It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new book for me, yeah! Come join me for today’s 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. However, there’s no skip from last post this time (other than starting a new book), so it’s all good!
Prologue: The First Sparks Fall
[In this chapter: Elaida’s small council discusses the State of The Randland Non-Union (verdict: hot mess) while ignoring Elaida, to which slight she responds with all her characteristic grace and restraint; Fain is in the Tower to steal back his dagger and be gross at everyone; Rahvin’s hobby of being even grosser gets interrupted for an impromptu Evil Plotting Symposium with Lanfear, Sammael, and Graendal.]
I said in the original commentary that “the truly annoying thing about Elaida is that she is really perfectly believable in her incapacity to recognize how fundamentally unsuited for leadership she is”, and that is, unquestionably, very annoying. But actually I think the MOST annoying thing about her is that even though she perfectly demonstrates here why she is a crap leader, she also manages to be the only person in the room who correctly identifies what the Tower’s overriding concern should actually be. Which is, of course, Rand, and that whole thing where he is supposed to save-slash-destroy the world.
Granted, I’m not sure how much kudos Elaida deserves for that observation, considering that the reason no one else is dealing with The Rand Issue is mostly because they’re being secretly manipulated by (a) the head of the Black Ajah and (b) an actual frickin’ Forsaken in the room. And Elaida certainly loses any kudos-ward claims whatsoever once it becomes clear later on what her eventual method for “dealing” with The Rand Issue is, because correctly identifying problems do you no good whatsoever in the Great Leader department if you then come up with the most boneheaded solutions possible to solve them. Ugh.
Elaida is, actually, a great character in an objective sense. I can’t stand her, but that’s because, as I said, she is so believable a tinpot despot: someone with the ambition and drive and hubris to claw for greatness, but with none of the intelligence or compassion or subtlety that would keep her from wrecking it once she gets it. She is weirdly pathetic in her inner (and not so inner) tantrums over why she isn’t just automatically given the respect she feels she’s owed, because she simply does not have the emotional maturity to realize that that’s not how respect works.
Well. At least this time around I can be content in the knowledge that eventually her comeuppance will… uh, come up. Smell ya later, Suffa!
[Aaand then we skip over some stuff. What we missed: Min, Leane, and Siuan go on trial; Leane stretches her flirtin’ muscles, but Gareth Bryne sentences them to community service anyway. Siuan makes them all swear the most excellent promise they can make to serve him, and then they all promptly run for the hills. Bryne is like How About No, and decides to go after them. High Lady Alteima comes to Caemlyn to curry favor with Morgase and also dodge that pesky murder charge back in Tear, but instead finds herself dancing to a certain Forsaken’s extremely rape-y tune, ugh. Rand argues with Moiraine about where he should herd his Aiel cats and starts visibly leaking Lews Therin. Then he gets subpar saidin lessons from Asmodean, yay. Mat sings thousand-year-old drinking songs and is accidentally badass, and acquires a potential Maiden assassin love interest.]
Chapter 4: Twilight
[In this chapter: Rand dodges the Maidens’ fussing and tries to go to sleep, but Aviendha insists on letting him know that she owes no debt to him and also that she hates him and he belongs to Elayne, and Rand takes exception to all of that. Then Isendre comes in all nekkid in the middle of their fight, which just makes everything worse, but eventually Rand gets to sleep and have nice dreams of Aviendha (and Min and Elayne) anyway.]
So I spun a delightfully semi-coherent theory in the original commentary to this chapter, in which I basically contended that even as annoying as it frequently was, it was the good female characters’ refusal to treat Rand as (and I quote) “Super Special Hero Savior Guy” that kept him sane throughout the books—or at least as far as KOD, which is as far as I’d read at the time. And contrariwise, it was the bad female characters’ treatment of Rand which came closest to breaking him.
At the time, of course, I was thinking of Rand being locked in a box and beaten for kicks in LOC by the Tower Aes Sedai for my best example of the latter, but since then TGS has blown that debacle straight out of the water, courtesy of Semirhage and the Sad Bracelets—a scene which still even now makes me want to kill it with fire every time I think about it.
That said, at the same time TGS also seemingly contradicted my former assertion, when Cadsuane and Nynaeve not only failed to shake Rand out of his downward insanity/rage spiral, they made it worse. Given that Cadsuane in particular was the quintessential example of the Not Treating Rand Like Super Special Hero Savior Guy Tactic, the fact that she spectacularly failed to keep Rand’s cheese from slipping off his cracker seems almost like a deliberate subversion of this ongoing theme from the earlier books.
The implication of the events at the end of TGS, therefore, is that after a certain point, there wasn’t anything that anyone else could have done for Rand re: healing his broken soul and finding inner peace and etc. In the end, it was just him. And Lews Therin and a phenomenal cosmic buttload of Power, but, basically, just Rand.
Which is interesting. I like it, and I agree with the idea, but I think I now recognize why it felt a little bit weird in a WOT context. One of Jordan’s central themes was always revolving around the binary/dual nature of the Power: that the greatest things were always done with men and women working together, that the balance between the two was essential for balance overall, etc. Which… doesn’t really fit, thematically, with most of what happened in TGS.
I dunno, what do you think? Am I totally off base here?
Tell me your thoughts, sez I! And then come back in two weeks for more delicious Reread Redux goodness, y/y? Later!