Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Romance and Choices in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 6)

Hello friends, and welcome to the sixth week of the Read of The Shadow Rising. This week I would like to complain about how boring the title of this book is. Like, it’s to the point for sure. But it doesn’t intrigue me the way The Eye of the World or The Great Hunt did. Even The Dragon Reborn, while also a bit redundant, mentions a specific aspect of the book. But The Shadow Rising? I mean, yes, it has been and will continue to do so in later books.

Of course, the title really doesn’t matter once you’ve started reading a book, and the only reason I’m still thinking about it is because I have to type it out so frequently, but my dog is sick and my stitches itch a lot, so I’m feeling punchy.

Not as punchy as our lady protagonists are, however. Elayne’s love sick, Nynaeve’s pulling her braid out of her head to strangle Moiraine, and Moiraine is uncharacteristically ruffled.

Moiraine angrily declares that Rand al’Thor is a “mule-headed, stone-willed fool of a man,” giving Nynaeve the opportunity to get in a dig at her by declaring that that’s the way men from the Two Rivers are, although Elayne catches Egwene looking at Nynaeve as though she has told quite the lie. Egwene asks what Rand did, but doesn’t get an immediate answer, while Elayne notices nervously that Joiya isn’t bound. If any of the others had been so obviously off-balance, Joiya would have found some way to prod at them, but with Moiraine she is just nervous and silent.

Moiraine composes herself and tells Joiya that she and Amico are going to be sent to the White Tower in four days, and that Moiraine won’t speak to them again unless they can offer her something new, although offering something new will save her pain when she gets to Tar Valon. Moiraine has Aviendha fetch the guards, and after giving the men strict instructions about how well and heavily the two women are to be guarded, Moiraine sends them all away.

Nynaeve is upset with Moiraine, both for not helping more with the questioning as well as for sending the two away, but Moiraine tells her not to presume too far upon the authority the Amyrlin gave her. Moiraine also complains that Two Rivers folk never want to make a decision, and then the conversation gets sidelined by her observation that Elayne shouldn’t be so upset over the fact that Berelain was in Rand’s chambers. Both Moiraine and Elayne are trying to be careful of Egwene’s feelings, but Egwene whispers in Elayne’s ear that she loves Rand like a brother and Elayne like a sister, and wishes the best for her, giving Elayne a tremendous amount of relief.

Egwene, amused at Moiraine’s mistake, asks if the Aes Sedai has ever been in love, receiving the startling reply that Moiraine believes she knows the face of the man she’ll marry better than either of the girls knows their future husbands’. She deflects almost at once, however, suggesting that maybe she only meant they “share an ignorance.” Still, she makes a point of telling Nynaeve that it isn’t Lan.

Nynaeve angrily tries to steer the conversation back to the question of whether to believe Joiya or Amico, and why Moiraine would hinder their search for answers, but Moiraine points out that they should rather be asking why they were summoned to Rand. She explains everything that happened, and, when prompted, reminds them again that she cannot teach Rand to use the Power to defend himself, and that saidin and saidar are too different. She does explain her frustration with Rand, however, about how he must move instead of sitting and waiting until the High Lords get so used to his presence that they stop fearing him. Nynaeve and Egwene are horrified when they learn that Moiraine wants Rand to lead the army of Tear against Illian, but Elayne understands and explains it to them.

“The Forsaken will not stand idly and wait. Sammael cannot be the only one to have seized a nation’s reins, just the lone one we know. They will come after Rand eventually, in their own persons perhaps, but certainly with whatever armies they command. And the nations that are free of the Forsaken? How many will cry glory to the Dragon banner and follow him to Tarmon Gai’don, and how many will convince themselves the fall of the Stone is a lie and Rand only another false Dragon who must be put down, a false Dragon perhaps strong enough to threaten them if they do not move against him first? One way or another, war will come.” She cut off sharply. There was more to it, but she could not, would not, tell them that part.

Moiraine adds what Elayne left out—that this action will cement the Tairens to Rand, and the Illianers as well, and perhaps even decide the wars in Tarabon and Arad Doman, once the news of the Dragon’s victory reaches them.

