don’t mind me, just having a minor temper tantrum over here, carry on.
Minor continuity error: It’s stated in Gawyn’s POV that the only people in the tent besides himself and Egwene are Bryne, Siuan, Yukiri, Silviana, and Doesine, but a few paragraphs later Lelaine is suddenly there too. It’s not really a big deal, but I noticed it, so I comment on it. Hopefully it was fixed in later editions.
As for Mat’s plan, I… see the merit in it. Certainly it is a giant gamble, to risk everything on one massive battle, but from his point of view there’s certainly no percentage in trying for a long war of attrition, so. Plus, from an apocalyptical narrative point of view, it’s the only way to go. Heh.
And that’s the story, mornin’ glories! Have a week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!