In this entry of Towers of Midnight, Rand returns from Dragonmount serenely to approach the White Tower with a plan for the Last Battle, Perrin addresses his own inner fears as he works to protect his people from a sudden Whitecloak threat, Galad successfully reunifies the Whitecloaks, Graendal receives new orders, and Egwene is faced with a puzzling series of murders.
Chapter 1: Apples First
Almen Bunt tends to his sister’s orchard, all the apples shriveled and rotted. Almen and his sons dread the future of the family and the village when the trees suddenly start to blossom. Rand walks down the path leading toward Dragonmount, appearing serene. Almen recognizes him as a boy he delivered to Caemlyn. Rand has Almen and the villagers pick the now-ripe apples swiftly. As he leaves, Rand notes he is doing something he has put off, and that she won’t be pleased. Almen notes a lightness around Rand as he departs. The farmer gathers the villagers, intent on taking care of the apples.
This chapter almost felt as if it would fit more in the prologue, being a very insigifnicant character contending with the influence of both the Dark One and Rand, but it was a nice little chapter nonetheless, as it’s our first glimpse at post-Dragonmount Rand, something I’ve been eager to see. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about a serene, composed Rand. Although his internal conflicts needed to be resolved in the face of Tarmon Gai’don, his arc was so enjoyable precisely because of how human Rand was, an ordinary person crushed with extraordinary responsibilities and grappling with madness as a result. Rand’s deterioration was fascinating, albeit painful in TGS. But the completely composed Rand that Sanderson depicted in this chapter was remarkably different (naturally so) and I’m not sure how I’ll regard him as the story proceeds. We’ll have to see.
Chapter 2: Questions of Leadership
Perrin leads his followers to the Jehannah Road. A bubble of evil injured many, including the Asha’man and Masuri. There is still no sign of Basel Gill and the others. Perrin allows more refugees to join the procession. Gaul returns from scouting, accompanied by Fennel, who was left behind by Gill and the others to relay the message that the region to the north is supposedly impassable. Gill therefore led the servants east towards Lugard. Perrin and Faile agree to follow, although the former remains reluctant about being a leader, despite Faile’s protests. Three Maidens return from scouting, reporting something important ahead.
Galad awakens in a dark tent, chained to a stake. Trom, Bornhald, and Byar suddenly enter, followed by several Lords Captain. The latter decided Galad was in the right, and executed Asunawa. The Whitecloaks are now completely unified under Galad. They decide to march to Andor.
There isn’t too much to comment on in Perrin’s portion of the chapter. I really hope he starts overcoming that leadership reluctance nonsense. It’s only been 9 books since Perrin’s started proving himself as a leader of men, of soldiers, and he’s still convinced he’s useless. I mean, he does have a point in one regard. I do like that he realizes how dangerous that infuriating obsession with rescuing Faile was over the last few books. But essentially everything Faile said about Perrin’s leadership qualities is also very much true. Considering this book supposedly resolves a lot of Perrin’s internal conflict, hopefully he overcomes that lack of confidence quickly, as it’s been far too long.
But the more surprising part of the chapter was with Galad. Damn, I didn’t expect Asunawa to be handled that quickly. It certainly isn’t the Jordan style, killing off Asunawa and resolving that conflict in the space of a chapter. I’m not sure entirely how I feel about it. On the one hand, I do love the acceleration of the plot, and I certainly won’t grieve Asunawa’s death. But I’m just surprised that this conflict between the Whitecloak factions was resolved so quickly, so easily, as I expected it to be a running problem through the book. The Whitecloaks have a lot to accomplish if they intend to redeem themselves as a faction, and even Galad himself, who I like, continues to assume the rather reprehensible current philosophy of the Whitecloaks, regarding their perceived right to intrude upon other nations and harass its residents without grounds. Even with radicals like Asunawa killed and the subversive members of the Whitecloaks quelled, they, as an organization, have a lot of blood on their hands, and I do hope, if they are indeed being redeemed as a formerly antagonistic faction, that the transition is natural. But it’s not like Asunawa wasn’t the only unpleasant person amongst the Whitecloaks. There’s still Byar and Bornhald to deal with when the inevitable Perrin confrontation occurs, and I can’t wait for that.
Chapter 3: The Amyrlin’s Anger
Egwene orders Elayne and Nynaeve to meet in the Hall in two nights through Tel’aran’rhiod, intent on informing them about the change in the White Tower. She later dreams of thirteen black towers, all crumbling save six, one of the fallen growing taller than the others. A nest of eagle hatchlings are swallowed by a serpent amongst their number. A sphere of crystal sparkles in the light of 23 stars, held together by ropes until Rand chops them, allowing the sphere to shatter. Egwene awakens, and Silviana enters to inform her that the Dragon Reborn seeks audience.
