Sep 17 2013 1:00pm

The Wheel of Time Reread: A Memory of Light, Part 29

A Memory of Light Wheel of Time reread Tor.comIt’s the Wheel of Time Re-read! OMG SQUEE.

Today’s entry covers Chapter 29 of A Memory of Light, in which we have Mat being, like, SO DREAMY, YOU GUIZE. And some other stuff, too. Whee!

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. The index for all things specifically related to the final novel in the series, A Memory of Light, is here.

Also, for maximum coolness, the Wheel of Time Re-read is also now available as e-books, from your preferred e-book retailer!

This re-read 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 29: The Loss of a Hill

What Happens
Egwene calls for the Aes Sedai to focus on the Fades, which are now trying to disguise themselves among the Trollocs. She and her troops are exhausted, and she wonders how much longer they can go on. From her vantage point, she sees two units of cavalry moving in a way which exposes their left flank, a mistake the Sharans take advantage of immediately. In minutes both the foot and lancers have taken heavy casualties, despite the channelers’ attempt to aid them, and Egwene is forced to signal a retreat via gateway. She notes in passing that Gawyn, at her side, is looking pale and sick.

“I want to go to the camp and find General Bryne,” Egwene said. “I want to know why this was allowed to happen. And then I will go to our troops defending the ford, and avenge our people who just lost their lives here.”

Neither Gawyn nor Leilwin are happy about this, but Egwene insists that her sa’angreal is keeping her from being as tired as the others, and they obey.

Lan enters the command tent, where Agelmar tells him that he thinks the battle is going well. Lan looks at the map, and sees Agelmar has the Saldaean light cavalry marked as being on the east flank, when Lan knows for sure that they are not there anymore. Agelmar tells him that even a larger force will break if they are sufficiently frightened, and hopes to bring down the leader of the Dreadlords. Lan wonders if perhaps it has all been a mistake, but then a messenger runs up with news that a huge force of Shadowspawn is approaching from the east.

They knew to come in that way, Lan thought. They couldn’t have just noticed that we’d exposed ourselves, not with those hills blocking their view. It’s come too quickly. The Shadow must have been told, or must have known what to expect. He looked at Agelmar.

Agelmar declares that impossible. Lan gives orders to begin a retreat. Agelmar protests, and Lan informs him he is relieved of duty, and is under arrest. Everyone but Lan’s guard reacts with shock, Agelmar included, and he blusters that Lan is overreacting. Lan ruthlessly points out to him the “mistakes” he’s been making.

Agelmar raised a hand to his head, looking dazed. He looked down at the battle map, and his eyes widened.

“What’s wrong with you, Agelmar?” Lan said.

“I don’t know,” the man said. He blinked, staring at the maps at his feet. His face adopted a look of horror, eyes wide, lips parting. “Oh, Light! What have I done?”

Horrified, Agelmar attempts to commit suicide, but Lan stops him. Agelmar says in anguish that he has cost them the war, but Lan says it is only one battle, and that he believes Agelmar has had his mind tampered with. Kaisel runs up, and Lan explains to him that he believes Agelmar has been the victim of Compulsion, and that the Asha’man need to make gateways to get them out of the trap they’re in. Agelmar then interrupts.

“Queen Tenobia,” Agelmar said. “I’ve sent her into danger without understanding what I’d done. Whoever put these plans into my head wanted her dead!”

Lan runs out of the tent to scan the field, but it is too late, and he watches Tenobia’s banner get swarmed under. He knows that he cannot take time to mourn her if they are to survive at all.

Mat, Tuon, Min, Selucia, Galgan, Courtani, and a hundred Deathwatch Guards ride toward the battlefield, Min reluctantly telling of the omens she sees. Mat wishes she hadn’t explained the ones she’d seen around him. He chooses a hill to observe from; atop the hill, Mat observes Demandred at a distance, who is shouting with a Power-enhanced voice for the Dragon Reborn to come and duel him, which Mat thinks make him sound “a bit dotty.”

Well, Mat knew which part of the battle to bloody stay away from. He had not signed up to fight Forsaken. In fact, so far as he remembered, he had not signed up at all. He had been bloody press-ganged every step of the way. Usually by force, and always by one fool woman or another.

Mat sees Tylee’s troops just standing around, and goes down to see them alone, relieved that Tuon wasn’t insisting on coming along. He demands to know what Tylee is doing, and she tells him that Bryne told them they were only a reserve force, and ordered them to stay put until they were called. Mat looks over the battlefield, and sees how badly it’s going, and observes out loud that that doesn’t make sense. Tylee adds that they’ve heard two more cavalry units of Bryne’s have been wiped out, trying to support the marath’damane on the hills. Mat decides not to wait to find Bryne, but tells Tylee that the Seanchan cavalry are to attack from three sides; Banner- General Makoti will lead the center force, Tylee the right flank, and Mat will command the left flank.

“Yes, Highness. But surely you aren’t going to get so close to the battle?”

“Yes I am. Now get going, Tylee!”

Tylee insists first that Mat trade his coat for armor, to which Mat agrees, though he refuses to swap his hat for a helmet. He assures Tylee he will deal with the marath’damane personally. The Seanchan cavalry ride across the ford and engage with the Sharans with deadly discipline and efficiency, relieving the press on the White Tower infantry. The battle grinds on, the forces of the Light slowly regaining ground, and Mat finds himself in the thick of it. Then several of his companions are killed by channeling, and he sees a Sharan woman in odd garb focus on him. The medallion goes cold when she tries to attack him, and Mat dismounts and knocks her out. The Seanchan go to aid him as he is beset by Sharan soldiers, and after a grim and fierce battle, Mat and four Seanchan are the only ones left standing. Mat turns to see the remaining officer staring at him in awe.

“Highness…” the officer said. “Great Lord, no man in the Empire’s service would ever dare question the Empress, may she live forever. But if a man had wondered about some of her choices, he would do so no longer. Prince of the Ravens!” He raised his sword, prompting a cheer from those behind.

