The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Reread Redux: The Great Hunt, Part 4

Gooooooooood MORNING TOR.COM! Hey, this is not a test, this the Wheel of Time Reread Redux! Today’s Redux post will cover Chapters 4 and 5 of The Great Hunt, originally reread in this post.

All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.) The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay! All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.

And now, the post!

Chapter 4: Summoned

WOT-horn-of-valereRedux Commentary

“There was yet another proposal, one that still smells like week-old fish on the jetty.”

OH LOOK A FISH REFERENCE. Siuan Sanche in da houzzzzzzz

My observation in the original commentary still holds: the moment we enter the headspace of Moiraine and the Aes Sedai, it’s a whole new world from what we’ve seen thus far via the eyes of the Emond’s Fielders. I still remember how excited it made me, on first reading, to be abruptly given access as a reader to this distinctly broader and more complex view of the WOT universe. Because by the beginning of the second book in the series, the reader can be presumed to be thoroughly hooked at this point, and graceful infodumping can commence with little fear of boring the recipient. Which is exactly what Moiraine, Anaiya, and Liandrin’s conversation in this chapter was. And I was most definitely not bored by it.

Her sisters in the White Tower knew a few of her tricks, and suspected others, including some that did not exist, some that had shocked her when she learned of them.

I sort of love this little detail, because it’s the first implication we get that Moiraine is not just any Aes Sedai, but one of repute; one whom the other sisters are sufficiently in awe of that the tales of her feats have become wildly exaggerated. She’s a celebrity of sorts in her small community, and that’s kind of awesome.

It’s also instructive, because we will eventually learn that Moiraine’s abilities and prowess, in both the One Power and in general Aes Sedai-ing, have set a standard which most Aes Sedai over the course of the series will dismally fail to meet. And there’s an argument to be had over whether it is unfair of us to be disappointed that they don’t. Because Moiraine is obviously an exceptional person in many ways, as is only fitting for the Gandalf figure in the story, and so perhaps measuring other people by the bar she inadvertently set for the readers, as the sole exemplar of Aes Sedai we have up to this point, is kind of unrealistic.

And yet that is totally what I, at least, did for a good chunk of the series. It actually took me a good long while to realize that all the other Aes Sedai we were meeting were not supposed to be equal in awesomeness to Moiraine; that in fact the point was that they were not perfect examples of their avocation, at all. It also does not become clear for a long while that part of the reason Moiraine is so much better at Aes Sedai-ing than the others is not solely because of her own self, but because her quest kept her largely isolated from the Black Ajah-riddled Tower, and thus vastly more free from the influence of corruption than your average Aes Sedai ever had a chance to be.

“Some of us must work in the world,” Moiraine said gently. “I will leave the Hall of the Tower to you, Anaiya.”

There’s a fair bit of irony there, I think, in the implication that becoming the best of what an Aes Sedai can be hinged on being exposed to the actual Aes Sedai community as little as possible. This is a pattern we’ll see repeated later with the Supergirls, who of course were in the Tower for all of a hot second, comparatively, before being essentially flung into the wild blue yonder to fend for themselves.

In view of that, I don’t get the feeling Jordan had much patience for the institutional mindset. Judging by Moiraine and the Supergirls, at least, he was pretty clearly of the opinion that the best way to learn was by getting out there and doing, and that marinating too long in procedure and protocol was antithetical to being effective in the field, and ultimately doomed to corruption and failure. I get the feeling that, like many who served active tours in Vietnam, Jordan probably had some fairly pungent criticisms to make of REMFs, and he mapped that (justified) contempt emphatically onto the White Tower, which is nominally modeled after the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, yes, but also takes a lot of inspiration from military infrastructure, particularly in the lower echelons of novices/Accepted.

Anaiya’s blunt face broke into a smile as soon as Moiraine opened the door. That smile gave her the only beauty she would ever have, but it was enough; almost everyone felt comforted, safe and special, when Anaiya smiled at them.

Aw. I’m still upset that she got murdered.

