Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan: Week 7

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 37 – next week we will read the remaining chapters and reach the end of the series.

Before I answer Eivind’s questions I just need to get something off my chest:


(deep breath)


Holy epic chapters, Batman! I have never before read a single chapter that has included so much action and mayhem, such death and destruction. It had everything: despair and triumph, bitter loss and the sweet promise of hope! I doubt that I will ever read another chapter that can match this for its complete and utter epicness!

And now on to the questions . . .

1.  What did you think of the structure?  That is, one huge chapter with no breathers.  Was it appropriate for the battle, or did you find the difference from before jarring?

It certainly left me feeling as exhausted and breathless as those fortunate enough to survive into chapter 38. The use of many points of view and such short sections made it very difficult for me to stop reading last night so that I could go to bed! This was the page-turning chapter to rule them all: and I imagine that very few writers would risk this structure for fear of their readers throwing the book away in disgust. However, I think that it was very appropriate for the prelude to the climax of the series. We were shown just about every important action and managed to touch base with quite a few characters before they met their ends, which was rather touching when they had happy thoughts or chose brave and selfless courses of action.

Rather than finding this different from the rest of the series, I felt that it was as if Mr Sanderson had turned the volume up from something comfortable to an eardrum imploding level. It was a similar structure to the one we are accustomed to, only writ large. But this is the End Of The World, so it is supposed to be a little more dramatic than normal. It certainly conveyed the desperation and despair seeping through the armies of the Light as their end becomes inevitable . . .

2.  Tuon orchestrates a fight with Mat, and decides to return only after some careful deliberations.  Ice-cold gamble or foolhardy move by Mat?  Am I the only one who thinks the Seanchan have gotten away with very little fighting so far?

This was certainly a gamble, and it is not clear that the return of the Seanchan will seal the win for the force of light, unless Lan truly has done for Demandred. I was rather surprised that Moghedien fell for this ruse, as I thought she might suspect that it was a set up. But, of course, she is biased by her own personality: she would abandon a failing fight in order to save her own skin in the blink of an eye, so she accepts Tuon’s bluff as a reasonable action. It was just about the only way that Mat could use the enemy spy to his own advantage without alerting her to his knowledge of her existence.

Yep: the Ever Victorious Army is starting to look like a massively unearned title at this point. Not only has the branches of it left behind at home fallen to rebellion and civil war, but also their showing in Randland has been patchy at best. They have not proven to be quite as epic in this battle as I had hoped they would be. Perhaps it is all weird haircuts and painted fingernails with very little to back up their sense of superiority.

3.  Androl and Pevara spend much of the battle behind enemy lines to recover the seals, practicing telepathy and other fascinating effects.  Why not another lava trick?  Logain also challenge Demandred.  What do you think of his motivations?  Where will his glory come from?

I guess a giant flow of lava would be a little inaccurate in targeting only Taim, and it might just damage the Seals a little bit . . . or make them rather difficult to recover later! :D

Androl and Pevara are rapidly becoming my highest ranked characters for further books in the series: they are so entertaining! They also seem to be rewriting the rule book with their double Bonding connection, which I am quite sure will prove helpful in the end. I was rather sad that Androl did not get the chance to Gateway Taim into oblivion, but his slight of hand theft of the Seals did make me chuckle quite a bit. I am quite sure that Taim was furious when he discovered that they were missing . . . oh dear, let me reach for my tiny violin! :D

Logain’s motivations seem to be rather mudded at the moment. He went after Demandred with some wild idea of grabbing his scepter and then making every one bow down before his awesomeness. This was the one case where I was actually cheering on Demandred, as I was not sure that Logain winning the duel would be a good idea. It does not look like he has much of a chance of glory at the moment, but there is still time for him to validate our trust in him.

4.  In the meantime, Rand and the Dark One exchange visions for the future.  What do you think of all these?  Can Rand really kill the Dark One now?

