Believe it or not, it’s the Wheel of Time Reread Redux! We never thought we could feel so free-ee-ee!
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 27: The Shadow in the Night
“Are all women crazy?” Rand demanded of the ceiling.
No, but this particular one is definitely not helping to dispel the stereotype. At All.
So basically every single thing Selene says and does in this chapter would have made me want to slap her into next week if I were Rand. Well, if I were Rand and not also hopelessly incapacitated by lust and chivalry, I suppose.
But man, even if I were deliriously attracted to her I think I’d be pissed, because oh my God. Once you know she is Lanfear, of course, her behavior makes sense (or at least is only annoying in the sense of “could you be any worse at undercover work, seriously”), but in Rand’s shoes? All I would see is a screamingly oblivious civilian who could not be more obstructionist or disrespectful of the situation—or Rand—if she tried. She would drive me insane, and I honestly can’t decide whether to be impressed or annoyed at Rand for not letting her infuriating nonchalance get to him as much as it would me.
But, as I pointed out in the original commentary, at least Rand is finally starting to get at least a little irritated with her. Too bad it’s not enough to do any good until the cat’s out of the bag anyway.
Reluctantly, Rand formed the void. Saidin shone at him, pulled at him. Dimly, he seemed to recall a time when it had sung to him, but now it only drew him, a flower’s perfume drawing a bee, a midden’s stench drawing a fly. He opened himself up, reached for it. There was nothing there. He could as well have been reaching for light in truth. The taint slid off onto him, soiling him, but there was no flow of light inside him. Driven by a distant desperation, he tried again and again. And again and again there was only the taint.
I remember that when I first read this it quite strongly freaked me out, in a way which probably has to do with my not-always-that-latent compulsive need to conserve the cost/benefit ratio, if that makes sense. Which is to say, I was exceedingly dismayed not so much that Rand was getting taint crap all over him, but much more so that he was doing it with no benefit to show for it. If he had actually succeeded in wielding saidin here I would have been much less upset about it.
Or, in video game terms, I was upset that he was taking damage without gaining any XP, because that shit is not acceptable. This also gives y’all an insight into my probably-maddeningly conservative style of gameplay. Look, I just want ALL the level-ups and ALL the ammo and ALL the healthpacks before I go in against a boss, okay?
Hi, Aludra! Who would have guessed you were more than a once-off character from this scene? Not me, that’s for sure.
Rand studied the open area, recognizing almost nothing. In the middle of it, several dozen upright tubes, each nearly as tall as he and a foot or more across, sat on large wooden bases. From each tube, a dark, twisted cord ran across the ground and behind a low wall, perhaps three paces long, on the far side. […] He eyed the tall tubes warily, remembering the bang made by one the size of his finger. If those were fireworks, he did not want to be this close to them.
Probably one of the smarter things Rand ever thought to himself, really.
In the original commentary I talked about the myth that the Chinese had had fireworks for centuries before they used gunpowder as a weapon, which I’m now fairly certain is completely and totally incorrect. And, incidentally, it’s a myth which I’m also now fairly certain I didn’t actually learn in school at all, because I have recently been reminded of the rather large number of hilarious factual errors about the world I acquired as a child as a result of reading the original Ripley’s Believe It or Not. On reflection, I’m pretty sure that’s where I got the “fireworks before weapons” thing from.
(Though admittedly, some of the “errors” were more due to me not understanding about the consequences of reading a “fact book” published in 1929 than them being actually wrong. My mother takes great glee in recalling how I had earnestly informed her—sometime in the 1980s, mind you—that the youngest living Civil War veteran was now 69 years old.)
But ANYWAY, so that is all a moot point now, but I did like what I said about it in the original commentary, enough that I’m going to quote it to you because I do what I want:
[…] in any case even if it’s a complete urban legend (so to speak), the fact that the idea exists and that many people believe it to be true means it’s perfectly fair game for Jordan to use in WOT, since Jordan not only doesn’t need legends to be true, it’s actually cooler when they kind of aren’t.
Dat’s wight, wabbit.
Chapter 28: A New Thread in the Pattern
“What would I not give,” Verin murmured, gazing up at Urien, “to have you in the White Tower. Or just willing to talk. Oh, be still, man. I won’t harm you. Unless you mean to harm me, with your talk of dancing.”
Urien seemed astounded. He looked at the Shienarans, sitting their horses all around, as if he suspected some trick. “You are not a Maiden of the Spear,” he said slowly. “How could I strike at a woman who has not wedded the spear? It is forbidden except to save life, and then I would take wounds to avoid it.”
Your mission for this post, if you choose to accept it, is to ponder why Urien’s brand of chivalry, as defined here, does not annoy me, when Rand’s concept of chivalry (as we know) most distinctly does.
(It’s not hard to figure out, at least I don’t think it is. But I remain surprised at the number of people who insist that such things must be an all-or-nothing proposition or it’s Just Too Complicated! All I say to that is, beware of the person who wants to make everything simple.)
Anyway, this chapter manages to pack in an awful lot of exposition/world-building for being so relatively short; it’s pretty impressive. Mostly concerning the introduction of the Aiel, of course, and giving us the first hints of how they will tie into the larger happenings of the Dragon Reborn. All of what Urien says or alludes to here is extremely old news to me now, obviously, but I can still see the shape of how tantalizing this must have been to read the first time, when up to this point the reader only knows the Aiel as mysterious background figures, who are tied to Rand in (thus far) mostly inexplicable ways. As the title of the chapter implies, we’re given a new thread to add.
Which is great, but doesn’t leave much ground to cover otherwise, which is probably why I decided in the original commentary to talk about the folly of not allowing for any flaws whatsoever in a piece of art. But I think I expressed my thoughts on that pretty well the first time so, er, I don’t need to talk about that either, except to say that “puppies farting rainbow sparkles and winning lotto tickets” may be one of my favorite phrases I’ve ever written for this thing. Heh.
So, randomly, we end with:
Ingtar let his horse fall back beside Perrin’s. Sometimes, to Perrin’s eyes, the crescent crest on the Shienaran’s helmet looked like a Trolloc’s horns.
Nicely subtle foreshadowing, there, don’t you think?
And, that’s what I got for this one, I think. Be excellent to each other, O my Peeps, and I will see you next Tuesday!