This is the Wheel of Time Reread Redux, or I’ll be a Tiaraed Fightin’ Duchess!
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 available as an e-book series! Yay!
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 36: Web of the Pattern
Enter: Loial! Yay!
“You humans are very excitable,” Loial said in that bass rumble. “I had heard all the stories, and read the books, of course, but I didn’t realize. My first day in Caemlyn, I could not believe the uproar. Children cried, and women screamed, and a mob chased me all the way across the city, waving clubs and knives and torches, and shouting, ‘Trolloc!’ I’m afraid I was almost beginning to get a little upset.”
Heh. Oh, Loial. I heart you always. Easily one of my more adored minor characters in the series, I’m still vaguely disappointed at how he sort of got shunted aside in the later books. Of course, given how Loial’s main function in the early books, especially TEOTW, was expository world-building, maybe it’s also understandable to an extent.
He begins his infodumping immediately upon introduction, too, so in this chapter we learn about Ogier (duh), the Pattern, ta’veren (still one of the best Magnetic Plot Devices ever), and half a dozen other historical hints and name-drops. Not to mention my favorite bit:
“Are you playing a joke on me? Sometimes you Aielmen think the oddest things are funny.”
“What? I’m not an Aielman! I’m from the Two Rivers. I never even saw an Aielman!”
This has got to be a specifically named trope, but I’ve been unable to find it. Not least because TV Tropes is the most tangent-inducing, focus-distracting website IN THE WORLD. Sheesh.
Well, whatever the official name may be for the trope of “hero gradually discovers that his origins are even stranger/more prophetically significant than he previously supposed” (Secret Legacy comes close, but it’s still not quite right), I instantly recognized and loved it the moment I saw it on first reading, rubbing my metaphorical hands together in anticipation of learning more.
Is it a cliché? Sure. Do I care? Nope. Because you know what? It’s still awesome anyway. Like many of the rider tropes that come attached to Hero’s Journeys, it’s generally a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”; as long as it’s done well, it still works.
And then there’s my other favorite exchange (in retrospect) in this chapter:
“It is not fixed, the Pattern, not always. If a man tries to change the direction of his life and the Pattern has room for it, the Wheel just weaves on and takes it in. There is always room for small changes, but sometimes the Pattern simply won’t accept a big change, no matter how hard you try. You understand?”
Rand nodded. “I could live on the farm or in Emond’s Field, and that would be a small change. If I wanted to be a king, though…” He laughed, and Loial gave a grin that almost split his face in two.
“Ironic foreshadowing” doesn’t seem to be an official term as such (at least not judging from a cursory Google), and I don’t understand why, because that should totally be a thing, because that is exactly what this is. And it is, again, awesome.
Other random notes:
“I keep a clean place, you understand, but with so many people in the city, rats are everywhere. Crowd people together and you get rats, and Caemlyn has a plague of them all of a sudden.”
In the story, the influx of rats in Caemlyn is because of the rising influence of the Dark One, of course, but I had to laugh when I read this line because I remembered the urban legend about how you’re never more than six feet (or ten feet, or whatever) from a rat in New York (or London, or whatever major city). I know that that’s not actually true, but my years of standing on subway platforms in Manhattan and watching foot-long rats blithely putter around on the tracks below (and, occasionally, on the platform itself), right in front of me, made that myth pretty easy to believe.
The shelves must have held three or four hundred books, more than he had ever seen in one place before. Clothbound, leather-bound with gilded spines. Only a few had wooden covers. His eyes gobbled up the titles, picking out old favorites. The Travels of Jain Farstrider. The Essays of Willim of Maneches.
The latter title immediately drove me crazy, both on first reading and several times since then, because I was certain it was referencing something in the real world, but I could not put my finger on what it was. The first thing I thought of was Man of La Mancha, but that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Nowadays I’ve pretty much decided it’s a reference to William Manchester, who as a military memoirist and biographer would likely have been someone Jordan read, but that’s mostly for lack of any better options, as I don’t remember ever seeing anyone suggest something better. If anyone does have a better notion I’d love to hear about it.
Chapter 37: The Long Chase
How exactly did the wolves know not to molest Nynaeve and her horses? Maybe she just smelled non-Whitecloak-y to them? (That would be good enough for me, snrk.)
Yep, still think this chapter title is nonsensical. But maybe I just really want to see the word “skulk” in a title. Possibly because it is one of those fascinating words that sounds exactly like what it’s describing. Skulk skulk skulk
I don’t remember if I realized Nynaeve is awesome in this chapter on first reading, but I’m betting I was still too busy disliking her to really notice. On subsequent readings, however, there is no doubt.
