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love the Wheel of Time Reread!
Today’s entry covers Chapter 42 of A Memory of Light, in which I obsessively question minor character disposition, and celebrate one of WOT’s most Kickass Chicks, because she is awesome and no one can say me different.
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!
Before we begin, scheduling note: Once again, JordanCon 6 doth approacheth, and I will be there! And as usual, I will be blogging my wacky con experiences for your enjoyment and/or befuddlement right here on Tor.com, so keep a weather eye out. I look forward to seeing a whole bunch of the Rereaders there!
As a result of that, of course, there will be a break in the Reread posting schedule. There will be no Reread post on Tuesday April 15th, but there will be a post next week (the 8th), because this one got unexpectedly truncated for reasons. Sorry ‘bout dat.
And, yeah. Onward!
Chapter 42: Impossibilities
The world trembles as Aviendha dodges Graendal’s balefire desperately. She sees an odd mist entering the valley, and Trollocs fighting other Trollocs while others run from the mist. She sees rocks floating and the ground running like water, swallowing up horsemen, and thinks it is a bubble of evil, but on a grand scale. Amys finds Aviendha and they agree to try flanking the Forsaken from either side. She sees plants suddenly sprouting everywhere, and lightning strike and then freeze into columns of glass.
As she crept, she heard a low thrumming sound coming from the mountain. […] Above, the white and black clouds swirled together, white on black, black on white.
[…] Those clouds above formed a pattern that looked familiar. Black on white, white on black . . .
It’s the symbol, she realized with a start. The ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai.
Under this sign… shall he conquer.
Aviendha held tightly to the One Power. That thrumming sound was him, somehow. The life growing was him. As the Dark One ripped the land apart, Rand stitched it back together.
If Rand fights on, she decides, so shall she. She finds Graendal dueling with Cadsuane and Alivia, but then she is attacked by an Aiel, and kills him with Fire. Amys joins the fight, but Aviendha is riveted by the corpse of the man she has just killed, who she realizes with horror is Rhuarc.
Mishraile wants to run, never having bargained on fighting against Heroes of the Horn, but Alviarin won’t have it; Mishraile is furious that she is in charge. She sends Mishraile and six others to the last location of dragonfire despite his protests, and Mishraile begins planning to kill the others and make his escape. As they search for the residues of the gateway the dragoneers had used, Donalo whispers that this is a trap, and Mishraile considers allying with him long enough to escape and then killing him as well, but then they see:
A tall man, with red-gold hair. A familiar man, scored with cuts, his clothing burned and blackened. Mishraile gaped and Donalo cursed as the Dragon Reborn himself saw them, started, then fled back across the plateau. By the time Mishraile thought to attack, al’Thor had crafted a gateway for himself and escaped through it.
Donalo shouts to Alviarin what they had seen, and says he can track the resonance of his gateway enough to know where he went. Alviarin assumes he was the one who defeated Demandred, and wonders if they should go after him, but Mishraile points out that he looked exhausted. Donalo opens a gateway to where the Dragon’s had gone, and Alviarin decides they will go after him. They emerge in a place Mishraile doesn’t recognize, and see the Dragon, who cries out and tries to run. Mishraile is triumphant, and moves to attack.
A moment later they stopped running.
It hit Mishraile like a wave of cold water — like running face-first into a waterfall. The One Power vanished. It left him, just like that.
He stumbled, panicked, trying to figure out what had happened. He’d been shielded! No. He sensed no shield. He sensed… nothing.
Then Ogier step out of the trees, and Mishraile realizes they are in a stedding. He sees that “al’Thor” is actually Androl in disguise. The others try to fight, but Mishraile doesn’t bother, overwhelmed by the loss of saidin.
Androl and Pevara warn the Ogier elder Lindsar that their prisoners are very dangerous, but Lindsar says they will not be killed, but rather kept prisoner in the stedding. She opines that perhaps “a few decades of peace” will change their outlook. Androl hopes that someday a way will be found to free Donalo and the others from their Turnings, and they leave, only to see that the ruins outside the stedding, where the Caemlyn refugees have gathered, are now being overrun with Trollocs.