Siuan and Saerin speak with Captain Chubain about Rand’s sudden arrival. They proceed to the Hall. Siuan agrees with Egwene’s choice for Keeper, although still retains secret jealousies. Rand enters shielded by Aes Sedai and guarded by Warders. He speaks to Siuan and Bryne, thanking the former for taking an arrow for him. He receives a letter with a red seal from Tiana, and then enters the Hall.
Rand surprises Egwene with his serenity. He claims Egwene set him on the right path accidentally. Egwene is concerned that Rand is mad, and announces she will have him examined, but he refuses. Rand proposes that both saidin and saidar is needed to seal the Bore, and intends to break the remaining seals at Shayol Ghul in one month. He will meet with the Aes Sedai at the Fields of Merrilor one day before. Egwene is reminded of her dream about the sphere. Rand departs, and Egwene decides to procure allies to prevent him from breaking the seals.
Well, this was an interesting confrontation. It’s been seven books since last Rand encountered Egwene. That means Mat is now the major character Rand has been separated from the longest. I do enjoy these reunions. Throughout the series, the main characters have been separated so many times, for such lengthy stretches, the very few times they actually reunite are very memorable. I’m definitely looking forward to Rand and Mat meeting again, or Rand and Perrin. But a confrontation with Egwene was potentially explosive, and it’s so fortunate that Rand never approached her, or the White Tower, prior to his epiphany, as that would’ve ended in disaster. But even now, with the very serene Rand and Elaida dethroned, this was a very tense confrontation that still could’ve gone to hell.
So I enjoyed that aspect of the chapter, but I’m just a little conflicted over the characterization of these two major characters meeting for the first time since LoC, after so much has occurred. I was curious as to how I would enjoy Rand’s character after his transformation, and I admit, he’s certainly not the same. It was obviously necessary for him to overcome his madness and assume this serenity, but Rand was just so much more entertaining to read when he was grappling with his mental state, even in such deterioration as in TGS. As for Egwene, she was certainly awesome in TGS, but her very-Aes Sedai attitude towards Rand has irritated me for some time, and this encounter was no exception. Damn, if she tried to control him only a few chapters ago… Well, we saw what happened when Cadsuane tried. This philosophy that Rand has to be controlled by the White Tower to a certain degree can just get infuriating. But still, this was definitely a much-anticipated chapter. I’m not sure what to say about Rand’s plan regarding the Dark One. Clearly it’s dangerous, and I guess I can sympathize with the Tower not wanting to go along with it, but I just wish Egwene, at least, would trust Rand a little in knowing what he’s doing, rather than automatically seeking to defy him.
Chapter 4: The Pattern Groans
A patch of Blight suddenly appeared off the Jehannah Road. Perrin and a following explore the patch, finding an inexplicable village in the center. He has the Wise Ones scorch the region. He later enters the wolf dream, and initially refuses to hunt with the others after dwelling about Noam. He eventually reverts to the wolf form, and has visions of Mat fighting against a dozen men wearing his face while an assassin approaches from behind, of sheep chased by strange wolves towards a forest with an unseen beast, and of thousands walking towards a cliff. Perrin scents a stag and brings it down, but Hopper prevents him from killing it, as death is final in the wolf dream. Perrin agrees to allow Hooper to teach him as he pleases.
Galad rides through the camp, still intending to avoid the Seanchan and the Dragon Reborn by heading north. He had the Questioners dispersed amongst the Children to integrate them. Galad dispatches a letter to other Questioners not accompanying Asunawa, commanding them to report. The other Lords Captain remain uncomfortable with allying with Aes Sedai for the Last Battle. Byar returns, reporting he captured dozens of prisoners on the Jehannah Road. Galad has Bornhald disperse the prisoners and question them. The leader is Basel Gill, and he claims to have been heading to Ebou Dar for commerce, but Galad is doubtful. After questioning, Bornhald reports that the leader is Perrin, who killed his father.
So Perrin’s wolf storyline is definitely coming back. That was to be expected. The wolves have only played a peripheral role since, what, LoC? I know they participated briefly in Dumai’s Wells. For the longest time, Perrin attempted to suppress his connection with the wolves, and I guess that’s understandable, but his stubbornness in literally everything in his life continues to grate. It’s necessary, though, for him to confront this fear of being consumed by the wolf form. Like it or not, Perrin’s a wolfbrother, and he just can’t run away from that problem anymore. Although much about him remains the same old Perrin, I can sense change on his character’s horizon in his decision to confront his problems for once, rather than ignore them. Obviously, finding mastery in the wolf dream is pivotal. As for Perrin’s dreams, not sure how to interpet them. Are the Forsaken still trying to get the two ta’veren killed? There haven’t been many Darkfriend assassins since KoD, but I could imagine the Shadow trying again with Mat, as depicted in the dream. It could also be the gholam? We haven’t seen him in ages.
