Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 7

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of the book.

1.  Egwene appears very reluctant to forgive Siuan and Gawyn for having rescued her from Tar Valon.  Do you think she went overboard?  Has Siuan lost her status for ever?  What sort of thing might it take for Egwene and Gawyn to finally get together as they should?

I suppose she did seem a little harsh, but she was much more concerned with her efforts to reunite the Tower than her own personal safety. Her disappearance after the attack could have been very problematic because she could have been accused of deserting her Sisters in their time of need, although I think her defensive actions would have countered that complaint. Still, she did not know that Elaida had been captured, or that the Ajah Heads would finally see sense and make her the true Amyrlin.

I am certain that Siuan will retain much of her status with Egwene, probably by becoming the head of the Blue Eyes and Ears network in the newly unified Tower. Her actions were based upon much more sensible reasons that Gawyn’s, which were still driven by the idea of Egwene as a helpless little puppet. I imagine that their hormones will finally push the lovers together, but Gawyn’s attitude needs some very serious adjustment before they can have a healthy relationship.

2.  The Black Ajah is purged and all its members are now either dead or missing.  Do you agree with Egwene's plan, or would you have waited until after the reunification, to get all of them at once? Would you have liked to see the hunters in the White Tower (Saerin et al) play a larger role?

This seemed like the most sensible approach because it meant that Egwene could trust all of the rebel Sisters as her forces attacked the Tower. She did not anticipate the Tower allowing her to enter without a fight, so I can fully understand why she did not want Blacks ‘accidentally’ killing people or causing other problems. Also, it would have been very difficult for Egwene alone to subdue the entire Tower: this way she only had to bend a few to her will before then relying upon them to help with the others in the camp and then back in Tar Valon itself.

I did not expect Saerin or the others to step forward because they were too few in number to risk exposure. However, I assume that they were the ones who handed over the Oath Rod. It is a shame that secrecy is such an integral part of life as an Aes Sedai, but in this case I think that they were right to stay quiet.

3.  The Aes Sedai are reunited, eight books after the split, with no more bloodshed.  What do you think of everything?  Do you agree with the decision to take Silviana as a keeper, and to distribute the blame?  What will now happen with the Red?  And just how epic were those speeches?

Egwene has become my favorite character during the last few books because she has shown the most growth and huge heapings of common sense, which seems to be in short supply in this world! I loved the way that she handled every step of this journey, and I cannot fault her motives or plans.

I thought that Silviana was an excellent choice. She is a remarkably competent woman who will do almost anything to fulfill her duty. However, she was also the only person to openly stand against Elaida and rebuke her for her treatment of a lowly Novice. She grew to admire and respect Egwene and she has a uniquely intimate knowledge of just how strong the new Amyrlin really is.

I hope that the Reds can see Silviana’s position as an olive branch and start to trust again. Egwene’s decision to berate everyone, including herself, should help this a little as they must surely expect retribution and petty revenge from the Blues if nobody else. I suspect that it will be difficult to persuade everyone to try to be one happy family, as it seems like the inter-Ajah bickering is a centuries old tradition. We can see how difficult it is for Cadsuane to change her way of behaving and I suspect that she is fairly typical of most Aes Sedai in that respect.

4.  Were you happy to see Hurin again?  Do you think he was happy to see Rand?  What can be done now, from Rand's side, to fix this problem with the Borderlanders?

I was certainly surprised, but it made sense to send someone that Rand had known personally as a messenger. However, the message he carried was highly likely to get him killed, so I was rather annoyed with the Borderlanders for putting him in such danger. Of course, he was probably overjoyed at the chance to reunite with ‘Lord’ Rand . . . poor guy!

I rather hope that Rand will simply send Bashere to grab hold of Tenobia, by the ear if possible, and drag her out of Far Madding. Their message was incredibly insulting and I would not blame Rand for choosing to just ignore them for the duration. Of course, he has sent them a massive insult by suggesting that they are cowards sitting in Far Madding to save their own hides, so he might provoke them into a meeting. However, it could be that the ‘new’ Rand will have a different opinion, so we may see him submit to their demands and face them in Far Madding after all.

5.  Rand has a surprise meeting with Tam, for the first time since book one, and it does not go well!  Even though Rand was insane, how much blame rests with Cadsuane and Nynaeve here?

