Welcome one, and all, and once again to this week’s installment of Reading the Wheel of Time. We have a bit of a tonal shift within this week’s post. First, in Chapter 28, we’re finishing up last week’s adventures in Salidar with Gareth Bryne’s arrival and recruitment. Then we take an abrupt turn back to Cairhien and the Aiel… and to Hadnan Kadere, who until now has been the least interesting of the four Darkfriends who came into the Waste looking for Rand. Actually, he’s still the least interesting and I could definitely have done without Chapter 29 altogether, but that discussion can wait until after the recap. First, let’s go see just how trapped Bryne truly is, and what he’s going to do about it.
Chapter 28 opens with Gareth Bryne watching a man—clearly a Warder—approach him. Bryne can’t imagine what so many Aes Sedai could be doing this close to Amadicia, especially since he’s heard rumors that Ailron means to claim this bank of the river, which really means that the Whitecloaks do. The Warder greets him politely and by name, introducing himself as Nuhel, and asking Bryne to come with him. Bryne dismounts, intrigued by the fact that the man knows who he is, and that no one seems particularly surprised to see him. He’s aware that his face is well known, but suspects this is more than that. Mara must have told them—but even being an Aes Sedai agent didn’t erase the oaths the three women gave him.
Inside, Bryne spots Serenla sitting with a big man he assumes is the infamous Dalyn. She gapes at him, then squints as if she can’t believe her eyes. Dalyn just sits, staring vacantly. Bryne is taken before six Aes Sedai, and while he’s careful to take note of each of their names and to make his bows properly, his focus is on Mara and Amaena, standing by the wall and looking chastened. He notes that Amaena’s smile is tremulous, but although he can tell that Mara is terrified, her eyes are still full of defiance. He thinks to himself that she has the courage of a lion.
After Sheriam greets him cordially, Bryne explains why he’s there, even though he’s certain they already know everything. Anaiya remarks that she is surprised that he followed so far, even after oathbreakers. The Aes Sedai admit that such a strong oath should not be broken, but also that they can’t let Bryne take them yet. He points out the contradiction in the two statements, and the Aes Sedai explain that they intend for the women to honor the oaths eventually—Mara and the others did not specify in their oaths when they would serve, and the Aes Sedai still have use for them.
This was foolish; he should apologize for disturbing them and leave. And that was foolish, too. He had known before Dromand reached him in the street that he was unlikely to leave Salidar alive. There were probably fifty Warders in the forest around where he had left his men, if not a hundred. Joni and the others would give a good account of themselves, but he had not brought them all this way to die. Yet if he was a fool to have let a pair of eyes lure him into this trap, he might as well go the last mile for it.
He reiterates the crimes for which the women were tried, sentenced, and sworn, but adds that he has no objection to remaining in Salidar until the Aes Sedai are done with them, and suggests that Mara can act as his dog robber whenever the Aes Sedai don’t need her. Mara is about to speak but falls silent when all six Aes Sedai turn to look at her. She’s clearly fuming, however, and an amused Myrelle tells him he’d be better off choosing the other, based on the way she’s looking at him. Amaena is indeed giving him an appraising look—she even shares a smile with Myrelle.
Then Carlinya leans forward—Bryne is wary of her and of Beonin, though he can’t say exactly why—and tells him that the women he knows as Mara and Amaena are, in reality, Siuan Sanche, former Amyrlin, and Leane Sharif, former Keeper of the Chronicles. He can’t contain his astonishment, but when he asks how this is possible, Sheriam only replies that there are some things men are better off not knowing. He decides that the changes in Siuan—and presumably in the former Keeper as well—must have to do with stilling. But that isn’t something one talks about in front of Aes Sedai, and he knows that once an Aes Sedai starts giving mysterious answers, you won’t get anything else out of them.
They were very good, these Aes Sedai. They had lulled him, then hit hard when his guard was down. He had a sinking feeling that he knew what they were softening him for. It would be interesting to learn whether he was right. “It does not change the oath they took. If they were still Amyrlin and Keeper, they could be held to that oath by any law, including that of Tar Valon.”
