Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Reread.
Today’s entry covers the Epilogue of A Memory of Light, in which we have an ending.
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!
Before we start, I just want to give y’all the heads up that this is not actually the last post in the Wheel of Time Reread. It was going to be, but then I decided that, all things considered, I am owed a wrap-up/summation/explosion-of-feelings post beyond the scope of the actual series, so I’mma do one, NEENER. So this post is all about the end of the Wheel of Time, and the next post is all about the end of the Wheel of Time Reread and what’s coming next for your Auntie Leigh. Because I Said So.
ETA: And also, I have to belatedly put in my traditional last-book-post review of the artwork. This time, of course, due to Darrell K. Sweet’s sad demise, the art of the final Wheel of Time novel was instead done by the highly acclaimed sci-fi artist Michael Whelan, and… well.
The thing is, it’s probably pretty clear to anyone following this blog that, loathe as I am now to speak ill of the dead, nevertheless I have never been the hugest fan of Mr. Sweet’s artwork, and it would be very disingenuous of me to pretend I suddenly loved it now, simply because he has passed away. That said, two things I have always very much appreciated about Mr. Sweet’s artwork are: his amazing background/landscape work, and his wonderful and vibrant use of color in general. I have commented to that effect most particularly on his covers for The Fires of Heaven and A Crown of Swords, because while I really had issues with the human figures on those covers, the backgrounds and overall coloring were, I thought, extraordinary.
So I was extremely gratified to see that Mr. Whelan’s cover for A Memory of Light paid homage to all the best aspects of Mr. Sweet’s art, maintaining the elaborate, dramatic, and richly colored backgrounds and overall aesthetic of the Wheel of Time covers, while simultaneously correcting what was (in my opinion) Mr. Sweet’s greatest weakness, which seemed to be a certain inability to render the human figure in a proportionate manner. Even the rather over-dramatic pose of Rand on the cover of AMOL doesn’t detract from how wonderfully symmetrical he is.
In other words, Mr. Whelan’s rendition of the AMOL cover was all of the good aspects of traditional WOT art combined with none of the bad ones, and I just freakin’ loved it. I felt that he struck a perfect balance of, on the one hand, homage to the original artist with, on the other, adherence to his own (and, I think, undeniably superior) artistic aesthetic, and the result is something to be very proud of indeed.
And, okay. Onward!
Epilogue: To See the Answer
Rand slips in his own blood, carrying something heavy out of the cave, trying to get out before it collapses on him. He falls, and a woman he cannot see clearly tells him this is what he needs to do. He thinks she might be a gray-haired Aiel woman.
“I see the answer now,” he whispered. “I asked the Aelfinn the wrong question. To choose is our fate. If you have no choice, then you aren’t a man at all. You’re a puppet…”
Rand felt heavy. He plunged into unconsciousness.
Mat stands as the last of Mashadar’s mists fade away, and greets the sun cheekily. He looks at Padan Fain’s blackening, rotting corpse, and almost reaches for the dagger embedded in it.
Then he spat. “For once,” he said, “a gamble I don’t want to touch.” He turned his back on it and walked off.
He finds his hat and puts it on, and walks away, whistling. The dice have stopped rolling in his head.
Perrin walks through the camp at the base of Shayol Ghul, listening to the spirit wolves fading back into the wolf dream, bidding him goodbye. He ignores those entreating him to celebrate with them, and goes to where he sees a large group of sentries guarding a tent at the center of camp. He wonders where Rand is, and sees no colors or visions anymore. He enters the tent, and hears Damer Flinn saying he’s tried everything, but nothing changes. He finds Nynaeve and Flinn watching as Moiraine kneels next to Rand’s body, whispering that he did well. He ignores Nynaeve’s commands to rest and goes to Rand’s side.
I couldn’t feel your tugging, or see the visions, Perrin thought. You’re no longer ta’veren. I suspect neither am I. “Have you sent for the three?” Perrin asked. “Min, Elayne, Aviendha. They need to visit him a last time.”
