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Sylas K Barrett

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Reading the Wheel of Time: The Choice to Channel in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 10)

I have a weird and frivolous complaint to start off week 10 of reading The Great Hunt. And that complaint is; why so many italics? And for that matter, why so many capitalizations? Generally species names aren’t considered proper nouns, but in The Wheel of Time everything from Ogier to Myrddraal to Mashadar gets its own capitalization. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the word “human” capitalized, however.

Similarly, italics can be used to indicate words in a different language, so it makes sense, for example, that when Selene calls Loial alantin, that term would get italicized. A lot of Aes Sedai words, like saidar, saidin, angreal, etc, also get italicized, probably because they also come from a different language. But if that’s the case, I’d love to know more about how language works in the world of The Wheel of Time. Is there any memory or record of the languages from which these words come? Are there some words that have become accepted as belonging to modern languages that no longer would get italicized?

I’m probably reading a little too much into this, and the italics are just there to guide the reader as they encounter so many new words. And of course, if I didn’t have to worry so much about typing everything correctly, it’d be easier to gloss over formatting that way. But as I typed out grolm over and over again this week, I just kept asking myself why the italics were there. And for that matter, what the heck is this plot-convenient creature that only seems to exist in the ‘if’ world—or does it exist in Rand’s as well? Selene seems to know all about them, which raises some interesting questions that Rand and his friends have been too busy to think of.

But before I get into that, let’s do the recap and see how Rand fares against his dangers, both seen and unseen.

[Onward to the recap!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Two Faces of Temptation in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 9)

I’m really loving my title for Week 9 of reading The Great Hunt. I also really loved the chapter titles for the this week’s section, Chapter 15 “Kinslayer” and Chapter 16 “In the Mirror of Darkness.” I get some of my questions about the ‘if’ world answered this week, and more questions are raised about Lews Therin Telamon and his ongoing battle with the Dark One. Obviously Lews Therin is a very significant Dragon because he lived during the Age of Legends and because he and his fellows were responsible for the Breaking of the World. He’s also going to be foremost in the minds of the people Rand encounters because he was the last known Dragon. But Ba’alzamon focuses on that identity a great deal in his most recent visit to Rand, and I found that curious.

Rand also makes another new/old friend this week in the form of Selene, who is the most immediately suspicious character we have encountered thus far in the read. Like there is no way she isn’t at least an agent of the Dark One, and she is very probably also Lanfear. Not much to guess at there, though unfortunately Rand and company aren’t nearly as suspicious of her story and motivations as I am.

[It’s almost as if I’m remembering it.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Many Worlds, One Wheel in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 8)

This week while I was reading the Wheel of Time, I learned that I didn’t understand the Schrödinger’s cat theorem as well as I thought it did. Granted, I am not really a math and science person, and I’m still not sure I understand what quantum superposition is except in the very broadest sense, but what I do now understand is that Schrödinger’s thought experiment ultimately suggests the many worlds interpretation of physics over the idea of waveform collapse; Basically, Schrödinger was trying to say that every possible outcome of an event creates a new universe, and that there are an infinite number of universes created by every possible outcome.

How does this relate to The Great Hunt? you might ask. (Well, you’re probably not asking that because you’ve already read this weeks’ chapters, but please permit me the rhetorical device.) This week, Rand, Loial, and Hurin have accidentally traveled to a universe outside their own—an “if” world—and they have no idea how to get back.

[From Stone to Stone run the lines of “if,” between the worlds that might be.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: A Weaving of Themes in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 7)

Hello hello, Wheel of Time fans! This week we’re tackling Chapters 11 and 12 of The Great Hunt. They have auspicious names too, “Glimmers of the Pattern” and “Woven in the Pattern,” but they are definitely more about set up than important action moments. This makes sense, when I think about it; seeing glimmers of the pattern shows what is being woven, i.e. what is yet to come.

One of the story-telling techniques I really love in fiction in general–and am finding that I enjoy in Jordan’s work, specifically–is when character’s journeys parallel each other in unexpected ways. We saw some of that in The Eye of the World, as Perrin struggled with being a wolfbrother while Nynaeve dealt with the discovery of her own abilities, and as Rand and Mat traveled together while each was under a burden (Mat’s dagger and Rand’s unknown channeling) that he wasn’t aware of yet. So far in The Great Hunt, we have seen Perrin and Rand both keeping their true identities secret, and now we have two chapters with similar names that draw interesting parallels between Rand’s journey and Egwene’s. Back in The Eye of the World, Rand had nightmares that might have been visions as Shadowspawn and Ba’alzamon threatened Egwene’s life; now in The Great Hunt, Egwene has had a possible vision-dream in which she saw Ba’alzamon and perceived a real danger that Rand is actually in. And although Moiraine insists that one of them is a bird and the other a fish, there appears to be some similarities in the two learning to channel as well.

[A flower in bloom, and a vision of fire.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Darkfriends and Dark Purposes in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 6)

Week 6 of reading The Great Hunt has been an interesting one, and although I have lots of musings and questions, I don’t have a lot of profound observations or a unifying theory for the section, although I did take note of the chapter icons this time around. Chapter 9, “Leavetakings,” has the Tar Valon teardrop flanked by little suns, and Chapter 10 “The Hunt Begins” has a horn for its icon. I guess that’s what the Horn of Valere looks like; I had pictured it looking more old-fashioned, like a viking horn or the way bugles looked before they added valves. But this is more complex in shape than I had imagined, more like a French Horn (also before they added valves. Wikipedia informs me that this is called a natural horn)

But before I get too far down into the depths of wikis on ancient brass instruments, let’s get on to the recap.

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Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Facing Fate on Your Feet in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 5)

Last week I incorrectly labeled the post as Part 3 when in fact it was Part 4, which makes this Part 5 of the read of The Great Hunt. Somehow I can’t believe it’s been five weeks already!

After how dense the last recap and analysis was, I’ve decided to slow it down a bit and just focus on one chapter this week—the very important Chapter 8: “The Dragon Reborn.” I suppose, given the title, I should have expected the way that the chapter unfolded, but Jordan actually surprised me here. I really thought that there would be more of a slow burn for Rand’s realizations of himself over the course of the book; granted, just because he’s been told some things doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to struggle with before he gets to a place where he might feel comfortable accepting his true identity.

[What the heck does “His eyes blazed like blue ice in the sun,” mean, anyway?]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Literal Writing on the Wall in Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt (Part 4)

It’s been a while since I missed my stop on the subway because I was engrossed in a good book. If memory serves, it was almost 5 years ago, when I got caught up in the imagery of C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, but this week I have to admit, Jordan got me. And I was quite late to my appointment.

There is so much in the early chapters of The Great Hunt that, despite interludes of action, it gets very much into info-dump territory at times. I find I don’t really mind reading it, but it does get tedious to recap, especially since this is a first read and a lot of the new information the reader is given is only part of a whole, that will be revealed at a later date. I hope everyone will bear with me as I do my best not to gloss over anything too important, and head on into this week’s recap of Chapters 6 and 7.

[Oh good, more dreams.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

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