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Sylas K Barrett

Reading The Wheel of Time: The Tower Must Be Whole, and Other Mysteries in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 7)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, Nynaeve and Elayne encounter a secret signal meant for the Yellow Ajah, almost get kidnapped, and learn a valuable lesson from the experience. We the readers learn a lot too, including that there is a tea that can inhibit one’s ability to channel and that the eyes-and-ears networks of the Aes Sedai aren’t always as competent and cautious as one might wish. Also, Elayne is apparently trying to get with her mother’s former lover?

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Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Long Journeys and Painful Emotions in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 6)

You know, I really miss traveling. I don’t do a huge amount of it, but I try to get away every couple of years, and maybe make a trip to a relative’s house now and again. This year, of course, we’re all hemmed in and holed up, which for me means camping out in a little studio in Brooklyn with my counterpart and dog. It’s home, but it’s a little cramped, too.

So there is something very escapist about reading an epic fantasy full of travel across different lands and to different nations. I get all the enjoyment and excitement of the changing scenes without any of the discomfort of the heat and dust everyone in the series seems to currently be experiencing. This week, Rand and his Aiel are on the move, and we get to check in with both Egwene and Moiraine to see how they feel about everything that’s unfolding as He Who Comes With The Dawn prepares to leave the Waste. Then we’ll swing over to the border between Tarabon and Amadicia, where Nynaeve is alternately vexed and afraid, as per usual. More traveling by wagon, too.

But first, the recap.

[A spoonful of hope and a cup of despair.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Death Cannot Be Healed in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 5)

This week in Reading the Wheel of Time we get to learn so much more about the One Power. Chapter Six is the only chapter we will cover today, but like Rand, we’ll have a busy time of it. There will be Darkhounds and balefire, Mat and his foxhead medallion, and Lanfear will show us more of herself than I believe we have seen thus far. I have feelings about Moiraine, and Rand has feelings about death. It’s going to be a real roller coaster.

(A note: I previously said this was Chapter Seven, not Chapter Six! My bad, friends.)

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Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Ji’e’toh and What Must Be Done in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 4)

It’s Week Four of our read of The Fires of Heaven, and everyone’s wishing for more fires as night falls in Rhuidean. First we get to spend time with Rand and Aviendha, and then we move on to catch up with Egwene as she and Aviendha connect over shared struggles and Moiraine seeks aid from the Wise Ones. I really liked these chapters; there’s lots of beautiful descriptions of the architecture and of how our POV characters Rand and Egwene are feeling. I tend to forget that I actually really like Egwene, but Chapter Five really reminded me of what is best about her as a character.

More on that later. First, our recap.

[You may not know ji’e’toh, but you follow it.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Saidin, Saidar, and a Drinking Game in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 3)

This week in Reading The Wheel of Time, we return to the Threefold Land to catch up with Rand and Mat. One of them is struggling with the burden of leadership, trying to hold the Aiel together, and to him, while fending off Moiraine and Egwene and secretly learning how to channel saidin from one of the Forsaken; the other wasted and getting a girlfriend who is definitely also a spy. Let’s go!

[By my honor and the Light, my life will be a dagger for Sightblinder’s heart.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Life Changes Direction in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 2)

I was so excited to see that the first chapter of The Fires of Heaven catches up with with Siuan, Min, and Leane, our lovely renegades from the White Tower coup. Siuan has slowly grown on me as a character throughout the series, and her strong-willed determination in the face of her unseating and stilling really heightened my appreciation of her. It’s really cool to see how she refuses to be shaken from her dedication to protecting the world and guiding the Aes Sedai, even if she can’t do it in the same way that she did it before.

Min is deeply enjoyable too, especially now that she has more room to act and isn’t just fuming in her head while playing Elmindreda. The escape from the Tower was one of my favorite chapters in The Shadow Rising, and I’m so curious to learn more about our former false dragon, Logain.

