With penultimate cheer, I welcome you back to the Wheel of Time Reread!
Today’s entry covers Chapters 47, 48, and 49 of A Memory of Light, in which conflicts are resolved, a revelation is reached, and an Age is ended.
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 ebook series, from your preferred ebook retailer!
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 47: Watching the Flow Writhe
Her feet ruined, Aviendha weakly fends off Graendal’s weave as she tries to drag herself to the gateway. Graendal is not much better than she, dazed with blood loss, but she keeps attacking, and begins the weave for Compulsion. In desperation, Aviendha begins unweaving the gateway, hoping for an explosion like when Elayne had tried the same thing in Ebou Dar, to take both her and the Forsaken out.
“What are you doing?” Graendal demanded.
Aviendha picked faster, and in her haste, picked at the wrong thread. She froze, watching the flow writhe, setting off the others near it.
Graendal hissed, and began to set the Compulsion on Aviendha.
The gateway exploded in a flash of light and heat.
Shaisam engulfs the battlefield, searching for al’Thor, but hesitates when a piece of him goes blank. He searches for it, and finds a corpse on the field that looks oddly familiar.
The corpse’s hand reached up and grabbed Shaisam by the throat. He gasped, thrashing, as the corpse opened its eye.
“There’s an odd thing about diseases I once heard, Fain,” Matrim Cauthon whispered. “Once you catch a disease and survive, you can’t get it again.”
Shaisam struggles, dropping the dagger. Cauthon tells him he’s come to “give you your gift back”, and considers their debt paid in full. Then he stabs Shaisam in the heart with the dagger.
Tied to this pitiful mortal form, Mordeth screamed. Padan Fain howled, and felt his flesh beginning to melt from his bones. The mists trembled, began to swirl and shake.
Together they died.
Perrin finds Gaul wounded and nearly spent, but still on guard outside the cave entrance. He assures Perrin that no one passed him, and the Car’a’carn is safe.
“You did well, my friend,” Perrin replied. “Better than anyone could have expected. You have much honor.”
He shifts Gaul and himself to the Two Rivers camp in Merrilor and then the waking world. Grady is astonished, and demands to know how Perrin did that, but Perrin ignores him, fighting a battle with himself. He wants to search for Faile, but Rand is unguarded in the dream now.
He had to go look for her, didn’t he? Wasn’t that his duty, as her husband? Couldn’t someone else look after Rand?
But… if not him, then who?
Though it ripped him apart, Perrin sought the wolf dream one last time.
Moridin picks up Callandor, and laughs to discover that it can amplify the True Power as well as the One Power. Rand yells at him that it is death to channel the True Power here; Moridin shouts back that it is the oblivion he seeks, and he will take Rand with him. Rand thinks on how Min had been the one to discover why he had needed such a flawed and dangerous weapon, and as Moridin begins to draw on Callandor, he yells “Now!” to Nynaeve and Moiraine. The two women seize control of Moridin, exploiting that flaw, and link with Rand, directing the flow of all three Powers—saidar, saidin, and the True Power—to him, which he directs at the Dark One.
Rand punched through the blackness there and created a conduit of light and darkness, turning the Dark One’s own essence upon him.
Rand felt the Dark One beyond, his immensity. Space, size, time… Rand understood how these things could be irrelevant now.
With a bellow — three Powers coursing through him, blood streaming down his side — the Dragon Reborn raised a hand of power and seized the Dark One through the hole in Shayol Ghul, like a man reaching through water to grab the prize at the river’s bottom.
The Dark One tried to pull back, but Rand’s claw was gloved by the True Power. The enemy could not taint saidin again. The Dark One tried to withdraw the True Power from Moridin, but the conduit flowed too freely, too powerfully to shut off now. Even for Shai’tan himself.
So it was that Rand used the Dark One’s own essence, channeled in its full strength. He held the Dark One tightly, like a dove in the grip of a hawk.
And light exploded from him.
