Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Nynaeve Tries To Be Cautious in The Shadow Rising (Part 35)

After a brief break, we’re back to the read of The Shadow Rising! This week we are covering Chapters 51 and 52, returning to Tanchico with Nynaeve and Elayne, who are in for some big reveals and discoveries. I’m excited as always to take some more time in Nynaeve’s head, and there’s some surprise cuteness between Egeanin and Domon, of all people.

I think I might ship it? But first, let us recap!

Chapter 51 opens with Nynaeve, Elayne and Egeanin struggling to learn to eat with sursa, chopstick-like utensils used in Arad Doman. They discuss the recent riots in the streets and the possibility of more, before Rendra departs and they turn back to using spoons and forks.

This is Egeanin’s fourth visit, and they have been easy to find at the inn because riots after Amathera’s investiture as Panarch have made going on in the streets too dangerous. Juilin and Thom have still been searching, however, seemingly pleased that the girls have been forced to remain inside. Instead they have been mostly waiting, and having the occasional chat with Egeanin and answering her questions about Aes Sedai. She is just starting to ask something about the women they are looking for when Bayle Domon comes into the room without knocking to announce that he has found him. Then he catches sight of Egeanin.

With a shout of “You!” he throws himself at Egeanin and, after a brief struggle, pins her face down on the floor. Elayne immobilizes both of them with flows of Air as Nynaeve demands Domon release Egeanin, unable to see that Elayne has channeled.

Domon tells them that she is Seanchan, the captain who took his ship captive and brought it into Falme. Elayne shifts the flows of Air until she can take Egeanin’s knife from her, then frees both of them.

Nynaeve demands to know why Egeanin is really here, if their meeting was truly an accident, and if she has just been waiting until she can lure them somewhere her “filthy suldam” can lock a’dam around their throats. When Egeanin seems surprised, Nynaeve assures her that they know all about damane and suldam, but that they also know more than the Seanchan as well—they know that the suldam can also channel.

Egeanin responds that she knows, and asks to sit, and Elayne is struck, even impressed, by her cool calm in the face of the situation. She tells herself she needs to stop admiring Egeanin. Nynaeve, apparently not having the same problem with still liking Egeanin, repeats her questions, letting Egeanin know in no uncertain terms that they will never be collared.

“That was never my intention,” Egeanin said stiffly. “All I ever wanted from you was to learn about Aes Sedai. I … .” For the first time she seemed hesitant, unsure of herself. Compressing her lips, she looked from Nynaeve to Elayne and shook her head. “You are not as I was taught. The Light be upon me, I … like you.”

“You like us.” Nynaeve made it sound a crime. “That answers none of my questions.”

Egeanin explains about the suldam being left behind and about her discovery that the a’dam could hold Bethamin. She also says that she recently let Bethamin go free, after talking with Nynaeve and Elayne. She asks what they mean to do with her, but Nynaeve and Elayne aren’t sure how to answer.

Suddenly Nynaeve remembers what brought Domon into the room in the first place and spins back to demand answers. Bayle tells them that one of his men saw two women on the list—“the one with the cats and the Saldean”—going into the Panarch’s palace. Nynaeve is skeptical, considering that Jaichim Carridin and five hundred Whitecloaks are currently holding the Panarch’s palace.

Juilin arrives next, asking to talk to Nynaeve in private, but she urges him to speak in front of everyone and Juilin explains that ““the woman with the white stripe” in her hair has led him to the others, just as he said it would. He’s annoyed that Domon got to the information first, but pleased that Nynaeve had apparently doubted the Illianer’s story.

Finally Thom shows up, telling Nynaeve that he has important news to share with her in private.

Nynaeve gave Thom a sharp look. “I’ve no time for that now. The Black sisters are in the Panarch’s Palace, and for all I know, Amathera is helping them search it from cellar to attic.”

Thom admits that this is what he came to tell them, and when Nynaeve asks about Amathera, he says there is no way of knowing her allegiance. She has not been to see the King since she was invested, but this could be because travel between the two palaces seems too unsafe or because she has realized her power and feels less need to be deferential to him. He also asks about Egeanin, and they explain who she is and how they can’t exactly ask Rendra to lock her in a storeroom for them.