He asks who else died. Nynaeve tells him about Egwene, and Perrin fights past his own pain to tell her it was not her fault. Nynaeve whispers that she only left the Two Rivers to protect them, and Perrin tells her she did; she protected Rand so he could do what he needed to do. They weep together for a time, and then Nynaeve runs out. Flinn tells Perrin he and Moiraine Sedai did everything they could, but no one knows how to save Rand. Perrin sees another man lying in the tent, and asks who he is.
“We found them together,” Flinn said. “Rand must have carried him out of the pit. We don’t know why the Lord Dragon would save one of the Forsaken, but it doesn’t matter. We can’t Heal him either. They’re dying. Both of them.”
Perrin tells Flinn to find Min, Elayne and Aviendha, and leaves the tent to find Lan and Nynaeve embracing. Lan tells him the Dark One is sealed away again, and the Windfinders have opened a gateway to Merrilor. Perrin asks if anyone has heard anything about Faile, and Lan regretfully says no. Perrin refuses to think about this, and goes to find the gateway.
Loial wanders the camp, looking for Mat and Perrin, to get their stories of the Last Battle. He reflects that it is probably the Fourth Age now, and wonders if it will mess up the calendar that Rand sealed the Bore in the middle of the day. He comes across Yukiri, Saerin and two other Aes Sedai browbeating Rodel Ituralde into taking the throne of Arad Doman, and feels sorry for the man and his inevitable fate. He looks in on Rand, but his friend looks worse. Lan is in the tent, wearing a silver circlet crown where his hadori had been, that matches the one Nynaeve is wearing.
“It’s not fair,” Nynaeve whispered. “Why should he die, when the other one gets better?”
Nynaeve asks after his search, but Lan tells him his stories can wait a few days. Loial disagrees, but doesn’t say so. Flinn asks Nynaeve why the three don’t seem worried about Rand’s decline as Loial leaves. He checks in on Aviendha briefly, who is having her feet Healed, and sees Elayne and Min outside.
It was odd, though. Min and Elayne. Shouldn’t they be at Rand’s side? […] Neither went in to hold Rand’s hand as he slipped toward death.
Loial continues to look for Mat, wondering at the hastiness of humans.
Shock spreads through the Seanchan camp as Mat saunters in, tipping his hat to people. He reaches Tuon and notes that Karede managed to survive, and bets the man probably feels guilty about it. Tuon asks where he’s been, frowning, and Mat signals for the spectacular fireworks show he’d coaxed out of Aludra to begin. Tuon informs him that she is with child. Mat is jolted, but manages to grin.
“Well, I guess I’m off the hook, now. You have an heir.”
“I have an heir,” Tuon said, “but I am the one off that hook. Now I can kill you, if I want.”
Mat felt his grin widen. “Well, we’ll have to see what we can work out. Tell me, do you ever play dice?”
Utterly exhausted, Perrin sits among the dead and weeps for Faile. He knows Davram and Deira Bashere are dead, and thinks Faile would have been queen if she’d lived. As fireworks explode above, Perrin collapses among the corpses in grief.
Disguised as a Sharan, Moghedien tries to grasp the fact that the Great Lord has fallen, but then thinks to herself that she is still alive, and that therefore she is as an empress among those who remain.
Yes… Look at the open sky, not the thunderclouds. She could turn this to her advantage. Why… in the matter of a few years, she could be ruling the world herself!
Something cold snapped around her neck.
In horror, Moghedien tries to channel, but cannot. The sul’dam behind her says that they cannot take Aes Sedai, but this one does not wear the ring. Moghedien screams at her, and is sent writhing to the ground with pain. The sul’dam says she is Shanan, but Moghedien will call her mistress. Her damane makes a gateway back to Ebou Dar, and they drag Moghedien through.
Nynaeve stepped out of the Healing tent at Shayol Ghul. The sun was all but down.
“He’s dead,” she whispered to the small crowd gathered outside.
She hears Gregorin and Darlin whispering to each other about the lack of grief Aviendha, Min and Elayne are showing, and Nynaeve thinks to herself that those three know something she does not, and resolves to beat it out of them. Lan refuses to leave her side, which she points out is hypocritical, but Lan only calmly agrees with her. She approaches Aviendha, who is talking to Sorilea and Bair, saying that with Rhuarc dead, what she saw must be able to change. Bair says she saw Aviendha’s vision as well, and thinks it is “a warning of something we must not let happen.” Nynaeve demands to know if Aviendha heard her announce Rand’s death.
