The Wheel of Time Reread

The Wheel of Time Reread: A Memory of Light, Part 24

Wheel of Time Reread, yo!

Today’s entry covers Chapter 24 of A Memory of Light, in which we have awful nomenclature, awesome nomenclature, and a celestial sync-up session.

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.

Also, for maximum coolness, the Wheel of Time reread is also now available as an e-book series, from your preferred e-book retailer!

This reread 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 24: To Ignore the Omens

What Happens
Fortuona watches her husband give orders to their forces, and asks Beslan whether he will follow Matrim’s edict to remain behind. Beslan is reluctant, but agrees; Fortuona does not miss Selucia’s pointed comment that Beslan is learning, unlike some other men, but reflects that teaching Matrim “restraint” will be “difficult.”

Matrim baffled the Blood. That was good, as it kept them off balance. But he also represented disorder, with his random ways and constant stabs at authority. Fortuona represented order, and she had married chaos himself. What had she been thinking?

Matrim yells at Yulan and Savara in turn and storms off. Galgan approaches, and Fortuona reflects that she still doesn’t know what to do with the fact that, unlike Galgan, Matrim is not both an ally and a rival. She is uneasy that he will not act as “the knife to her throat” to keep her strong, but is loathe at the idea of putting him aside, at least not until she has gotten with child by him. Galgan is not pleased at Matrim’s interference with the armies, not least because Fortuona has failed to clarify exactly where Matrim fits in the command structure.

Great change. Her decisions could end her rule and, indeed, the Empire itself. Matrim did not understand that.

She has Matrim summoned, and he fails to prostrate himself like everyone else when she stands. Galgan is pleased, thinking she will punish Matrim, but instead she gives him a new name, Knotai, and the rank of Rodholder, which means that if Galgan falls, Knotai would replace him. Knotai decides he likes the name and leaves, and Fortuona thinks that he doesn’t even realize how her decree helped him, for now Galgan will be unable to leave him out of critical battle planning or ignore his advice.

This is bold, Selucia said. But what if he fails?

We will not fail, Fortuona replied, for this is the Last Battle.

Then Knotai comes back to report that Egwene’s army is in trouble, and they need to move immediately. Yulan confirms that the marath’damane’s army has suffered a great defeat from a new force, and are currently exhausted and in disarray. Fortuona thinks of how capturing those hundreds of channelers could ensure her victory in Seanchan. Knotai clearly sees where her thoughts are going.

“You gave your word,” Knotai said softly.

“I signed a treaty,” she said. “Any treaty can be broken, particularly by the Empress.”

“Some empresses might be able to do that,” Knotai said. “But not you. Right? Light, Tuon. You gave him your word.”

Order in one hand—something known, something she could measure—chaos in the other. Chaos in the form of a one- eyed man who knew Artur Hawkwing’s face.

Had she not just told Selucia she would bet upon him?

Fortuona orders Galgan to move to protect the White Tower’s forces. Relieved, Knotai goes back to planning. Fortuona knows Galgan views her decision as an error, but she thinks she has the omens on her side.

Lan watches the clouds as the Trollocs gather for another assault, and reflects gloomily that for all their success against them, it has still not been enough: there will be no aid from Elayne’s forces, as hard-pressed as they are, and they will soon be trapped and destroyed. The sky darkens, and Lan thinks of how Nynaeve had entered the Pit of Doom with Rand al’Thor earlier that day. Andere curses at the darkness, but soon it passes. Lan orders the High Guard of Malkier—those who consider themselves his personal bodyguards—to gather for the coming assault.

Their orders arrived from Agelmar. Lan and his men would be in the very thick of the attack. Once the Trollocs charged, the heavy cavalry would hit the flanks to break up their momentum. Lan and his men would hit the creatures face- on.

As Lan preferred it. Agelmar knew better than to try to coddle him.

Lan reflects that Agelmar had been complaining of bad dreams lately, but thinks that anyone in his position would be having bad dreams. Lan orders his company forward.

Elayne’s army has beaten the Trollocs to Cairhien, but Elayne is worried about the outcome, for the soldiers and her channelers both are exhausted. She prepares to make her speech to the army, but the sun goes dark, to everyone’s dismay. Elayne hears cries of despair from her troops and goes into a speech unlike the one she had planned. She tells them she will not reassure them of victory, but tell them that victory must be won, or else the land will die.