Mat is uncomfortable with the praise and quickly moves on, finding Pips and heading back to the ford, stopping to change back into his Two Rivers clothes on the way. Selucia tells him Tuon wants to know what he was doing putting himself in the battle that way. Mat tells her he needed to feel “the pulse” of the battle. A messenger arrives for Tuon, but Mat is distracted, linking up the maps to his mental picture of the battle and what he’s seen.

Mat grunted. “Huh. Gareth Bryne is a Darkfriend.”

“He what?” Min sputtered.

“This battle is one step away from being doomed,” Mat said, turning to Tuon. “I need absolute control of our armies right now. No more arguing with Galgan. Min, I need you to send to Egwene and warn her that Bryne is trying to lose this battle. Tuon, she’ll need to go in person. I doubt Egwene will listen to anyone else.”

Everyone is shocked but Tuon, who just stares at him unnervingly, and declares, “it is done.” Min is led off, and Tuon comments to Mat that she hears he not only captured a marath’damane himself, but raised an officer to the Low Blood.

“I did?” Mat asked, baffled. “I don’t remember that.”

“You dropped your nail at his feet.”

“Oh. That… All right, maybe I did that. Accidentally.”

He is dismayed by the news that Tuon plans to have the captured Sharan channeler given to him, but thinks that maybe he can free her later. Tuon says that the officer, who had previously been of suspect loyalty, was now singing Mat’s praises, something she observes he seems to have a skill for garnering. Mat tells her they need to hope he has an equal skill for victory, given how dire the situation is. Tuon points out that no one else thinks that, but Mat assures her he is right.

“If you are not, I will lose influence.”

“You’ll be fine,” Mat said, leading the way back toward the Seanchan camp a few miles north at a brisk pace. “I may lead you wrong now and then, but in the end, you can be sure that I’m always a safe bet.”

Well, and now it all comes to a head—with the Corruption of the Great Captains Scheme, at least. Finally. I’m pretty sure I was in an absolute froth by this point, on first reading, for Team Light to figure out what was going on and fix it already. So Lan’s section, at least, was a great relief.

Though not in time to save Tenobia, which was… well, I wasn’t happy she died or anything, because obviously that’s not awesome at all, but I wasn’t exactly surprised by her death either. Tenobia’s had a big ‘ol target painted on her back ever since we combined the knowledge of Min’s viewing of a broken crown for Perrin with his marriage to Faile, i.e. the person second in line for the throne of Saldaea (whose crown is called—wait for it—The Broken Crown).

But, you know. Still sucks. Not nearly as much as some of the deaths we’ve got coming up, but Tenobia’s death is really where that dire tally begins in AMOL, more or less. So, yeah.

I forgot that Agelmar actually tries to commit seppuku over the knowledge of his inadvertent betrayal. Which is terrible, of course (or at least certainly undeserved), but also a nice callback to the cultural flavorings of Shienar and the Borderlands in general, which take a lot of cues from Japanese samurai traditions as well as other Asian cultures.

But all that aside, this chapter is mainly notable for reminding me why Mat is awesome—something which, admittedly, all the stuff with me hating on Tuon and the Seanchan has somewhat obscured, of late. But I’m sorry, there’s no way you can’t love Mat just looking at a battlefield and coming to the immediate (and correct) conclusion that its commander has to be fucking up deliberately. Anyone who claims they don’t have a competence kink is lying, as far as I am concerned, because how is that not sexy, I ask you?

And granted, Mat comes by his competence in a cheaty kind of way (i.e. having it shoved into his head via spooky intra-dimensional elves), but at the end of the day it’s not just about having the ability to do something, it’s about whether you’re willing to employ it for the greater good that matters. And also granted, Mat talks a lot of shit about not wanting to use his ability for said greater good, but as we see here, when push comes to shove he is totally lying about that. And I am a firm believer in the idea that actions speak louder than words.

Or at least, I try to remember that idea as much as I can. Sometimes words are hard to ignore, but I try.

(Like Mat’s mental nonsense above about being pushed into everything by the women in his life, which, whatever, dude. What woman was forcing you to get involved in the Battle of Cairhien, exactly? Or into picking up that dagger in Shadar Logoth? Just to name two rather pivotal events in your life. I’m just saying.)

Plus, this scene with Mat brings back something that I particularly loved about his plotlines throughout the series, and which I think had gotten a little lost in the later books: namely, the way he’s always managed to combine luck, skill, and sheer chutzpah to cause him to stumble into doing the right thing at the right time, even when he doesn’t realize or even want it to happen. All three of the Superboys have that tendency to a certain extent, of course, but Mat is the especial champion of it. I’m not sure what to call that character trope, or even if it is one, but many of my favorite characters in SF (and elsewhere) have tended to have it to one degree or another—Mat Cauthon, Miles Vorkosigan, Indiana Jones, Honor Harrington, Vlad Taltos, Harry Dresden, and probably a good many more I can’t think of at the moment.

There’s something uniquely relatable about that characteristic, in the sense that even when these characters are doing ridiculously amazing and/or grandiose things, you still identify with them as people because the whole time their mental dialogue is along the lines of Holy shit I have no idea what I’m doing what is happening aaaagggh, and that’s something that I think we can all identify with. (Massive amounts of snark on the side also helps.)

I don’t know about you guys, but I pretty much go through my whole life with that OMG who the hell is driving this crazy thing feeling, so it’s nice to see that people you admire are in the same boat… even if they’re only fictional.

Additionally, it’s pretty hilarious (as Tuon notes) how every soldier who sees Mat fight is totally his fanboy forever afterward. (Talmanes, of course, being president and CEO of the Official Mat Cauthon Fanboy Club.) I mean, not that I blame them for adoring him, because I can imagine that nothing is more awesome to a soldier than having incontrovertible proof that his commanding officer is both a brilliant tactician AND can physically kick all the ass regionally available, but it still makes me grin every time when these guys do the Manly Warrior™ version of squealing over him like a preteen girl at a One Direction concert. I think it’s so nice they can express themselves like that!

