Top o’ the mornin’ to ye, Tor.commers—as no actual Irish person ever said, ever—and welcome back to the Wheel of Time Reread Redux!
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 begin, a reminder that the format of the Reread Redux has changed: from now on I am only going to be commenting on chapters in which my reaction has changed significantly from before, based on the knowledge I had at the time.
Although this time we aren’t actually skipping anything, so that’s all right.
Chapter 24: Rhuidean
[In which Mat and Rand see the long-abandoned sights, take two separate trips via highly dubious plaza decor, and Mat unfortunately gets exactly what he bargained for.]
I enjoyed looking back at the commentary on this chapter, which features the explication of my theory about how of all of our Hero Starter Set™, Mat is the one who seems to be the most American in flavor. I mostly enjoyed it, though, because looking at the comments reminded me of how pleased I was that many people seemed to agree with me, and thus assured me that at least I wasn’t being completely nuts to propose the idea in the first place.
Not everyone agreed with me, of course. This is the Internet, after all, and hey, it’s not like my theory was ironclad or anything. What Mat is “like” is obviously very much in the eye of the beholder, and as always, the Reread was never meant to be anything other than highly subjective. But it was nice that my theory did seem to resonate with quite a few.
Of the dissenting opinions, I was especially intrigued by the assertions that Mat seems more Irish in character than anything else. I find that interesting because I can agree with it without actually backing off my own assertion one bit. While the Irish were very far from being the only immigrants to come to America throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, they constituted a significant percentage of them, especially from the 1840s on, and represented an even larger percentage of those who moved out west as the territories beyond the Mississippi River opened up. The American Old West being where so many of the stereotypical “American hero” type tropes evolved, the strong Irish influence on that entire era (and, therefore, on those tropes) cannot be underestimated.
I know, because Far and Away said so. And who can disbelieve a movie that has Tom Cruise so enthusiastically murdering an Irish brogue?
“I have no intention of marrying. And I have no intention of dying, either, whether I am supposed to live again or not. I walk around with holes in my memory, holes in my life, and you stare at me like idiots. If I had my way, I would want those holes filled, but at least answers to my questions might fill some in my future. You have to answer—!”
“Done,” one of the men growled, and Mat blinked.
Done? What was done? What did he mean? “Burn your eyes,” he muttered. “Burn your souls! You are as bad as Aes Sedai. Well, I want a way to be free of Aes Sedai and the Power, and I want to be away from you and back to Rhuidean, if you will not answer me. Open up a door, and let me—”
“Done,” another man said, and one of the women echoed, “Done.”
Just gonna take a pause here and marvel again at how I never once suspected that the ashanderei the Foxes give Mat in this chapter (or, technically, the chapter after the next) was anything more than a snide calling card that also happened to be a useful weapon. Seriously, I kicked myself hard when I read about Moiraine’s rescue in TOM, and how the spear was literally the method by which you “get away” from the Eelfinn, because OF COURSE, but yeah, before that? Never thought of it. I definitely felt pretty dumb that day.
Chapter 25: The Road to the Spear
Chapter 26: The Dedicated
[In which Rand takes a trip through the Wayback Ter’Angreal, and it is made of awesome, and I use Tetris metaphors to explain it, because of course I did.]
I don’t have a lot to say about the actual content of these two chapters that I didn’t already wax rhapsodic about cover at length in the original commentary, but what I would have added if I could have, but couldn’t because the end of the story didn’t exist yet so I didn’t, would have been a further rhapsodic waxing about how beautifully these two chapters are mirrored in the two chapters of TOM in which Aviendha got her own chance to trip the light apocalyptic, only in the opposite direction.
Symmetry, in a story-telling sense, wasn’t always something the Wheel of Time as a whole was able to achieve, mostly just owing to the sheer sprawling size of the beast. After a certain point, some stories just get too big to keep in neat-sized containers. The separate episodes of the Wayback/Wayforward Ter’angreal, though, are an exception to that truth.
Even as I was deeply upset at the time at the implications of Aviendha’s glimpse into the future, I was simultaneously geeking out at the cleverness of using what I still think is probably one of the most original methods of infodumping ever achieved in SF literature, twice, and the second time in a way that reflects and complements the first time rather than merely rehashing it, to wonderful effect.
Let’s just say, I was very impressed by all four of these chapters, y’all. I said at the time, and again now, that I consider Aviendha’s trip in TOM to be the near equal to Rand’s trip here, in terms of story-telling excellence, and probably its superior in terms of visceral emotional impact. Because in TSR we are still just getting to know the Aiel, but by the time Aviendha makes her trip through the glass columns, we have known and followed the Aiel through nine books and mumble-something years, and gotten heavily invested in both their culture as a whole and in more than a few individual characters’ lives as well.
Granted, some of those I could have done with a little less investment in (*coughSevannacoughcough*), but even given that, it’s safe to say that I had been very well set-up by TOM for the revelation of the Aiel’s demise to sucker punch me right in the feels, hard. In that way the two trips are bookends on this emotional journey: Rand’s discovery of the Aiel’s past started us firmly on our investment and interest in the Aiel, leading directly to Aviendha’s discovery of their future having the impact it did.
Just, really well done. Kudos to both authors on achieving such near-perfection in these two sequences.
And we’re gonna stop here, because the next bit deeeeeeefinitely needs its own post, heh. See y’all subsequently!