Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Roundtable! In this weekly mini-series from Tor.com, we’ll be asking a panel of Wheel of Time experts a number of questions that look at the upcoming final volume in this long-running fantasy series: A Memory of Light.
The questions will range from the specific, to the silly, to the broad, eventually encompassing the Wheel of Time’s legacy itself.
Each week a different question will be posed to our panelists, then you, the commenters, will be invited to join in.
Last week we looked at the threat of the Shadow as it loomed over our intrepid heroes, despite their victories in recent books, and we postulated how we’d kill Rand and company ourselves. (Then Leigh adopted a puppy and the light came out.)
This week, we move on to threats of the non-Shadow variety. And boy, are they ever legion...
This week’s question was:
One of the more realistic, and thus frustrating, touches in The Wheel of Time is that not all threats against the main characters are a manifestation of straight-up evil. Some people are awful all by themselves, and it seems like no one embodies this more than the Seanchan.
The question here is, how would you like non-Shadow threats and plot threads like the Seanchan, Padan Fain, Black Tower malcontents, the remnants of the Shaido, and so on, to be wrapped up, and do you think there’s a chance of that occurring in A Memory of Light, or will the world still face a great deal of combat if the Dark One is defeated? Will Elayne still be contesting for her throne? (If it still exists…) How will gunpowder figure in after the Last Battle? Is there a storm brewing in regards to Aes Sedai rank? And who still has toh to whom?
Jennifer Liang: I think it’s pretty certain that all the conflicts won’t be finished. Aside from Jordan’s own statements that he wasn’t going to finish the books with all the loose ends tied up in pretty bows, you have a Foretelling to that effect: “The great battle done, but the world not done with battle.” So it seems to me that there will still be conflicts in process after the Last Battle.
Matt Hatch: Literally, I’d like the book to end with the future teetering on the edge of many blades. It should be a chaotic, open-ended exit to the Third Age, which ends the overarching War with the Shadow and addresses the sealing of the Bore, but otherwise leaves most threads hanging in the wind. That is to say, I’m not a big fan of a proliferation of endings in the ultimate chapter. It’s not realistic for there to be satisfactory conclusions to significant plots dealing with entire populations, such as the Seanchan, that would not feel like something kicked out of the fairy tale factory.
Leigh Butler: It is virtually a certainty that there will be conflicts extending past Tarmon Gai’don (assuming the good guys win Tarmon Gai’don, of course).
First of all, because people are just like that, but also because it’s been foretold in prophecy: “The great battle done, but the world not done with battle. The land divided by the return, and the guardians balance out the servants. The future teeters on the edge of a blade."
“The land divided by the return” pretty obviously refers to the Seanchan, and having that on the heels of “the world not done with battle”… well, it paints a picture, don’t it?
Not to mention, there is still plenty of opportunity for everything to go to hell with Tuon and the Seanchan even before the Last Battle, since Rand did not exactly cover himself in glory the last time he tried to treat with her. This might be salvageable, as Rand has since gotten himself together (*rimshot*), but I could easily envision a truce forged solely for the big showdown falling apart soon after, perhaps even immediately after.
I also don’t see this being resolved one way or the other before the end of the series. That’s a push and pull that would likely drag out over decades, possibly centuries. Like the English and the French, for example. And like that conflict, gunpowder will simply end up incorporated, because the nature of war is to keep coming up with uglier and uglier ways to kill your enemy.
Jason Denzel: I’ve been saying for years that the Seanchan are the glue which tie all the major storylines together. Nobody invited those guys to the party, but they showed up anyway. In fact, they outright claim it was their party in the first place and everyone should give them the presents. If the Last Battle is going to be won by the forces of Light, then they’ll need the Seanchan. And who the Seanchan end up supporting will all come down to (I think?) the Battle of the Bows: ie, who will bow to the other person, Rand or Tuon. Maybe a mutual bowing?
Leigh Butler: The big question is what’s going to happen with the Aiel. Not so much the Shaido, though I guess they could eventually come back from the utter whipping they received, but the Aiel as a whole. Aviendha’s visions in the Way-Forward Ter’Angreal™ in Towers of Midnight painted a frighteningly bleak picture of her people’s future and how their downward spiral will stimulate conflict beyond the Last Battle, but it was pretty clearly indicated (at least in my opinion) that this was only a possible future, one which might be able to be averted.
At any rate, Aviendha is bound and determined to avert it, and we all know what happens when anything gets in one of our Supergirls’ way. Again, though, I don’t think this is something we will see definitively solved one way or another before the end of the last book; Aviendha herself noted that changing the course of her people’s destiny would be the work of a lifetime.
Matt Hatch: Avienda, the Wise Ones, the future of the Seanchan and how they interrelate as to the futures of their peoples and the Dragon Reborn have been ongoing plots ever since the beginning of the series. In Towers of Midnight we see a tragic future for the Remnant of the Aiel and a dominant one for the Seanchan. Was this “a” future or “the” future? Aviendha believes she knows how to change the dire fate of her people, but this is one of those threads that should be left hanging. Yes, we should see Aviendha attempt to save the Aiel, no matter how futile it may or may not be. But I want the palpable moment of tension created by those “visions” in Towers of Midnight to remain through the very end. I want to be left wondering along with Aviendha, “was it enough?”