The dynamics between Anaiya, Liandrin and Moiraine are interesting, because neither Anaiya nor Liandrin appear to be deferring very much to Moiraine during their conversation. Anaiya is one thing, because Moiraine clearly likes her a great deal, and her behavior towards Lady Amalisa shows that Moiraine doesn’t care to stand on ceremony with people she likes, but Liandrin is a whole ‘nother ball of wax. She basically seems to treat Moiraine as an equal, which strikes me as odd, considering that later on we learn that Moiraine and Siuan outstripped every other Aes Sedai in the strength department until the Supergirls showed up.

So either Liandrin is strong enough to nearly match Moiraine, or Jordan hadn’t quite worked out the whole “strength ranking equals social ranking” thing for the Aes Sedai yet. I don’t remember if we ever get any kind of definitive indication of Liandrin’s strength level, but I didn’t get the impression that her strength was anything to write home about. So, who knows.

Would the people of Andor knowingly accept Elayne on the Lion Throne after Morgase if they knew? Not just a queen trained in Tar Valon according to custom, but a full Aes Sedai? In all of recorded history there had been only a handful of queens with the right to be called Aes Sedai, and the few who let it be known had all lived to regret it.

This makes a sort of sense to me, really. In non-apocalyptic times, having someone be a monarch and a sorcerer is just way too much power to concentrate in one person, it’s ridiculous. The potential for despotism and tyranny is through the roof, especially when you consider the fact that magic wielders in this universe can have a lifespan six times that of an ordinary person. And let’s not even get into the notion of having a head of state who could potentially use Compulsion on her subjects.

In apocalyptic times, on the other hand, having a head of state who can be her own heavy artillery is pretty awesome. So in a certain sense, Elayne picked the perfect time to be born – or rather, the Pattern did. Funny how that works out!

It’s sad-making how few of the (named) Aes Sedai in the Amyrlin’s chambers in this chapter (Moiraine, Siuan, Leane, Anaiya, Liandrin, Carlinya, Verin, Serafelle, and Alanna) survived the series. Out of those, Moiraine and Leane are the only ones still definitely alive after AMOL. (Liandrin doesn’t appear after KOD, so it’s hard to say whether she survived, but her situation is bad enough when we last see her that it almost doesn’t matter. And Serafelle never gets mentioned again after TDR, so possibly she survives, too, but again, she never gets mentioned again after TDR, so who cares.)

“Elaida is in Tar Valon, Daughter. She came with Elayne and Gawyn.”

[…] “I am surprised, Mother,” [Moiraine] said carefully. “This is no time for Morgase to be without Aes Sedai counsel.” Morgase was one of the few rulers to openly admit to an Aes Sedai councilor; almost all had one, but few admitted it.

“Elaida insisted, Daughter, and queen or not, I doubt Morgase is a match for Elaida in a contest of wills.”

One has to wonder what would have happened if Elaida hadn’t insisted on coming to Tar Valon to hover over Elayne and hiss “Mine! Mine!” at the other sisters, and instead stayed in Caemlyn like she was damn well supposed to. I mean, I don’t suppose that Elaida would have been able to do much against Gaebril/Rahvin head-on, but it’s possible that her presence would have discouraged Rahvin from even trying to inveigle his way into Morgase’s court in the first place.

Lord. It’s not like I need more reasons to dislike Elaida, but I do keep on finding them, don’t I.

From the corner of her eye, Moiraine saw Egwene, far down the side hall, disappearing hurriedly around a corner. A stooped shape in a leather jerkin, head down and arms loaded with bundles, shambled at her heels. Moiraine permitted herself a small smile, quickly masked. If the girl shows as much initiative in Tar Valon, she thought wryly, she will sit in the Amyrlin Seat one day. If she can learn to control that initiative. If there is an Amyrlin Seat left on which to sit.

Nope, no foreshadowing here, nothing to see, move along…

 

Chapter 5: The Shadow in Shienar

WOT-whitecloaksRedux Commentary

So this entire scene with Moiraine and Siuan is, basically: Siuan telling Moiraine off for deviating from their plan, Moiraine telling Siuan off for thinking they can have a plan with ta’veren in play, and then promptly following that piece of wisdom with an elaborate and detailed… plan. Sigh.

Well, I said she out-Aes Sedaies most Aes Sedai, I didn’t say she was perfect.

