Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Death and Duty in Robert Jordan’s New Spring (Part 14)

Well friends, this is it! The last post for the New Spring prequel novel. We’re finishing up just in time to be fully invested in Lan and Moiraine when we see them on screen in a few weeks, and I for one am very excited. Hence all the italics I’m employing right now.

New Spring follows the same basic structure as the other novels. It opens with action, then spends some time on important characters and themes, has another little explosion of action around the middle of the book, then takes a little nap while doing some worldbuilding and gently seeding all the little details that will result in the final climactic battle. But because New Spring is shorter than the others, the ending does feel a bit rushed to me. We’ve spent all this time trying to figure out the mystery, and then the answers are dropped in our laps (not to mention Moiraine’s) all at once. Everything is tied up neatly in the space of a few pages, really.

Although maybe I’m just sore because I didn’t solve the mystery on my own. Nobody did, kind of—Moiraine just got close enough to be there when the saidar hit the fan, so to speak.

No, that idiom doesn’t work, does it? Well, I tried. I’m going to start the recap now. On to the rest of Chapter 25, as well as 26 and the Epilogue.

We last left Moiraine heading towards Lan’s apartments, having just encountered Merean in the halls and deduced that she is probably Black Ajah. After a long walk, the servant guiding Moiraine knocks on the door and announces that “Lady Moiraine Damodred Aes Sedai [wishes] to speak with King al’Lan Mandragoran.” The woman who answers the door disappears and comes back a moment later to say that Lord Mandragoran has no wish to speak with any Aes Sedai. Both servants appear scandalized, but instead of allowing herself to be escorted back to her own rooms, she pushes open the door and steps inside.

The three servants inside leap to their feet, but when Moiraine arches an eyebrow she is wordlessly directed towards closed doors that lead deeper into the apartments. She goes through, into a sitting room where she finds Lan practicing the sword in the middle of the room. He’s shirtless, and Moiraine notices scratches on his back. She finds herself wondering how this cold man could could inspire such passion in a woman, then quickly pushes that thought from her mind.

“You,” he growled. “So you are Aes Sedai and a Damodred today. I’ve no time for your games, Cairhienin. I am waiting for someone. Cold blue eyes flickered to the door behind her. Oddly, what appeared to be a cord woven of hair was tied around the inner handle in an elaborate knot. “She will not be pleased to find another woman here.”

Moiraine responds dryly him that his lady love does not need to fear her, since Lan is much too tall and Moiraine prefers men with at least a modicum of charm. She continues that she has come for his help—Malkier once pledged to come whenever the Aes Sedai called, and she is calling him now.

Lan responds that he will help her, if she will answer a question that all other Aes Sedai have refused to answer for him. Moiraine agrees that she will tell him, if she knows the answer, and uses the Power to move a chair for herself to sit in. She doesn’t want to keep trying to convince him of her identity, but she is cognizant of the power in being someone seated while the other person stands, especially given how far she has to look up at him if they’re both standing.

Lan meets her eyes for the first time, and tells her how, when Malkier fell, men came from many lands to help fight. They were unsuccessful, or too late, but they came. Malkier rode whenever the White Tower called, but when Malkier needed them, the Aes Sedai didn’t come. Lan wants to know why.

Moiraine hesitates to answer. The truth is something that Accepted and Aes Sedai are forbidden to tell those outside the Tower, and she has already told this man more than she should. But she decides that one more penance makes no difference at this point, and explains to Lan that over one hundred sisters were sent to Malkier, but that they could not get there in time. She adds that, though it was before she was born, she regrets the event deeply, and also regrets that the Tower decided to keep their effort a secret.

Privately, she knows why they did. It is much better for people to assume the Tower has done (or not done) something for its own reasons than that the Aes Sedai have failed. “Failure was a blow to stature, and mystery an armor the Tower needed.”

