How much WOT would a WOTchuck WOT if a WOTchuck could chuck WOT? The Wheel of Time Reread Redux will… not provide an answer to that question. But we will to some other ones!
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 12: The Amyrlin Seat
I’ve always liked the idea of a box that would burst into flames if anyone besides me touched it. It’s got that nice little karmic bite to it, you know?
As I noted in the original commentary, this chapter is basically a recap of things we mostly already knew, but it’s not really as useless as I first implied, because its actual main purpose is to further establish Siuan’s character, and also to give the reader a clearer idea of her political situation. And, additionally, to get in more world-building vis-à-vis the Aes Sedai and the White Tower in general. Which, yeah, we all know this stuff now, but on first reading it was new (and very interesting) information.
I know I wasn’t the only one who got extremely impatient with Aes Sedai politics later on, but that doesn’t change the fact that the very real-feeling complexity and depth of the Aes Sedai political structure was probably one of the more impressive achievements of Jordan’s world-building overall. In fact, its very frustratingness is a compliment to that effort, because what real-world political system has ever existed that wasn’t also completely infuriating to everyone involved?
None, that’s what. If it doesn’t make you want to punch people, it isn’t politics, and that’s a fact. So well done there, WOT.
So there’s that. Of course, one thing Verin tells us here that I’m pretty sure we definitely didn’t know before this is about Mat’s link to the Horn of Valere, and how it renders the Horn useless to anyone else until Mat dies. Which was pretty alarming information, back in the day, even before Mat became my favorite character for a while.
This information was also the source of some fairly fierce debate in the fandom after the publication of TSR and especially TFOH, both of which featured times Mat might legitimately have been said to have “died”, even if he came back after, and therefore speculation raged over whether that meant Mat was still linked to the Horn or not.
Despite all that, I honestly was shocked by the revelation in AMOL that Mat really wasn’t linked to the Horn anymore. I’m not even sure why I was so sure that Mat still was the Hornblower, except perhaps from a residual expectation of Conservation of Heroic Acts, where minor characters maybe get to do some awesome things, but the most awesome things are reserved for the central cast. So Olver blowing the Horn at the Last Battle was really quite a nice plot twist and trope subversion for me. I liked it, but I sure wasn’t expecting it.
Chapter 13: Punishments
I continually waver back and forth in my opinions on how novices and Accepted are treated in the Tower. On the one hand, it’s all completely ridiculous and bordering on inhumane; on the other, knowing that Jordan has obviously based the entire Aes Sedai training regime on military boot camp puts it in a quite different light.
Because while I, the ultimate civilian, may regard military training to be ridiculous and borderline inhumane, clearly many of the actual people who go through that training would not agree. I have heard more than one military person who, when asked why they enlisted, answered that it was because they “wanted to do something hard”, and clearly that was exactly what they got. So, really, who am I to tell them they shouldn’t have gotten what they wanted?
So too, is how while Siuan’s condemnation of the Supergirls for falling for Liandrin’s ruse may strike me as fundamentally unfair, it is also, in a weird way, a good thing, in that she is refusing to treat and shelter them like children, but expecting them to own their mistakes and do better in the future. It’s hard, and maybe it’s even cruel, but if you believe, as the military does and as the Tower does, that your recruits are going to come up against nothing but hardness and cruelty once they’re out there, then it makes a certain kind of brutal sense to prepare them for that beforehand in as controlled circumstances as you can manage.
This isn’t to say that the Tower—and the military—get it right all the time, because obviously they don’t. Corruption abounds, even when you don’t have a huge infiltration of evil sleeper agents gnawing secret holes in your infrastructure like the Tower does. (I will just devoutly hope that the U.S. military does not have a parallel situation.) But even so, I don’t feel comfortable with unilaterally declaring that the whole system is bunk just because I personally don’t like it. Different strokes for different folks, and alla that.
And again, the fundamental unfairness of them being blamed for Liandrin’s actions is mitigated by the fact that exonerating them also means exposing them to greater danger, as galling as that may be. I have issues with some—or many—of the decisions Siuan makes over the course of the series, but it’s pretty difficult for me to find fault with this one.
Chapter 14: The Bite of the Thorns
“It is a question of who I can trust,” [the Amyrlin] said softly. “I should be able to trust Leane and Sheriam, at least. But do I dare? Verin?” Her shoulders shook with a quick, silent laugh. “I already trust Verin with more than my life, but how far can I take it? Moiraine?” She was silent for a moment. “I have always believed I could trust Moiraine.”
The (probably deliberate) irony is, two of the four sisters she names here are actually Black Ajah. Even if Verin actually can be trusted in spite of that, which just keeps on being awesome.
Siuan’s decision to make Nynaeve and Egwene Black Ajah hunters makes a lot more sense when you consider how closely it parallels how she and Moiraine got recruited to find the Dragon Reborn in New Spring. I guess it’s easier to consider placing such a burden on callow shoulders when you yourself had the same thing done to you, and survived it.
And again, it is a weird backwards compliment as well; an acknowledgment that though Egwene and Nynaeve are still callow in a lot of ways, they still have more experience being in the shit, to pointedly borrow the military slang, than a lot of full sisters have. And it’s probably that as much as her certainty that they are not Darkfriends that prompted Siuan to trust them with this task.
I still sort of want to make the same complaint as I did in the original commentary, where I asked why Siuan didn’t just make everyone in the Tower retake the Oaths, but I recognize that that’s really impossible, for much the same reasons it would be impossible to force every member of Congress to take a lie detector test. (No matter how awesomely humiliating—and cleansing—such an undertaking might be, she remarks, wistfully.) Politically enabled obstructionism is 95% of the reason politics is a thoroughly face-punchable undertaking, of course, but it is worth remembering that that obstructionism is also meant to be a check on draconian exercise of power by heads of state.
Even if, as in this case, such unilateral action on Siuan’s part would have been for the greater good, on a practical level it’s not the kind of precedent a governing body should ever allow to be set unless they’re big fans of living in a dictatorship. Which Aes Sedai are clearly not even slightly interested in, judging by how often the Hall messed with various Amyrlin Seats over the centuries.
Including Siuan, as it turns out. Which was… er, very bad, of course, and they should not have done it. But still, the principle stands. Sort of. Even if I may have undermined my own point here.
Soooo yeah, that kind of went off the rails, so here’s where we stop! I’mma go see some parades, and y’all can go watch some sportsball if that’s your much lamer thing, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!