“He that was wounded has woken from the dream,” Aviendha said evenly. “It is as all must do. His death was accomplished in greatness, and he will be celebrated in greatness.”
Nynaeve leaned down. “All right,” she said menacingly, embracing the Source. “Out with it. I chose you because you can’t run away from me.”
Aviendha displayed a moment of what might have been fear. It was gone in a flash. “Let us prepare his pyre.”
Perrin runs through the wolf dream as Young Bull, other wolves howling with his grief. He berates himself for abandoning Faile, even though he knows he had to go to Rand. In the place where he met Elyas, he turns back into Perrin.
“I have to let go, don’t I?” he whispered toward that sky. “Light. I don’t want to. I learned. I learned from Malden. I didn’t do it again! I did what I was supposed to, this time.”
Somewhere nearby, a bird cried in the sky. Wolves howled. Hunting.
A bird’s cry.
It sounded like a falcon.
Perrin leaps up and shifts toward the sound, ending in Merrilor again, where he finds a tiny falcon pinned beneath a rock. Perrin roars and claws his way out of the wolf dream into the real world, where he stumbles through the corpses until he catches a faint whiff of flowery soap and perfume. He tosses aside a Trolloc corpse and the body of a horse, and finds Faile underneath, breathing shallowly. Perrin cries out and gathers her up.
It took him only two heartbeats to shift into the wolf dream, carry Faile to Nynaeve far to the north and shift out. Seconds later, he felt her being Healed in his arms, unwilling to let go of her even for that.
Faile, his falcon, trembled and stirred. Then she opened her eyes and smiled at him.
The other heroes are gone, but Birgitte senses that the Pattern will allow her to stay a little longer. She asks Elayne if she knows something about the Dragon, but Elayne only shrugs. She tells Elayne she knows Elayne is planning to keep the Horn, and Olver, as a national treasure and possibly weapon of Andor, and tells her that’s why she sent Olver away, to throw the Horn into the ocean where no one could find it. Elayne is outraged momentarily, but then:
Elayne exhaled softly, then turned back toward the pyre. “Insufferable woman.” She hesitated. “Thank you for saving me from having to make that decision.”
“I thought you’d feel that way.”
Birgitte tells her that she is going now. Elayne asks if she must, and Birgitte says that somewhere, a woman is about to give birth, and she will go there. She tells Elayne to be happy for her, for this means she will only be a few years younger than Gaidal in this cycle.
Elayne took her arm, eyes watering. “Love and peace, Birgitte. Thank you.”
Birgitte smiled, then closed her eyes, and let herself drift away.
Tam watches the Blasted Lands flower, and wonders if this is one final gift from his son. The funeral for Rand is small, only some two hundred people; Tam knows everyone would have wanted to come, but he prefers that this memorial be simple for Rand, who could finally rest. He lights a torch, and carries it past the other mourners; they all look the same in the flickering light. He steps up to the bier beside Thom and Moiraine, who squeezes his arm in sympathy.
Tam looked at the corpse, gazing down into his son’s face by the fire’s light. He did not wipe the tears from his eyes.
You did well. My boy… you did so well.
He lit the pyre with a reverent hand.
Min watches Tam walk away from the pyre, and steps forward with Aviendha and Elayne, watching the fire consume Rand’s body. She says that she had seen this, the three of them together here.
Elayne nodded. “So now what?”
“Now…” Aviendha said. “Now we make sure that everyone well and truly believes he is gone.”
Min nodded, feeling the pulsing throb of the bond in the back of her mind. It grew stronger each moment.
Rand al’Thor—just Rand al’Thor—wakes in a tent alone, without pain for the first time in years. He prods at where his wounds should be, and realizes he is doing so with a left hand, and that he has one. He laughs, and looks for a mirror. He sees Moridin’s face looking back at him.
Rand touched his face, feeling it. In his right eye hung a single saa, black, shaped like the dragon’s fang. It didn’t move.
