In this entry of Knife of Dreams, a tremendous Trolloc army threatens Rand, Lan rides for Tarmon Gai'don, Loial is confronted by his mother at last, and Sea Folk continue to be pointless.
Chapter 18: News for the Dragon
Loial questions Rand for his book. He recognizes the third man in his head as the Wanderer from Shadar Logoth, and believes the crossing of their balefire streams established a connection. Logain enters, reporting events in Andor. He sent Asha’man to Arad Doman and Illian, as commanded. Taim is gaining supporters, but Rand decides to ignore him to contend with the Seanchan. This causes an argument with Logain. When Cadsuane questions the peace with the Seanchan, Rand cites one of his answers from the Aelfinn, stating the north and east, and west and south must be one. Nonetheless, Rand intends to fortify Arad Doman and Illian in case peace is not possible. It is announced that Loial’s mother, Haman, and Erith have arrived. Cadsuane tells Loial to greet them.
I can’t understate how great it feels to officially return to Rand’s storyline after him essentially being absent a novel. Although KoD doesn’t seem to feature Rand too heavily, any progress in his arc is welcome, although I really do hope the last few novels return the focus generally to him, as his storyline really is the important one, as interesting as Mat’s and Egwene’s are. So it seems the third man in Rand’s head is Moridin. I never expected that casual collision of balefire in ACoS to become so significant later down the road! It’s also a little concerning that Moridin may be able to, I don’t know, influence Rand through this connection. If Moridin chose to make use of that…
The movement of Asha’man to Arad Doman and Illian is interesting, at least in the case of the former. I can’t wait to see the action move to one of the few kingdoms we’ve seen virtually nothing of. Rodel Ituralde’s storyline will certainly factor into that! And since the Seanchan negotiation is almost certainly a trap, I’m willing to bet Rand is gonna need to make use of those Asha’man to protect those kingdoms. The Logain-Rand conflict was surprising. I suppose I expected those two to get along, but it certainly makes things more interesting. I know Rand has a lot on his plate, but he really needs to listen to Logain. Taim has been unchecked for books now! It’s rather foolish to create something as potentially dangerous as the Black Tower and essentially leave it in the hands of a loose cannon like Taim.
Chapter 19: Vows
Loial heads to the Ogier quarters. Covril and Haman are irritated because of their lengthy journey. Haman marries Loial and Erith right there. Covril intends to depart for Stedding Shangtai immediately, but Haman insists on staying the night. The Great Stump is debating whether to open the Book of Translation and take the Ogier to another world. Loial wishes to address the Great Stump and implore they remain to fight the Shadow. Loial sights an army of Trollocs approaching in the rain. They leave to warn Rand.
Rand detects the army as well. The Saldaeans are trapped outside. Lews Therin takes control of saidin, and uses Blossoms of Fire and Deathgates to destroy the invading trollocs, as Traveling kills Shadowspawn. Logain prevents the Trollocs from burning all of the outbuildings. Eventually, the battle ends, all the Trollocs destroyed. Lews Therin refuses to release saidin, and only draws more, but Rand warns Cadsuane not to harass Min over the bond, and then assues Lews Therin they can die together at Tarmon Gai’don, and is released.
This might just be my favorite chapter since WH’s finale, and that excluded, since, hell, ACoS. This is why I love Rand chapters. Plot movement! So much of it! First of all, Loial POV. That in itself makes this chapter a cut above most. Seriously, have we ever had a Loial POV? Unfortunately, his current situation is hardly pleasant. This arranged marriage has been present in Loial’s storyline since the beginning, but only this chapter hammered home how…wrong it is. Poor Loial, being forced into a marriage by his forceful family and sexist culture. All he wants to do is write his book, and now his wife could end that. This situation could be a whole lot worse, considering Loial is actually in love with Erith, and that she doesn’t seem willing to prevent Loial from writing, but nonetheless: arranged marriages forcing a partner to submit to the other, not good. It’s a fundamental problem with Ogier culture, which is depressing, as Ogier are awesome in every other way. I still appreciate Jordan exploring this unpleasant aspect in the history of marriage, and flipping the genders at that.