They sit to eat, and Elayne decides that Amathera must know that Liandrin and the others are in the palace. She lists three possibilities, that Amathera is a Darkfriend and ally to the Black Sisters, that Amathera thinks they are Aes Sedai and is helping them for that reason, or that Amathera is a prisoner. If she is either unaware of their true loyalties or a prisoner, they could gain her trust/free her, and even Liandrin and co. wouldn’t be able to hold the Panarch’s Palace if she ordered it cleared.

They discuss their options as they eat, Egeanin offering a few pieces of helpful advice, but they can’t do much else without finding out more information about Amathera’s allegiances, which means letting the men go back out to check their leads and contacts.

Waiting is difficult, and Elayne worries over Thom’s safety especially. But despite the occasional lead, none of the men is able to find out anything about Amathera, until at last Domon and Thom admit defeat for the night, declaring themselves too tired to do anything else until the morning. Juilin wants to go back out, but Nynaeve forbids it and tells them they must each take turns on guard duty outside their door.

They have Rendra make up a cot on the floor for Egeanin, explaining that she doesn’t feel safe traveling so late, and Nynaeve persuades Elayne to bind Egeanin’s wrists with Air. Then she asks for the stone ring, as it is the night they have scheduled to meet Egwene. She tells Elayne to give her an hour before waking her, and falls asleep.

Egeanin observes that Nynaeve seems to hate her, but Elayne doesn’t. Elayne asks how she can be so calm, but Egeanin assures her that she’s terrified. Elayne tells her that they won’t hurt her, and begins to plan how they might sneak into the Panarch’s Palace as she watches over Nynaeve.

Finding herself in the Heart of the Stone in Tel’aran’rhiod, Nynaeve is more consumed by thoughts of Egeanin than thoughts of where they are. She’s horrified that Egeanin has managed to “snake her way” into Nynaeve’s affections, and upset to lose one of the few friends she’s made since leaving the Two Rivers.

“I hate her for that worst of all,” she growled, folding her arms tightly. “She made me like her, and I cannot stop, and I hate her for it!” Said aloud, it made no sense at all. “I do not have to make sense.” She laughed quietly, with a rueful shake of her head. “I am supposed to be Aes Sedai.” But not to be wool-gathering like a fool girl.

She turns her attention to her surroundings, to Callandor glittering from its place stuck in the floor and the shadows outside the columns that gave her such a feeling of being watched. She’s just thinking about how irritating it is for Egwene to keep her waiting when she hears the other woman’s voice, observing that Nynaeve is wearing a very odd dress. She turns sharply and finds Egwene standing with Amys and Bair, and then looks down to find herself in a strange dress worked with armor plating like what she saw in Shienar. She’s even holding a metal rod with a spiked end.

Nynaeve returns her clothing to Two Rivers garb with an effort, and Bair tells her that she must learn to control her thoughts in the dream. Nynaeve insists that she can control her thoughts very well.

Egwene fills Nynaeve in on everything that has happened, including the Shadowspawn attack on Cold Rocks Hold and Rand’s activities, how he refuses to confide in anyone. Nynaeve puts an arm around Egwene to comfort her when she admits that she does not know how to look after Rand, then tells them about everything that she and Elayne have learned on their end.

When Nynaeve tries to ask if the Dreamwalkers can get into Amathera’s dreams, Bair calls her a foolish girl and tells her that in Amathera’s dreams, Nynaeve would be completely at her mercy. Nynaeve bridles at being called a foolish girl, and finds herself dressed like an Aiel child (although she doesn’t recognize the garb or realize that Bair and Amys have done this to her). She changes back and asks if there is a way to bring Amathera into Tel’aran’rhiod to talk; Amys and Bair tell her that such a request is evil thing.

“She would be as helpless here as you in her dream.” Bair’s thin voice sounded like an iron rod. “It has been handed down among dreamwalkers since the first that no one must ever be brought into the dream. It is said that that was the way of the Shadow in the last days of the Age of Legends.”

