Well, lookee what we have here. It’s a Wheel of Time Re-read, unless I’m sadly mistaken! And I am never mistaken! Nor do I ever lie!
…Yes, well. But nevertheless, welcome back to the Re-read, still flushed and winded a bit from the excitement of the release of the newest book as we are. Nevertheless, today we embark upon the tenth book in the series, Crossroads of Twilight.
I know, right? Double digits, yo! We’re actually making some progress here.
Today’s entry covers Part 1 of The Prologue of Crossroads of Twilight, which is the first of three parts, believe it or not, because that is how PSYCHO LONG the Prologue of this book is. Insert obligatory “Sheesh” here.
Previous re-read entries are here. The Wheel of Time Master Index is here, which has links to all of the above plus links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.
A note on spoiler policy: I feel slightly less justified in this than I did after TGS, because the hiatus between Towers of Midnight’s release and the Re-read starting up again is much shorter this time, but the fact remains that it was an immense struggle for me to provide worthwhile commentary on the Re-read posts that came after I read the advance copy of ToM, without giving anything away about the newest book, and I’m just not down with that, so I ain’t gonna do it no more.
So, ergo, this re-read post contains spoilers for all currently published Wheel of Time novels, up to and including Book 13, Towers of Midnight. If you haven’t read, read at your own risk. Sorry.
And I think that about exhausts the introductory possibilities, so on we merrily blunder to the post!
Prologue: Glimmers of the Pattern [Part 1]
Rodel Ituralde waits in the wintry forest with twenty armsmen, thinking of the chaos in Arad Doman, and how he could have quelled it long ago had it not been for King Alsalam’s senseless and contradictory orders that Ituralde had had no choice but to follow. He also worries that no one has seen the King since he was smuggled out of Bandar Eban, and that even the Council may not know where he is. He thinks, though, that the latest order Alsalam had sent is different.
For one thing, a Gray Man had killed Lady Tuva trying to stop it from reaching him. Why the Shadow might fear this order more than any other was a mystery, yet it was all the more reason to move swiftly. Before Alsalam reached him with another. This order opened many possibilities, and he had considered every last one he could see. But the good ones all started here, today. When small chances of success were all that remained, you had to seize them.
A scout approaches and reports that it looks as though all the men Ituralde had extended the White Ribbon to have accepted, and are waiting for him. Ituralde and his armsmen ride down to the hunting lodge that is the meeting place, Ituralde pretending a confidence he does not feel. Inside, he is met by Shimron, a Domani lord before he turned Dragonsworn. Shimron leads Ituralde to the ballroom, where some two hundred men wait, the Domani Dragonsworn staring suspiciously at the Taraboners and vice versa. Ituralde is pleased to see so many outlanders. One of the Domani, Wakeda, immediately voices his suspicion of Ituralde’s motives in offering parley. Ituralde ignores the insult and answers calmly that they have a greater common enemy: the Seanchan, who clearly intend to add Arad Doman to their list of conquests. Shimron comments that there are Aiel on Almoth Plain, and suggests that they were sent there by the Dragon Reborn to aid Arad Doman, but Ituralde replies that his intelligence tells him that the Aiel on the Plain are raiders, not an army, and they have not stopped the Seanchan advance. He shows them Alsalam’s letter and seal, and tells them the King orders him to gather as many men as he can and strike the Seanchan as hard as possible.
He took a deep breath. Here, he took another chance, and Alsalam might have his head on the block unless the dice fell the right way. “I offer a truce. I pledge in the King’s name not to move against you in any way so long as the Seanchan remain a threat to Arad Doman, if you will all pledge the same and fight beside me against them until they are beaten back.”
The men are all stunned. Finally, Shimron asks if the Seanchan can be beaten back, with their “chained Aes Sedai,” and Ituralde answers firmly that they can. After a moment of contemplation, Shimrod says that if anyone can beat them, Ituralde can, and pledges to join him. He is quickly followed with enthusiasm by the rest of the Domani, but one of the Taraboners points out loudly that he asks them to fight for Arad Doman. Ituralde counters that he asks them to fight for Tarabon, and asks the man if he thinks a small company of his men could take advantage of the confusion on Almoth Plain to slip into Tarabon, disguised as Seanchan conscripts. The Taraboners are incensed at this reminder of their nation’s capitulation to the Seanchan, and their spokesman wants to know what good one small company would do.
