I am halfway through this incredible series, and as stressed and exciting whilst reading it as I have been from book 1! The character development throughout this half way book has been fantastic, offering a wide variety of perspectives and drama. As always, the book is so long and thorough that it’s hard to even know where to begin, so I shall just pick out a few of what I consider to be the most interesting parts and discuss them in a small amount of detail!
My boyfriend may have slightly spoiled the mystery of this for me by telling me that two forsaken were resurrected (which I had worked out) into different genders (which, at that point, I had not concluded). As a result, the surprising revelation at the conclusion of the last novel that a female ‘servant’ in Salidair (Halima) could channel using Saidin was less of a surprise for me. When it came to the mystery man rescuing Rand at the conclusion of this novel by creating Balefire but Rand was unable to sense the male source, it is a logical conclusion that this man is the resurrected Lanfear, who dreads to see Lews Therin dead.
I have found the gender transition fascinating. I had assumed, when my boyfriend mentioned the resurrections to me, that everything would change gender-wise, that the new female would use Salidar and the new male would use saidin, By maintaining their original source of the power, Jordan emphasises the humanity of the forsaken, something that is easy to forget considering their penchant towards evil and their seemingly endless blood lust. They are not simply robotic minions, like the Myrddraal, but humans who fall in love (Lanfear), like special ‘toys’ (Grandael) or become very possessive over what they consider to me theirs (Sammael). It makes you wonder, since they are so insistent on hanging onto their humanity, whether the lesser of them might still be redeemed to the light.
Philosophical discussion aside, it seriously stresses me out that Lanfear and another forsaken are back, because I’ve been enjoying the count down through every book as Rand and others defeat Forsaken after Forsaken, but now they’re down two and they don’t even know it. Also, Halima has a worrying hold over Egwene – could she be causing the headaches that she is so aptly able to massage away? With Aes Sedai having no way to tell when a man is channeling, she is in the most danger of them all at this current time! Hopefully all will be revealed in the next novel.
Nynaeve’s Block – AND LAN
I stand by my dislike of Nynaeve and her attitude, temper and self-obsession, but it was really nice to see her and Lan reunited. Egwene taking control as Amyrilin and making important decisions that led to this reunion was the icing on the cake. Seeing Nynaeve surrender completely was moderately satisfying, and knowing that she can channel without having a hissy fit will hopefully make her an easier character to read for the remaining seven novels.
BUT JORDAN RUINED IT BY REUNITING HER WITH LAN THE DAY IT HAPPENED AND I’M SERIOUSLY ANNOYED ABOUT IT.
Honestly, a woman finally overcomes a huge obstacle by herself, a strong willed and independent woman, and what should happen but she is rescued, when she was perfectly able now to rescue herself, by the man she loves. And married that same night. Just as Nynaeve develops independence from the need to be angry, she is taken in by a man who makes her forget any anger. It’s all too convenient and frustrating. They were both really fantastic things to have happened, but they should not have taken place together – dare I say, they shouldn’t have taken place in the same novel. It’s extremely frustrating.
That said, it was a little bit fun to see Tylin pursuing and capturing Mat, despite the borderline rape that was taking place. Yes, it was nice to see a woman taking control and pursuing her own interests, but the entire set up was rather suspect. Visiting a land where women are clearly the stronger sex, where they are innocent until proven guilty on murdering a man, and their excuses for doing so can be quite flimsy, and we finally meet a woman not waiting on a man… It’s just all a little uncomfortable, like women can’t be the dominant sex unless they are in a land entirely devoted to that fact. It’s just rather uncomfortable to read, and as I mentioned earlier, Mat is essentially raped by Tylin, thus undermining the entire joy of seeing women think for themselves. I’m not happy with the events there, and found them quite uncomfortable to read.
Intrigue in the Tower
Elaida is not black ajah, Alviarin is, as was Galina, and now Elaida has started a hunt for black ajah that I’m pretty sure she wants to rig to lead to Alviarin… The tower isn’t broken because of the rebels, it is broken from within. The moment there was confirmation of Black Ajah, the tower lost their position as a thoroughly united power, and the tower under Elaida’s control appears very disheveled compared to the rebels, who are uniting together. I feel sorry for Egwene, as she is going to have quite the mess to pick up.
The Weather Bowl
The entire book has been based around finding the weather bowl, and they still haven’t actually fixed the weather. More than anything, it’s frustrating that it’s being dragged out so long, that there was so much manipulation needed to get everyone in position, and that just as I thought we were getting there the Seanchen invaded, Mat’s in trouble and we just left him there! Cliff hangers and suspense are Jordan’s strongest writing techniques, I have to say, and I am biting at the bit to read the next book to see what happens.
What…? I have… positive feelings towards… Mat?
Which leads me nicely onto… Mat. For whom I am developing positive feelings. It was actually really nice in this novel to see Jordan really working to dig beneath the ‘clown-ish’ womaniser that he has so far portrayed Mat to be. Mat’s pursuance by Tylin reveals a rather understated, delicate and romantic side of Mat, where his pride will not allow him to be pursued without him instigating the chase, and his desire to truly be able to provide for a woman he has a relationship with. This vulnerability, coupled with his fierce loyalty to keeping his word and his bravery in the face of a danger even Aes Sedai could not face, have given him a much more rounded character that I don’t hate… strange to say, but he really stood out in this book. That said, a lot of A Crown of Swords did follow Mat closely and was told from his perspective, and when you’re reading almost a first person account of his journeys, you can’t help but feel positive towards him. I’m sure if the novel had leaned towards Nynaeve’s perspective, I would have very different feelings now! That said, Elayne is finally appearing to come to terms with the fact that her hatred of Mat is very much founded on Nynaeve’s attitude towards him, and it was nice to see Elayne step up and start to form her own opinions.
Those bits and bobs
A few other things to mention.
I like Min, but she has been very crafty and manipulative. She knows Elayne’s feelings and spent a significant amount of time with Elayne, so you’d think her loyalty to her friend would be a little more secure than basically rubbing herself up against Rand at every opportunity as an attempt to make him see her as a woman. I can’t help but feel that their reunion will be quite difficult. That said, I am starting to see now why Min is so important to Rand – she is a calming influence, a touch of light relief, and of course her visions at least help him to be able to plan for the future and know who to trust.
Sammael is dead, but actually, although Rand’s plans were scattered throughout the story, this is almost secondary to everything else that has taken place. Also, is he really dead; I mean, I know that Rand thinks he is, and I would assume that he is because nothing survives Shadar Logoth, but we didn’t actually see him die and the Forsaken appear to be more hardy that we give them credit for.
Rand killed a woman. Out of pity, out of desperation, to save her from the darkness that would consume her, but how will he recover from this? From his perspective he basically killed her twice – once by abandoning her when darkness came, and now by erasing her from existence to stop her suffering.
Okay, actually, there is one more massive bug bear here… Balefire. Moghedien used it on Nynaeve’s boat and killed two of Mat’s men in the process – but if she did that then why does Mat remember them? It’s a bot of a logical loophole and I’m not overly happy with the concept being so easily overwritten. For example, if the middle of the boat never existed, then Nynaeve would not have been out on the water at that time because the sailors never had a whole boat to use, which eliminates the entire drowning scene and her breaking through her block… I know it’s picky, but it is a massive plot flaw which is never really explained.
It seems to me that there was a lot less of the social commentary that I have seen in other novels previously, and that Jordan really focusses in on the progression of the plot and characterisation. In a way it was nice to move forwards with such speed and alacrity, and I look forwards to seeing where book 8 takes me!