“In one stroke he will make himself so strong in terms of men and swords that only a coalition of every remaining nation from here to the Blight can defeat him, and with the same blow he shows the Forsaken that he is not a plump partridge on a limb for the netting. That will make them wary, and buy him time to learn to use his strength. He must move first, be the hammer, not the nail.” The Aes Sedai grimaced slightly, a hint of her earlier anger marring her calm. “He must move first. And what does he do? He reads. Reads himself into deeper trouble.”

She explains that Rand is reading all the copies of the Prophecies of the Dragon that he can find, and trying to use them to guide him, and that they disagree whether one particular prophecy might apply to the course of action Moiraine is suggesting. Nynaeve points out that Rand is simply desperate and trying to find his way, but Moraine answers that she is also desperate, and that she might have to do something truly desperate if Rand will not act.

She tells them of a ter’angreal in the vaults, a redstone doorway that one can step through and receive the answer to three questions. Nynaeve is quick to assert that this ter’angreal is the solution to their problems, but Moiraine tells them not to be so hasty, and that they rush ahead when they should step cautiously. She explains that the ter’angreal has rules, including that all three questions must be asked and answered before the user can exit, and that there are punishments for questions that are deemed frivolous. And most importantly, questions about the Shadow have dire consequences.

Before leaving them, Moiraine suggests that they focus on Tanchico, since stopping the plan Joiya told them about will take Aes Sedai and Warders, and since Moiraine has already sent word to the Amyrlin about it.

She leaves, and Nynaeve sits the girls down for a drink and a chat about what Elayne should do about Rand and Berelain. She tests Elayne gently, first her commitment to her feelings for Rand, and next to her continued resolve to stay on the hunt for the Black Ajah and to become Aes Sedai. Elayne toys with the idea of being forward, like the Mayeners, and just telling Rand, and although she quickly takes it back (and thinks of such actions as being a “hussy”), Nynaeve reminds her that Rand isn’t the only one whose future is uncertain.

Elayne looked from one to the other of them. “In truth, I feared you might tell me I was foolish, fretting over a thing like this when we have the Black Ajah to worry about.”

A slight flicker of Egwene’s eyes said the thought had occurred to her, but Nynaeve said, “Rand is not the only one who might die next year, or next month, We might, too. Times are not what they were, and we cannot be, either. If you sit and wish for what you want, you may not see it this side of the grave.”

 

I have to say, it’s fun to see Moiraine lose her composure a little, here. It makes her feel a bit more human, and therefore more likable and relatable. She got herself back together pretty quickly, of course, but it was still a nice little window into what her actual internal struggle is. We haven’t had that since her POV section back in the beginning of The Great Hunt. Now I’m endlessly curious about her comment that she “knows the face of the man [she] will marry.” Why would Moiraine get married? I’m relatively certain that she and the Amyrlin are going to have some trouble down the road, once Elaida’s done figuring out what they’re up to, so maybe she’ll be cast out of the Aes Sedai? Or stilled, even? Or will she just decide to go against custom and marry someone even though she is still Aes Sedai, and Blue Ajah? And for that matter, how the heck does she know she is going to get married someday? It’s not like she has had a lot of time to fall in love, in between being Aes Sedai and fighting the Shadow and being the the sole person tasked with spending the last 20 years tracking down the Dragon Reborn.

I have two guesses right now. The first guess is that, since we know Moiraine grew up in the Royal Palace in Cairhien and is related to the royal family (Egwene tells us in this chapter) there may be some arranged marriage or other political alliance that was intended for her when she was younger. Perhaps she hopes to use that or some similar connection in her fight to unite countries under Rand and get things ready for the Last Battle.

My second guess, and I think this is the more plausible theory, is that Min told Moiraine something. Min has been telling lots of people who they’re going to end up with, after all, so it wouldn’t be that weird, and the way Moiraine words the sentence makes the theory more likely. She specifically says that she knows “the face” of the man she will marry. Perhaps Min saw the face and for once knew what her vision meant. Perhaps Moiraine doesn’t even know who the face belongs to, yet, just knows what Min told her. Then again, the comment came as a result of being asked if she was ever in love, so it might be that all my theories above are wrong, and that Moiraine just happens to be in love with someone. That would be surprising.

I wonder if we’ll meet him soon.

I love that she made the point of telling Nynaeve that it’s not Lan. And of course Nynaeve took offense instead of taking it as a kindness. I was also amused by Elayne’s observation that she didn’t know how Nynaeve, who is not very patient, put up with Lan’s continued insistence that they can’t be together.

