Aloha, citizens, and welcome to the Wheel of Time Re-read!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 36 through the end of Knife of Dreams, in which a ritual is belatedly completed, history is unwittingly (and bloodily) made, and a farewell is sorrowfully recalled.
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, including the newest release, Towers of Midnight.
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.
And now, the post!
Before we start, two things!
First, a scheduling note: in accordance with ancient tradition, I’m taking a wee break from blogging while we are between books. Ergo, there will be no Re-read post next Tuesday, Sept. 13th; we will resume with the start of TGS the following Tuesday, the 20th. Gotta gird my loins, y’see.
Second, our also-anciently-traditional last-post look at the artwork! Or, the one in which everyone but Galina needs to get a personal trainer, because sheesh. I’m really pretty sure Gaul is not supposed to look fat, you guys, but tall red-haired dude here looks like he has a damn beerbelly. And Perrin and Arganda don’t look much better. In fact, the best-looking character on this cover (Grady) is actually on the back, which hardly does much good.
Eh, no. This cover, in my opinion, plays to all of the artist’s weaknesses (people) and none of his strengths (architecture and landscapes, i.e. everything except people), ergo, no.
The heron pattern tapestry behind them is pretty, though.
Chapter 36: Under an Oak
Karede rides into the camp near the Malvide Narrows Ajimbura had found, wondering if he is walking into a deathtrap. He has only brought Ajimbura, Hartha, two other Gardeners, two soldiers, and Melitene, the High Lady’s der’sul’dam, with the damane Mylen, precisely because the former Aes Sedai could not use saidar as a weapon.
No, the weapons had been left with Musenge. If there was a battle today, it would be of a different sort.
The camp looks orderly, but Karede is surprised that there only seem to be seven or eight thousand soldiers in residence. They are met by a hard-faced man who comments that “Lord Mat” described their distinct armor to him, and asks why the Deathwatch Guard comes to their camp. Karede doesn’t know who this “Lord Mat” is, but introduces himself and asks to be taken to “the man who calls himself Thom Merrilin.” The man (Talmanes Delovinde) seems startled by the request, but agrees to take Karede to him. He leads them to an oak, under which are a number of people, including (to Karede’s amazement) Mistress Anan, the keeper of the inn he’d stayed at in Ebou Dar. Talmanes addresses the older man with the white mustaches, introducing Karede to him. Before Karede can say anything, they are interrupted by three women Karede can tell are Aes Sedai. One (Joline) addresses Mylen as “Sheraine” and demands her release, and the other two tell her it’s no use, but she ignores them, and then suddenly gasps. A young man in a wide-brimmed black hat rides up and demands to know what’s going on, but Karede only cares that the High Lady (and Selucia) are with him.
She spared him only one expressionless glance before returning to a study of the young man. Karede wondered whether she recognized him. Probably not. It had been a long time since he had served in her bodyguard.
Joline tells the young man (Mat) that the sul’dam has them shielded, and Karede finally recognizes him as Tylin’s Toy, though he thinks Mat is hardly pretty enough for that. To Karede’s surprise, Mat demands Melitene release the Aes Sedai and the Power too, and whatever Melitene tries to do to him evidently does not work; Karede wonders if he is an Asha’man, but that doesn’t seem to make sense. Mat insists that the Aes Sedai release saidar as well, to Joline’s irritation and Tuon and Selucia’s amusement. Karede takes his gamble and addresses Thom as “General Merrilin,” telling him Chisen will be here in two days with a hundred thousand men, while Karede himself has ten thousand, but if Merrilin lets him take the High Lady, Karede will let them escape unhindered. Everyone stares at him a moment, and then Merrilin tells him he is a gleeman, not a general, and the man he wants is Lord Matrim Cauthon. Karede is astonished. Cauthon calmly calls him on his bluff, telling him Karede has maybe a hundred and twenty men, not ten thousand, and Chisen can’t get there faster than five days, not two.
“The real question is this, though. Can you get Tuon to the Tarasin Palace safely?”
Karede felt as if Hartha had kicked him in the belly, and not only because the man had used the High Lady’s name so casually. “You mean to let me take her away?” he said incredulously.
“If she trusts you. If you can get her to the palace safely. She’s in danger till she reaches that. In case you don’t know it, your whole bloody Ever Victorious flaming Army is ready to slit her throat or bash in her head with a rock.”
