Now that the prologue is out of the way, things should settle down here for me. The first few chapters of the book seem kind of Rand-heavy, not cutting to anyone else for a bit.
Chapter 1 (Lion on the Hill): The weather hasn't been that good to Randland during the series. It started off in Book One with winter lasting way later than normal. Now things have come full circle. There's a major drought going on, and the prologue and first few chapters give the impression this is the case all over the continent. It's still blisteringly hot even though the calendar says snow should be starting. Rand is still in Caemlyn, having killed Rahvin at the end of the last book a few weeks ago. When we first see him, he is skirmishing against five warriors with practice swords. It sems kind of odd for a strong channeler to need to hone his swordfighting skills, but it helps Rand to keep the irritating voice of Lews Therin in his head quiet by encouraging a state of pure instinct and no thought. And I suppose it's better to be safe than sorry, you never know when he will need to fight physically. The fight itself isn't as well-written as it could be. Through the books in the series that I've read so far, RJ's writing of Rand's sword battles hasn't impressed me much. This is because the constant name-dropping of all the assorted sword forms gets annoying after a while. Sometimes, but not always, and I might even say not often, there is a physical description of what Rand is doing to go with the form named. Sometimes we get a description without a named form. But much of the time we get a sentence like this:
The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain crashed through Parting the Silk, broke Lightning of Three Prongs, and the bundled lathes slashed hard against the side of the man's neck.
I'm sorry, what? I don't know if metaphorically named sword forms are something taken from real life, either in sword-fighting as it exists today, or in history when it was used in battles and other life-or-death situations. But if so, it doesn't translate well to a fictional narrative. Now I know some of the forms have been mentioned previously, and some even described a bit. Not all of them, though. Fans of the books are left to infer and speculate on what the moves consist of half the time. And it's impossible to imagine what's happening in your head as you read when a sequence is written like this. Compare this with R. A. Salvatore's fantasy writings, for example. Salvatore's action scenes are generally awesome, and he takes the time to actually show what moves are being taken rather than relying on a stream of metaphorical names for those moves. Even when RAS does use a named form, the name isn't a metaphor; but an actual description of the move. RJ could write a much better fight if he just dumped the named forms altogether.
In the end, Rand eliminates all the opponents but one, and that last one smacks him on the head. Rand stops the fight, and orders the five men be paid. Turns out he has promised them extra for managing to hit him, and even more to defeat him, so they aren't letting him win cause he's the Dragon Reborn. Assorted Andoran nobles congratulate Rand on his fighting, even though he lost. These are a bunch of suckups and toadies left from when Rahvin was taking control. Most of Morgase's supporters are either exiled, dead, or had turned against her while she was under Rahvin's Compulsion spell. Rand can't stand these people, but he doesn't feel he can afford to get rid of them. A good many of the women are hoping that Rand will name them the new Queen of Andor. Davram Bashere (Faile's daddy, I wonder if Rand is aware of this?) is also there, he talks with Rand about not getting himself stupidly killed during these little practice sessions. He also points out how badly they need an Aes Sedai in Caemlyn, there don't seem to be any that they can find. Not just for little things like healing the whack to Rand's noggin, but because Rand needs the backing of the Aes Sedai to get people to accept him more. Rand indicates that the Salidar Aes Sedai will support him, and Bashere thinks that will help, but the White Tower's support will do more. And then one of Bashere's soldiers comes up and says a visitor has presented himself at the gates claiming to be Mazrim Taim. Another male channeler, things are about to get interesting.
Chapter 2 (A New Arrival): Most of the Andoran nobles are scared of this. Some panic, some faint. Bashere and his Saldaeans aren't too pleased either. Taim ravaged a good bit of Saldaea when he was claiming to be the Dragon Reborn, before the Aes Sedai captured him. Rand had declared a general amnesty throughout his territory for men who can channel, and about twenty have come to Caemlyn to join his cause, but Bashere points out the many Saldaeans would like to see Taim dead, and the amnesty will only hold so long as Taim stays out of Saldaea. Rand is ready to fight Taim with the Power if need be, but Taim submits to him and accepts that Rand is the Dragon. He seems to submit suspiciously fast. Allegedly it's because he has no choice, and he lays out his reasoning logically. It still doesn't ring true for me. Taim just comes across here as not entirely trustworthy. He tells Rand, when asked, that he can both detect men who can channel and teach them to use their power. And he gives Rand a present: one of the seals on the Dark One's prison. It's fragile like all the others, and Lews Therin almost badgers Rand into smashing it. Rand says he won't avoid the inspection of Bashere's men if he can help it, but for now he is taking Taim to... the farm. (Insert dramatic music here.)
Chapter 3 (A Woman's Eyes): Okay, so it wasn't too hard to figure out what The Farm is. I keep thinking of it with capital letters, even though they aren't used in the text. Since no one seems to have come up with a formal name for the place, The Farm is as good as any. Rand made it known in the last chapter he wants Taim to test men to see if they can channel, and then to teach them how to channel. We also learned that he has about twenty male channelers already. Actually, it turns out to be twenty-seven. And then he says he is taking Taim to The Farm. The obvious, logical conjecture is that The Farm is where the male channelers are, duh. Taim seems surprised that Rand doesn't know how to administer the test himself, since Rand knows how to Travel (which is how they get there.) How does Taim know it's called Traveling? Rand says he doesn't have time to teach the men himself, and that's what he needs Taim for. Sooner or later, he expects more to start coming in, possibly as many as a thousand. Well, he better find them a bigger spot than just the one farm! Rand suspects that a Forsaken may try to sneak in among the pupils, and warns Taim to look for anyone who seems to be learning too fast. Fine, but what if Taim himself isn't to be trusted? Something about Taim just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it was all his blather about glory in the last chapter; it reminded me uncomfortably of Lanfear. Maybe it was the fact that he knew what Traveling is called without any sort of training, or time talking to other channelers. Glad we don't have to worry about Lanfear anymore.We have more yammering inside Rand's head from Lews Therin, until Rand yells at Lews to shut up, and the voice falls silent, to Rand's great surprise and relief. Even as an inner voice in Rand's head, Lews Therin seems to be still quite insane. A couple of things that I took note of: Rand tells Taim that he means to cleanse Saidin and remove the taint. I'd love to know how he plans to accomplish this. It was the Dark One himself that put the taint on in the first place. Now Rand is a really strong channeler, but even with a sa'angreal, can he possibly hope to put out enough of the Power to undo a spell the Dark One made? Second, Rand thinks about Asmodean, thinking that he will deal with Asmodean himself if he ever sees him again. Rand doesn't even know Asmodean is dead! He thinks Asmodean ran away or something. For that matter, there hasn't been a single mention of anyone finding Asmodean murdered in this book yet. So what happened to the corpse? It isn't said in the text how the man died, so it may have been balefire. Or the killer may have just removed it from the palace in Caemlyn and hidden it somewhere (buried?) And how does one get out of a royal palace lugging a dead body without anyone noticing? Unless they Traveled or Skimmed or something. Either way, it means that Rand isn't the killer. Since he needed Asmodean as a teacher, there isn't any motive for Rand anyhow. My guess as to who killed Asmodean: Maggie Simpson, because he was trying to take her candy.
Oh, wait, that's who shot Mr. Burns.