It’s the Wheel of Time Reread Redux, where the term “cloak and dagger”… er, would be applied a little more literally than in some cases. But the segue is, espionage! Capers! Really wild things!
Yeah, I swear this was going to be a wittier intro (or at least one that made actual sense), but then my brain defected… to the Soviets. Look, I got nothing. Sorry!
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 32: Dangerous Words
“I like to walk.” Rand wondered how to follow Verin’s advice, and remembering what she had said about his visit to the Amyrlin, he settled into Cat Crosses the Courtyard. He knew no more arrogant way to walk than that. Barthanes’s mouth tightened, and Rand thought perhaps the lord found it too arrogant, but Verin’s advice was all he had to go by, so he did not stop.
This passage never fails to make me cackle with glee, and also makes me very sorry that (unless I’m mistaken, which is quite possible) this is the last time Cat Crosses the Courtyard is mentioned in the series. I suppose after some point Rand acquired enough natural surety (and arrogance) that he didn’t have to fake it anymore. Which is fine, but I miss picturing this walk, because I find it hilarious.
Actually this entire bit is (still) hysterical, with Barthanes reading immense meaning into every random bland statement Rand makes. Had I been in Rand’s place I might have been really hard-pressed to refrain from saying something completely insane just to see what he would do with it. “Well, my Lord, I have heard that” [sotto voce] “diggy said the boogie. Said, up jump the boogie. Probably just a rumor.”
Snerk. This is probably why I am not cut out for undercover caper work. But as I said in the original commentary, I sure do enjoy reading fiction about it. Even more so when it comes with a fancy epic fantasy candy coating!
“Those eyes. That hair. I have heard the Andoran royal line has almost Aiel coloring in their hair and eyes.”
Rand stumbled, though the floor was smooth marble. “I’m not Aiel, Lord Barthanes, and I’m not of the royal line, either.”
OR, the complete opposite of that statement. Foreshadowing, huzzah!
As for the following “cougar Ladies” bit being played for comedy, I’d like to be annoyed by it, except for how it totally is a thing that happens, and it really is pretty funny. Among the many things that are not precluded or excluded by gender, “being a skeezy creeper” is unfortunately one of them.
…Though it is worth pointing out that there is no way that Rand feels physically threatened by these creeper ladies, which is actually why the scene can be played for laughs. This would not at all be the case were the genders of the participants flipped—or at least I seriously doubt it would strike me as funny. So there’s that.
Also funny: Thom being taken aback that Rand doesn’t want him on his Ocean’s Eleven team. Yeah, you’re totally retired, dude. Suuuure.
Chapter 33: A Message from the Dark
“Did you bring Ingtar and the others down already?”
The sniffer shook his head. “Lord Ingtar had let himself be cornered by six or seven of those who call themselves ladies. I couldn’t get close enough to speak to him. And Verin Sedai was with Barthanes. She gave me such a look when I came near, I never even tried to tell her.”
Exchanging Darkfriend countersigns, maybe? If so, then yeah, I guess that’s the kind of thing you really don’t want overheard.
Mat swept a low bow, and his voice was heavy with sarcasm. “At once, my Lord. As my Lord wishes. Shall I carry your banner, my Lord?” He started back for the manor, his grumbles fading away. “Now I have to limp. Next it’ll be a broken neck, or… ”
“He’s just worried about the dagger, Rand,” Loial said.
“I know,” Rand said. But how long before he tells somebody what I am, not even meaning to? He could not believe Mat would betray him on purpose; there was that much of their friendship left, at least.
I kind of feel like this “Mat betraying Rand” thing that kept getting hinted at in the first few books was a shoe that never actually got dropped… and maybe should have, from a story-telling point of view.
Chekhov’s Gun is an overly popular narrative trope that critics love to apply a bit too well, perhaps (God knows I’ve brought it up enough times), but its core tenet still holds true: If you set up or introduce a thing in your story, and then never follow through with the thing, then the thing should really not have been there to begin with. If Mat’s unreliability had only been a passing thought in Rand’s mind once, that would have been one thing, but this is a thing that gets touched on over and over again in the first two books, and therefore the fact that it never became a plot point is really rather surprising.
This is not to say that I wanted Mat to betray Rand, naturally. On a human, emotional, I-am-invested-in-these-characters level, that’s obviously the last thing that I would want. But as a writer and critic, the fact that it didn’t happen… well, it feels like it’s a rifle on the wall that never got fired, and that’s… well, that’s a bit of a fail, honestly. Life is full of random irrelevant shit that never goes anywhere, which is precisely why stories should not be. That is, in a weird way, the point of made-up stories: that they have the rhyme and reason real life does not.
Of course, it’s one thing to grandly declare “no extraneous firearms!” when you are writing one, singular, contained story that will not see the light of day until it is finished and polished and excess-cruft-removed to the author’s heart’s content, and quite another when you must send the first or second (or, er, third through thirteenth) part of your story out into the world before the last part is finished or even written. At that point there has to be at least some concession to reality, which is that there is, quite simply, a certain inevitable loss of control there which practically guarantees that at some point, some stuff is going to fall by the wayside, whether you want it to or not. Such is the burden of the serially published writer.
…blood so sweet, so sweet to drink the blood, the blood that drips, drips, drops so red; pretty eyes, fine eyes, I have no eyes, pluck the eyes from out of your head; grind your bones, split your bones inside your flesh, suck your marrow while you scream; scream, scream, singing screams, sing your screams… And worst of all, a whispering thread through all the rest. Al’Thor. Al’Thor. Al’Thor.
The Black Wind is another thing that was ultimately left a little vague as to its exact hows and whys and wherefores, but all things considered I’m pretty okay with that. I mean, some things just do better without detailed provenances, otherwise it’s the equivalent of killing the joke by explaining it. Basically I’m pretty happy with thinking of Machin Shin as the toxic black mold that grows when you install mystical infrastructure with substandard and taint-leaking One Power tools (haha, I so clever), and leaving it at that.
Verin and Ingtar were standing together, and thus also alone. Ingtar looked a little dazed.
I’m probably reading way too much into all this, but now I really want to know whether Verin revealed her Shadowy allegiances to both Barthanes and Ingtar at the party. She probably didn’t, but I think it would be kind of awesome if she had.
But the point is: off to Toman Head! And more Fain! HOORAY
And that’s what I got for you today, meine Kinder! Auf Wiedersehen for now, and I will be back next Tuesday with more!