In this entry of Towers of Midnight, Nynaeve combats a bubble of evil in Tear, and then proves herself Aes Sedai to the Tower at last, Perrin and Faile resolve their differences, Morgase learns something startling, Mat and Elayne converse on the creation and usage of dragons, and Rodel Ituralde wages war against the Shadow before Maradon.
Note: Apologies over the rather substantial delay between this post and the previous one. I've been too busy to read lately.
Chapter 15: Use a Pebble
Nynaeve and Naeff attempt to restore order after a bubble of evil strikes Tear. Naeff remains delusional, seeing Fades everywhere. An entire block of the city turned to dust, killing everybody. After burning away the destruction, Nynaeve Delves Naeff and Heals his madness. Rand appears, and Nynaeve informs him she must return to the White Tower. She Delves Rand, and finds his mind too tainted, although laced in a white aura, to Heal. However, Nynaeve promises to Heal Narishma and Flinn before leaving. Rand warns her to stay clear of the Black Tower.
Egwene stands on the roof of the White Tower with Saerin, Yukiri, and Seaine, who were to search for information on Mesaana and the manipulation of the Oath Rod. Seaine believes Mesaana may have another Oath Rod that somehow negates the Oaths; she could’ve used Compulsion to have another disguised sister swear in her place; she also could have used a weave to alter the words.
These bubbles of evil have become customary after so many books, but this was probably one of the more effective ones, to say the least. Damn, how many people died in an incident of this scope, turning an entire region of the city to dust? Nasty. But the more important part of this chapter was Nynaeve Healing Madness, which is pretty major. Not as big as Healing Stilling, like back in LoC, but still, a pretty significant step for her! And from her observation of Rand’s mind, I’m more eager to return to his perspective than ever. What’s his head like now, truly? He’s so much more composed and serene on the outside, but what about the inside? Is there madness still affecting him? Very curious.
I really have nothing to comment on about Egwene’s part of the chapter, although I’m very much interested in Mesaana’s operations. It just seemed more like a wait-and-see thing, I don’t have much to speculate on.
Chapter 16: Shanna’har
Faile walks through the camp. The scouts were dispatched to Cairhien. She has planned a meeting with Perrin.
Perrin stands atop a hill, waiting for Faile. He refuses to accept himself as a leader. Faile assures him that the Two Rivers certainly could’ve received a worse leader than him. It is Faile and Perrin’s one year anniversary, their shanna’har. Perrin reveals his first encounter with the Whitecloaks, and his fear of becoming like Noam. After opening up, Perrin finally feels as if he’s reconnected with Faile.
This was a rather uneventful chapter, although I appreciate the important characterization for Perrin and Faile’s relationship. This is clearly the conclusion to their estranged conflict following Faile’s rescue, so it’s nice to see some closure there. I also hope it makes Perrin a little less stubborn and self-defeating. With Faile firmly on his side again, maybe Perrin can finally accept the fact he’s not a bad leader. He has far greater concern to contend with, including personal ones, than a stubborn lack of confidence. It seems that perhaps the most important one may be with the wolves. Perrin was so obsessed with recovering Faile that he shunned the wolf in him and ignored addressing something very crucial to his person. Now, like all the other problems he once ran from, he’s confronting his conflict with being a wolfbrother. He’s torn between enjoying the wolf dream and risking becoming someone like Noam (who I only just recalled from all the way back in TDR; it’s incredible how these minor little characters keep recurring, even in someone’s thoughts). At least now Perrin won’t run from that conflict. He’ll resolve it one way or another.
Chapter 17: Partings, and a Meeting
Juilin approaches Mat, revealing he intends to accompany the Aes Sedai to Tar Valon with Thera. Mat approaches the Aes Sedai, preparing their departure. The Seanchan will also depart with them. Egeanin and Bayle Domon have furthermore decided for Tar Valon. Mat gifts Joline with a basket of sweetbuns, which he later confides to Thom are laced with sprinklewort. He has the Aes Sedai deliver a message to whichever Amyrlin rules: that he will come to claim what is his. Setalle Anan decides to remain. Mat requests that she care for Olver while he and Thom leave.