“Little good,” Ituralde replied. “But if there were fifty such companies? A hundred?” These Taraboners might have that many men behind them, all told. “If they all struck on the same day, all across Tarabon? I myself would ride with them, and as many of my men as can be outfitted in Taraboner armor. Just so you will know this is not simply a stratagem to get rid of you.”
The Domani protest this notion loudly, and the Taraboners argue among themselves, but the man who had spoken only nods, which tells Ituralde he is the de facto leader of the Taraboners. Relieved, Ituralde thinks of his hopes that once across the border, the Taraboners will insist on staying after the initial engagement, leaving him and his men to be hounded back across Almoth Plain by the enraged Seanchan.
With any luck, furious generals would not see where he was leading them until it was too late. And if they did… Well, he had a second plan.
Eamon Valda is riding through camp when he is startled by a sudden foul stench which then disappears just as quickly as it came; he assumes it’s from badly dug latrines. He reflects on the fall of Amador to the Seanchan a month gone, which he considers entirely the now-deceased King Ailron’s fault, and thinks he will do much better with nine thousand of the Children around him. He heads to the hut where Asunawa is staying, sneering inwardly at the luxuries the Chief Questioner demanded for himself but knowing he cannot move openly against him for now. Inside, Asunawa tells him he has reports of an Andoran army in Murandy; Valda is still bitter over the loss of Morgase and his plans for Andor through her, and answers that Murandy is very far off. Asunawa thinks it’s not too far if they cut east across Altara, but Valda reminds him that the witches’ army is in Altara—if they aren’t in Murandy themselves by now.
“Maybe this so-called Andoran army you’ve heard about is the witches, and their army! They gave Caemlyn to al’Thor, remember! And Illian, and half the east! Do you really believe the witches are divided? Do you?”
[…] Asunawa snapped the small book shut between his palms. His hands were folded as in prayer, but his deep-set eyes suddenly seemed hotter than the fire. “I believe the witches must be destroyed! That is what I believe!”
Valda would rather learn how the Seanchan “tamed” them, but their argument over this is interrupted by a guard, who tells them that the Council of the Anointed (meaning the ten surviving Lords Captain) has arrived. Asunawa reluctantly concedes the argument for the moment, and Valda reflects on the possibility that Asunawa might not be around to see the witches’ downfall.
Gabrelle rides through the woods near the Black Tower with Logain and Toveine, enjoying herself despite Toveine’s presence; after two weeks of living there she no longer puts “so-called” in front of the Black Tower’s name. She is deeply unsettled by the presence of Logain in her head, and his constant wariness.
She had never had a Warder—they were needless flamboyance for Browns; a hired servant could do all she needed—and it felt peculiar to be not only part of a bond, but at the wrong end of it, so to speak. Worse than simply the wrong end; this bond required her to obey, and she was hedged about with prohibitions. So it was not the same as a Warder bond, really. Sisters did not force their Warders to obedience. Well, not very often. And sisters had not bonded men against their will for centuries.
She reminds herself that Logain is not foolish enough to believe her or any of the other captive Aes Sedai to be complacent, or deterred from their original goal of destroying the Black Tower. To her surprise, Logain turns and gives both her and Toveine a reassuring smile; Toveine beams back at him, and Gabrelle wonders again at the Red’s utterly uncharacteristic behavior toward Logain. Gabrelle doesn’t think Desandre and Lemai’s order to achieve “cordial” relations with their Asha’man is sufficient to explain why Toveine practically “simpers” at him, any more than she understands why Logain isn’t more suspicious of Toveine’s friendliness, or for that matter why he seems less distrustful of any of the sisters than he is of his fellow Asha’man. Toveine then makes a seemingly innocent comment about how Gabrelle has made Logain “her captive,” and Gabrelle flushes at the reference to her seduction of Logain, though she tells herself that at the time it seemed a perfectly logical way to learn about his plans and weaknesses.
More fool, she. Playing the Domani turned out to hide many surprises, and a few pitfalls. Worst of all, a trap she could never reveal to anyone. Something she very much feared that Toveine knew, though, at least in part. But then, any sister who had followed her lead must know, too, and she thought several had. None had spoken of the problem, and none was likely to, of course. Logain could mask the bond, in a crude way she believed would still allow her to find him however well it hid his emotions, but sometimes when they shared a pillow, he let the masking slip. To say the least, the results were… devastating. There was no calm restraint, then, no cool study. Not much of reason at all.
