In this entry, Mat relives his tumultuous escape from Ebou Dar and prepares to resume the journey, unaware of Seanchan in pursuit.
Chapter 1: Time to Be Gone
Mat reflects on his tumultuous escape from Ebou Dar, observing the battle-stricken harbor from the nearby woodland. Upon leaving the Palace, he and the rest of the party approached the city gate, Tuon concealed in a bundle. Before disaster could strike, alarm bells distracted the guards when the Windfinders attempted to escape earlier, bringing battle to the city. Mat’s party escaped while fierce battle resulted in the death or capture of countless Sea Folk.
Six days later, Mat has been accompanying Valan Luca and his caravan. He and Noal fish at the River Eldar, Mat attempting to determine the number of Seanchan ships remaining in the harbor. Egeanin is irritated that the two left camp. She reassures Mat captured damane won’t be tortured. Egeanin has been posing as Mat’s wife. The three return to the camp, Mat certain arrest warrants have been issued for his tying of Tylin and Egeanin’s theft of the damane, yet is perplexed by the lack of reaction to Tuon’s kidnapping. They return to camp.
Thus we start off with Mat’s storyline, and unsurprisingly little of note occurs in this lengthy chapter. It mainly serves to reacquaint us with Mat and his arc, as well as clarify what’s occurred since WH. I suppose this is understandable. These kinds of reintroduction chapters have been present for books, but this was a rather egregious one. I love Mat’s character, and his story has been pretty interesting, but I was somewhat disappointed with his chapters in WH, and I’m certainly frightened of the prospect of him doing nothing in Valan Luca’s circus for the next book. Even his wit can’t redeem that kind of plot lethargy.
But I’ll admit, the escape from Ebou Dar was well-written, and the flashback method functioned. It’s a kind of plot device Jordan loves to use, although I would’ve liked to see more of the actual escape, it was glossed over rather quickly. Nonetheless, there was a certain tense atmosphere to his escape, as, evidenced in WH, so many things could’ve gone wrong (so many things already had gone wrong at that point!). I didn’t expect the escape to be accompanied with such a devastating battle, although we saw little of it. I’m certainly not as concerned with the Windfinders as Mat is, but I definitely wouldn’t want those damane mutilated because of all this. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have much of a problem with Egeanin in WH, but this one chapter certainly lessened her regard in my eyes. Sure, this damane business is ingrained in Seanchan culture, but her nonchalance to the mutilation and torture and all that is still pretty abhorrent.
Flashback aside, there was little of note in this chapter. The final few pages were especially tedious and difficult to get through. Seriously, they were just returning to the circus, no need for such elaborate description.
Chapter 2: Two Captains
Mat, Egeanin, and Noal return to the circus, where the strongman Petra reveals some Seanchan soldiers have been questioning Luca. Mat is still perplexed by Aludra’s riddle. He is repeatedly coming into conflict with Egeanin over authority over the group. The Seanchan soldiers leave, apparently seeking (and failing to obtain) Luca’s horses. Mat promises Luca they can depart as soon as Thom returns from Ebou Dar. He relays this to Juilin, Thera, and Olver. Noal appears from nowhere, departing quickly to notify Vanin and the Redarms. The dice rattle in Mat’s head.
This was a thankfully shorter chapter, but not much occurred in it. The description of the circus is going to get quite redundant and pointless, I fear, as the circus was irritating enough in TFoH. However, I still quite enjoy Mat’s character, and many of the other characters in his storyline. The dynamic is certainly interesting. This chapter didn’t make me like Egeanin anymore, but I like this power struggle between her and Mat, even though I wish she’d give Mat his due, as he’s obviously a very competent leader and commander. I suppose I can understand why she treats Mat as she does, as she (and many other characters) has yet to experience Mat’s military brilliance. All they know of him is the bumbling toy of Tylin’s. All the same…
What else is there to say for this chapter? I’m curious to meet Tuon again. I presume we’ll check in on her in the next chapter. It’s good to see the circus is ready to move again. Why was Thom back in Ebou Dar again? And what the hell was Noal doing? And what does the dice rattling signify? Anything significant? I suppose we’ll find out.
