Book 4 of The Wheel of Time series has come to a roaring conclusion and it most certainly ended with a bang! Between The Battle for Emond’s Field and both Nina and Rand’s fights against the Forsaken, it was action packed for those last few chapters and every single page from the first to last contains a piece of information that answers something, or comes up later, or leaves you with a hundred questions. This time, rather than focussing on character as I have done previously, I’d actually like to comment on some key sections of the plot. So be warned, if you ever intend to read this series, every word from now on will contain spoilers.
Hmmmm… where to start! Book 4 raced along at a pace even I struggled with a little bit. So much has happened in a relatively short space of time.
He Who Comes with the Dawn
Okay, yes, I want to focus on plot, but actually, what has happened to Rand! He has gone from a bumbling fool walking blindly in the dark, to the uniter of the Aiel, and the defeater of a Forsaken to such an extent that Asmodean has no choice but to teach Rand how to control his power. Throughout the novel, Rand gathers more and more Aiel to himself, and during his time in Rhuidean more is revealed of the prophecies he has spent so long studying. I could spend hours on the intricacies of Rhuidean, but you would definitely start to get bored. The image of a city in the sky, the role of the Wise Ones, the dream walking… it was all very well connected and explained. What I didn’t quite understand, was how seeing the past of the Aiel could be considered a test for Rand. The Aiel are supposed to enter Rhuidean to be tested almost beyond their bearing in order to show that they have the inner strength and ability to lead their clans. Jordan very cleverly manipulated the plot when he had Muradin already in Rhuidean when Rand arrived. For the reader, it showed what the revelation of the true past could do to someone who held so strongly to their belief in who they are as Aielmen – the truth causes Muradin to claw out his own eyes. But for Rand, I do not think this really counted as a test. His interest is vague, to say the least. He is there solely to fulfill prophecy. He doesn’t consider himself Aiel. He had no idea what they thought of their past, so everything he learned wasn’t a matter of unlearning a lifetime of history, but learning something new about a foreign people. Therefore, it wasn’t really a test for him. He simply had to travel through and learn what he could. Mat was tested more when he went through the door. Yet, Rand gets two tattoos and an Aiel following. I question, therefore, the importance of Rand entering Rhuidean. It allowed the reader a valued insight into the Aiel, one which could have just as easily have been achieved as following Aviendha through the heart of the city, and would have more emotionally received by the reader as they experienced the genuine pain that such knowledge can emulate.
I view it almost as a warning. It’s like in the movie Paycheque, or the Disney movie Tomorrowland – when people have knowledge of the future, they try so hard to change it that they drive themselves towards it in all of their efforts to present it. Rand has read the prophecies – as far as he is able, he has seen into the future. He doesn’t fully understand it, and he doesn’t know what it means, but the bits that he can fulfill, he does. The prophecy ends with death, and blood, and a second breaking. Being ta’veren, I know that Rand cannot escape his destiny. But it seems that he fulfills his own prophecies solely because he knows them. This brings into question the whole concept of free will, and the Christian debate of pre-destination vs free will. It is an interesting concept that in seeing his future, as it was written, Rand cannot help but follow it because he thinks he has to. Moraine Sedai seems to understand this, and keeps trying to make Rand stop and think. But, gone is the shepherd who didn’t know he could channel, who thought he loved Egwene and whose biggest problem was seeing someone he didn’t think was there. Now we have battle hardened, magic-weary Rand, who sees people as a tool for his use. Because he has to. Because the prophecies say so. I find it frustrating and fascinating.
Anyway, the final scene of the novel is Rand bringing Asmodean home with him, to learn how to control his magic. I had no idea as I worked through the novel that this was Rand’s plan – both he and Jordan managed to keep the secret thoroughly and well. The battle scene was impressive, if, and I can’t believe I’m saying this about a 14 book series, a little rushed. Rand now hold more power than anyone could ever imagine, and he’s slowly going to be going mad. Not a good sign.
The Battle for Emond Field
I have said from book one that Perrin is my favourite character, not necessarily because of who he is but due to how well developed he is as a character, and how genuine his progression appears. And, just to get it out of my system, PERRIN AND FAILE ARE MARRIED AND I’M SO INCREDIBLY HAPPY ABOUT IT. But back to the battle.
My boyfriend is on book 10 and tells me this is his favourite scene in the series so far. It was pretty incredible. I have a pretty thorough knowledge of fantasy literature and assumed I knew everything. I knew Faile would come back. I did not link the dying man to the help coming from the other side. And I did NOT see it coming that Lord Luc was Slayer. Jordan does a fantastic job of springing little surprises on you like that. It was such an emotional and beautiful moment as the battle concluded that all Perrin could see was his wife, beautiful and bold, and their reunion was so sweet. I wish that they could now ride off into their sunset, but that’s not going to happen!