Sheriam replies that they have no objection to him remaining, and that he may have all three women as his body servants if he likes, whenever the Aes Sedai don’t need them. And since he does not object to staying, there is a service he can provide for them. The others add in words about the gratitude of the Aes Sedai and compliment his service to Andor, promising that nothing they ask of him will go against his honor or harm Andor. Bryne, grimacing, feels like the Aes Sedai might have invented Daes Dae’mar, since they seem to play the Game in their sleep. And he knows that he’s caught, that if they are determined to pull his strings then his strings will be pulled. But he is similarly determined to show that he isn’t a brainless puppet.
“The White Tower is broken,” he said flatly. Those Aes Sedai eyes widened, but he gave them no chance to speak. “The Ajahs have split. That is the only reason you can all be here. You certainly don’t need an extra sword or two”—he eyed Dromand and got a nod in return—“so the only service you can want out of me is to lead an army. To build one, first, unless you have other camps with a good many more men than I saw here. And that means you intend to oppose Elaida.”
He can see various reactions in the Aes Sedai’s expressions but presses on, assuring them that he doesn’t like Elaida or think that she will make a good Amyrlin. And more importantly, he knows he can build an army to take Tar Valon, as long as the Aes Sedai know that it will be a long and bloody process. He also tells them he has conditions. The first is that he has command of the army—the Aes Sedai will command him, but he has authority over soldiers under him. The second is that they take him seriously when he says something can’t be done, as he doesn’t want to waste lives because the Aes Sedai do not understand war. And third, that they will stay the course of their decision.
“I will be putting my head in a noose, and every man who follows along with me, and should you decide half a year from now that Elaida as Amyrlin is preferable to war, you will pull that noose tight for every one of us who can be hunted down. The nations may stay out of a civil war in the Tower, but they’ll not let us live if you abandon us. Elaida will see to that.
“If you will not agree to these, then I do not know that I can serve you. Whether you bind me with the Power for Dromand here to slit my throat or I end attainted and hung, death is still the end.”
The Aes Sedai are silent for a long time, and Bryne is half expecting Nuhel’s blade to plunge into his back, but instead the women go over to the window, hiding their discussion with channeling. Bryne wonders how much of what he asked for he’ll be able to get—just because the suggestions were reasonable doesn’t mean the Aes Sedai will deem them so. And he knows he will have to concede with good grace, whatever they decide.
He notices Leane smiling at him, but it is Siuan who draws his attention again, and he draws hers too. She walks up to him and demands to know why he followed them. He responds that it was for the oath, all the while thinking that it was for her eyes, and that he should double her time for breaking it. She hisses that it has already been taken care of, but Bryne tells her that if she’s had her bottom switched for it, it doesn’t count unless he does it. He hears a scandalized chuckle from Dromand and Siuan explodes, calling him a pile of rancid fish guts and informing him that the Aes Sedai have decided that not one moment of service will count towards her debt until they are back at his manor, even if she has to be his dog robber, whatever that is, for twenty years. Bryne realizes that the Aes Sedai had been ready to turn Siuan, Leane, and Min over to him just to get his favor, and wonders if they are desperate enough to give him the conditions he’s asked for.
Siuan starts off again, calling him a carp-brained fool for taking pleasure in this, now that he knows who she really is. She asks if this is revenge for when she made him back down over Murandy, and Bryne realizes that she is trying to make him angry to distract him from what she said about her sentence. Even now, she is still manipulating like an Aes Sedai.
He reminds her that he followed Mara Tomanes here, and asked for Mara Tomanes, not Siuan Sanche. But since she brings it up, he asks why it was so important to allow the Murandians to raid across the border.
“Because your interference then could have ruined important plans,” she said, driving each word home in a tight voice, “just as your interference with me now can. The Tower had identified a young border lord named Dulain as a man who could one day truly unify Murandy, with our help. I could hardly allow the chance your soldiers might kill him. I have work to do here, Lord Bryne. Leave me to do it, and you may see victory. Meddle out of spite, and you ruin everything.”