She tells Lan that it is more of an answer than any other sister will give him, and asks if it is enough. He responds with a bitter laugh and asks what help he can give her. She tells him about Merean and that she wants her to be watched, and is pleased when he doesn’t ask any questions. But then he looks towards the door, and admits that he’s been keeping to his rooms lately and doesn’t know how much watching he can do, and Moiraine wonders if she overestimated this man, who promised her help and then looked anxiously for his lady. But he is all she has.

Moiraine tells him that she would rather that he ask one of the Malkieri who follow him, since this must be done in utter secrecy. Lan snaps that no one follows him, then seems to slump, defeated, and agrees to ask Ryne and Bukama. Moiraine tells him to only ask Bukama, and that Lan can’t tell him why. They arrange to have Lan pass her notes via her maid Suki and Moiraine returns to her own apartments.

But once there, she finds “Suki” serving snacks to the Lady Iselle, who, without so much as rising in greeting, asks if Moiraine is truly Aes Sedai.

“If that is so, I need your assistance. I wish to go to the White Tower. My mother wants me to marry. I would not mind Lan as my carneira if Mother were not already his, but when I marry, I think it will be one of my Warders. I will be Green Ajah.”

She dismisses “Suki” and tells Moiraine to sit, shocking Moiraine with her impudence and arrogance. She tries to puzzle out what carneira , which means “first” in the old tongue, means in this context, and decides it can’t be what it seems like it is. She tells Iselle that she should wait to choose her Ajah until Moiraine has at least tested to see if she can channel, but the girl breaks in and tells her that she was tested years ago, and that the Aes Sedai said she would be very strong, only her mother was furious, because she intends for Iselle to become Queen of Malkier, and Iselle doesn’t want to marry Lan. But Iselle knows that the Aes Sedai take any woman they want for training, and no one can stop them.

Moiraine tells the girl that she should go to the Tower if she wishes, but that Moiraine does not have time to escort her, and she and “Suki” show Iselle out, forcibly. Siuan remarks that the girl won’t last a month in Tar Valon even if she’s as strong as Cadsuane, and then tells Moiraine that she hasn’t come up with any new information. She’s upset when she learns that Moiraine approached Lan, but Moiraine assures her that, whatever else the man may be, he’s not one to go around gossiping, and that they are in a position where they must take risks. Merean is here now, and Siuan must reach Lady Ines as quickly as she can.

It’s night before Siuan comes back, but she does come with news. She’s learned through Bukama that Merean spent almost the entire day with Prince Brys, and she also managed to find out that Rahien, Ines’s child, was born one day after the Aiel began their retreat from Tar Valon. She has concocted a story that she’s been dismissed from Moiraine’s service and Cal the footman has offered her a bed amongst Lady Ines’s servants, with the possibility of a job with her. Moiraine doesn’t love that Cal keeps coming up, but she’s mostly worried about Siuan getting distracted when there’s so much at stake.

Merean had spent all day with Brys? Without going near Lady Ines? One of Tamra’s chosen or Black Ajah, that made no sense, and it went beyond credibility to believe Merean was not one or the other. She was missing something, and that worried her. What she did not know could kill her. Worse, it could kill the Dragon Reborn in his cradle.

Meanwhile, Lan slips carefully through the corridors, using every bit of skill he has not to be seen by anyone. He’s in the ko’di , and his connection with the space around him allows him to almost feel the presence of others about to step out a door or around a corner, so he can slip away before he’s noticed. Both his female servants have begun informing on him to Edeyn and taking her commands, possibly because she told them it was part of ​​Malkieri custom, and Lan suspects that just about any of the servants would inform on him to Edeyn.

He flattens himself against the wall, behind a statue, just in time to avoid being seen by Iselle and the Merean Sedai. He doesn’t like skulking around, but after penning him in his room for two days, Edeyn has made it clear that she intends to announce his marriage to Iselle soon. And Lan is sure that once she’s given up the power the daori gives her, she’ll use Iselle to control him instead.

The only thing to do when faced by an opponent you could not defeat was run, unless your death could serve some greater purpose, and he very much wanted to run. Only Bukama held him here. Bukama and a dream.

