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Sylas K Barrett

Reading the Wheel of Time: The Hubris of the Seanchan in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 24)

It’s week 24 of my read of The Great Hunt, and so much happens in these two chapters (44 and 45) that I don’t know where to start. It’s fascinating to see all the strings being pulled together. Here Nynaeve and the girls are on their own rescue mission so close by to Rand and Ingtar and the rest, both brought to someplace they never thought they would be by rather remarkable circumstances, at odd times that just so happened to perfectly coincide. And meanwhile the Children of the Light are stumbling around, thinking they’re in charge of everything when really they have no idea what they’re actually on the edge of. Geofram Bornhald seems convinced that he’s going to die, though, so maybe he does have some inkling of what is truly at stake in Falme and on Toman Head.

The Wheel is certainly weaving this week.

[Five ride forth, four return.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: What’s in a Name? Egwene the Damane in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 23)

This week in Reading the Wheel of Time, we cover Chapters 42 and 43 of The Great Hunt, in which Nynaeve is calculating and Elayne and Min do their best to keep up. Poor Egwene is either practical or despairing, depending on your point of view, and Bayle Domon and his pirate speech make another appearance.

I have to admit, I really love Captain Domon (although I’d like to know where his accent comes from in-universe) and I’m amused at how the Pattern keeps shoving him around so that he’s always in position to ferry one or another group of Emond’s Fielders away from certain doom. I would get such a kick out of that remaining true throughout the series. We also have Nynaeve being badass, and Egwene and Min making compromises in order to survive. Oh, and Elayne’s here too. Doing something.

[I mean, the apples were useful, I suppose.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: A Variety of Villains in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 22)

Among the essential ingredients of any great fantasy series is the need for a varied assortment of interesting villains, and The Wheel of Time certainly doesn’t disappoint in that arena. Be it Myrddraal and Trollocs, powerful Darkfriends of a bygone Age, Padan Fain and his obsessive madness, the mysterious Seanchan, or Mr. Flame Eyes himself, Rand and his companions certainly aren’t lacking for a creative set of antagonists, and that’s not even getting into the complicated question of the Children of the Light.

This week in Reading the Wheel of Time, we get to spend time with several villains both petty and dangerous, and Egwene gets to learn about a kind of danger and suffering that isn’t quite the same as the fear of death at the hands of Darkfriends or Trollocs. We’re covering Chapters 40 and 41 this week, one of which is quite dense and full of information, and one of which is much quicker but features a nice return visit from Ba’alzamon and his pointed taunts.

[And now on to the recap.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: The Truth You Hear in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 21)

Despite having been given glimpses of Moiraine and the Amyrlin Seat’s secret plans back in Chapter Four of The Great Hunt, I think this week’s chapters have given me the best example of Aes Sedai double-talk thus far in the read. What I enjoyed most about this week’s read was also the thing that had me grinding my teeth the whole time; because we got the section in which Liandrin used channeling to exert influence over Lady Amalisa, the reader knows more about Liandrin and her evil ways than Egwene and her friends do, and therefore has a much greater reason to be suspicious of her motives. In knowing that she is a Darkfriend (I feel quite safe in calling this one) I had the opportunity to examine the ways in which she avoided answering questions, or responded in such a way that convinced Nynaeve and Egwene of her sincerity without Liandrin actually speaking any falsehoods. Of course all Aes Sedai seem to be fairly adept at speaking guarded and concealed truth, but any member of the Black Ajah would have to be especially skilled at such duplicities.

Still, I feel like if the Aes Sedai took the prospect of the Black Ajah seriously, they could ostensibly ask a question that could not be gotten around; “Have you sworn allegiance to the Dark One, answer yes or no,” would probably do it. I bet Moiraine wishes she could walk the halls of the White Tower asking the other Aes Sedai that… and everyone would probably be super offended.

More on this later, but let’s get to the recap first.

[I have brought you where you must go.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Many Worlds, One Fate in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 20)

Welcome to Week Twenty of my read of The Great Hunt. This post means that the installment for The Great Hunt is now as long as the one for The Eye of the World was, and we still have a lot left to cover! Somehow I get the feeling this is a trend that will only continue as the Read does.