But let’s talk about that army of Trollocs. I figured whoever sent them as revealed in the Forsaken meeting would direct them to Rand, it was only a matter of when and how. And I never expected Loial to look out the window and see them marching through the mist! Damn, that’s ominous. And one hundred thousand of them! That’s simply a colossal quantity, and it’s incredible this little manor managed to survive that kind of raid. Jordan’s skill in writing exciting battle scenes clearly hasn’t diminished with the tedium of CoT. That was a riveting scene, made all the more tense when Lews Therin seized saidin. I didn’t expect that! I was seriously worrying for Rand there, considering how utterly unpredictable LTT can be. I’ll hand it to him, though, using gateways to obliterate Trollocs, very clever.
A simple observation: was this the first presence of Trollocs since ACoS? It’s been an insanely long time since our heroes have directly fought the Shadow, WH’s finale excluded, and that just featured the Forsaken. It’s testament to how many subplots have coalesced in the series, with antagonists like the Seanchan and Shaido and White Tower forcing the Shadow to the sidelines for so long. For a while, I’ve missed the classic Trolloc skirmishes and appearances of wicked new creatures of Shadow that were featured so heavily in earlier books. So this battle is highly welcome in that regard. But, of course, who sent the Trollocs? Frankly, I have no idea. Demandred? We have no idea what he’s been up to. Semirhage and Mesaana both seem preoccupied. The Forsaken meeting seems to exclude Aran’gar and Moridin. Hell, it might not even be a Forsaken. It certainly isn’t Sammael though, as much as I’d like to see him back from the dead.
Chapter 20: The Golden Crane
Rand surveys the sea of corpses outside the manor. The Trollocs originated from the Waygate at Stedding Shangtai. Rand believes somebody knows how to track ta’veren as Ishamael did. Rand receives a letter from Verin, revealing her departure and advising Rand to trust only Cadsuane. Loial promises to support Rand at Tarmon Gai’don, but can do nothing else. However, Haman offers to seal the remaining Waygates so that Loial can speak before the Great Stump. Bashere reveals that Rand is to meet with the Daughter of the Nine Moons at a manor in Altara.
Nynaeve rests with Lan, who is angry that Rand negotiates with Seanchan rather than defending the Blight with the Borderlanders. Nynaeve offers to deiver him to the Borderlanders so long as he gains supporter in Fal Moran first. However, she instead takes him to Saldaea, on the other side of the Borderlands, and quickly Travels away.
The merchant Weilin Aldragoran does business in a Saldaean inn. An Aes Sedai approaches, who he recognizes as Malkieri. She requests that he send messages to other merchants and identifies herself as Nynaeve ti al’Meara Mandragoran. The message states that Lan rides for Tarwin’s Trap, to Tarmon Gai’don, and Aldragoran swears he will ride with him.
Yet another brilliant chapter, and this one didn’t feature any Trolloc obliterating! Instead, some serious Lan awesomeness. Lan hasn’t done much in quite a while. I enjoyed him considerably as Moiraine’s stoic Warder, but then he just served as Nynaeve’s companion for the longest time. His adventure with Rand in WH was very welcome, and Lan heading to the Borderlands to challenge the Blight is an obvious return to bad-ass form for him. Not to mention the entire scene was written brilliantly. This chapter had some considerable awesomeness from Nynaeve as well, and she’s another character who’s done relatively little in the last few books. That trick she played with Lan was unexpected. I can’t imagine Lan’s pleased about having to cross all of the Borderlands, but it’s for the best. He needs back-up. That final segment with the merchants declaring for Lan was just brilliant. I can’t wait to see the Golden Crane ride for Tarmon Gai’don, with a ragtag army beside him.
Lan’s departure was the highlight of the chapter, but there were some other important bits. It seems things aren’t turning out all that badly for poor Loial. He can’t write his book or help Rand, which sucks (again, I simply can’t get past this part of Ogier culture), but at least he’ll have a chance to address the Great Stump personally, and prevent their leaving Randland entirely! Problematic as their arranged marriages are, I can’t imagine Randland without Ogier. This whole Book of Translation stuff was surpising. Was that ever mentioned before? I had no idea the Ogier could essentially open a book and vanish from this world. I really hope we get to actually see Loial address the Great Stump, as most of his adventures have been off-screen in this series. But with a Loial POV, there’s hope!