Nynaeve tells herself that she is not intimidated by these women, but she can see the point in being reasonable, and tries a different tactic, asking for help to stop whatever it is that will hurt Rand. Because of the danger to Rand the Wise Ones agree to help, although they worry it will be too dangerous for Nynaeve. Amys explains how sometimes, when the population of a hold grows too large and the sept must be divided, a Wise One may locate a new water source for the new settlement through the dream. By closing her eyes and focusing on her need, she can take a step at a time and each step will bring her nearer to the source she seeks.

She suggests that it might not work as well for Nynaeve, as she does not know exactly what she seeks, but that it also might work very well, since her need is great and she already knows that the thing is somewhere in the Panarch’s Palace. But she stresses, too, the danger of having to do this with one’s eyes closed, and how stepping into the unknown could be deadly.

Nynaeve tells Egwene that they will meet her again in seven days, and they both make optimistic promises about what they will have accomplished by that time, though Nynaeve worries privately that the Black Ajah will find the threat to Rand first, and notices that the Wise Ones do not seem as confident as Egwene that all the Aiel will follow Rand.

“Try to be careful, Nynaeve. I know you don’t know how to, but try anyway. Tell Elayne I said so, too. She isn’t as … bold … as you are, but she can come close.” Amys and Bair each laid a hand on Egwene’s shoulder, and they were gone.

Nynaeve thinks irritatedly that she is always careful, and as if to prove it, sets about trying to alter her appearance within the Dream, trying to make herself look like a Taraboner woman who had perhaps dreamed herself into Tel’aran’rhiod for a moment. She even manages to change her hair color, and, curious about what the whole effect looks like, she summons up a mirror in which she sees that her reflection looks exactly like Rendra. Pleased with her disguise, she closes her eyes and focuses on her need, on something dangerous to Rand, and feels the world shift around her.

She opens her eyes and finds herself in a large bedchamber. A woman, wearing only a crown and a large stole, is bound to one of the bedposts and staring at another woman, whose transparent appearance shows that she’s only just in Tel’aran’rhiod. Her back is to Nynaeve, but Nynaeve recognizes her instantly as one of the Black Ajah, Temaile Kinderode. She appears to be tormenting Amathera, and her attention is drawn to Nynaeve when she sees Amathera gaping at her. Nynaeve quickly shuts her eyes and focuses on the need that lets her shift away.

Nynaeve tells herself that she was not there long enough for Temaile to have sensed her ability to channel, that if she even saw her at all it was only a brief glimpse of a woman who looked nothing like Nynaeve, a Taraboner who accidentally dreamed herself into Tel’aran’rhiod for a moment.

She looks around and finds herself in the main exhibition hall of the Panarch’s Palace, recognizing it from Egwene’s description of the place. But someone else suddenly appears in the same space, a dark-haired women in a shimmery revealing dress who stops to smile at something in a glass case before moving further down the hallway. Nynaeve is struck by the woman for reasons she can’t understand, finding herself entranced, tugging at her braided hair, struggling with herself. Suddenly the memories of the woman’s visit to her and Elayne come flooding back to her and Nynaeve is left stunned, trying to figure out who this woman is, and why, if she is some unknown Black sister, she didn’t turn them over to Liandrin.

She finds herself full of rage and is ready to attack the woman, when suddenly Birgitte appears, putting one finger to her lips and motioning for her to come away before disappearing. When Nynaeve turns back to her intended quarry, the woman is gone.

Nynaeve strides through the doorway Birgitte had indicated and finds the woman there holding a silver bow and a quiver full of arrows. She answers Nynaeve’s demanded questions by explaining that yes, she is Birgitte, though she is also many of the lives she remembers living before, and that she well remembers the face of Moghedien, and of Asmodean, whom Nynaeve almost disturbed at Rhuidean.

Nynaeve is horrified to hear the names of those Forsaken, and with no way to warn Egwene of her danger in the Waste. Birgitte explains that the souls of those who are bound to the Horn always wait in the World of Dreams until they are called or are spun out into the Pattern to live again. She explains that she cannot touch the world of flesh otherwise, and that she is not supposed even to be talking to Nynaeve—that it “violates precepts as old as law.”

A man appears, agreeing with her, a stocky muscled man with swords, and Nynaeve figures out that this Gaidal Cain.