Elayne speaks with Birgitte in the garden atop the palace. She continues to believe she is immune to danger because of Min’s viewing. Sumeko and Alise appear. The Kin are unable to return to Ebou Dar, but Sumeko decides to proceed to Tar Valon, as arranged. Elayne agrees that those of the Kin who wish to become Aes Sedai are welcome in the Tower, but the rest may remain in Caemlyn. She offers her support so long as the Kin provide Traveling and Healing to those that require it. There is a tentative agreement, and the Kinswomen depart. Elayne is concerned of the eventual Seanchan invasion of Andor. She considers an alliance with the Black Tower.
So it’s surprising to see so many peripheral (and not-so-peripheral) characters traditionally following Mat around leave at last. It seemed just a bit too much as if Sanderson (or Jordan, if he included the fates of these characters into his notes) just wanted to get many of these less-important characters out of the way while Mat’s arc moved into a different direction. It makes sense, but I do hope we see more of these characters at the White Tower. Some, I was never crazy about (I wouldn’t mind seeing the last of Bayle Domon and his wonderful wife sometime soon, and Joline was just infuriating), but nevertheless, I want their character arcs to have definitive conclusions, which I feel Jordan would have provided. So I’m curious to see what Sanderson will do with such a tremendous cast of characters. I mean, Juilin used to be a pretty important character, joining Elayne, Nynaeve, and Thom on their adventures, but his entire character was relegated to a very minor romance with Thera for the last few books. I wonder if there’s any plan for him either.
That bizarre letter aside, Sanderson has improved his Mat in this book, but there are still jarring moments that aren’t completely realistic, like Mat’s juvenile prank on Joline. I don’t know, I would’ve expected that of him in EoTW or TGH, but I don’t think Jordan would’ve included it at this point in Mat’s development. And I wonder what Mat intends to retrieve from the White Tower. The Horn of Valere is still there, right? Probably that, then.
Not much to comment on about Elayne’s part of the chapter. I’ve always been ambivalent regarding the Kin, as they’re not altogether fascinating or interesting, although it is intriguing that Elayne would have many of them provide Traveling and Healing throughout Caemlyn.
Chapter 18: The Strength of This Place
Perrin runs in the wolf dream, visiting the Whitecloak camp for information. He realizes he should’ve scouted Malden like this when Faile was captured. Hopper begins teaching Young Bull to use the wolf dream. However, they halt when they come across a translucent violet wall of wrongness that suddenly vanishes. This troubles Perrin.
Rodel Ituralde surveys his force, mounted on a hillside, blocking the passage of the Blight to Maradon. His men have clashed with Trollocs for weaks, exhausting the Asha’man. The Saldaeans have refused to provide aid or permit them entry into Maradon. Bodies are suddenly catapulted at the hill with tebuchets, launching dead Trollocs. There are suddenly live Draghkar among the falling bodies, attacking the soldiers. The Asha’man attempt to deflect them with fire. Ituralde hopes that Rand provides aid soon.
Faile confronts Berelain in her tent. The latter believes Faile sought Perrin for political gain in connecting Saldaea with the Dragon Reborn. Faile challenges Berelain to a duelto the death unless the rumors concerning Perrin are stopped. Berelain suggest they attempt to be friends to discourage the rumors, and Faile grudgingly consents.
I continue to remain somewhat apathetic to at least some of Perrin’s wolf scenes. Not that they’re necessarly boring or anything… I recognize how crucial Perrin being trained in the wolf dream is to the development of his character. It’s just the scenes can be sometimes redundant. This book has a clear emphasis on Perrin in contrast to some other recent books, so perhaps I’m just not used to his storyline having the time to spend a while on training in the wolf dream. I’m intrigued by the violet wall, though. Interesting.
Similarly, although I enjoyed the scene, Rodel Ituralde’s battle with the Trollocs is rather self-explanatory. Not much to say about it, although it’s great to see what Ituralde’s been doing since leaving Arad Doman. He’s in his element, alright.