Karede doesn’t understand his luck, but says he knows about the danger, and suggests they leave immediately. Cauthon asks Tuon if she trusts Karede to get her back to Ebou Dar; Tuon replies that she does, and asks Karede with a smile if he still has the doll she gave him.
“Forgiveness, High Lady. I lost everything in the Great Fire of Sohima.”
“That means you kept it for ten years. You have my commiseration on the loss of your wife, and of your son, though he died bravely and well. Few men will enter a burning building once. He saved five people before he was overcome.”
Karede’s throat tightened. She had followed news of him. All he could do was bow again, more deeply.
Cauthon tells him to take Tuon and Selucia as soon as she is ready, and orders Talmanes to roust the Band and get them ready to move.
“Matrim Cauthon is my husband.” the High Lady said in a loud, clear voice. Everyone froze where they stood. “Matrim Cauthon is my husband.”
Karede felt as if Hartha had kicked him again. No, not Hartha. Aldazar. What madness was this? Cauthon looked like a man watching an arrow fly toward his face, knowing he had no chance to dodge.
“Bloody Matrim Cauthon is my husband. That is the wording you used, is it not?”
This had to be a fever-dream.
Mat marches over to her and demands to know why now; he knew she was going to eventually, but she doesn’t act like a woman in love. Surprised, Tuon replies that perhaps eventually they will fall in love, but her marriage serves the Empire. She asks how he knew she would marry him, and Mat explains about the Aelfinn. Tuon accuses him of making things up, but Mat insists it’s the truth, backed up (somewhat) by Edesina. Mat demands again to know why, and she tells him of the damane Lidya’s fortune:
“’Beware the fox that makes the ravens fly, for he will marry you and carry you away. Beware the man who remembers Hawkwing’s face, for he will marry you and set you free. Beware the man of the red hand, for him you will marry and none other.’ It was your ring that caught my eye first.” He thumbed the long ring unconsciously, and she smiled. A small smile, but a smile. “A fox apparently startling two ravens into flight and nine crescent moons. Suggestive, wouldn’t you say? And just now you fulfilled the second part, so I knew for certain it was you.”
Mat finds this all grimly amusing, and comments that perhaps being ta’veren works on him as much as everyone else. He asks for a kiss before she leaves, but Tuon refuses, and offers to take him back to Ebou Dar with her instead, as he now has an “honored place” in the Empire. Sadly, Mat refuses as well, and tells her that she is not his enemy, but her Empire is. Tuon replies that he is not her enemy, but she serves the Empire. They are interrupted by Vanin, who gallops up to report that there is a force of some ten thousand Seanchan at a town five miles to the west.
“Thing is, they’re asking after fellows wearing armor like that.” He nodded toward Karede. “And rumor says the one of them that kills a girl that sounds a lot like the High Lady gets himself a hundred thousand crowns gold. Their mouths are dripping for it.”
Karede says he can slip by them, but Mat isn’t so sure, and Karede asks if Mat is going back on his word. Mat tells him, no, but he will need some of Karede’s men to draw them off.
Tuon says goodbye to Mistress Anan and leaves with Karede. She asks Karede what he thought of Matrim. Karede demurs that it is not his place, but Tuon insists.
“A good general. High Lady,” he replied without hesitation. “Brave, but not overly brave. He won’t get himself killed just to show how brave he is, I think. And he is adaptable. A man of many layers. And if you will forgive me, High Lady, a man in love with you. I saw how he looked at you.”
In love with her? Perhaps. She thought she might be able to come to love him. Her mother had loved her father, it was said. And a man of many layers? Matrim Cauthon made an onion look like an apple!
Tuon tells Karede that she will need to shave her head. Karede thinks it is better to wait until they are back at Ebou Dar, but Tuon tells him that if she dies, she will die as who she is. Karede smiles, and agrees.
Oh, look, a wedding! Oops, sorry, you blinked. Missed it. Too bad!
Heh. Well, at least we can scratch a couple more Prophecies off our list, right? And that’s two Superboys down, one to go, marriage-wise. I suspect, though, that Rand’s nuptials are going to prove a tad more, hm, complex than Mat’s proved to be. To say the least. Assuming he ever even has any, of course.