“We have almost always been linked,” Birgitte told Nynaeve without taking her eyes from Cain’s. “He is usually born well before me—so I know my time approaches again when I cannot find him—and I usually hate him at first sight in the flesh. But we nearly always end lovers or wed. A simple story, but I think we have spun it out in a thousand variations.”

Cain ignores Nynaeve, telling Birgitte that the precepts exist for a reason, and that nothing but trouble comes from violating them. But she counters that she cannot sit by while evil fights. It is the reason they have been bound to the Wheel, she tells him, and evil is rising even in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Cain answers that they will fight when the Horn calls them, and warns of some threat Moghedien once made to Birgitte. He moves away from them then, but Birgitte still answers Nynaeve’s questions about Moghedien, explaining the woman’s skill in moving in the shadows, in only striking when she is certain of her victory, how Moghedien is even more dangerous in Tel’aran’rhiod than Lanfear, even though she is not as strong as Lanfear in the waking world. She tells Nynaeve that they will meet again, if Nynaeve is careful and survives, and walks off with Cain, laughing.

Thinking again of Moghedien and what she did fills Nynaeve with so much rage she is quickly pulsing with the power, but she returns to find the hall still empty. She considers, for a brief moment, going back to find Temaile, but knows that will warn the rest of the Black Ajah. So she settles for going to discover what Moghedien had been looking at.

The first item, in a glass display case alongside various carved figures, is one of the seals on the Dark One’s prison, still unbroken. In the glass she catches her reflection, the disguise of a Taraboner woman, and realizes that a disguise is useless if she walks around filled with the Power and announcing herself as Aes Sedai.

“I can be careful,” she muttered. Yet she held on a moment longer. The Power filling her was like life bubbling along her limbs, all the pleasures she had ever known seeping through her flesh. In the end, feeling foolish took enough edge from her anger to allow her to let go. Or maybe it dulled her anger to where she could no longer hold on.

She closes her eyes and focuses again on the need to find the threat to Rand, and opens them to look down at a white stone pedestal, on which was displayed a necklace and two bracelets of jointed black metal. When she puts out her hand towards them she immediately senses great suffering, pain, and sorrow, and the intensity of the feeling convinces her that this is what the Black Ajah are looking for. And then, suddenly, she realizes that Moghedien had also been looking at the pedestal, that she must also know what they are and what they can be used for.

At that moment Elayne begins shaking Nynaeve awake, since the hour is up. She is hoping to get some sleep herself but Nynaeve’s news quickly changes that. They discuss what the bracelets and necklace might be, but when Nynaeve compares it to a collar they suddenly realize what it must be for, although Egeanin remarks that she has never heard of an a’dam made for a man.

Realizing that the Black Ajah must not yet know what or where the item is, Nynaeve declares that they steal it, as well as the seal, and free Amathera. They will have to get the men on their side though.

At that same moment they hear shouting in the hall, and find Thom, Juilin, and Domon standing over an unconscious man who apparently was just walking by and then kicked Thom in the head. Flummoxed by the proceedings, it’s a moment until Nynaeve and Egeanin realize that they are both in nothing but their shifts. Nynaeve angrily stalks back into the room to poke her head around the door, but Egeanin is clearly mortified, leaping back with a shriek, and when she does put her head back around the doorframe she’s red faced and upset.

Juilin recognizes the would-be attacker as someone who tried to rob him earlier, but Egeanin offers the truth, that he is Seanchan. She assures them that it was not a rescue attempt—he was looking for her, but most likely because she is in trouble. She suggests they might want to slit his throat, as he would make trouble for them too if he thinks they are her friends or figures out that they are Aes Sedai. Nynaeve decides instead that they should dump his unconscious form in the alley, leaving him to the mercy of thieves in the night.

The girls go back inside so that Nynaeve and Egeanin can dress, and after trying to reassure Egeanin, Elayne brings up her ideas about how to move unseen in the Panarch’s Palace. Nynaeve herself has an idea about how to get in, and they find that Egeanin also has some helpful suggestions. By the time they are all dressed, they have a full-formed plan.