Chapter 48: A Brilliant Lance
Elayne stands among countless corpses, watching numbly as the entire plateau of the Heights collapses in on itself, but then feels Rand gathering power and spins to focus on him. She gasps as a brilliant light shoots into the sky to the north, and knows the end has come.
Thom stumbles back as light pours from the mouth of the cavern.
Light it was, breaking out of the top of the mountain of Shayol Ghul, a radiant beam that melted the mountain’s tip and shot straight into the sky.
Min pauses in her tending to the wounded, feeling Rand’s agonized determination, and everyone turns to watch the brilliant lance of light spearing the sky to the north.
Aviendha blinks at the light, and rejoices in the strength she feels from Rand. Graendal turns an adoring gaze on Aviendha and begs to be allowed to serve her, and Aviendha realizes the Power explosion from her unweaving had caused Graendal’s Compulsion weave to backfire upon her instead. She ignores Graendal and watches the light, holding her breath.
A weeping mother thanks Logain for rescuing her son. Androl reports that the Heights have collapsed, and Logain wonders if he will ever be able to dig out his prize. He thinks he is a fool for abandoning that power to rescue people who would hate and fear him, but then looks around and realizes the refugees are treating him and the other Asha’man with gratitude and admiration, and no fear at all. The weeping mother promises to send her son to the Black Tower when he is of age, for testing. Logain notes that she calls it “the talent”, not “the curse”. Then light bathes them from the north, and Logain feels channeling of such power that it even dwarfs what he’d felt from the cleansing. Gabrelle says it’s happening.
Logain reached to his belt, then took three items from his pouch. Discs, half white, half black. The nearby Asha’man turned toward him, pausing in Healing and comforting the people.
“Do it,” Gabrelle said. “Do it, sealbreaker.”
Logain snapped the once unbreakable seals, one by one, and dropped the pieces to the ground.
Chapter 49: Light and Shadow
Everything appears dead and crumbling in the wolf dream as Perrin approaches Shayol Ghul; oddly, he can see Dragonmount beyond it, as if the world is shrinking. He enters the Pit of Doom and finds Lanfear inside. She complains about the dreamspike, but Perrin says it keeps the other Forsaken away. She tells him “something amazing” has happened, and they go down the tunnel. He sees the man Rand had been fighting earlier holding Callandor, with Nynaeve’s hand on his shoulder. She, Moiraine and Rand are all facing the blackness beyond. Lanfear whispers that this is perfect, and instructs Perrin to kill the shorter woman while she takes care of the other.
Perrin frowned. Something about that seemed very wrong. “Kill…?”
“Of course,” Lanfear said. “If we strike quickly, there will still be time to seize control of Moridin while he holds that blade. With that, I can force Lews Therin to bow.” She narrowed her eyes. “He holds the Dark One between his fingers, needing only one squeeze to pinch the life — if it can be called that — away. Only one hand can save the Great Lord. In this moment, I earn my reward. In this moment, I become highest of the high.”
Lanfear grumbles to herself about being forced to use “such an inferior tool” as if she were Graendal. She reassures Perrin that she won’t make him kill the one from his village, and gets Perrin to “admit” that he hates the shorter one for stealing him away from his family, leaving them to be killed. Perrin looks at Nynaeve and Moiraine and Rand, and knows Lanfear will kill Rand too. He thinks he can’t let it happen, and yet he moves with her.
“I will count to three,” Lanfear said, not turning toward him.
My duty, Perrin thought, is to do the things Rand cannot.
This was the wolf dream. In the wolf dream, what he felt became reality.
“One,” Lanfear said.
He loved Faile.
He loved Faile.
He loved Faile. The Compulsion vanished like smoke in the wind, thrown off like clothing changed in the blink of an eye. Before Lanfear could strike, Perrin reached out and took her by the neck.
He twisted once. Her neck popped in his fingers.
Unable to wholly throw off the Compulsion, Perrin cries for Lanfear. He thinks that he had never thought he could kill a woman, but thinks that at least he took this burden from Rand.
