In this entry of Knife of Dreams, Mat must contend in his travels with Aes Sedai foolishness, some problematic a'dam, a sinking village, Darkfriends in a tavern, and the fated rescue of Moiraine Damodred!
Chapter 6: A Stave and a Razor
The circus still remains at Jurador, despite Mat’s desire to proceed. He enters the town, looking out for the ghosts he sighted earlier. He buys a new stave and then negotiates with the owner of a stable for a razor, a prestigious Domani horse. Mat then returns to the circus, finding himself enjoying company with Tuon more. He asks Noal if he is related to Jain Charin, and Noal responds suspiciously. Juilin enters reporting that Seanchan soldiers have appeared.
This chapter…was rather tedious. In fact, hardly anything occurred. Mat bought a horse for Tuon. Noal might be Jain Farstrider. Seanchan soldiers appeared. That’s about it. I could certainly expect a chapter from CoT consuming that little material, but in KoD? I just hope it’s merely a fluke…
Chapter 7: A Cold Medallion
Mat finds several hundred Seanchan congregating outside of Jurador. Three attempt to enter the circus without paying, and a riot seems inevitable until an officer appears and chastises the soldiers. The officer attempts to recruit the circus folk before leaving. As Mat heads to the Aes Sedai wagon, his medallion cools. He angrily interrupts a hectic scene within, Joline slapping Bethamin. Mat attempts to intervene and Joline strikes him. Mat does not respond well. The Aes Sedai attempt to intervene, revealing to Setalle the presence of the medallion ter’angreal, which she believes Cadsuane also had. Mat learns about the origination of the conflict, Joline having wanted to see the Seanchan, the sul’dam attempting to intervene until Edesina bound them with air, causing Bethamin to channel for the first time. Mat leaves as the Aes Sedai argue over teaching Bethamin to channel.
This chapter was shorter and thankfully a little more eventful than the last, although I must admit, I’m really eager to see Mat’s storyline officially move forward. It seems he’s been mired in this damn circus for two novels, and I was eager for him to return to the greater scheme of things back in Ebou Dar. His interactions with Tuon can certainly be entertaining, but this subplot cannot ride on that alone. The confrontation with the Seanchan was rather tense, though, as was the…chaotic scene in the wagon. I can’t say I entirely agree with Mat’s reaction, but I’m not entirely certain what else he should have done. It was certainly a hectic scene, and those Aes Sedai, Joline especially, aren’t becoming any more likeable. I almost forgot about Setalle Anan. For some reason, I thought she didn’t escape Ebou Dar with the others. It’s quite obvious at this point she was once a prestigious Aes Sedai.
Chapter 8: Dragons’ Eggs
Mat solves Aludra’s mystery about the bellfounder, deducing she needs bronze lofting tubes for the fireworks. She intends to avenge the destruction of the Illuminators. Aludra agrees to accompany Mat and provide these new weapons to Rand. Mat spends more time with Tuon, who repeats that Rand must kneel to the Crystal Throne as the Propehcies proclaim. He later gifts Tuon with the razor, and the dice stop in his head again. Mat, Tuon, and Selucia ride past a Tinker caravan, and Tuon gallops into the trees randomly. Mat catches up to her, and starts ruminating on how Eelfinn collect memories from dead men, fearing a link in his mind. They return, and converse with the Tinkers, who are approaching Ebou Dar.
This was another unfortunately tedious chapter. There were some important pieces, more than I can say for the majority of CoT chapters, but it couldn’t help feeling overlong. At least we finally have resolution on Mat’s little arrangement with Aludra. Not that I was waiting with bated breath to see that riddle resolved, but the importance of an Illuminator in Mat’s storyline has been emphasized for some time, and I suppose the creation of gunpowder in Randland is quite notable. At least progress is being made in that regard! I sort of like the idea of Aludra making cannons for Rand to blow up trollocs.
However, the Tuon interactions remain, well, tedious. They’re well-written, but 10 pages of Mat riding around with Tuon just isn’t all that captivating. I appreciate the character development, and I have certainly enjoyed some of their scenes, but this one, at least, fell flat. We even see the return of Tinkers, who I don’t believe have been present for ages, Aram excluded. And, well, I’m not the biggest fan of the Tinkers. I respect their extremely pacifistic philosophy on life, but I recall that whenever they show up, the plot grinds to a standstill as Jordan re-establishes their culture and describes their multicolored wagons.
However, this wasn’t actually the case here. We just established that the Tinkers are traveling to Ebou Dar, and I think Jordan makes an interesting point in the general apathy concerning rulers present in a conquered populace. George R.R. Martin similarly pointed out that peasants and farmers often pay little regard to politics and nobles, while war and revolution affects them considerably. I suppose that’s why there have been relatively few revolts in Seanchan-occupied territory. But returning to the Tinkers, aside from a few moments in TSR, they’ve contributed little to the plot, so I’m not overly fascinated with them.