Aviendha is nearly overwhelmed with grief for Rhuarc, but Rand’s determination, felt through the bond, bolsters her own, and she shakes it off. She sees that Graendal is holding her own against Cadsuane, Amys, Alivia, and Talaan. She prepares a spear of Fire, Air, and Spirit, and charges. Graendal tries to balefire her, but Aviendha cuts the weaves. Talaan and Cadsuane attack from the flanks, distracting the Forsaken, but then she erupts the earth under Aviendha as she runs forward.
So she leaped.
The ground exploded, rocks flying upward as the blast threw her forward into the air. Stones flayed her legs, carrying ribbons of blood up through the air around her. Her feet were ripped apart, bones cracking, legs burning.
She gripped the spear of fire and light in two hands amid the storm of rock, skirt rippling as it shredded. Graendal looked up, eyes widening, lips parting.
[…] Aviendha met the Shadowsouled’s eyes during that brief moment when she hung in the air, and she saw true terror therein.
The air began to warp.
Aviendha’s spear, point first, sank into Graendal’s side.
In a moment, both of them vanished.
So a bunch of things happened here that when I first read them I almost didn’t realize they happened, and then I went back and was like, “wow, okay, I wasn’t crazy; that happened.”
First and foremost, of course, was Rhuarc’s death, the near off-handedness of which upset me, but more for narrative than visceral reasons. Because, it’s not even that I think his death should have had more space devoted to it, because we’re in the homestretch here and I get it, but it was more that I really felt like the sequence of events should have happened in the opposite order than they did. Meaning that I really wanted Aviendha to have recognized her attacker was Rhuarc before she killed him, rather than after.
This may seem like an incredibly nitpicky point, but think about it: how much more would that have upped the narrative tension and emotional resonance if Aviendha would have had to consciously decide to kill Rhuarc, as opposed to killing a random Aiel thrall and only realizing afterward who he was? It was even set up earlier with Aviendha’s thoughts about how any of the Aiel under Graendal’s Compulsion would thank her for killing them; seeing that one of those thralls was Rhuarc would have provided a perfect opportunity to put that conviction to the test on Aviendha’s part. Ergo, character development, plus the opportunity for Rhuarc’s death to actually mean something, even if only to Aviendha. Oh well.
Second was the equally offhand disposition of Alviarin. And Mishraile and so forth, but I don’t really give a crap about anyone else in this scene besides Alviarin, so whatever with them, it’s mainly Aliviarin I’m upset about. Because as far as I can recall, this is literally the first time we’re seeing Alviarin since she escaped the White Tower in TGS, and then when she does finally show up, she… does one (stupid) thing and gets captured, and is now apparently going to spend the rest of her days being tortured by Ogier lugubriousness.
Um. Cause, you know, I’m not saying that’s not a good punishment or anything, but I was really clinging to my hope that Alviarin was going to end up the female/White Tower equivalent to Taim/M’Hael (i.e. also a new Forsaken) and have some kind of significant role in the Last Battle proceedings, and that… totally didn’t happen, apparently.
It’s probably worth mentioning that at least part of my disappointment here is due to the torpedoing of one of my own personal favorite semi-looney theories. Which was, of course, that Leane was going to be the one to take Alviarin out, because symmetry. I’m not mad that that didn’t happen in AMOL, exactly, but I still am kind of wistfully disappointed that it didn’t happen. Because that would have been so cool, you guys. Oh well.
(Is Leane even still alive at this point? I have no idea, but I feel sure someone will be able to tell me in the comments whether she is or is not dead, because y’all are valuable resources like that.)
Also, FYI: Androl is super sneaky, y’all. Although I thought that reading residues was actually a pretty rare Talent to have, thus greatly reducing the chances of Androl’s ruse actually working, but maybe that’s one of the things that’s changed since it was “rediscovered”? *shrug*
Also also: anyone who doesn’t think Aviendha is seriously badass needs to have their head examined, because wow. ‘Cause, here I am thinking I have a legitimate complaint just because half of one toenail got ripped off, and here’s Aviendha being like I DON’T EVEN NEED MY ENTIRE LOWER HALF TO STAB YOU, BEEYOTCH. Step back and admire, y’all. Or cringe in sympathetic horror, whichever, because OW.
And here’s where we stop! Have a week, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!