In this entry of Crossroads of Twilight, Elayne takes a bath.
Chapter 10: A Blazing Beacon
Elayne has been visiting minor Andoran houses to gain support. She visits the estate of House Matherin. As she leaves her chambers, her maid, Elsie, screeches upon witnessing the ghost of Lord Aedmun’s grandmother. Elayne thinks about her pregnancy and Rand’s recent Traveling. The party leaves the estate and Aviendha prepares to Travel to Caemlyn. She suddenly feels an incredible amount of saidar in the west, and thinks of Rand. She wishes to aid him, but Aviendha refuses, believing disaster will occur if they intervene. Elayne reluctantly agrees and they Travel to the Royal Palace.
Now we get into Elayne’s storyline. This is probably the section of the novel I’m most apprehensive about, and this chapter did little to assuage my concerns. Elayne’s chapters can be very tedious in general. Her chapters can be quite entertaining (Adeleas’ murder and Rand’s bonding were highlights in her otherwise tedious chapters in the last two books), but are otherwise very languidly paced. Considering this is CoT we’re talking about, I’m very much concerned about the pace for Elayne’s chapters this time around. If Mat and Perrin’s usually bearable chapters were so slowly paced in this book, how much will Elayne’s suffer? I certainly doubt anything significant to occur.
What did happen in this introductory chapter, however? Well, at least we know Elayne’s gaining support from small Houses. I suppose that’s some sort of progress in her overall story arc… And the sighting of the ghost was quite peculiar, given the ghosts present in WH and earlier in CoT. Just what’s causing these appearances? The dead Asha’man in WH might’ve just been a result of Fain, but I’m thinking the supernatural occurrences in CoT are just general Dark One shenanigans. Tarmom Gai’don is coming… Other than that, the only significant occurrence in this chapter was catching Elayne’s storyline up to Rand’s. I’ll be honest, given the pattern in the last two POVs, I wasn’t expecting Elayne to sense the cleansing until her last chapter. I suppose that’s a plus, at least we’re officially caught up and it’s all forward movement (however tediously paced) from here for Elayne.
Chapter 11: Talk of Debts
Elayne rides into the stableyard. Birgitte appears, reporting that Dyelin and Reanne Corly haven’t returned from their mission, gaining support from undecided Houses. Only nineteen of the 400 Andoran Houses are significant. A queen is determined when gaining the support of ten of these Houses. Elayne is only confident in the support of Trakand and Taravin, despite Dyelin’s assurances. Arymilla, in contrast, has six Houses. Birgitte reports strange behavior in the channelers. They encounter the four Aes Sedai. Elayne assures them about the channeling. She secretly believes one of them to be the murderer. Captain Mellar appears, and Sareitha praises him profusely for rescuing Lord Luan’s men from Lord Nasin’s. Elayne, however, is not impressed, as Luan hadn’t declared for her yet. She dismisses them all to have a hot bath.
This chapter was slightly more eventful than the previous. No mistake, there were some very slow sections the likes only CoT could contain, but I did enjoy the information on the Andoran succession. I’ve followed such little of this particular political storyline, getting some clear clarification on just what Elayne’s attempting and what she’s up against was useful. She certainly has a ways to go before she can claim Andor, unfortunately. What else occurred, though? I’ve been enjoying Daved Hanlon’s character. He’s so delightfully despicable, and I’m just waiting for him to strike. Obviously, Elayne doesn’t trust him whatsoever, no matter what she pretends, but hopefully she keeps her guard up, because Hanlon has to try something at some point. Sareitha’s support for him is suspicious, however. I’m not entirely sure what it means, I assume we’ll find out when this plotline finally gains some momentum.
Chapter 12: A Bargain
Elayne and Aviendha take a bath while Birgitte discusses various concerns, such as Aes Sedai at the inn and the siege of Tear. The Sea Folk announce their departure to determine the new Mistress of the Ships. Elayne comes to an agreement with them.
