Oh say, can you see The Wheel of Time Reread Redux? What excellent vision you have!
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 54: Into the Stone
If anyone remembers the PS2 Prince of Persia game, where you spent the whole last part of it climbing and jumping and tightrope-walking around the outside of the giant tower while being like a million virtual feet in the air, that is what this chapter reminds me of now. It might not induce quite as much queasy vertigo as playing the game did, but it gets the job done. At least 40% of the reason I could never be a superhero is my lack of tolerance for heights.
The sides of the Stone looked like cliffs. […] A hundred bloody paces. Maybe a hundred and twenty. Burn me, even Rand would not try to climb that.
Suddenly [Mat] blinked, and squinted at the side of the Stone. There was some fool climbing it, just visible as a moving shadow in the moonlight, and over halfway up already, with a drop of seventy paces to the pavement under his feet. Fool, is he? Well, I’m as big a one, because I am going up, too. Burn me, he’ll probably raise an alarm in there and get me caught. He could not see the climber anymore. Who in the Light is he?
Isn’t it great when you ask a question you’ve already answered?
Although, I don’t think I realized for the longest time that it was actually Rand whom Mat was looking at here. When Rand showed up inside the Stone I sort of didn’t really question how he got there, because obviously he was going to. It’s probably good that Jordan was paying at least a little more attention to continuity on that score than I was.
Also, I should just say, because for some reason I didn’t in the original commentary, that this whole Mat scene was more or less exactly what I would have wanted it to be had anyone asked. Watching your protagonist running around impressing warrior badasses, being accidentally brilliant and kicking ass. What more could a girl ask for?
After a moment [Mat] set the tin box down; the wire handle was beginning to grow uncomfortably warm.
What, no potholders in the Third Age?
(Seriously, though, couldn’t he have wrapped it in cloth or leather?)
The sweat rolled down the Black sister’s smooth, ageless face, now. Egwene wondered if she thought she was about to die. She almost wished she were cruel enough to do that.
I don’t think it would have been cruelty, in this case. I see what point was being made, and it fits that Egwene is still naïve enough here to think that she can fight the good fight without actually having to kill anyone herself. But given the situation she and Elayne and Nynaeve are in at this point, leaving an enemy alive at her back, imprisoned by a nebulously defined method she literally learned how to use like five minutes ago, with no knowledge of whether it has any weaknesses or loopholes (especially considering that later on we find out that it absolutely does) is less mercy and more rank foolishness.
But, it’s early. She’ll learn. For a while, anyway. Sigh.
“Luck, Sandar,” [Mat] muttered. “You cannot beat bloody luck. Now, why don’t you find this bloody private way the High Lords take down to the cells?” Sandar had insisted there was such a stairway, and using it would avoid having to run through most of the Stone. Mat did not think he liked men so eager to watch people put to the question that they wanted a quick route to the prisoners from their apartments.
I know, right? That is straight-up creepy. There is literally no reason I can think of for having a shortcut from your bedroom to the dungeons that doesn’t paint you in a seriously unpleasant light.
You have to wonder if Darlin was one of those who liked to toddle on down there for an interrogation nightcap, or… whatever. I’m betting not, considering how he ends up pretty firmly on Team Light, but I’m also betting he didn’t object to the existence of the passageway, either.
Well, at least Mat got to give him a most satisfyingly humiliating beatdown in this chapter. Mark this one up as one more laughably minor but still mildly disappointing “reunion” we never had time to see in the series proper. Though I assume they probably could have met up at least in passing during the gap between the end of this book and the beginning of TSR.
I swear, I increasingly would love to have an account of what exactly went down during that off-screen period between these two books. Based on the number of times I suspect I’ve brought this up, I imagine you are not surprised. But I want it, you guys. If nothing else, it would be a golden opportunity to provide the scene where the entire original set of Super Boys and Girls get to interact together in an actual non-crisis situation, before they are separated for basically forever. Boo.
Chapter 55: What is Written in Prophecy
I didn’t cast Bel’al in my WOT casting post, but in my head he’s pretty much always looked like Malcolm McDowell, even though I don’t think Bel’al is actually supposed to look quite as grizzled as McDowell is these days.
Oh, and also, he’s dead. Whoops. Sorry, dude. On the general scale of Bad Guys, you were nowhere near hardcore. Also, all hail Moiraine, one of the select few non-Rand people in WOT to bag herself a Forsaken, even if he was sort of one of the most weaksauce of the bunch. Still totally counts!
