content by

Sylas K Barrett

Reading the Wheel of Time: Two Rivers or Aielman in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 14)

Welcome once and again to Reading the Wheel of Time. This week, week 14, we’re going to cover Chapters 39 and 40, in which Rand gets himself into one heck of a pickle. Seriously, if Mat is the Pippin of the group, then this is Rand’s Frodo moment of climbing up onto the table to sing and accidentally putting the ring on in front of everyone at the Prancing Pony. It seems like Rand just generally wants to climb up onto high things, and it is usually a bad idea that attracts attention he definitely does not want.

We’re also going to see a lot more Arthurian-sounding names from Jordan, and get to know a little more about politics in Caemlyn. While working on the recap, I was particularly struck by the chapter titles of 39 and 40: “Weaving of the Web” and “The Web Tightens”. Until now the chapter titles have been pretty straightforward. Chapter 1 is “An Empty Road” because Rand sees a rider and then on second glance the road is empty. Chapter 24 is “Flight Down the Arinelle” and they’re, you know, escaping down the Arinelle. Chapter 38, in which Perrin and Egwene get rescued, is literally just called “Rescue.” But there’s no conversation in Chapters 39 and 40 about the Wheel or its weaving, which suggests to me that Jordan is trying to gently imply something about the nature of the events that unfold in these chapters. Having mused before about what “fate” means in the context of people’s lives being threads in a pattern woven by the Wheel of Time, I feel like I can see more than coincidence driving Rand to the unlikely meeting he’s about to have.

[But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s recap!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: The Bonds of Wolves and Warders in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 13)

Welcome welcome esteemed readers, to Week 13 of Reading the Wheel of Time. Today we’re going to cover Chapters 37 and 38 of The Eye of the World, one from Nynaeve’s POV and one from Perrin’s, and it’s a really fun little adventure rescuing Perrin and Egwene from the Whitecloaks. I have definitely been wondering how they were going to get away when they were so outnumbered, turns out it’s through Aes Sedai and Warder heroics and some good old fashioned sneaking from Nynaeve.

[Without futher ado, the recap.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Can You Lucid Dream in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World? (Part 12)

Hello readers! Did you notice the byline at the top of the page? (Don’t worry, it’s still me, not my brother taking over the read or anything. I don’t even have a brother!) I’ve changed my name! Think of it like when your favorite soda brand does a redesign; new look, same great content!

Here’s hoping, anyway.

Today, in Part 12 of Reading The Wheel of Time, I’d like us to cast our minds back to the terrible dreams that have been afflicting our three young heroes on their journey towards a hopeful reunion in Caemlyn. Perrin, Rand, and Mat have all suffered from dreams of Ba’alzamon since those terrible visions of dead rats back in the Stag and Lion. (Although since we have yet to get any story from Mat’s point of view, we don’t have quite the same detail to analyze from him that we have for Perrin and Rand.) In this post, am going to take a deeper look into the three big dreams that have happened since I did the initial dream analysis in Week 4: Perrin’s dream in the Tuatha’an camp, Rand’s dream about the recently deceased Gode, and Rand’s dreams in the back of Bunt’s cart.

[Read more]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: In Caemlyn You Can Be a New Man in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 11)

Hello again, The Wheel of Time fans! Can you believe we’ve already reached Week 11 of Reading The Wheel of Time? In some ways it has flown by, and yet in others it does seem like it has been quite the journey to get here. My feelings mirror Rand and Mat’s this week: together we have all reached Caemlyn, which has been such a huge goal for a good portion of the story now, and yet is only a tiny piece of the whole journey. The boys, particularly Mat, are feeling the toll of it this week, but we, from the safety of our couches and armchairs, are feeling the excitement of a book that feels like it’s just about to ramp up the action again. Will Mat and Rand find a safe place to rest in Caemlyn? Will Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve be able to catch up to them? And who is this mysterious Aes Sedai who is friends with the Queen?

[Onward to Caemlyn!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: A Proliferation of Darkfriends in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 10)

I grew up in a family that loved hiking and backpacking. I’ve done it in bad weather as well as good, in rain, and even in snow, and there is something uniquely miserable about walking all day in the rain knowing that ahead of you is a damp night spent sleeping on the ground after a re-hydrated meal. Or, in the case of Rand al’Thor and Matrim Cauthon, no meal at all. After this section, I think I’ll take those weird freeze-dried meals over nothing any day, and at least I had a tent to pitch. And no Evil Forces hunting me.

Once some raccoons got into our tent and ate my sister’s toothpaste. Does that count?