That’s it. That’s all that happened in this chapter. My god, I don’t want to call a WoT book terrible, but this was… That bath scene. I’ve heard of it, but it was more pointless than I could’ve imagined. I find it quite surprising that so many readers, whether they’re still fans or not, label all of these middle books in the series together, as equally tedious. ACoS was fine. TPoD had a slow start, but it was fine. WH was fine. This? This is the first WoT novel where I can say that, so far, practically nothing has occurred. And that makes it rather difficult to read. Sure, Jordan’s prose is great, it’s always important to have some character interaction and development, there are some less action-packed subplots that needed development, but a book in which practically nothing occurs simply isn’t acceptable, so unless the second half of CoT seriously surprises me, I might have to agree with the general consensus on this specific book.
That bath scene. Wow. You know you have a bad chapter when the Sea Folk are the most interesting element. So they’re leaving to elect a new Mistress of the Ships. Great. We didn’t need 16 pages to establish that. And it’s not like it’s just this one chapter that is extremely pointless. Sure, it’s the most egregious example of Jordan simply writing and over-describing, for the first legitimate time in the series, but this discontent has been growing in me throughout the book. Perrin’s chapters actually had a few interesting developments, but for the most part, this book has been shockingly difficult to get through. Well, not shocking, considering the opinion on CoT, but still…
Chapter 13: High Seats
Birgitte announces that Dyelin has returned with the High Seats of four Houses. Elayne greets these new arrivals, and finds them all quite young, only Conail of House Northan over sixteen. Only Perival of House Mantear seems to show any sense. The channeling in the west is still continuing. Birgitte and Aviendha are disgusted by the High Seats’ behavior. Rasoria announces the approaching of Reene Harfor and Halwin Norry.
Well, thankfully this chapter wasn’t dominated by a bath. Still overlong and rather tediously written, but the introduction of these young High Seats, I suppose, provides some minor progress in Elayne’s abysmally slow succession storyline. So she can count on these four Houses, I suppose? Again, when these kinds of developments are notable, it means there’s a serious drought of legitimate progress in a novel. This would’ve passed for minor details in previous novels, even TPoD and WH.
Still, I have to comment on them, and to be honest, the youth activist in me is a little irritated with the way these children/adolescents were depicted. As opposed to, say, George R.R. Martin, Jordan rarely has children or even teenagers in WoT. Seriously, Olver was like the first kid in the entire series who held any relevance, and you may recall I wasn’t exactly wild about his character. I don’t know, Jordan inverts and averts so many tropes (although he often makes a few glaring missteps, I’m forced to admit), concerning social positions and whatnot, I would’ve hoped he would’ve depicted children beyond their stereotypical image in fantasy series. But there aren’t any Arya Starks or Jon Snows in Randland. The children are naïve, stereotypical, and treated much like they would be treated in modernity, rather than a medieval environment (as in, the miserable Westeros environment). In WoT, teenagers hold as little relevance as children, and are treated and depicted pretty much identically.
I know this is a peculiar tangent, but it’s just something I’ve noticed concerning youth in the series, and most prominently in this singular chapter. I mean, these four High Seats weren’t all that young. The oldest was, what, over sixteen, and the rest seemed to be, at the least, tweens. So why were they written so, I don’t know, childlike? Something’s just irritating about Elayne patronizing and manipulating these clueless, chattering children that Dyelin caught away from their parents, especially considering that Elayne is, what, 18? Does she really have the right to be so condescending? I mean, I’m not saying 13-year-olds should logically be political masterminds, but still… Well, hopefully that one kid Elayne noticed wasn’t completely daft does something in the future.
Wow, I rambled quite a bit on a very irrelevant element of the book. Hmm.
Chapter 14: What Wise Ones Know
Reene Harfor reveals that the Second Librarin is a spy. Elayne has a mole in the four camps hoping to discover the location of Arymilla, Elenia, and Naean. Norry reports increasing arson attempts on food warehouses. Houses Arawn, Marne, and Sarand have taken out large loans against their holdings in order to pay their own mercenaries and bribe Elayne’s. Aviendha reports an eavesdropper once the two leave. Birgitte reports the slow pace of the Borderlanders. Elayne hopes to avoid a war split in three factions. Monaelle the Wise One approaches, Elayne’s midwife, and Sumeko accompanies her to study her techniques. Monaelle informs Elayne she will have two children. The channeling in the west suddenly stops. The Sea Folk are in an uproar because an apprentice has vanished, possibly with Merilille.