(This fanboy magnet thing, incidentally, is also a trait shared by most of the characters I listed above. It seems I have a type, eh?)

Also hilarious: Mat describing Demandred as “dotty.” Because, you know, he ain’t wrong—at least not when it comes to the topic of the Dragon. Demandred’s years-long temper tantrum over Rand would be kind of hilarious, actually—if it weren’t, you know, costing thousands upon thousands of lives at the same time. That bit tends to be a funsucker for some reason.

And we can’t have the sucking of fun, now can we? NO WE CANNOT. So we’ll stop here for the nonce, and I’ll see alla y’all next Tuesday!

1. srEDIT
Thanks, Leigh. These rereads continue to be absolutely AMAZING!
Jordan Hibbits
2. rhandric
Thanks, Leigh.

(Re)reading this, it's interesting how Lan and Mat can be presented with the same data (their battles are FUBAR) and come to different conclusions. Of course, Lan has the benefit of knowing Agelmar ahead of time, but that's not always a perfect indication.
Deana Whitney
3. Braid_Tug
"I was no longer about saving individuals" - moment of chills for me.

Like you Leigh, Tenobia's death not a real surprise, but the manner of it caught me by surprise. But I guess with everything else, and the body count to come, we should be thankful that the first death of a ruler actually got more than two lines.
Basher, who had much more book time, gets what? Half a sentence? (time to pout later)

Mat’s whole thing was great.
Will admit, I half expected Tuon to say something like: “That was more than 5 minutes.” Instead she praise him for stopping a faction of rebels! Wow a compliment from his wife.

Odd Seachanc culture moment: talk about being careful about your nails! Break a nail a the wrong moment and a new noble is created.
4. syrric
matt as always is super awesome... and finally people are actually acknowledging it.. he always got a bad rap, cept when he deserved it!
Adam S.
Agree with everything you said. Though I have to say, I had been feeling concerned for Demandred's mental health even before this, with how much his pure hatred for Lews Therin has been built up. When he appears on the battlefield yelling for Lews Therin like Rocky calling for Adrienne, I'm always amused. Even though he's burning thousands of good guys out of the pattern, I still tend to chuckle over how outrageously over the top Demandred is.
Mat gets a chance to show off his badassery, and it is great, as usual.
I was torn on the Tenobia death. Of course I was expecting it for most of the series, we all were, but I thought it would be more involved, or at least more visible, instead of just seeing her position overrun in the distance.
I have to say, I'm still a little taken aback over the dream tampering of the great captains. I had thought since Eye of the World that Aes Sedai can protect the dreams of those around them, and especially their warders. So while it is easy to see how the forsaken could tamper with Agelmar and Ituralde, how were they able to reach Gareth Bryne? Isn't a warder's dream warded? Was it that the True Power lets them bypass Saidar wards?
Andrew Berenson
6. AndrewHB
Leigh, what are your thoughts about Mat using the word "marath’damane" to refer to the Sharan channelers. Mat's character is not to confrom to a society that he is not familiar with (e.g. using the name Tuon as opposed to Fortuona and not wearing the traditional Seanchan officer dress). However, here is uses the terminollogy that a Seanchan would use (rather than the word "channeller" or "Shanaran" if Mat had no connection with Tuon).

After Mat returns from leading the charge, I am the only one who would love to have read a Tylee POV. I would want to know if she thinks about Mat in the same light as she thought of Perrin. I wonder if she knows that both Mat and Perrin grew up together.

(BTW, I think that the Perrin/Tylee card was not used in AMoL. Even if they were not on screen together, Tylee could have spoken on screen more about her interactions with Perrin and his forces. The only mention we get is in TGS where she returns to Ebu Dar and reveals the dead Trollocs. She stated that based on her experiences, the people of Randland could make efficient allies. However, this is never revisited in the remainder of the series.

I have a slight plot change that I will raise when the time is approriate. It involves a further role of Tylee in AMoL. However, this is not the proper scene to discuss.)

Re Egwene - I am not sure if I have brought this up before (and if so, I apologize), but I have to throw a penalty flag (sorry, I could not resist -- it is football season). In this chapter, Egwene displays a high degree of military knowledge. I do not think she could be this knowledgeable in such a short time. She may have listended to Rand and Moiraine's conversations in the journey through the Aiel Waste. Yet, the majority of those conversations were political lessons. Any military lessons Rand was taught would have been by the Aiel Clan Chiefs and Lan. I do not see Egwene with the chance to listen to those.

Her lessons with Siuan during the march to Tar Valon were either political or Tower history. I do not recall Siuan being much of a military tactician. Further, there was not much time between when Egwene revealed herself as not a puppet and when she was captured by the Tower for Bryne to provide her with military strategy lessons.

Egwene is one of my favorite characters. However, this is the one aspect of her character that I cannot buy. I think given a sufficient number of years, she could havev acquired such knowledge. But not in 1.5 - 2 years.

Thanks for reading my musings,
Amey Chinchorkar
7. ameyc
combine luck, skill, and sheer chutzpah
Good that you mentioned "snark" later on, because heavy snarking at superpowered villains who can easily beat you is a big component of that (and why I wasn't surprised when I learned Jim Butcher wrote a Spiderman novel, since Spidey is a member of the club, too)
8. NotInventedHere
Heh, Mat Cauthon and Miles Vorkosigan... two of my own favorites. And you're absolutely right, they do share an ability to turn situations they've blundered into to their advantage through skill, luck, and sheer force of will.

