Hola, WOTers! Welcome back to a shiny new Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry starts a new book, New Spring. Yay! This post covers Chapters 1 and 2, in which nicknames are bestowed, tea is spilled, and something kind of maybe vaguely pivotal to the fate of humanity happens in the background somewhere.
Previous re-read 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, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.
This re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 13, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And that’s what that is, so onward to the post!
So what’s all this about then? you may be asking. Where’s Book Eleven? Why do you fail at counting? What’s going on?
Well, I’ll tell ya, grasshopper. Briefly, New Spring is a little bit of a detour in our Re-read pattern, sort of. This is because it is not part of the series proper, but rather a prequel novel, set 20 years before the events of The Eye of the World. We’re covering it here because in publication order it falls between the tenth and eleventh novels in the series (Crossroads of Twilight and Knife of Dreams, respectively). And we’re covering the series in publication order because I said so. Nyah.
Don’t worry, it’s short. And also, awesome. At least it might be. I think.
I say “I think” because, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m pretty sure I’ve read New Spring (henceforth NS) a grand total of once.
And that was six years ago, when the book first came out. Before that, I had only read the short story it’s based on (in the original Legends anthology) once as well.
This has nothing to do with the quality of the story, but more with the release of NS (along with KOD after it) happening to coincide with a not-nearly-metaphorical-enough avalanche of real life stuff that rather thoroughly distracted me from the world of fandom for quite a while. Let’s just say that 2004 and 2005 were very interesting times for your Auntie Leigh, and leave it at that.
Anyway, my point in bringing this up is to give you fair warning that other than the broad outlines of the plot and a few specific things that tend to get brought up in fan discussion a lot, I remember next to nothing about this book at all—and I’m not reading ahead as I go. The commentary, therefore, is probably going to involve an awful lot of me going “holy crap, that happened?” Hopefully I will manage to do it in an amusing enough manner that you all won’t want to kill me before it’s over.
And with that encouraging observation, off we go!
Chapter 1: The Hook
Lan makes a round of the sentries in the camp of some three hundred men; despite the cold, there are no fires, to prevent giving their position away to the Aiel. There are Saldaeans and Kandori and Domani men in the camp, but no Malkieri save one other; Lan will not lead Malkieri. He rests a hand on his sword, an ancient Power-wrought blade made before the Breaking of the World.
It could not be broken and never needed sharpening. The hilt had been replaced countless times over the long centuries, but not even tarnish could touch the blade. Once, it had been the sword of Malkieri kings.
He wakes four different sentries dozing on watch, and chuckles at the last, who had fallen asleep with his eyes open; he knows all the men are exhausted after so long at war. Then he stops abruptly and asks Bukama why he is following him; Bukama is startled that Lan detected him, but comes up and answers gruffly that he’s watching Lan’s back.
When the nation of Malkier died, twenty men had been given the task of carrying the infant Lan Mandragoran to safety. Only five had survived that journey, to raise Lan from the cradle and train him, and Bukama was the last left alive. His hair was solid gray now, worn cut at the shoulder as tradition required, but his back was straight, his arms hard, his blue eyes clear and keen.
He asks if Bukama still thinks the Aiel are sworn to the Shadow, and Bukama asks why they are here if the Aiel aren’t? Lan thinks that the Aiel certainly had seemed like a horde of Darkfriends, considering what they had done in the past two years, and there were those who theorized that every major war since the Breaking had been engineered by the Shadow, so why should this one be an exception? Lan had thought so, which is why he came to fight them, but now he’s not so sure. Lan replies to Bukama, though, that he gave his word to stay to the end, and he always keeps his word. They are interrupted by a Tairen messenger on horseback, an officer, who reports that Lord Emares is following six hundred Aiel (who are heading east, oddly) with six hundred of his own men, and wants Lan’s forces to engage the Aiel at a ridgeline called The Hook until Emares arrives to strike from behind. Lan is angered at the Tairen’s lack of courtesy, but he only nods and tells the man to tell Emares he will be there at dawn.
“Ride hard,” the nameless Tairen said with at least a hint of command in his voice. “Lord Emares would regret riding against those Aiel without an anvil in place.” He seemed to be implying that Lan would regret this Emares' regretting.