So very little happened in this chapter too. And there’re no kids for me to rant about. Sigh. I wish I gave a damn about this Andoran succession, but it’s mired in so much tedium with so few interesting developments, I can’t say I’m much involved. It’s just so damn tedious. Elayne’s chapters in WH were only bearable when Rand was involved, after all. I suppose the only things of note are the channeling and the Sea Folk (again, how can the Sea Folk be interesting at this point? That’s frightening). It’s testament to how much Jordan has written about so small a period of time to consider the channeling has persisted through all of Elayne’s chapters. But really, what happened in the last five chapters? She returned from the mansion, to Caemlyn, took a bath, talked with the High Seats, and now talked with her midwife. That’s it, probably a few hours, and Jordan took over 100 pages to describe it in laborious detail.
As to what actually happened, the cleansing of saidin has actually finished at this point. I wonder if that means the rest of the book will be officially past WH, or Egwene’s next few chapters will be mainly catch-up too. One can hope… More importantly, Merilille has had enough. Hell yeah, no one deserved that kind of abuse! And she took that apprentice with her, right? Curious to see what becomes of that…
Chapter 15: Gathering Darkness
Elenia rides through the war camp and is approached by Naean. Arymilla has been keeping Elenia from her fervent husband, Jarid. They were all forced to sign letters of support to Arymilla. The mad old Lord Nasin has been permitted to harass Elenia. Naean suspects Elenia has a plan to escape and begs to participate. Elenia agrees so long as Naean pledges to support her. After Naean departs, however, Elenia is confronted by Nasin again. Arymilla returns with Naean, the Taraboner torturer Jaq Lounalt, and Nasin’s heir, the simple Sylvase.
Daved Hanlon proceeds through Caemlyn in the night. He kills an assassin following him. Upon returning to the house, Falion reveals Shiaine has had several peculiar visitors. Hanlon has secretly established an arrangement with Falion concerning the latter’s intended punishments. As part of the agreement, Falion provides some information and then informs Shiaine of Hanlon’s arrival. Falion has Hanlon drug Murellin, who has had no premonitions about abusing her. Hanlon finds Shiaine’s visitor murdered. Shiaine orders him to free some sul’dam and burn down more warehouses. Hanlon intends to kill Shiaine, Falion, and Marillin eventually.
For once, I’m gonna avoid ranting on the pace of this novel, as there’re actually a few things to discuss about this agonizingly long chapter. Not to say it was terribly interesting, because it wasn’t, but in comparison to, you know, the bath, this isn’t all that bad. First of all, more Andoran succession. Again, I even find the whole Perrin subplot more interesting than this particular arc, but I suppose it’s important we check in on these characters. I must say, I can sympathize with Elenia and Naean’s plight. My god, that Nasin creeped me out. Elenia has been forced to contend with that utterly insane old lecher, in addition to plenty else. Sure, she didn’t seem all that pleasant before, but so far, I’m on her side over Arymilla’s.
Arymilla has been described as a rather dim-witted person fortunate enough to make the most of opportunites, presenting her with all the power for the present, which is rather interesting, because it allows more crafty nobles like Elenia and Naean to overcome her. I’m not certain what Elenia plans to do, to escape an entire army besieging Caemlyn, but I’m actually rooting for her, for now. I’ll oppose her when she moves against Elayne.
Falion hasn’t been having much fun either, it seems. As disgusting as Daved Hanlon is, I’ll credit him for not actually abusing Falion as I thought he was. They actually have an arrangement, plotting against Shiaine. I must admit, this intrigue (most Darkfriend intrigue, for that matter, sheerly out of relevance to the overall plot) has me more interested. I’m actually invested in these characters. Despicable as Hanlon is, he’s certainly an interesting villain, and I’m just waiting for him to strike, sort of like I am with Masema for Perrin, and I was with Dashiva for Rand. Falion’s plight, like most female antagonists Jordan puts through hell, is rather sympathetic (although I note the conflict between her and Hanlon), and Shiaine’s definitely an interesting character. It’s intriguing how much power she has over these other Darkfriends, so far. She executed Carridin, and has everyone else under a pretty tight leash, whether she sent the man following Hanlon or not. And just who the hell were the people Shiaine was meeting with? Like most of the incredibly minor developments and mysteries in CoT, I can’t imagine much will become of it…