Verin. Where the hell did she go? I need anwers about that woman, she’s so damn mysterious.
Chapter 21: Within the Stone
Refused entry to Stedding Shangtai, Rand Travels to Tear. The Stone is besieged by the rebels, so Rand enters by Traveling from an inn. The corridors change as they did in Caemlyn. Rand approaches Darlin, and finds Weiramon and Anaiyella present, who left Cairhien with armsmen to attack the rebels and hinder negotiations. Cadsuane chastises Rand for his heightening temper. Bera Harkin reveals that Merana is arranging an agreement with the rebels, accepting Darlin as King. Rand consents, and orders Darlin to gather an army to Travel to Arad Doman.
This chapter was somewhat disappointing after the brilliance of the last two, as much of it was just Rand entering Tear. Some of CoT-Jordan showed in the gratuitous description of the city. Still, I’m excited to return to this locale, as we haven’t been to Tear since TSR, I believe. Mired in Cairhienin and Andoran politics, it’s good to see the status of Tear is being quickly resolved. Darlin seems a capable and worthy selection for King. I wonder if Rand will officially have a King in Illian too, or will he keep the Crown of Swords? The rebels have been placated, if Merana’s deal succeeds, no thanks to Weiramon. I can’t say I missed that incompetent fool. Cadsuane being Cadsuane irritated me as well. However, I’m very excited to see where Rand’s immediate storyline is heading. This entire novel appears to be setting up Arad Doman as the next major battlefield in the series. Will Rand oust Graendal as he did Sammael from Illian? Or is he focusing strictly on the Seanchan? I feel Graendal will factor regardless. Damn, I’m excited to see the plot move again. But first, there’s the Seanchan negotiation, one of the few things CoT got me excited for. It smells of a trap. Suroth is gonna pull something, I’m definite.
Chapter 22: To Make an Anchor Weep
Harine and Shalon approach a Seanchan vessel in Illian’s harbor where the Atha’an Miere are convening. A bizarre wind blows from the north. Zaida punished Harine for failing as an ambassador to Rand, and intends to replace her. Logain enters and demands they send all their ships to Arad Doman with supplies, to alleviate Bandar Eban. Zaida is informed that the Amayar on Tremalking all committed mass suicide. The Sea Folk, feeling responsible, are distraught, but Logain refuses to spare ships for any possible survivors.
An entire chapter about Sea Folk. What a nightmare. As befitting Sea Folk, this chapter was tedious, unnecessary, and irritating. I really hope Jordan justifies their existence sometime soon. Okay, perhaps, for the first time in the entire series, they’re being productive, as Logain’s forced them to send relief to Arad Doman (more set-up for a campaign there, I can’t wait). But otherwise, this was just an overlong meeting of some of the most irritating characters in the entire series. At least Harine’s previous chapters in WH were more about Cadsuane than the Sea Folk. I couldn’t care less about Sea Folk politicking.
However, this chapter wasn’t completely worthless. It did reveal something important: the Amayar suicide. The Amayar certainly aren’t abrasive, sadistic, useless Sea Folk. The very little I know of them suggests they were a very peaceful, simple people. Jordan was obviously making a point how the wars and conflicts of the mainland managed to so strongly affect a minor people in the periphery of the plot. What a horrific turn of events. However, I did a little research, and apparently this one moment was what Jordan described as the ‘gasp’ moment of KoD, and I can understand how this could be disappointing to readers. As horrific as the mass suicide of a culture is, the fact of the matter is the Amayar have featured in no more than two or three pages in this colossal series. If it were the Tinkers or the Ogier or some other more prominently-featured people, this turn of events would be staggering. But as tragic as this is, such an event won’t have as great of an impact as a crucial shocking plot point like the recent Trolloc attack, for example.