He looked up toward Rand. “Go,” Perrin whispered. “Do what you must do. As always, I will watch your back.”
As the seals crumble, Rand pulls the Dark One free and into the Pattern, where it can be affected by time and therefore destroyed. It is vast, and yet Rand holds it in his hand and feels it is tiny and pitiful. He tells the Dark One that it really is nothing, and could never have given Rand the peace he offered. He feels himself dying, and prepares to snuff the Dark One out, but then stops. He realizes that while much of what the Dark One had shown him were lies, the vision Rand himself had created was true.
If he did as he wished, he would leave men no better than the Dark One himself.
What a fool I have been.
Rand yelled, thrusting the Dark One back through the pit from where it had come.
Using all three Powers, Rand weaves something which isn’t any of the five forms, but Light itself, and forges the Dark One’s prison anew.
He understood, finally, that the Dark One was not the enemy.
It never had been.
Moiraine pulls Nynaeve to her feet and they run, scrambling from the burning light behind them. They burst out of the cave and Moiraine almost falls off the edge of the mountain, but Thom catches her. She looks back at the corridor.
She opened her eyes, though she knew that the light was too intense, and she saw something. Rand and Moridin, standing in the light as it expanded outward to consume the entire mountain in its glow.
The blackness in front of Rand hung like a hole, sucking in everything. Slowly, bit by bit, that hole shrank away until it was just a pinprick.
There was really no point in doing separate commentaries for these three chapters, so here we are.
Sooooo, okay. I’m going to get to Rand and the huge earthshattering (and more important) stuff in a minute, but first I have to address what is one of my largest problems with AMOL’s Big Ass Ending (although technically the entire novel could be considered a Big Ass Ending, but whatever), and that is the scene here where Mat kills Shaisam.
Because this scene really, really bugs me. It bugged me the first time I read it, and it bugs me even more now. It bugs me so much, in fact, that I seriously considered not really getting into it at all, because I was worried that it would come across as overly harsh and hater-y, especially so close to the end of the whole shebang.
But, well, this is at least nominally supposed to be a critique of the Wheel of Time, as well as a collection of my personal reactions and musings on it, so to avoid bringing up a thing because it’s too critical seems sort of like missing the point, a bit. So here goes.
I see what was being attempted in having Mat kill Fain/Mordeth/Whatever, but the way it was actually executed, in my opinion, completely missed the mark. The intended purpose (at least as I see it) was symmetry, because it’s been reiterated over and over again throughout the books that Rand, Mat, and Perrin are all crucial to winning the Last Battle. Rand is the most central, of course, but it’s been made very clear that he’s doomed to failure without the other two boys: “cut one leg of the tripod and they all fall”, or however that quote went.
So Mat showing up to kill Fain is an attempt to fulfill that foreshadowing in the most direct way: having all three of the Superboys at Shayol Ghul, defeating critical foes and ergo averting the apocalypse: Mat vs. Fain, Perrin vs. Slayer/Lanfear, and Rand vs. Moridin/the Dark One. Which is fine on the face of it, except that the way it was done, symmetry was exactly what it didn’t achieve.
The imbalance is clear just from what I wrote in the above paragraph, in fact, but it’s even more than just the fact that Rand and Perrin have multiple nemeses to defeat while Mat only has one: it’s that the “nemesis” status of Mat’s foe has, by comparison, practically zero set-up or backstory at all, and therefore has no emotional payoff either—or at least not nearly the payoff of the other two’s conflicts.
Rand’s conflict with Ishamael/Moridin and the Dark One has, of course, been extant throughout the entire series, and is kind of the entire point of everything, so I’m not really comparing the Mat-Fain thing with that (Rand’s payoff should be greater than the other two boys’), but where Mat-Fain really suffers by comparison is to Perrin’s conflicts, especially that with Slayer.
