In this entry of The Gathering Storm, Egwene mounts an incredible defense as the Seanchan invade the White Tower, Siuan procures the aid of Gawyn and Bryne for a last-minute infiltration of Tar Valon, and disaster ensues when Rand abandons Bandar Eban to confront the Borderlanders.
Chapter 40: The Tower Shakes
Siuan wakes from Tel’aran’rhiod fearfully. She warns Bryne that Egwene is imperiled. A soldier reports bursts of light flashing around the White Tower. Siuan realizes the Seanchan are attacking the Tower and decides to rescue Egwene, but Bryne wants no part.
Egwene explains to Nicola that the Seanchan are attacking to capture marath’damane. She is determined to resist. Egwene summons the novices, and they form a circle. Linked with the novices, Egwene manages to Travel to the angreal storeroom, where she locates the white fluted wand.
Siuan requests Gawyn’s aid, and he quickly consents. They intend to infiltrate Tar Valon using the water-gate Shemerin discovered. Bryne grudgingly agrees to accompany them if Siuan consents to two demands, the first that Siuan bond him as her Warder. She does so, and Bryne decides to bring 100 guards.
Adelorna Bastine flees through the White Tower. She is suddenly shielded and collared. Before she can be carried away, Adelorna’s collar is shattered and the sul’dam is engulfed in flames. Egwene appears, imposing her command. Adelorna submits, and they return to the storeroom for more angreal. Egwene is intent on preventing the Seanchan from learning how to Travel from a captured Aes Sedai.
Chapter 41: A Fount of Power
Gawyn, Siuan, Bryne, and 100 soldiers approach the water channel into Tar Valon on boats. The soldiers are disguised as Tower Guards. They intend to start their search for Egwene in the basement cells.
Saerin attempts to mount a defense in the heart of the Tower. The sisters are fighting in their own Ajahs in fractured groups. Katerine attempts to seize control, but Saerin stands her ground. Hearing explosions from within the Tower, a soldier reports their source as the novice quarters.
Egwene vengefully strikes down raken and their Seanchan riders from a breach in the Tower, thinking only of her sul’dam Renna. The power of the white fluted wand defends her from being shielded. She decides to strike down as many captured sisters as possible, rather than allow them to become damane.
Bryne and Gawyn fight Seanchan before the White Tower, the latter easily challenging numerous foes. Siuan briefly vanishes, but returns with a novice, who claims that Egwene was liberated, and is in the novice quarters. Siuan Heals three of Bryne’s wounded soldiers, and Bryne kills an assassin approaching her. Siuan, recalling Min’s viewing, realizes she must rescue Bryne as well, and Heals him from the poison the assassin pricked into his wrist.
The Seanchan flee, and Egwene struggles to remain conscious. Gawyn picks her up, and she can hear as Siuan uses the white fluted wand to facilitate their escape. Egwene attempts to resist, but is too exhausted.
Saerin reviews the damage, wondering of Elaida’s location. The Captain of the Tower Guard delivers an Accepted who had attended Elaida. She claims that the wall collapsed upon her, and could do nothing to stop what occurred next.
Elaida awakens to the wind, and realizes she is hundreds of feet in the air. She feels only agony when attempting to embrace the True Source. When realizing she has been taken damane, Egwene screams despite the torment.
Note: I decided to have all my commentary on the two battle chapters here, as there’s no use reviewing them separately.
This might be one of my favorite battle scenes in the series, at least since Dumai’s Wells. After the end of the previous chapter, I was very excited to see the battle for the White Tower! And it did not disappoint. It didn’t last as long as I expected, but this was a raid rather than a full-scale invasion, and Sanderson managed to shift between numerous POVs as deftly as Jordan did (he particularly enjoyed using numerous hectic POVs for the cleansing of saidin, which I liked). These two chapters were riveting from start to finish, and Sanderson clearly displays competence in battle scenes, which was always one of Jordan’s strengths.