It is easy to see this meeting as a total disaster. However, it acts as the catalyst to Rand’s epiphany, which can only be considered a Very Good Thing. It was certainly a very risky maneuver, but I cannot think of anything else that could have worked. Whilst it seems that Cadsuane is the author of this plan, I imagine that all the Wise Ones had a chance to persuade her of its foolishness if they thought it was hopelessly stupid, and I am sure that Nynaeve would see the possibility of Tam being able to reach Rand when nobody else could.

6.  We got some more hints about the nature of Callandor, and now that the male Choedan Kal is also destroyed, they are more relevant than ever.  Does anyone want to try guessing what it's for?

Callandor is shaped as a sword, which would rather suggest that it is intended to be used as a weapon. It places no limit on the amount of power that the user can draw, which is probably a good thing if you are planning to use it to destroy the Dark One. So that is my prediction: Rand must use it to defeat the Big Bad Guy.

That only leaves us with one other puzzle: whom will he choose as the two women in the Circle? One obvious pairing would be Elayne and Aviendha. These are both very powerful channelers and Rand trusts them completely. However, he did not ask either of them to help him with cleansing saidin, so they might not be his first choice for this task either. Elayne’s confirmed pregnancy and Aviendha’s supposed quadruplets might also make him unwilling to risk their deaths in such a risky action. Plus, we know that Elayne is struggling with her channeling and might be too busy leading her armies against the Shadow. That makes me think that good old Nynaeve might be called upon to tug her braid at the Dark One, possibly with the help of a certain annoying Blue that is going to be rescued in the next book . . . he trusts both of these women as much as anyone else, and they are both certainly stubborn enough to stick with him to the bitter end.

7.  Rand travels to Dragonmount and has his epiphany.  Is he now sane for good?  What do you think he will be like when we see him again?  Was this what Cadsuane needed to teach him?  Feel free to speculate on the nature of the Lews Therin voice.

I am not sure that he is entirely sane, but he has certainly come to terms with what he has to do. Releasing all that anger and frustration will hopefully help him to be slightly more agreeable and approachable to his allies. I hope that he will be a little more like the Rand we first met in Book One, although there may be an overtone of sadness. At least he will be less likely to simply balefire people for being a little annoying! :D

Cadsuane’s actions have certainly helped him to integrate Lews Therin and find a way to go forward without despair and anger. In this respect, she has certainly taught him something massively important. However, this may not be all she has to do to fulfill Min’s viewing.

I am still not sure what to make of Lews Therin. Is he really a separate personality inside Rand or simply a figment of his madness? The fact that he knows things from the past suggests that he cannot be just an aspect of Rand himself, but that might be far too logical for this series! :D

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 6

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 42.

1) Verin demands a deal for Travelling his army & Mat demands a compromise. What do you think is in Verin's sealed letter of instructions? Will Mat hold to his bargain?

Even the Big Reveal about Verin’s Blackness offers no hint at what she has included in her letters. I wonder if they are all the same, independent of who receives them, and if she managed to deliver anymore of them. The fact that they were pre-written simply adds to the mystery. I have no idea what they might contain, because she seems to have passed all her relevant knowledge to Egwene. I am officially stumped! :D

I am not sure if Mat intends to keep this bargain or not. He may very well try to avoid it but then find that he gives in at the last moment, with lots of moaning and whining. I have to assume that the letter contains something rather important, and not just a request for someone to feed Verin’s cats after her suicide, so I rather hope that Mat actually does as he has agreed. But then again, this series has been filled by incidents that could have been prevented by simple communication, so I could be wrong and Mat will ignore the letter until it is too late and then wish that he had opened it on time.

2) Tuon, now referred to as Fortuna, carried through with her decision to attach the White Tower. What did you think of her discussion with Selucia concerning how this action might very well turn the Dragon Reborn against the Seanchan? Is Fortuna's concerns well founded, or should she be more concerned about how the Aes Sedai will react?

I am not altogether sure about how Rand will view this attack on the White Tower. Whilst he distrusts most Aes Sedai, he knows that they are a very valuable resource and that he will need all of them in the Last Battle. Tuon’s actions have reduced the pool of the Light’s channelers, so I doubt that he will be overly happy with her. Of course, we have seen him take a very pragmatic stance towards her refusal to become an ally, so he may simply see this as unfortunate and then pretty much ignore it.

In theory, the Aes Sedai should be a force to be feared by the Seanchan now that they have been attacked. However, I doubt that they will do anything in retaliation because it would simply place them back in danger and increase their risk of being made damane.