But when Bryne remarks that the man can’t yet be succeeding, since he’s never heard of him, Siuan admits that he died, shot by an Andoran farmer on one of the raids. Bryne laughs, telling her that she should have made the farmers kneel instead of him, and then observes that she doesn’t have to concern herself over such things anymore. He feels pity for her, thinking about how much she has lost, but he also doesn’t really like being called all these fish insults, and tells her that from now on she can concern herself with keeping his boots clean and bed made.
Her eyes narrowed to slits. “If that is what you want, Lord Gareth Bryne, you should choose Leane. She might be fool enough.
Only barely did he stop himself from goggling. The way women’s minds worked never ceased to amaze him. “You vowed to serve me however I choose.” He managed to chuckle. Why was he doing this? He knew who she was, and what she was. But those eyes still haunted him, staring a challenge even when she thought there was no hope, just as they were now. “You will discover the kind of man I am, Siuan.” He meant it to soothe her after his jest, but from the way her shoulders stiffened, she seemed to take it as a threat.
Suddenly Bryne realizes that he can hear the Aes Sedai speaking, though they fall silent a moment later, staring at Siuan. She turns and walks back to her place beside Leane, and Bryne is impressed at the composure she keeps under those Aes Sedai eyes. Then the Aes Sedai turn back to him, and Sheriam informs him that they find all his conditions reasonable and accept them. He kneels, pressing one fist to the floor, and the women encircle him, and he begins reciting a pledge, his mind already turning to plans and tactics.
Min watches Bryne and the Illianer Warder come out of the back room, joking with each other before the Warder leaves. Siuan comes out next, and Min can’t hear what Bryne says to her but she can see Siuan snarling to herself as she walks away. She has a feeling that the Aes Sedai are going to hold them to the oath they swore, and thinks again about how she would run off immediately if not for the pair of Warders lounging against the wall. She notes the other Aes Sedai coming out of the back room and moving amongst their fellows, their words producing surprised or pleased reactions.
She tells Logain to stay where he is, a little worried that he might start trouble, as he appears to be noticing the Aes Sedai faces around him for the first time.
“She sold me to Aes Sedai.” It was a shock to hear him speak after being so long silent. He shivered, then nodded. “I will wait.”
She goes to the door, spotting a horse that must be Bryne’s, though her own is nowhere in sight. She thinks to herself that she will honor the bloody oath, but that they can’t keep her from Rand, now that she’s done what Siuan wanted. Except she knows that the Aes Sedai would decide for themselves what they have to do, and they’ll decide for Min too. Siuan nearly knocks her down as she comes back in the door, carrying a blanket roll and saddlebags. She hisses at Min to watch Logain and keep anyone from talking to him, and then continues on to follow Bryne up the stairs. Min smiles at the Warder who had followed her to the door but gets nothing in response, so she makes her way back to the table.
Gently she tells Logain that he shouldn’t say anything until Siuan gets back, and he replies that no one has any desire to talk to him, anyway.
And indeed, the Aes Sedai do seem to be full of renewed energy and activity. Siuan comes back down the stairs with a bundle under her arm, stalking off towards the kitchen, and Min takes off after her, cornering her in a hallway. Siuan is more concerned about talking to Logain, and pushes off the bundle—Bryne’s laundry—onto Min. But Min insists on telling Siuan about her viewing of Bryne—she saw a bull ripping roses off his neck, and an aura that she only understood some of.
“If you want to stay alive, you had better stay close to him.” Despite the heat, Min shivered. She had only ever had one other viewing with an “if” in it, and both had been potentially deadly. It was bad enough sometimes knowing what would happen; if she started knowing what might… “All I know is this. If he stays close to you, you live. If he gets too far away, for too long, you are going to die. Both of you. I don’t know why I should have seen anything about you in his aura, but you seemed like part of it.”
Siuan tells her that the Aes Sedai aren’t going to make them go with Bryne. He is going to stay and lead their armies to victory, and make her life the Pit of Doom while he’s at it. She admits she’s not sure him saving her life is worth it, and instructs Min to bring her the laundry when it is clean so Siuan can take it up to him. Min gets the distinct impression that she will be the one doing all of Gareth Bryne’s laundry.
