So yeah, as I’m sure many of you have noticed, this reread has taken a back seat lately. I can basically taste the ending of All Flames Cast, and the result is that I’m spending all of my free time writing instead of reading any of the four different books I’ve had going. This morning, I decided to change that a bit, so I sat down and did some plugging away at TSR.
I promise I’m not letting this reread go by the wayside. Once I finish All Flames Cast (probably in the next few days!), these posts will start happening with more regularity, once again.
So, today we’re going to talk about two of my favorite scenes in the series, and one of my least favorite. It probably won’t surprise anyone that the one I don’t like has to do with a certain young innkeeper’s daughter.
- I don’t want to start off with a negative comment, so I’m going to mention some of the short-term foreshadowing at work in chapter 5, “Questioners”, mostly dealing with Aviendha. We of course get the natural affinity that develops between women who can channel. At this point, we don’t know that Aviendha was born with the spark, but there are the little hints there. Plus, Egwene thinks about how she could be friends with Aviendha, but Aviendha is too much in awe over her being (not) Aes Sedai. Give it a couple hundred pages there, Eggy. In no time you’ll be running errands alongside Aviendha.
- Of course, we also have a hefty serving of Egwene’s arrogance and willful disregard for her own mistakes, as she mentally complains about Moiraine assigning Aviendha to guard them, “as if they had not learned to protect themselves.” Oh yeah, Egwene? How did that go a few days ago, when the Aiel let you wander off by yourselves and you were promptly captured by bandits? Or even more recently, when you were captured by the Black Ajah?
- So the two stories, from Amico and from Joiya. Amico, of course, has the vague whispers and overheard sentences of Liandrin wanting to go to Tanchico and get the (as yet unknown) Domination Band. Joiya has the whole plan about breaking Taim free and setting him up as Rand, to discredit Rand and turn the nations against him. The girls will end up going to Tanchico and finding out that Amico’s story was true, but I’m not convinced Joiya’s wasn’t either. After all, Taim was broken free by the Black Ajah, and disappeared for a time before showing up in Caemlyn in LoC under Rand’s amnesty. I think it’s quite likely that they were getting ready to set him up under this doppelganger plan when Rand’s amnesty came out, when he saw the advantage in becoming a mole, recruiting other men who could channel.
- It always fascinates me—and I think RJ handled it really well—how Moiraine is so fixated on the prophecy that she thinks means Rand should go fight Sammael and conquer Illian. Some parts of her explanation don’t make any sense, but they’re close enough that on a first read, you’ll likely just pass them by and take them at her word. In general, RJ used the expectations of prophecies to play his readers, from this instance all the way up to Rand actually kneeling to Tuon in AMoL.
- Aaaand hello, Aelfinn! The first mention of the redstone doorways is here, and it’s funny that Moiraine goes through the rules for it—but doesn’t mention fire, music, or iron. In fact, her rules are clearly flawed. We don’t know whether the rules being bent by Rand are just because of his special status as Dragon Reborn/uber-ta’veren, but he definitely asked questions about the Shadow and the Last Battle and he didn’t suffer any of the “dire consequences” Moiraine mentions.
- For the first time, Egwene tells Elayne that Rand is fair game. This is a setup for one of the scenes that I enjoy a lot, but it’s also a reminder that they really know nothing, Jon Snow. Their back and forth about how he still loves Egwene, and how he’ll have to be put in his place, and all that…well, it really annoys me. For one, you don’t know who he loves. Elayne barely knows the guy, and Egwene hasn’t had any real contact with him in a year or more. People change quickly, especially at that age. Secondly, “He will just have to be put straight.” Really, Egwene? You’re going to force him to love your friend? It turns out nicely for you that he was smart enough to realize that you were never going to be his wife, and was in fact attracted to Elayne, but I take umbrage at the idea of anybody being “put straight” by a couple of meddlesome teenagers.
- Ugh. I need to get on to the chapters where Egwene isn’t there. Those are much better.