He finds Laman’s sword, along with a collection of clothes and money Alivia had left for him. He thinks of the prophecy (she will help you die), and shakes his head. He dresses himself, and slips out of the tent, finding the horse left for him. He hears people singing nearby, a Borderlander dirge, and sees in the distance three women standing before a funeral pyre.
Moridin, he thought. He’s being cremated with full honors as the Dragon Reborn.
He prepares to leave, and sees someone looking at him: Cadsuane. He nods to her, and rides away.
Cadsuane watches him go, and thinks to herself that the man’s eyes had confirmed her suspicions, and there was no longer any reason to watch “this sham of a funeral.” She walks off, but finds herself joined suddenly by Yukiri, Saerin, Lyrelle, and Rubinde. Rubinde tells her they would “like direction,” and Cadsuane tells her to ask whatever poor woman they find to make Amyrlin for it.
As it hit her, Cadsuane stopped in place.
“Oh, blood and ashes, no!” Cadsuane said, spinning on them. “No, no, no.”
The women smiled in an almost predatory way.
They talk to her of responsibility and the need for a strong Amyrlin in a new Age, and Cadsuane groans and closes her eyes.
Rand is relieved when Cadsuane raises no alarm as he rides off. He finds a pipe and tabac in his pocket. He instinctively reaches for the One Power to light it, but nothing happens. He tentatively tries the True Power, but that doesn’t work either.
No way to light the tabac. He inspected it for a moment in the darkness, then thought of the pipe being lit. And it was.
Rand smiled and turned south.
He looks back to see the three women at the pyre watching him, and wonders which or any of them will follow him. He wonders which he would pick, and realizes he could never do that; he loves all three hopelessly. He debates which way to go, perhaps to find a ship on the coast. He reflects that there is so much of the world he’s never seen, and thinks it will be a new thing, to travel without being chased or having to rule anything. He laughs and rides on, smoking his impossible pipe.
As he did so, a wind rose up around him, around the man who had been called lord, Dragon Reborn, king, killer, lover and friend.
The wind rose high and free, to soar in an open sky with no clouds. It passed over a broken landscape scattered with corpses not yet buried. A landscape covered, at the same time, with celebrations. It tickled the branches of trees that had finally begun to put forth buds.
The wind blew southward, through knotted forests, over shimmering plains and toward lands unexplored. This wind, it was not the ending. There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time.
But it was an ending.
And it came to pass in those days, as it had come before and would come again, that the Dark lay heavy on the land and weighed down the hearts of men, and the green things failed, and hope died. And men cried out to the Creator, saying, O Light of the Heavens, Light of the World, let the Promised One be born of the mountain, according to the prophecies, as he was in ages past and will be in ages to come. Let the Prince of the Morning sing to the land that green things will grow and the valleys give forth lambs. Let the arm of the Lord of the Dawn shelter us from the Dark, and the great sword of justice defend us. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.
(from Charal Drianaan te Calamon,
The Cycle of the Dragon.
Author unknown, the Fourth Age)
He came like the wind, like the wind touched everything, and like the wind was gone.
(from The Dragon Reborn.
By Loial, son of Arent son of Halan,
the Fourth Age)
of the Last Book of
The Wheel of Time
So I went back and looked at my spoiler-free review of A Memory of Light, and saw that I had marked down the exact time I had finished the book for the first time (6:26 AM Central Time on Tuesday, December 11, 2012, in case you’re curious), because, I said, some things are worth noting, and that was definitely one of them. Also apparently worth noting is that I am remarkably consistent re: crappy timing, because here it is 5:35 AM on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, a year and a half later, and here I am still trying to write this damn thing. Not because I have nothing to say, because that’s probably an actual physical impossibility, but because I have so many things to say I have no idea where to start saying them.
But here’s a stab at it: I have criticisms of the end of the Wheel of Time. (Duh, you say.) Most of these criticisms you’re already familiar with, if you’ve been following this blog, and some of which I will be reiterating or expanding upon in this post. There are things I don’t like. There are notes I felt were out of tune. There are things I wanted to see that I didn’t get to see, plotlines I wanted to see resolved that didn’t get resolved, characters I felt didn’t get the sendoff they deserved. I have criticisms of the Wheel of Time, and I have made and will make them, because that’s what I do, as both a critic and a fan.
