In this entry of Towers of Midnight, Gawyn leaves for Caemlyn, Mat has a conversation with Birgitte, Elayne confronts the Darkfriend prisoners, Lan continues his journeys, Ituralde defends the city of Maradon from Trolloc siege, Galad makes a discovery when negotiating with Perrin, Rand returns to Bandar Eban, Egwene contends with the Sitters, and Perrin rescues wolves from Slayer's grasp.
Chapter 22: The End of a Legend
Gawyn remains frustrated. He finds that many of the former-Younglings do not wish to become Warders, and so Gawyn suggests they join the Tower Guards after a recommendation to Chubain. Bryne later advises Gawyn on how to handle Egwene. Gawyn proceeds to the Amyrlin’s quarters despite his orders, sighting a shadow. He narrowly dodges a thrown knife and pursues the assassin, and then barges into Egwene’s room to warn her, where he triggers the traps and is bound in Air. Egwene appears, infuriated.
Mat is joined by Noal and Thom at a pub in Caemlyn. The latter hopes to trade with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn in return for Moiraine, which Mat discourages. The trio intends to bring lanterns, torches, fireworks, hand drums, cymbals, a flute and harp, iron swords, knives, and a band of iron to successfully survive in the Tower of Ghenjei. Mat later decides to question Birgitte about the Finns, and proceeds towards the palace when he passes an alley where a man is being robbed. Mat rescues the man from the thugs, but the man recognizes Mat and attempts to kill him. After dispatching the man, Mat finds a picture of himself in the man’s pocket.
Birgitte guards Elayne while she and several invited nobles (including Ellorien) watch a play. She dwells on the loss of her memories. She hears of a disturbance at the Plum Gate, and heads to check. The intruder is Mat, and he and Birgitte proceed to an inn to converse. Birgitte discourages him from infiltrating the Tower of Ghenjei, as she and Gaidal, in a past life, were killed there. She suddenly senses that Elayne is endangered.
These chapters are getting longer. Firstly, Gawyn is still annoying. I’m not sure if Sanderson is aware of that in his characterization… Gawyn was a character who had sizable hate before TGS, but I never really picked up on it because he appeared so infrequently. But with Gawyn receiving his own arcs in TGS and ToM, what makes him so annoying is coming into the forefront, and I’m wondering whether it was intentional on Sanderson’s part, as you’d think he’d use all of the focus on Gawyn to actually develop him some more. At least there’s more progress regarding this book’s White Tower subplot. It’s interesting, entering a new arc after the plot driving so many different characters (the reuniting of the Aes Sedai factions) for so long has finally been resolved. Now the plot’s focus is on Mesaana and the assassin(s) in the Tower (who certainly doesn’t seem to be Mesaana, as I initially assumed…). I’m curious to see where it goes, although the arc hasn’t been moving particularly fast so far.
As for Mat and Birgitte, I enjoyed their reunion. They had some amusing interplay in ACoS, when last they met, and I was worried Sanderson would fumble it as he did with Mat’s relationship with Talmanes. But both characters come off realistically in their conversation. I’ve been enjoying Mat’s arc in ToM so far, because his story’s finally moving after what was mainly filler in TGS. The gholam’s on the prowl, Mat’s bartered with Elayne, and now he’s preparing for what seems to be one hell of an adventure into the Tower of Ghenjei. The odds definitely seem stacked against Mat, but that’s never stopped him before.
And what has Elayne gotten up to now?
Chapter 23: Foxheads
Elayne focuses on the foxhead medallion and the copy she created. The copy cannot withstand powerful weaves, and restricts the user from channeling while holding it. Sylvase’s secretary has been unsuccessful in questioning the prisoners thus far. Elayne suddenly thinks of how to successfully interrogate them. Returning to her chambers, Elayne disguises herself as a Forsaken and changes her voice. She has no fears of confronting the Black Ajah because of Min’s viewing, and requests no backup. She Travels to Chesmal’s cell, who reveals that Mat is in Caemlyn, and that the Darkfriends seek to assassinate him. They are almost in position for the invasion of Andor. The cell door suddenly opens, and the secretary, Temaile, and Eldrith enter. Eldrith sees through Elayne’s guise and is shielded in time, alongside Chesmal. The secretary attacks, breaking elayne’s shoulder and seizing the medallion. Elayne manages to defeat Temaile, but the secretary flees. Elayne throws Chesmal at him with Air, and the man drops the medallion. She retrieves it, but Daved Hanlon stabs her from behind, seizing it. Chesmal shields her, and is ordered to Heal Elayne, to keep her alive for Hanlon. When Chesmal picks up the medallion copy, the shield falls, and Elayne manages to kill her with Fire. Hanlon seizes both medallions, but Elayne holds Eldrith in front of her. However, Hanlon callously slits Eldrith’s throat, and kills Temaile as well, apparently on orders. Elayne brings the ceiling down on him, and Hanlon drops a medallion escaping. Elayne finds it’s the original. Birgitte and Mat arrive, reporting the guards outside were killed.