- And we finally get to the chapter so wonderfully named “Hard Heads”. I loved this chapter the first time I read it, and I love it still, even though I recognize more of the problematic issues in it now than I did at age 11. For one, Elayne’s wishes for marriage and thoughts of loving Rand despite only being around him for, max, a week.
- I don’t think this chapter would have been as great, or worked as well, if it hadn’t been from Egwene’s POV at the start. For one, we get some very enlightening hints at the way she views Rand, and men in general. We also get to see her pompous arrogance shattered again and again as she assumes she’s right about everything…right before Rand proves her wrong. I am particularly fond of her presumption that she was as strong as Rand in the Power. Because, HAHAHAHAHAHA no. You’re not as powerful as the prophesied savior of the the world, Egwene, no matter how much you think you’re more important than he is.
- It still infuriates me, every time I read this scene and Egwene assumes that Rand is heartbroken and destroyed over her professing that she only loves him like a brother (which, if true, makes me glad she never had any brothers; their lives would have been hell). He wasn’t, Egwene. He’s a big boy, and realized long before you did that you two weren’t going to be a thing. You’re not the center of his universe.
- The general awkwardness between Rand and Elayne, after Egwene leaves, is one of the scenes that connected with me the first time I read this series. Let’s be honest, here. I was an 11-year-old kid, who had no idea how to deal with girls or how to manage the fact that I liked them. Seeing Rand and Elayne be so awkward was a sort of touchstone, the kind of realistic characterization that RJ was so good at. All too often, in fantasy, relationships just pop up out of nowhere and are perfectly okay, with no miscommunication, and only (perhaps) the occasional life-threatening situation separating the two would-be lovers. Rand and Elayne are definitely not like that.
- And a sort of Chekhov’s Gun: Rand trying to make Elayne a flower from the feathers, and she gathers some up because of what they meant, not what they were. It’ll be five more books, but the payoff of this is really quite touching.
- An aside: Elayne, despite her indignation and lack of skill, Healing Rand is something that Egwene never would have done.
- Gaul cracks me up. And Elayne’s embarrassment over his thought that she and Rand might have been having sex is even better. It’s little things like this that drive the bulk of RJ’s humor—incidentally, something that Sanderson missed in his books, especially with Mat. But I’ll get to that in due time.
- There’s a lot of the Wonder Girls in the first half of this book, and sadly, most of it annoys me. Again, we find out that they have resorted to their old habit of literally tying up Mat with the One Power in order to violate his agency and, in this case, his privacy. No bueno, girls. It’s no wonder he wanted a way to be free of Aes Sedai when he visited the Eelfinn.
- Oh, and Egwene shows once again what a delightful person she is, when she actually considers pushing Mat over a thirty foot drop because he’s inconvenient to her. We’ll see this mindset revisited in later books, when Nicola is inconvenient.
- One of the rare POV inconsistencies in RJ’s writing comes at the beginning of the chapter titled “Decisions”. In the space of about four pages, we get omniscient third, hopping from character to character, before settling back into close third. I’ll need to keep an eye out for this in later books, but right now I really can’t think of any other time RJ does something like this.
- More tenderness: Nynaeve, despite her talents going in other directions, cooks for Lan. These little tidbits of them slip through the cracks easily, but also show the way they truly cherish the small amount of time they have together in these earlier books.
- Thom remains awesome, spying on the High Lords and helping Rand. You go, Thom. You go.
- Although we were positively clobbered over the head with hints in TGH, the actual reveal of Selene as Lanfear is here. I still chuckle over Rand’s reaction to seeing her, before she reveals herself as Lanfear.
- Another Chekhov’s Gun! Sakarnen is mentioned for the first time, and this one won’t show up again until AMoL.
- Okay, so maybe we’re not going to get to my favorite scene in this book. I’m waaaay over length for this post already, and I have a lot to say about the next little stretch of this book. I’ll be back with another post in a couple of days!