Welcome back to Week Ten of Reading the Wheel of Time! This week we’re trudging down the Caemlyn road with Mat and Rand in chapters 31-33, trying to steer clear of both the Darkfriends who want to catch them and the regular folk who think our boys just might be the bad guys themselves. Mat continues to act more and more suspiciously and Rand… well, let’s recap first, shall we?

[Hello confusing flashbacks!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Black Ravens and Whitecloaks in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 9)

“Crebain! From Dunland!”

Just kidding, it’s actually ravens, but they’re a lot more frightening than Saruman’s spies were in The Fellowship of The Ring. Ravens have a long history in mythology and fiction and are usually depicted as evil or bad omens, due to their appearance and the fact that they are carrion eaters. But I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a story that contained quite such a vicious number of them. Not even in The Birds. (There were ravens in The Birds, right?)

And possibly even worse even than giant clouds of evil ravens who will tear you to pieces on sight, we also have a return this week of the Children of the Light and their creepy way of doing the devil’s work in the name of God. This week we are covering Chapter 29 and 30, and I have a lot to say about the Whitecloaks, so batten down the hatches folks.

[At least vicious death ravens are honest about what they are.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Moiraine Vs. Elyas in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 8)

Welcome back! We are now in week eight of Reading The Wheel of Time, and like last week, we are drifting through a hazy lull, like the quiet before the storm. In this section, covering chapters 27 and 28, Perrin and Nynaeve are feeling anxious and frustrated, while Egwene and Elyas are patient and Moiraine, as ever, follows the Pattern and plays things close to the vest.

I really enjoyed the feeling of these two chapters. Just like the previous section, these chapters are a pause in the pacing and a chance to set up for the next round of action. We the readers are like Egwene, dancing with the Traveling People and enjoying ourselves, because this may be the last opportunity we have to do so. (Well, we the readers get to enjoy the bad things too, but that’s our privilege as beings on the other side of the fourth wall.)

[And now for the recap.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Memories of What Was Lost in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 7)

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to manage a story once the party divides? I remember the first time I read The Lord of the Rings as a young person (I think I was nine?) and being incredibly frustrated at each change of perspective once I got to The Two Towers. You’d spend so much time with a set of characters, sinking into their journey, and then you’d be dropped at a cliffhanger and move to a different group for the rest of the book. I hated having to wait so long to have the suspense resolved. Thinking about that now, though, a big chunk of time spent with each group might be preferable to the way The Eye of the World has been jumping perspectives each chapter. I don’t know why but it makes the pacing of the story feel a little jarring to me.

That being said, I am still enjoying being in different people’s heads, and I am really enjoying the addition of Elyas into our cast of characters. Seeing him basically take up a parallel role to Thom, each looking after two of the young people, is really interesting.

Good morning and welcome, fellow travelers, to week seven of Reading The Wheel of Time. Today we are tackling chapters 24-26. There is something sort of sleepy about this section of the book. The peril is still there of course, but there aren’t any Fades or Trollocs actively popping up until the very end of Chapter 26, and so it sort of feels like we’re spending time world building and setting up for the next stage of ‘everything is going wrong’ fight-or-flight action.

[*Sings a traveling song.*]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Nynaeve “Comes Out” in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 6)

Welcome once and again to week six of Reading The Wheel of Time. In this installment, I’m going to cover Chapters 21 through 23, and I’m really excited because we’re moving into chapters that are told from different characters’ points of view. And I have to say, I am really enjoying the change in perspective. Rand is a fine character, but I haven’t felt very connected to him, at least since the group left the Two Rivers. I’m really enjoying the shake up, and it feels like the story is broadening as the perspectives do. I hope we eventually get to spend time with each of our heroes.

[Read more]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Mistrust Fractures the Fellowship in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 5)

Robert Jordan has talked about how he intended for The Eye of the World to include some reference and homage to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and since these resemblances have often been remarked upon (sometimes positively, sometimes less so) by readers, it seems fitting at this moment to circle back around to the themes I addressed in the first week of this read. Then, we talked about questing stories and the formation of a fellowship. Now, it is time to talk about what happens when that fellowship is inevitably broken.

[Let’s get to the recappin’.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Dreams and Prophecy in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 4)

The use of prophecy and fated destinies is pretty intrinsic in epic fantasy. The tradition of prophecy as a plot device in western storytelling goes back at least to the Greek epics, if not farther, and although different authors have different approaches, the theme of characters having a glimpse of the future and choosing if and how to be motivated by it runs through many of today’s great fantasy tales. But the idea of time and existence as a turning wheel adds a specific flavor to Jordan’s universe, and it’s one I’m very interested to see play out.