 

When Nynaeve insisted to Amys that she could control her thoughts, I actually laughed out loud. Back in The Eye of the World (and a few times since, if memory serves) I talked about how relatable I found Nynaeve’s prickliness and hostility—I recognized and empathized with the way she used that hostility as a defense mechanism, and the way her seeming arrogance was a shield to cover her own insecurities. As a young woman in a position of power (one of the first things we hear about Nynaeve is that some of the men think she’s too young to be Wisdom) it made sense that she developed a stern, dictatorial nature in order to stand up to those who didn’t want to recognize her authority. And it made sense that she would struggle with accepting her new rank in the world—at first junior to Moiraine in knowledge and experience, and then junior to all the Aes Sedai as she began her training—especially after having only recently attained a position of power back in the Two Rivers. We have seen her struggle every step of the way with accepting help and advice from those who have more experience than she, and although it can be frustrating for a reader (and for her friends) to watch her make foolish decisions because of it, it’s clear that Nynaeve fears that giving even an inch will cause her to lose every bit of authority and power she has gained for herself.

It is in this that she and Egwene differ, I think. Over the course of The Shadow Rising, Egwene has shown just how stubborn she can be, and she seems just as determined and almost as sure of herself as Nynaeve. But although Egwene has a lot to prove, she’s less worried about how things look to others—she’s frustrated with the Wise Ones not because she resents the very idea of their authority, but because she doesn’t like being held back from what she wants to do. Nynaeve doesn’t like being held back either, but I think the concept of others having authority over her bothers her even more.

I enjoyed how easily Nynaeve noted that Egwene’s “biddability” was feigned. Granted, I kind of suspect that the Wise Ones know that Egwene isn’t feeling it, but I don’t think they actually care how she feels as long as she obeys them. They are looking to instill a sense of patience and self-control in her, as they are in Aviendha, not necessarily true humility. And I have to wonder how this compares to what the Aes Sedai wish to see in their novices and Accepted—we’ve seen Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne all feigning obedience they didn’t feel in their hearts, but I was rather under the impression that the Aes Sedai really want to break their initiates so as to build them back up again, which would require that any feigned humility or biddability to be very convincing, or else it would be caught and punished. Still, we didn’t get much of a good look at the White Tower power structure before Elaida’s coup, so this maybe be a lot of surmise on my part.

In any case, the aspect of Nynaeve’s personality that really sticks out to me this week is how unselfaware she can be. We kind of knew this already, but there is always a question, for me at least, about how much of Nynaeve’s actions and opinions are a front that she is at least somewhat aware of, and how much of what she says about herself she actually believes to be true. I brought this up when they first met Egeanin, and Nynaeve, after being the one who was always scolding the others for loose tongues and lack of caution, wasn’t even a little suspicious of Egeanin’s fortuitous arrival into their lives. Nynaeve spends the entirety of Chapter 52 trying to convince everyone, and herself, that she knows how to be careful, and it’s only by the end that she starts to possibly acknowledge to herself that it’s something she struggles with.

After the mistakes she and Elayne made walking alone in fancy dresses through the streets of Calpene, you’d think she’d have learned a little something about her own mindset, how she relies on stubbornness and competency to push through where a little bit more prudence and forethought might have served her better. And if not at that moment, then certainly when she learned that the woman she had been about to attack in Tel’aran’rhiod was none other than one of the Forsaken. I mean, surely she doesn’t think she could take on Moghedien, even with the element of surprise on her side?

But then, that might be that defense mechanism kicking in again. Nynaeve hates feeling scared or vulnerable, and anger is her shield against it. Perhaps some part of her did believe, or convinced herself to believe, that she would have been able to take out Moghedien, because that fantasy feels safer than admitting how truly frightening it is that she unknowingly almost put herself in the path of the Forsaken.

Nynaeve’s continues to be one of my favorite POV’s to be in, and I find that I like her so much more when I’m reading a chapter from her perspective than when I’m seeing her through someone else’s eyes. Her flaws are so interesting when I can see the whole picture. Elayne, I think, is more the opposite. I admire her self-possession and logic, and she makes some of the keenest observations of any of the POV characters in the book, but that doesn’t always make for the most dynamic of reads.

I’m here for the drama, I guess.