Lan formed the image of a flame in his mind and fed emotion into it, not anger alone but everything, every scrap, until it seemed that he floated in emptiness. After years of practice, achieving ko'di, the oneness, needed less than a heartbeat. Thought and his own body grew distant, but in this state he became one with the ground beneath his feet, one with the night, with the sword he would not use on this mannerless fool. “I said that I would be there,” he said levelly. “What I say, I do.” He no longer wished to know the man's name.
They break camp and ride hard through the rest of the night, and reach The Hook just as the sky gets light enough to show Tar Valon and the White Tower in the distance, dwarfed by the massive spire of Dragonmount.
Higher above the clouds than most mountains were below, its broken peak always emitted a streamer of smoke. A symbol of hope and despair. A mountain of prophecy. […] No one wanted that prophecy fulfilled. But it would be, of course, one day.
They wait at the ridge, Lan running through possible scenarios of the engagement in his head, but when the Aiel finally appear, Lan sees that there are not six hundred but something like two thousand of them. Despite the near certainty of their defeat now, Lan is grimly resolved, and is proud to see his men standing firm as well. Trumpets sound far to the west, hundreds of them, and the Aiel don’t seem to know what they signify any more than Lan does. The Aiel halt just out of bowshot range, to Lan’s puzzlement, and those in the front seem to be studying Lan’s forces arrayed on the ridge and talking among themselves. One suddenly raises his spear over his head, followed by all the others.
As one, the spears came down, and the Aiel shouted a single word that boomed clearly across the space between, drowning the trumpets' distant calls. “Aan'allein!”
Lan exchanged wondering glances with Bukama. That was the Old Tongue, the language that had been spoken in the Age of Legends, and in the centuries before the Trolloc Wars. The best translation Lan could come up with was One Man Alone. But what did it mean? Why would the Aiel shout such a thing?
The Aiel move out, then, but to go around Lan’s forces instead of engaging them. One of the soldiers jokes that maybe they’re going back to the Waste. Bukama asks if they are to follow, but Lan tells him no; he wants to find out what those trumpets were about.
This day was beginning strangely, and he had the feeling there would be more oddities before it was done.
Ah, this is nice. It’s like I’ve been eating brie cheese for a really really long time, and now suddenly I have—pepper jack.
Still cheese, you see, yet different. If you catch my incredibly obvious drift, here.
‘Cause, don’t get me wrong, I love me a good brie (especially with some nice warm baguette bread, yum), but woman cannot live on one cheese alone, you know? Sometimes, you just need to graze the other side of the hors d’oeuvres table for a while. Take a different tack, come at it from another angle. Switch to pepper jack and Triscuits for a bit.
Or, read a prequel. Whichever.
Man, now I’m hungry. (Mmm, Triscuits.)
Anyway, yay, Lan!
I’m pretty sure I groused at one point that we never get a Lan POV in the series, which shows you what my memory is worth. Though I suppose I could be all pedantic and point out that as far as I know we never get a Lan POV in the series proper until ToM, which hadn’t come out when I made that original statement, so neener.
Er, unless we also get one in TGS. Which I can’t remember if we do. …Or KOD.
Okay, so clearly the cheese here is actually my brain. Swiss, get it? You know, holes? Swiss cheese? Ha?
ANYWAY. So, Lan POV, which was interesting to pick at and see how the Lan of twenty years ago was subtly different from the Lan we meet in TEOTW (this Lan chuckles, for one thing), but still retaining his basic uber-stoic knight-errant-avec-tragical-past Lan-ness, which is only right and proper.
The Aiel giving Lan his nickname was a thrilling moment even as I was somewhat puzzled by it. It was a very cool scene, but I am still not sure how the Aiel got the intel to connect “crescent-helmeted guy who’s the only one who ever kicks our asses” with “last surviving member of the Malkieri royal family.” I mean, who exactly would they have talked to that would give them this information? Considering that the Aiel at this point are at war with, well, everybody, who exactly would they have talked to, period?
Of course, the first few books in the series makes it seem like everyone on the whole damn continent knows who Lan is, so maybe his story was just one of those viral things that everyone and their dog heard about, even the Aiel. It certainly has got all the elements to be a compelling word-of-mouth juggernaut—tragedy, betrayal, heroism, fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love….