Meanwhile, Hadnan Kadere lies on his back in his wagon, glad for the slight reprieve from the heat of the Waste and thinking of how he misses his native Saldaea and his older sister Teodora. Sighing and sweating, he rolls over to consider a small scrap of paper.
You are not alone among strangers. A way has been chosen.
Just that, without signature, of course. He had found it slipped under his door when he retired for the night. There was a town not a quarter of a mile away, Eianrod, but even if a soft bed remained empty there, he doubted whether the Aiel would allow him to spend a night away from the wagons. Or that the Aes Sedai would. For the moment, his plans fit in well enough with Moiraine’s. Perhaps he would get to see Tar Valon again. A dangerous place, for his sort, but the work there was always important, and invigorating.
The word “chosen” makes Kadere believe that the note is from another Darkfriend, and he’s surprised to have received it now, two months after Natael attached himself to Rand and Keille disappeared—murdered by Natael, Kadere assumes. Soon after that Kadere had been visited in his dreams by Lanfear, who had given him his instructions. And now there is this note, which he judges by the handwriting to have been written by a female Aiel. He knows that there are Darkfriends in every land, but he’d never never wanted to find brothers among the dangerous, unpredictable Aiel.
Kadere is certain that this note spells disaster; he would never have gone near the Waste if Natal and Keille hadn’t had proof that they were very high ranking Darkfriends, and now he assumes Natael must have told one of the Aiel about him. Of course, the other option is worse, the word choice could mean that one of the Chosen had decided to use him, which would leave him caught between that one and Lanfear. He’s terrified, and wishes again that he was home in Saldaea with Teodora.
He hears a scraping at the door, and when he goes to the door Isendre scurries in. After checking to make sure no one saw her, Kadere invites her to take off the hot, itchy robes and make herself comfortable, but Isendre, despite twitching uncomfortably, demurs. Kadere finds it amusing, guessing that the maidens only allow her to wear the stolen jewelry underneath the robes, and thinking of how her stealing has made everything more difficult.
He asks for reports on Rand and Natael. Isendre replies that at least she can get close to Natael, but he doesn’t tell her anything interesting, only bids her to wait and be patient. Whenever she asks questions he suggests she “make accommodations with fate” though she doesn’t know what that means, and mostly he just wants to play strange music on his harp and make love. It’s the same information she has reported before, and Kadere wonders, not for the first time, why Lanfear wanted the man watched. He is supposed to be as high a Darkfriend as a man can reach, only a step below the Chosen themselves.
He confirms that Isendre still hasn’t managed to worm her way into Rand’s bed yet, and tells her that she must try harder. He reminds her that their masters are not as patient as he is, and that Rand is only a man, whatever his titles. She had often boasted to him that she could make any man do whatever she wanted, and knew it to be true because it had worked on Kadere himself. He thinks again of how her stealing and putting the Maidens against her had made this all so much more difficult, but assures Isendre that once she is in Rand’s bed he won’t let the Maidens hurt her.
But Isendre refuses. He points out that their masters don’t like to hear the word no, but although an allusion to Lanfear makes Isendre start to cry, she still refuses. She pushes back her hood to show Kadere that her head and eyebrows have been shaved and explains, weeping, how she thought that she might have better luck now that they are in a town instead of tents, but the Maidens caught her before she got within ten paces of him, held her down and shaved off every hair on her body and beat her with nettles. She tells Kadere how her body is red, how she itches everywhere but aches too much to scratch, how the Maidens told her that next time they would make her wear nettles, that they would give her to Aviendha. She repeats that she can’t do it again.
Kadere is still not convinced; even bald Isendre is terribly beautiful and he thinks of what they can accomplish if she can just bed Rand once… but looking at her she can see that it won’t happen.
The Maidens had broken her. He had broken people himself, and he knew the signs. Eagerness to avoid more punishment became eagerness to obey. The mind never wanted to admit it was running from something, so she would soon convince herself that she really wanted to obey, that she really wanted nothing more than to please the Maidens.
