It has been a while since I wrote about anything I’ve been reading just for fun! I have to read this in small bites, as it’s been being read alongside curriculum texts and teaching theory books, and so it has been quite low on the priority list! But once I got my teeth back into it, I’ve barely been able to stop reading and am bowled over by the end! While reading this series, I try to read one Wheel of Time book, then another unrelated novel, to keep variety in my reading. This is the first time I’ve desperately wanted to go straight on and just keep reading the next book in the series, and it’s all to do with the last lines before the epilogue:
‘On a day of fire and blood and the One Power, as prophecy had suggested, the unstained tower, broken, bent knee to the forgotten sign. The first nine Aes Sedai swore fealty to the Dragon Reborn, and the world was changed forever.’
How did we get here?
It’s been so long since I read ‘The Fires of Heaven’ that I’ve had to go back and skim read my last blog post, and even then I’m not sure I can remember exactly what happened in the start of this book to get us so far! As always, there’s not enough space to talk about everything that’s happened, so I’ll pick up on a few key plot points and go from there.
The Amyrlin Seat
What I suppose was designed to be a shocking twist was actually really clear to me from the beginning of this novel. The sisters in Salidar were far too interested in Egwene to simply want to discipline her, and since no other sisters in Salidar were being specifically focussed on, it stood to reason that either Nynaeve, Elayne or Egwene would be asked to step us, especially as they are the strongest talent seen in many years. Nynaeve is easy to rule out – a wilder still cut off from the source when angry, she would not be a reliable or stable leader of a rebellious faction of the tower. Elayne has duties elsewhere – as the future queen of Andor, she would never be able to balance both responsibilities. That simply left Egwene.
I believe that the sisters in Salidar have made a wiser decision than they know. Egwene is strong minded and willful, but not so much so that she will dig her heels in and refused to be moved when faced with reason and logic. She is extremely powerful and in rediscovering the lost talent of dream walking, and receiving such caring teaching from the Aiel, she is clearly well versed in the power and her special skills. But most importantly, from our perspective, she has a clear head and a scheming mind. Already cleverly using Mat’s army to intimidate lords and ladies to join her rebellion, she has the ability to manipulate the key players in this story because she knows so much about them. Her developing relationship with Gawyn was a bit of a side step. To be honest, I would really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really love a female character in this series who is strong, independent, plays a key role in events, isn’t Aes Sedai and doesn’t fall in love (but I’ll come onto that rant in a moment!). But, I can understand how it’s happened, and it is a positive thing as ultimately Gawyn’s promise to Egwene saved Rand’s life, and we all know Rand can’t die till the final book!
Overall, I was really pleased with Egwene’s progression in this novel, and feel that her character has continued to grow in independence and strength.
That said, I still have my gripes – her speedy succession seems unrealistic and she is still very reliant on the older Aes Sedai to continue to receive support as a leader. It will be interesting to see when, and if, she has a united tower to follow her how she copes with the more mundane side of the job!
My biggest fuss over the Aes Sedai at this point, though, is the swearing of oaths on the rod being the step to Aes Sedai. I understand that this is a tradition, and that it is the Aes Sedai equivilant of a bat mitzvah, where the accepted finally becomes an Aes Sedai. But it doesn’t really effect their ability, their power or anything of importance. It holds them to a high standard of no violence except in emergencies, and truth telling, but in all honesty I cannot see the necessity in it. When Egwene, Elayne, Nynaeve and the others do arrive at the White Tower, I would like to see them stand up for themselves and refuse to take the oaths. They are limiting in dangerous times, and a little bit demeaning, even if the truth can be manipulated. I won’t dwell much more on this, but I don’t see why they should have to go through with swearing the oaths when they already go above and beyond, both talent and work-wise, what is expected of an Aes Sedai.
Girls, Girls, Girls!!!!
Faile, Egwene, Elayne, Nynaeve, Aviendha, Min, Amys, Berelain, Birgitte, Siuan…
Perrin, Gawyn/Galad, Rand, Lan, Rand, Rand, Rhuarc, Perrin, Gaidal Cain, Gareth Byrne…
This is a novel filled with strong and powerful women. In a world where it is only safe for women to channel and reach the source, you would think that there would be more women whose key focus is not men. I am excluding Aes Sedai from this discussion deliberately, because their decision whether to marry or not is mitigated by the warder situation, and I ranted enough about that last time. I will say that their lack of romantic relationships alienates them from ‘normal’ society, and is a part of what has them considered pariahs in many areas.
I’m just really sick of how much this reads like a romantic novel. I swear, if Mat, Rand or Perrin mention that they think the other ones have more knowledge about women I will throw the book across the room! There’s just so much going on in the novels already. I could have coped with two or three relationships – I like Perrin and Faile, and I like her because she is strong and stands up to her husband, but then she acts like a child and ignores him because another woman is showing interest. Perrin married her and she should not be punishing him for the actions of another. Similarly, Berelain is successfully holding a city in disarray in as much order as possible, and has ordered the deaths of nobles and peasants alike, and yet the minute Perrin shows up, she turns into a giggling teenage girl.
