You can hate the playa or you can hate the game, but don’t hate the Wheel of Time Reread Redux, y’all! It just wants to be your friend.
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 21: The Nine Rings
“Daes Dae’mar, Lord Rand,” Hurin said. “The Great Game. The Game of Houses, some call it. This Caldevwin thinks you must be doing something to your advantage or you wouldn’t be here. And whatever you’re doing might be to his disadvantage, so he has to be careful.”
Given the other blog series I’m running on Tor.com these days, it’s fairly inevitable, this time around, that I will have to compare and contrast WOT’s Game of Houses with ASOIAF’s Game of Thrones. Especially since I suspect that the latter is at least partially an homage to the former—just taken to the nth degree.
There are a lot of differences between the two, obviously, and those differences are just as emblematic of the differences between the two series as a whole as they are of this aspect of them in particular. The best way I can come up with to summarize the fundamental difference is, WOT’s Game of Houses is vicious the way “politics in Washington D.C.” are vicious, while Martin’s Game of Thrones is vicious the way “rival inner city gangs having a drug war” is vicious. The Wire as opposed to The West Wing, one might say. (The characters in The Wire even called it “the game,” in case you wanted more parallels, which is why I know I’ve compared it to ASOIAF before.)
Or, you know, what I think most people say is Martin’s actual primary inspiration for the series’ political storyline, the Wars of the Roses. Which was a type of “politics” fairly far removed from the comparative civility of the “infighting” of today’s U.S. government—at least as long as you discard various conspiracy theories regarding the latter, heh.
I think there is a sense that a lot of people consider Martin’s version to be the more “realistic,” basically because it is the more bloodthirsty and violent of the two. And there’s a certain amount of merit to that, because God knows we know people can be epically cruel and shitty to each other when the environment’s right for it. But that’s also part of the equation: the environment.
While set in what many people probably think of as a pseudo-medieval milieu, Jordan’s WOT is actually not “medieval” at all, at least not in the sense that I was taught that term in school. As I’ve noted before, Randland is much more late European Renaissance than it is Middle Ages, as evidenced by things like the presence of widespread literacy, the existence of things like printing presses and clocks, and (later) the nascent development of gunpowder firearms and steam technology.
But more than that, WOT’s various ruling bodies, even the most corrupt ones (as usual I’m excluding the Seanchan for reasons), seem to subscribe to a more, shall we say, restrained version of political conflict, that smacks much more of modern times in the real world than otherwise—perhaps as a holdover from the still dimly-remembered peace of the Age of Legends, or perhaps as evidence of the overarching and conflict-dampening influence of the White Tower. Ergo, the primary weapon of Daes Dae’mar is words, rather than swords. This isn’t to say things can’t devolve into bloody conflict in Randland (because they can, and do, obviously), but as a general rule things have to get pretty extreme before that happens—even on the eve of an impending apocalypse, it seems.
Whereas Martin’s ASOIAF, on the other hand, is “medieval” in pretty much every sense of the word. Including the Pulp Fiction one. Ergo, it’s a world in which swords trump words to such an extent that hardly anyone has even bothered to notice their own impending apocalypse. Good job, guys.
But that’s a rant for a different blog! My point is, I don’t necessarily see either “game” as being superior to or more “realistic” than the other, so much as I think that they are each apropos to their own respective settings (and overall tone). Daes Dae’mar’s subtle dance of verbal barbs and covert scheming in gilded halls would suit the bludgeon-like brutality of ASOIAF about as well as nipples on a Batsuit, and the reverse is also true. In My Opinion, Of Course.
Chapter 22: Watchers
Moiraine sniffed. “Your humility, Lan Gaidin, has always been more arrogance than most kings could manage with their armies at their backs. From the first day I met you, it has been so.”
If there’s a more awesomely accurate summation of a person’s character in the series than this, I can’t think of it offhand.
“So. Not a pet but a parcel. Myrelle is to be a—a caretaker! Moiraine, not even the Greens treat their Warders so. No Aes Sedai has passed her Warder’s bond to another in four hundred years, but you intend to do it to me not once, but twice!”
I’m sort of surprised that I didn’t get into this aspect of Lan and Moiraine’s argument the first time around, but I suspect that I didn’t ignore it so much as decide to shunt the topic off to a later date, which is a thing I sometimes do if I know it’s going to come up again. And since the whole Warder bond thing is a subject veritably riddled with consent issues, and one that comes up multiple times throughout the series, well, I probably figured I didn’t have to tackle everything at once.
And I know I must have tackled it later, even if at the moment I may not precisely remember what I said. If I had to make a guess, though, I’d bet the phrase “fundamentally unequal partnership” and possibly “seriously not cool” was in there somewhere. Because I devoutly hope that it’s been made very clear by this point that I have, shall we say, strong feelings about taking away a person’s ability to consent, and it’s pretty hard to argue that the Warder bond isn’t an example of exactly that.
And not even so much because of the “compel” aspect of the bond, even though that is quite squicky enough on its own, thank you, but the apparent lack of disclosure about that aspect beforehand. It’s hella shady in my opinion, but nevertheless, you could make an argument that the “compel” bit is not a violation of the Warder’s personal freedom so long as he knows about it beforehand and agrees to go through with the bond anyway. Maybe. But no way does it fly ethically if the guy doesn’t even know it’s possible until it’s too late to back out. But that, apparently, is exactly the state of affairs with the standard Aes Sedai/Warder bond.
(I am not even going to bother getting into the later Asha’man/Aes Sedai bond shenanigans, because that is a whole separate bowl of weevils that I am not dealing with right now.)
And that’s to say nothing of what Moiraine is proposing to do here re: passing the bond around, which Lan is quite right to identify as denigrating to him in the extreme. Although (she admits, reluctantly) from a certain point of view this could be considered taking measures to save Lan’s life. Which, okay, but from there you get into a whole right-to-die quagmire that is subsequently short-circuited by the knowledge that if saving Lan’s life from broken bond berserker syndrome was the real priority, then all Moiraine had to do was release him from the bond entirely, and you’re right back to square one of your Consent Issues bingo card. Ugh.
To be continued, probably.
Hi, Vandene and Adeleas! Glad to know I don’t have to worry anymore about whether you’re Black Ajah (you’re not) or who will eventually murder you (Chesmal and Careane, respectively)! It’s nice when I know things.
Given that, I can’t remember if we ever found out who sent the Draghkar for Moiraine here, since it obviously wasn’t Adeleas or Vandene. I declared in the original commentary that it was Liandrin, but at this point I can’t recall whether I had anything to back that assertion up, or if I was just pulling it out of my ass for the LOLZ. I suppose it doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, though.
I also declared in this commentary that we never got a POV from Lan, but that was completely incorrect even as of that writing, since Lan was a POV character in New Spring, which was published before I wrote the first Reread. Oops. Nevermind!
And that’s all for the nonce, comrades! Be well, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!