He asks what Aviendha has to do with it, and Isendre calls him a fool, telling him that she has been sleeping with Rand since Rhuidean and that the Maidens believe she will marry him. Kadere weighs the two in his mind, trying to decide which one of the women he thinks comes out on top in terms of beauty and attractiveness, but looking at Isendre, slumped and sobbing, not even trying to wipe her tears away, proves to him that his calculations don’t matter. Isendre will collapse if Aviendha so much as looks her way.
He takes her by the shoulders—she flinches—and turns her towards the door, telling her gently that she can still get something out of Natael. Isendre seems soothed by his tone, turning as directed even as she points out that Natael won’t want her for a while, given the state of her. And then Kadere takes his kerchief, twists it into a cord, and strangles her with it. He tries to ignore the sounds of her struggle, staring straight ahead.
Even keeping his eyes open, he saw Teodora; he always did, when he killed a woman. He had loved his sister, but she had discovered what he was, and she would not have kept silent.
He knows that Isendre would have soon confessed to being a Darkfriend, and eventually pointed the finger at him.
He goes to the cabinet to get a knife for her body, thinking to himself that if he could find the Aiel woman who left him the note, perhaps she could take over Isendre’s job, or point him towards another Aiel Darkfriend who was pretty enough. Natael wouldn’t care if it was an Aiel who visited him, and perhaps an Aiel would be tough enough to pit against Aviendha. As he works, he hums a lullaby Teodora taught him.
Well. So I’ve been really into the Bryne/Siuan plotline so far, and I think that the narration has done a really great job piquing our interest in the same way that his has been piqued. Bryne has constantly recognized Mara/Siuan’s strength and determination, and he’s been continuously drawn in by the seeming incongruity between her identity as a helpless refugee and the fierceness she has shown in the face of her fear. (Not that a refugee can’t be fierce and strong, but I digress.) The narration’s continued focus on her eyes suggested to me that some part of Bryne recognized that the face he was seeing was a mask, and not truly the person herself.
Take this line from Chapter 12 for example:
Too old to go chasing after a pretty pair of eyes young enough to be his daughter’s if not his granddaughter’s. I only want to know why she broke oath, he told himself firmly. Only that.
To me, that did not read as Bryne slightly turned on by (what appeared to be) a much younger woman, but as Bryne being drawn to someone who was actually around his own age and not quite understanding how that could be, given how she looked. We know, after all, that Bryne is attracted to powerful women—I know “courage of a lion” is a common expression, but it’s also a reference to Morgase—and also that he has met Siuan before. Her being an Aes Sedai was obviously a barrier to any kind of romantic interest, and that’s gone now. But her apparent age should be a turn off, at least until Bryne learned the truth about who she is.
Then there’s this line in Chapter 28, when Siuan asks Bryne why he followed her so far:
“For an oath.” For a pair of blue eyes. Siuan Sanche could not be more than ten years younger than he, but it was hard to remember that she was Siuan Sanche while looking at a face nearer thirty years younger. The eyes were the same, though, deep blue and strong.
He followed for those eyes, which haven’t been altered by stilling, which still have all the age and authority of the woman who was the Amyrlin Seat. It’s a striking moment, I think, and since I’ve been feeling the parallels between Siuan and my experience of being transgender, I find it particularly moving. It’s pretty clear that there’s some kind of romance building here, and I’m intrigued to see where it will go.
Although I have to admit that parts of Siuan and Bryne’s dynamic in this chapter really put me off. There’s nothing charmy or flirtatious about the way he leans when she mistakenly assumes that he is going to force her to sleep with him. It’s a common joke in fiction, especially movies and television—a woman mistakes a suggestive comment or moment of physical intimidation for a rape threat, and the man either mocks her (“don’t flatter yourself sweetheart”) or it’s used as a moment of comic relief (see: Margaret Houlihan in MASH). This moment is milder than some, but it still contains the basic thought behind the trope: Bryne is baffled by her assumption, barely able to “stop himself from goggling,” and I’m just perplexed as to why Bryne thinks it’s a strange conclusion to jump to, as though the man has no idea what it’s like to be a woman in the world. I mean, they just passed through Lugard for Light’s sake.