Suddenly Merean gestures and Iselle hurries excitedly back the way they came. After a moment, Merean follows at a more sedate pace. Lan waits until they are out of sight and then hurries on his way. He needs to talk to Bukama. Lan knows that if he runs, Edeyn’s support will fade away, as will the dream of reclaiming Malkier. It will end many dreams, but the man who had carried Lan on his back as an infant had a right to dreams, and Lan will carry his duty to that man.

He starts down a long stone staircase when suddenly he is falling. He goes limp as he tumbles head over heels down the steps, landing in a dazed heap at the bottom, his eyes full of stars. Servants appear, exclaiming over his luck in not breaking his neck and asking if he wants a someone to call one of the Aes Sedai for Healing. Lan tries to put them off as quickly as they can—because he didn’t fight the fall he’s bruised but not broken, but more importantly, he had felt something drag his ankles up and strike him between the shoulders. As unfathomable as it seems, an Aes Sedai has attacked him with the One Power.

A palace guard rushes in, telling Lan that they’ve been looking for him everywhere and they hurry off to find Bukama in another corridor, face down with a dagger in his back. Lan kneels and closes his eyes, saying a prayer for him. He can’t imagine how anyone could get so close to Bukama to kill him; the only explanation is that he died because Lan entangled him in Aes Sedai schemes. He takes off running again, towards Moiraine’s rooms.

Moiraine is sitting and waiting in a cushioned armchair when she hears a crash and shouting from servants in the outer room. She embraces saidar , and a moment later Lan bursts in, shaking off the servants and shutting the door in their faces. She notes the bruises on his face, and the way he moves as though he’s been beaten, and even though she has saidar at her disposal, she still finds herself fingering her belt knife under the iciness of his stare, like “death seared cold.”

He tells her briefly of Bukama’s death and of his own encounter with being pushed down the stairs. Unless Merean only walked back the way she had come to lull Lan then it had to have been Moiraine, and few people can see him when he doesn’t want to be seen. Moiraine answers that he would be surprised how little escapes a sister, especially one filled with saidar, and admits that perhaps she shouldn’t have asked Bukama to spy on such a dangerous woman. Her trying to kill Lan is proof that Merean is Black Ajah, and Moiraine urges Lan to get Iselle away from her.

Lan answers that Iselle is safe, he just saw her hurrying somewhere with Brys and Diryk. He demands to know what Bukama died for, but when Moiraine throws up her hand he falls silent. She’s surprised, but too busy thinking to give it much space.

Merean with Iselle. Iselle with Brys and Diryk. Merean had tried to kill Lan. Suddenly she saw a pattern, perfect in every line; it made no sense, but she did not doubt it was real.

She asks where Brys would go for absolute privacy, and Lan tells her about the walk on the west side of the Palace. He wants to rouse the guards, but Moiraine tells him that if Merean is doing more than talking to Brys then there is no time for that. She tells him to take her to the walk, and let an Aes Sedai deal with an Aes Sedai. They run, and Moiraine fills herself with the One Power as she runs, trying to think what she can do against a woman who is so much stronger than her, and who has been an Aes Sedai for more than a hundred years before Moiraine was born.

They reach the walk and Moiraine sees Merean, surrounded by the glow of saidar and holding Prince Brys and his son in bonds of Air. She sees Ryne as well, standing further off—he is a Darkfriend after all. Iselle is saying something to Merean about not being able to bring Diryk to her without his father but Moiraine doesn’t stop to hear it as she hurls a shield of Spirit at Merean, hoping to sever her from the source. But the shield shatters on the amount of saidar that Merean is drawing.

“You did well enough killing the spy, Ryne,” [Merean] said calmly as she wove a gag of Air to stop up Iselle’s mouth and bonds that held the girl stiff and wide-eyed. “See if you can make certain of the younger one this time. You did say you are a better swordsman.”