I freely admit I was a little dismayed by Tuon’s remark to herself that she didn’t love Mat, at least not yet. I think this is me being sappy and ridiculous, a little, because it’s actually completely reasonable that Tuon may only be in like with Mat in the short and rather tumultuous time they’ve been together. Especially considering that, as Tuon herself points out, she’s been conditioned to think of marriage as a political tool first and as a romantic affair (heh) only as a distant second, if that. The fact that Mat fell in love with her is actually the less likely of the two reactions, really.
So, okay, but I was still a little grumbly about it, mainly because I think it puts Mat at a distinct disadvantage. Differences in rank between two married people are whatever (certainly something well-adjusted people should be able to figure out how to handle), but differences in the level of commitment to the relationship itself is muy no bueno, sez me. That way trouble lies.
Ah, well, it’s kind of a moot point at the moment, anyway, until they meet up again, which is one of many things I am eagerly looking forward to in AMoL. And honestly, at the moment they both have much more urgent concerns anyway. Apocalypse avoidance and then couples’ counseling, that’s what I always say.
Karede: I really enjoyed his POV in this chapter. As always, I get a kick out of seeing Our Heroes from an outsider perspective, and the misunderstanding re: Thom was pretty funny. That’ll teach you to listen to a conspiracy nut, Karede.
Also, the moment with him and Tuon where he realizes she’s kept track of him was really sweet. I may have gone “Aw,” no lie.
Chapter 37: Prince of the Ravens
Mat worries about the weather as he waits for Vanin and some of the Deathwatch Guards to return. He is annoyed Aludra refused to stay behind and is working her metal lofting tubes herself, and notes the tensions between her and Musenge, Musenge and Leilwin and Bethamin and Seta, and between the Aes Sedai and everyone else.
Tuon. His wife. He was married! He had known it was coming, had known for a long time, but just the same Married. He should have felt different somehow, but he still felt like himself. He intended to keep it that way, burn him if he did not! If Tuon expected Mat Cauthon to settle down, to give up gambling or some such, she had another think coming. He supposed he would have to give over chasing after women, much less catching them, but he would still enjoy dancing with them. And looking at them. Just not when he was with her. Burn him if he knew when that would be. He was not about to go anywhere she had the upper hand, her and her talk of cupbearers and running grooms and marrying to serve the Empire. How was marrying him supposed to serve the flaming Empire?
Musenge approaches and respectfully asks Mat why the men are not finishing the trench Mat ordered dug, addressing him as “Highness.” Mat replies that he wants the enemy to assume they were caught with their defenses half-finished, to goad them into attacking. Musenge comments casually that he wishes they had more crossbowmen, mentioning that he’d heard Mat had as many as thirty thousand; Mat knows he is digging for information, and only answers that he has “enough”.
“As you say, Highness.” Musenge’s voice was so neutral he could have been commenting on the price of beans. Strange. He did not look like a diffident man. “I have always been ready to die for her.” There was no need for him to say which “her” he meant.
“I guess I am, too. Musenge.” Light, he thought he meant that! Yes, he did mean it. Did that mean he was in love? “Better to live for her, though, wouldn’t you say?”
Musenge withdraws, and Mat wonders what that “Highness” business was about, but supposes it is some strange Seanchan way of calling him a lord. Vanin’s party appears, riding hard, and Mat shouts for everyone to take position. He notes the “sling-men,” fifty men carrying slingstaffs and pouches containing Aludra’s new cylinders, line up in front of Aludra’s position, where she lights a slow match for each man. Vanin reports that the Seanchan are hard behind them, but likely to be fatigued from the run. Mat joins the Aes Sedai as the Seanchan appear, and Mat prays they are maddened enough by the temptation of a hundred thousand gold crowns to charge. The Seanchan sound the charge, and Mat orders the banner of the Red Hand to be unfurled for the first time. The Seanchan charge, and Aludra sends up the nightflower signal to Talmanes, who emerges with the horse from the forest and closes from behind. The crossbowmen engage, mowing down horses and soldiers, shooting in tandem ranks; the Seanchan return fire even from horseback, and Mat irritably tells Joline they could join any time, but Joline tells him she doesn’t feel in danger yet. Talmanes gets in range from behind and begins shooting from the rear, and then Mandevwin orders the sling-men to fire.
