You gotta know when to walk away, Wheel of Time Reread Redux, and know when to run!
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!
Before we start: Good news, everyone! I got to cast the WOT TV series! Well, not actually, but as close as I’m ever going to get. So if you haven’t already, head on over there and violently disagree with my opinions, as is only right and proper!
Chapter 45: Caemlyn
I’ve always loved Caemlyn as it was described in the books; it sounds like exactly the kind of place I would love to visit, and probably (assuming I lived in Randland) where I would want to live, too. I have always been a city girl (the smallest place I’ve ever lived for any length of time is Austin, Texas, which at 800,000+ inhabitants is not “small” by any reasonable definition), and Caemlyn as described has always weirdly reminded me of New York, one of my favorite places in the world.
Obviously, Caemlyn doesn’t look anything like the Big Apple—it’s probably meant to be more of a riff on a huge version of Mont St. Michel than anything else, architecturally, even though Sweet’s cover art for TFOH gives it a rather Middle Eastern flavor, actually—but the energy of it, the bustle and close, crowded vibe, that all reminds me of Manhattan.
“I am lucky, Master Gill,” Mat said. “You just have a good meal waiting when I come back.” As he stood, he picked up the dice cup and spun the dice out beside the stones board for luck. The calico cat leaped down, hissing at him with her back arched. The five spotted dice came to rest, each showing a single pip. The Dark One’s Eyes.
“That’s the best toss or the worst,” Gill said. “It depends on the game you are playing, doesn’t it.”
That just about sums up Mat’s luck in general, I think.
I mentioned in the original commentary that Mat is a character “tailor-made to appeal”, and that has continued to be true, but I think it’s more than just the “lovable rogue” aspect of him, or even the badassery aspect (no small thing). It’s also that I think most of us are fascinated by people for whom money is genuinely of no concern. Whether it be because they are already filthy rich, or because they are like Mat—someone who knows he can always go and get more with no problem once what he has runs out.
I knew a guy once who was a professional poker player, and he always spent money like it was going out of style. And once it ran out, he would just hie him off to Vegas to win some more. I found this approach to life vaguely horrifying, but also fascinating. I feel something like the same way about Mat’s attitudes toward wealth.
Of course, given that there’s an apocalypse approaching in Mat’s world, spending money like it’s going out of style might be literally true for Mat, so he has a bit more justification for it than my gambling friend, if you ask me. So there’s that.
Chapter 46: A Message Out of the Shadow
[…] for three days they had climbed the cliffs, and slept under the sky, and eaten eggs filched from redcrests’ nests, and plump, gray-winged grouse fetched with an arrow, or a stone from a sling, and rabbits caught with snares, all the while laughing about how they were not afraid of the mountains’ bad luck and how they might find a treasure. [Mat] had brought home an odd rock from that expedition, with the skull of a good-sized fish somehow pressed into it, and a long, white tail feather dropped by a snow eagle, and a piece of white stone as big as his hand that looked almost as if it had been carved into a man’s ear.
Something tells me Jordan read a lot of those boys’ adventures books when he was younger. Or hell, maybe he had a lot of boys’ adventures when he was younger, I don’t know. Either way, I’m amused by the distinct Tom Sawyer vibe he sometimes gives the Superboys, especially Mat.
I also love how it never seems to occur to Mat that infiltrating a heavily-guarded palace exactly how an assassin would is a great way to get yourself shot on sight. Of course, the fact that he also thinks infiltrating a heavily-guarded palace is a piece of cake puts another tick in the “badassery” column, so okay.
As does his facility at lying, as well. Again, it’s the kind of thing most people tend to be really awful at, so even if in principle it’s bad to be an accomplished liar, it still tends to be an impressive skill to the rest of us.
[Morgase:] “A young man who has left his small village often finds it difficult to return to it. I think you will travel far before you see Comfrey again. Perhaps you will even return to Tar Valon. If you do, and if you see my daughter, tell her that what is said in anger is often repented. I will not remove her from the White Tower before time. Tell her that I often think of my own time there, and miss the quiet talks with Sheriam in her study. Tell her that I said that, Thom Grinwell.”
I can’t figure out if this is meant to be the coded cry for help it seems like to me. Because, if Morgase was trained as a novice in the White Tower, any time she spent in the Mistress of Novices’ study is highly unlikely to have been spent in “quiet talks”. Elayne would know that, but Gaebril/Rahvin would not, so it could have been a subconscious attempt on Morgase’s part to alert Elayne that something was wrong.
However, since Morgase was only trained in the Tower for political reasons, and since everyone knew she was (a) never going to be Aes Sedai and (b) the future queen of Andor and thus Kind Of A Big Deal, it’s possible that her training was not nearly as rigorous as a “real” novice’s would be. So maybe she did hang out with Sheriam in her study and chat, for all we know.
So, dunno. But I greatly prefer the former possibility, as an early and nicely subtle flag to the reader that something is seriously awry with Morgase, so we’ll go with that, shall we?
Also, I have no idea why I wasn’t sure in the original commentary whether I realized Gaebril was a Forsaken or not on first reading, when it is screamingly obvious that he was one, even if I wouldn’t have known which one yet. I mean, if the “Great Lord” line Mat overheard wasn’t enough to clue me in alone, I would be amazed.
Chapter 47: To Race the Shadow
“You must have heard something, man. Who is Sheriam? Does talking to her in her study mean anything?”
Mat shook his head vigorously to keep relief from showing on his face. “I don’t know who she is,” he said truthfully. Perhaps he had heard Egwene, or perhaps Nynaeve, mention the name. An Aes Sedai, maybe? “Why should it mean anything?”
“I do not know,” Tallanvor said softly. “There is too much I do not know. Sometimes I think she is trying to say something…”
Ah, okay. So it was a coded cry for help. I forgot about this exchange until I just now reread it, but maybe I remembered it subliminally, or something. Go me!
I quite liked Tallanvor early on, what little we get to see of him, anyway. Too bad I became immediately annoyed with him once he became a more major character and basically stayed annoyed with him for, er, forever. But that’s a rant for another time.
“Stakes. Gaebril doesn’t know it, but he and I have a wager.” The cat jumped down as Mat picked up the wooden dice cup and spun the dice out on the table. Five sixes. “And I always win.”
I loved loved loved Mat’s “bet” with Gaebril. Not least because I instantly connected it with Perrin’s wolf dream vision of him dicing with the Dark One. So symbolism. Very symmetry. Wow.
(Would it have been more symmetrical/symbolic to have the dice turn up the Dark One’s eyes instead of Yahtzee, I wonder? I can’t decide.)
“Any fool knows men and women think differently at times, but the biggest difference is this. Men forget, but never forgive; women forgive, but never forget.”
Yeah, I still instantly dislike this bit of glibbery. I won’t rehash what I said about it in the original commentary, but everything I said there still stands.
And so the fun climactical stuff begins—but not until next week! Have a lovely half a fortnight, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!