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 39: Weaving of the Web
I once tried to get to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in New York (“tried” being the operative word there). Reading about Rand’s crowd adventures here brought back sharp memories of that abortive-and-never-to-be-repeated experience—right down to the “getting harassed by an extremely stinky homeless guy” part, in fact. Ah, memories.
As the wagon rolled through the Palace gates, he turned to look back at the assembled masses. They howled at him, beyond words, a wave of sheer animal hate and fear, and Logain threw back his head and laughed as the Palace swallowed him.
I kind of love this detail, because it’s not until, what, four or five books later that we find out Logain was actually laughing, not at the crowd, but at Rand specifically. Which means Jordan already knew at this very early point that Logain had a Talent for seeing ta’veren, even though at the point he wrote this he probably didn’t even know if that detail would ever make it into the text. It’s a writer thing, why I find that fun to realize.
Herbalists and hedge-doctors were lying low in Caemlyn right now; there was talk against anyone who did any kind of healing, or fortunetelling. Every night the Dragon’s Fang was scrawled on doors with a free hand, sometimes even in the daylight, and people might forget who had cured their fevers and poulticed their toothaches when the cry of Darkfriend went up. That was the temper in the city.
See, I don’t get this, not in Caemlyn. I know that traditionally, witch hunts in the real world focused on wise women and herbalists and such, but that’s because dumb people thought they were doing magic, and were therefore aligned with the devil, and blah blah blah deadlysuperstitionscakes. But in Randland, magic is real, and with the exception of Nynaeve, Aes Sedai aren’t going to bother with herbs and poultices if they want to Heal you, so this connection seems nonsensical, in context.
Though it would have made slightly more sense had it been specified that the healers being targeted were all men. The connection is still a stretch, but at least it’s universally acknowledged that even the possibility of a man channeling is a super bad thing.
“Even so, he could take the Queen’s Bounty at the Palace, even with things as hard as they are. On High Days, the Queen gives it out with her own hands, and there’s never anyone turned away for any reason. No one needs to beg in Caemlyn. Even a man under warrant can’t be arrested while he’s taking the Queen’s Bounty.”
Oh Em Gee, that’s *gasp* socialism. The Horrah!
(Okay, probably that’s still feudalism, with a dusting of noblesse oblige and also common decency, you go Morgase, but I recently had a “debate” with someone over the eeevils of socialist tendencies in our government, made hilarious by the fact that my opponent is currently collecting Social Security benefits, so the subject’s still somewhat in the forefront of my mind.)
And… yeah, look, I just want to get to the next chapter, because it is my favorite, so whatever, moving on.
Chapter 40: The Web Tightens
I said in the original commentary that this chapter was one of my favorites of the entire series to that date. And now, coming back to it after having read the completed series, at long last?
Well. The statement still stands. It still stands emphatically. (She italicizes, adverbially.)
Love love love love love this scene, still and always. It will likely forever stand out as one of my most fondly remembered reading experiences of all time.
Now, it’s possible that part of this is just misty-eyed nostalgia for days of reading gone by (I still say the only positive benefit of being able to selectively erase memories would be to get to read a beloved book for the first time again), but I also think it’s just because this is a damn good chapter that also happened to hit just about every last one of my narrative and literary kinks. Mm, yummy.
I discussed most of those in the original commentary, but one that I think in retrospect I left out is the absolutely delicious tropetasticness of Rand’s entire interaction with the Trakands and the royal court as a whole. Because, look, you’re not going to last long reading epic fantasy without having at least a little bit of a fascination with the goings-on of royalty/nobility/generally feudal figures, and also a fondness for meet-cute shenanigans involving said feudal figures and the gifted and/or destiny-laden peasants who will eventually become and/or marry them. It’s pretty much a law, y’all.
And it’s a law I personally have no issue with whatsoever. Give me ALL the royalty tropes, please and thank you. Even better if they are SPACE ROYALTY or MAGIC ROYALTY, because come on, why have boring real royalty if you can go one better?
(And before you ask, no, I have not yet managed to see Jupiter Ascending, but the Internets have told me alllll about it, and I am gleefully looking forward to doing so as soon as I can get (a) my sisters and (b) a lot of alcohol lined up for maximal enjoyment of what I can just tell will be a Truly Magical Movie Experience™. I’m already giggling in anticipation.)
And, you know, it’s also because royal people by their very nature operate on a larger scale than non-royal persons—it’s literally in the job description—and thus using our first introduction to Actual Royal People in TEOTW to also shift the focus of the story to the far more global palette on which it will stay for the rest of the series is only apropos. And awesome.
(Okay, technically we’ve already met two Actual Royal Persons in TEOTW, but Moiraine’s affiliations aren’t revealed until later, and Lan’s diadem (LOL) is too firmly on the shelf at this point for him to really count either. In my arrogant opinion, of course.)
In other news, I have to laugh at Elaida for knitting in the throne room, because OF COURSE frickin’ Elaida is knitting in the throne room. Because heaven forfend she wouldn’t take every last opportunity to remind Morgase and everyone else that she is Too Cool For School and no one is the boss of her and neener neener I do what I want, and if that means doing things that are ridiculously inappropriate in context then TOO BAD.
Also, Elaida’s motives for concealing the part of her Foretelling that concerned Rand were not exactly pure, but given the rest of that conversation she probably saved his life. I bet she kicked herself for that later on.
Or maybe not; Rand’s life might never have been in any real danger. Morgase et al at this juncture are very much presented as an idealized royal court, where both the Queen and her children, in their own ways, hold to their honor and duty to their subjects above all other things, and make the kind of choices we’d all love to believe any true leader would make (and which they hardly ever do). And it might be easy to be scornful of that, except that I think it makes the contrast all the more affecting later when Andor (and the Trakands) come apart at the seams.
The Arthurian bent of their names was no accident, after all. Caemlyn is Randland’s Camelot, beautiful and pure and noble before its destruction, and like Camelot’s ruler, eventually it will be for love betrayed that Morgase and her kingdom will fall. And you can’t have a fall without a sufficiently lofty height to start from.
“You say I am fond of giving orders. Well, I command you to let nothing happen to you. I command you to be my First Prince of the Sword when I take the throne—the Light send that day is far off!—and to lead the armies of Andor with the sort of honor Galad cannot dream of.”
“As you command, my Lady.” Gawyn laughed, his bow a parody of Galad’s.
Yeah. Or, you know, as it turns out, not.
Obligatory Gawyn headdesk: *headdesk*
That said, even Gawyn cannot diminish my squee over this chapter. Plus he said the Aielman thing, which deeply delighted me at the time, so I will magnanimously allow his existence. FOR NOW.
But hillarible news! I had intended to officially bestow my standard Sparkly Yay on this chapter, since I hadn’t invented it yet the first time around, but the URL I was using to generate the sparkly appears to be broken. Ergo, I am forced to use the absurdly outsized version my sister made for me for my fabulous JordanCon Powerpoint presentation that one year instead, but hey, maybe that’s even better.
Therefore, have a HUGE SPARKLY YAY, Chapter 40! I love you!
And that’s what THAT is, kids. Happy Tuesday in March, a thing I bet almost no one has said ever, and I’ll see you next week!