Sling-men along the western rank shifted their sling-staffs so they could touch the fuses coming from the stubby cylinders to the slow-matches held in their teeth and, as the volley lanced out from the crossbows, whipped their slings back and then forward. The dark cylinders flew more than a hundred paces to land among the on-rushing horsemen. The sling-men were already fitting more of the cylinders to their slings before the first fell. Aludra had marked each fuse with pieces of thread to indicate different burning times, and each cylinder erupted with a roar in a burst of flame, some on the ground, some as high as a mounted man’s head. The explosion was not the real weapon, though a man struck in the face was suddenly headless. He stayed upright in the saddle for three strides before toppling. No, Aludra had wrapped a layer of hard pebbles around the powder inside each cylinder, and those pierced flesh deeply when they hit. Shrieking horses fell to thrash on the ground. Riders fell to lie still.
Joline, Teslyn and Edesina finally join in the fight, and soon the entire contingent of Seanchan is decimated. Talmanes shouts triumphantly that not one man had tried to escape, and Hartha wades out into the carnage to see if he can find “the traitor.” Joline comments that Mat owes them a debt for getting Aes Sedai involved in a private war, and Mat thinks she’s crazy if she thinks he will agree. Musenge comments that it was the crossbows that settled this.
“Crossbows and men with heart. You never had more than this, did you, Highness.” That was not a question. “This and whatever losses you suffered.”
“I told you,” Mat said. “I had enough.” He was not going to reveal anything more to the man than he could not avoid, but Musenge nodded as if he had confirmed everything.
Hartha returns with the head of “the traitor,” and Musenge says “she” will be very interested to see this. Mat asks if Musenge knows the dead man, and Musenge confirms it, calling him “Highness” again.
“Look, would you stop calling me that? My name is Mat. After today, I’d say you have a right to use it.” Mat surprised himself by sticking out his hand.
That stone mask crumpled in astonishment. “I could not do that, Highness,” he said in scandalized tones. “When she married you, you became Prince of the Ravens. To speak your name would lower my eyes forever.”
Mat took off his hat and scrubbed fingers through his hair. He had told everyone who would listen that he did not like nobles, did not want to be one, and he had meant it. He still meant it. And now he bloody was one! He did the only thing he could. He laughed until his sides ached.
Ahahaha, Mat’s officially a noble. And not just any noble, but royalty, which is even better. That definitely rates a Nelson laugh or two.
Though he really should have assumed something similar, considering he just married a proto-Empress. I mean, c’mon, Mat, you really should have thought that one through.
I do wonder if he’s wrong about still being able to gamble and such once he and Tuon are back together. I would think being the consort to an Empress means your access to seedy taverns and such would probably be rather nil, but then again, the Seanchan are weird, so who knows. I kind of perversely hope that Tuon doesn’t care and lets him gamble all he wants. Though I suspect he’s shit out of luck about the ogling girls aspect of it, heh.
So that’s fun, but what’s really significant about this chapter is that, without anyone involved really realizing it, it marks a watershed moment in military history for Randland: the first deliberate use of (non-magical) explosives in battle.
On a very small scale, yes, but that’s how these things start, more often than not, and we’ll see it get bigger in ToM and, I’m pretty darn sure, in AMoL as well. Egwene’s Dream in COT told her that the world would change because of Mat’s innovation re: war, and she wasn’t wrong.
They’re a little behind the curve on this compared to real-world history, where I understand that something similar to Mat’s schrapnel grenades were in use from at least the 13th century and possibly much earlier than that, but it actually makes perfect sense to me that the development of that kind of technology would be delayed in a world where magic is both real and extremely effective as an offensive weapon. Necessity being the mother of blah blah blah, and all.
I used to think that this was a particularly big sign that part of the result of Tarmon Gai’don would be the elimination of the Source as an accessible force, i.e. the end of magic. One earth-shaking weapon falls just as another arrives to replace it, and all. However, Aviendha’s trip through the Way Forward Ter’angreal in ToM suggests strongly that actually, people will still be channeling just fine after the Last Battle is over, so I guess not. I’m not sure whether to be relieved by that or not.
So, bye, Mat! See you (briefly) in TGS!
Epilogue: Remember the Old Saying
Suroth and Galgan are discussing the situation in Arad Doman while Suroth plots how she will kill Galgan as soon as Elbar brings confirmation that Tuon is dead. They wear ashes to signify mourning, as the ship Semirhage mentioned has brought the news that the Empress is dead. Galgan flaunts his disrespect for Suroth by mentioning he’d had Tylee Khirgan raised to Lieutenant-General and the low Blood since she’d “dithered” over it. Suroth hisses that she commands the Forerunners, not him, but Galgan counters that the Return has subsumed the Forerunners, now. They are interrupted when Tuon enters with her escort, head shaven and ashes on her cheeks. Everyone kneels, and Suroth thinks that there is still time to kill Tuon before she declares herself Empress, but Tuon orders Karede to show them what Musenge brought her. Karede takes a severed head from a bag, and Suroth recognizes Elbar. She immediately prostrates herself, begging forgiveness for the traitorousness of her subordinate, but claiming no knowledge of it, hoping to have a chance to pin it on Galgan instead.