It’s fun (if pointless) to speculate whether things would necessarily have gone better if Moiraine actually had succeeded in her plan for the Superboys she lays out here. Obviously it sounds like it would have been much smoother sailing if Mat had indeed been Healed in Fal Dara and Rand had gone straight to Illian with the Horn, but I’m sure somehow it would have gotten all differently mucked up. No conflict, no story, you know. It’s still nice to think about, though, if only for the wistful hope that in that case maybe Fain wouldn’t have had to be involved.

“Only twice since the Breaking of the World has the Amyrlin Seat been stripped of stole and staff.”

“Tetsuan, who betrayed Manetheren for jealousy of Elisande’s powers, and Bonwhin, who tried to use Artur Hawkwing for a puppet to control the world and so nearly destroyed Tar Valon.”

The Amyrlin continued her study of the garden. “Both of the Red, and both replaced by an Amyrlin from the Blue. The reason there has not been an Amyrlin chosen from the Red since Bonwhin, and the reason the Red Ajah will take any pretext to pull down an Amyrlin from the Blue, all wrapped neatly together. I have no wish to be the third to lose the stole and the staff, Moiraine.”

Well, not to worry, Siuan, I’m sure these chapters haven’t been loaded down with foreshadowing at all! And even if they are, ahem, at least your replacement will most emphatically reinforce the truism that Reds make the lousiest Amyrlins. I’m sure that will be very comforting down the line!

Moiraine nodded. Agelmar was familiar with the Prophecy of the Horn; most who fought the Dark One were. “ ‘Let whosoever sounds me think not of glory, but only of salvation.’ ”

That is so much cooler a line when you know what’s coming at the end of this book…

Much as it pains me to say it, I think I was a tad unfair to Geofram Bornhald in my original commentary. I mean, if we must have autonomous armies of militant Inquisition-y zealots running around, I would definitely prefer they be led by a guy who is at least nominally against the idea of collateral damage, and once dear old Geofram is gone the Whitecloaks seem to have run out of those.

That said, it’s not like he bothered to protest all that hard over the slaughtered villagers, so that’s pretty much the textbook example of damning with faint praise. Maybe just wading knee-deep in shit is better than getting down and rolling in it, but at the end of the day, you still smell like shit and I don’t want your shitty ass in my house. I’m just saying.

[Bornhald] gathered his reins and rode in the direction the Questioner had taken. Stones on a board. But who is moving us? And why?

I’m baffled about that myself, at the moment. I know this almost certainly gets explained later, but right now I’m not really remembering why Niall is apparently kowtowing to Carridin’s demands re: the moral cleansing of Almoth Plain, and/or (as it turns out) sending Bornhald’s forces straight into the combine harvester of the Seanchan invasion. I mean, yes, Niall probably didn’t know at this point that the Seanchan were a combine harvester, whereas Carridin obviously did; I’m just not sure why Niall is going along with it in the first place. Oh, well, it’s not like I actually care that much.

Twilight was a troubled time for Liandrin of late, that and dawn. At dawn the day was born, just as twilight gave birth to night, but at dawn, night died, and at twilight, day. The Dark One’s power was rooted in death; he gained power from death, and at those times she thought she could feel his power stirring.

I note that she doesn’t call him the Great Lord. Not that we would have really realized the significance of her doing so at this point anyway, but it is a point in favor of my not being a complete moron for not twigging to Liandrin’s Black Ajah status right away. A small point, but a point.

It was not a perfect ability; Liandrin could not force anyone to do what she wanted—though she had tried; oh, how she had tried. But she could open them wide to her arguments, make them want to believe her, want more than anything to be convinced of her rightness.

But this is not to say that she did not make my skin absolutely crawl with this semi-Compulsion stuff. Not that we knew what it was at this point, or that there was a full-blown version as well, but at the time this was more than bad enough. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have Issues with people who don’t respect other people’s autonomy and ability to consent. I may not have immediately known Liandrin was officially part of the Evil League of Evil™, but I definitely knew that she thoroughly sucked.

Speaking of sucking: Fain. Bleh.


And that’s our show, kids! Have a week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

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