Have to give Tuon credit here. No questions, no prevaricating, just absolute trust in Mat that he knows what he's doing, and with a word she has basically placed the entire future of the Seanchan empire in his hands (though no doubt she has backup plans if he did screw it up).
Lynn McDonald
9. meal6225
Safe to add Jon Snow to that list?
I thought it odd that Aglemar didn't deny or fight the accusation more.
If all it took was Lan's accusation and he just crumbled. This cumpulsion
just worked very differently than what we'd seen before.
Kerwin Miller
10. tamyrlink
i didnt get why tenobia would be out with her banner in the field...thats just a magnet for special enemy attention. i wanna say for moral...but the troops already know she's there. so idk. but at least like someone said above, she got more than a few lines unlike bashere. and unlike alsalam (seeing as his disappearance was such a big mystery). then some other rulers dont even get mentioned after the meeting at merrilor. (what front were the murandians on again?)
Rich Bennett
11. Neuralnet
Loved these scenes with Mat, they really make up for some of the other let downs in the final book. Also, have to give credit to the Moridin/ other forsaken for finally getting their act together and developing a clever plan that almost worked.

@6 AndrewHB, I totally agree, about the penalty flag on Egwene's tactical knowledge. Dont the Aes Sedai have a leader of the green ajah to be their general? Egwene should have been a little more clueless
Kerwin Miller
12. tamyrlink
I never noticed Egwene's military prowess here. I noticed a lot of odd bits of channeling throughout the book. (for example) Pevara and other's using the term Mask of Mirrors, and everyone becoming so adept in weaving disguises. I was under the impression that the sisters could only make themselves seem gigantic, and that they'd always called it Illusion.

(not that I'm complaining, I love the book. I've already reread it a few times and things are starting to pop out at me that i didn't notice before.)
Chin Bawambi
13. bawambi
Re: Penalty flags

Agree but completely in character for EggySue to be vastly more competent that she should be. There isn't a chance that she would notice the flank exposure or know how to prevent the ensuing rout let alone have the experience to call the retreat.

Amey Chinchorkar
14. ameyc
@9 meal6225: Jon Snow is more like Perrin than Mat. i.e. deep sense of duty, a slight (almost completely undeserved) sense that he is lesser than others.
Ron Garrison
15. Man-0-Manetheran
Thus begins Mat's transition from Lucky Boy to Prince of Ravens. I really love the way he takes charge on the battlefield and with Tuon and the court. This maturation of his character is just great. Yeah!
Nick Hlavacek
16. Nick31
Slightly off topic ...

I totally agree with you about the value of a character that manages to "combine luck, skill, and sheer chutzpah to cause him to stumble into doing the right thing at the right time, even when he doesn’t realize or even want it to happen.", and I think you're right on when it comes to Mat, Miles, Indiana, and Harry. Every one of those is a character I can relate to and love to read about. I don't know Vlad Taltos, but I just don't see Honor Harrington as this type of character. She's definitely got the luck and skill, but it's more of a hyper-competent talent that plans for every possibility than the kind which stumbles into doing the right thing. She's also not the type to complain about something she views as a duty, no matter how difficult the situation, and most critically she's lacking the snark factor (compared to the others on the list). Absolutely she's one of my favorite characters, but for different reasons than this.
Alice Arneson
17. Wetlandernw
AndrewHB @6 - Mat didn't actually use the term marath'damane - he said "channelers."
Julayne Redwine
18. autumnmoon1959
I loved this chapter on the first read, and still do. I heart Matt! I love him and Tuon in this chapter. She's finally showing she trust him. I agree with Egwene's military knowledge...she shouldn't have that much. I've always been a fan of Tylee, ever since her and Perrins time together, so I too wish we could have had a POV from her. Thanks for another great re-read Leigh!
19. Ryamano
Jon Snow is also more on the emo side of heroes, like Perrin. Mat's counterparts in ASOIAF would be Tyrion or Dolorous Edd.
Captain Hammer
20. Randalator

That bit tends to be a funsucker for some reason.

Did anyone else read "sunfucker" at first and go "hamnoo?", too? No? Just me then...

re: Mat

Further proof that he is the WoT equivalent of Nathan Fillion.
21. Jonellin StoneBreaker
Great post,Leigh. Amazing to know that we share some of the same favorite characters in genre.
I do agree with Nick31@16 regarding Honor Harrington, though.
She is uber-competent, knows it, and is more crazy prepared than anything else. She is also unironic without being a Mary Sue.
22. denari6
You know I slightly disagree with you about Mat's obtained competence via cheating. Yes he had those memories shoved in his head. However, it still takes a brilliant talent to know what to do with the knowledge he has. The computer may have one heck of a hard drive but without a good CPU, the information is pretty much unaccesible to make a difference.
23. Lord Foul's Bane
For me, this is the aspect of Mat that BS actually makes work (without making me want to grind my teeth down to the roots). *air raid siren* *run to bunker* *hit door switch* *door swings closed and locks* *thinks -damit I left the bbq outside AGAIN. *
Karen Fox
24. thepupxpert
@5 Also reminds me of the Romulen yelling "SPOCK" at the top of his lungs constantly through the entire Star Trek movie.
Karen Fox
25. thepupxpert
@11 I have to disagree about Egwene's battle knowledge, she did have Bryne with her for a long time and it could be assumed that they talked battle tactics constantly as they were en route to siege the Tower. Also Egwene was in the Tower when the Seanchan attacked and she no doubt scored some major battle experience during that engagement.
Tricia Irish
26. Tektonica
Thanks, Leigh! I agree with your Fanboy list, btw....I'm a sucker for those guys too....Miles!!! And of course, Mat the Man.

And yeah...glad that Lan and Mat have twigged to the Compulsion/sabotage crap going on. And it's always good to see Mat actually IN battle.

And now to the comments....
William Carter
27. wcarter

The thing about dream wards is they're apparently imperfect--Lanfear tells Rand she could bypass his if she reall wanted to early in the series, and there isn't any proof that Aes Sedi actually do ward their warders dreams in the first place.

*Moraine tells the boys she can protect their dreams if they are physically close to her, but never actually does in Eye of the World.
*In the TDR she basically tells Perrin that most Aes Sedi ward their dreams not to protect themselves, but to avoid forcing their own dreams on other people (something to do with unconsciously channeling Spirit).

Warders can't channel so obviously dream lealking sn't a problem for them. So I'm guessing it wouldn't even occur to most Aes Sedi to ward a nonchannelers dreams in the first place. Especially since T'A'R is so little understood.