I like Gareth Bryne very much, and I’m not ready for him to “not all men” things. And I’m really not into him leaning into Siuan’s mistake, and the way the narrative seems to suggests that this is a cute teasing thing he’s doing, even for a moment. Your mileage may vary here, but personally I think master and servant/slave romances should remain in fanfiction and erotica—it’s roleplay, and should never portend towards real life.
At this point I should also talk about how I am finding myself less forgiving of these sorts of things in The Fires of Heaven than I was in earlier books. It’s because such moments have become both more obvious and more frequent in Book Five. It really started to pick up in The Shadow Rising, with Perrin and Faile, the first of the main romances to come to fruition. Nynaeve and Lan are moving in that direction, but still separated by duty and circumstance; Elayne and Rand are still in the early stages of courtship, with Min and Aviendha waiting in the prophesied wings. But I’m seeing so much of Perrin and Faile in Siuan and Bryne it’s actually making me a little uncomfortable. The sharp-tongued woman who hides her feelings behind insults and the stoic and more reasonable-seeming soldier. The way the woman comes from power and now has less, but still holds herself like the royalty (or equivalent) that she is. The way the man simultaneously respects her power and authority and needs to take her down a few notches. I mean, there is a not very subtle indication from the narrative that these women need to be put in their places, just as Nynaeve was by the assault she experienced at Egwene’s hands. There’s even that moment when Bryne says that he should be the only one who gets to switch Siuan’s bottom—I have not forgotten or forgiven how Faile respected Perrin more after she got a non-consensual spanking from him.
The age gap is also something that is becoming a norm among the relationships in The Wheel of Time. Perrin and Faile seem to be about the same age, as are Rand and his various love interests, but Nynaeve is young enough to be Lan’s daughter or possibly granddaughter, as Bryne observes Mara is to him. There’s also the repeating age difference between Birgitte and Gaidal Cain, as well as that between Thom and every woman we’ve seen him with or who has shown interest in him—even Morgase is a good deal younger than he. And while one of these examples wouldn’t be particularly damning on its own, as a whole they start to create a bit of an uncomfortable pattern. It starts to feel less like diverse characterization and more like a trope, like I can see the author’s own tastes coming through.
So I’m hoping that Siuan’s appearance will be something Bryne has to look past. If it’s considered a sexy bonus I’m not going to be pleased. And if they get together while she’s still his dog-robber, I’m going to be similarly uncomfortable. Also, I had to look up what a dog-robber was. It’s an odd term, but it sent me down a nice little rabbit hole reading about WWI military trivia, so that was fun.
Anyway, I keep thinking about the concept of this particular oath and how intense it is. We’ve heard a lot about oaths in The Wheel of Time in general. There’s the Oath Rod and the way it physically binds the oath taker, there are the oaths Darkfriends swear, with various characters always thinking about how unbreakable those are. And then there’s the moment that made the most impression on me, Lini’s description of Tallanvor re-swearing his oath to Morgase and cutting his own arm “to show he would shed his last drop before breaking it.” However, I believe that Siuan, Leane, and Min’s oath to Bryne is the only one we have actually seen sworn “on screen” so to speak. And I have to admit, it makes it hard for me to take this one as seriously as the characters in the narrative do. In the same way that it’s hard to remember that Mat is constantly cursing up a blue streak, since what he’s saying doesn’t mean anything particularly bad in our world. I kind of wish the oath Siuan chooses had been seeded in an earlier book; it’s not that I can’t see the seriousness of saying “may the Creator’s face turn from me forever and darkness consume my soul” if you break your oath, but I don’t have any actual emotional context for it so I have to keep reminding myself that it really is a big deal.
It doesn’t help that Min has pretty much stopped caring about the oath. She could barely bring herself to go along with Siuan’s plan to run and deal with the oath later, but now that she’s committed she hardly gives it a second thought. “I’ll honor the bloody thing! I will!” doesn’t make the honoring sound particularly fraught—it feels more like a kid promising to do the dishes later but can they please go to a friend’s house now. And I’m rather disposed to dismiss Sheriam and the others’ estimation of how important it is because of, well, everything about them. I’m on Siuan’s side in this, for sure.