But none of that changes how I felt when I came to the end of A Memory of Light, and saw that ending caption saying “The End of the Last Book of The Wheel of Time.” Because the feeling I experienced then (and am experiencing now, remembering it) has nothing to do with literary quality or world relevance, and everything to do with knowing that a thing with (for myriad reasons) enormous personal significance to me specifically had just come, at long last, to a resolution—a resolution I had once thought would never occur.
It may seem hokey to say it, but it really did feel like the end of an era (or of an Age, even): the conclusion of a journey I started over fifteen years ago in an overpriced student bookstore in Austin, Texas, with absolutely no clue what it would eventually lead me to. And that is the kind of thing which merits its own reverence, entirely aside from any other considerations.
I said in my non-spoiler review that AMOL was a worthy ending to the Wheel of Time, and even with all my past and impending criticisms of it in the specific, in the aggregate I still stand by that statement. The visceral satisfaction I felt when coming to the end of this book is proof enough of that, as far as I am concerned. And that’s just something I wanted to put out up front, before I said anything else.
And now that it’s said, let’s talk turkey. Non-Rand elements first!
Loial is such a nerd. Of course he is the one to fret over whether the timing of Rand’s world-saving messes up the calendar, because he is One Of Us, and that’s a good amount of the reason I love him.
Mat, on the other hand, is a lunatic. I still heart him, always will, but cheerily wading right back into the giant pile of crazy that is the Seanchan—Tuon most definitely included—is not a course of action I can get my brain around. But then, there are people out there who voluntarily eat haggis and jump off cliffs (though, hopefully, not at the same time), so I should probably try and come to terms with the fact that some people actually prefer giant piles of crazy over, er, whatever the opposite of that is (small plateaus of sanity?) and it is therefore legit for Mat to respond to his imperial baby mama’s death threats with smiles and fireworks. Like you do.
I still persist in thinking that Mat got a little shafted compared to Perrin in AMOL, though. I mean, even in the Epilogue Perrin got twice Mat’s screentime! And for what else, but rescuing Faile. Again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he found her and all, but somehow that didn’t feel like something that should have been in the Epilogue, but should have happened earlier. Granted, given the timing I have no idea how that scene could have occurred earlier, but that doesn’t change the fact that it didn’t feel like it belonged here. Especially since it seemed so redundant to me, like, this thing again? Personally I think it would have been much more awesome for Perrin to have walked into Merrilor and found Faile tending the wounded or something, all “whatevs I totally rescued myself, and what took you so long?” But, you know.
In contrast, I did like Birgitte’s send-off quite a bit. I liked that her last act before going off to be reborn was to protect Elayne from herself, just like she has been all along. It’s maybe a bit of a raw deal for Olver, but he’ll hopefully look at it as an adventure rather than a burden. Let’s also hope he’s better at dumping things in the ocean than Egeanin and Domon were.
I was a little surprised that we didn’t check in with more of the Aes Sedai aside from Moiraine and Cadsuane (and Nynaeve and Elayne, of course). Obviously we couldn’t have done so with all of them, even given how much their numbers were reduced by the Last Battle, but it just seemed a tad random that it was Yukiri, Saerin, Lyrelle, and Rubinde, and no others. It’s not the worst thing ever or anything, but it did make me wonder about various other Aes Sedai and whether they survived. Leane, Lelaine, Merise, Theodrin, Romanda, Sarene, just for example? No idea what happened to them. Some of those may have died previously, of course, and I’m just not remembering, but there you are.
The Aes Sedai who got truly shafted in the Epilogue, though, was Moiraine. She got shafted in all of AMOL, really, but especially here.
I’m trying to remember if Team Jordan have said whether Cadsuane’s inclusion in the Epilogue was included in Robert Jordan’s pre-written (and therefore not-to-be-touched) version of the final scene, but whether she was or not, I still don’t get it. I just don’t understand why Cadsuane was the one to see Rand leave, instead of who it should have been, which was Moiraine.