Egwene eventually speaks with Gawyn after freeing him from the trap, furious that he revealed the security measures and frightened Mesaana. Gawyn suggests it was instead a Gray Man or Darkfriend. After leaving, Gawyn informs Chubain that he has Younglings who wish to become soldiers. He then prepares to leave for Caemlyn, to finally support Elayne.
Lan and his followrs are in eastern Kandor, near the border of Arafel. He sights new tents in the camp, eight men talking to Andere. Three are Malkieri, the rest Shienaran. The merchants brought several wagons of supplies, as well as some warhorses. Lan allows them to accompany him, so long as they remain silent and pose as a caravan of merchants. He is irritated with the rapid growth of his party.
As rash and annoying as Elayne was, this was an awesome chapter. ToM, like most WoT books, hasn’t been huge on the action in its first half (although there were memorable scenes, like the gholam’s return and Ituralde’s battles). This scene was probably the most riveting in the novel thus far. The loose threads from the resolution of Elayne’s arc in KoD had to be addressed at one point, and it seems there’s still more to be done, even with the death of a ton of Darkfriends that I’ve been expecting to spring into action for some time. First of all, Elayne’s plan wasn’t completely stupid. Very risky (Birgitte definitely wouldn’t have agreed to it), but it made sense. But Elayne jumped into it without thought, without care, and without a backup plan. Naturally, things had to go to hell. What surprises me about this whole incident is that I thought Mat would be the one to get into trouble, because he’s the one deprived of the foxhead medallion. The moment he made that agreement with Elayne, I was certain the gholam was going to attack. The medallions, of course, saved Elayne’s life (although now Hanlon has the copy), so they came into play, but I expected a gholam attack instead. So kudos to Sanderson for the unpredictability of this scene.
I really hope that this debacle has finally dispelled Elayne’s inane, arrogant interpretation of Min’s viewing. After being nearly killed by Hanlon, she has to realize she isn’t invincible. I sincerely hope this puts an end to future Elayne-rashness. So Hanlon isn’t quite out of the picture, though. When Elayne set off to handle the Darkfriends, I thought that it’d be the end to that little subplot (which had its roots all the way back in ACoS), but there’s obviously more to it. Sure, even more of Liandrin’s former Black cronies (Temaile, Eldrith, and Chesmal) have been killed (and under what orders was Hanlon operating in that regard?), but the important figures (i.e. the ruthless Hanlon, the unscrupulous Shiaine, and their two servants Marillin and Falion) seem to have escaped, with a medallion in tow and speaking of a planned invasion of Andor. Things are just escalating! Damn. I didn’t expect such competence of Hanlon, although I did get the impression he was more than just the average Darkfriend when he was first introduced. I’m really curious to see where this subplot goes now.
The exciting fight scene naturally dominated this chapter. As for the other segments, I completely agree with Egwene on Gawyn, and I’m so glad to see that he’s finally starting to wake up. I’m curious how he’ll fit in to Elayne’s arc, as I didn’t really expect him to leave the Tower just yet. He’ll have to return at some point, since his romance with Egwene needs to be resolved. As for Lan, it’s more of the same, I suppose. Is he actually going to reach Tarwin’s Gap in this book, or are we just checking up on him?
Chapter 24: To Make a Stand
Melfane confines Elayne to a week’s bedrest. Elayne apologizes to Birgitte for her foolishness. The latter reports that Hanlon, Shiaine, Marillin, and Falion escaped. The secretary was murdered just as the other Darkfriens were. Elayne returns the foxhead medallion to Mat, who wishes to reveal something to her about the gholam.
Yoeli and Iturale proceed through Maradon. There was infighting among the Saldaeans, which permitted Ituralde’s rescue. They approach Vram Torkumen, who was appointed lord of the city in Tenobia’s absence. Torkumen considers Ituralde an invader and Yoeli a traitor. Ituralde counters with naming him a Darkfriend.