I see that Egwene and Nynaeve are struggling in these chapters with the same thing I am struggling with—Egeanin’s likability. Of course, no culture is a monolith, no people purely evil (or purely good) but nothing I’ve seen of the Seanchan culture has given me reason to like or trust them. Their extremely hierarchical social structure is also quite bloodthirsty, with violence and killing an acceptable form of amusement, as we see from the way the Empress likes to chain her damane to random noblemen just to see if they’ll both die or not. And of course the Seanchan practice slavery, in multiple forms.

I am reminded in these chapters of the first time we were told the story of Artur Hawkwing by Elyas back in The Eye of the World.

“A child could ride alone with a bag of gold from the Aryth Ocean to the Spine of the World and never have a moment’s fear, but the High King’s justice was as hard as that rock there for anyone who challenged his power, even if it was just by being who they were, or by people thinking they were a challenge.”

Knowing what we know about Seanchan law, how it makes no concessions but also favors people by birth and class, this description of Hawkwing’s rule takes on an even more ominous flavor than it did when I first read it. In my mind, it may be the most significant piece of proof that the Seanchan actually are who they say they are.

So Egeanin is complicated. On the one hand, she has been indoctrinated since birth to the Seanchan way of thinking, to thinking that “justice” means this draconian rule of law and the promotion of order to an impossible degree. And we see the “positive” side of this in her absolute disdain for rulers who would allow their people to suffer and starve on the streets the way folks are in Tanchico—her desire for law and order is bound up with a desire for all citizens to be housed and fed. On the other hand, growing up being told that slavery is not only allowable but actually the proper order of things is not an excuse for accepting and participating in it. Along these same lines, we know that Egeanin saved Nynaeve and Elayne because she did not want to kill another innocent woman—a noble thought, but she has killed an innocent woman, and not to protect a good cause, but to protect an invasion.

How, then, does one make up for such things? The answer, I think, is with action, and Egeanin has already offered some support to Nynaeve and Elayne in the form of practical and helpful advice. There is enough groundwork laid in Chapter 46 that I think I believe her claim that she let Bethamin go, although since we’re not in her head in these chapters it is possible that she is lying. If she is telling the truth, then she is taking the first step to make up for her role in owning a damane. Perhaps her next step will be to deepen this friendship she has begun to develop with Nynaeve and Elayne, and to become a true ally to them against the Dark One, and perhaps even against the eventual Seanchan invasion. Of course, this would require turning against her own people, but Egeanin has already broken a lot of rules, and it seems a bit unlikely that she would be able to return to Seanchan society and its laws and way of life. Then again, I imagine her upbringing won’t be that easy to escape, and anything could happen just in the hunt for the bracelets and necklace alone.

There is a lot of foreshadowing in her comment that they should probably slit the throat of the Seanchan Seeker, I think. I don’t doubt he’ll be back to make trouble for one, or maybe all, of them.

And of course we again see the difference between Nynaeve’s attitude and Elayne’s. Egeanin suggests that Nynaeve hates her and Elayne doesn’t, based on how she sees the two of them react, but both women feel, I think, about the same amount of affection for Egeanin, and both are struggling with the fact that they they like her too much. Nynaeve isn’t having an easier time letting go of those feelings of friendship than Elayne is, she’s just less able to handle her personal feelings of hurt and betrayal, and, like all of Nynaeve’s negative emotions, these feelings end up expressing themselves as anger. And Elayne doesn’t feel quite as alone, perhaps, as Nynaeve does, so the loss of someone she trusted may sting a little less for that reason, too.

Fascinatingly, Artur Hawkwing’s particular ruling style is not the only theme from The Eye of the World that we’re revisiting this week. When Moiraine and the others go looking for the Eye, she explains that need, as well as intention, is the key to finding the Eye. That the Green Man can sense the need of those searching for him. In fact, need is such a powerful part of how the Eye and the Green Man can be found that Moiraine is able to find her way to the place twice, despite the fact that it was made so that a person can only visit once. Now we have learned that a driving need can have the same physical power in Tel’aran’rhiod, to focus someone’s movements and draw them towards a goal.

I have to assume that this use of need is related somehow to the Pattern, perhaps in a similar way to the power of ta’veren. Dreamers (even if they are not channelers) can connect to the Pattern this way because they are in Tel’aran’rhiod. The Eye was probably connected to the Pattern by the nature of who and what Someshta was—a creature who literally causes the earth to sprout and grow must have a unique connection to the Pattern. It may also be that the Aes Sedai who created the Eye and the place where it was hidden had the ability to forge such a connection within the Pattern.