Once again I had more to say than I realized when I made my promises last week, so we’re only covering Chapter One today. Hang on for a wild ride and some light ranting about the Red Ajah.

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Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Everyone Needs a Scapegoat in Robert Jordan’s The Fires of Heaven (Part 1)

Hello hello, and welcome back to Reading the Wheel of Time. Before we get started, I just want to take a moment to extend a very big and heartfelt thank you to all of you for following this read with me! It has truly been a joy and a pleasure to discover these books and this fandom with all of you, and to indulge my abiding love of deep dive analysis in series that could not be better suited for it. And now, after a few irregular weeks, we are back to our regular posting schedule as we start into book five, The Fires of Heaven.

It’s a bold title, I must say, evoking the rage of saidin and the power of the Dragon, champion of a Light that has often been invoked by characters to burn their enemies. The Light may be good, but it is not gentle, and I think we are going to get an even stronger understanding of that fact in this book. We are just covering the Prologue this week, but there’s enough there for quite a lot of discussion, and I can’t wait to get started.

[Cowards are no use in the Tower!]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time and the Storytelling Problem in the Concept of a Binary

While Spirit was found equally in men and in women, great ability with Earth and/or Fire was found much more often among men, with Water and/or Air among women. There were exceptions, but it was so often so that Earth and Fire came to be regarded as male Powers, Air and Water as female. Generally, no ability is considered stronger than any other, though there is a saying among Aes Sedai: “There is no rock so strong that water and wind cannot wear it away, no fire so fierce that water cannot quench it or wind snuff it out.” It should be noted this saying came into use long after the last male Aes Sedai was dead. Any equivalent saying among male Aes Sedai is long lost.

Glossary, The Eye of the World

I, like many other fans and critics, have written before about my dislike of the gendered nature of channeling in The Wheel of Time. You don’t have to be a gender studies major to recognize the problems with suggesting that the driving power of the universe is divided into two halves, which are diametrically different from each other and which each correspond to human gender.

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Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

More Than a Boy Leaves Home: Choosing One’s Fate in the World of The Wheel of Time

In my very first essay for Reading the Wheel of Time, I referenced something a writing teacher once told me about stories—that they all begin with either a boy leaving home, or with a stranger coming to town. In that first piece I observed that, when it comes to The Lord of the Rings-style questing narratives, these two types of story are actually one type, in which a stranger (usually a wise guide, sometimes an enemy, and often both) comes to town, and it results in a boy (or a girl, or a group of young people) leaving home.

What I find so interesting about this structure is the concept of change, and the catalyst of that change, within a narrative. Of course, all stories are about change. Sometimes this change takes place over a moment or a day, other times over years or even a lifetime. The change can be small or large, external or internal, but it is always there—without change nothing has happened, and there is nothing, as they say, for the gleemen to recount. Thus, when we categorize a story into “a stranger comes to town” and “a boy leaves home,” we are actually considering where the catalyst for change comes from, and we are considering where the change, the arc of the story, takes place. In the first example, the world of the story has change brought into it from some outside force. In the second, the protagonist(s) go out into the world and both are forever altered by the experience.

[The Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Rand Gains a Following, and a Teacher, in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 38)

I’m actually feeling a bit somber this week, as we reach the very last chapters of The Shadow Rising. Perhaps it’s because the book ends with such a satisfactory conclusion for (this stage of) Perrin’s journey, as does the task Nynaeve and Elayne were set on by the Amyrlin. Of course their journeys are far from over, and they will all face many new trials and dangers in the books to come, but there is still a certain amount of finality, of a bookmark on deeds well done, and a feeling that at least for a night or two, they can sleep the untroubled sleep of the righteous.

