Happy, er, end of January, Tor.com! January! So… fun. Yes.
Well. In lieu of anything else cool happening, how about a new Wheel of Time Reread Redux? Yes? That’s what I thought you said!
Today’s Redux post will cover Chapters 55 and 56 of The Shadow Rising, originally reread in this post.
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.
So, what we missed since last time: Nynaeve learns the “need” jump in Tel’aran’rhiod, breaks Moghedien’s Compulsion memory block, discovers the Sad Bracelets, meets Birgitte aka Chatty McExposition and learns stuff, and is angry about pretty much all of it. Meanwhile, Gaul and Loial return to Emond’s Field and let Perrin know just how boned they are; Perrin hunts and shoots Slayer in the wolf dream, and wakes to find Luc has run off with a similar wound; Perrin tries to sneakily send Faile away before their doom closes in, and Faile sees right through it and insists they get married first. Then Elayne and Nynaeve break into the Palace; Elayne frees Amathera, and Nynaeve gloriously kicks Forsaken butt in a showdown with Moghedien.
Chapter 55: Into the Deep
[In this chapter: The Supergirls escape the Palace and make it back to their inn, where Elayne arranges for Amathera to hide out for a while, and incidentally also learn a lesson about seeing how the other half lives. Nynaeve reconciles with Egeanin, and they make arrangements for her and Bayle Domon to take the Sad Bracelets and dump them in the bottom of the ocean.]
It might seem a little strange that I skipped Nynaeve’s Crowning Moment of Awesome in the previous chapter, seeing as I’ve said it’s one of my favorite moments in the whole series. And it still is; it’s just that as much as I love it, I don’t have anything new to say about it. What I said in the original commentary there still sums it up quite nicely, if I do say so myself.
However, I do have something new to say about what happens in this chapter, and I bet you can guess about what.
“Master Domon, do you know a very deep part of the sea?”
“I do, Mistress al’Meara,” he said slowly.
Gingerly, trying not to feel the emotions, Nynaeve shoved the collar and bracelets across the table to him. “Then drop these into it, where no one can ever fish them out again.”
After a moment, he nodded. “I will.”
EXCEPT YOU DIDN’T, DID YOU.
I was plenty mad enough about this in the original commentary, but that doesn’t hold a candle to my upset now that I know exactly how awful Egeanin and Domon’s failure to take the Sad Bracelets out of play will turn out to be. Semirhage’s brief-but-not-nearly-brief-enough control of Rand in TGS via the Sad Bracelets (or “Domination Band”, as we learn the device is really called, but honestly in my head they will always be the name I knew them by for over a decade) may not necessarily be my pick for most upsetting scene in the series, but it is definitely in the top five. Possibly the top three.
And yes, I know it is all of a piece, and if Rand hadn’t been forced to access the True Power in his desperation to escape the Sad Bracelets none of the rest of the (shitty) events of TGS would have followed, blah blah plot necessity blah. Doesn’t mean I still very much didn’t want it to happen.
But I guess that’s part of the danger of overidentifying with fictional characters, isn’t it. It’s possible that the hallmark of a good author, as opposed to a self-indulgent one, is that she is not afraid to put her characters through exactly as much hell as they need to in order to make the story work. Lois McMaster Bujold once said that she generated her plots by thinking “what’s the worst possible thing that could happen to this character?” and then making it happen. I don’t know whether either Jordan or Sanderson thought of it quite that way, but certainly neither of them had much compunction about cranking the “Shitty Things Happening to This Character” dial about as high as it would go, barring actually killing that character. Usually.
Which is great for story conflict! But maybe not so great for the characters it’s happening to. Or my Kleenex supply. Sniffle.
Chapter 56: Goldeneyes
[In this chapter: Everyone in the Two Rivers is badass except for the Whitecloaks—and Fain, but we knew that—and the day is saved when Faile brings Perrin an army like a boss, and everyone lives happily ever after at least until Lord of Chaos.]
I said in the original commentary to this chapter:
The Wheel of Time series as a whole has its flaws, and has yet to be finished and judged as a whole. But I will say that as a microcosm story within the larger WOT story, the Two Rivers narrative in TSR strikes me as nigh perfectly executed; a deeply satisfying slice of catharsis while we’re waiting for the ultimate payoff.
I said before in the Redux commentary that on reflection, TSR was a turning point for the entire series, and thus it follows that its various climactic sequences are a turning point too. The Battle of the Two Rivers is significant in how it changes the stakes for Perrin and Faile and that entire region of Randland, but also in that (if I’m not mistaken, which I might be) it is the first real, boots on the ground, actual armies fighting each other campaign of the war.
(Falme in TGH, I think, doesn’t count; even discounting all the Heroes of the Horn/Rand in the sky hoohah which kind of made the whole thing cheating, the fight there was, technically, Light against Light, instead of Light against Shadow. I may severely dislike the Seanchan, and the Whitecloaks, but there’s no question that they were both ultimately on the side of Light, in a misguided macro sense. Therefore in the war against the Shadow, Falme is more like a preliminary slapfight between allies before getting down to brass tacks, rather than a true campaign of the larger war. Though I feel sure that no one involved would appreciate that characterization of it, heh.)
So the question is, of course, now that the WOT series has been finished, do I still think the Two Rivers storyline in TSR holds up as the perfectly executed microcosm I purported it to be?
And the answer is: I think so, yes. Ultimately I think the Wheel of Time series worked because Jordan and Sanderson delivered, on the whole, the payoff we had been promised lo these many years before. But even after having that, the Two Rivers sequence in TSR still stands out, in my opinion, for the elegance of its set-up, rising tension, climax and denouement. I feel this is true nearly to the extent that, if for some horrible reason, no other WOT books had ever been published after TSR, the strength of the Two Rivers story in it would almost have been enough to let it end on a mostly satisfactory note.
Not completely though, jeez, calm down. Obviously having the rest of the series to follow it is by far the best outcome. I’m just saying, if it had had to end prematurely, the end of TSR would have been one of the least enraging spots to do it in. And that’s a pretty darn high compliment, all things considered.
Of course, we ain’t quite finished with TSR yet, though, are we? So we’ll see if my contention continues to hold water—unlike the Aiel Waste, ha ha ha so clever. Have a lovely Tuesday, O My Peeps, and rejoin me in two weeks for Moar!