3) Rand is certain he has removed Graendal from the picture. Do you agree? Will Nynaeve forgive Rand for having her play a part in his ruse?

Whilst it would be very nice to think that she has been removed from the War, I am a little suspicious that we did not see a body or have a witness to her destruction. We know that she is extremely cunning, so I am not sure that Rand actually managed to outwit her with his plan. Somehow it all seemed a little too easy . . . However, I have no idea how this can be true when the Compulsion on Ramshalan was removed by the balefire blast.

I am sure that Nynaeve will eventually move past her shock and horror to accept the necessity of Rand’s actions. However, I am sure that she will hold herself for it somehow: because she is responsible for absolutely everything! :D

4) Nynaeve swallows her pride and asks Cadsuane and the Wise Ones to let her in on The Plan. Why do you think they want Perrin? Any ideas on what The Plan is?

I found it strange that they mentioned only Perrin, and not Mat at all. This suggests that it may not be Perrin himself, but one of his followers that they actually want to find. This makes sense because Perrin has a contingent from the Two Rivers in his army. As Rand has no particular friends left in that group, I can only assume that they want Tam to talk some sense into his son. However, I have no idea how the poor man could have any more success than Nynaeve at making Rand ‘normal’ again.

5) And the big reveal for this section concerns Verin. Did you see that coming? What more did she leave in her notebook for Egwene to decipher?

I think that we had worked out that she must be Black because she had lied in the past and was quite happy to use Compulsion on the sisters that she drove to swear fealty to Rand. However, her apparent lack of evilness made this a little difficult to accept. Discovering that she was a mole made a lot of sense, although it does rather make me worry about the oversight and management of Darkfriends, as we never saw her do anything remotely useful to the Shadow. I can only suggest that her direct supervisor has been a little lax in monitoring her evil doings: I suspect the Verin failed to make a quota on a regular basis! :D

As well as the lists of Black Ajah, I suspect that she has gathered lots of juicy information on the Forsaken and their actions. Other than that it could be just about anything. I hope that most of it proves to be useful in a strategic way, rather than just interesting snippets of information filed away for posterity. However, Egwene’s assessment that Verin had been acting much more absentminded and ‘Brown’ than she really was leads me to think that it will all be solid gold.

I do have one worry, though. Why now? What made Verin decide to do this at this particular moment in time?

6) The Seanchan finally attack the Tower! Feel free to gush about your favorite parts. What did you think of Bryne's demand of Warder status of Siuan (and his still unnamed second demand)? Was Egwene bad-ass enough for you? Pleased or surprised by the actions/reactions of the other Aes Sedai?

Obviously, Egwene’s awesomeness was well worth the wait and I expect some spectacular artwork portraying her defense of the Tower. It is hard to believe that she is the same person as the naive country girl that we met in the first book because she has changed so much. Surely this will convince the Hall that she is truly suitable as the Amyrlin of the reunited Tower.

Whilst I was a little frustrated by the need to spend time with Siuan and Bryne, I did enjoy their little moment of ‘profound love revealed’. Somehow I expect that the second demand will be a little more romantic: marriage would seem like a very safe bet.

I was pleased to see some of the Reds behaving in a sensible way and was even more happy to see Saerin take control and tell Katerine to get stuffed when the Red started blustering. I was more than a little disappointed by the apparent uselessness of the Greens during the attack, although Adelorna, the Battle-Captain seems competent enough.  

7) The aftermath: Do you think the Seanchan raid on the White Tower will be seen as a success or a loss by the Seanchan? How will Egwene react to being removed from the Tower? How will the Tower react to it's loss of Elaida?

Yet again, I am not sure about this question. Whilst they certainly captured some new damane, I suspect that the raid was a loss overall for the Seanchan. The loss of so many men is not vey important, but the number of to’raken killed will be much more significant, as will the number of fully trained damane who were killed or captured. I suspect that Tuon will not be pleased.

I am pretty sure that Egwene will demand to be returned to the Tower straight away and be very cross with her ‘rescuers’. I also suspect that she will forgive them and understand why they chose to carry her away to safety. As she is likely to be accepted back into the Tower with open arms, I doubt that this action will have a negative impact on her rise to power.

I think that once they calm down most Sisters will see that the Seanchan have actually done them a favor. This effectively removes the necessity of deposing Elaida, which would have been a very difficult decision for them to make. Now they have a perfect excuse for raising Egwene to the Amyrlin Seat and can do it with a clear conscience. The Seanchan attack will also focus everyone’s minds on the really important events happening outside the Tower, which should help in the reunification and the preparations for the Last Battle.