Perrin and Faile prepare to sleep. In the wolf dream, Perrin searches through the Whitecloak camp, finding nothing. He runs with the other wolves, and Hopper warns him that he is in the dream too strongly. Slayer suddenly kills the wolf Morninglight. Perrin attempts to attack him, but barely escapes alive, Slayer’s strength considerably greater. Perrin is intent on facing Slayer eventually. He awakens and cannot return to sleep. Perrin heads into the woods and is eventually approached by Elyas, who advises him to avoid the wolf dream. Perrin intends to confront the Whitecloaks the following day.
So this chapter confirms that Shiaine, Marillin, and Falion also escaped with Hanlon, which was something I wasn’t certain about in the previous chapter. Was Hanlon ordered to kill them too? Did he decide to abandon them? But no, all four of them indeed are on the loose. Wonderful. While I can sympathize with Elayne over being confined to bed for a week, such sympathy only goes so far when I realize the implications of her little blunder. Birgitte has the right to be infuriated, in my opinion. At least Mat has the original medallion back! It seems he won’t be caught unprepared by the gholam after all… And what does he have to reveal to Elayne about the gholam that she doesn’t already know? Hmm.
Ituralde’s journey into Maradon was very revealing. It answers the puzzling question of why the Saldaeans refused to provide aid. It seems it wasn’t a Borderlander conspiracy, just the case of a corrupt interim regime. Is Torkumen really a Darkfriend? It would explain how such a corrupt, incompetent individual would somehow receive such an immene responsibility. Thankfully, not all the Saldaeans seem to share his beliefs, as the uprisings indicate.
Finally, Perrin’s latest journey into the wolf dream was actually rather interesting. Slayer has returned indeed. Awesome. It’s only been four books (NINE since he encountered Perrin)! I’m really looking forward to their eventual showdown. This book seems to be leading up to a helluva climax. Elayne has the Darkfriends on the loose, Mat has his upcoming duel with the gholam and then the infiltration of the Tower, Perrin has his battle with the Whitecloaks and Slayer, and Egwene has to eventually confront Mesaana. Damn. And Slayer seems considerably more powerful, so I suppose that suggests even more wolf dream training for Perrin.
Chapter 25: Return to Bandar Eban
Rand and Min arrive in Bandar Eban to find the city rife with disease, starvation, and poverty. Min has numerous viewings of Rand and the surrounding civilians. Durnham, formerly of the King’s Guard before Chadmar disbanded the organization, is named Captain and dispatched to gather others. Rand has weapons and supplies delivered from the Stone. In an hour, Rand has 500 well-equipped soldiers gathered. They proceed to the docks, filled with Sea Folk vessels. They head to the ship where Iralin opened up some of the sacks of grain to find them all contaminated. When Rand opens a new sack, however, he finds the grain intact. He names Iralin to the Council of Merchants and has him distrube the food. Iralin will also be Steward of the city, Durnham his Captain, until order can be restored. Rand intends to help stabilize the city for a day before leaving.
Here’s another loose end from TGS tied up, and I’m so relieved to see things look up for Bandar Eban. Because, damn, matters looked dim when Rand left. It should’ve been obvious that Rand would return after his epiphany, but I wasn’t sure if Arad Doman would be left to its fate or not. Obviously, Rand doesn’t have the power to repair all the damage in a matter of hours, but it’s incredible how much he managed to change. I am a little confused regarding the sacks of grain, though. Was it Rand’s ta’veren goodness that restored all the grain just as the badness ruined it all previously? Or did the ta’veren influence just create the improbable circumstance that Iralin only opened the bad grains in the first place, while leaving the good untouched? I’m assuming the former, but I’m not certain. Anyway, this was a pretty straightforward chapter, so not much to remark.
Chapter 26: Parley
Perrin and his army approach the Whitecloak force on the open field. He decides to be a hammer rather than an axe, and make a final bid for reconciliation. Perrin has the channelers (save the Aes Sedai, who refuse) frighten the Whitecloaks by exploding the ground before them. The resultant trench is then filled with arrows. Grady amplifies Perrin’s voice as he demands one final parley. Perrin has a large pavilion erected, and calls for Alliandre and Berelain. The air smells wrong, and the channelers cannot Travel.
