Frith above, it’s a Wheel of Time Reread!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 30 of A Memory of Light, in which LAVA. LAAAAAVVVVAAAAA.
Previous reread entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general. The index for all things specifically related to the final novel in the series, A Memory of Light, is here.
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This reread post, and all posts henceforth, contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series. If you haven’t read, continue at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 30: The Way of the Predator
Perrin and Gaul explore the reflection of Egwene’s camp; Graendal had been here, but not any longer. Slayer has been methodically testing their defenses at the Bore for weaknesses, as predators do. They discuss whom they should warn about Graendal, and Perrin is frustrated that he has to wait for someone to open a gateway at Merrilor to leave the wolf dream. He tries to figure out what Slayer does to achieve the trick, but cannot.
The longer he remained in the wolf dream in the flesh, the more he felt that he should know how to shift back. His body seemed to understand that this place was not natural for it.
[…] There was also an ache of fatigue inside him, growing stronger. He didn’t know if he could sleep in this place. His body wanted rest, but had forgotten how to find it. It reminded him a little of when Moiraine had dispelled their fatigue while fleeing the Two Rivers all that time ago. Two years now.
A very long two years.
They check Lan’s camp, but find no sign of Graendal there either. Gaul observes that if Lan’s army continues retreating as they are, they will soon end up back at Merrilor. Then a wolf calls to Perrin, saying they have found Heartseeker at Shayol Ghul. Perrin shifts himself and Gaul there immediately; the wolf seems familiar to Perrin but he cannot place him. The wolf indicates that Graendal is in Ituralde’s command tent. They shift closer in time to see her step out of the tent and Travel to the waking world, where she waves to the guards in front of the “real” tent and steps inside. Perrin almost follows her, but knows Rand is defenseless from Slayer without him, and doesn’t. He says they have to warn someone.
I suppose I could take the message for you, Young Bull, sent the unnamed wolf.
Perrin froze, then spun, pointing. “Elyas!”
I am Long Tooth here, Young Bull. Elyas sent amusement.
“I thought you said you didn’t come here.”
I said I avoided it. This place is strange and dangerous. I have enough strangeness and danger in my life in the other world. The wolf sat down on his haunches. But someone needed to check on you, foolish pup.
Elyas says that they have stood for five days at Shayol Ghul, but they won’t last for much longer. Perrin thinks that much more time has passed elsewhere, and that possibly only minutes have passed for Rand at the Bore itself. Perrin thinks on Graendal’s movements, and realizes that she must be corrupting the four captains at each battlefield. He asks if Elyas knows the trick of shifting back and forth from the dream in the flesh, and Elyas growls that it is too dangerous, and he would not teach it to Perrin if he knew. They are interrupted as Slayer attacks the wolves guarding the Bore.
Wolves whimpered and died. Others howled, beginning the hunt. This time, Slayer did not back away.
The way of the predator. Two or three quick lunges to determine weakness, then an all-out attack.
Perrin shouts at Elyas to wake up and warn anyone he can, and try to stop Ituralde and the other captains. Elyas fades out of the dream, and Perrin shifts to the cavern, ready to defend Rand.
Rand duels with Moridin, using Callandor as an actual sword, filled to bursting with the Power. He continues to bleed out slowly. Moiraine and Nynaeve seem to be battling some unseen force, clinging to rocks. Rand knows he is a better swordsman than Moridin, but he is one-handed and wounded now.
This place… this place changed things. Rocks on the ground seemed to move, and he often stumbled. The air grew alternately musty and dry, then humid and moldy. Time slipped around them like a stream. Rand felt as if he could see it. Each blow here took moments, yet hours passed outside.
Rand gets in a blow on Moridin’s arm, and asks if the Dark One punished him for thinking he was the Dark One. Moridin snarls back that he did, by bringing him back to life. He attacks, and Rand stumbles and goes to one knee.
Blade against blade. Rand’s leg slipped backward, and brushed the darkness behind, which waited like a pool of ink.
All went black.