A special mention here to Loial and Gaul for shutting the Waygate. It makes me sad that we didn’t spend any time on their journey. Alongside Perrin, Loial is one of my favourite characters (I can’t tell you how happy I was when they teamed up) and it would have been interesting to see Loial and Gaul develop a friendship.
Nynaeve vs the Forsaken
For ease, I call Nyaeve Nina, as I can’t really pronounce her name, and it’s also going to be easier to type here. Nina really came into her own here. I still don’t like her. She has ‘blocked’ herself, according to Moghedien, and I find this frustrating. She clearly has great power. She clearly has immense potential. But if Nina was a man, she would have given in to the madness long ago. If she stayed too long in Tar Valon, I would not be surprised to see her become the next Elaida. I don’t quite trust Nina, because I don’t think she should trust herself.
That said, what a battle! I love the image of the male a’dam – the black colour, the need for two bracelets, and the fact that the madness is transferable even to a female. It makes you wonder – why isn’t Saidin tainted? What is it that holds the women together?
Nina and Moghedien are the first time that someone other than Rand has really had to face up to the Forsaken and hold her own. It shows how important each and every thread of the strand is. Nina followed to bring the boys home, and she has rescued the male a’dam from the hands of Black Ajah. Once again, the predestination argument seems prominant and the choices of individuals almost futile.
The Fall of Tar Valon
Of course, for me the most shocking bit was the fall of Tar Valon. By the time you get to it, you almost forget Min’s visions when she walks in to the Amyrilin Seat with news. But her visions are accurate.
Firstly, my heart breaks for Gawyn and his misguided actions which led to Siuan being stilled. I hope that he can be redeemed and forgiven. The images of teacher against student, student against teacher, friend against friend… they’re very biblical in their powerful statements hierarchy and control. Many times we cheer the young ones on as they overpower the seeming enemy, but in this case we think they’re wrong. The bible says that in the final days, there will be father against son, brother against brother. Obviously, with another 10 books to go, these aren’t quite the final days, but alongside the predestination debate as described earlier, I wonder if there is more to the battle for Tar Valon than just youth and passion overpowering wisdom and age.
Then there’s the evil. Stilling. Gentling. Such calm and soft words. They hide a myriad of evil. My boyfriend suggested that they are perhaps an analogy for depression. The sense of missing something, of reaching out for something that is not there. The fading away without a purpose. The pain of it. I can see where he’s coming from. I felt such empathy with Siuan as she reached out for the power and it wasn’t there. What’s interesting is that Siuan and Logain now have a purpose together. Perhaps, by taking away the power, the Aes Sedai have created far worse enemies than they could have imagined. Because revenge, justice and a righting of the wrong, that is all they have to survive on now, and a desperate person takes desperate risks. I worry for Leane, I don’t think she’ll make it. And when Siuan reaches her goal, what will she have left? Not a lot left to live for, in all honesty.
But do I think that Jordan is speaking of depression? Does depression give you power? Can you find a purpose that is worth more than the way your life was going before, because of the depression? Is it the stilling that relates to depression, or the power itself? I think that my boyfriend gives depression too much power – in my situation that is. I’d like to take a closer look.
Depression + The One Power
Depression is a deep blackness inside you. It climbs up your spine and into your brain almost unnoticed, taking control of limbs that you didn’t know could shake like that, and thoughts that you didn’t think you would ever think. It takes over.
The one power fills people almost uncontrollably. When people are at their best they feel powerful, invincible, and when they’re at their worst they are weak and tired and beyond healing because they have stretched themselves too far. If a person were strong enough, the power would take over completely.
Depression gives you a sense of utter helplessness. You are no longer in control of your life, your thoughts, and sometimes your body.
The one power has a way of being controlled even by the unskilled. It makes itself -as Rand shows repeatedly – into what is needed.
There are strands of depression – related to eating, sleeping, talking, breathing, exercising and everything in between. Each strand effects a person differently.
There are strands of the power, some are strong in one area while others are strong in the others. Each strand of power works differently for each person.
So yes, there are comparisons. But to what relevance?
Saidin is a drug. Its users become dependent. Its male users go made. But it does hearken to depression. The lack of control, the need for more, the loss of self – age and image.
So perhaps it isn’t the stilling, as my boyfriend thinks, that is the problem. Perhaps it is the power itself. A sickness, not only in men, that drives humankind to evil and uncontrolled ends, even at the risk of damaging themselves. I can see the links between the power and depression. I think they may be stronger than the links between stilling and depression.
So what is the solution? Well, for the Wheel of Time, perhaps it is the eradication of power altogether. Without it, there would have been no breaking, would be no second breaking. People would be more equal. Perhaps that is why the world must break again. Perhaps the one power, and not just the dark one, need to be returned to where they belong.
For anyone out there who does suffer from depression, if a farm boy from the Two Rivers can do it, so can you!