“If we are to have the Light again, we must make it ours! We must reclaim it and cast out the Shadow! He seeks to make you despair, to win this battle before it begins. We will not give him that satisfaction! We will destroy this army before us, then destroy the one behind. And from there, we bring our blood— our life, our fire, our passion— to the others who fight. From there it spreads to victory and the Light!”

The troops salute her with solemn determination. Birgitte and Elayne have a fight over whether she will participate directly in the battle, and Birgitte is shocked when Elayne threatens to sever their bond rather than sit this one out. They position themselves near Aludra and her dragons, and when the battle begins, Elayne is astonished and frightened at the weapons’ destructive power.

What would it be like for men to have to face this kind of power?

We’ll make sure it doesn’t happen, she told herself. The Light bless Rand for forcing that peace upon them.

The volleys end as the lines meet, and Elayne and Birgitte head into the fray.

Ituralde reflects that he was going to lose this battle, but he is determined to do it with style. He is relieved when the darkness stops and the sun reemerges. He is above the bottleneck pass into the valley, observing the terrain. He goes to meet with Zaida din Parede Blackwing, Mistress of the Ships of the Sea Folk, who tells him the Windfinders say the attack has begun.

“The Bringer of Gales,” Zaida said, looking toward the sky, the sun slowly emerging from that solid blackness. The dark clouds rumbled and churned. “The Father of Storms. He would destroy you with the force of his ire.”

Ituralde asks if they can handle it, and Zaida tells him that their use of the Bowl of Winds is the only reason they haven’t been swept away already. She chides him that he must protect the Coramoor; he agrees and leaves her. A signal comes to indicate the Trollocs have entered the pass, and he goes with King Alsalam to his chosen watchpoint on the ridge. The sight reminds him of Maradon, and he thinks that it takes a toll, always fighting losing battles. Alsalam calms him, though, and he determines to do his best. The Aiel roll flaming logs into the pass, and Ituralde thinks he had never been satisfied to see his enemy die before, but he was now.

This was different. Ituralde wanted to see those beasts dead. He lusted after it. Without them, he’d never have been forced to suffer the nightmare at Maradon. Without them, his hand wouldn’t shake when the horns of war sounded. They’d ruined him.

He’d ruin them in return.

The Trollocs fight past the burning logs and reach the next defenses, huge piles of brambles. When the front ranks are firmly snarled up in the thorns, the Aiel above the pass begin rolling down boulders and more burning logs on top of the Shadowspawn. The few channelers not with Aviendha or running supplies also join in, blasting them apart. The Fades whip the Trollocs into a stampede, trampling those trapped in the thorns in front and forcing them over the corpses, only to come to another, bigger bramble abatis (the second of seven total), which causes the Trollocs to balk. Mass confusion reigns and the bombardment from above continues. Ituralde turns away as the Trollocs break and flee back up the pass. He knows they will be back the next day, better prepared.

They’d still bleed. Bleed dearly.

He’d make certain of it.

Well, Ituralde has certainly gone to a dark place, hasn’t he? No pun intended. Ba-doom shh.

I can’t decide whether I’m supposed to be assuming that his PTSD-like symptoms are Graendal-induced, mostly because it seems like having flashbacks to Maradon is a perfectly reasonable reaction for him to have without any outside influence. But I can’t see, at this point, any other way in which he might be screwing up, because the fish-in-a-barrel approach to the defense of the valley seems to be working just fine so far.

Of course, it’s early yet. I don’t really remember how this all goes down, but I’m sure at some point it’s going to go badly for Team Light. Because them’s the rules, dontcha know.

Anyway, I was oddly gratified to learn in this chapter that the age-old tactic of “put really sharp stabby things in front of your enemy and force them to go through them” actually has a name for the sharp stabby things, because I had not known that before. Abatis! I like new words. I also like when the relation of the word to similar ones is immediately obvious: abatis, abbatoir, etc. Etymology!