Elayne is in a circle with twelve Kinswomen, but they are all so tired they collectively only have the strength of one Aes Sedai. Her army is exhausted and nearly surrounded by the southern Trolloc army.
“We almost managed,” Arganda said from beside her, shaking his head. “We almost made it.”
He wore a plume in his helmet. It had belonged to Gallenne. Elayne hadn’t been there when the Mayener commander had fallen.
Elayne knows that the Ogier have almost been overrun, their song breaking off one by one as they fall; the dragons are almost out of ammunition. The army fights on, but Bashere’s betrayal has shaken them. Elayne gathers her strength for one last attempt to defend against the Trollocs breaking through their lines, and is shocked when her volley hits with devastating force. Asha’man appear, reinforcing their lines, and a man Elayne is shocked to recognize as Logain rides up to her. She asks if Rand sent him, and Logain replies that they sent themselves.
“The Shadow has been planning this trap for a long time, according to notes in Taim’s study. I only just managed to decipher them.” He looked at her. “We came to you first. The Black Tower stands with the Lion of Andor.”
Elayne wants to order a retreat, but Logain counters that it will be a slaughter. Elayne snaps back that they have no other choice, unless he can produce a miracle for them. Logain smiles, and calls over a middle-aged Asha’man named Androl, accompanied by an Aes Sedai Elayne is startled to recognize as the Red sister Pevara. Logain asks Androl how much it will cost them for a miracle.
“Well, my Lord,” Androl said, rubbing his chin. “That depends. How many of those women sitting back there can channel?”
Elayne thinks back to the legends she had heard of the amazing feats accomplished by male and female channelers working together, but still has trouble comprehending it when she joins the circle of fourteen women and thirteen men, including Logain. She is puzzled when Androl leads the circle, even though he is extremely weak in the Power; he is astonished at the strength of the others in the circle, but asks that the soldiers move back. Elayne is worried, but gives the order, while the Asha’man not in the circle hold back the advancing Trollocs.
Androl smiled widely, and held his hands out in front of himself as if pressing against a wall. He closed his eyes. “Three thousand years ago the Lord Dragon created Dragonmount to hide his shame. His rage still burns hot. Today… I bring it to you, Your Majesty.”
Elayne watches in astonishment as Androl creates a massive gateway before them. The Trollocs break in horror before whatever is on the other side.
Something exploded out of the gateway, as if pushed by an incredible force. A column of lava a hundred feet in diameter, blazing hot. The column broke apart as the lava crashed down, splashing to the battlefield, gushing forward in a river. The Asha’man outside the circle used weaves of Air to keep it from splashing back on the circle and to shepherd it in the right direction.
The river of fire washed through the foremost Trolloc ranks, consuming them, destroying hundreds in an eyeblink.
Androl creates two other lava gateways to the southeast and southwest, carving huge swathes into the Trolloc ranks, before collapsing in exhaustion. He asks if that was miracle enough, and Elayne replies that it was, enough to give them a chance to regroup. Androl is surprised that she intends to continue fighting.
“Yes,” Elayne said. “I can barely stand, but yes. We cannot afford to leave that Trolloc horde here intact. You and your men give us an edge, Logain. We will use it, and everything we have, and we will destroy them.”
I ain’t gonna lie, I grinned so hard at this last scene even as I loved it, because all I could think was how the fans had been griping for forever (not without cause, mind you) about how the potential uses of gateways had never been fully explored in the series, and how as of this chapter they officially had nothing to complain about anymore, because lava.
LAVA. I’m just saying, everybody can go home now, because LAVA.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that a hundred-foot-wide gateway spewing lava is possibly one of the most awesome mental visuals provided in the entire series.
A little absurd? Yeah, probably. Do I care? No. Because, hundred-foot-wide gateway spewing lava, thank you, goodbye. Almost certainly one of the bigger Crowning Moments of Awesome in a book that is (eventually) chock-full of ‘em, and one that I would totally kill to see on film someday, even as I can’t quite help but wonder where Elayne even learned the term “lava.”