Galad’s portion turned out to be the more interesting part, again, if only for what it suggests in the future. I’m really excited for the Whitecloak storyline, despite my apprehensions about resolving the internal conflict so quickly two chapters back, and it’s definitely proceeding with quick pace (natural, considering the Whitecloaks haven’t been present for books and books prior to this). Bornhald still clearly holds a grudge against Perrin. I do hope the confrontations with him and that zealot Byar are satisfying, there’s been so much buildup since the very beginning of the series, regarding the conflict between Perrin and the Whitecloaks. And now Galad is on his trail. I’m very curious to see Galad’s role in this. I have a feeling his devotion to justice will have him side more with Bornhald and Byar than with Perrin, initially. Protagonists conflicting with one another, how exciting!
Chapter 5: Writings
Gawyn and Sleete walk through the White Tower to where an Aes Sedai was murdered, the fourth victim in a few days, all killed with knives. Chubain feels threatened, thinking Gawyn is after his position as Captain of the Tower Guard. Sleete finds a thread of black silk. Gawyn approaches Egwene, encouraging her to pressure more sisters into bonding Warders. Egwene is certain the assassin is Mesaana.
Egwene is frustrated with Gawyn’s stubbornness, and his disrespect of her authority. She writes a letter to Darlin, asking his support in preventing Rand’s breaking the seals.
Graendal is approached with a messenger in her hiding place in the Aryth Ocean. She Travels to Moridin, who is infuriated with Aran’gar’s death. Graendal claims that the destruction of Natrin’s Barrow was intentional, to torture Rand with the remorse of murdering innocents. Seemingly convinced, Moridin decides not to punish her, but orders her to stay away from Rand. Graendal offers to find Perrin, knowing where his army is located and planning a trap. Moridin provides her with one of two dreamspikes, also promising to lend her the man with two souls. He assures Graendal she will be greatly rewarded if she successfully kills Perrin, as proclaimed in the Dark Prophecy.
This was another intriguing chapter, but Gawyn continues to be annoying as hell. For the longest time, I questioned much of the hate for the character in the fanbase, but now I certainly get it. Gawyn’s stubborn, arrogant, irritating, and has made some disastrous decisions. I’m not sure whether his annoyingness in the last two books is a result of his character’s nature, or Sanderson’s characterization. For all I know, this is Sanderson genuinely trying to portray Gawyn rationally. Who knows? What irritated me about him this time was his condescending treatment of Chubain and his continuous disrespect of Egwene (she’s totally right on that count, although I’m still not completely down with her decisions concerning Rand).
Aside from Gawyn, this new development in the White Tower was unexpected. The struggle between the two Aes Sedai factions spanned so long, I never really thought about what would follow its inevitable conclusion. I had no idea where Egwene’s (and the Tower’s) storyline would go after her ascension to the Amyrlin Seat, and so was very curiois going into ToM. It seems this secret murderer will play a significant role. My first guess was Mesaana (I’m almost certain she’s still in the Tower and will be causing considerable trouble from within, now that all the Black sisters are gone), but that may be too simple. I’m excited to see where this heads regardless.
As for Graendal, she was the last Forsaken I expected to hunt Perrin! To be honest, I didn’t really expect any of the Forsaken to get involved with Perrin’s or Mat’s storylines, despite Moridin’s orders in KoD. I just assumed there’d be an increase in Darkfriend assassination attempts, but this is so much better. Graendal’s prestige has clearly been lowered after being essentially out-manipulated by Rand, so now she has no choice but to leave her little sanctuaries and do the Dark One’s bidding. And so she intends to trap Perrin? With something called a dreamspike, which sounds really unpleasant (what’s Moridin planning to do with the other one)? And the man with two souls is going to help? Oh, that’s obviously Slayer. Finally, he’s back! And it makes perfect sense that Perrin would have a final showdown with that guy. That, I could see coming. Slayer’s such a mysterious, awesome villain, with a rich backstory and a lot of potential, so it’s always surprised me he’s only showed up in two books whatsoever. I’m very excited to see him return to the narrative.
Chapter 6: Questioning Intentions
Morgase serves tea as Perrin convenes with his confidants. Neald is still recovering from injuries. The patch of Blight was successfully eradicated. Morgase ruminates on Perrin, considering him a promising leader but also a rebel against the sovereignty of Andor. He intends to send Alliandre and the Ghealdanin back to Jehannah, although she wishes to remain under his banner. His patience exhausted, Perrin orders all the wolf banners burned. Balwer believes sending the refugees home through gateways could take days, more than the Asha’man could handle. Perrin agrees to dispatch scouts to Cairhien, to learn more about Rand’s whereabouts, among other things. Edarra suggests forming circles with Asha’man, Wise Ones, and Aes Sedai for Traveling, and Perrin has them all start practicing. He then summons Tallanvor, demanding he and Morgase marry, to set aside the nonsense. Morgase refuses the command, hurting Tallanvor. Sulin reports that a Whitecloak army has appeared further down the road.
