Happy Pick a Pathologist Pal Day, Tor.com! Welcome back to the Wheel of Time Reread Redux!
(No, apparently I am not kidding. December 13th is also, apparently, National Cocoa Day and National Violin Day! Which is NOT INSANE AT ALL WHAT)
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.
Also, even more scheduling fun! But this is perhaps to be expected, because as you know, Bob, the year 2016 is soon coming to a close (and good riddance, too). Thus, the Reread will be going on a wee hiatus until all the holiday madness is over.
Ergo, this will be the last post of the year, and the Reread will resume on Tuesday, January 10th.
Got all that? Good! Onward!
Chapter 47: The Truth of a Viewing
[What happens: The Tower coup, that’s what. Siuan is deposed by Frickin’ Elaida, assisted by Frickin’ Gawyn. Siuan and Leane are stilled and tortured, lots of Warders die, and everything is awful. Min breaks Siuan and Leane out, with reluctant sort-of-help from Frickin’ Gawyn, and they escape the Tower. I *headdesk* a lot.]
I said in the original commentary that this is the chapter that kicks TSR into high gear, but on reflection this chapter is really much more pivotal than that; this is a crucial turning point for the entire series. I say that because the Tower coup marks the moment in WOT where the Light is dealt its first truly devastating blow; in which its most powerful and seemingly most immutable bastion of defense, the White Tower, is suborned and virtually crippled within a single day. That’s some scary shit, y’all.
It’s when we first get a sense of just how bad things could get for Our Heroes, of how unsteady are the foundations upon which they must stand against the Shadow. In other words, this chapter is when shit starts Goin’ Down For Real.
That’s something to remember whenever impulses to sneer at Mesaana for being one of the less scary Forsaken may arise. Because by my lights, she orchestrated the first decisive Shadow victory of the war, even if by proxy, so there. She schooled y’all good, hahaha. ‘Cause she was a teacher. Geddit?
(Okay, yes, I’m sorry, I will go sit in the Bad Pun Corner now. *hangs head, slinks off*)
But once I’m back, I will say the Tower coup also spoke to Jordan’s willingness to take things to that G.D.F.R. level that previously had perhaps still been in some doubt. Granted, Jordan and Sanderson’s combined efforts, even in the AMOL Last Battle portion of things, never got quite down to the level of Shit Realness of, say, George RR Martin’s shit. But I can’t exactly complain about that, since just about no one can match GRRM’s extremity of shit realness. His shit got so real that I think we all began to wistfully wish for some slightly faker shit to go down every once in a while, because jeez, George.
(I will now also go sit in the Deeply Mangled English Corner for a while. *hangs head, slinks off*)
ANYWAY, speaking of Mesaana, hey, how about that decade-long fight we all had about who she was disguised as in the Tower, and how kinda silly that seems in retrospect? Of course, it seems obvious only in retrospect that Danelle had to be Mesaana’s alter ego—and that’s for very “Robert Jordan” values of “obvious”.
(For the whippersnappers that might not get that joke: the fandom also had a decade-plus long fight over who murdered Asmodean in TFOH, which was way more acrimonious than the Mesaana debate ever got, and one of the biggest bones of contention was that Jordan had stated at one point or another that the answer was “obvious”. Because Jordan was a devious little scamp sometimes, bless him.)
Point being, this chapter was Srs Bsns, and I think even with all the crazy shit that went down in the latter third of the series, the shit Elaida pulls here still stands out. Frickin’ Elaida. Feh.
Chapter 49: Cold Rocks Hold
[What we missed: Rand is starting to fall for Aviendha despite her epic grumpiness; the gleeman Natael is morbidly curious about Rand’s fate; Mat is a dumbhead re: Isendre and Keille; eventually they all arrive at Cold Rocks Hold. In this chapter, we have Aiel Culture Crash Course 202 when we meet Rhuarc’s other wife Lian, who insults Couladin and welcomes Rand. Rand is perturbed at the wait he must endure for the clans to come together, and more perturbed at Moiraine being Moiraine.]
Amys and Lian had climbed down, and to Rand’s surprise, Rhuarc put an arm around each of them. They were both tall, as most Aiel women seemed to be, but neither came higher than the clan chief’s shoulder. “You have met my wife Amys,” he said to Rand. “Now you must meet my wife Lian.”
Rand realized his mouth was hanging open and closed it quickly. After Aviendha had told him the roofmistress of Cold Rocks was Rhuarc’s wife and named Lian, he was sure he had misunderstood back at Chaendaer, all that “shade of my heart” between the man and Amys. He had had other things on his mind then anyway. But this…
“Both of them?” Mat spluttered. “Light! Two! Oh, burn me! He’s the luckiest man in the world or the biggest fool since creation!”
“I had thought,” Rhuarc said, frowning, “that Aviendha was teaching you our customs. She leaves out much, it appears.”
I speculated in the original commentary on whether sister-wives routinely have sex with each other or not, and I was sort of surprised at how many of the comments addressing the question seemed to favor the idea that they did not. It’s certainly possible that that is the typical arrangement, and it even seems likely that this is the interpretation of the situation that Jordan intended, but you’ll have to forgive me if I find that an awfully heteronormative assumption to make overall. Not to mention the unmistakable aura of male fantasy fulfillment it carries. I wouldn’t assert the latter if we’d ever heard of the reverse situation (i.e. a wife taking two husbands), but as far as I recall we did not, and so I rather have to raise an eyebrow at the whole thing.
But then again, we all project the reality we want to see on things, don’t we. For my part, I would highly prefer to believe that the polyamory the Aiel practice reflects a willingness to accommodate preferences across the spectrum, from heterosexuality to bisexuality to homosexuality to asexuality, and all permutations in between, because that would in my view be the only equitable way to do it. However, I am aware that for many people (Jordan most likely included) that’s a fairly advanced and by some lights radical view of human sexuality that may be difficult to justify applying to something written almost twenty-five years ago.
By the standards of the early 90s, just suggesting the notion of socially acceptable polyamory at all would have been pretty shocking, at least as far as I can recall. So maybe it’s a bit much to ask for the entire Kinsey scale while we’re at it.
(Of course, the Kinsey scale theory of human sexuality was first proposed in the 1950s, so…)
Anyway, my point is, just because the Aiel culture is open-minded enough to support polyamorous relationships doesn’t automatically mean they are open to every possible variation thereof, and I probably shouldn’t assume that they are just because I want them to be.
I really wish they were, though. It would make my free-wheeling progressive little heart very happy.
And that’s what I got for now, kids! I hope all of you have a happy and safe holiday season, in whichever way you do or do not choose to celebrate it, and I will see y’all back here in the bright shiny new year! January 10th, don’t be late! Mwah! Cheers!