Because, Perrin and Slayer’s history of foe-dom has been set-up and developed at great length, okay? For more than half of the entire series, in fact. Their history of enmity is complex, nuanced, and has been very successfully built up emotionally for both the characters and the readers. The payoff in AMOL, therefore, when Perrin finally, finally kills Slayer, is the satisfying catharsis we all had been looking for re: that particular storyline for a very long time.
Even Perrin and Lanfear’s conflict, though not nearly of the duration as was his and Slayer’s, was set-up well in advance and heavily foreshadowed, being the fulfillment of a prophecy made all the way back in LOC.
And then there’s Mat vs. Fain, and… yeah, we’ve got none of that here.
Because yes, Mat arguably has cause to be pissed at Mordeth, whom he could view as being the reason he got his brain shredded and had to go through Aes Sedai Dagger Rehab, and all that followed from that. This is ignoring, of course, that in reality that whole thing was actually entirely Mat’s own fault, from failing to heed Moiraine’s instructions to suggesting they split up in the creepy haunted city (still not over that) to picking up the dagger in the first place, but arguably Mat could blame Mordeth for it anyway. Okay, sure. And also arguably, he could blame Fain for being the reason they left the Two Rivers and started this whole thing where he had to become a bloody hero. Again, I think that’s massively missing the point, but Mat does that sometimes, so fine.
But the thing is, there was no build-up for this theoretical enmity and showdown. Other than just a few chapters before this, where Mat had some (rather shoehorned-in) thoughts about the dagger and his addiction to it, as far as I can recall Mat hardly ever even mentions the dagger once he’s freed from it, much less pines over it excessively, and he mentions/thinks about Mordeth or Fain even less, post-TEOTW—possibly not at all, though I could be wrong about that. Certainly there is no history of direct confrontation or personal enmity between Fain/Mordeth and Mat throughout the series, the way there is between Perrin and Slayer.
In fact, Perrin has a much stronger case for being Fain’s nemesis than Mat ever did, considering Fain slaughtered Perrin’s entire family while leaving Mat’s relatives (more or less) untouched. The intensity level needed for the conflict between Mat and Fain, by comparison, just isn’t there.
Frankly, the whole thing just seemed to come out of left field. And not only that, but I’m not even sure it made sense. Exactly when and how did Mat discover or deduce that Shaisam’s Shadar Logoth-y mojo was like chicken pox to him? Did he just assume that he would be immune to it? Because even if he did and that’s what we’re going with here (and if so, wow), that was not set up or foreshadowed in the slightest as far as I can recall.
Basically, Mat vs. Shaisam was a conflict with no developed history and no tease or foreshadowing for the way in which it was resolved, which means it was a conflict with no build-up, no emotional investment for the reader, and therefore no payoff. And when set against the huge payoffs of the other two Superboys’ conflicts, it makes the whole thing seem… lopsided.
And that bugs me. From a narrative infrastructure viewpoint, if you will. Buildings that aren’t built correctly fall down, and this is also true of stories.
Not that I think AMOL (or WOT) actually fell down because of this, because one misfired subplot is not nearly enough to cause this behemoth to collapse, but it does make the end product just slightly shakier than it would have been otherwise. In My Opinion.
The counterargument to my complaint of asymmetry, of course (made to me by the lovely Aubree Pham when we discussed this in the Loose Threads panel at JordanCon), is that sometimes symmetry is not the point. As Aubree put it, life is messy and asymmetrical, so why should the apocalypse be any less so? Why should I insist that everything has to be tied up with a neat bow on it? Why I gots to be like that, yo?
(Okay, she didn’t remotely say that last part, but I find it extremely funny to imagine her doing so. Heh.)
And her point is well taken, and certainly I don’t think that everyone is going to find this asymmetry as distressing as I did, but I do argue that whether it bothers you or not, there is no doubt that it is there, and thus worth talking about.
But not for any longer, because enough already!