Gotta love Siuan putting Min to work doing the chores she was told to do and is still planning to take credit for it. Bryne’s right: She’s as much an Aes Sedai now as she ever was, and while she’s willing to do anything she has to to achieve her goals, she’s not willing to do anything she doesn’t absolutely have to.
I am quite curious about Min’s visions regarding Bryne and Siuan. I loved the image of him as a bull (reminded of Perrin again here, as well) ripping off the red roses of Andor as a symbol of the new direction of his life, but I’m even more intrigued by the suggestion that Siuan and Bryne must stay together or they will both die. Siuan believes that it means that Bryne will save her life, but it could be less direct than that, and who knows what other failures or successes may be tied into the two of them, given who they are. The one other vision that included an “if” must mean the one Min had around Gawyn either killing Egwene or kneeling at her feet. I’m guessing that has something to do with whether he will side with the rebel Aes Sedai or with Elaida and the Tower, but there’s not enough information right now to tell about the new vision, unless it also has to do with the success of Siuan’s plans, since Bryne is now going to lead the rebel army and she hopes to be pulling the strings of the new rebel Amyrlin and the rest of the Aes Sedai.
It’s interesting that Min hasn’t had any “if” visions until recently, and I think it speaks to the nature of the Pattern at this crucial stage. The Dragon has been reborn and the Last Battle is coming, and there is no doubt much more fluctuation in the Weave than usual; Rand’s influence alone would do that, I imagine, even before the Dark One started breaking free and trying to touch the Pattern. Min is hoping she won’t have more “if” visions, but I rather suspect that she is hoping in vain.
Poor Min. The development of her feelings for Rand is so hard to judge, and except for her viewing, it seems to come rather out of nowhere. Does she actually love him, or is she more going off of the awareness (since she knows her viewings always come true) that she will love him someday? Is the vision the only thing that is driving her now, or is there some of Rand’s ta’veren power at work as well? The ta’veren effect on the pattern seems to require a certain amount of proximity, and though Rand’s reach is pretty far it’s not almost across the known world far. On the other hand, if Min’s thread in the Pattern was altered when she was near him, I imagine that effect would stick. Perhaps she’s feeling it more now that some time has passed—the things you ignore have a way of growing in your mind until you address them. Either way, I feel for her and what she’s going through, and it looks like she’s going to be trapped by Siuan and the Aes Sedai for a while yet. I’m not sure they’ll value her feelings for Rand even with the viewing, and Siuan will probably want to keep using Min’s abilities for her own purposes, not Rand’s.
Oh, speaking of connections to Rand, I wonder if that might be part of the reasoning to make Egwene the new Amyrlin. Perhaps Sheriam and the others (and Siuan for that matter) will think that she will give them some kind of leverage or control, or at least connection, to Rand and his decisions.
And then there’s Logain. I like how this chapter is called “Trapped” in reference to Bryne’s situation, but it’s also a reference to the former false Dragon. It’ll be interesting to see how Logain reacts to Siuan’s plans when he finally hears them; given how far he’s slipped into despair, it’s hard to see how a half-revenge, based on lies and resulting from Siuan’s continued manipulation of him, will inspire much. But we know Min has seen glory for him, so something at some point is going to give him back that sense of purpose and desire to live—maybe Siuan’s offering, maybe something else, but definitely something. It’s kind of fun to have that foreknowledge about him, especially in a read where a lot of my time is spent trying to analyze and predict what the narrative is setting us up for.
And now that I have run out of things in Chapter 28 to talk about, I guess I have to turn my attention to Chapter 29. I could have done without this chapter, to be honest. I’m not sure what else Kadere will do in this narrative, but thus far he has mostly existed as a red herring in The Shadow Rising to distract us from Asmodean, and I don’t think that this chapter brings anything to his character or to the plot at large. The small reveal that Isendre’s attempts to sleep with Rand were directed by Darkfriend management could have been delivered in a number of different ways without dedicating a chapter to her murder—maybe a comment by Lanfear to someone, since the only interesting thing about this is that it shows once again how the machinations of the Chosen are often at odds with those of upper-level Darkfriends from the current Age.