But, yay, Androl. I could kind of wish, sometimes, that he hadn’t sucked up quite as much screentime from already established characters in AMOL (for example, I would have loved a POV from either Nynaeve or Moiraine during their time in the Bore), but I definitely can’t deny that in spite of that I really do genuinely like Androl, as both a character and as a plot device.
Plus I do tend to agree that it’s only fair that Sanderson got at least one WOT character to claim as pretty much exclusively his own. I might forget I said that whenever I get particularly irate over whatever reunion/moment/tying of loose ends I wanted and didn’t get in AMOL, but for now it holds true.
Elyas’ appearance, I have to say, came as a total surprise to me. I knew something was fishy the moment Perrin couldn’t identify the wolf who led him to Graendal, but for whatever reason I never even once suspected the wolf was Elyas until the text flat-out revealed it. Sigh. I so rarely guess the twists ahead of time!
Speaking of wolves and popping in and out of dreams:
Elyas fades out of the dream, and Perrin shifts to the cavern, ready to defend Rand.
I’m quoting my own summary there, because on re-reading it kind of made me laugh at the amount of shared jargon it requires for that sentence to make even the slightest amount of sense. And yet it does make sense—as long as you’ve been here for the building up of all the relevant context. Which is pretty much the point.
It reminded me of a discussion I had once, about some of the problems that are more or less unique to the genre of SFF. And one of those is the danger of literalism. In more “literary” genres (whatever that means), you could perhaps get away with using a phrase like “her lungs burst with air” in a metaphorical sense, but any savvy SFF reader, on reading such a thing, is going to immediately be like “wait, her lungs burst? The hell?” because we are reading in a context in which something like that might actually happen, for various in-world-plausible reasons. And so the SFF reader’s first instinct is going to be to take that phrase (and others like it) at face value, rather than as a poetic representation of someone gasping for breath, because that’s not how we’ve been trained as readers.
In the same way, the SFF reader is also comfortable with the idea that a story will introduce them to a learned vocabulary of terms and phrases that have different meanings in the context of the particular story they are reading than they would in a “normal” setting. E.g., when I say in my summary that Perrin “shifts” somewhere in the wolf dream, and you all immediately know I mean something totally different than the idea that he just moves over a little—which is what that term would mean in almost any other context.
This is something long-term SFF readers hardly even think about, because of how acclimated they are to the practice, but it’s something that people who are unused to the genre can find incredibly baffling and/or frustrating. I do not understand these people, but I know they exist.
(I still remember how completely tickled I was when I realized that Richard Adams had spent 95% of Watership Down teaching his readers Lapine—the rabbits’ language—for basically the sole purpose of having a character at the end utter a filthy insult untranslated, and it was both a devilishly clever end-run around decency laws and a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the character involved. Best use of SFF constructed jargon ever, as far as I am concerned.)
Anyway, my point is… um. That mutually acquired SFF jargon is cool, and haters on that can shoo fly, don’t bother me. Yes, that.
Speaking of which, it looks like Rand has taken a header straight into the Heart of Darkness, more or less literally, and so things are about to get miiiighty interesting for Our Hero. Good scene, though I kind of wanted to ask Moridin why he didn’t just off himself if he was so pissed to still be alive. Granted, according to Moridin the Dark One would just raise him again, but at least he would have had a few days’ peace, right?
Minor but vaguely interesting note: this is the first time (that I recall) that there has been a scene break within a chapter that didn’t also include a POV switch. In other words, we have a scene from Elayne’s POV, and then a scene break, but we go back to Elayne’s POV instead of switching to someone else. It’s not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it is rather inconsistent with the pattern established thus far. Just saying.
Also: when I read Perrin’s estimation that two years had passed, in Randland, since the beginning of TEOTW to now, I couldn’t decide whether to be awed in the same way that Perrin was, or just amused that that’s how little time has gone by.
Also also: aw, Gallenne’s dead. That sucks. Not nearly as much as some of the deaths we’ll be getting later on, of course, but we’re just ramping up here, you know. Much more death to come! Whee!
And on that misleadingly cheery note, we out! Have a week, and I’ll see you the next time around!