In a way, in fact, she’s more awesome here than she is once she acquires Phenomenal Cosmic Power later on. It’s one thing to be brave when you know you can literally kill things with your brain; it’s quite another to be brave armed only with your wits.
I also still really like that Nynaeve doesn’t even realize how much of a compliment Lan paid her by saying she was “good” at tracking. From most people, that would be mild praise; from a guy like Lan, that’s practically a standing ovation.
Chapter 38: Rescue
But Byar did not really threaten; as if he were talking about getting a drink of water he talked about hot irons and pincers, about knives slicing away skin and needles piercing. He did not appear to be trying to frighten them. There was never even a touch of gloating in his eyes. He just did not care if they were frightened or not, if they were tortured or not, if they were alive or not. That was what brought cold sweat to Perrin’s face once it got through to him. That was what finally convinced him Byar was telling the simple truth.
Yeah, I guess that would be more terrifying than having the kind of guy who’s all “Ooh, you’re gonna get TOR-tured, hahaha!” Because that guy is his own kind of scary (who laughs at the idea of torturing people?), but at least there is evidence there that that guy has some kind of functioning emotional spectrum; there’s at least a possibility that something could be beyond the pale for him.
But a guy like Byar? There’s no hard limit anywhere on a guy like that. And that is way more frightening.
In that vein, I’m not sure I understood originally that Byar (and Bornhald) had absolutely zero intention of letting Perrin and Egwene escape, but it’s completely obvious to me now. Byar was going to let them try to run, but yeah, no. They would have been cut down on their way out for sure.
So morals. Very rectitude. Wow.
Frickin’ Whitecloaks, man.
Was it Byar’s cloak he had ended up with? He almost thought he could smell the gaunt man on it.
Wolfy powers, coming online…
Abruptly Nynaeve stiffened, staring at his face. Dropping her bag, she pressed the backs of her hands to his cheeks and forehead. He tried to pull back, but she caught his head in both hands and thumbed back his eyelids, peering into his eyes and muttering to herself. Despite her small size she held his face easily; it was never easy to get away from Nynaeve when she did not want you to.
“I don’t understand,” she said finally, releasing him and settling back to sit on her heels. “If it was yelloweye fever, you wouldn’t be able to stand. But you don’t have any fever, and the whites of your eyes aren’t yellowed, just the irises.”
And then the golden eyes, of course, which is all just part and parcel of the Wolfbrother deal to me now, but on first reading I thought it was so cool. Again, I’ll nearly always go along with tropes and enjoy them as long as they’re done well and don’t insult my intelligence. Jordan had a way of doing reveals that rarely or never triggered my cheese-o-meter, and the way he did this one is a great example.
I was also all set to be annoyed at Moiraine once again being all cagy and non-informative re: the Wolfbrother thing, until I realized that in this case at least, she was doing it not just to be annoying and enigmatic, but to protect Perrin. It was his secret to tell or not, and she respected that. Which is surprisingly nice of her—and of Lan, too, though he was probably just following Moiraine’s lead.
Speaking of which, I was startled, originally, to realize that Lan evidently already felt strongly enough for Nynaeve at this point that he was nearly willing to defy his Warder bond for her. I guess it’s just one of those things.
I think that there were some folks who were rather outraged that I said in the original commentary that Lan wasn’t one of my favorite characters. And believe me, I certainly get the appeal, and why he might be the favorite of many people, but while I very much like him, there are still a bunch of other characters in WOT I like more. *shrug* Sowwy. At least I never denied that he was an all-around badass!
(“Diademed Battle Lord”, however, is still an utterly ridiculous title whose pretention even Lan cannot carry off. I snort in derision every time I see it, and if TEOTW ever gets filmed I devoutly hope that line gets cut.)
“But what of the chance involved, blacksmith? Sometimes the Pattern has a randomness to it—to our eyes, at least—but what chance that you should meet a man who could guide you in this thing, and you one who could follow the guiding? The Pattern is forming a Great Web, what some call the Lace of Ages, and you lads are central to it. I don’t think there is much chance left in your lives, now.”
Heh. This whole speech is kind of hilariously meta. As the joke goes—Ta’veren: Old Tongue for “main character”.
And that’s the show, y’all! Have a lovely March week, though I’m sort of convinced that’s an oxymoron, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!