Egwene’s entire arc culminated here (well, everything will probably come together even stronger when she officially becomes Amyrlin). Her strength, courage, and general bad-assery were very entertaining! The successes of Egwene’s captivity became really evident in how quickly novices and Aes Sedai alike submitted to her authority in defending the Tower. All her work as a novice clearly paid off. And I just knew the angreal storeroom would come into play again! As would the water-gate. I was very much surprised when Siuan decided to organize this sudden infiltration and rescue, but it was an excellent way of getting those characters into the battle. In the end, it seemed to have done more harm than good, as Egwene was at the brink of acceptance by the Tower, but I can hardly blame Siuan for attempting to rescue her friend in the midst of a cataclysmic invasion.
I mean, as awesome as Egwene was, the divisions in the rest of the Tower prevented a sufficient defense, and it therefore seems quite a few sisters were successfully captured. Damn it, Tuon, I generally like you, but sanctioning this shit really grates me. All the misery and destruction perpetrated against the Tower in these chapters are on her head. But Egwene was awesome. This entire battle was particularly cinematic, the way it was written. I was always impressed with how professional Jordan wrote his battle scenes, his military experience evident, and I liked the attention to strategy over sheer spectacle. But I also really appreciate how Sanderson’s writing jumps off the page, and paints a vivid picture in my mind of a scene that would look quite impressive on screen. The raken blowing holes in the Tower, Egwene retaliating from within… Awesome.
Gawyn finally proved himself useful, but I’m starting to notice yet another problem in his characterization evident in this book. After all the hate he seemed to accumulate in previous books, Sanderson obviously wanted to redeem him, but he only seemed to make the situation worse. Unless Gawyn stops with the stupid before the book’s conclusion, he won’t have changed all that much since the beginning of TGS. Sanderson has added battle scenes in what I interpet to be an attempt to make Gawyn more likeable, but it doesn’t work for me. Gawyn can handle an entire army of soldiers by himself, for all I care, it won’t diminish how irritating his rants about Rand are.
Bryne was the opposite of annoying, though, and it was incredible to see the long-standing romance with Siuan finally resolved, in a battle, of all things! I only vaguely remembered that viewing about Siuan and Bryne, but it was awesome to see it fulfilled nonetheless. Again, I enjoyed seeing different perspectives to the battle, jumping from Siuan and the rebel forces sneaking through the city to Egwene blowing up raken from above to the Aes Sedai mounting a defense from within the Tower. There’s not too much to say about Saerin’s portions of the chapters, but it’s obvious she can keep her head in a crisis.
So all of this was excellent, exciting, and very well-written. I especially enjoyed the emotional aspect of Egwene’s battle. Her experience with the Seanchan ten books ago still haunts her, and this was a cathartic instance of vengeance. But there is a rather major complaint I have: the fate of Elaida. There was a plethora of female villains in KoD who, rather than getting killed off, were imprisoned or enslaved, mostly by the Seanchan. Big characters like Sevanna and Suroth very abruptly were enslaved, and now it seems Elaida has the same fate. Much as with Galina, I can respect the poetic justice here, and that in many ways, their fates are worse than death. Egwene’s experience as a damane attests to how utterly horrific that sort of enslavement is. Nonetheless, Elaida is an even more important villain than Sevanna, Suroth, or Galina. She’s been an antagonist since the very first book, and Egwene’s entire arc seemed to culminate with a confrontation, a resolution to their long-standing conflict. For Elaida to vanish during the battle off-screen and have her fate seemingly resolved in a few paragraphs was disappointing, and yet another instance of Jordan (or possibly Sanderson, although I imagine something as major as the fate of Elaida would’ve been dictated in the notes by Jordan) refusing to kill off non-Forsaken female antagonists. I suppose this is a rather petty complaint, but I would’ve preferred to see at least some of these despicable villains go down in battle rather than vanish into a life of slavery.