Tuon looked over Suroth’s head. She met Galgan’s eyes, and Abaldar’s and Yamada’s, and those of everyone of the Blood, but not Suroth’s. “It is well known that Zaired Elbar was Suroth’s man completely. He did nothing that she did not order. Therefore Suroth Sabelle Meldarath is no more. This da’covale will serve the Deathwatch Guard as they wish until her hair has grown enough for her to be decent when she is sent to the block for sale.”
Suroth never thought of the knife she had intended to use to open her veins, a knife beyond reach in her apartments. She could not think at all. She started screaming, a wordless howl, before they even began cutting her clothing off.
Pevara arrives via gateway before the entrance to the Black Tower with Javindhra, Tarna, and three other Red sisters (Jezrail, Desala, and Melare), who were the only other Reds Pevara thought had sufficiently good opinions of men to approach about the business of bonding Asha’man. Javindhra, who is only there because Tsutama had ordered it, wants to know where Pevara even learned the weave for binding Warders, but Pevara avoids telling her she’d asked Yukiri to show her, though she doubt Yukiri had suspected why she’d asked.
Pevara had convinced Tsutama that six would be enough to begin. Too, a larger party might cause some unfortunate reaction. After all, the whole Red Ajah appearing at this so-called Black Tower, or even half, might well make the men think themselves under attack. There was no telling how sane they all still were.
Pevara thinks the unfinished walls of the compound make the ostentatious gates look ridiculous, but the three Asha’man who confront them are not. The one with a silver sword pin, a Murandian, asks their business fairly politely, and Pevara answers they are here to see the M’Hael. He asks their Ajah, and she tells him, Red. He is startled, but only tells them to wait.
He turned his back, and the vertical silvery slash of a gateway appeared in front of him, widening into an opening no larger than a door. [ ] He darted through the gateway and closed it before she had a chance to see more than a white stone platform with steps leading up one side and a squared-off black stone that might have been one of the building blocks for the wall, polished till it shone in the sun, sitting atop it.
Desala notes that one of the other two Asha’man is little more than a boy, and tells him he should be at home with his mother, but the other (a Saldaean) tells her the boy (Saml al’Seen) is all right. Tarna remarks to Pevara, “no children,” and the others agree, which makes the Saldaean suspicious, but they do not elaborate. After half an hour, the Murandian returns and bids them go through; he says someone else will escort them, as the M’Hael “doesn’t associate with the likes of me.” Pevara et al go through the gateway, where they are met by a Tairen Asha’man with both sword and dragon pin, who curtly leads them through a smallish but richly decorated palace to what Pevara can only describe as a throne room. A hundred Asha’man line the walls.
Every man she could see wore the sword and the dragon, men with hard faces, leering faces, cruel faces. Their eyes focused on her and the other sisters.
Taim sits on a throne-like chair on a dais, and mockingly observes that six Red sisters are not likely to try to gentle them all. Pevara begins introducing herself and the others, but Taim cuts her off and demands to know what they want.
Outwardly, she was cool and calm. Inside, she wondered whether she would end the day forcibly bonded. Or dead. “We want to discuss bonding Asha’man as Warders. After all, you’ve bonded fifty-one sisters. Against their will.” As well to let him know they were aware of that from the start. “We do not propose bonding any man against his will, however.”
A blond man (Mishraile) begins to make a mocking comment about letting Aes Sedai “take any m-”, but something knocks him unconscious before he can finish the sentence, and the Aes Sedai are appalled that no one makes a move to help or Heal him. Taim is incredulous that Reds want to bond them, and Pevara says that Reds have experience with men who can channel. She ignores the angry mutters which follow, and continues that custom can be hard to change, but they have decided to change theirs.
Pevara blinked in spite of herself. “’Very well’?” She must have misunderstood him. He could not have been convinced so easily.