It is getting a little annoying that Moiraine and Nynaeve are having the same fight over and over, even though I get where both of them are coming from. I think both women are right in some ways, and being incredibly unreasonable in others. In Moiraine’s case, her need to play things close to the vest is understandable, but she must realize that it’s never going to work. However much she chastises Nynaeve and Egwene, they are never going to suddenly start following her orders without question anymore than Rand will. She’s correct in pointing out that they don’t really know what they are doing and that the girls are ready to rush blindly ahead where they should tread cautiously. She may very well be right about Rand’s indecision, too. But she knows how they feel about the secrets she keeps, and the knowledge she holds over their heads. It’s a foolish exercise, I think, for her to keep acting as though they’re suddenly going to get used to it, accept her or stop demanding answers. She needs to try another tactic if she wants to be able to have some control over what the Emond’s Fielders decide to do going forward, and that control is something she believes is imperative. She should be looking for other paths.

At the same time, though, Nynaeve made me frustrated in this chapter. As much as I have always empathized with her emotional struggle, her need to be an expert and in control while she really has the ability to be neither, the childish behavior she still exhibits towards Moiraine hasn’t evolved at all from the way she acted in The Eye of the World, which seems silly. One of my favorite chapters for Nynaeve is Chapter 29 of The Dragon Reborn, when the three girls are doing their punishments and the Amyrlin comes to speak to Nynaeve about what they’ve learned in their hunt for the Black Ajah. The Amyrlin gives her a little schooling on her judgment of Laras, the Mistress of Kitchens, and Nynaeve is also learning something about putting on a face that doesn’t match your inner feelings. She pretends to be cowed by the Amyrlin’s fake(ish) punishments, and she’s learning to keep smiling at Laras even though it doesn’t produce the results she wants. She is supposed to be learning patience, too. But none of those lessons seem to have stuck with Nynaeve, and I don’t really see why.

Well, okay, perhaps I do. I think that it’s Nynaeve’s hatred of the One Power that is holding her back. As Moiraine points out in this chapter, Nynaeve wants to learn to use saidar, but she’s less interested in understanding the One Power, and that is going to hamper both her abilities and decision-making going forward. It’s interesting that her love for Lan hasn’t softened her attitude towards the One Power even a little bit, and I wonder if she doesn’t have extra hostility towards Moiraine because she thinks of Lan as being trapped by the Aes Sedai, much in the way that she feels she and Egwene (and even Rand) are—trapped by the White Tower’s machinations as well as by the Pattern, which Nynaeve tends to conflate as being one in the same.

I’d love to get another Nynaeve POV chapter soon, and see if any of these concepts come up, but the ever-expanding roster of main characters means that we get less and less time in each person’s head, which does bother me a bit. From a purely technical standpoint, I’m starting to notice where the focus of the narrative is landing on certain plot elements and certain themes and letting other ones develop “behind the scenes” as it were. The romances, for example. When did Egwene fall out of love with Rand? How did Faile and Perrin get so close? On the other hand, we’re going to keep having the same conversation with Moiraine over and over, even though we all know how Nynaeve feels about her by now, and I suspect that there may be plot reasons for this. I’m not certain, though.

Speaking of love plots, the “love them like a brother/sister” thing always weirds me out. The suggestion that the two ways for a man and a woman to care for each other is romantically or as siblings is kind of weird, as is suggesting that a romantic love would transform into some kind of sibling-like relationship. Not that long ago, Egwene was dreaming of having Rand’s baby, and now somehow she’s thinking of him as a sibling? Why not just a dear friend? The phrasing is just… odd. I realize that it’s a pretty common expression, but it bothers me a lot because it presumes that there’s no such thing as deep platonic friendships across genders, as though a woman has to prove that she thinks of a man as a sibling because otherwise she definitely wants to have sex with him.

Of course it would be terribly hypocritical of Nynaeve not to support Elayne’s crush. (Okay, her love. I get it, the Pattern is making this stuff happen. But she is right in saying that she doesn’t know Rand very well, so the term crush feels more accurate.) She’s back on familiar ground now, advising about matters that she would have dealt with as Wisdom of Emond’s Field, and something that Egwene won’t challenge her authority on as much. The dramatic irony of them all giving so much weight to the question of Berelain and Rand is pretty hilarious, given how all of that really went down. I am a bit surprised that no one even considers whether Berelain’s trip to Rand’s chambers might have been rebuffed. Sure, it is reasonable to assume she would have to have had permission to go there, given all the guards at Rand’s door. But they all know something of her ways already, as Nynaeve shows by remarking that Berelain is “the kind to hold hard to something she doesn’t particularly want, just because someone else does want it.” They know Rand, and he’s never shown himself to be the kind of guy Berelain thought him to be. Perhaps the fact that he’s Lord Rand now, and the Dragon Reborn, is coloring how Nynaeve, and even Egwene, think of him.