Chapter 42: Before the Stone of Tear
Rand rides through the streets of Bandar Eban, prepared to depart for Tear. He broods again on the list of slain women. Rand realizes he has failed Arad Doman, leaving it to be crushed by the Seanchan and the Shadow. He could not locate enough of the Council to elect a new king. Rand decides to contend with the Borderlanders next. They reach the city square, and prepare to Travel away when a dockmaster approaches Rand, reporting that the entire supply of food suddenly rotted. Rand decides he has no choice but to leave Bandar Eban to starve. He arrives to thunderous applause in Tear. They arrive at the Stone to a welcome delegation. Lews Therin speaks kindly of Weiramon. Darlin reports that his army is prepared for Arad Doman, but Rand announces they will now march to Shayol Ghul.
This was sort of a transitional chapter, moving Rand from Arad Doman back to Tear, but it certainly contained some shocks! Rand’s state of mind no longer surprises me. The measures he deigned to earlier were horrifying, but seeing him abandon Bandar Eban didn’t even surprise me all that much. Not to say it wasn’t horrific. Literally all of the food rotted. All of it. Jesus, that makes for a cataclysmic famine. And Rand just left without a word. I mean, it wasn’t really his fault, and it’s not like he could magically procure food again, but he had to try! He couldn’t just walk away silently, and leave the entire city to starve. I never expected this horrific fate for Arad Doman, but, from a writing perspective, I definitely like it. It’s a failure for our protagonist, a tremendous failure. I really enjoyed Rand’s disastrous campaign in TPoD, because for once, the hero didn’t come out victorious. But this is failure on a whole new level. I honestly expected that Rand would stabilize Arad Doman in this book, that he would root out Graendal, eliminate the Seanchan threat, and have yet another kingdom under his influence. Although Graendal may have been killed, Rand has failed in every other regard. Bandar Eban is going to starve, and Arad Doman will be ripped apart by the Seanchan, the Shadow, and the civilians themselves. Poor Ituralde…
Chapter 43: Sealed to the Flame
Egwene broods on the disaster of a rescue, blaming herself as well as Siuan and the others. She cannot return to the White Tower as a prisoner. Her only option is to mount an assault. Egwene decides she must assume Elaida is still in power. Gawyn refuses to accept the rescue was a mistake. Egwene proceeds to the Hall of the Sitters.
The Ajah heads (Jesse, Adelorna, Suana, Ferane, and Serancha) convene, discussing the future of the Tower’s leadership. The five have been secretly working to control Elaida, which has happened before in the history of the Tower. The measures to control the rebellion through the sending of young Sitters came to nothing, many of them actually sympathizing with the rebels. The heads realize they need to select a real Amyrlin. Each suggests one of their own Ajah, but Adelorna finally proposes Egwene, and the others consent.
As Siuan watches the Hall from afar, Bryne approaches. She believes she lost Egwene’s trust through her disobedience. Bryne’s second demand is that Siuan marry him after her efforts to save the world are complete.
Before the Hall, Egwene reveals the Oath Rod, swearing the Three Oaths. She reveals what she knows of the Black Ajah, and announces all of them are to reswear. Sheriam attempts to channel and is shielded, and then tricked into lying. Moria attempts to escape, and is apprehended as well. The remaining Sitters reswear. Egwene reveals there are over 200 known members of the Ajah, 70 amongst the rebels, to be seized Ajah at a time. Bryne is to maintain a perimeter for any who attempt escape. Once the Ajah is purged, the assault upon the Tower will begin.
Well, this was yet another interesting chapter. The last portion of this book is accelerating at an unprecedented pace and really wrapping things up in Rand and Egwene’s storylines. It was hardly a surprise that the Ajah heads chose Egwene as the new Amyrlin. What did surprise me was the revelation about the young Sitters. I only barely followed that particularly convoluted instance of Aes Sedai politics, but I know it puzzled the fanbase for some time, and it was great to get some clarification.