Lan just gets his sword out in time, and Moiraine is attacked at the same moment. She is just able to defend herself from being shielded as Merean remarks that Moiraine turns up too often, and that she must ask her why. Moiraine defends herself desperately against Merean’s continued attack, trying at the same time to cut Brys and Diryk free, and to somehow shield Merean. She knows that she will die if she loses, but even though the Oaths would allow her to use the Power to shield Merean, she doesn’t want to try to kill her—Moiraine needs answers too badly. And unfortunately, Lan is too preoccupied with Ryne to come to her aid. She fights on, but then Merean lifts Diryk over the railing.

“No!” Moiraine screamed. Desperately, she flung out flows of Air to drag the boy back to safety. Merean slashed them even as she released her own hold on him. Wailing, Diryk fell, and white light exploded in Moiraine’s head.

Moiraine opens her eyes, groggily aware that Merean has shielded her from the True Source. She’s too dazed to do more than prop herself up on her elbow. Lan and Ryne are still locked in combat, while Brys stares at Merean in hatred and Iselle weeps. Merean tells Moiraine dismissively that she will keep, and turns to lift Brys over the balcony.

Moiraine struggled to her knees. She could not channel. She had no courage left, no strength. Only determination. Brys floated over the railing. Moiraine tottered to her feet. Determination. That look of pure hate etched on his face, Brys fell, never making a sound. This had to end. Iselle lifted into the air, writhing frantically, throat working in an effort to scream past her gag. It had to end now! Stumbling, Moiraine drove her belt knife into Merean’s back to the hilt, blood spurting over her hands.

They tumble to the paving stones together, but Moiraine has to scramble over Merean’s body to grab at Iselle, who, abruptly released from her bonds, has fallen backwards and lost her footing. Moiraine grasps her hand just as the girl’s feet slide off the walk. They dangle there, Iselle staring up at Moiraine as their grip, slick with Merean’s blood, slips away. Moiraine watches the girl fall until Lan pulls her away from the railing.

Lan, one arm hanging injured and marked by other wounds as well, remarks that this is as black a day as he has ever seen. Moiraine does her best to hold herself steady as she retrieves her knife from Merean’s body and cleans it on Merean’s skirt, prompting Lan to observe that she is a cool one. Moiraine answers that she is as cool as she must be. Privately she knows that her calm is an outward shell only, but she knows that if she lets go of it she will collapse with grief. Instead she observes that Ryne was wrong about who was the better swordsman.

Lan shook his head slightly. “He was better. But he thought I was finished, with only one arm. He never understood. You surrender after you’re dead.”

Moiraine nodded. Surrender after you are dead. Yes.

They have to wait for Moiraine’s head to clear enough for her to embrace saidar, and Lan is anxious to inform the shatayan of Brys and Diryk’s deaths before their bodies are discovered on the rooftops. He seems less anxious to tell Edeyn about the death of her daughter, however. When Moiraine finally is able to Heal him, he gasps ins shock and is so weak afterwards that he has to lean on the railing, but Moiraine doesn’t feel any satisfaction in it. She lifts Merean’s body with Air and burns it with a fire, explaining when Lan asks that there is no proof that she was Black Ajah, only that she was Aes Sedai.

But he did not so much as blink at the mention of the Black Ajah. Perhaps he was ignorant of it, but she would not wager on it. The man was as self-contained as any sister. “I cannot lie about what happened here, but I can be silent. Will you be silent, or will you do the Shadow’s work?”

“You are a very hard woman,” he said finally. That was the only answer he gave, but it was enough.

Moiraine replies that she is as hard as she must be, and turns her mind to the other things that must be done to hide what happened here.

No one notices the disappearance of Merean or Ryne when the announcement of the Brys and Diryk’s deaths, and Moiriane hears that Edeyn intends to retire from the world after the death of her daughter. Encountering her in the halls, she notes that Edeyn’s face resembles Moiraine’s last glimpse of Iselle’s. It is an expression full of despair and the knowledge of her coming death.