In the end my guess is it wouldn't even matter either way. Rand was a hellava lot stronger than any normal Aes Sedi by The Shadow Rising and Fires of Heaven and Lanfear was plenty confident that she could get passed his defenses, and Aes Sedi (and channelers in general) are by and large way too narcissitic for most of them to realise that other people need the protections they normally reserve for themselves.
28. Teddroe
Man, the Bashere family does not have a very fun Last Battle.
29. Freelancer
Egwene has been surrounded by people living a tactical existence, and observing one manner of battle or another, ever since meeting the Green Man. She has been drawn into, shanghai'd, kidnapped, or coerced into every variety of unwanted position imaginable. Perhaps for many people, there would be little acquisition of enhanced situational awareness and comprehension. But this is Egwene, she is driven to do everything as well as it can be done, and like that attitude or not, she is sincere about learning, understanding, and applying every bit of knowledge possible for the circumstances in which she finds herself. That includes life among the Aiel, close conferencing with Gareth Bryne, and oh yeah, a bunch of travelling about the countryside in the company of Lan and Moiraine.

She has witnessed aspects of battle in Falme, the Stone, the Waste, and the White Tower. She has engaged in political conflict as well. One needn't be a savant to rapidly gain a capacity for assessing a scenario, given those opportunities.

Comments about Mat later...
Terry McNamee
30. macster
Early bit Leigh didn't quote but that made me break out in a fit of snickering: "Gawyn hadn't had an opportunity to draw his sword this battle. Neither had Leilwin; the two seemed to be having a little silent competition as to who could act as the better guard, remaining right by Egwene's side." I can totally see them doing this. What's even better is that, as it was during the initial Sharan attack when they came to Egwene's rescue, it's rather awesome seeing Gawyn and Egeanin paired up because I never thought these two, of all characters, could end up sharing scenes together. They don't get many, but the ones they do have are rather entertaining.

While I agree with Leigh that the constant waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the Light to realize what was being done to their great captains and do something about it before it was too late, was frustrating, I have to say the slow build-up, the gradual revelation of the dangerous, flawed, ultimately doomed plans, and the way those near them (Elayne and Tam for Bashere, Mat and eventually Egwene for Bryne, and Lan and Baldhere for Agelmar) put the pieces together, was very well done and the right way to do it. For all that this plot development was completely self-contained to AMoL and that it was in fact invented by Sanderson and Team Jordan, I think an excellent job was done stringing it out slowly, over many chapters--so that it didn't feel tacked on or given short shrift, so it could be realistically explored, and so the full import of it would be driven home when it was ultimately exposed.

There's also an interesting parallel here to Ingtar. As far as we know, Agelmar never found out what he'd done, since the only one who knew the truth was Rand and he never told Hurin...and yet in a way, what Agelmar tries to do here is similar to what Ingtar does when he comes back to the Light, just that instead of bewailing his betrayal, Ingtar attempted to sacrifice himself in a way that meant something and could perhaps make amends for it. Not that I am calling Agelmar a coward--you really can't blame him for wanting to commit suicide, considering he'd been forced into this treason rather than being a true Darkfriend, but it's interesting to compare their situations. Ingtar did what he did of his own free will...and then, when he realized how wrong it was, he sacrificed himself to try and make up for it. Agelmar was forced to do what he did...and when he finds out the truth, he tries to kill himself in shame rather than trying to do anything to undo what he'd done. Of course with the Compulsion in his head, he couldn't do so, which only adds to the tragedy. In the end though it does underscore the honor and duty that are bound up in Shienaran culture. And it's a nice callback to Agelmar refusing to let Lan throw his life away either.

On a related note, this has been brought up before but I have to make note of it again: we eventually find out what happens to Bashere, Bryne, and Ituralde (although the latter disappears from the book after Elyas takes him out of the battle and we only see him again at the end when the Aes Sedai are forcing him to become king). But we never see Agelmar again after this scene. Did he die fighting the same way Bashere did, trying to make up for what he'd been Compelled to do? Did he kill himself after all? Or did he survive and work to help Easar (assuming he also lived) to rebuild Shienar, and Lan rebuild Malkier? I'd like to think the latter, since then we'd have two captains making it out alive rather than just one, but the complete lack of information on this isn't very encouraging.

As for Tenobia, all I can say (aside from how much we'd all been expecting it, as much due to Min's viewing of her as of Perrin--a bloody spear of light seems to fit being betrayed by the Light's own forces to me) is that the way it happened is perfectly in character for me. She died the way she'd want to, in a blaze of glory on the battlefield. Okay, dying as you're overwhelmed by an enemy trap isn't very glorious, but she went down fighting, taking as many Shadowspawn with her as she could. Tai'shar Saldaea. May the Creator shelter you, Tenobia si Bashere Kazadi, Shield of the North and Sword of the Blightborder, Lady of Shahayni, Asnelle, Kunwar and Ganai...

Another laugh-out-loud moment Leigh left out: when Mat was thinking about Min explaining the visions she saw around him, wishing she would tell Tuon she saw a hat floating around him so he could persuade Tuon to stop trying to get rid of his. Also his little exchange with Selucia.

Side note: when Mat knows that the man bellowing for Rand is Demandred, I initially had to stop and ask myself how in the world he knew that. But then I remembered that Egwene identified him (thanks to him revealing his given Age of Legends name, which she knew from her studies in the White Tower). Obviously she would want everyone to know just who and what they were facing, and among those she'd tell would be the Seanchan's top general and her fellow Emond's Fielder. Later when more and more people started knowing who Demandred was (Logain being told makes sense, and he'd tell his Asha'man; Gawyn already knew from Egwene; Galad is another commander so he'd know too; but I was rather flabbergasted that Arganda of all people knew) it almost seemed laughable and surreal. Not so much for how they could know (like I said, Egwene knew and she'd want everybody on Team Light to know so the info would have been passed to all the royals and army commanders) but that all this information sharing was going on at all in a series once known for nobody telling anybody anything. And this was off-screen, no less! Very amusing indeed.

