Intrigue! Deception! Suspicious feats of juggling! This Wheel of Time Reread Redux has got it all!
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!
Scheduling Note: Labor Day is nigh upon us, y’all! Therefore, there will be no Redux Reread post next Tuesday, September 8th.
Chapter 25: Cairhien
He stalked out angrily, not sure whether he was angry with himself, or with Cairhien and its Great Game, or Selene for vanishing, or Moiraine. She had started it all, stealing his coats and giving him a lord’s clothes instead. Even now that he called himself free of them, an Aes Sedai still managed to interfere in his life, and without even being there.
Hahaha. I feel sorry for Rand himself, but this whole Cairhien sequence was always one of my favorite parts of TGH—of the entire series, really. I’ve offered criticisms about overuse of tropes on plenty of occasions (my references to Jordan’s tendency towards Planet of Hats-ism in the original commentary to this very chapter, for instance), but tropes can be awesome as well. And I’ll admit that one of my bigger literary weaknesses is for this kind of thing, which I’m sure has a TV Tropes name but I’ve wasted an hour searching for it and am giving up now: not just the general enlordening thing, which I’ve already commented on, but delving into fictional intrigue and politics in general.
Emphasis on “fictional,” of course. Real political intrigue generally makes me want to bash my head into a wall, but contrariwise, I usually gleefully enjoy a well-executed fictional political imbroglio—as long as it works out in the hero’s favor in the long run, of course. As this particular-seeming debacle will eventually work to Rand’s advantage. I think it has something to do with how it gives the satisfaction of intricate pieces clicking into place, and the concurrent broadening of the world-building that intricacy engenders.
Or, you know, the satisfaction of seeing the farm boy trounce the snobby aristocrats at their own game. Even if, as in this particular case, he does it pretty much completely by accident.
And, speaking of fake politics:
“It was the Aiel War, Lord Rand.” [Hurin] looked to make sure none of the soldiers were close enough to hear. “Many of the farmers were afraid to go back to their lands near the Spine of the World, and they all came here, near enough. That’s why Galldrian has the river full of grain barges up from Andor and Tear. There’s no crops coming from farms in the east because there aren’t any farms anymore. Best not to mention it to a Cairhienin though, my Lord. They like to pretend the war never happened, or at least that they won it.”
[…] “I fear Galldrian keeps his people quiet by entertaining them. He gives gleemen and musicians the King’s Gift, a bounty in silver, to perform here in the Foregate, and he sponsors horse races down by the river every day. There are fireworks many nights, too.” [Loial] sounded disgusted. “Elder Haman says Galldrian is a disgrace.”
Well, he’s a disgrace at economics, that’s for sure. Importing all your food, and paying out to entertain the farmers who should be growing it instead? Sounds like a pitch-perfect way to bleed an entire national treasury dry in no time flat. I mean, obviously I’m not in support of Galldrian forcing those farmers to go back and farm on their original properties, but I’m pretty surprised he hasn’t tried it. Or, more humanely, at least tried relocating them to other arable land so they can be producing again.
Or, assuming that other arable land isn’t available (though judging by the general emptiness of most of Randland, I’d be surprised if that were the case), offer financial incentives to go back to their farms that are enough to overcome their fear of Aiel. Sure, that might take some convincing, but you’d be amazed at how convincing a large enough pile of cash can be. I mean, if you’re spending all that money anyway, why not give it to your farmers directly, instead of to a bunch of outlander bread and circuses, literally?
But then, that would be coddling the peasantry, I suppose. And we can’t have that! Better to help them party 24/7 and then sneer at them about it than help them construct a workable way to rebuild their former lives, right?
Of course, I’m sure there’s no few of those former farmers who have no interest in going back to the farm now that they’ve seen Paree, but someone would take that offer, if made, and grain is grain. I’m not claiming it’s a flaw-free solution, because an economist I most certainly am not, but it certainly seems like a better idea than this hot mess.