Moiraine was the one who started this whole thing, after all. She was the one who came to Emond’s Field and found the Dragon Reborn at the very beginning. She was there when he began his journey, and so it kind of kills me a little that she wasn’t the one to see him end it to begin another one. That would have been so much better a bookend for her character (and the story) than what she actually did here, which was to just kind of hang around and comfort people in the background.
But then, I also wanted to see more of Nynaeve than we did, and more of Tam, and maybe Mat meeting up with his father, and maybe Thom meeting up with Elayne, and also Mat and Perrin together again, and actually I’m still not happy that we never got all the surviving original group from TEOTW in the same room ever again after TDR, and blah blah blah yakety smack. So obviously unless this Epilogue was going to go on for another hundred pages some things had to be left out.
I still think I’m right about Moiraine, though.
Tam made me cry, the end. Although I certainly hope someone is going to clue him in at some point that his son is actually still alive, because otherwise that is cold.
As for the clued-in folks, again I was a little surprised we didn’t get a bit more with “the three,” as everyone apparently suddenly knows them as, but on balance I’m okay with that. I’m still curious about how exactly the logistics of Elayne, Aviendha, and Min’s relationship with Rand is going to fall out, but that’s mostly just details, and it was completely right to leave any speculation or discussion thereof out.
As for Rand, all told he probably set a record for “number of prophecies fulfilled in a 24-hour period,” but the one that made me laugh was remembering this one from ACOS:
A man lay dying in a narrow bed, and it was important that he not die, yet outside a funeral pyre was being built, and voices raised songs of joy and sadness.
We had it marked in the FAQ as “Absolutely no clue on this one,” and it was unique in being the only prophecy, as far as I recall, that no one seemed to have any even vague speculation on. And here it is, the last one fulfilled (except the Alivia one, technically). I’m not really sure why that amuses me so much, but it does.
Were people upset about the body-switching thing? I was not upset about the body-switching thing. I was a little nonplussed by it, I think, but overall I think it was a rather clever solution to how you could have Rand die and yet also live without having a full-on actual facts resurrection.
Though this does remind me that there was one piece of foreshadowing re: Rand’s technical death that most distinctly was not fulfilled, which is the multiple references to Nynaeve “not being satisfied until she Healed someone three days dead” scattered throughout several earlier books. It’s not a gaffe, because I don’t think it was ever an official prophecy per se, but I’m still kind of miffed that it didn’t happen that way—not least because then Nynaeve would have had something more to do, and that would have made me happy. Oh well.
And then there is The Impossible Pipe, which along with Nakomi (and her almost certain cameo right at the beginning of the Epilogue) are two things which Brandon and Team Jordan have stated that we are never, ever getting explained to us. That hasn’t stopped the fans from speculating madly about them both, of course, but for me personally, I… kind of don’t really care.
Well, I care, but not enough to get myself worked up about it. Nakomi especially was so briefly introduced and un-fleshed-out as a character, that I just couldn’t muster the spare energy to wonder who she was in more than a passing manner. I sort of like the idea that she was the Creator’s avatar, the way Shadar Haran was the Dark One’s avatar, although if so I don’t really know why out of everyone else, Aviendha was the only one besides Rand himself who rated a visit. Plus that smacks awfully of cheating for a deity with such a strict noninterference clause. So, I dunno.
As for the pipe and how Rand lit it without channeling, I heard the best explanation for that EVER at this year’s JordanCon, which was “Now Rand can see the Matrix.” And I was like, ZOMG THAT’S AWESOME STOP THERE, and as far as I’m concerned that’s the answer and everyone else can go home. Ha!
But all technical and stylistic questions and/or complaints aside, reading about Rand riding away, free of his pain and sorrows and burdens, being finally done and able to go about living a life he thought he’d never get… well. That made it all worth it. Maybe it’s not the cool thing anymore to have a happy ending, even a happy ending this bittersweet, but I don’t care.
Because it was an ending, and the ending Robert Jordan wanted us all to have, and now, at long last, we have it. I call it good.
And that’s an ending for me as well. I’ll be back next week, to wrap things up and talk about the experience of doing the Reread and about Tor.com’s plans for WOT and me in the future, but the actual rereading part of the Reread is done.
And I have… oh, so, so many feelings about that, so come back next Tuesday and feel them with me, okay? Until then, cheers!