Of course the scene with Mat in battle is absolutely inspired. I can definitely see the parallels to previous scenes, from the Battle of Cairhien to his fight against the pursuing Seanchan forces at the end of KoD. I am fairly sure Sanderson included this moment as a callback, as well as to ground Mat in more familiar and fan-loved material, and show he could do it. Just a hint of the badassery we'll see from him later.

Mat's flippant way of declaring Bryne a Darkfriend, as wrong as it was, is also rather amusing (and Min's reaction to it), and his reaction to learning of yet another strange Seanchan custom (okay fine, considering the nails and how they are painted are signs of rank, I can see how throwing one before someone could be construed as granting them rank and favor but still...a nail?). And while obviously the fact Tuon trusts him as much as she does, and is willing to obey his orders no matter what Galgan or Selucia thinks, is extremely critical and says a lot about her (or at least, about her trust in the omens), I think I should make note of Mat's thought regarding the Sharan channeler: even with his added "maybe" and "or something", the fact he takes her as his damane but thinks to himself he could let her free shows, I think, that Leigh doesn't need to worry about Mat having drunk the Seanchan Kool-Aid. He does what he does out of expediency and a need for cooperation in the face of apocalypse, but he hasn't stopped caring about the damane or wanting to free them.

Oh and Leigh, not only do I love the kind of character Mat is just as you do, I believe the trope you're looking for is Badass Unintentional.

@3 Braid_Tug: I suspect the "death in only two lines" bit was meant to be a commentary on how a lot of the time, in war, people die quickly, brutally, without fanfare or a dramatic death scene or anything. It subverts our expectations in fiction, since there we're used to people dying in ways that, whether by dint of the exact manner of it, their final words, or its overall length is directly proportional to their importance in the story. But in real life that doesn't happen, people die ignominiously all the time regardless how important to us they are or how well we know them. Jordan of all people would know this from his time in Vietnam. The real problem, perhaps, is that the trope wasn't subverted prior to this, save for a few notable instances (Tylin, Vandene), so it seems out of place now.

Also I laughed at your idea of how Tuon was going to react, as I could totally see that too.

@6 AndrewHB: While I love seeing Tylee interact with Mat (and am sad we didn't get a POV from her regarding him), I do agree that her subplot with Perrin seemed a bit wasted. The scene in TGS where she comes back to Ebou Dar and advises Tuon on allying with the Westlanders instead of fighting them, while very critical, doesn't seem like much of a payoff after how much she and Perrin's friendship was built up. Ah well.

As for your thoughts on Egwene, I have to question why you consider her to suddenly be displaying military knowledge she shouldn't have. It doesn't take profound tactical genius to realize, when watching an army of allies get attacked at their unprotected back and crushed between that force and the one they were attacking, that something went wrong and guess they'd fallen into a trap. Or were you referring to the specific strategic language she uses to describe it, like left flank/right flank and such? For that I'd say Bryne's training could have easily told her such terminology, as could Adelorna's once she and Egwene started colluding instead of being at odds (i.e. most of the planning she and the Aes Sedai were doing off-screen during ToM).

And Wetlander is right: Leigh paraphrased it wrong, it was Tylee who called them marath'damane, Mat replied back with the word channelers.

@10 tamyrlink: Because that's the kind of person Tenobia was. She was brash, bold, impetuous, and impulsive, a Saldaean (woman) through and through. Recall in Chapter 9 when she was arguing with Agelmar and Lan thought to himself "She'll be off into battle herself at some point if we don't watch her. Her head is full of songs and stories." Even Agelmar himself, ironically, spoke about how rash she was being. Basically, she wanted to be out on the field, in the thick of it, fighting the Shadowspawn for glory. Yes, this made her a magnet, but she didn't care if she could be killing enemies--and to a point that was what she wanted, to draw their attention so she could lead her men to slaughter them. That this tactic would eventually result in her death should surprise no one...and as I said above, is how she would want to go out.

You're right about vanishing rulers though. I mentioned Agelmar above, and we never see the other Borderlander rulers either after this. Ethenielle is mentioned by Kaisel when speaking of the fall of Kandor and how she wouldn't want Andor to go the same way and appears in Chapter 10, and Easar is mentioned a few times (after the scene where he quotes poetry at Lan) but we never see Paitar again (and his sister dies in Chapter 34 even!).

@27 wcarter: That matches my analysis exactly on why Bryne wasn't protected. And even takes it farther, well done.
Andrew Berenson
31. AndrewHB
Mat's observation of Demandred in this chapter (that Demandred's continual calls for Rand) makes Demandred seem "a bit dotty") is a reminder of how skillfully RJ portrayed the Foresaken throughout this series (both from a reader's perpsective and through the prospective of members of Team Light).

At the start of the series, both the reader and the citizens of Randland viewed the Foresaken as mythical evil figures. Their actions were infamous. However, once the readers and Team Light encountered the Foresaken (admittedly, the reader generally sooner than the characters), opinions of the Foresaken changed. They were not demigods. Rather, they we channelers who were born in the Age of Legends, kept in a state of animated suspension (with periodic exists for Ishy), and now have come upon the world again.

You see this in the terms of power (for example, Moggy's fight with Nynaeve) and plans being able to be disrupted (for example, Egwene unifying the Tower and disrupting Mesaana's plans). Team Light is consistently able to thrawt the Chosen's plans (whether intentional or unintentional)

I do not think this is a recon. Rather, I think this was intentional. Build up a group as demigods and them reveal them to be no more than petty humans. Some of the Foresaken were more effective than others; some had strengths and weaknesses that his/her fellow Chosen did not; but at their core, they were men and women -- the same as Team Light.

The only thing different about them than members of Team Light were their inherent selfish nature (to paraphrase Verin).

I would like to say more on this matter but I will leave it to more of the eloquent posters (you guys and gals know who you are) and I am at work and at the end of my lunch break.