(Okay, I’ll stop stealing from Princess Bride now. And the “true love” part comes later, anyway. *waves to future!Nynaeve*)
I also kind of blinked at Lan’s conversation with Bukama re: the Aiel being Darkfriends or not, which filled in a backstory plot hole I hadn’t even realized existed: the question of why exactly Lan had fought Aiel in the first place, when his sole mission in life was to beat on the Shadow for eating Malkier.
It’s probably down to individual opinion whether the rationale given works or not, but it’s nice that it’s there. (Also, Shadar Logoth did provide a pretty convincing argument that whole peoples can be turned evil, so within the story I guess supposing every single Aiel is a Darkfriend isn’t as outlandish a notion as it appears to me.)
Speaking of Bukama, for some strange reason I wanted to run up and hug him, even though I suspect he would distinctly not appreciate the gesture, just for being all loyal and faithful and raising baby Lan and teaching him to be badass, which shows you where my priorities are. But dude, that is hardcore. Talk about your lifetime commitments.
Chapter 2: A Wish Fulfilled
Moiraine stands with Siuan in the corner of the Amyrlin’s study, trying to ignore the chill. She frets over the fighting outside the city, thinking that even though she’s only an Accepted she has a right to know what’s going on, considering that her uncle was the one who started this war. She watches the Amyrlin, Tamra Ospenya, and her Keeper Gitara Moroso study papers and write a letter, respectively, and thinks of how Gitara has the Foretelling sometimes. Moiraine has always wished to be present when she has one, but it’s never happened, though there are rumors that Gitara has made more than one prediction lately. Both Aes Sedai look completely at ease to Moiraine at first, but then she realizes that Tamra’s been looking at the same page for hours, and Gitara hasn’t actually written anything for the same length of time. Moiraine tries to think of what could have them so worried, and Siuan smiles at her, guessing what she’s thinking, and whispers that they’ll find out when they find out. It had surprised Moiraine at first that she and Siuan became such close friends, despite their differences, but she thinks they also have many similarities as well.
Siuan Sanche was held up to novices as an example of what they should aspire to. Well, both of them were. Only one other woman had ever finished novice training in just three years. Elaida a'Roihan, a detestable woman, had completed her time as Accepted in three years, too, also a record, and it seemed at least possible that they might match that, as well. Moiraine was all too aware of her own shortcomings, but she thought that Siuan would make a perfect Aes Sedai.
Trumpets begin to sound, hundreds of them, from the far-off battlefield, and Tamra sends Moiraine to check if there is any news. Moiraine goes out into the anteroom, where a novice named Elin Warrel is reading a book of love stories.
[…] this was unsuitable for a novice. Accepted were granted a little leeway—by that time, you knew that you would watch a husband age and die, and your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, while you changed not at all—but novices were quietly discouraged from thinking about men or love, and kept away from men entirely. It would never do for a novice to try running away to get married or, worse, to get herself with child. Novice training was purposefully hard—if you were going to break, better it happened as a novice than as a sister. Being Aes Sedai was truly hard—and adding a child to it would only make matters beyond difficult.
Moiraine chastises Elin sharply for her reading material, trying to behave as an Aes Sedai might. Elin assures her there have been no messages from the battlefield, and Moiraine embarrassingly contradicts herself by telling Elin to go back to her reading. She goes back into the study, where Siuan is serving tea to Tamra, and gives Moiraine a cup to bring to Gitara. Tamra asks Moiraine if there is any news.
Moiraine was just offering Gitara her own cup, but before she could reply, the Keeper jerked to her feet, bumping the table so hard that the ink jar overturned, spreading a pool of black across the tabletop. Trembling, she stood with her arms rigid at her sides and stared over the top of Moiraine's head, wide-eyed with terror. It was terror, plain and simple.
“He is born again!” Gitara cried. “I feel him! The Dragon takes his first breath on the slope of Dragonmount! He is coming! He is coming! Light help us! Light help the world! He lies in the snow and cries like the thunder! He burns like the sun!”
With the last word, she gasped, a tiny sound, and fell forward into Moiraine's arms.
Tamra dashes over to try Healing, but it is already too late: Gitara is dead. She murmurs a despairing denial, then turns to stare at Moiraine and Siuan, both of whom jerk under her gaze. She states that they are both intelligent, and thus know what Gitara just Foretold. They nod, and Tamra sighs.