In other news, I still can’t remember whether I was surprised that Thom was alive when I first read this, but I’m willing to bet I was. Back then I had yet to develop quite so healthy a suspicion of any fictional death that didn’t produce a definite corpse. Ah, youth.
Chapter 26: Discord
In the original commentary, I was somewhat scornfully puzzled as to why Thom is so slow on the uptake here to realize that hey, farmboy + enlordening + Aes Sedai interest + Horn of Valere + asking about the Karatheon Cycle + grousing about not being used as a false Dragon = HEY MAYBE HE’S THE DRAGON REBORN OR SOMETHING. But several commenters later pointed out that it wasn’t so much that Thom was failing to connect the dots as it was that he was refusing to connect the dots, because Thom knew that Rand being the Dragon Reborn was a whole world of epic crazy that no one sane would want to be even remotely involved in. And, well, that makes a lot more sense. Thanks, much-more-astute-than-me commenters!
Although you’d think he’d have also realized his astronomically low odds of escaping a ta’veren’s sphere of influence, no matter how deliberately dumb he makes himself. Plus, that whole thing where the Dragon Reborn is eventually going to get everyone involved in his epic crazy; it’s kinda the nature of the prophetic beast, there.
But I suppose you can’t fault a man too much for trying to cling to his illusions of not being a supporting role in an apocalyptic saga. Generally speaking, those don’t tend to end well for the sidekick roles, and if anyone is in a better position to know that than a professional storyteller like Thom, I can’t think of them offhand.
So, nice try, I guess, Thom. Too bad it’s doomed to failure!
The slender woman sitting cross-legged on the bed with her skirts tucked under her was keeping six colored balls spinning in a wheel between her hands.
According to The Google, the world record for longest juggle of a six-ball shower (which is what juggling in a circle would be) is 135 catches. So okay, it’s clearly difficult, but doable for a professional for short periods, seems like. I have to say, though, that judging from the record-holder’s very badly framed video of himself doing it, the height on the throws you apparently need to get to keep that many balls in the air makes it pretty unlikely that someone could do it sitting on a bed in a (presumably) low-ceilinged inn bedroom.
In other news, this is probably the fourth or fifth time I have discussed Jordan’s juggling fail in a fannish context, which proves once again that nobody can nitpick like a nerd can nitpick. CRY ABOUT IT.
“Do you know what that lack-wit Seaghan’s done now, girl?” Thom said, looking down at her. “He’s taken on a pack of louts who call themselves ‘players.’ They walk around pretending to be Rogosh Eagle-eye, and Blaes, and Gaidal Cain, and… Aaagh! They hang a scrap of painted canvas behind them, supposed to make the audience believe these fools are in Matuchin Hall, or the high passes of the Mountains of Dhoom. I make the listener see every banner, smell every battle, feel every emotion. I make them believe they are Gaidal Cain. Seaghan will have his hall torn down around his ears if he puts this lot on to follow me.”
I guess Thom should be glad he won’t be around for when they (re)invent moving pictures. If the emergence of theater offends him this much, he’d have an absolute coronary about film. Heh.
When they came pounding through the common room, Rand winked at the innkeeper, then laughed at his startled look. Let him think I’m off to play his bloody Great Game. Let him think what he wants. Thom’s alive.
And of course, the fun is that it’s impossible not to imagine what zany Daes Dae’mar-y shenanigans the innkeeper now thinks Rand is up to, and giggling about it. Thom comments later in the chapter that all you have to do is be reminded of the existence of the Great Game to start thinking on its terms, and he’s absolutely right.
Also, it’s worth enjoying the moments in the early books like this one, where Rand is genuinely happy, as much as possible, because they are few and far between, and they will soon be gone for good.
Even after all is said and done and the day is won and Rand is incognito and one with the Matrix and free to do whatever, which should presumably make him happy again, or at least relatively content, there’s an element of innocence to Rand here that he’s never going to get back no matter how at peace he is post-AMOL. So, I guess, cherish it while you’ve got it, or something.
And that’s all the news that’s fit to post for now, my friends! Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend if that applies to you, and I’ll see you crazy kids again in two weeks! Cheers!