Thanks for reading my musings,
Alice Arneson
32. Wetlandernw
I agree, Andrew. RJ intentionally set up these mythical monsters, who everyone thought (by virtue of the "memories become legend" process) were superhuman in all their aspects. Then... he deconstructed the legends. Sure, they were all fairly strong in the OP, and they all had specific strengths - but they all had weaknesses, too, because they were only human. And what do you know - it turns out that in the "present" there are people who are also strong in the OP, who all have specific strengths and weaknesses too. Definitely not a retcon.
Nadine L.
33. travyl
"he headed back toward the ford. He even managed to stay out of more skirmishes, for the most part."
This attitude is so in-character for Mat and the thoughts remind me of Mat's attemps to avoid battles in Cairhien, while the eager soldiers with him praise him for finding the battles.
34. JimF
33. travyl: Yes, that was good. The Battle of Cairhien - and Mat's increasingly futile efforts to be out of it - are one of my favorite episodes. Mat sort of recreates that here.

31. AndrewHB and 32. Wetlandernw: Yes, great takes on the Forsaken. In the first books, all we had were the mothers' tales to their children, and the Glossary descriptions that grew bigger and more detailed as we proceeded - offset by the amazing (apparent) demise of two of them at the end of tEotW. Then we learned that they could come back! What fun.

But all along, whenever we saw them up close, we saw some of the most unprincipled, insecure individuals imaginable. Cohesive was not a term that ever attached to them, until here at the end (and Lanfear and Demandred show that to be a false front, too).

That's ONE of the great draws of these books (and there are many). I'm into tDR in my - probably last - reread, and these first books are SO GOOD. And that's before Mat - my overall favorite, just a bit ahead of Nynaeve - suddenly becomes Mr. Awesome. And I like it that he's back at it in this last book.
Clara M
35. ErnestTRocks
I have popped right down to the bottom: fear of spoilers. Have to howl yell! Woot! Woot! I've caught up. ::cough:: I've caught up, sort of. Uhmmm, not really. I am caught up in my audiobook READ. Well, LISTEN, really. Only half way through the chapter. GO, Mat! Perrin, can't you do something about the evil hussy, influencing the Great Captain's dreams in TAR? I am sad that Tenobia has apparently wakened from the dream. BITCH GRAENDAL! What's Rand doing in the cave this early? And why haven't we had a tender reunion with Lan and Nynaeve?? I find myself choked up, cheering, scolding, running the emotional gamut as I listen and drive down the road, occasionally whooping, and pounding the steering wheel. And frightening everybody else on the road, I am sure. Tough for them, don't care.

Once I make it through the audiobook (it'll take a while --only a 40 minute drive/daily), I will go back and read the printed word and the re-read, here. Hope I haven't irritated anybody too much with my lack of insightful commentary--cuz I don't know what's coming. Yet. IknowIknowIknow, I've just wasted your time. Selfishly, I just had to shout out to those who understand.

Thank you, WOT, Bretheren. Thank you, Leigh. Thank you, Tor.
36. Freelancer
No worries, the Bunker is always a good place for a qualified linear rant. Or any other kind, for that matter.

As Subwoofer would say, giv'er. Or something like that.
37. Faculty Guy
JimF@34: " . . . into into tDR in my - probably last - reread . . ."

Sounds ominous. Hope you are not ill!

But it also makes me wonder about my OWN future attitude toward rereading the series now that I know the ending! Those early books ARE "SO GOOD" but a large part of the fun is looking for foreshadowings, trying to guess what mysterious sayings and deeds will be clarified, what apparently inexplicable occurrences will be explained, which villains will get theirs and how, anticipating hoped-for reveals, and teasing allusions to yet-to-come episodes.

Now that we all know the complete story, and know that some things will NOT be explained (Nakomi is the example that first comes to mind, although that is not from an "early" book), I wonder if I am not a little bit SCARED to start another reread! What if I find my fascination has faded? What if I become frustrated when I reread an episode containing a teaser that I now know will never be resolved? So far, I have NOT began a reread (or relisten) since my second pass through aMoL.

I pose the question hoping for reassurance: have those of you who have started and/or completed a reread after finishing the series found the experience to be disappointing/depressing? Rewarding?
Robert Crawley
38. Alphaleonis
@37 I am nearly finished with book 4, TSR, on my first reread since finishing the series. My main 2 reasons for loving the series are: 1)The characters are my friends, and I would miss them if I didn't interact with them. 2) I love the prose, both RJ's and Sanderson's. They are a little different styles, but love them both.

Both of these two reasons still exist even though I know how it all ends. I have not enjoyed this reread any less than the others, but I might take a few years hiatus before my next reread. Or I might stop after book six like I did the first time I read the series, and have a years hiatus then.
39. Jonellin Stonebreaker

On the contrary. The richness of this masterpiece will not fade as time goes on. Every re-read will bring out more nuance, more allusions.
In your own re-read, you will see in each character something that wasn't there on the first read.

The defiant laugh of Logain Ablar when we first see him,manacled but at ease, on his way to be gentled...

Rand's simple joy at having fireworks, a gleeman, and a peddler in Emond's Field all on one day, and later, him sitting nearly nude and lacerated in the Stone of Tear, mourning the death of the youth he was...
The snakes sending Mat to Rhuidean, naming him trickster, son of battles, and gambler...

Perrin at the forge , each time forging both steel and himself...

We know how the Iliad ends, and what happens to the surviving heroes afterwards, but that's almost beside the point, isn't it?

This tale will never grow old, never be routine. Put your fears at rest.
Valentin M
40. ValMar
Speaking of endings, guys make sure you watch Brandon Sanderson's video where he reads a letter he wrote to RJ after finishing AMOL.
Although, if one is reading this comment, the odds are they've watched it already.
Karen Oaks
43. Keleric
I loved the contrast between Lan's confrontation with Agelmar, Tam and Elayne's with Bashere, and Mat's blunt announcement about Bryne. I agree with Macster @30 that the plot development was very well done.

Re: Egwene's military knowledge - I wasn't really bothered by it given all that she's been through and her penchant for completely immersing herself in whatever she's doing.