Strangely, although something of the same argument could be made re: appropriate nemesis matchage for the conflict between Aviendha and Graendal (in the sense that it would have been more appropriate for someone who’d actually been Compelled by Graendal, like Elayne or Nynaeve, to take her down than Aviendha), that conflict resolution didn’t bother me at all. Probably because the extreme appropriateness of Graendal falling prey to her own favorite weapon canceled it out—and also because avenging Rhuarc is more than enough cause for nemesisity on Aviendha’s part, if you ask me.
(“Nemesisity”. Seriously, what is wrong with my brain, y’all. Don’t answer that.)
[ETA: It’s been pointed out by several commenters that Elayne and Nynaeve were Compelled by Moghedien, not Graendal. Oops. So… nevermind then!]
Speaking of Compulsion, I felt mighty stupid at the scene with Perrin and Lanfear in the Pit of Doom, because I had totally not realized that Compulsion was in play all along during their little pow-wows until it was made obvious here. And then I facepalmed, because duh, of course that’s what was happening! Everything with them makes so much more sense now.
I kind of thought for a moment about saying something about how it should have been Rand who killed Lanfear, but on reflection I don’t think that’s right. Rand said his goodbyes to their conflict at their last meeting, and in a way, for him to have killed her after that would have cheapened that “moving on” moment. So, on reflection I have no problem with Perrin being the one to kill her. Plus, it was a nice little bit of symmetry (I like symmetry, if you hadn’t heard) that Lanfear was there (even if only as a corpse) for the closing of the Bore that she had been the one to open.
And wow, in the end it was Lanfear who turned out to be the most dangerous enemy of all, wasn’t she. Even the frickin’ Dark One had been basically defeated by this point, and yet she almost brought the whole thing down.
That’s… fitting, somehow. I’m not sure how but it is.
I remember being bothered at Logain’s scene for some reason when I first read it, possibly because I thought the refugees’ one-eighty on the subject of dudes who channel seemed a tad abrupt, but you know, even if it is a little too good to be true, it’s pretty believable that the refugees would be overly effusive in the heat of the moment. If I had just been saved from being slaughtered and eaten by giant monsters, I probably wouldn’t care about my rescuer’s day job right then either. Maybe later I’d be less enthused, but right then? Hugs all around.
I guess it’s a good thing Logain didn’t get too distracted by all his refugee-savin’ to remember to break the seals, though, huh?
Which brings us to the actual Big Ass Conflict and Rand (and Min’s) Big Ass Ploy re: Callandor. Which I can honestly say I did not see coming, though I was unsure at the time whether I could have seen it coming, because I did not at all recall being told before this point that Callandor could amplify the True Power as well as the One Power.
I don’t actually understand that, either, because why would the Aes Sedai we see in Rand’s trip down memory lane in Rhuidean make a sa’angreal that could do that? And how would they make it do that if they wanted to?
But whatever, I’ll allow that handwave, because even though it was not telegraphed very well and I’m not convinced it totally makes sense, the result was cool enough that I’m willing to let it go.
Because the result was, I think, very, very cool.
It seems sort of… I don’t know, unnecessary to declare Rand’s decision not to kill the Dark One and recreate its prison instead a Crowning Moment of Awesome, because I don’t really feel like it could possibly have been anything else, so saying so seems a little redundant.
But hey, for the record: that was totally a Crowning Moment of Awesome.
It was not surprising, once you got past the method (using Callandor and Moridin to create a new kind of Power), but that’s not a criticism in this case, for me anyway, because the lack of surprise wasn’t due to a feeling of predictability, so much as one of inevitability.
Rand’s revelation—that the true enemy he had to defeat was himself—was not surprising, but it was not supposed to be. This was how it was always going to go; the only question was how we were going to get there. Which, I guess, is now a question we have answered.
It’s been a year since AMOL’s release, and I’m still a little stunned about that.
There’s probably more I could say about it all, but… well sometimes there’s only just so much you need to say. So we will stop here.
Tune in next week for—gosh, the final episode. Wow.