The bond tells her Logain has sensed her train of thought and is very smug about it, which infuriates her; she notes that Toveine looks satisfied too. They are interrupted by another Asha’man named Mishraile, who inquires crudely if Logain is bedding them both. Logain warns him never to speak that way again, and Gabrelle is bitterly amused that he holds them prisoner and yet is ready to do violence to protect their reputation. Unfazed, Mishraile tells Logain the M’Hael gives permission, though he doesn’t understand why Logain wants to go recruiting. He supposes Logain is bored.
His smile slid into a smirk, disdainful and not at all winning. “Maybe if you ask the M’Hael, he’ll let you join his classes at the palace. You wouldn’t be bored then.”
Logain’s face never changed, but Gabrelle felt one sharp bolt of fury through the bond. She had overheard tidbits about Mazrim Taim and his private classes, but all any of the sisters really knew was that Logain and his cronies did not trust Taim or any who attended his lessons, and Taim appeared not to trust Logain.
Gabrelle thinks that the Aes Sedai had not been able to learn much of these classes, as none of them were bonded to a man in Taim’s faction, or what is the source of the division between Logain and Taim. Mishraile takes his leave with a mocking comment (“Glory waits for some of us, Logain”), and Logain muses aloud that Mishraile might not enjoy his Dragon long, as he is too free with his tongue. Gabrelle senses he is worried, and realizes a moment later that at least some of that concern is for her and Toveine. He tells them they’re heading back early; trailing behind, Toveine moves her horse close to Gabrelle’s to whisper that they must ensure they go with him to counter whatever “vileness” he’s planning. Gabrelle cuts her off sharply, and worries about what she senses from Logain now.
Something that had always been there in the connection with Logain—determination—now lay hard and sharp as a knife. She thought she knew what it meant, this time, and knowing made her mouth dry. Against whom, she could not say, but she was sure that Logain Ablar was riding to war.
So, I can already tell that COT is going to be… interesting to recap.
In retrospect, I’m going to make a prediction (er, that doesn’t make any sense, does it. Anyway) that my fears about which book was going to be the one that kills me in this blog series were completely misaimed. TPOD? Pfft. Cakewalk. This one? Erm.
Of course, that contains within itself the obvious point that I was actually wrong (mostly) about what TPOD was like to recap, so I don’t really know how much stock we should all put in my predictive powers of perspicuity (pitooee!), but nevertheless I’m feeling pretty confident in Foretelling that COT is going to be… not effortless, let’s just say, to get through.
I noticed the difference pretty much immediately, too. Jordan has throughout the series been a fan of what I think of as the “layered” reveal, by which I mean he liked to start most scenes partially in medias res, and then to jump back and forth narratively, usually through the medium of the POV character’s internal musings, on what happened in the bits we missed, to lead us up to where the scene started, and then continuing forward from there. By its very nature such an approach tends toward the byzantine, and Jordan’s gotten carried away with it before (e.g., the infamous “scarves” double-nested flashback in TEOTW), but this Prologue immediately, to me, stands out in the sheer labyrinthine density of the language. Not to mention the lengthiness of the descriptive passages.
I’m just saying, the first three sentences of my recap on the Valda scene above, for example? That covers over three pages of text. So, yeah.
At the time I first read COT, I told myself that my difficulty in getting through this Prologue (or, er, this book) was only proof that I was succumbing to Grumpy Old Fan Syndrome; you know, the thing where you’ve been so invested in the material for so long that when the next installment comes along it just becomes constitutionally impossible for the GOF to evaluate it objectively (read: not negatively). This was, as I recall, a very popular slam aimed at people in the fandom who declared themselves less than thrilled with COT when it was first released.
Further developments, however, have not borne this accusation out: just go read my days-old review of ToM if you don’t believe me, because if I was a Grumpy Old Fan when COT came out, I’m goddamned fossil fuel by now, and yet I had no problems liking the latest installment, so GOFS (due to receive a slot in the ICD any day now, I’m sure) is probably not the problem. Or at least, not all of it.
Which is rather unfortunate for COT, but something of a relief for the series as a whole, I think. Nevertheless, well, I think my point is, buckle up, gents, because it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy recap.
Yeah. So, on to specifics, eh?
Hi, Ituralde! Thanks for finally turning up, eh? Our man Ituralde, y’see, is the last to appear on screen (he was just stage right in LOC, but we never actually met him then) of the list of Great Generals in Randland (Jagad, Bashere, Bryne, Niall, and Ituralde) mentioned way the hell back in *mumblesomeearlierbook*, so I was pleased at his appearance here solely in an other-shoe-dropping kind of way, really.