They’re all making a lot of sweeping decisions in this chapter, about what men are like and what Rand is like, and I can’t decide if it’s because that’s what Aes Sedai do, or if it’s what the narrative is suggesting women do, but either way it’s a bit off-putting. I do, however, enjoy the look into Elayne’s head, and getting to see more of her perspective. In some ways, she has always come off to me as younger than Egwene, although I believe they are actually the same age. It might be because of the playfulness of her personality, which was especially visible when Rand first met her, and between her and Egwene and Min, before things in the Tower went sideways. Maybe it’s because she was initially in more of a tagging-along position with reference to the hunt for the Black Ajah.

But regardless of that impression, Elayne has a “groundedness” to her from her upbringing as the future ruler of Andor, which we’ve seen come out in various ways. She is usually more patient than Egwene and Nynaeve, and we’ve seen that she is good at viewing things from other people’s perspectives as well as being a mediator, as she’s been for Egwene and Nynaeve during their little power struggle. She’s just as stubborn as the rest of them, but she’s shown herself to be better at letting the little things go and focusing on what really matters. Now, we get the added benefit of a chapter from her point of view, which adds more color to the sense of her personality. Elayne understands the responsibility of her power because her mother has raised her that way, so being a channeler does not require such an intense perspective shift as it does for Egwene and Nynaeve and Rand. I was particularly struck by Nynaeve’s comment that she didn’t really understand what war was until she left the Two Rivers—I’d basically forgotten how sheltered the Emond’s Fielders were. It’s not just about not knowing about the One Power, or about the indulgences of High Lords and the various elite. Nynaeve, along with all four of her former charges, is still very new to things that much of the rest of the world takes for granted. Like war. Like politics. Elayne, however, is intimately familiar with both.

I wonder if she’s thinking about Lini and Lini’s sayings this frequently all the time, or if it’s just right now.

Both Elayne and Moiraine’s assessments of Rand’s situation make a lot of sense, but all I can think about is Rand’s insistence that he has to do something no one expects. The tactical move of using his authority in Tear (before the Tairen lose their fear/respect for him) to take over Illian and hopefully oust or even kill Sammael is smart, but it also seems obvious. Since the Forsaken have had forever to plan and even the ordinary people running the various countries have more knowledge and experience than Rand, perhaps he really is right that the best move would be an unexpected one, even if it’s not the most tactically sound or ultimately useful. I do think that Moiraine is right that he needs to move soon, however—we didn’t need her to let us know that things were getting weird with the High Lords, and I’m still wondering what Torean was up to, standing at the top of those stairs with his men and watching Rand’s door. I don’t think Berelain is done causing trouble, either.

And then, of course, there’s the redstone ter’angreal doorway that Moiraine mentioned. Someone is going through there before long, maybe Moiraine, maybe another character. I wonder if there is any significance to the fact that the description of it sounds similar to Egwene’s stone ring. That ter’angreal appears to be made of stone and is flecked with red and green, and shaped like a Möbius strip, while the doorway ter’angreal appears to be made of red stone and to be slightly twisted to the eye. Perhaps there is some connection to finding truth from the World of Dreams and getting the three answers. Given how fraught the experience of stepping through the three-arched ter’angreal is, I suspect that this one is going to pretty intense, too.

Next week will cover Chapters 7 and 8, and we’ll get some real answers about the differences between saidin and saidar that go beyond Moiraine’s bird and fish analogy. Also Egwene and Rand will be silly about their feelings, Rand will chat with some High Lords, and Mat will look for advice. See you then!

Sylas K Barrett is amused at the idea that telling a man you like him is some kind of horrible offense. That seems extreme even for a culture like Andor. Does the Queen need to curb her tongue until some man asks her first, too? (Ooh, that was meant to be lighthearted but considering what’s going on in Andor right now… yikes.)

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