Finally, the Faile and Berelain scene was great. These last two books have been wrapping up or progressing so many subplots, relationships, conflicts, character arcs, etc., it’s hard not to feel excited, even if some aren’t executed with as much focus or time as one would hope. Berelain’s manipulation of Perrin has been integral to his arc, and his relationship with Faile, since TSR, I think, and it’s a relief to see that conflict might finally end too. However, I’m not sure whether it’ll be as easy as Berelain and Faile pretending to be friends…
Chapter 19: Talk of Dragons
Mat prepares to meet with Elayne in Caemlyn. Olver wants to discuss the infiltration of the Tower of Ghenjei, and Mat regrets ever letting him know of it. Mat and Thom proceed through the city towards the Royal Palace. Charlz Guybon escorts them inside, intrigued by the rumors about Mat. Upon being brought to Elayne and Birgitte, the former embraces Thom dramatically. Thom explains what occurred since the Seanchan claimed Ebou Dar. Mat asks after Verin, in need of Traveling to the Tower of Ghenjei. Mat relays Aludra’s exorbitant request for resources, and Elayne is flabbergasted until she understands the importance of the dragons. Mat wishes the dragons for the Band, whereas Elayne intends Andor to possess them. She also seeks a commission to the Band. They finally agree on the latter, that the Band receives one of four dragons if they leave Elayne’s service, and that Mat allows Elayne to study the foxhead medallion for three days. Feeling vulnerable about the gholam, Mat explains about that as well. Elayne intends to copy the medallion, and also plans to claim the Sun Throne in Cairhien. She finally offers Thom commission as official court bard, also pardoning him for any crimes he may have committed in Andor or Cairhien.
This was an excellent chapter, even if it was primarily dialogue. I loved that these two long-separated characters managed to reunite and reconcile. It’s another of the reasons I’ve enjoyed the last two books; so many characters have been reunited, and there’s clearly more on the horizon. Mat has grown since his last encounters with Elayne, and Elayne has herself. Mat’s observations about her are generally true; she isn’t as irritatingly headstrong as she was in the past, although her innate arrogance shows with her consistently-infuriating interpretation of Min’s viewing. I definitely enjoyed the haggling the two did to come to an agreement. However, I’m worried about the terms they eventually reached. Now that Mat’s given away the medallion for a short time, the gholam just has to attack now that he’s vulnerable. It’s only natural. At least Elayne only seeks to copy it, a very useful cause. Elayne’s still pulling her political strings, obviously, attempting to secure soldiers and brand new weaponry for Andor alone. Hopefully, her desire for authority and strength doesn’t cloud her judgment in the grand scheme of things, as there won’t be an Andor to strengthen if the Last Battle isn’t won.
Chapter 20: A Choice
Nynaeve is instructed on the test for the shawl. They proceed to the chamber with the oval ring, where the seven sisters conducting the test are present. Egwene is there as well. Nynaeve enters the oval ring, and throughout her tests, she is forced to abandon injured or endangered people, including sickened children, Two Rivers villagers assailed by Shadowspawn, etcetera. She starts to gradually break the rules in order to aid people. The final test has Lan attacked by Darkhounds. Nynaeve balefires them to rescue him.
Upon emerging from the arc, she is heavily battered. Saerin has her Healed, and is livid with the harshness of the test. However, Rubinde and Barasine believe it was conducted properly, and that Nynaeve failed regardless in her haste and usage of balefire. Nynaeve replies that she would rather save lives than become Aes Sedai, if forced to choose. The Sitters discuss, and Egwene realizes that Nynaeve was only capable of channeling out of turn at all because of her experience in Tel’aran’rhiod. The Sitters finish their discussion, and Saerin requests that Nynaeve swear never to utilize balefire, but is refused. Egwene impresses the importance of raising someone as powerful and accomplished as Nynaeve. The Sitters finally vote, in the majority, that she passed the test, if only barely. Before starting her night of contemplation, Nynaeve Travels to the Aes Sedai camp outsie the Black Tower, where the envoys are still forced to wait. She confronts Myrelle, demanding her bond to Lan. Myrelle reluctantly passes the bond over.
