Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky, y’all, but until then, have another 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!
Before we begin, behold the mighty Note of Scheduling: The holidaze doth descend upon us inexorably, with the dead-tree-decking and the egg-based cocktailing and the relentless wassailing (OH GOD THE WASSAILING), and so the Reread shall be hiatusing in response, because that is how we do.
Ergo, while I plan to have a post for next week and for December 23rd, the blog will then be on hiatus for the following two weeks, resuming January 13th.
Got it? Good. Go!
Chapter 20: Dust on the Wind
Yep, got that song stuck in my head again.
I mentioned it in the original commentary, but I still think it’s interesting that Jordan waited twenty chapters to move the POV out of Rand’s head to someone else. (Not even excepting the Prologue, really. Because all things considered, being in Lews Therin’s head still sort of counts as Rand’s POV, doesn’t it? Trippy!)
(POV = Point Of View. I’m sure most of you know that perfectly well by now, but I still periodically see people express confusion about that acronym, so just in case.)
It’s interesting because in a narrative sense, if Jordan was genuinely trying to set up confusion on the reader’s part as to which of the Superboys is actually The Chosen One, as I originally claimed, then keeping us in Rand’s for the entirety of the opening act really undermines that goal. It would have been far more effective, if that were the intent, to have us skipping back and forth between Mat, Perrin, and Rand’s POVs from the beginning. But instead, we get twenty chapters of Rand, one brief side trip into Perrin’s head, and then we’re back to Rand again. And then, the next POV switch we have is not to any of the Superboys at all, but to Nynaeve, whom at this point we (or I, anyway) didn’t even know was going to be of long term importance to the story at all.
It seems like Jordan’s decisions re: POV switches were guided more by the demands of the plot than by any kind of formal structure. In George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, for instance, it’s clear that Martin decided from the beginning to keep to a very strict serial 3rd person limited POV, dictated by chapter breaks: each chapter is told from one and only one character’s POV, and the next chapter always switches to a different character. (As far as I know, anyway, but as I’m on the fifth book at this point and that pattern has yet to be deviated from, I feel pretty safe in assuming that’s how the whole thing will go.)
Jordan, by contrast, only started switching POVs in WOT away from Rand when Our Heroes stopped all being in the same place and having (basically) the same experiences as Rand was; or, in other words, when Rand’s perception of events stopped being sufficient to convey the full scope of the story. In addition, Jordan obviously had no problem with switching POVs in the middle of a chapter (as he did here) if that told the story better, and he also had no compunctions about staying with the same character POV for several chapters in a row, if necessary, to bring whatever particular story arc was going on at the time to a good breaking-off point.
Neither of these approaches, I think, are any better or worse than the other; it’s simply a matter of differing styles. Martin’s approach has the virtue of symmetry and stylistic cohesiveness, but I feel like Jordan’s method has the advantage of being organic and natural-feeling, to go where the story goes.
*shrug* In the end, whatever gets your story told as best as it can be is what works, if you ask me.
But to get back to my earlier point, the other thing this narrative style indicates (now that I really look at it, anyway) is that contrary to what I said before, I don’t think Jordan actually was trying to be coy about which of the boys was the real protagonist of the story. In retrospect, it was really always clearly Rand. You just don’t devote your first 20 chapters to the POV of a character who’s going to turn out to be a sidekick.
(Well, you can, and actually that would be a fun subversion to play with, but subverting narrative POV tropes was clearly not something Jordan was interested in as far as WOT goes, so.)
Anyway, so the gang splits up and so do the POVs, and it’s all just going to get more complicated from here. Really, really, really complicated.
As they raced through the trees, guided as much by instinct as by the dim moonlight, Bela fell behind. Perrin looked back. Egwene kicked the mare and flailed her with the reins, but it was doing no good. By their sounds, the Trollocs were coming closer. He drew in enough not to leave her behind.
“Hurry!” he shouted. He could make out the Trollocs now, huge dark shapes bounding through the trees, bellowing and snarling to chill the blood. He gripped the haft of his axe, hanging at his belt, until his knuckles hurt. “Hurry, Egwene! Hurry!”