Can we have a brief moment for the playing of my tiny, tiny violin to mark Elaida’s passing into servitude . . . I hope that we will not be troubled by her again! :D

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan: Week 5

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 35.

We had 18 inches of snow and a 12 hour power outage yesterday, so I am a little late with this post . . . and it is only just November! :(

1. We journey to yet another impressive city. What are your impressions of Bander Eban and its inhabitants? Do you think that Rand will succeed in bringing peace and unity to the region, or will it all dissolve into chaos again as soon as he moves on?

I am always impressed by the way that Mr Jordan could create such different cultures for each of the nations in Randland. Although we have already met Domani, and so are aware of the women’s scandalous clothing and methods for manipulating men, there are plenty of aspects of their culture that we have not explored. I find the concept of an elected monarch rather interesting, and it is good to see a variety of methods for selecting a ruler. I am not sure that any one of the methods we have seen in this series is demonstrably better than any of the others, but at least they offer a nice variety!

It seems as if the Council of Merchants are going to be a problem for Rand because they are so accustomed to being in control. Whilst not all of them might be self-serving as Milisair, I suspect that she is fairly typical of the group. This makes me very concerned for Arad Doman’s ability to remain organized after Rand withdraws. I suspect that the Merchants will return to their habits of personal aggrandizement rather than continuing to feed the hungry and protect the helpless. However, I am not sure that Rand can afford to spend much more time restoring order here: I suspect that once he deals with Graendal he will move on to more important nations.

2. I feel as if I am being overly harsh towards Gawyn, but he does seem to be very slow on the uptake! Do you think that he will ever see sense and stop trying to rescue Egwene? Will their reunion be all magical and gushing, or will Egwene take exception to Gawyn’s image of her as only a helpless puppet and not the awesomely powerful woman that she has become?

It seems certain that Elayne got more than her fair share of brains and common sense in this pair, and even she is totally hopeless at times! :D

As with so many characters in this series, Gawyn is very frustrating. Whilst he was still ignorant of the true situation it was a little easier to cut him some slack and understand his delusional attitude towards Egwene. However, now that he has been given the truth by multiple people, some of whom he trusts implicitly, he is getting dangerously close to ‘needing a slap’ territory with his dogged refusal to alter his world view. I can understand that he does not want to admit that he was wrong about just abut everything, or that he has been fighting for the wrong side for a long time. I just wish that he would grow up a bit, admit his mistake and move on.

I suspect that the only thing that will stop his determination to rescue Egwene is for the woman herself to give him a good slap around the head. In fact, I think that they will both be very unhappy once they are reunited. She will have to deal with his unnecessary attempts to protect her when she is more than capable of looking after herself: and I doubt that she will spend too much time on protecting his ego. Meanwhile, he will suddenly be confronted by a person who is totally different from the woman he knew before, which may be too much for his stubborn mind to accept. I suspect that they will have a very frosty relationship for quite some time before they finally work it out and get a chance to have some good old-fashioned sexytimes.

3. Cadsuane has decided to enlist the Wise Ones in her efforts to ‘guide’ Rand. Do her thoughts suggest that she is starting to truly understand him and do you think that her efforts will have a positive or negative result?

She certainly seems to have finally worked out that the repeated, public humiliation was A Very Bad Idea. It certainly took her long enough to see that he was not succumbing to her methodology, but she is very old and has probably not had to rethink her approach to dominating people for several centuries, so I can almost forgive her for being somewhat rigid. Unfortunately, I doubt that she will get a second chance with Rand now that she has failed him so completely. Perhaps if she could explain how the male a’dam was secured he might just be able to let himself understand her mistake, but I think we are way past the point of explanations or forgiveness.

The Wise Ones are one of the few groups who have managed to not totally alienate Rand, so they appear to be a good choice of allies. However, they may not agree to work with Cadsuane if they see no value in her proposal. Fortunately for her, I suspect that Sorilea at least will see the value in it and they will move ahead with her plan. At the moment I am not sure what she will suggest, mainly because it seems that she is highly unlikely to be able to soften him now. We know that she is destined to teach him something massively important, but unless it is something that helps him to control his desire to use the True Power, I cannot guess what she might possibly know that he can learn from her. 

4. Nynaeve decides to go off and ‘help’ Rand behind his back. Were you surprised by what she discovered or how she went about it? Do you think that there is any chance at all that she will be able to moderate her behavior to guide Rand in a similar way to Moiraine?