These have been rather interesting in their variety and been genuinely intriguing and surprising. They have certainly made me think about the role of evil with regards to personal freedom and the implications of trying to remove it from the universe. It seems as if the Dark One has a very good understanding of Rand’s personality and weaknesses, some of which Demandred has commented on in his various ramblings. I was most interested to see that the Dark One offered Rand the chance at oblivion: I wondered if this was a genuine proposal or simply a trick. If it was genuine, it suggests that the Dark One is seriously worried about Rand’s ability to defeat him, although it appears to be highly unlikely at the moment.

From what we have seen I am not sure that killing the Dark One is either possible or desirable. Whilst I understand that what we are seeing is heavily biased by the Dark One’s attempts to defeat Rand, I do worry that a total lack of temptation removes the need for people to choose to do good rather than evil. We have seen so many examples of bravery and self-sacrifice in this chapter that I wonder if Mr Sanderson also sees the threat of Evil as something of a necessity. Having said that, I am sure that Rand will be victorious, but I have no concept of how he will do it.

5.  Some choose not to fight for various reasons.  What do you think of Ila's thoughts on violence, now, at the Last Battle?  Did you expect the gai'shain to fight?  Any difference between them and the reluctant mercenaries from the prologue?

I find the whole concept of the Way of the Leaf very interesting because it shows a strength of commitment that I find difficult to understand. In certain situations I can see how non-violence is actually effective, as we have seen in peaceful demonstrations throughout human history. However, it will only work if your opposition has a moral compass and will finally stop massacring you because they feel bad about it. The Dark One and his minions have no compassion and will not stop killing any humans that they encounter: they simply see pacifists as easy targets, just as they view the young, elderly and infirm. When the Way of the Leaf was at its most prevalent mankind was living in a time of enlightened peace: I do not think that it is particularly appropriate in the Last Battle.

However, I can respect the Tinkers’ dedication to their beliefs and commend them for offering aid to those who are willing to fight. I wonder if the Last Battle will cause more to question their willingness to allow others to die to protect them. It would certainly be expected that many would have their faith shaken by what they witness at Merrilor, and it could cause a dramatic change in their society.

The gai’shain may be a rather different case. Their refusal to fight is based upon ideas of honor rather than pacifism, but, again, they are applying a societal protocol that does not fit this situation. The Shadow has no honor and deserves to be shown no respect. Also, they will surely gain much dishonor if they stand aside and allow the world to end when they could have joined the defense, which might persuade them to postpone their term of servitude for a day or so. If they still refuse to see sense I would suggest that they have to endure a few seconds of Sorilea’s very worst evil stare . . . that should have them grabbing spear in no time at all!

Reluctant mercenaries are either cowards or very sensible, depending upon your point of view. I can see how many people would be unwilling to throw themselves into a hopeless fight, but I can also understand the irritation of the people who realize that every able body needs to be fighting on the battlefield.

6.  Faile and Co. make it to the battle, only to be betrayed by Aravine.  Do you think anyone other than Olver made it out (Faile, especially)?  What did you think of Bela's heroic death?  Where does the Horn go from here?

Whilst I have always found Faile to be a very irritating character, I do like Perrin, so I hope she survives for his sake. Also, I think she is now the Queen of Saldaea after Tenobia and her father’s deaths, so she does have a role to play in the reconstruction after the Light prevails.

I am certain that Vanin and Harnan will survive as they seem to be particularly indestructible. I could almost believe that some of Mat’s ‘luck’ has attached itself to them! I loved the way that they arrived through the Gateway so much earlier and were trying to create mayhem in the enemy camp: Mat would be so proud of them! Also, I knew that they were not Darkfriends, although Aravine was a total surprise.

Olver will obviously blow the Horn and become a great hero of legend surrounded by large-bosomed ladies for the rest of his life. Good luck to the little scamp! :D

Being the irrational animal lover that I am, I was overjoyed with Bela’s return and her miraculous conversion into a super-horse. Then Mr Sanderson killed her and I burst into tears . . . I could go off certain authors . . . :(

7.  Gawyn, Galad and Lan all decide to challenge Demandred.  Gawyn pays the ultimate price: foolish move, or a reasonable gamble to remove the most dangerous enemy on the field?  Galad tries to avenge him, and fails, only for Lan to do the deed and finally fulfil his series-long death wish.  What do you think of these events?