There is a lot of really interesting world building in Chapters 36 and 37; we learn a little more about the Ogier and about the Machin Shin, and through Rand’s experience of the other worlds, we get to see a view of this one that neither he nor we have quite had yet. We also learn some more about what happens to a man who can channel, and that there are other effects besides just losing their mind. And it’s not pretty.

[Flicker flicker flicker flicker.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: The Game of Gender in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 19)

Welcome back to Thom being a total badass and some questionable gender relations in this week’s Reading the Wheel of Time. I’m not going to lie, I’m a little annoyed with the way the ladies in this section have been handled by the narration, but there’s also a lot of great stuff in Chapters 34 and 35, and I have so many questions about the Seanchan and the Ogier. Also I love Thom.

[Time to get back in the Game, Mr. Sexy mustache man.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Suspecting Darkfriends in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 18)

Woohoo, it’s Week 18! Spoiler alert, this week I become suspicious of Ingtar! Which I guess might be a big deal to y’all if I’m right, but just sort of amusing if I’m wrong. But either way, fun, right? I’m feeling a bit punchy today so let’s just get right to the recap.

[I wonder what happens to introverted Cairhienin.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: A Shepherd is Growing Up in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 17)

Despite a fire that almost takes Hurin’s life, the pacing of Chapters 30 and 31 of The Great Hunt have a slightly slower feel to them, perhaps because they aren’t packed quite as full of new information as the few chapters previous. As a result, our characters have a bit of a chance to breathe and take stock of themselves, and since that pause is coinciding with the reunion of Loial, Hurin, and Rand, with the party they were so abruptly separated from back in Chapter 13, we get to see the interplay of a lot of relationships and observe, as Perrin does, how things are beginning to change for Rand. A lot of questions still remain to be answered, including how long Mat can go on without the dagger and what Verin is really after, but first let’s check in with Rand and the others after the harrowing ordeal in the Illuminator’s chapter house.

[Let us recap!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: The Theme of Return in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 16)

Welcome back again to Week 16 of Reading The Great Hunt! There’s a huge amount of info in the chapters we’re covering this week (28 and 29) and a lot of it is difficult to understand, because our pov characters—Perrin, Geofram Bornhald, and Bayle Domon—are encountering a lot of things they don’t understand. Domon in particular is going to have a lot of words and information talked at him that he can’t really follow, and the significance of these things, for Domon and for us, will only become clear later down the road.

So buckle up for a nice long recap of Perrin and Domon’s adventures! Oh, and also Bornhald Sr., I guess.

[Read more]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: A Game of Trollocs in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 15)

The strange thing about writing a recap of a chapter or story is that action sequences can result in a long recap but not necessarily a long analysis. Thus, it’s a slightly slower week in Reading The Wheel of Time, but it is not slow for Rand. Reuniting with Thom doesn’t go quite as he had hoped, he gets to see the inside of the secret Illuminator chapter house, and he’s chased by Trollocs again. Oh, I almost forgot the worst part: Selene shows up again. There were a lot of little moments to be enjoyed in this section, however. I was interested to see that Thom has found a companion, and there are some lovely and moving bits with Loial. I also googled what a swordbreaker is—I believe that the weapon has been mentioned as being carried by the Sheinarans before, but when Hurin was cleaning his at the end of Chapter 27 I finally stopped and looked it up. Apparently it’s a sturdy dagger set with notches almost like a comb, which can catch a descending sword and twist the weapon from the weilder’s hand, or even break the blade. So there’s a cool piece of medieval trivia for those who, like me, enjoy learning that kind of thing but aren’t knowledgable enough to have heard of a swordbreaker before now.

This is what is so cool about being a writer—you get to learn so much about so many different subjects.

[Read more]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Dangerous Hierarchies in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 14)

Welcome back to Reading The Great Hunt! This week Rand and Egwene both find themselves in a new society with new rules, and both of them are preparing to learn some possibly uncomfortable lessons. But there’s good news too, in the formation of new friendships and the return of old ones, and also a little bit of gratuitous shirtless boys.