Galad realizes Perrin has Asha’man and Aiel channelers. Despite Bornahld and Byar, Galad consents to a final negotiation. He rides out with the two cronies, as well as fifty guards. Galad is stunned by the most beautiful woman he ever encountered: Berelain. She also appears smitten by Galad. Perrin informs him that Elayne has the throne. He swears he was unrelated to Geofram Bornhald’s death, and killed the two Whitecloaks in retaliation to the death of Hopper. Perrin eventually offers to stand trial under an impartial judge, but he and Galad cannot decide who. The latter suddenly recognizes Morgase, and they embrace. Galad is conflicted over killing Valda for Morgase’s apparent murder. The others are shocked to learn Morgase’s identity. Perrin and Galad agree on Morgase as an impartial judge. The trial will be in three days.
I’m quite surprised that Perrin managed to bring about another negotiation. It seems this conflict is heading in a different direction than I expected, which is great. I’m not ruling out some sort of battle (as I would love to see Bornhald and Byar get their just desserts), but it seems Perrin might successfully resolve this with relative peace. Of course, if that means imprisonment and execution by the Whitecloaks if the trial turns into a disaster, that doesn’t mean all that much. But it bodes well that Galad is still willing to listen to reason, to an extent. His previous encounters with Perrin had him falling for his cronies’ fanaticism quite naively. I’m hoping Galad sees through Bornhald and Byar at some point.
As for Perrin, he didn’t exactly provide the best defense regarding the death of the two Whitecloaks. Obviously the death of a wolf means a lot to him, but to most people? Considering Morgase has vowed to be impartial (and I don’t doubt her on that), that doesn’t bode well. This whole trial could indeed become a disaster, even if it’s performed justly, which, considering Whitecloaks are involved, probably won’t happen. Even with an impartial judge, the Whitecloaks will be pulling their strings, and I highly doubt they’ll listen to reason. And Perrin really should get a lawyer of sorts… I imagine Berelain could put together an eloquent defense, and there’s the advantage of Galad being infatuated with her. Oh yeah, there’s that. I think there was some foreshadowing earlier about this sort of romance, but it’s still rather unexpected. It does make perfect sense, though; the two most attractive characters falling in love. But aside from physical attractiveness, they really don’t share much in common (Berelain is a ruthless politican, Galad is hopelessly naïve), so I’m curious how this possible romance will proceed.
Another important revelation in this jam-packed chapter was…Morgase! To be honest, I’m a little underwhelmed. Sanderson, for the sake of moving the plot forward, hasn’t spent much time on many of these long-awaited reunions and revelations (i.e. with Tam, for one), but I don’t feel any of these moments were given short shrift until now. It’s just, this is pretty much the culmination of Morgase’s storyline, and the revelation was…sort of glossed over, especially regarding Perrin and Faile’s reaction. Clearly this is important news for Galad, but surely Faile would be considerably shocked to learn her trusted servant was secretly the former queen the world thought dead? And what about Morgase’s reaction (as this was depicted from Galad’s perspective)? I do hope Sanderson returns to this later, I want Morgase’s rather problematic and protracted subplot done justice.
Chapter 27: A Call to Stand
Egwene reads a letter from Darlin, who is also concerned about breaking the seals. He agrees to bring some soldiers to the Field of Merrilor, but the majority of his forces are required to defend against Seanchan incursion. Egwene writes that she will pledge to provide immediate transport back to Tear if the entire army is brought. Gregorin is hesitant to support her, and Mattin Stepaneos remains frightened to return to Illian. Silviana reports that Trollocs are invading the Borderlands. She later reveals that the Hall is convening. Two thirds of the Sitters are present. Saroiya explains how Egwene fooled them into declaring war and giving her total power. Lelaine suggests that the Hall handles the army, the Amyrlin rulers. The vote passes, and only then do the Sitters realize that this measure provides Egwene sole authority in contending with Rand. Egwene accepts the outcome, but is angered with the constant secrecy. She proclaims that all Sitters must either be present in the Tower or have appointed surrogates, and all Sitters and the Amyrlin must be notified of all meetings of the Hall. Back in Egwene’s study, Silviana reveals that Gawyn is in Caemlyn, and Egwene, in need of him, orders for his return.