Well, we could all see that Gawyn was going to come to a bad end once we knew that he had triggered one of the rings. I had hoped that some of Egwene’s good sense might have rubbed off on him, but his fate was sealed from that moment on. Following his ‘thinking’ on this challenge does not make me any more inclined to think of his death as a ‘reasonable gamble’. He must have known that his death would incapacitate Egwene, and thus weaken the forces of Light dramatically. His action was mostly driven by a selfish need to be important and show off his prowess, with very little thought of the consequences of his failure or even his chances of accomplishing his goal. I suppose that the use of the rings might have affected his thinking, but his pervious idiocy makes me disinclined to be generous to him.

I thought that Galad had a seriously good chance of succeeding. We know that he was always supposed to be more skilled than Gawyn, and much more clear in his thinking. I also think that there are subtle hints that he might be able to Channel, or at least learn to. Both here and in his defeat of Eamon Valda, we see him attaining a form of the void that seems remarkably similar to that reached by Rand. Of course, we have now seen Tam and Lan doing something very similar, so I might be over-reaching here, but he is related to both Rand and Elayne . . .

Of course, if anyone was going to finally succeed it had to be Lan, Mat, Perrin or possibly even Loial, though I thought Androl might have had a go with a Gateway to something nasty. I loved the imagery of the Two Rivers archers lighting his way and clearing a path through the Trollocs: I was almost cheering by this point! I was pleased that Mandarb managed to get in some badass horse fighting without dying . . . unlike poor Bela . . . grumble, grumble, grumble . . . I am so dumb that I did not even predict the Sheathing the Sword move that Lan would employ, even though he taught Rand about it right at the beginning of the series. By the way, he will most certainly NOT die: can you imagine Nynaeve letting him get away from her that easily! :D

8.  Egwene, having lost her warder and husband, slays M'Hael (WITH a sa'angreal) and then lays waste to the Sharans, and kills herself, Lews Therin style.  Did you expect Egwene to be the first out of the original crew?  Was her fate sealed already when Gawyn died?  What will her legacy be, as Amyrlin?  And what of this new weave---the Flame of Tar Valon?

I did not see this coming, although her despair did seem to be pushing her beyond the bounds of common sense. Of course, her actions were probably necessary and the outcome was a massive blow to the Shadow. Would the forces of Light be in a stronger position if she were still alive? Possibly, but her death was a rather neat balance to that of Taim. I did enjoy his horror as she beat him into submission and then anti-balefired him out of existence. I suspect that she might possibly have recovered from her grief over Gawyn’s loss, what with her being as stubborn as a rock and all that, so I did not see her death as inevitable though her sacrifice was nowhere near as upsetting as Bela’s death . . . I am not going to forgive you for that one for a very long time, Mr Sanderson!

Whilst the Flame of Tar Valon was very impressive, it did leave me with a few questions. Why did Taim’s death not reverse the effects of the previous balefire strikes and revive many of the Forces of Light? Why did Demandred survive it, even though he probably counts as one who had ‘given himself over to the Shadow’? How was Leilwin supposed to find Logain and get the Seals from him in time to break them when Egwene released the Flame? I do not know if these questions will be answered in the remaining chapters, but I do hope so because they are annoying me.

9.  Elayne, having suffered huge losses for the whole battle, is taken by Mellar, threatening to cut her babies out.  What will come of this?  Is Birgitte now permanently dead, or is she just waiting on the other side for the Horn to blow?

It was too much to hope that Mellar had unfortunately died of an infected paper cut, but I had rather hoped that he would not reappear to cause more mayhem. I have no idea what the Dark One plans to do with the Randlings, but I doubt that it is anything good . . . perhaps he plans to file their teeth and give them nice red veils . . .

Obviously, Elayne will be saved by someone, although the list of potential candidates for savior is woefully short at the moment. Unless someone completely unexpected suddenly steps into the breach, such as Thom, who has been noticeably absent throughout this whole mess, my guess is that Birgitte’s death came at a very, very opportune moment. We now know that Olver is going to blow the Horn out of sheer desperation, and her death will allow her to answer its call to action. I suspect that she might feel a slight inclination to kill Mellar once she reappears . . . This will also allow her to rejoin Gaidal and regain her memories, which seems like an appropriate end for her story arc.