This was an interesting chapter to read from Morgase’s perspective. We haven’t been in her head in ages. She didn’t show up period in TGS, and only played a minor role since TPoD, when her arc intersected Perrin’s. But her arc has always impressed me. She’s had to endure so much, and I was curious to see how her character developed because of it. Although Sanderson still handles characterization with less subtlety than Jordan, he did a good job in writing Morgase and depicting her development. There’s still clearly a conflict between the queen in her and the desire to move on from that long-gone part of her life. Her thoughts on Perrin were sometimes irritating, though. Perrin can irritate me considerably (get over the damn banners, dude), but Morgase’s attitude was somewhat condescending. I’ve also always been irritated with both her and Elayne’s opposition to autonomy in the Two Rivers. They ruled the region only in name, why throw a fit when Perrin unwillingly leads something they never led in the first place? Certainly both Morgase and Elayne have more pressing concerns at the moment… But I’m with her regarding Perrin’s rash decision to impose marriage, although I question the tactfulness of her response in front of Tallanvor. What did Perrin expect from a fiery woman like Morgase with a statement like that?
But Whitecloaks are coming! YES!
Chapter 7: Lighter than a Feather
Lan and Bulen travel through the Plain of Lances near Kandor. They pass an inn, and three men start following. Lan recognizes them from his past. He refuses to allow them to join him, but they ride in the same direction regardless.
Byar approaches Galad after scouting Perrin’s camp. He insists that Perrin killed Bornhald’s father. Galad recognizes the Two Rivers as Rand’s homeland.
Faile is perturbed by Perrin’s carnivorous breakfast. She decides to breakfast with Alliandre. Gaul enters to report on the Whitecloaks.
Byar tells Galad of his battle with the Trollocs in the Two Rivers, believing Perrin sent them as a Darkfriend. The entire Two Rivers, he claims, is rife with Darkfriends. Galad agrees that even farmers can be dangerous. Byar also emphasizes Perrin’s killing of two Whitecloaks in Andor.
Gaul reports that the Whitecloaks are imprisoning Basel Gill and the others. He remains frustrated with having Bain and Chiad as gai’shain. Balwer believes the Lord Commander is amongst the Whitecloaks. Perrin reflects on his encounter with the Whitecloaks when Hopper died.
Byar presses Galad, who agrees that Perrin must be brought to justice. Byar suggests establishing a home for the Whitecloaks in Ghealdan by ‘liberating’ Alliandre from her fealty to Perrin.
Perrin learns that there are twenty thousand soldiers amongst the Whitecloaks, less than Perrin’s. They also lack channelers.
Galad decides the Whitecloaks must move against Perrin, but not after initiating negotiations, of sorts.
Perrin decides to find a superior camp, scout further, and then offer peace with the Whitecloaks, although he is willing to rescue Gill and the servants at all costs.
There isn’t too much to comment on Lan, save that his stubbornness remains perplexing, simultaneously endearing and irritating. I don’t want you to die, Lan, so accept the damn support! There are so many stubborn characters in this book; Perrin, Lan, Galad, Gawyn, Egwene…
The majority of this chapter was centered back on Perrin’s storyline, and it was quite interesting, to see the conflict ratcheting up. Just as I expected, Galad is falling for Byar’s lies, and intends to bring Perrin to justice. I would honestly have been quite disappointed if there wasn’t an immense conflict between these two protagonists, considering their histories. Perrin will finally have to confront the enemies of his past, and I really hope that zealot Byar and that drunkard Bornhald get what’s coming to them. The structure of this chapter was what shocked me most, though. TGS deviated from the chapter structure Jordan had established for the previous few books, clumping the chapters by POV. Instead, TGS was a bit more haphazard, shifting from perspective to perspective. ToM, so far, has been even more so. There are sudden POV shifts in the middle of chapters! We just shifted from Lan all the way to Perrin just now, after all. To be honest, although it’s not typical of Jordan, I don’t have a huge problem with this. The only concern is the chronological dissonance. When we jump between Rand’s and Perrin’s chapters, the huge difference in time gets disconcerting.
But what was notable in this chapter was the constant flitting between Perrin and Galad as they conversed with their conifidants. It was a very un-WoT style of narrative, although I’m not exactly criticizing it. I think it worked, it was just rather jarring. The only time Jordan ever used that kind of abrupt POV shift was in the cleansing of saidin, and even there, it was more about depicting the different parties in battle, rather than depicting two ongoing conversations simultaneously, as in this chapter. I wonder if Sanderson will employ this narrative effect later…