This…was a rather intense chapter, and very well written on Sanderson’s part. It felt very much like what Jordan would’ve wrote, at least in conception and style, if not word choice. It naturally recalls Nynaeve’s Accepted test all the way back in TGH, which was similarly intense and focused on testing her control over her emotions (an integral part of her character, no doubt). Her approach hasn’t changed much, but that’s because the core of who Nynaeve is has remained relatively consistent. No doubt, she’s matured and developed throughout the series, but even now, she’s still an emotionally charged person who won’t hesitate to do away with convention and even rationality to protect those she cares about. The test was definitely challenging her on that, and in the end, she technically failed. She listened to her emotions, but I also agree with Nynaeve, on her performance in the test and her defiance to Aes Sedai protocol in general, that that shouldn’t matter. The points she makes are all definitely sound, and it somewhat irritates me that Egwene continues to hold a more conservative outlook on the Tower’s future, emphasizing its adherence to tradition, which has been the Tower’s undoing so far.
Oh, and Nynaeve’s finally been bonded to Lan! Incredible that it took six books after their marriage to occur. It stuns me, sometimes, how protracted this series really became in its second half, although I’ve actually, in some ways, enjoyed the complexity and detail. It makes this flurry of resolutions, to subplots small and large, so much more satisfying.
Chapter 21: An Open Gate
Seonid reports on Cairhien to Perrin and Faile, revealing the Sun Throne remains vacant, although Elayne has successfully claimed Andor. Rand is presumably in Arad Doman. King Darlin is amassing troops. Perrin is still intent on proceeding to Andor, although Alliandre and the Ghealdanin are to remain in Jehannah. There is conflict between the Aiel and the Seanchan for collaring Wise Ones. Perrin has Balwer write the Whitecloaks on selecting the location for the upcoming battle. Balwer displays pictures of Mat and Perrin, explaining someone seeks their deaths. He remains secretive on his past, merely saying his past employer was killed by Whitecloaks. Balwer believes working for Perrin is reward enough, declining a raise.
Trollocs overwhelm Ituralde’s army, pushing it towards Maradon. There is chaos as someone sounds retreat. Ituralde breaks his leg, but the gates of Maradon open, and horsemen ride to support the Dragonsworn. The Saldaean commander, Yoeli, rescues Ituralde, but believes it will cost him his life.
Morgase is stunned by Perrin’s revelation that Gaebril was actually Rahvin, a Forsaken. She reflects on the men in her life that continuously manipulated her. Tallanvor announces that he intends to help the cause in Tear. Morgase explains the truth about Rahvin, and requests that Tallanvor not leave so quickly. He consents.
Damn, these chapters are getting longer and longer. I mean, considering the much-larger font in the Sanderson novels, his longer chapters don’t really compare to Jordan’s, but still. The revelation about Rahvin was well-done. I can only imagine how that would feel for Morgase. I definitely enjoyed the bit of development and even closure she had in this chapter, and her interaction with Tallanvor, but it does make me reflect on the rather miserable nature of Morgase’s protracted arc, which has had some really riveting turns, but as a whole, pretty much has her controlled by a variety of cruel men (well, in Sevanna’s case, women). The nature of submission that was discussed in this chapter is a prominent theme in Morgase’s storyline, which is rather depressing. I do hope that things actually look up for her soon, and that she has some legitimate closure after so many horrific experiences.
The bit with Balwer was consistent with his prior characterization, so no progress there. I’m curious about his future, though, considering he’s now confronting his former employers. And as for the segment with Ituralde, and the ones that preceded it, I’m confused with their placement with Perrin’s, as the two characters have little to do with each other. Sanderson probably would’ve been better served to have them all in one chapter (as Jordan certainly would’ve done; when he couldn’t properly spread out an arc for Egwene in KoD, he just condensed it into one enormous chapter), but it is consistent with the more chaotic arrangement of POVs in this book, each chapter jumping between numerous arcs and perspectives. Anyway, I have no idea why the Saldaeans would be so cruel as to not permit support for Ituralde until this Yoeli finally decided otherwise. The Borderlanders have been very suspicious recently. They have to have Randland’s best interests at heart, right? What agenda could they possibly promote by allowing the Shadow to run rampant as they have in the last few books? Hmm.