Today, I officially start Winter's Heart with an absolutely colossal prologue, in which there's plenty of intricate plotting and not much else.
Seaine Herimon and the other Black Ajah-hunters congregate in the basement of the White Tower, questioning Talene in the agonizing Chair of Remorse. Saerin has assumed control over the group. Talene finally admits to being a Black sister, and then proclaims that Elaida is Black as well. Talene believes this is because the Black Ajah are familiar with her orders before any else, but the others are skeptical. They decide nonetheless to keep their activites secret until the Black Ajah itself is crippled. Pevara and Seaine explain about the spies from Salidar in the Tower, and decide to make them all swear obedience.
Elayne speaks with Dyelin and Birgitte in the Royal Palace, the latter the new Captain General. Elayne waits impatiently for Nynaeve and Vandene, who are planning with Reanne to rescue Kin trapped by the Seanchan. Vandene has been occupied hunting for Adeleas’ murderer. Birgitte has been recruiting mercenaries because Elayne’s hired armsmen have yet to arrive. Dyelin and Birgitte constantly conflict.
Dyelin believes out of the Andoran nobles, Luan, Ellorien and Abelle will support her, but Elayne believes some still hold allegiances to Dyelin herself. Elayne has sent couriers to Tar Valon for Gawyn. Renaile and Zaida enter with Merilille, irritated with the lack of Aes Sedai provided in the bargain. Elayne suggests they rejoin the Sea Folk in Tear, but Zaida intends to wait for Rand.
Reene Harfor enters with Mazrim Taim, who is followed by two Asha’man. Out of distrust, Elayne links with Merilille and Renaile. Taim informs Elayne that Rand is sending a gift from the south. Elayne demands that Taim allow Andoran guards in the Black Tower. Taim consents, but requires escorts for the guards. Nadere, a Wise One, enters, summoning Elayne to become fire-sisters with Aviendha. Elayne is forced to strip immediately, and travels through the palace donning a cloak.
She arrives at a room crowded with Wise Ones, as well as Aviendha. Melaine is not present because the channeling would risk her babies. The bizarre ceremony ensues, which involves naming the other’s weaknesses and strengths, as well as slapping and embracing each other. The Wise Ones channel a Warder-like bond between Elayne and Aviendha, as they officially become first-sisters.
Toveine dreams of throttling Elaida. The other captive Aes Sedai blame her for the predicament, and only Logain prevented their ‘revenge’. The Asha’man are constructing a tremendous wall around the perimeter. Toveine encounters the Asha’man escort of Elayne and Birgitte. Toveine proceeds to Logain’s house. Gabrelle slept with him, which perturbs Elayne. The Asha’man Vinchova reports a problem with the Two Rivers’ men. Logain is informed of Taim’s list of new deserters, which strangely includes Flinn, Hopwil, and Narishma. Gabrelle later explains to Toveine she slept with Logain for information. Toveine agrees to submit to the other Aes Sedai so they make an alliance.
Rand has returned in secret to Cairhien, observing the progress on the palace from the academy. Min is retrieving Herid Fel’s books from the library. Some believe Rand is dead or kidnapped, perpetuated by the Forsaken or the Aes Sedai. Ailil Riatin and Shalon have disappeared, but Rand suspects Cadsuane discovered them tied up and brought them to wherever she’s keeping Caraline and Darlin.
In the courtyard, members of the academy have created a steamwagon. Lews Therin mentions ‘another one’ in Rand’s head. Rand gives Dobraine two packages, one containing instructions concerning Cairhien. Dobraine is to cede regency of Cairhien to Elayne when the time is right. Rand intends to similarly make Gregorin steward of Illian. Rand opens a gateway closer to Tar Valon. He is laying false trails for pursuers. He tells Min he intends to cleanse saidin, but first must kill Dashiva.
God, this was a tremendous Prologue. I’ve been hearing complaints about WoT prologues for ages, and while agreeing they were ridiculously lengthy, I always found them interesting. Hell, LoC’s Prologue is one of the highlights of the novel, there’s so much intrigue packed in there. But this is probably the first WoT Prologue that was challenging to get through. There were some important bits here, but it just felt like four chapters needlessly stuffed into one. I mean, Jordan usually uses Prologues to check up on characters and plotlines he hasn’t visited in a while, and doesn’t plan to address in detail in the book itself. But the majority of this chapter was from Elayne and Rand’s perspectives…
Seaine’s portion of the prologue was somewhat interesting, although it didn’t reveal anything major. Talene, as expected, really is a Black sister. Obviously, her accusations concerning Elaida are unfounded, but I’m curious how the group’s decision to keep their purge in secret will end up a good choice or not. I mean, if they informed Elaida about their little hunt, and the progress they’ve made, that information would presumably pass down to Alviarin, which would not be good, so it’s probably for the best they’re keeping on the down-low. Although I don’t want to necessarily see rebel Aes Sedai outed, serving Seaine in exposing Black sisters is probably a better fate than what Elaida would exact upon them.
Elayne’s portion was tremendous, and I don’t see why it couldn’t have been postponed to her actual chapters in the novel. And it was relatively uneventful, mainly consisting of Elayne making preparations for claiming the throne. As glad as I am that this plotline has finally started, I hope it’s not too tedious, as it all seems rather complicated and laborious right now.
The whole Elayne and Aviendha scene was…interesting. It was definitely important for both their characters and had some touching moments, but I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice how many rituals in WoT involve nudity, at least where women are concerned.
Toveine’s portion was great, I always enjoy looking into the Asha’man, especially after TPoD. Really, why are Flinn, Hopwil, and Narishma on the list? What the hell is Taim playing at? Hopefully that confusion gets cleared up before an innocent Asha’man gets killed. I like this story arc with Toveine because it makes me conflicted. On one hand, I sort of want to root for Toveine, considering her position (her distaste of Elaida helps her standing with me considerably) and the nature of her imprisonment, but on the other hand, I also really like Logain and I can’t forget Toveine was leading Aes Sedai to destroy the Black Tower. I’m curious to see where this storyline goes.
Rand’s part of the prologue was also rather interesting. It’s amusing to see all the advanced innovations getting produced at that school. Is Randland on the way to making a car? On Rand’s big plan, I’m curious to see exactly how he executes it. I’m definitely excited for some Dashiva confrontation, but how does he intend to cleanse saidin? I know it happens in this book, and I know it’s awesome, and involves that thing from Rhuidean (I almost totally forgot about the Choedan Kal, it’s been ages since TSR), but I know it’s gonna be more complicated than that. I hope Rand gets his shit together, because his increasing instability (what with the third man now hanging out inside of his head) will not make cleansing saidin any easier.