There is much I still don’t understand about how the Pattern works, but I keep returning to this idea that the lives of people are the threads. The Wheel also weaves the rocks and the trees and space and air and everything else in Creation, but human lives are special, even outside of the concepts of consciousness and the soul. Ta’veren may be the ones designated to ignite and shape change, but every life has that special connection to the Pattern, even those with little room for flexibility. Perhaps that, too, is part of why the concept of need works the way that it does.

Not sure how I feel about Birgitte and Gaidal Cain’s love story, though. He’s always older and ugly, she’s always much younger and hot? She always hates him at first but always comes to love him? I mean, I’m always sucker for an enemies to lovers story, and the idea of two souls being forever reincarnated and finding each other again and again is very romantic, but somehow the combination of all these factors feels very weird and off to me.

I think it’s because it assumes a lot more immutability in people’s souls and identities than I’m comfortable with. It makes sense for me that people would continually have their same core personality traits, especially since those who are bound to the Wheel are there for a very specific purpose. But why should looks be continually the same? Why should gender? And why is he always a lot older than her? I wouldn’t think anything of it if they were sometimes the same age and sometimes not, but when it’s always the man being born significantly before the woman, that becomes creepy very quickly.

Generally speaking, the concept of reincarnation is so hard to get right in fantasy. I personally prefer a more mutable concept of the soul, and anything that has someone being too consistently similar to who they were before feels forced to me, too binary in its thinking. People change so much even over the course of one lifetime, how can we say that souls are so rigid and unevolving, even over the course of many lives? It makes me curious to see what else we learn about Lews Therin and how similar his character and personality ends up being in comparison to Rand’s.

And I do love Birgitte’s. I’m kind of picturing her like an adult version of Adora in the new “She-Ra” show, and I am always a fan of a character who says things like “I cannot sit by while evil rises.” Plus she’s an archer! I hope we see more of her soon, and I hope Moghedien isn’t going to be able to make good on her threat to Birgitte—sounds like she might be planning to take Cain out somehow, and I wonder if there is some way that members of the Forsaken can cut Heroes off from the Horn, or even from being reborn into the world. We know that Ishamael, when he was pretending to be the Dark One, threatened to do such a thing to Rand, cutting off the cycle of the Dragon’s rebirth, so if it’s a power the Dark One has who knows how that might be brought to bear against our heroes.

Nynaeve may not always appreciate the work the men are doing for her as much as she should, but I certainly understand why she and Elayne are frustrated with this weird competition that Bayle, Juilin, and Thom seem to have with each other. Juilin and Bayle’s antagonistic relationship is, I guess, born out of the bad blood between Tear and Illian, but why shouldn’t Thom and Juilin regard each other as allies? They are all in this together, after all, and they have enough to do to keep themselves in Nynaeve’s good graces without being at each other’s throats too. It doesn’t follow that just because their methods are different that they have to be derisive over the others’ tactics. But then, maybe it is because of Nynaeve’s prickliness, and the fact that both she and Elayne would rather do without them, that they are both so desperate to “win” the search for Liandrin and co.

I was struck by Elayne’s affection for Thom, and how much it has burgeoned since she realized who Thom was. She’s as protective over him as one might be over an old uncle or stepfather, despite the fact that she must not remember that much about him. It’s very sweet, and it’s nice to see something a little more personal from Elayne’s POV. I hope they get a chance to develop their relationship some more. I’m also tickled by the fact that Egeanin thinks Domon is cute; now there’s a fun enemies-to-lovers story.

So I guess I’m not only here for the drama.

Things are beginning to ramp towards a conclusion in The Shadow Rising, and I am very excited to see where the events of the last few chapters are going to take us. I am a bit behind in my reading at the moment, so I’m not sure which chapters we’ll get through in the next post, but you can check back here later in the week and I’ll leave you all an update!

Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and remember that gender is a concept! I tip my hat to you all.

Sylas K Barrett would very much like to try on some different looks in Tel’aran’rhiod. Can the World of Dreams let me be taller?

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