Welcome back to week four of Reading The Wheel of Time! I’d like to do something a little different this week; I won’t be covering any new chapters, instead I’d like to look at the dreams Rand has had so far, as well as exploring what we know of the prophecy of the Dragon Reborn and going back to look at the Prologue, which I haven’t actually covered yet. I’ll be making some observations about how prophecy plays a role in epic fantasy as well as seeing what I can predict about dreams and visions and how they may affect our heroes’ futures.

[To dream, perchance to die?]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Fiery Magic and Icy Distrust in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 3)

Dramatic irony is a tool used by authors, often to increase suspense or to set the scene for a future action, in which the audience knows something that the characters don’t. Like when Romeo doesn’t get the message about the Priest’s plan and thinks Juliet has actually died, but the audience knows the truth and can only watch, helpless, as he kills himself to be with her. Dramatic irony can be employed in a variety of ways in stories, but sometimes an aspect of dramatic irony can be created that is outside of the author’s control; like if you’re watching an action movie and the hero thinks the bad guy has been defeated but the audience knows there’s still almost an hour left in the film, guaranteeing at least one more battle scene. Or when Mat decides that he and Rand and Perrin have escaped the Draghkar, “if it was ever really after [them]” and that they don’t need to go to Tar Valon after all. Meanwhile the reader is shaking their head thinking, Oh, honey. We’re only 180 pages in! Of the first book! But Mat is kinda cute anyway, and his role as the Peregrin Took of the party is about to become even more obvious.

Welcome back to week three of Reading The Wheel of Time! We’re going to cover the stay at Baerlon today, and watch Mat (and Rand) figure out how to make everything just a little more dangerous for everyone. There will be new additions to our cast as well (more ladies, hurray!) and the narrative will begin to show us just a little more of what the One Power can do.

[Onward to the read!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Separate But Not Equal Magic in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 2)

So there are clearly some old-school gender dynamics going on in the world of The Wheel of Time. High fantasy stories generally tend to; it’s an assumed-inevitability of the ancient European type settings many such tales enjoy. But The Wheel of Time has something a little different than those other Tolkien-esque tales do; a set-up in which the very driving force of creation is made up of two parts, male and a female, which by working in opposition to each other turn the the eponymous Wheel of Time.

What does it mean to have not just societal convention but the very essence of creation dictating the qualities and roles of men and women in this world? I have a few thoughts.

Hello friends! It’s week two of Reading The Wheel of Time, and I’m here to talk about what happens when your magic system (and the very fabric of existence) is broken into distinct male and female halves. I’m guessing this is going to be something I will want to revisit later in the read, but I’d like to get started with some initial impressions and predictions of what might be to come. Those of you who already know how this all plays out can continue to enjoy knowing more than I do, but don’t forget to watch your spoilers! [On to part two of the Reading of The Eye of the World!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: A Boy Leaves Home in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World (Part 1)

Welcome to the first installment of The Reading of The Wheel of Time! I’m Kelsey Jefferson Barrett, and despite my lifelong love of high fantasy and the fact that I have fantastic librarian for an aunt who was largely responsible for my education in both science fiction and fantasy, I somehow never managed to pick up any of The Wheel of Time books before now. So rather than a reread, this series is going to be me reading Robert Jordan’s novels [insert dramatic announcer’s voice here] For The Very First Time!

I’m going to try to avoid spoilers in these articles as much as I can, but feel free to talk spoilers in the comments. That way those who already know and love The Wheel of Time can have fun of watching my reactions as I discover the mysteries, the characters, and the magic of these books. This week’s installment covers Chapters 1 through 9.

When I was in undergrad, my favorite writing teacher said something about fiction that has always stuck with me, both as an aspiring writer and as a reader. All stories, she said, start one of two ways: a stranger comes to town, or a boy leaves home.

[Now, without further ado, I give you the very first installment of Reading The Wheel of Time]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

The Grisha Trilogy Reread: Ruin and Rising, Part Three

Well my friends, this is it: the last installment of the Grisha Trilogy Reread.

I forgot how much more there was to get through in Ruin and Rising, so I hope you all don’t feel like I’ve glossed over too much. There’s so many themes coming together here at the end, still more death and loss, questions about fate versus choice, and the idea of power and long life weighed against an ordinary existence.

[And just what is ordinary, anyway?]

Series: The Grisha Trilogy Reread