Greetings, salutations, and what up: Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Reread Redux!
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time reread is also now available as an ebook series, except for the portion covering A Memory of Light, which should become available soon.
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 1: An Empty Road
I made a joke in the last entry about how my early summaries were so adorably wee, but the thing is, my early summaries really are summaries, whereas my later “summaries” are much more akin to abridgments (and sometimes they barely deserved that title). It’s sort of hard for me to determine why exactly this changed so much as the Reread went on. The obvious answer is that I slowed down a great deal once I knew I wouldn’t have to get through the whole series in nine months, and thus spent more time on individual chapters, but if I recall correctly they were getting lengthier and more detailed even before that point.
And then there is the example of my Read of Ice and Fire blog series, in which the same gradual lengthening of summaries is occurring even though there was never any time constraint on my end involved. I think it’s probably partially my fault, and partially the fact that any story tends to start out simple and get more complex as they go.
Still, this chapter in particular is about 80% setting description and tone establishing, which is good and important stuff, but leads to lots of paragraphs like this:
Only trees that kept leaf or needle through the winter had any green about them. Snarls of last year’s bramble spread brown webs over stone outcrops under the trees. Nettles numbered most among the few weeds; the rest were the sorts with sharp burrs or thorns, or stinkweed, which left a rank smell on the unwary boot that crushed it. Scattered white patches of snow still dotted the ground where tight clumps of trees kept deep shade. Where sunlight did reach, it held neither strength nor warmth. The pale sun sat above the trees to the east, but its light was crisply dark, as if mixed with shadow. It was an awkward morning, made for unpleasant thoughts.
That’s a great descriptive passage, but not the kind of thing you include in a summary. As opposed to this:
Abruptly Rand realized what had been odd about the horseman, aside from his being there at all. The wind that beat at Tam and him had not so much as shifted a fold of that black cloak.
This is a marvelously effective image, and definitely one of the things that pulled me in the most in getting me invested in the story (which is why it got a mention in the original summary), because it accomplishes two things at once. For one, it’s just plain disturbing, adding to the overall ominous tone the chapter sets, but it also introduces a puzzle: how can something presumably made of fabric just ignore wind? It creeps the reader out and simultaneously makes them want to find out more, which is exactly what the writer wants. So well done there, Jordan.
As to my original commentary, I have to snort at the “Lord of the Rings acid flashback” remark, because apparently I had forgotten, or something, that all of TEOTW, especially the opening chapters, is specifically an homage to LOTR. Though then I do mention that again later in the same post, so actually I have no idea what that comment was supposed to mean.
Oh well. I’m still right about the attempted ambiguity over whether Rand, Mat or Perrin is Our Hero being undermined right at the start by Rand having practically the entire first chapter to himself.
Chapter 2: Ravens
It’s really amusing that Nynaeve has already gotten mentioned about four times in the first two chapters, with the result that the reader has a pretty clear notion of her character before we ever lay eyes on her, so to speak (as long as you don’t count the YA Prologue, which for practical purposes I’m not).
In rereading the chapter itself, I find myself amused at the sheer amount of bling Moiraine is described as wearing: besides her Serpent ring, her belt, necklace and head chain are all solid gold, and there’s silver embroidery on her cloak, because apparently there’s no rule in Randland about clashing jewelry being tacky. Heh. Not to mention, her blue-and-cream-slashed silk dress is about the most impractical thing for riding through the countryside as can well be imagined, short of, possibly, an actual wedding gown. Which means, of course, that she probably changed into it deliberately after she and Lan checked in. Which is also amusing.
Still, it totally worked toward her goal, which was to so overawe her country bumpkin targets that they’d do anything she said, so I guess I can’t be too critical of the choice. Whatever works, I guess. Still, talk about sticking out like a sore thumb.
Speaking of which, it’s also kind of funny (funny ha-ha or funny strange I’m not sure) that neither Lan nor Moiraine make the slightest effort to hide what they are, what with her wearing her ring and he wearing his Warder cloak so openly. I wonder if they were counting on Two Rivers folk being so isolated that not a single one of them would realize the significance (which seems like unnecessary chance-taking to me, although given Mat’s apparent notion of what Warders do, maybe not that much), or that they just didn’t care. I guess the latter, since they certainly care later on. It’s just a little odd, is all.
I was absolutely correct in identifying the best line being Moiraine’s:
“As the Wheel of Time turns,” Moiraine said, half to herself and with a distant look in her eyes, “places wear many names. Men wear many names, many faces. Different faces, but always the same man. Yet no one knows the Great Pattern the Wheel weaves, or even the Pattern of an Age. We can only watch, and study, and hope.”
Of course, now this just makes me irritated all over again that it wasn’t her there at the end, watching Rand-with-a-different-face walk away. Sigh.
“Do we have Trollocs in the Two Rivers? We have sheep. I wonder what could ever have happened here to interest someone like her.”
“Something could have,” Rand answered slowly. “They say the inn’s been here for a thousand years, maybe more.”
“A thousand years of sheep,” Mat said.
I guess I can’t really make the standard comment we all used to make about Moiraine’s coin thing being weird and never used again, because it does get used again, very very eventually. In TGS or TOM, I think, when Elayne uses it to keep track of… Whatshisname, while he was spying on… Whatstheirfaces. You know, that time, with the guy, in the place!
It’s kind of dumb of me, actually, that I didn’t bring it up the first time, because it was definitely a point of contention back in the day among fans. Specifically because if I recall correctly, people used to use the “coin bond” to argue that Moiraine could possibly be a Darkfriend, because, as the argument went, the phrasing used here (when Rand is inexplicably loathe to spend his coin, and also is just a little too eager to do whatever Moiraine wants) suggests that the “bond” Moiraine is talking about is actually Compulsion. Which, asyouknowBob, is something only evil people do. Ahem.
Obviously, of course, there can no longer be the slightest doubt that Moiraine is a white hat, but even back in the day I don’t think I ever bought this argument. I don’t think Jordan meant to imply the coin thing was Compulsion, mostly because I’m not convinced that at this point Jordan had even really invented Compulsion. Because if he had, then I don’t think he would have chosen to phrase this bit quite so suspiciously.
*shrug* Or maybe he would have, I don’t know. It’s not like Moiraine didn’t spew ambiguity about her motives everywhere she went for most of the first five books, after all. Rand’s ongoing indecision over whether to trust her works because the reader doesn’t know whether to trust her for most of the same length of time.
Anyway, maybe it smacks a little of ret-conning but Elayne’s use of the same weave later on makes it clear (as far as I recall) that Compulsion has no part in it at all. So there.
And so there is where we shall leave it for now! Have a week, and y’all come on back next Tuesday!