That iron-hard gaze studied them both. “You will tell no one about this, not for any reason. If necessary, lie. Even to a sister. Gitara died without speaking. Do you understand me?”
Moiraine is shocked that an Aes Sedai is actually ordering them to lie, but she nods along with Siuan. Tamra sends them off, repeating her order for their silence, which Moiraine thinks emphasizes its strangeness, since there should be no need for the Amyrlin’s orders ever to be repeated.
I wished to hear a Foretelling, Moiraine thought as she made her final curtsy before leaving, and what I received was a Foretelling of doom. Now, she wished very much that she had been more careful of what she wished for.
OMG, Moiraine! Squee!
Seriously, that was pretty much my exact reaction on first reading—that much I definitely recall.
At this point, remember, it had been almost eleven years, in reader time, since Moiraine went out in her blaze of Lanfear-tackling glory at the end of TFOH, and we’d seen neither hide nor hair of her since, barring a few maddeningly vague prophecies and such. To see her on the page again, then, even a twenty-years-younger version, after so long, was downright giddy-making. Well, for me, anyway.
Granted, I had a slightly shorter wait than some, since I didn’t start reading the books until 1997, but seven years ain’t nothing to sneer at either, sez me.
…Okay, and I’m also kind of deliberately ignoring that the short story version of NS came out in 1998, mostly because I’m pretty sure this whole bit wasn’t even in that, and I barely remember reading it anyway. Look, whatever, it was a long damn time, okay? Sheesh.
My POINT is: OMG, Moiraine! Squee!
As with Lan, it’s interesting to see her twenty years younger, the seeds of who she will be already there, but not yet completely rooted in maturity.
I had to laugh at Moiraine’s hate-on for Elaida, because of course it makes total sense that she and Elaida are totally oil and water in every way, and always have been. And you know, it makes me realize that while younger Elaida and younger Moiraine might run into each other in NS (I don’t remember whether they do or not), they never once physically crossed paths in the series proper, did they?
Unless they do in the finale, of course. We Shall See.
Moiraine’s thoughts (or, really, the Tower’s thoughts) on why novices are discouraged from reading love stories interested me, naturally. If “interested” is really the right word. This is one of those double-sided, back-and-forth reactions on my part that I hate, because they make me, well, ambivalent and unable to render a definite opinion. In this case, I recognize the validity of the logic behind why marriage and children are conditioned against among Aes Sedai, even as it makes me want to bang my head against the nearest flat surface for imposing such a—a limiting limit on themselves as human beings.
I dunno, maybe I’m just secretly a big romantic sap who thinks that Love Conquers All, and even short-lived happiness is still happiness, and the chance of having it would be worth the pain of…
…watching all your loved ones grow old and die, one after the other, inexorably. In front of you. And probably hating you for not aging with them to boot. Um. Damn, that would… completely suck, wouldn’t it?
…But! Love? Yay?
See? Waffle, waffle. But c’mon, tell me you don’t see both sides of this.
And of course, the obvious solution to the dilemma (marry a man who channels, i.e. lives as long as you do) hasn’t been an option for the last three thousand years. Man, the Dark Side even managed to mess up sex.
(Yes, yes, sex does not equal love, but I’m sorry, the joke had to be made.)
There’s another aspect to this whole business I’ve yet to mention, but I’ve talked about this long enough for now, so we’ll come back to it at the proper moment.
In the meantime, we should probably also mention the Big Damn Prophecy Moment in this chapter, which was only the most defining event of Moiraine and Siuan’s lives, even if they don’t quite realize it yet.
…Would I be ousted from WOT fandom if I admitted it fell a little flat to me?
I’m not sure what it was about it, but somehow the build-up to the moment (or rather, the lack of it) was vaguely unsatisfactory in some way. It was too abrupt, or something.
Possibly, however, this is only because the story had already been partially told to us in the series proper, and therefore I’m having the same problem here that I did with the Finnland sequence in ToM, which is that I already know too well what is going to happen. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, that tends to take a little of the tension out of it.
So maybe that’s it. I’d already had my frisson moment over it back when Moiraine first told the story (and I really did, too), so maybe it’s unrealistic to expect I’d get it again this time.
And either way, still a cool scene.
And that’s what I got for this one, my peeps. Have a lovely week, and I’ll be back on Friday with Moar!