Yet another for the list of People Who Need A Good Slapping! :D

I was rather surprised by the intelligence that Nynaeve displayed in her reasoning here. It is not that I think that she is stupid, but she is so rigid in her thinking, and so ruled by her emotions, that I do not expect her to apply logic to any situation. She always strikes me as more of a ‘yank on my braid and fireball everything’ kind of girl! :D

However, in this case her reasoning was very sound and her experience of dealing with the Forsaken would have helped her to see the hidden meaning behind the facts. I thought that the raid was very well written because there was so much humor injected into the account whilst the underlying story was really rather sad and depressing. It is always fun to ride around in Nynaeve’s head because she is such a bundle of anger and judgmental fury that she produces a wonderfully snarky diatribe as her running commentary on the situation!

I was particularly amused by her thoughts about how to control Rand, and how she was the only person who could possibly know what was right: she and Cadsuane are so very similar! Indeed, she shares her older Sister’s understanding of how Rand needs to be more human and her fears that he will not survive to even begin the Last Battle. I hope that she can control her temper enough to maintain Rand’s trust, because he really does need at least one Aes Sedai that he can rely upon completely, and I suspect that Nynaeve is the only candidate for that position. Having read New Spring, we now know how fiery Moiraine was in her younger years, so we can appreciate how difficult she found it to bite her tongue and play nice with the young Dragon. I suspect that Nynaeve might surprise us all by proving to be almost as successful. Assuming that she does not slap him for putting Lan in danger.

5. Mat spent hours coming up with very interesting, and thorough, backstories for his group of spies. Was this a justifiable use of his time or were his men correct in finding it all rather funny? Aludra demands all the resources in the world for her ‘dragons’: will Rand go along with this plan or see it as pointless?

I loved this chapter and the way that his men were playing with Mat. Yet again I have to praise the writing, because it showed how much understanding and affection his men have for him. They knew that the stupidly intricate backstories were a product of his intense concern for their safety, but they did nothing to openly criticize the amount of time and effort he had wasted in creating them. Whilst his plan did not need such elaborate plotting, it certainly seemed like a massive improvement over the blind ignoring of all the danger signs in Hinderstap. I do not feel that I can criticize Mat for being more cautious after that near disaster.

I am not at all sure what Rand will think of this plan. I suspect that he will probably see the value of it as an alternative to relying upon channeling, but the need for so many resources may force him to discount it as impossible. However, Travelling might make it more feasible than it sounds at the moment, and I am not sure that the Dark One will have an answer to such a new weapon.

6. Verin has returned! Any ideas why she has been hanging around in the mountains distributing flyers rather than Travelling about trying to find Mat and Perrin?

This seemed like a rather passive way for her to find the young men. Surely she could have been hopping about trying to get news of battles and armies on the move and then following the Band. I cannot imagine that such a large army could be moving about without anyone noticing them at all. However, I suppose that she had her own reasons for more or less sitting and waiting for him to arrive, and I suspect that we will be none the wiser once she talks to Mat.

I have no idea why she has suddenly decided to meet up with the lads. Perhaps she has been sucked in by their ta’veren quality, but I am not sure why they need her just now. I suppose she might be able to provide Mat with a vital clue about the Tower of Ghenjei, but other than that I am stumped.

7. Could Rand’s meeting with Tuon have gone any more badly? Do you think that this will signal open warfare between Rand and the Seanchan, or is there still a chance of a truce?

Good grief! :(

I suppose they could have ended up having a bitch slapping fight, but otherwise this was pretty hopeless. Neither of them is good at understanding alternative points of view, so it was pretty much doomed to fairly from the beginning, but I had hoped that they could have reached a compromise. In fact, I was very surprised that Rand’s ta’veren quality did not overwhelm Tuon’s thinking and force an agreement. The fact that she could refuse his pull says a great deal about her strength of character, but in this case it was possibly a bad thing.

However, I think we have already realized that the Seanchan attack on the White Tower will be the catalyst to remove Elaida and install Egwene as the true Amyrlin. This will allow her to unify the Aes Sedai and purge the Black from their midst, creating an effective fighting force just in time for the Last Battle. Perhaps the Seanchan attack is vital in order for this to happen, as we can expect the Sisters to keep dithering for a long time if they are not pushed into a decision. I hope that either Rand or Tuon will see sense and that they can finally come to a Truce, but it looks very unlikely at the moment.

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