I was also pleased, though, because he endeared himself to me instantly by formulating an it’s-so-crazy-it-just-might-work military plan that, for once, did not instantaneously fill me with foreboding dread—unlike some other Crazy Plan-ful people out there, Rand al’Thor. AND Ituralde came up with this plan based on a Forsaken’s evil misdirection! That’s pretty shiny, right there. Bet Graendal wasn’t exactly expecting that interpretation of her fake order, heh.
Other than that, it’s nice to see Arad Doman finally get a little cultural exposure, but there’s really not a whole lot else to say about it. So, bye, Ituralde! See you in the next book!
Valda: This man is a tool.
I feel I may have mentioned that before. I also feel that it merits mentioning again. Of course, Asunawa isn’t going to be winning the Miss Congeniality title anytime soon either, so really, this was a shiny happy scene filled with shiny happy people that together make me wish Randland had invented napalm.
Okay, not really. A Rolling Ring of Earth and Fire will do just fine. Let’s get on that, shall we? Or, I could just wait for Galad to happen to them, mwhahaha.
Other than that, I…don’t have a lot to say about this scene. Basically the purpose of it is to stick a pin in the map to show us where Lord Captain Commander Tool and his merry band of Loose Screws are relative to everyone else, in particular Perrin. The stench Valda smells will become relevant when we get to Perrin, as well.
Gabrelle: I continue to be profoundly irritated at this entire situation, not least because it’s been made impossible for me to write anyone involved off as the obvious villain in this (utterly messed-up) scenario. Not even Toveine, really, and definitely not Logain.
Even so, while I guess it’s nice that Gabrelle and Logain are at least getting some spectacular sex out of it, the underlying implications behind introducing sex into what is, at base, a hostage situation, no matter how altruistic Logain’s motives might be…well. There are some things, I find, I have a lot of trouble being practical about, or appreciating when the characters involved are being so either, and so maybe the less said about it all, the better.
As far as Taim’s “classes” go, AI YI YI, because holy crap, dude. And also, wow am I oblivious sometimes. Because, you know, I assumed from the moment they were first mentioned that these so-called “classes” were basically Darkfriend Recruiting 101, but somehow I never made the logical deduction that Taim might not be doing “recruiting” so much as bloody freaking impressment. Not until I read Androl’s POV in ToM, anyway. But now that I have, it’s so damn obvious that I want to kick myself. Because seriously, why would you bother trying to woo yourself Evil Minions when you can just set yourself up an assembly line (or assembly circle, whatever) and goddamn well crank them out? I mean, duh!
Also, yikes does not even cover it.
(I have to assume, tangentially, that there is some kind of limitation or handicap on the 13×13 trick, because otherwise I don’t understand how the entire Black Tower hasn’t been turned to the Shadow long since. Presumably we’re going to find out how that all works in—well, sixteen months or so, hopefully.)
I also have to wonder what exactly Logain thinks is going on. I originally was convinced that there was no way he could know the full truth of what Taim is doing, for the very simple reason he hasn’t already taken his followers and gotten the bloody hell out of Dodge at Ludicrous Speed. My ass would be so gone you wouldn’t even see the trail of smoke I’d leave behind, personally, because this is one draft I am perfectly fine with fleeing to Canada over, y’all. *shudder*
However, Gabrelle’s last line in the scene strongly suggests to me that not only does Logain know (or at least deeply suspects) about the recruiting (if not necessarily the forcible impressment part of it), but that he’s decided that rather than flee, the best thing to do about it is stay and fight it.
Which, okay, very noble, yes, and Min’s viewing of glory and all, ha-ha, joke’s on you, Mishraile. And I admit fighting The Man is certainly one way to go about getting said glory, even if I think Logain is batshit insane for staying within a hundred miles of this bullshit, but WHY, for the love of Mike, does it not occur to him to tell Rand about this? I don’t remember exactly what Logain says to Rand about the Tower when they briefly hang out in KOD, but I’m pretty damn sure he didn’t say anything even close to “and oh, by the way, I think Taim might be running a Dreadlord factory out of his home office and I could use some help BUSTING HIS EVIL ASS, HELLO.” I mean, does he really not think this might be the kind of thing the Dragon Reborn might possibly, you know, not be in favor of?
Yes, nobody trusts anybody, yadda yadda ad nauseum barf, but come ON. Could we all PLEASE stop being idiots for one bleeding second, WOT people, and just freakin’ talk to each other?
No? Well, fine! I’m taking my toys and going home, then! Maybe I’ll come back Friday—MAYBE. But I expect cookies! So there! Bye!