The Wheel of Time Reread Redux is go!
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!
Avant de commencer: JordanCon 7, The Con of the Red Hand, is descending upon us! And I will be there! And reporting on it for you! Right here on Tor.com! It is SO EXCITING OMG.
Come join us if you can: pre-registration closes April 1st. Can’t wait to see a bunch of y’all there!
Chapter 42: Remembrance of Dreams
Basically, this is the chapter that sets up the entire rest of the book, and lays out the endgame. This is when secrets are revealed, revelations are had, plots are twisted, and Information Is Dumped. And how.
As a result, I was really very critical of this chapter in the original commentary, and this is the first time in this Redux Reread that I am finding that I seriously disagree with myself.
(Then I will take a moment to blink at how that sentence makes it sound like Sally Field will soon be playing the role of me, and move on.)
Okay, well, I don’t totally disagree with myself, because the chapter is very infodumpy, there’s no getting around that, but I’m not sure it’s quite as clunky as I thought it was. And I still can’t think of how else or when else Jordan would have gotten this information across.
There’s also something author Steven Brust said in a conversation about storytelling, which I’m going to mangle because it was a couple of years ago, but it struck me at the time. Roughly, he said, in response to a query about how to avoid infodumping, “You don’t avoid infodumping! I love infodumping. Infodumping is awesome—as long as you wait until the reader is hooked firmly enough into your story that he or she wants to be infodumped on.”
This struck me because I had never really thought of it that way, but that’s really very true, especially in the context of SFF world-building. Fantasy readers, generally speaking, are the kind of readers who adore details and minutiae and background and backstory and fake history and made-up maps of people and places that don’t exist. Once we’ve invested enough in the author’s creation, more often than not we want to know everything about it—and if there’s a part the author doesn’t know or won’t tell, we’re awfully likely to make up our own stuff to fill in the gaps.
Or, you know, compile a giant FAQ and argue about it on the internet for *coughmumble* years. Ahem.
So, by that reasoning, having a whole slew of exposition appear in the 42nd chapter of your book is a perfectly cromulent thing for Jordan to have done. Because if you’re not invested enough to want to have Stuff Explained to you by this point, why on earth are you still reading the book?
On to other things!
The Aiel who passed on the message about the Eye of the World to the Ogier and the Tinkers are… possibly explained now? I don’t think (though I definitely could be wrong) that we were ever told how exactly these Aiel found out about the Eye; I vaguely remember making a joke at some point about the futility of interrogating a Trolloc. But in AMOL we find out about the Town near Shayol Ghul, and how so many (possibly all?) of the Aiel male channelers sent to die in the Blight got Turned and made into Dreadlords instead.
So presumably the Aiel that passed the message on managed to stumble upon or possibly even infiltrate the Town and heard it there, and then managed to escape before they were discovered? Or something? Whatever it is, it would have been a story in itself, how that happened. Talk about having gonads of steel, right?
“I cannot take [the dagger] away from him without killing him. The binding has lasted too long, and grown too strong. That must be unknotted in Tar Valon; it is beyond me, or any lone Aes Sedai, even with an angreal.”
“But he doesn’t look sick anymore.” He had a thought and looked up at her. “As long as he has the dagger, the Fades will know where we are. Darkfriends, too, some of them. You said so.”
“I have contained that, after a fashion. If they come close enough to sense it now, they will be on top of us anyway. I cleansed the taint from him, Rand, and did what I could to slow its return, but return it will, in time, unless he receives help in Tar Valon.”
Someone pointed out in the comments to last week’s entry, I think, that Moiraine’s magical abilities in TEOTW were a lot more nebulously defined than channeling was to become later in the series. This may have been because Jordan hadn’t quite hammered out all the details of his magical system yet, but I think it was also in part because Moiraine was still very much the Gandalf figure in TEOTW, and her magic is accordingly much more Tolkienish (i.e. much more in the A Wizard Did It school of “explaining,” scarequotes definitely intended, how magic works). TEOTW in general is like that, actually—which we knew already, but sometimes it’s worth pointing out again.
[…] whenever Perrin walked through a deeper patch of shadow, his eyes seemed to gather in what little light there was, glowing softly like polished amber.
I am such a giant nerd, y’all, because it’s always little details like these, just passing hints of Other, that make me the most happy reader. It makes me give tiny yays.
“And Gawyn… you’d like Gawyn, Perrin.”
This is completely random, but I saw this and (my petty kneejerk reaction of NO HE WOULD NOT aside) realized that I don’t think Gawyn ever meets Perrin in the entirety of the series. Not that that means anything, but it’s just interesting, for some reason.
…Possibly only to me. Moving on!
Chapter 43: Decisions and Apparitions
The Ways are a really cool concept that saw a ton of use in the earlier books and ended up mostly abandoned by the later ones. (Yes, I know Perrin was supposed to have a whole thing in the Ways in AMOL, but a deleted scene does not count.) Partially this was just practicality, because once most of the main characters could either Travel themselves or had access to someone who could, using the Ways was just not worth the risk, but it’s still kind of too bad they just fell by the wayside, ha ha.
That said, I remember reading Loial’s description of how the Ways had gone bad and was like, yeah, there’s a whole bowl of Do Not Want. You gotta be either a little horrified or a little admiring (or both) at how Moiraine baldly guilt-trips Loial into taking them into what is almost certainly (buh-buh-buh-bum!) Certain Death. Damn, she cold, yo. Practical, but cold.
“Humankind and Ogier, everything that lives, we are at war with the Dark One,” Moiraine said. “The greater part of the world does not even know it yet, and most of the few who do fight skirmishes and believe they are battles. While the world refuses to believe, the Dark One may be at the brink of victory. There is enough power in the Eye of the World to undo his prison. If the Dark One has found some way to bend the Eye of the World to his use…”
Everything said in TEOTW concerning the Dark One has a very different effect once you know that the dude appearing in the Superboys’ dreams is not, in fact, the actual Final Boss, but Ishamael being either delusional or devious, or both. I mean, not that Ishy getting hold of the Eye would have been a fabulous development either, but I don’t know given what happened in AMOL that the Eye would have been enough to break the Dark One free anyway.
“Ba’alzamon = Ishamael” also makes for a marvelous retcon, whether it actually was a retcon or not. The confrontation we’re currently being shepherded to at the end of this novel is very much presented as being the endgame—Moiraine says that “time is short” at the end of this chapter, which was very dramatic at the time, but now seems a little odd considering that over two years will elapse in the internal chronology of the series before we get from this point to the actual endgame in AMOL. But, of course, no one knew that at the time—including, I believe, the author.
So a way had to be found to roll back the intensity a little. Making your putative Big Bad turn out to be the Big Bad’s henchman in disguise is a pretty solid way to accomplish that.
The later books also provide a nice explanation for the often-debated-back-in-the-day question of whether Ishy’s dream-stalkings of the Superboys took place in Tel’aran’rhiod or not. Now I can just wave at it and say “Dreamshard!” and move on.
In fact I think I’m going to wave at all kinds of things and yell “Dreamshard!” now, because that image is HILARIOUS and I am giggling like mad right now.
Punchy? Sleep deprivation? Me? Shirley you jest! But just in case, I think we’ll stop here. You do your thing, and I’ll do MY thing, and our things will all come back together next week! Or whatever! Cheers!