She finally meets up with Siuan in her apartments, and learns that Rahien wasn’t born close enough to Dragonmount to fit the prophecy. She doesn’t know Merean is dead, and Moiraine has to relive the whole experience as she explains what Siuan has missed. She also explains that Merean wanted Diryk dead more than Brys, and that she tried to kill Lan as well. Moiraine has seen a pattern here around the idea of luck, one that might well include the blacksmith Siuan mentioned earlier and even Josef Najima in Canluum. But while Moiraine can see a pattern, she can’t figure out what it means, and she asks Siuan to put her mind to the puzzle.

And after some thinking, Siuan does come to a conclusion. She realizes that the Black Ajah must know that the Dragon has been reborn but not when he was reborn. She surmises that either Tamra was able to hold that bit of information back or that the Black Ajah were too rough in their questioning and killed her too quickly, and that they are going around killing any man or boy who might be able to channel. Horrified, she realizes that tens of thousands could die this way.

Moiraine knows that it can take a while for people to realize that they can channel, and often the first signs are just that they appear to be very lucky. Siuan is right; the Black Ajah has begun a slaughter. But since they don’t know to look for a baby—no channeler would show any signs of future ability at that age—they have a little more time to find the Dragon Reborn than they thought. But at the same time, any sister could be Black, and they might at some point realize that they should question some of Tamra’s searchers rather than kill them as soon as is convenient. They still have their task.

Moiraine tells Siuan that she should go back to the Tower, pointing out that they can’t search any faster with two than with one, and that Siuan will be of far more help if she’s working with Cetalia and seeing all the reports from the Blue eyes-and-ears network. Siuan begins packing, even as she complains about what Cetalia will do to her for running off, and how much she hates the politics of the Tower.

Moiraine goes to the stables next, and has Arrow hastily saddled. Lan has an hour’s lead on her, and she can’t know which way he’s ridden after leaving the city. But she is able to find some wagon drivers who have seen a Malkieri on a bay stallion, and eventually she finds Lan sitting on the top of a hill, burning hair in a small fire. She asks him if he is burning his future, and remarks that it will be a sorrow to many when he dies in the Blight. Lan responds that he is burning his past, and the memories of a nation. No one will sorrow for him when he dies, because everyone who would have is already dead. And in any case, all men die.

“Only fools choose to die before they must. I want you to be my Warder, Lan Mandragoran.”

He stared at her unblinking, then shook his head. “I should have known it would be that. I have a war to fight, Aes Sedai, and no desire to help you weave White Tower webs. Find another.”

Moiraine responds that she fights the same war he does, and then tells him everything from Gitara’s Foretelling down to what Siuan has reasoned out about the death of Tamra’s searches and of the men who were killed by the Black Ajah.

“You said you burned your past. Let the past have its ashes. This is the same war, Lan. The most important battle yet in that war. And this one, you can win.”

He looks away from her, staring north towards the Blight for a long time, then draws his sword so suddenly that she almost thinks he is going to attack her. Instead he kneels, swearing a careful oath on his mother’s name and then kissing the blade. She notes that, even now, he would make a king look meek. Then she lays her hands on his head and begins the weave of Spirit.

Suddenly she was aware of him, in the way that Aes Sedai were of their Warders. His emotions were a small knot in the back of her head, all steely hard determination, sharp as his blade’s edge. She knew the muted pain of old injuries, tamped down and ignored. She would be able to draw on his strength at need, to find him however far away he was. They were bonded.

Lan rises and begins to talk of his experience fighting the Aiel, of how many under his command died, and how some of them would be alive if he had made different choices, and others would have died. In war, he tells her, you say a prayer for your dead and ride on, because there is always another fight on the horizon. He advises her to do this, and Moiraine realizes that she forgot that the bond flows both ways. Apparently he can feel her emotions more clearly than she can feel his.

He hands her Arrow’s reins and asks where they are going next. There are only a few mothers and babies left that will be easy to find, and after naming a few places, Moiraine adds that they will ride the world, if need be.

They must win this battle, or the world will die.