As for Callandor itself, the mythological parallel it references is so obvious that it’s nearly silly to make note of it. I mean, it is literally the Sword in the Stone, c’mon.
Fun fact: the Welsh name for Excalibur was “Caledfwlch”, which sounds remarkably like “Callandor” when pronounced aloud, at least according to the Internet. This is the kind of thing which is maybe overly-apparent in retrospect, but always tickled me to discover about references in WOT.
(Another fun fact is that technically the Sword in the Stone and Excalibur are two different swords, but Arthurian legend is such a clusterfuck of conflicting and/or rebooted/retconned versions, really, who cares. And actually, given Jordan’s whole motif of legend decay over time, conflating the two actually works better than conforming to “accuracy”, which is super fun.)
As for the Supergirls, or rather me talking about the Supergirls, I got quite the kick out The One Where News Editor Leigh Loses Her Shit in the original commentary, which is a story I’d honestly mostly forgotten about until rereading it just now. Ah, memories.
And, well. I may have forgotten about it, but the sentiment still stands: that was a shitty way to act, even if stress makes it understandable, for both me and the Supergirls. But I am at least gratified that the Supergirls later got their just deserts for not making amends to Mat after the fact.
“Can you go to sleep again so soon?” Nynaeve asked finally.
“Sing to me.” Egwene managed a smile. “Like when I was a little girl. Please?” Holding Nynaeve’s hand with one of hers, the stone ring clasped in the other, she closed her eyes and tried to find sleep in the wordless humming tune.
In yet another iteration of Reasons Why I’d Never Survive Being In A Story, #562 in a Series, is that there is no flippin’ way I’d be able to go to sleep under that kind of pressure. Hell, half the time I can’t go to sleep when there is no urgency about it whatsoever, but when it’s actually very important that I go to sleep at a certain time, like because I have to catch a flight or something? Forget it. So if my actual survival depended on going to sleep? Nope, not happening, sorry.
As for Perrin, hm. I feel sort of guilty that I can’t really invest in his love for Faile? Because I know it’s meant to be one of the biggest romantic storylines in the whole series, and yet. The PLOD, it really did a number on my patience for it, you guys.
Someone mentioned in the comments, in reference to my intimation in the last post that Perrin’s obsession with Faile developed too quickly for believability, that they’d had a lot of off-screen interaction that we do not get to see, which could account for the otherwise inexplicable deepening of their relationship. Which, okay, sure, that’s possible, but not making any reference to that deepening on-screen, either passively or actively, is kind of cheating, from a storytelling standpoint. If you don’t show it, or at least tell it, in the actual story, expecting your audience to extrapolate it via idle speculation cheapens the effect, in my opinion.
Plus, you know, the extent to which the Perrin ‘N Faile Show is limited to the skipping-record repeating theme of Big Manly Dude Rescues His Woman And/Or Angsts About Rescuin’ His Woman is the kind of thing that, to the shock of precisely no one, is really not my cup of tea. To say the least.
Small piece of intel I had rather forgotten until now: that Rand turned aside (or spliced, or whatever) balefire with Callandor during his fight with Ba’alzamon/Ishy. That’s pretty damn impressive – especially considering he had no idea what he was doing at the time. Not to mention cutting through all of Ishy’s Dreamworld traps like they were nothing, while, again, having no clue what was going on.
Not quite impressive enough to justify Rand’s giant bout of I’m the King of the Wooorld! hubris at the end of this chapter, of course. But as I said in the original commentary, it makes it a lot more palatable in retrospect to assume that Callandor’s flaw contributed a great deal to his excess of grandiosity. Probably not all of it, mind you. But a lot.
That said, I guess if you’re like eighteen and realized you just used Excalibur to kill who you are totally sure is actual Satan, then you might be doing some ridiculously over-the-top victorious yelling too. I mean, I kind of have to give Rand that even as I roll my eyes at it.
And, you know, he fulfilled a whole bunch of prophecies with the yelling, too, so. Well done, young grasshopper. Here, have your own icon!
Aaand we’re stopping here. I know there’s only one more chapter left in the book, and I said last week I’d be covering all of them, but next week’s post will involve talking about more than just the end of TDR, so I’m moving it back to next week. So come on back next Tuesday, at the twilight’s last gleaming! Or, you know, whenever. As long as you show!