Chapter 9: A Short Path
Egeanin teaches Mat about Seanchan royalty and Tuon’s dark history of assassinating sibling rivals to the Throne. Setalle Anan admits to once being an Aes Sedai when inspecting the foxhead medallion. The Aes Sedai confront Tuon one night and demand she end the war immediately. Tuon has Selucia collar them, much to the Warders’ rage. Mat attempts to dissuade her, but Tuon is intent on training them. However, Mat releases them regardless, and later buries the a’dam.
Well… I’ve flitted between slight apathy and moderate intrigue in Tuon’s character since WH, but this chapter revealed a side to her that just frankly pisses me off. That debacle with the a’dam? Do not want. I’m not saying Tuon is a horrible person. I know she was raised into this culture that has believed in this horrific sort of slavery and mental torture for centuries, and I cannot necessarily blame her for naturally adhering to that. I’ve discussed numerous times before how the whole damane thing disgusts and unnerves me, but Tuon just reminded me of it in an incredibly forceful manner, as Tuon is supposedly a protagonist, the wife-to-be of Matrim Cauthon, and she’s as great a proponent of this madness as there can be.
Now, the wonderful trio of Aes Sedai is also guilty of some maddening bullshit too. Joline especially continues to irritate me. How abysmally stupid could you possibly be, to approach Tuon like that and demand she put an end to the war? It’s just plain absurd, and I was expecting disaster immediately. But I didn’t expect Tuon to so casually just…snap a’dam on them. And no amount of stupidity on Joline’s part warrants the sort of treatment Tuon intended to impose on them. It’s made all the more frightening with how naturally Tuon believes it an inherent duty to collar channelers and ‘train’ them. Her entire speech, her intended training and disciplinary program, just illicited rage and disgust. All this because Joline approached Tuon with an admittedly idiotic bout of ‘diplomacy’?
I was almost frightened that Mat would let this debacle slide. I mean, Tuon can exert a considerable influence over him and the others in the party. It’s even stated the Warders couldn’t have done much had they succeed in breaking into the wagon. What if Mat was frightened of doing what was necessary to dissuade Tuon? What if the Aes Sedai were paraded around and tortured with those a’dam? It certainly unnerved me, and I cheered all the more when Mat put his foot down and unlocked those damn things. And buried them! And the sheer terror and agony just the thought of a prolonged imprisonment as damane illicited in those girls… Not cool, Tuon. Not cool.
Chapter 10: A Village in Shiota
The caravan reaches a peculiar village, and watch a peddler pass through. The ancient Shiotan village suddenly sinks into the ground, and the peddler and his wagon melt with it. Luca convinces the frightened travelers to continue to Lugard. Later, Thom reveals his letter from Moiraine to Mat, stating it was only to be revealed when Mat asked for it. Thom, Mat, and a third are fated to rescue Moiraine from where she vanished into the twisted red doorway. Mat will find the way. The letter emphasizes the game of Snakes and Foxes, and Olver adds that Birgitte mentioned the Tower of Ghenjei is the gateway to the realm of Aelfinn and Eelfinn, entered through drawing the symbol with a bronze knife. After Noal describes the tower, Mat realizes he sighted it when sailing from Shadar Logoth. He believes Domon can lead them there. Mat reluctantly agrees to go, and the final dice stop.
Well, this was certainly a revealing chapter. And an interesting one, given the whole peddler-quicksand incident. Ever since CoT, Jordan has obviously been emphasizing that the Dark One is capable of touching the world quite directly, with disastrous consequences. Sure, we had random bubbles of evil and then the whole heat wave incident, but this sense of decay and corruption has been prominent only in the last two novels. While the ghosts and the weevils didn’t really evoke the suspense Jordan was presumably going for, this incident here certainly unnerved me more. It’s simply so unprecedented. I was getting used to random ghost appearances and rotting food, but an entire village sinking into the ground? And it was written so peculiarly, I had to reread the sequence one or two times to fully comprehend it. Not necessarily a criticism on Jordan’s writing, just that he often has the tendency to make certain scenes very chaotic and confusing in his wording. I simply didn’t understand what was happening to the peddler at first. But damn, what a bizarre way to die. And unpleasant, of course, especially if he’s…trapped or whatever like the other Shiotan specters.