 

Friends, I just need a minute to collect myself. I’ll be right back.

[Cue lots of flailing and screaming in the distance.]

Okay! To business.

I am so impressed with this prequel. In many ways it’s a fairly simple story, and it bears all the hallmarks of the other Wheel of Time books I’ve read, both in its strengths as well as its flaws. For example, it gets a little meandery at times, which throws off the pacing of the story. On the other hand, Jordan throws a number of characters at us in quick succession, all of whom feel like solid, interesting people. Most of the people we encounter are also people Moiraine is meeting for the first time, or at least doesn’t know well, and it really adds to the sense of youthful adventure that permeates most of the book. Once she arrives at the Aesdaishar Palace, however, we are familiar with most of the players, since we arrived earlier with Lan and Moiraine is with Siuan and already knows Merean. This is where the sense of danger and being in the deep end, so to speak, really settles in, and we finish New Spring feeling very grounded in the world we know from the other books. Moiraine feels more like the woman we know from the other books, too. She’s killed someone now, and she has realized the full danger, and the full responsibility of the quest she has chosen for herself. What’s more, she’s realized that she no longer has a choice. Before, she was a brand new Aes Sedai desperate to be included in something that her superiors were doing; now she’s the only one left who can complete a task upon which the fate of the world depends. She and Siuan, that is.

An aside: If you’re the same kind of epic fantasy fan that I am (which I’m betting most of you are) you might say there’s no such thing as too many details about architecture or scenery or landscape or food. I don’t really mind if the narrative gets sidetracked talking about superfluous details, and there certainly is a straight line from Tolkien to Jordan in that respect. But I will say, the details around fabric and dressmaking got pretty tedious. I felt like I got a ton of information about fabrics and various women’s opinions on them without ever getting the type of description that would, you know, actually help me picture the dresses in question. Mostly it’s just colors and how much hip or breast is revealed. Compare that to, say, the description of how Moiraine was overwhelmed by all the lace in her Aes Sedai quarters, the “sea of foam” as she calls it, and maybe you’ll see what I mean. Clearly Jordan didn’t know as much about dresses as he did about architecture or geography. The continuous return to how much the cut of a dress accentuates aspects of the feminine figure shows where his priorities were in this case, I think.

My heart went out to Siuan in this last chapter. She’s kind of an afterthought here, and the narration spends more time on Moiraine being miffed that Siuan is making out with a footman than on Siuan’s part in the hunt. Somehow she manages to miss all the action, to the point where I forgot for a moment that she was even in the palace at all. But when she was packing to return to Tar Valon and talking about how much she hates politics I realized something. In a story in which one of the main things is the threat of being trapped by politics, Siuan is the one person who doesn’t make it out of her trap.

Moiraine runs away because she wants to hunt for the baby Dragon, but mostly to escape the Tower’s machinations to put her on the Sun Throne. Whatever else happens to Moiraine, whatever else she suffers and however much darker her fate is than she expected, she will never be Queen of Cairhien. Lan gets out of being forced to marry Iselle and lead men into the Blight in a horrific way, but that trap that he can’t get himself out of is ultimately rendered void by Merean’s actions; what’s more, Iselle was just a useful means to an end for Merean, and just so happened to be convenient in that moment. If Iselle hadn’t wanted to go to the Tower, or if she had waited a little longer to go to Merean, there is every chance in the world that she wouldn’t have been around to be collateral damage in the murder of Diryk. Lan’s trap might still have held him. So in a way one could say that Lan’s luck is still with him, even though what happened is horrible.

I feel terrible for Iselle, even though she was a bit of a ninny. This poor seventeen year old girl was trying to escape being forced into a marriage with the man who was her mother’s under-age lover, and if Lan is certain that Edeyn is going to manipulate him through Iselle, that means Iselle will be manipulated first. As she is when her mother decided to choose Lan as Iselle’s carneira, and seems to have been before, since she claims that her mother prevented the Aes Sedai from taking her to the Tower after she was tested. It’s hard to imagine that the Aes Sedai would let Edeyn stop them from taking a promising young channeler, especially if she was found to be as strong as she claimed. Now, it’s possible Iselle was lying about her strength, but if she wasn’t, that shows how strong Edeyn’s control over her really is. And if she was, I think it shows how much Iselle wants to get away from the trap she’s in, even if part of the lie was just because she’s arrogant and wants to seem impressive.