On the other hand, while Rand has also closed a chapter of his journey, for him it is more of a beginning than a conclusion, and it is marred by the destruction of Rhuidean and a shaking of the foundations of Aiel culture. Rand himself observes it more than once in Chapters 57 and 58, and we feel his grief at what he has had to do as well as what he knows he must do in the future. The Dragon is supposed to break the World again, but although Tarmon Gai’don has yet to pass, there has already been a Breaking in the Three-fold Land, as the title of Chapter 57 announces. And this is a somewhat melancholy note for a book to end on.

[Soon there would be an ending of sorts, or a beginning. Maybe both.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: The Daughter-Heir’s Justice and the Wisdom’s Power in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 37)

I can’t decide what I enjoyed more about Chapters 54 and 55 of The Shadow Rising, Nynaeve’s awesome battle with Moghedien, or her internal journey towards acceptance of—and even friendship with—Egeanin. This is a climactic section with a lot of action, but the emotional development for both Nynaeve and Egwene was just as important, and just as riveting. I also learned a few new things this week about how channeling works, which is always exciting. Also, Egeanin and Domon continue to be cute.

But before we get into all of that, the summary. Onward to the Panarch’s Palace!

[Those people out there did not know it, but they fought in a battle to save their city from the Black Ajah and the world from the Shadow.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Perrin Hunts Slayer and Faces Death in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 36)

Perrin Aybara, y’all. Perrin. Aybara.

I’m not ashamed to admit I actually cried a little this week, while making my way through the climax of (this part of) Perrin’s story. In order to cover the action and themes more completely, I’ve decided to do something a bit unconventional this week of our read of The Shadow Rising: I’m going to cover Chapter 53 and then skip ahead to Chapter 56, so I can address Perrin’s two chapters together. Then next week I’ll go back and cover Nynaeve and Elayne’s adventures in the Panarch’s Palace. What happens to the girls is just as exciting as what happens to Perrin, maybe even more so, and then, the following week, we’ll get to see Rand reveal himself to the Aiel and have a very intense adventure reminiscent of both the ending of The Eye of the World and The Dragon Reborn.

And then The Shadow Rising will be finished! It’s hard to believe we’re there already.

But we’re not out of the Westwoods quite yet. So let’s go catch up with Perrin and Faile, and see what fate awaits Goldeneyes and his Falcon.

[You are a hero whether you want to be or not.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading The Wheel of Time: Nynaeve Tries To Be Cautious in The Shadow Rising (Part 35)

After a brief break, we’re back to the read of The Shadow Rising! This week we are covering Chapters 51 and 52, returning to Tanchico with Nynaeve and Elayne, who are in for some big reveals and discoveries. I’m excited as always to take some more time in Nynaeve’s head, and there’s some surprise cuteness between Egeanin and Domon, of all people.

I think I might ship it? But first, let us recap!

[The Shadow rises again, Gaidal. It rises here. We must fight it.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: There Are No Customs to Cover the Dragon Reborn in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 34)

This week (week 34!) in our read of The Shadow Rising, we have once again returned to the Three-Fold land, and have rejoined Rand and Mat and their party of Aiel, Wise Ones, and Aes Sedai. Rand and Mat struggle to understand the concept of Aiel men having more than one wife (Rand for perhaps more personal reasons than Mat) and we learn where Cold Rocks Hold gets its name from.

Oh, and also some Shadowspawn show up. Chapters 48, 49, and 50 await. Let’s begin.

[So many traps. Everybody was laying them.]

Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

Laras, Keille, and the Judgment of Bodies in The Shadow Rising

So. Let’s talk about Laras.

The Mistress of the White Tower kitchens is introduced in Chapter 29 of The Dragon Reborn. She is the first significant character who is described as being fat, specifically as being “more than merely stout, with layers of chins.” Despite the chins being lingered on once or twice, Laras’ size is not made to be the subject of ridicule or derision in the narration, and when Nynaeve, in a fit of pique, refers to Laras as “a sour lump of lard,” she is quickly brought down for her judgment of the woman by Siuan.

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Series: Reading The Wheel of Time

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