But now to talk about Moiraine… I really sort of forgot about that letter, for a long stretch of time. It simply wasn’t all that relevant. I had also forgotten about the Tower of Ghenjei, as that hasn’t appeared since TSR. Yet having brushed up on the whole Moiraine mystery, it all makes considerable sense, and I certainly couldn’t resist some serious excitement as I read through the letter at last. Mat’s obviously not excited about this fated adventure, but I’m certain it’ll be quite riveting! Mat’s thoughts about the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn lately, after being ignored for so long (much to my disappointment, as I’m quite eager to learn more about them), certainly foreshadowed this sudden revelation. It’s not necessarily a surprise that Moiraine is dead. I mean, Lanfear’s alive, isn’t she? And I think there was something in ACoS that suggested she had survived. Anyway, I can’t wait to see her return to the storyline.
As for actually rescuing her, that’s where the real mystery is. I couldn’t help but feel some of the letter’s wording rather convenient, as if Jordan had to quickly justify why he couldn’t reveal the letter for six freaking books. From what little I remember of TSR, those Eelfinn were certainly peculiar, but was Moiraine really forced to word her letter so specifically? I don’t know, considering it’s been years since I read TSR, I’ve forgotten very much of the Finns, and the foreshadowing to Moiraine’s death, and all that. I do remember the Tower of Ghenjei, though, if only vaguely, and I recognize it from the cover of ToM, which also happens to reveal who the third person in the rescue party will be: Noal. That other old man in the picture certainly doesn’t look like Olver… Well, it certainly explains the importance of Noal, who has only just stories so far. So what’s Olver’s excuse for existing?
Chapter 11: A Hell in Maderin
The caravan reaches Maderin, and Tuon requests to visit a hell, a lowly tavern known for brawls. Thom leads Tuon to what he claims to be a hell, and Mat and Selucia follow. Mat procures a gambling match on Tuon’s request, and one of the men, Vane, leaves suddenly. Thom reports that the gholam is on the prowl, and that a Seanchan army has materialized on the border of Murandy, forcing all travelers to drink an herbal tea, searching to kill Tuon’s impostor. Mat intends to leave the circus with the redarms and Aludra, hoping to find passage eastward. They depart the inn, but are attacked by swordsmen. Mat kills all but a woman, and Tuon intervenes when he refuses to retaliate. One of the men was Vane. Thom appears to be hallucinating. Mat realizes they must leave immediately.
Another satisfactorily eventful chapter, although I couldn’t really see where it was going at first. Why was Tuon so interested in tavern fights? What was the purpose? However, the ending was certainly exciting, especially since it means…we’re leaving that bloody circus at last! I didn’t have a tremendous problem with Luca’s circus in TFoH as, although tedious, it was only a backdrop to more important elements of Nynaeve and Elayne’s storyline. That hasn’t exactly been the case here, especially in CoT. Thankfully, a bit more has occurred in KoD, and the pace of Mat’s arc should certainly skyrocket now that he’s leaving that insufferable Luca, and even has an objective in mind: circumventing the Seanchan near Murandy, dealing with Tuon, and then eventually heading to the Tower of Ghenjei.
I still haven’t forgiven Tuon for that infuriating scandal with the a’dam, but I’ll admit it’s rather entertaining to witness her curiously assimilating to a culture so different from her own, which is at least partially why she was so intrigued with hells. And what a peculiar name for a seedy bar, a hell. When I saw the chapter title, I assumed it was the standard definition of hell, before I remembered there was no hell or heaven in Randland, and thus would make little sense in that context. I also enjoyed Mat proving his gambling skills to Tuon, as there was some suspense to the scene. I knew immediately those gamblers were gonna be trouble later.
There were also some interesting tidbits of information. The gholam’s on the prowl, and I totally forgot about him. I still want to know who it works for, what it wants with Mat, how to kill it, and whether it was the gholam that killed Herid Fel, because that still hasn’t really been resolved, has it? The Seanchan army on the Murandy border is obviously a concern, but if it stirs Mat from the caravan… I wonder if the Seanchan will start pushing into Murandy officially, to conquer it, considering it’s been a while since they’ve moved into a new nation. I suppose they have the revolt in Tarabon to contend with, and apparently Illian was initially their next target. And the whole scandal with the Tuon impostor fascinates me, I can’t wait until we return to that subplot.
And then the final battle was thrilling, as it’s one of the first action scenes since WH! I mean, CoT was essentially devoid of those sudden bursts of action Jordan used to implement. KoD did have that awesome Galad duel, but plenty of the novel has been politicking and character development (which is welcome, of course, to an extent), so I certainly enjoyed this little battle, especially since it allowed Tuon to somewhat redeem herself. I’m speaking, of course, of Mat’s foolish Rand-like refusal to harm a woman when his own life depends on it. I understand what happened with Renna, but come on… What went on between Thom and Selucia? I didn’t understand that. I was right, however, in predicting those gamblers (or at least one of them) would return to trouble Mat, but I’m thinking this was really a Darkfriend attack. I’m surprised to see the ta’veren targeted by the Shadow, on Moridin’s previous order, so quickly.