Leigh Butler: As for the other “loose threads,” I’m still convinced
Gollum Fain has a date with a lava-filled chasm, but I could be wrong, of course. The Tower will keep on being its loveable scheming contentious self, except with the Asha’man thrown in as new players, and the Game of Houses will go ever on (although I must note that Elayne has in fact already won her throne, and Cairhien’s to boot, so that’s not so much an issue anymore).
Jason Denzel: Padan Fain is just plain nucking-futs. And he has undead trollocs. I have no idea how he’ll be resolved, or what role he has yet to play. I have personal assurances from Brandon though that he will not bite off Rand’s finger and fall into the Pit of Doom.
Matt Hatch: Padan Fain. I love this character. He’s so twisted and I appreciate freak; I would love an entire book dedicated to the Travels of Padan Fain. While Rand and company have been the main story, Robert Jordan has been carrying us through the Saga of the Other Shadow ever since that fateful journey to Shadar Logoth in The Eye of the World. And while we have watched the many changes wrought within Mr. Fain since that encounter, it was not until Brandon answered a few questions about Mordeth that I started to see a much more significant role for the dark influence/power that Mordeth brought to Aridhol.
If you don’t know about the questions and answers I’m talking about, then here is a short summary: Mordeth sought out power in his desire to fight and destroy the Shadow and he “found many things of darkness” and “one in specific is driving him” and this power/influence continues to corrupt through Fain and the dagger (citation). In addition, we cannot forget Jordan’s, “He is unique to this particular Age. A very unique fellow, indeed. In some ways, you might say he has unwittingly side-stepped the Pattern.” In addition, Towers of Midnight introduced us to the latest incarnation of this twisted combination of Shadow’s Hound and Aridhol’s Dagger. He’s become a walking Shadar Logoth with the Pattern warping influence of the Dark One. And now this unique entity, the original hound of the Wheel’s most powerful living ta’veren, is traveling his way into the Blight at the moment of the final conflict preaching his new religion as he goes. All of this is reason enough for this thread to be wrapped up in a meaningful way in A Memory of Light. Fain is the greatest unknown of this Age and arguably the greatest unknown the Wheel has encountered (to our knowledge, other than the Dark One of course), and he could play his hand in much more significant ways than anything that has been seen in prior Turnings. He’s become the equivalent of a Dark ta’veren, and we must see how it all turns out.
Of course, after all is said and done I hope Fain’s death/whereabouts remain a mystery, so we can theorize to the day we die about this Other Shadow and how it shaped and may shape the future of the Pattern well into the Ages to come.
Jason Denzel: Regarding the Towers... for many years we’ve been teased with the idea of a big showdown between the White Tower and the Black Tower. But I suspect the conflict won’t be so (forgive me…) black and white. Ever since Knife of Dreams, when we really got a good glimpse of Taim’s Evil Schemes, I’ve suspected we’ll see a showdown between the split factions of each Tower. That would make it something like an Egwene/Logain Tower mix fighting Taim/Black Ajah. But thanks to good ol’ Verin, the Black aren’t really an issue anymore, so I suppose my theory is junk. Le sigh… Still. I expect we’ll get a civil war within the Black Tower. I mean, that place is just asking to explode!
As for some of the other plot threads like the Shaido, Elayne’s throne, and the Children of the Light– I suspect we’ve essentially seen the end of their stories already. Sure, those groups will show up to swing swords (or spears) in the Last Battle, but it feels to me that their tales have been told. The Shaido were wrapped up when Rand crushed them first in Dumai’s Wells, and again when Perrin crushed them in Malden. They’re done. (Unless they are the prophesized “remnant of the remnant” that will be saved?) Likewise, the Children of the Light and all of Elayne’s contesting for the throne were nicely wrapped up for the most part in Towers of Midnight.
But heck. I could be wrong, right?
Jennifer Liang: The Wheel of Time is mainly the story of Rand and his struggle against the Shadow. I’ve always felt the books will more or less end with the outcome of that struggle. We might see some of the aftermath, but the task of cleaning up all the messes Rand leaves will be left to his friends. I think that’s the reason the Pattern has woven all these people into positions of authority. It’s not just to help Rand at the Last Battle, it’s to help the world rebuild it’s institutions afterwards.
Matt Hatch: Which reminds me. A note to the Powers That Be... we better not see soldiers randomly disappearing in the midst of the Final Battle as the Pattern falls apart and then suddenly reappearing in one pivotal moment with Marty McFly jumping out of a gateway, falling to his knees and strumming his Ter’angreal guitar to the tune of the Song. You know the Song I’m talking about. Because, while learning that Dr. Emmett Brown was the first Channeler would be totally awesome, I’d prefer a serious ending to the greatest and grandest epic fantasy series.
We’ll close on that note this week. (Dr. Emmett Brown has been outed as the First Channeler = WIN.) Chime in below with your own ideas on how the non-Shadow threats and/or the Seanchan storyline will or should play out.
We’ll be taking a break next week for the onset of Turkey Day, but check back with us in a couple weeks for a look at the Fourth Age and beyond!
Jason Denzel heads the internet’s premiere comprehensive Wheel of Time fansite: Dragonmount.
Matt Hatch heads the Wheel of Time online think tank: Theoryland.
Jennifer Liang work with Dragonmount, is the chair for JordanCon, and the director of Wheel of Time content at DragonCon. She also hosts the Wheel of Time Tor.com Facebook and Twitter portals, both of which aggregate Wheel of Time content across the web.