Iselle only escapes her trap because she died, of course, which is tragic. But she, Moiraine, and Lan all end up with different fates from the ones they were trying to escape. When Siuan falls into her job with Cetalia, she is never able to escape it. It sets her on a path that keeps her involved with the eyes and ears for years and ends with her becoming Amyrlin Seat—Siuan, who says she hates politics, who detests formality and wants to continue to sit and speak like a fisherman’s daughter. Remember what she said back in Chapter 3, when Moiraine suggested that Siuan would be Amyrlin one day?

“I intend to see the world. Maybe parts of it no other sister has seen. I used to watch the ships sail into Tear full of silk and ivory from Shara, and I’d wonder if any of the crew had had the nerve to sneak outside the trade ports. I would have.”

But Siuan wasn’t able to escape the trap she fell into with her quick mind and skill at puzzles. Moiraine is the Cairhienin, but Siuan is the one who will be playing the Great Game for the next twenty-ish years, and on the Aes Sedai level too. I guess it makes me wonder where Siuan will end up, now that she’s been stilled. She still has the same commitment to the world that she had as an Aes Sedai, but she’ll never be Amyrlin again, and her experience of manipulating from behind the scenes will be a very different one in many respects. Plus there’s that budding romance with Gareth Bryne, which I am on the fence about, but interested in, too.

Bukama’s death also hit me hard. Jordan set us up painfully well by reminding us of Lan’s feelings of obligations towards the man who carried him as a baby out of Malkier as it fell. Lan is considering accepting everything he doesn’t want—Iselle and Edeyn, being crowned king of Malkier, leading an army to die in the Blight—if that is what Bukama dreams of. It shows just how much Lan feels he owes to this man, who not only carried him on his back but also raised him. I might quibble with some of Bukama’s choices, and wonder if Lan’s parents might have wanted Bukama to raise Lan differently (then again, maybe they would have entirely approved) but this is a deep and important bond here, and since I’ve loved Lan for years now, I have to love Bukama too. I didn’t really expect the man to die, especially “off screen” and in such an abrupt way.

Just as he was too late in reaching Bukama, Lan is moments too late to do anything to help Moiraine either defeat Merean or save at least one of the three hostages. It’s not what we’re used to seeing from Lan, and it’s strange to witness what is basically a failure from these two, given what we’ve seen from them in the other books. Of course it’s not a failure, really; the losses are tragic but Merean was defeated and the Dragon remains to be found. But it doesn’t feel like either of them got anything they wanted. Except, as it turns out, each other.

I wonder if Moiraine and Lan will run into Gorthanes or one of his lackeys again. We never did get the full story about who Gorthanes is or who he was working for, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. Once the matter of succession to the Cairhienin throne is settled, there will be no reason for anyone to put a price on Moiraine’s life, and in the meantime, I think Lan’s bond-heightened senses aren’t going to miss any more archers in the trees.

Moiraine’s fight against Merean reminded me a lot of Nynaeve going up against Moghedien. Both times Nynaeve triumphed over Moghedien it was not with raw strength or expertise in the Power, but with trickery, the use of physical objects, and determination—especially the second time Nynaeve faced Moghedien, in Tel’aran’rhiod. Just like Moiraine, she was shielded. She “could not channel. She had no courage left, no strength. Only determination.” It makes so much sense that Lan loves and respects Moiraine so deeply and loves and respects Nynaeve so much as well. As I’ve noted elsewhere in New Spring, Nynaeve and Moiraine have a great deal in common. I bet that’s one of the reasons they bounced off each other so hard when they met, and I bet there were moments when Moiraine was exasperated by this girl who reminded her of her younger self.