I don’t even want to get into the love quadilateral which is Rand, Elayne, Aviendha and Min. Elayne thinks she owns Rand, Aviendha slept with him and now seems to be considering sharing him with Elayne, and Min is trying to make Rand love her (which he clearly already does but still…). These are powerful and independent women in their own right driven to distraction by a man… Min was in love with him after one meeting and until this novel barely spent any time with him. Elayne is in love with him and has pushed him away and promised love to him within a week of each other, and is now frustrated because he wants to ‘give’ her the throne… SHE WASN’T THERE TO TAKE IT WAS SHE?! He has protected it from the many hands which would take it from her without a second thought, and has held onto it, as well as wanting to give her more. Elayne is entitled to it, but Rand has ‘won’ it, as it were. Of the three of them, Aviendha has spent the most time with Rand, has the most intense relationship with him, and yet withholds her love for the sake of Elayne. This is the one redeeming feature of the whole situation – Aviendha’s loyalty to her friends in unshakable, and her honesty has allowed their friendship to continue. Min, on the other hand, seems determined to ruin her friendship with Elayne! Argh, it’s all so frustrating.
I would just like one of the key characters to stop pining and get on with things… sometimes it’s like reading ‘Sweet Valley High’ – a guilty secret pleasure of mine when I was younger!
I will say, however, that the capture of Moghedian was very impressive, and showed what a group of girls can do, however the loss of her at the conclusion of the novel was not great really… however it is VERY clever that the transformations and rebirths in the prologue clearly played a role throughout the novel, and that the female of the pair was clearly actually a male forsaken. I’m interested to see where this will go!
That said, the only woman who shows true independence and thought is Alanna, and WE DO NOT LIKE HER. Well, I didn’t. I have a little more sympathy now that she has experienced Rand’s pain are understands what he struggles with every day. But Alanna bonded with Rand without his permission. She does not have the ability to compel him, thank goodness, which would have been very damaging, but what she did, as is stated in the novel, is equated to rape. She took away his ability to consent and acted without thought for the consequences. I am interested to see how their relationship develops as they must now be linked… perhaps Alanna will become Rand’s warder more that Rand will become hers!
Black vs White
This was potentially one of my favourite parts of the novel. Men who can channel have their own name – Asha’man. They have their own place to train – the black tower. Rand’s amnesty is paying off. Whilst their techniques, taught by the untrustworthy Taim, are violent and dangerous, they pay off. I am eager to see a time where Aes Sedai and Asha’man work together, train together and respect each other, and I look forwards to the beginnings of this relationship!
One of the most interesting things explored in this novel is the descent into madness and the definitions of insanity. Both Mat and Rand remember things that aren’t their memories. They both show skills and abilities they can’t possibly know. Mat’s are memories, Rand’s is a voice. Looking at these with cold logic, there are elements of schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder and auditory hallucinations. I truly believe that the portrayal of Rand and Lews Therin is a powerful metaphor for the horrors of mental illness.
In this novel especially, Rand has struggled to define whether Lews is in fact Lews Therin, or whether he is simply a symptom off his own madness. The constant voice in his head and the battle for Saidin and reminiscent of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, parts of which I recently re read on a school work experience which is probably why they’re brought to mind. Similarly to when Mr Hyde eventually takes over Dr Jekyll, Lews Therin believes that he is the true owner of the body. He does not recognise or know Rand, and only begins to acknowledge him in the last few pages. Lews Therin clearly has his own insanity issues to work through, but Rand’s constant fight against him is a really testament to those who have struggled with auditory hallucinations and mental illnesses in which they lose sight of themselves and give in to another personality. Jordan touches on a difficult subject, but his portrayal of Rand’s struggle to continue to be Rand Al’Thor and now Lews Therin, is heart wrenching to witness.
The True Source
The male half of the true source is tainted, but who is to say the female half isn’t as well, in its own way? Men go mad, Aes Sedai become master manipulators and ageless. They live for long beyond their years and are driven to great extents to protect themselves. The final battle is coming (in, like 8 books time), but what will its conclusion be? At this point, I believe that to make the world more fair, better, and to eradicate the dark one, all power should be wiped out. I include Saidin and Saidar in this. Just to put it out there.
Then, of course, there is the quote I opened with, and the final scenes in which the first nine Aes Sedai bow to Rand, who was strong enough to break through three Aes Sedai and then to take them out one by one. I have nothing particularly critical or analytical to say about this bit, except how satisfying it was. Aes Sedai put in their place a little. Rand continuing to step up and take control and the development of the all the characters throughout have been really interesting to watch. I’m fascinated to see where the next novel goes – will they fix the weather? Will Morgase make a comeback so everyone can stop hating Rand for something he didn’t do?
Best get onto reading another book so I can move on with this series!