10. Anything else you feel I missed?  Ogier?  Dragons?  The beautiful Shendla?  Demandred's approach to the battle?  All the minor deaths: Hurin, Mr. and Mrs. Bashere, Bryne and, dare I say Siuan?  Min's spy-hunting?  Leilwin?

So much has happened this week that it is difficult to get a grasp of what else I want to comment about.

Loial going to help Lan, even though he now thinks that he will never get the chance to write his book: heartbreaking!

Talmanes and his merry band: will they be able to do anything useful with the hastily patched together Dragons?

Demandred’s complete fixation with the one person who is very obviously NOT taking part in the battle: a full day later and he is still trying to taunt Rand into facing him! What a lunatic! :D

I thought that Hurin and the Basheres deserved slightly more than a minor footnote, but the lack of detail added to the shock that their deaths dealt to both us and Rand.

I thought that Siuan’s death was somehow fitting. She made a conscious decision to abandon her own safety in order to do what needed to be done: something that proves that she was truly a Blue. Poor Gareth could never have lived an hour without her.

During the attack on the Seanchan command tent I was rather distracted by all the excessive clothing in evidence. Poor Min could hardly move for all the silk and Tuon had her quick release dress on. It does rather make me wonder why they do not have slightly more practical dress uniforms for times of war.

One thing that I did like to see was the unification of the Tower, or should I say TowerS. We know that it is common for people to be united against a common enemy, but so many prejudices were abandoned during this battle that I am hopeful that real change can occur in the aftermath. I am sure that Cadsuane will be cross that she missed all this excitement!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan: Week 6

It seems like the end of an era: this is the last time that I will set questions for this Read Along because we only have two more weeks of reading to complete. It seems only yesterday that we started this epic journey . . .

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 36.

1. Finally, Graendal’s Compulsion of the Great Captains has been uncovered. Do you think that Mat’s medallion will protect him from her ‘advances’? It seems as if Ituralde was the only Captain to resist the Compulsion: any ideas about why that might be?

I certainly hope that the medallion will provide some protection from her, although her ugliness will probably cause Mat to steer clear anyway! :D

Graendal’s plan almost succeeded, and it may still have been the greatest blow that the Shadow has managed to inflict upon the armies of Light. Not bad for an appearance obsessed shrink! If only the other Forsaken could have caused such devastation with so few resources then we might be facing a real possibility that all Rand’s efforts would be in vain. I know that we are now at the low point of the Last Battle, where everything looks desperately bad and the Dark One may soon be cackling wildly over the remains of Life As We Know It. Of course, I have unshakeable faith that we will have a (more or less) happy ending and that no matter how dark things look we will not all want to slit our wrists at the final outcome.

I was rather surprised that Ituralde seemed able to almost overcome the Compulsion. I am not sure if this is supposed to be because Graendal had just started trying to manipulate him or if he is supposed to have greater self control than the other Great Captains. Perhaps it was simply because we saw this section through his eyes, whereas we saw the others confronted by other POV characters. Perhaps they had all been having a similar response, but we just did not witness it. I like to think that all three of the other Captains are equally tough . . . although his nickname of The Little Wolf suggests that he might end up with golden eyes at some point . . .

2. Mat rides into battle and is suitably awesome. Do you think that Tuon is reassessing her ability to control her Prince? Could this be the end of formal Seanchan society as it has existed for thousands of years?

Mat is always entertaining, and his actions here were pretty much what I have come to expect from him. I can only imagine the amazingly effortless way in which he mows down ranks of the enemy with his ashandarei. I have a mental image of all the Seanchan soldiers standing around with their mouths hanging open as he goes all ‘bullet time’ on the Sharans.

I hope that Tuon is wise enough to give Mat enough independence to allow him to be effective as the overall General of the combined forces. I suspect that she continues to struggle with his inability to simply do as he is told, but she has already had quite some time to see how he operates so perhaps she is becoming resigned to it by now. At the moment it seems that her subjects are much more scandalized by his behavior than she is, which I find rather encouraging.