I remain conflicted on Egwene in this book. While I, in a way, definitely enjoyed Egwene showing up the manipulative Sitters, it does seem as if she manipulates people a little too often, a little too easily. This scene, amongst others, doesn’t really portray the Sitters (or most Aes Sedai, for that matter) in a positive light, as Egwene outwits their trickery and incompetence at every turn. I’ve heard some criticisms of Sanderson’s books that he liked to diminish one character to show off another in a given confrontation, rather than give such conflicts balance. Although this trend does appear to disrupt characterization more frequently in the Sanderson book, I think Egwene, at the very least, has been given an edge from the author well before Sanderson. So to speak, she, much like Elayne, quite often has had the ability to overcome rather incompetent and unscrupulous opponents for some time. I’ve always enjoyed Egwene’s somewhat one-sided political victories, though, because she, unlike Elayne, was acting under a disadvantage. She was the underdog when manipulating the Aes Sedai in the camp, and she was later a prisoner when she was manipulating the White Tower. Nonetheless, I can now understand some of the criticism leveled at Egwene’s possibly-overpowered character, especially when it comes to Sanderson writing her.
All I’m saying is that she sort of outwitted these Sitters with too much ease. You’d have to imagine more of them would see what Egwene was planning. On the other hand, I’m sympathetic, as these Sitters really shouldn’t keep playing their games with the conflict just resolved and Tarmon Gai’don on the horizon. But I suppose it reflects the nature of real politics; that the games will keep playing even in the wake of disaster. Egwene’s handling of Rand still seems awfully presumptuous, especially now that she’s trying to essentially gather Rand’s forces against him, all the while depriving kingdoms of the defenses they need against the Seanchan threat. By the way, what have the Seanchan been up to in this book? I’m not sure about the chronologies, but surely some in this book have surpassed TGS? Rand and Egwene’s have, for certain, so I’m hoping we soon learn what the Seanchan have been plotting ever since their defeat. And Egwene’s frustration with Gawyn is confusing. She’s wanted him out of her hair for ages, now she wants him back? For what possible purpose?
Chapter 28: Oddities
Perrin smells a strangeness, and the wolves have all vanished. Faile is concerned about Perrin entering the wolf dream, and angered with Morgase’s secrecy. Perrin assures her that he will not give himself up at the trial. Faile intends to utilize Berelain and Galad’s apparent attraction to one another.
In the wolf dream, Perrin appears before the Tower of Ghenjei, and he realizes it’s because Mat’s mind is focused on the location. Perrin follows Hopper with ease, and they come across the violet dome again. Three wolves are trapped within. Perrin cannot penetrate it at first, and decides to simply run through it. Hopper distracts Slayer while Perrin rescues Sparks. Slayer appears, and Perrin shifts to Dragonmount. Hopper appears later, and reveals that Whisperer was killed. Perrin intends to practice with the wolf every night until he is capable of facing Slayer.
Ituralde is informed that Yoeli requires him on the wall. There are thousands of Trollocs camped around Maradon. The Asha’man Deepe reports that six Dreadlords are channeling amongst the Trollocs. The wall suddenly explodes, maiming Deepe. Connel helps the stricken Ituralde to the healing tents. They all then return to the palace, the city entering chaos. Ituralde plans a retreat, but Yoeli pleads for a final defense due to a signal fire claiming aid incoming. Ituralde has all the Asha’man save Antail defend the breach in the wall. The Dreadlords no longer participate in the invasion. Eventually, the Asha’man abandon the wall, and the Trollocs swarm down the main street into a trap. Arrows hail down upon them and the remaining Saldaean cavalry finishes them off. Ituralde plans for another trap as the remaining Trollocs flee.
More wolf dream action! The whole sequence was rather straightforward, so not much to comment on, but at least we have an explanation for the violet dome. So is that what the dreamspike does? Hmm. I wonder when Slayer (and Graendal, for that matter) will officially start making their move against Perrin, as now Slayer’s just prowling on wolves (although Perrin’s rashness has nearly gotten himself killed nonetheless). But I have noticed that Perrin’s been developing, at last. His interactions with Hopper in the wolf dream have changed. He’s no longer as simultaneously headstrong and self-piteous. He’s changing, which is definitely for the better.
What stood out more in this chapter was the epic battle scene in Maradon. Sort of related to my comments on Egwene’s recent victories, I almost feel as if Ituralde was too awesome in this battle, that the Trollocs fell into the trap too easily, but Sanderson has nonetheless done an excellent job in displaying Ituralde’s awesomeness, and for the most part, the whole scene remained plausible. I mean, Ituralde’s military might has been well-established, probably more so than any of the other captains. We never witnessed Pedron Niall do anything, and for all the build-up to the siege of Tar Valon, Gareth Bryne never had time to do much either. I suppose we’ve seen some skill from Davram Bashere. And who’s the last one? Agelmar Jagad? He hasn’t even shown up since TGH, as far as I can recall…