I only hope the Tower informs Egwene of their decision before the invasion! How unfortunate would it be for Egwene to attack the city when they’ve chosen her as Amyrlin? Her decision at the time makes sense, though. I appreciate how much her rescue interfered with her plans, as glad as I am to see Egwene reunited with the rebels after so long. Gawyn continues to be infuriating. At least Siuan is willing to admit she acted a little rashly in the rescue (although I still sympathize with her mindset). And speaking of which, Siuan is going to marry Bryne! This has been a very eventful book for not only Egwene’s character, but Siuan’s.
The Black Ajah purge was well-written, as tense as it needed to be. It sounds like a massive undertaking, but it’s incredible to see such a long-standing antagonist faction start splitting at the seams because of Verin’s monumental work. I’m sure this won’t be the end of the Black Ajah. Alviarin will definitely cause trouble in the future, at least! She didn’t even show up in the Battle of the Tower, and she hasn’t done much in quite some time. But things don’t look good for Sheriam and most of the Black sisters among the rebels. Sheriam was a particularly cowardly and despicable Darkfriend anyway, so I’m shedding no tears.
Chapter 44: Scents Unknown
Rand approaches the arranged meeting place with the Borderlander delegation. Nynaeve attempts to convince him to support Lan and his soldiers at Tarwin’s Gap. Rand refuses, intending to outwit the Shadow. Nynaeve then asks of Perrin’s whereabouts. The solitary member of the Borderlander delegation is Hurin! Rand lifts him into the air and interrogates him to verify his identity. Hurin smells something dark, and then explains that the Borderlanders seek to treat with him before Far Madding. Rand Travels to a ridge overlooking the army. Suspicious of them, he decides to teach them a lesson with the access key. Nynaeve attempts to discourage him, and Rand slowly steps down. He has Hurin deliver a message that the Dragon Reborn rides for Shayol Ghul, with or without the Borderlanders. Rand then returns to Tear. He tells Nynaeve that Perrin is camped before a tremendous statue of a sword. Nynaeve proceeds to Cadsuane’s chambers, revealing what she learned of Perrin’s whereabouts, but demanding to know about the scheme. Cadsuane reveals that she does not seek Perrin, but someone with him.
Rand, can you not do something chilling in a chapter, for once? This is some incredibly rapid deterioration here. At this point, I can’t put anything past him. I legitimately thought he was capable of murdering the Borderlanders (and probably Far Madding, too). Yes, it was an incredibly stupid move to arrange such a suspicious meeting place, and the Borderlanders better have a valid justification for stirring up so much trouble in the last four books by leaving their posts, but Rand was about to blow them to pieces! Destroying a fortress of Graendal and her sycophants is one thing, massacring an army (and possibly the city right next to it) is another. Thank god for Nynaeve. I’ve really enjoyed her role in the book. While she’s accompanied Rand since WH, only in this book has she really stepped into the forefront, serving the role as confidant and preventing him from committing atrocities. And he repays her with refusing to save Lan… Argh. As Rand said earlier, Nynaeve is perhaps the only one who legitimately cares for him in her advice, opposed to Cadsuane’s manipulations.
And why did the reunion with Hurin have to be so depressing? I mean, it’s Hurin! Ten books later, and I still remember his character, and was very much excited to see his return. I was curious to see if he would show up again several books back (TSR or TFoH, perhaps), but the sheer complexity of the plot eventually conviced me that if he would return, it wouldn’t be for a while, until the Borderlanders were finally confronted. And here Hurin is, only to have his enthusiasm crushed by Dark Rand. Argh.
I’m becoming increasingly apprehensive of what Cadsuane intends to do about Rand. Obviously, something needs to be done, but I’m naturally not entirely trusting of Cadsuane at this point. I initially thought that Nynaeve would enter Perrin’s storyline shortly (which would be interesting indeed), but it seems that’s not the direction this subplot is heading, as it’s not Perrin that Cadsuane seeks. But who, then?