Suddenly his horse screamed, and he was falling, tumbling out of the saddle as the horse dropped away beneath him. He flung out his hands to brace himself and splashed headfirst into icy water. He had ridden right off the edge of a sheer bluff into the Arinelle.
Just a small, amusing point of order: Bela was the only one here who had the sense not to go running off a cliff. Heh.
Chapter 21: Listen to the Wind
…Yeah, so this chapter title makes perfect sense given what happens in it, but coming on the heels of the previous chapter title it’s a little ehhh. I would have changed one or the other. Probably the one that keeps giving me seventies prog rock earworms.
“You have very little room to talk, Wisdom.” Moiraine showed more interest in her hot tea than in anything she was saying. “You can wield the One Power yourself, after a fashion.”
Nynaeve pushed at Lan’s arm again; it still did not move, and she decided to ignore it. “Why don’t you try claiming I am a Trolloc?”
Moiraine’s smile was so knowing that Nynaeve wanted to hit her. “Do you think I can stand face-to-face with a woman who can touch the True Source and channel the One Power, even if only now and then, without knowing what she is? Just as you sensed the potential in Egwene.”
It’s amusing to recall how thrilling I found this revelation even in the midst of my general dislike for Nynaeve—a dislike I find less and less justified each time I reread the early books. Nynaeve in the early books has a major chip on her shoulder re: Aes Sedai, no doubt (well, actually I’m not sure she ever gets rid of that chip entirely, but it certainly was much more pronounced in the early books), but that’s not exactly a baseless grudge/fear on her part, especially if, as this chapter suggests, she subconsciously knew about her wilder status but refused to admit it to herself.
So yeah, girl definitely has issues, and the combative way she chooses to deal with those issues are definitely frustrating, but she is also quite unconsciously awesome too:
Before this she had been no further from Emond’s Field than had the boys. Taren Ferry had seemed strange to her; Baerlon would have had her staring in wonder if she had not been so set on finding Egwene and the others. But she allowed none of that to weaken her resolve. Sooner or later she would find Egwene and the boys. Or find a way to make the Aes Sedai answer for whatever had happened to them. One or the other, she vowed.
That kind of loyalty doesn’t just grow on trees, you know. Nor that kind of courage. Nor, er, that kind of bloody minded stubbornness. Unless you’re from the Two Rivers, apparently.
Anyway, people finding out they can channel gets kind of mundane through sheer repetition as the series goes on (also through gradual lessening of the stigma surrounding it), but finding out Nynaeve could channel at this point was quite the shocking twist, if I remember my initial reaction correctly. Which I may not; it has been a long time since I first read TEOTW, and my brain, she is like sieve sometimes. Or, uh, lots of times. Shut up.
“You see, Nynaeve, you are welcome to come.” There was a hesitation in the way Lan said her name, a hint of an unspoken “Sedai” after it.
Also a cool moment. Which of course Nynaeve immediately ruined by getting all prickly about it, instead of taking it for the bit of respect it was. And given that Lan has shown precisely zero respect for any non-Moiraine character he’s interacted with thus far, even a hint is pretty significant. But then, I guess Nynaeve doesn’t exactly associate “Aes Sedai” with “respect” at this point, so the reaction is understandable. Frustrating, but understandable.
Although, I’m not sure if Nynaeve’s interpretation of Lan’s respect was actually the correct one, now that I think about it. After all, Lan would assume that if Nynaeve were to go to the Tower, she would be a novice (since I doubt he would anticipate her eventual record-breaking promotion straight to Accepted), and not earn the title of Aes Sedai for quite some time. Novices are children to Aes Sedai, and the Warders all treat them the same way from what I remember, so the idea that he was giving her respect as a sister doesn’t totally make sense.
Respect for a person who had successfully tracked him and snuck up on him, though… that I could see.
And thus another post slips away, like a dream before your eyes—a curiosity! (Yeah, look, if I have to suffer SO DO YOU.) Come back next week for another post, and hopefully by then we won’t all still be singing this damn song! Whee!