[But first, the recap.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Nynaeve Confronts Her Fear in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 13)

Halloween is fast approaching, so it feels appropriate that this week’s Reading The Great Hunt post is number thirteen. Since I was born on a Friday the 13th, I always enjoy the spooky dates, and consider thirteen a lucky number. But while it’s lucky for me, it’s less lucky for Nynaeve, who is really getting put through the wringer this week—or rather, through the ter’angreal. I originally intended to cover both chapters 23 and 24 this round, but after I finished my analysis of Nynaeve’s experience, I found that it was quite long enough (and dense enough) to be a whole post all on its own.

[The way out will come but once.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Cracks in the Wall in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 12)

So it’s official friends: I totally ship Nynaeve and Lan. I was pretty much on board with it before now, despite being cross with Lan for his rather selfish handling of the situation. But if I was at all on the fence, Moiraine’s observations about them in Chapter 22 have sealed the deal for me.

As those have been following this read know, I have a lot of empathy for Nynaeve, particularly for her insecurities and the often terrible way she handles them. Though she is someone who really struggles to control her temper, she is also in many ways a very repressed person–in fact I believe the latter trait actually informs the former. This repression is due in part due to her unconscious suppression of her channeling abilities, but also is due to her intense sense of duty towards those in her charge. As a healer, Nynaeve must always face the fact that failure, be it her fault or entirely unavoidable, can mean loss of life for those who rely on her and for whom she cares. After all, her first instance of channeling came about when she couldn’t face (what she thought was going to be) the death of Egwene, and we’ve seen her get angry to the point of irrationality when faced with the inability to protect the people she wants to protect. Granted, she’s channeled all this into her unfair and unhelpful hatred of Moiraine, but the human impulse to turn one’s inner frustrations outward is a flaw I think many can emphasize with.

After all, it’s far easier and less painful to be angry at someone else than it is to deeply examine one’s own feelings of vulnerability or guilt, and the people who feel the most deeply are often the most likely to have developed some less than perfect coping mechanisms. The world, be it Rand’s or ours, is not often kind to the sensitive sort. And the fascinating thing is that this same struggle of deep emotion and sense of duty is also an intrinsic part of Lan’s character. It’s no wonder they are drawn together.

But I can tackle those thoughts after the recap, and after we also tackle Chapter 21 and poor Rand’s slightly uncomfortable stay in The Nine Rings.

[Read more]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Between Desire and Compulsion in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 11)

Welcome to week 11 of Reading The Great Hunt. Last time, I made an observation about Rand’s relationship with saidin* that lead to a lot of interesting observations from commenters. I made an observation about how Rand notices that he feels less alive after he stops touching saidin, and took it to mean that channeling is a such an intrinsic part of someone that if they are denied it they feel incomplete in some way, less whole, less their true selves. I’ve been seeing this theme in Jordan’s work since back when Moiraine forced Nynaeve to recognize her abilities back in the early days of The Eye of the World, and the theme of fear and denying one’s true self (or being forced to) shows up with Elyas and Perrin as well. I suspect it will continue to do so, but some of the commenters brought to my attention another interpretation of this moment that I had overlooked; the suggestion that the One Power has an addictive quality for those who use it, and one that can be very dangerous.

Given that this week’s chapters, 19 and 20, deal very prominently with Rand’s relationship to the void and the increasingly persistent call of saidin, this seems like a very important idea to revisit. Stay tuned after the recap for more thoughts on the draw of the One Power, questions of identity, and the difference between a desire and a compulsion.

[To hunt for a dagger on Kinslayers dagger.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Marlon James, Tochi Onyebuchi, Maura Milan, and More Discuss #OwnVoices in Genre Fiction in 2018

Did you know that every time you don’t buy a book, your favorite character dies? According to Ali T. Kokmen, bookseller, man of fabulous bowties (his own words), and panel moderator, that is exactly what happens. But I doubt many of the attendee’s at the #OwnVoices Worlds: How Writers Build Authenticity Into Their Diverse Worlds panel needed to be encouraged to buy more books, or to seek out diversity in the fantasy and sci-fi that they love.

But what does it mean to write a diverse book? Why does one choose to explore diversity; is it for the author? For the reader? What does diversity bring to a fantasy or sci-fi world, and what is the burden of authenticity on the author?

[Read more]

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