I would rather hope that Mat manages to make the Seanchan a little more flexible in their adherence to etiquette, but that will only happen if Tuon allows it. There have been times recently when her inability to move away from established procedures and protocol has seemed to slow her actions and possibly even damaged the Light’s chances of success. Her use of a giant throne in the command tent seems like at least one tradition that could be forgotten. Perhaps she will see that Mat can inspire devotion and loyalty without having to sit on a ten foot tall chair all the time.

3. Perrin and Slayer clash again. It seems like Perrin is still outmatched, although he is continuing to improve, but will he ever be able to dispatch his enemy? Were you surprised that Lanfear proved to be as fickle as we had suspected? Will Perrin take any further part in the Last Battle now that he has returned to the waking world?

It seems like every time Perrin improves he is still not good enough to best Slayer. This is becoming rather frustrating and I am not overly convinced that Perrin is being very useful running around on this personal vendetta. I know that Slayer has been sent to attack Rand, and that Perrin uncovered Graendal’s actions against Ituralde, but I hope that his efforts will have a more concrete outcome. I wonder if his prolonged stay in the Dream has weakened him, which might be why Slayer still has the upper hand: he certainly seemed to be struggling towards the end even before Slayer’s arrow found its target.

The only aspect of Lanfear’s betrayal that surprised me was that she gave up on Perrin so easily. It seems like forever since she first attached herself to Rand and he has spent almost the entire series trying to get rid of her, but she has hung around like a particularly bad skunk smell. Perhaps the poor girl is finally beginning to learn from her mistakes and will now take “Argh! No!” as an answer! :D

If this is the end of Perrin’s role in the Last Battle then I will be very disappointed, as he does not seem to have really accomplished a great deal. However, he seems to have been overcome with both mental and physical exhaustion, never mind having an arrow stuck in his chest. I suppose that a bit of Healing and a square meal will have him fighting fit in no time, but I still worry that he has over-reached himself. Of course, he will need to return to the Dream, if only to collect Rhuarc and help out the wolves.

4. The battle outside Cairhien is almost lost and even the mighty Ogier are starting to fall when Androl produces a miracle. What did you think of Logain’s comment about the notes in Taim’s rooms: does he have a list of all the Shadow’s battle plans? Please comment on the epicness of Androl’s miracle! :D

I seriously hope that none of the Ogier died in this battle, otherwise I would have some very serious words to say to Mr Sanderson! :(

It would be nice to think that Taim had left behind some vitally important information that will help the forces of Light to be victorious, but I doubt that he would be that stupid. Also, we all know that wars are very fluid, and so plans are constantly updated, which means that these are probably out of date. I presume that it gave an overview of the three intended attacks, although I have no idea why Logain decided to help Elayne’s army. Perhaps he had scouts have a look at all three battlefields and decided that hers was most in need of assistance.

I am beginning to wish that we had met Androl much earlier in this series. His solution to the Trolloc horde was wonderfully elegant but so delightfully effective. I wonder if we will see any more innovation in how Gateways can be turned into weapons. It would be interesting to experiment . . .

5. Tuon is taking the End Of The World in her stride, with her giant travelling throne and making full use of Min’s Talent. Are you a little disturbed by her serenity at this time? Do you think that Min’s demands will be met, or will she eventually refuse to reveal her viewings?

I almost get the impression that Tuon has not quite understood the severity of this situation. As we saw last week, when she thought about going home and sorting out Seanchan before returning to fight the Dark One, she seems to be failing to grasp the consequences of failure at this time. I hope that this is simply because she is just so good at hiding her indecision and fear of what might happen and not that she is oblivious to the danger.

I was a little confused by her insistence about the viewings until she began to interpret them herself. She certainly seems completely ruthless in how she applies what she learns from them, although that was not really much of a surprise at this stage. I thought it was remarkably stupid to discuss the viewings in public because it places Min in an incredibly dangerous position: anyone wanting to ferment rebellion would need to remove Min before attempting to move against Tuon. Perhaps Tuon sees that as a reasonable risk, but I suspect that Rand would not feel that way.