And yes, this is a book about Good and Evil, so we do need an Evil that is appropriately dark and intense, but this scene just feels graphic for the sake of being graphic. It’s a moment where the book should have stuck to Juilin’s “figs and mice” trick, I think, as Rand’s assessment of Kadere’s dangerous eyes is far more chilling and effective than this chapter, which is only brutal and upsetting, and nothing more. The narrative trick with Teodora is effective, I suppose, but it’s not like we needed the smidge of backstory to know who Kadere is or how he feels about murder—he’s literally murdering and chopping up Isendre.
But perhaps Jordan thought we did. I’ve been more than a little uncomfortable with the way the narrative has treated Isendre from the moment we met her. I’d actually like to cover some of it in a separate essay, but I will say here that there is an intense amount of slut-shaming of Isendre that comes both from other characters (Lanfear, for one) and from the narrative itself. And while technically the maidens are not punishing her for wanting to have sex but for dishonesty and for trying for someone they’ve deemed off limits, it’s hard not to feel like the narrative feels that her suffering is justified, morally speaking, because she is a Darkfriend. And there is something exploitative I think, even glorifying, in the description of what the Maidens did to her. They don’t even know that she’s a Darkfriend—her punishments are stealing and for being interested in Rand. Does Jordan want me to like the Maidens? Because right now I kind of despise them.
Of course Kadere has no sympathy for her, and I’d hardly expect a character like him to consider women to be full people, but this is another case of cumulative effect: Once again we have the statement that women’s trickery and sexual wiles can trap a man and make him do anything; once again we have many characters judging a woman for having sexual interest in Rand (see: Berelain), most of whom are also women. Jordan presents the “good” ladies of his world as being very catty and cruel to each other in this respect, and I don’t appreciate it.
One thing I do appreciate about this chapter is the reminder of how very aware most Darkfriends are of the suffering that comes with their service, both to their Great Lord and to any Darkfriends that outrank them. We’ve seen this from characters like Bors, and we’ve seen Liandrin and her company chafe against such indignities. Kadere has scars on his chest from Lanfear coming into his dream, and the narration uses the term “gibbered” to describe how intense his terror of her really is. It shows how painful the hierarchy of Darkfriends really is, and it’s a good reminder how very few of them are supposed to make it to that place at the Dark One’s side one day. What a gamble to sell your soul on such poor odds, and it certainly says a lot about the hubris of your average Darkfriend.
If memory serves, I think Ingtar is the only character so far who we know became a Darkfriend for relatively selfless reasons: He did it out of a desire to protect his home from obliteration, rather than for personal glory or the ever-touted immortality. When he went through the Portal Stone he saw all the possible lives he might live, all the things he might be asked to do in service of the Dark One, and could not bear to keep on that path, whereas someone like Kadere was willing to murder his own sister. I guess one’s motivations play a big part in how one lives (or doesn’t) as a Darkfriend.
And the way Kadere lives is between a rock and a hard place. He never wanted to come into the Waste, and for the most part it doesn’t seem like he’s been given much of a job to do other than to keep Isendre on task. And of course he has no idea who Natael is or who Keille was so he’s really just suffering and confused. Which, good I guess.
Knowing what we know, I had to laugh at Kadere’s assumption that Natael murdered Keille out in the Waste somewhere. Ah Kadere, you have no clue at all what you are dealing with.
And now we know there is a Darkfriend amongst the Aiel, and a lady at that, which means either a Maiden or a Wise One. I feel like this is going to turn out to be either the first or the last person we expect so I will guess accordingly. The first person I would suspect is probably Melindhra, especially after the way she was talking to Mat last time. The last person I guess would be Amys. There’s no way she’s a Darkfriend. Right?
Next week we return to Rand, and he and Aviendha will be having some adventures. Stand by for Chapters 30-33, and an extra essay on the death, and life, of Isendre. May you all have a good week, and as always, walk in the Light.
Sylas K Barrett would very much like for Min to get to have more to do that’s not just laundry and following Siuan’s orders. Maybe she and Logain can team up and do some kind of buddy cop movie.