Chapter 3: A Fan of Colors
Mat decides to meet Tuon before the party departs, despite his avoidance of her since the escape. Tuon and Selucia have been guarded by Setalle and the Redarms, and Tuon is unhappy with being portrayed as an unruly servant. She continuously calls Mat ‘Toy’ and explains she is almost twenty. She is still curious about his ring, asks him if he remembers Hawkwing’s face, and quotes the phrase on his ashandarei when she promises not to attempt escape. The dice stop. Thom appears with news from Ebou Dar, revealing Tuon is still largely believed to be at the Palace, and that Tylin’s head was ripped off, Beslan to be crowned shortly. The Seanchan blame Tylin’s murder on Aes Sedai, yet a distraught Mat is certain it was the gholam. Blaeric arrives with summons from Joline. Mat visits the wagon where the Aes Sedai and sul’dam have been confined. Joline wishes to go to Illian instead of Lugard upon sensing tremendous channeling to the north. Mat is certain this is Rand’s doing, not the Shadow.
This was a huge chapter, but there were some pretty good sections. Mat and Tuon’s interactions are pretty entertaining, as I expected them to be, and I can’t wait to see where their storyline goes in the future. There will certainly be plenty of conflict, but the fact Tuon never seemed perturbed with being kidnapped and promises not to attempt escape evokes suspicion. We obviously know why Mat’s interested in Tuon, but why vice versa? I assume it’s connected to that foretelling Tuon received in her introductory chapter. Hopefully we learn more about that later.
In other news, Tylin’s dead. That was certainly abrupt. I had a feeling there’d be relative chaos in Ebou Dar following the escape, but I didn’t expect Tylin to die so quickly, and gruesomely. She’s not a beloved character by any means, but them gholams are nasty, and I wouldn’t really wish them upon anyone. Speaking of which, just what is that gholam’s agenda? Is it going to kill Mat, or not? Is it just preying for now? Who is it working for? I’m sure we’ll meet the gholam again, it’s just a matter of when and how. I can assume not in this book, considering the glacial pace. This is the last Mat chapter we’ll be having for some time (I think there’s two towards the very end), and I did like ending with the cleansing of saidin. At least that’s one storyline caught up to the current timescale. Oh, and I suppose Beslan is gonna be King now. That’s not gonna end well. I almost like Beslan, in a sense, so I hope his foolish head doesn’t end up on a spike inciting rebellion.
Chapter 4: The Tale of a Doll
Furyk Karede speaks with his servant Ajimbura in The Wandering Woman, the latter a rather savage tribesman. Karede has been promoted and is still concerned with the Aes Sedai’s supposed weapon. The Seeker, Almurat Mor, enters and Karede conceals maps detailing Lord Yulan’s plans. Mor reveals that someone has started a rumor of a girl resembling Tuon extorting merchants. Anath has been in seclusion, and Suroth distraught. The Seeker knows much about Karede’s history. He notes the same night of Tuon’s disappearance, two damane vanished alongside some soldiers, all known allies of Aes Sedai. The Seeker suspects an Aes Sedai conspiracy involving Suroth. Not long after, Karede rides from Ebou Dar, meeting up with Ajimbura, Captain Musenge, and a small army prepared ot hunt down the kidnappers.
This was an interesting Seanchan chapter, if as languidly paced as everything in this book. Furyk Karede seems like a somewhat interesting chapter, and we certainly learned much about him, as well as this mysterious Seeker that’s been popping up recently. Obviously, he believes a conspiracy orchestrated by Suroth and the Aes Sedai, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This sort of misunderstanding won’t end well for any involved, but first it seems the Seanchan are on the hunt for Mat and gang. That’s to be expected, though, but will the Seeker take action against Suroth as well? I’m curious what her current agenda is, we haven’t seen much of her. Have she and Semirhage been in contact yet (assuming Anath is Semirhage)? Suroth has the sad bracelets, I believe, so she’ll have to use those at one point. I feel there’s more to discuss in this chapter, but I can’t think of much at the moment.