I was also gratified, if somewhat startled, to see that the Bowl of the Winds gets to be a Chekhov’s Boomerang (don’t click that), and also that the Sea Folk are actually going to get something to do in the Last Battle. Well, the channeling portion of them, anyway. I guess the rest of them are just hanging out on their ships?

Moving on to Elayne, I thought her speech was very nice, but I just have to quote this bit re: dragons again:

What would it be like for men to have to face this kind of power?

We’ll make sure it doesn’t happen, she told herself. The Light bless Rand for forcing that peace upon them.

Oh, Elayne, you sweet summer child.

That is seriously the most naïve thing I think I’ve heard anyone say in this book—possibly in the whole series. You’d think a queen raised to rule would know to be so much more cynical than that.

I can’t remember whether Aviendha told her about the (now-averted) future she saw, but even if not, surely the mere existence of the Seanchan, and Tuon’s refusal to regard channelers as people instead of as attack-cattle, is a screaming red flag to indicate that the Dragon’s Peace is going to be a tenuous thing at best, and practically guaranteed to fall apart once the Last Battle has passed out of living memory.

(As an aside, a friend of mine recently observed that this is what is about to happen to us regarding World War II. He finds that idea ominous; I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but on reflection I think I agree with him.)

Anyway. Speaking of the Seanchan:

Beslan kept eyes forward. He was impetuous, often governed by his emotions, but no more so than the other Altarans. They were a passionate people, and were making a fine addition to the Empire now that they were properly tamed.

Yep, they still suck. And Tuon is still the Empress of Suck. “Tamed.” Ugh.

She also picks the worst names ever. Maybe it’s just my knee-jerk attachment to the name “Mat,” but I tend to doubt it. I’m pretty sure I would have thought “Knotai” was a horrible ridiculous name no matter who it was applied to. Seriously, every time I see it all I hear is “Not I!”, and it’s driving me NUTS. Couldn’t Tuon have just given him the Rodholder rank and left his perfectly good name alone?

Fortunately, Mat (sorry, I refuse to refer to him as “Knotai” when I don’t have to) is there to counteract Tuon’s suckiness, otherwise we’d all be screwed. Which is, as far as I can tell, the only reason he’s there in the first place. Which great in the grand scheme of things, I guess, but I can’t help but feel like Mat got handed a seriously raw deal with where he ended up.

Not rawer that Rand’s, of course, because that’s the unquestioned champion of raw deals, but how come Perrin gets to (eventually) go back to his hometown and rule actual sane people, with a wife who actually loves him, and Mat gets this hot mess?

Sigh. Oh well.

I did rather like the notion that Mat was the chaos to Tuon’s order, even though I’m not a hundred percent sure the analogy holds up under close examination. Certainly the rigidity of Seanchan culture could be equated to “order”, but the actual total disarray of the empire would seem to contradict that—not to mention my instinctive aversion to equating “inflexible intolerance” to “order.” Similarly, Mat is only “chaotic” up to a point; once it gets down to brass tacks (i.e. a battle), Mat is more obsessive about “order” than anyone. You only have to think back to that chapter in LOC where we learn about the strict discipline and organization of the Band under Mat’s command to know that.

*shrug* Or, maybe that’s the point. Yin and yang each having an element of the other, and all that. Could be.

Also, Lan was in this chapter. The only reason he was, though, was so that we could check in with all the major battlefronts and coordinate where they are when the eclipse happens—i.e. when the Last Battle really, truly begins, no takesies-backsies.

So, the eclipse did have a little more to do in the story than I initially assumed, but… yeah, I still found it a little anticlimactic, sorry. I also would have thought the eclipse would have lasted for longer or shorter amounts of time depending on how far the observer was from Shayol Ghul, but that’s kind of impossible to tell from the way the passages in this chapter were written. Like, if time is really slowing down as you get closer to the epicenter, shouldn’t the eclipse have seemed to take forever to Ituralde as opposed to Elayne? (Apparently either the Seanchan scene is not quite on the same timeline as the other POVs, or they just didn’t notice the eclipse at all?)

*shrug* Time dilation, man. Amirite?

And with that brilliant and deep observation, I leave you, my chickies! Try not to melt (August, you are FIRED), and I’ll see you next Tuesday!


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