6. Just for a change, things go horribly wrong. Do you think that the black spikes were a deliberate attack against Faile’s group? Can you believe that Vanin and Harnan are actually Darkfriends, or were they just after the tobacco? Is there any chance that the Horn will make it back to Mat’s hands?

It is difficult to say, but it seems very unlikely that they could have altered the destination of that Gateway, which suggests that somebody wanted to send Faile out into the Blight. Knowing that Lanfear has been trying to get inside Perrin’s pants makes me suspect that she might be behind the attack, but the evidence is certainly limited. I cannot believe that somebody has uncovered Faile’s quest to deliver the Horn, which is why I think that this might be a personal attack upon Faile herself.

I find it very hard to believe that Vanin and Harnan are Darkfriends. They have had so many opportunities to do evil deeds, especially Vanin, that this does not ring true to me. It makes very little sense that someone knows about the Horn and has chosen these two to attempt to steal it, even if they are being Compelled like the Great Captains. If Graendal were behind this attack it would make much more sense for her to simply Compel Faile. I genuinely think that they were after the tobacco and had just discovered the Horn when that giant bear thingy attacked them. However, I suspect that Faile will accuse them of being Darkfriends unjustly.

Whilst I would like to see the Horn brought into play, I think that everyone is rather forgetting about Mat’s death in Rhuidean. I suspect that the Horn is no longer bound to him, because that death has broken the link and that somebody else will be able to blow the Horn at the appropriate time. I just hope that it is not Faile, because that would be far too ironic.

7. Red veiled Aiel infiltrate the camp in Thakan’dar and cause mayhem. Do you think that even Cadsuane and Sorilea are powerful enough to defeat Graendal? Will the Aiel ever recover from the shame of learning about the fate of their male channelers?

Whilst I am pretty certain that they could join forces to fix her with hard stares, I am not sure that even Cadsuane could best one of the Forsaken, and we know that Sorilea can barley light a candle with the One Power. However, they are more than capable of mounting a formidable defense and the use of circles could give them the power that they need to defeat her. Even so, I suspect that Aviendha will be the main actor in the confrontation with Graendal: I just have a feeling that she will do something epic before she weeps over Rand’s pyre.

This did make me wonder what they imagined had happened to all those men over the years. Did they honestly think that they had all simply dies in the Blight? Shame on them for underestimating not only the survival skills of their menfolk, but also the cunning of the Dark One in exploiting a source of useful minions!

8. Rand is frozen in place as he battles the Dark One. Why is Moridin frozen as well? Do you think Nynaeve will be able to do anything to help Alanna before she can release Rand from his Bond? Is there any chance that Nynaeve can save the world by simply bopping Moridin on the head with a big rock?

I am not sure if this is an indication that Moridin is an embodiment of the Dark One somehow. Alternatively, I thought it might be a product of their strange connection, although we have seen much less evidence of that since Rand had his epiphany. Of course, it would be rather unfair if Rand froze and then Moridin got to chop him into tiny pieces unimpeded! :D

I was very surprised to find Alanna chained to the wall. I think we last heard of her disappearing and leaving behind one of Verin’s letters. At the time it seemed as if she had dashed off in response to the letter, but I suppose that she might have been kidnapped and that the letter was simply a red herring. It would have been nice if Rand had noticed her being mistreated or terrified, but I suppose that he has been rather busy and has kept her boxed up in his head for most of the time since she Bonded him.

It seems like a bit of improvised field dressing is all that Nynaeve could offer Alanna at this point as I rather doubt that she brought her full first aid kit with her when she packed for this very brief journey. You would rather hope that Alanna would have the good sense to release Rand from her Bond now that it looks like she is going to die, but she has never struck me as overly gifted with common sense. Hopefully Nynaeve will knock some sense into her and get her to release him before it is too late.

Bopping Moridin on the head with a boulder may do no good at all, but I am quite sure that it would make me, and Nynaeve, feel a whole lot better about the situation if she tried it! :D


Not trying to be a nitpicker or anything, but why is the Shadow taking so long to arrive at Merrilor? Surely they can just open a few Gateways and zap over there to finish the bloodshed and mayhem: are they taking the scenic route? :D

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