Taim’s eyes seemed to bore into her head. He spread his hands, and it was a mocking gesture. “What would you have me say? Fair is fair? Equal shares? Accept ‘very well’ and ask who will let you bond them. Besides, you must remember the old saying. Let the lord of chaos rule.” The chamber erupted with men’s laughter.
Pevara had never heard any saying like that. The laughter made the hair on the back of her neck try to stand.
I think I speak for us all when I say:
Like, for reals, you guys. This is like that one time in that Indiana Jones movie, with being trapped in the temple? And the snakes everywhere and the torches going out? Yeah, totally like that.
No, I do not know why I have lapsed into Valley girl. It’s a condition, I’m working on it.
But yeah, safe to say I think this may be one of the more tense, eek-inducing scenes in WOT, at least from my perspective. The first time I read it I wanted to scream at Pevara to get the hell out of there. Ay yi yi.
It was nice to get real confirmation at last, though, that Taim was definitely a Darkfriend, instead of just an asshole. Though he’s that, too, of course. I mean, not that I really had much doubt on that score before this (at least once the Taimandred theory had been decisively debunked), but it’s always more satisfying (or something) to get it directly from the horse’s mouth.
After what we learned from ToM, of course, now I have to wonder how many of Taim’s lackeys in there (over a hundred, YIKES) became Darkfriends by choice, and how many were forcibly turned to the Dark Side. And hey, while I’m at it, now I’m also wondering whether the Darkfriend Asha’man we’ve met before this—like Kisman and Rochaid et al—were 13×13’d too.
Huh. Not that it makes any qualitative difference at this point, I suppose, but still. Huh.
The black stone: I quoted that bit because it tickled my memory and I initially couldn’t put my finger on why, but then I remembered one of Egwene’s Dreams from ACOS:
Logain, laughing, stepped across something on the ground and mounted a black stone; when she looked down, she thought it was Rand’s body he had stepped over, laid out on a funeral bier with his hands crossed at his breast, but when she touched his face, it broke apart like a paper puppet.
I’ve always assumed that the fakely-dead “paper puppet” Rand here referred to Rand’s not-at-all-Christlike “death” and resurrection. Which could very well be the case, but assuming the stone referred to here is the same one in the Black Tower palace (which I further assume is the same one Rand used to address the Asha’man on one of the like TWO TIMES he’s ever set foot in the damn place), I tentatively offer the possible alternate interpretation that Taim is actually the “paper puppet Rand” in Egwene’s dream.
Because he is sort of like the poor man’s Dragon, isn’t he? Wanting to be Rand but never can be, etc. And then Logain smites him most righteously and becomes the new leader of the Asha’man and has glory and stuff, et voilá.
I much prefer this interpretation, really. Mainly because that way, Logain isn’t a dick who’s all laughing about the savior of the world being possibly dead. Laughing about Taim being dead, on the other hand, that’s a merriment I can get behind, you know?
Oh, and also, Suroth goes down, and ain’t getting up. Couldn’t happen to a nicer gal.
And thus ends Knife of Dreams, and the end of an era. Though we didn’t know it at the time, this would be the last book Robert Jordan would publish before his untimely death in 2007.
Just as, I’m sure, everyone currently reading this, I still remember my shock at the news of his passing, and the great sadness I felt. His death would have been tragic under any circumstances, but it was doubly so, I thought, that he had not had the chance to finish what by any definition must be considered his life’s work.
But if I may, I’d like to quote my own reaction from the day after it happened, which is as true today as it was then:
I’m sad that he died without finishing what must be called his opus, but I’m not sad that he started it and got as far as he did. How many of us will create so much in our own lifetimes?
I’m glad I got to meet him. I’m glad I got to tell him that his books indirectly changed my life, by leading me to a strange new world called Usenet, and a group called rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan, where I made friends I still have today and will (I pray) always have, and went on adventures I never would have otherwise, and learned things that life ought to teach you but often doesn’t.
The Wheel of Time may never be held up as a great classic of literature [though, I add from the future, I think that may qualify as an oversight]. But I’m not sure that’s particularly relevant. The purpose of art, in my opinion, is to create reaction. It is supposed to affect the recipient in some way, whether that way be joy, awe, shock, laughter, sadness, fury – whatever. It should create discussion, it should move people to feel about it. It should alter the viewer/reader/listener’s life, even if only in a tiny way.
By that criteria, the Wheel of Time has been one of the single most influential pieces of art in my life.
Requiscat in Pace, Mr. Rigney. You will be missed.