Mat is awesome. The end.

Jonellin Stonebreaker @39 - you very eloquently captured exactly how I feel about this series! I haven't done a full re-read since AMOL was released but I do intend to read it again many times over. RJ crafted such a rich world and built in so much foreshadowing that even knowing the ending I'm sure there will be something new to be found each time. And when my children are a bit older I plan to introduce them to WoT and I'll be able to see it again through their eyes.
Julayne Redwine
44. autumnmoon1959
@39 - You've said everything I feel about re-reading WOT! I will never grow tired of it!

@43 - I got my oldest son to start reading them last year. He is now finishing book 12. I love watching his reaction to things, and can't wait for his reaction for what's to come!
Roger Powell
45. forkroot
Tenobia buying the farm - was anyone surprised? We also knew that Davram and Deira Bashere would be toast. Thanks Min.

But we never see Agelmar again after this scene. Did he die fighting the same way Bashere did, trying to make up for what he'd been Compelled to do? Did he kill himself after all? Or did he survive and work to help Easar (assuming he also lived) to rebuild Shienar, and Lan rebuild Malkier?
This is one of the many questions that I'm hoping will be answered in Harriet's forthcoming encyclopedia. Call me a dweeb, but I like movies where at the end of the movie, the future fate of the characters is given (e.g. National Lampoon's Animal House.) I'm hoping for a lot of that sort of info in the encyclopedia.
Captain Hammer
46. Randalator
@45 forkroot

Tenobia buying the farm - was anyone surprised?

I hope not. The way she acted, she had a huge target painted on her back. You didn't even need Mins viewings to know that she wouldn't make it...
47. Ilmoran
@27: Regarding Lanfear's implication that she can break through Rand's wards, remember two things: Conceit and misdirection.

All of the Forsaken are pretty confident in their overwhelmingly superior OP skills compared to the channelers of today (and at this point, even though she knew he was LTT reborn, she did not yet believe Rand had LTT's power, skill, or knowledge to draw on).

Even if she didn't believe she could break through his wards, it's still not in her interest to reveal that fact; better to suggest that she could but chooses not to, and let the stories and legends of how powerful the Forsaken were back up her claim.
Thomas Keith
48. insectoid
Gonna try playing catsup, week behind or not.
Great post as usual, Leigh.

Since I'm a bit feverish and such (bug in the electrical system), I'll be brief:

Bryne: *groan* Not him, too.

Gawyn: Still an idiot. (Except now he's a slowly dying idiot.)

I was very happy that Lan was smart enough to figure out what's going on (Compulsion). Poor Tenobia (even though we all saw it coming).

Initially I thought Mat would be at risk as well, and then thought better of it, because a) he's too awesome now to be manipulated; and b) he has the foxhead medallion. Ituralde being at risk was a given (because next chapter).

Off to comment on today's post.

49. JimF
37. Faculty Guy I'm fine, thank you, but I've read chunks of these books eight or more? times. You say: "...What if I find my fascination has faded?..." My reread is proof to me that these are truly well-written, exciting books, and it's fun to see whichever collection of SuperKids and cohorts you like come in, develop and start taking charge and kicking butt!

There are things that now I see and say "Okay, got that" but there are other things that jump out to me as "what!???" For example, Min at the end of tGH finds herself sharing a bed with Rand and LANFEAR, who identifies herself to Min. In tDR, it's as if that never happened or else that Min clamped her lips tight and told no one. At one point, she admonishes Perrin that "if he meets the most beautiful woman he has ever seen" to run, an obvious reference to Lanfear, who she saw as stunningly beautiful about four months prior. Yet she fails to identify the lethal beauty to Perrin, who comes to believe it is Faile. Similarly, the failure following tEotW, where there is almost no recognition of the fact that the Emond Fielders, Lan, Moiraine and Loial just met and defeated TWO of the Forsaken. These are great gaping holes in the story-telling, but it doesn't bother me. I just want to power on until the wee hours of the morning.
Richard Hunt
50. WOTman
I believe the compulsion was done so lightly ( on the Generals) so the AS would not notice and that is where I find it difficult to believe that they didn't assign someone to ward them and protect them at all times, they were fighting the Forsaken after all in the last battle.

I wasn't surprised at Egwenes grasp of battle plans, because even a noob would wonder what happened when an entire force gets wiped out and the General is supposed to be the best. she still wanted to confer with Bryne, not accuse him.

I was glad Tenobia got what she asked for, it is just a shame she had to take so many good people with her. She reminded me of General Custer.

Mat's actions in this chapter is what I meant in last weeks comments, although I was thinking that Tuon was a little bit worried there and mentioned it to Mat, but he does as he always does and powers through. He had his chance to prove himself to his troops and after that he had them eating out of his hand. As indicated by the comment from the Seanchan, that he was wondering about Mat as a choice for Tuon, but after what he saw on the battlefield, he won't question her aymore either. So that is two birds with one stone for Mat and Tuon.

As far as the re-readability of the series, my, just because it ends and we know how, doesn't change the fact that along the way, there were so many memorable moments and adventures, I could never get tired of them. I have just started my first re-read of the entire series even though I have re read them 6 times before (the final book came out). This entire re read series have helped me immensely (Thanks a bunch Leigh) in figuring out all the points and interest and discover new things every time I pick up a book.
Terry McNamee
51. macster
Just wanted to add that yes, I love the continued deconstruction of the legend of the Forsaken, and that I know I will always enjoy re-reading the series--because even if I have managed to catch every nuance and foreshadowing of the story thanks to the FAQ/encyclopedia/this re-read (hardly a certain prospect), there will still always be wonderful scenes and moments to enjoy, and characters to spend them with.
William McDaniel
52. willmcd
One has to like Egwene directly quoting Admiral Ackbar's most famous line here.

I also noted that the Old Tongue seems to be partially influenced by Earth languages in Mat's command of "Los Caba'drin!" to send the horsemen forward. "Los" is German for "forward" or "let's go!", and "Caba" certainly evokes the Spanish "Caballo" (horse).

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