Like Moiraine, I saw that there was something significant about Josef Najima and the blacksmith, and the fact that they were both described as having been very lucky. I’m kind of surprised that I missed the fact that this description of luck could also relate to men who could channel—the early manifestations of channeling were described similarly back in The Eye of the World —but I kind of think that my foreknowledge of where Moiraine’s journey will lead blinded me a bit. I know how her search will end, so I wasn’t considering as many possibilities as I otherwise might have.

But there’s something about the revelation that the Black Ajah—and therefore all the forces of the Shadow—has known that the Dragon was reborn for almost as long as Moiraine and Siuan have that keeps bouncing around in my brain, and it relates to Siuan’s comment that thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of men might die as the Black Ajah (and other Dark forces, I’m sure) go around indiscriminately slaughtering any man or boy who even might have the ability to channel.

One of the things that men in this world seem to fear and hate the most about the Aes Sedai is how they treat the men who they gentle. This is the job exclusively of the Red Ajah, of course, but those distinctions are really only important to those inside the Tower; Aes Sedai are Aes Sedai as far as the rest of the world can see. Joining the Reds would be the easiest way for Darkfriend women who are newly rising sisters to continue the search for the Dragon, and their actions could contribute greatly to the reputation the Reds, and therefore all Aes Sedai, have when it comes to the act of gentling and their views on men in general. No doubt many of those deaths perpetrated by the Black Ajah in the search for the Dragon were disguised as freak accidents, as with Josef Najima. But if the man is clearly a channeler, then the need for secrecy decreases. Everyone knows that a male channeler must be gentled for both his and everyone else’s safety. But if the gentler is also a Darkfriend, she might not be as careful as a sister on the side of the Light. She might even be intentionally rough with him, or torture him first in an attempt to ascertain if he is in fact the Dragon. As time goes on I imagine the Shadow would like to know for certain if it has taken out the Dragon, rather than just hoping blindly that one of those killed was the right one.

It’s interesting to wonder if Tamra was responsible for the Black Ajah not knowing that the Dragon had only just been reborn, or if her torturers messed up and killed her before the questioning was through. If the former, it was a heroic action, and reminds me of how Siuan held little bits of information back from Elaida and her cohorts during her own time being questioned. If the latter, it shows how the evil of Darkfriends can often bring its own destruction. Violence, enjoyment of the suffering of others, greed—these things are not the strengths that those who pledge their souls to the Dark One believe them to be. And this time, it may have cost them the Dragon himself.

And that’s it. New Spring is finished, and it’s time to move on to our next novel. I’m really pleased I chose to read New Spring when I did, since we’ve just lost Moiraine in the main series. There’s a chance that she’ll come back, of course (no body!) but whether or not she is permanently gone, it feels like a very fitting moment to look back on where this incredible woman, this incredible hero came from.

I’m taking a week off from Reading the Wheel of Time to get ready for the show to come out on November 19th, so be sure to keep a look out for my spoiler reviews, dropping after each episode comes out. On the 22nd we’ll resume our read with Lord of Chaos. I cannot wait.

Sylas K Barrett can’t help but wonder how much Moiraine and Lan filled each other in on what happened here. If Lan ever explained who Edeyn was to him, or what it would have meant to raise the Golden Crane again. If Moiraine ever told him about running away from being made Queen, or why she tried to handle him the way she did when they first met. Do they talk about the burden of duty, their fears, their failures? They are both so guarded with their emotions, repressed even, that it’s hard to imagine them opening up. But they are together for so long before we see them in The Eye of the World. They’ve traveled so far, and had so many adventures. Not to mention the drudgery of finding nothing for years on end, of travel and camping and cold wet nights. I bet things did come up around the campfire. Slowly. Over time. Strengthened by the bond they share. Imagining such a friendship moves me deeply, and it alone makes Lan and Moiraine two of the best characters in The Wheel of Time.

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