In this entry of Towers of Midnight, Morgase judges Perrin, Mat duels the gholam for the last time, Rand protects Maradon from the Shadow's onslaught, Egwene plans her trap for Mesaana, and Perrin seeks to challenge Slayer once and for all.
Chapter 29: A Terrible Feeling
Berelain, Faile, and Alliandre walk together, discussing Perrin and his motives. Faile remains irritated with Morgase, especially since her presumptuousness in judging Perrin. A bubble of evil suddenly strikes, and all the weapons in the camp start attacking the refugees. Faile rescues Berelain from her knife and finds that soil hinders the weapons. They start throwing dirt at them.
Morgase and Galad discuss Valda and the justice in killing him. Galad is certain Perrin is Shadowspawn, despite Morgase’s assertions that he’s a good man at heart. She attemps to impress that morality isn’t black and white, referring to a mistaken execution when she was queen. Galad is notified that Perrin has asked to push back the trial because of a disturbance. He reluctantly agrees.
Gaul walks with Perrin, observing the thousands of wounded. Healing will delay the trial by days. Tam and Elyas return from scouting nearby villages to ensure they weren’t attacked. Tam reports that something has happened forcing him to leave, concerning Rand. He promises to return for the Last Battle, and then departs.
Elayne circumvents Melfane’s demands by having herself carried through the city on a makeshift bed, to survey a demonstration of the dragons atop a tower. The nobles of Cairhien apparently await her eagerly, although Elayne is reluctant to dabble with Daes Dae’mar. Aludra waits with a model dragon, while Mat accompanies a real one. The dragon goes off with a thunderous roar. The first shot misses the dummies, but the second succeeds. Elayne and Birgitte are amazed, although the latter is frightened of the ramifications of such a discovery.
Not to sound too critical, but the bubbles of evil are just getting a little old. They’ve occurred just so much since CoT, they’ve lost the element of surprise and are just obstructing plot development. I enjoy the more interesting ones, when Sanderson/Jordan get creative in the ways the Dark One touches the world, but this one was pretty mundane. I think weapons attacked the heroes at least once already. So although I appreciate the bit of action, I think it’s been well-established that bubbles of evil are common in the world.
That being said, this chapter wasn’t too eventful, although I enjoyed Morgase and Galad’s conversation very much. It’s so interesting to see them together at last, and I really hope Morgase’s words had an impact, because she’s pretty much right: Galad has to stop looking at things in absolutes. He could get Perrin killed over it. I’m not entirely certain what to make of the developing romance between Galad and Berelain. The latter’s words about him were almost laughably indicative of the fact that Berelain’s just as crazy about Galad as he is about her. Seriously, those lines read straight out of Twilight. As for Tam’s departure, it’s another testament to how off Perrin’s chronology is, making me rethink the previous books. Where was Perrin in comparison to others back in, say, TPoD?
Finally, I liked the demonstration of the dragons. Randland has just been introduced to cannonballs. There’s only a book and a half to go, and lots to accomplish, so I can’t imagine Sanderson will spend too much time displaying the impact of this discovery, which is a shame, but I do hope the introduction of gunpowder at least plays a big role in Tarmon Gai’don. I mean, it better, after books of setup between Mat and Aludra.
Chapter 30: Men Dream Here
Lacile and Selande report to Faile after scouting the Whitecloak camp. Grady and Neald are prepared to rescue Perrin at the trial if necessary.
Perrin practices with Hopper in the wolf dream. He wonders why the violet dome isn’t placed at Dragonmount, where countless wolves are congregating. Perrin trains to resist nightmares in the wolf dream by accepting their inexistence. They then proceed to Dragonmount to find a vicious storm. Perrin scales the mountain to find Rand surrounded by black tendrils at the peak. A sliver of light emerges, overpowering the web of black, exploding in brilliant light. The storm vanishes, and the wolves howl in triumph.
This wasn’t a very eventful chapter, as seems to be the trend with several Perrin chapters in this book. I definitely appreciate the much-needed characterization and attention on his arc, but some of it does seem a little protracted. I mean, I don’t think we needed to see TGS’ climax from a different perspective. Jordan dabbled with that in the past, and it never worked out particularly well.
Chapter 31: Into the Void
Mat dices in an inn and eventually leaves, drawing attention to himself. He is attacked by thugs as he strolls through the city. Talmanes and his men ensure his protection. Eventually, the gholam confronts Mat as intended and lanterns are lit. Mat has the medallion tied to the front of the ashandarei. The gholam, after dueling Mat briefly, decides to eliminate the lanterns. Talmanes flees with the last one, running into a building and setting it aflame when he trips. The gholam proceeds inside, and Mat starts to back it into a dark room, which is actually a gateway for Skimming. Mat knocks the gholam off the Skimming platform into the endless void. The gateway was prepared by Sumeko and Julanya. Guybon arrives, and Mat and Talmanes demand pay for ridding the city of such a threat. The gateway was Elayne and Birgitte’s idea.
Now this was an exciting chapter! Damn, the gholam’s dead just like that. It was really exciting to see Mat’s rather well-planned scheme unfold. At first, I thought the typical opening in the tavern was another gratuitous scene of Sanderson depicting Mat in his element, but I quickly caught on to what was occurring. It was pretty impressive how Mat and Talmanes fooled the gholam so well; almost too impressive, to be honest, as the gholam really wasn’t on the top of his game. Still, it was a very exciting scene. The method of the gholam’s downfall was clever, although I sort of expected it. It does prompt an interesting question: can a gholam actually be destroyed? Can it die? Or can it simply be disposed, meaning it indeed will fall through that void eternally? If that’s the case, I almost feel sorry for the beast, ‘cause that’s a nasty fate. There’s so many questions about this gholam, and gholam in general, that I really hope will be answered in the future.
Chapter 32: A Storm of Light
Ituralde hides inside a broken building, his soldiers intending to kill as many Shadowspawn as possible before the city is completely overwhelmed. Saldaean troops suddenly approach, headed by Bashere. The soldiers reclaim much of Maradon, but thousands of trollocs remain in the nearby hills. Yoeli perished in the combat. Bashere orders Naeff to prepare gateways for a mass retreat. A huge force of trollocs suddenly emerges from the hills. Rand materializes, ashamed of not sending relief sooner. He refuses to surrender Maradon to the shadow, and he Travels in front of the city. He channels and manages to destroy the entire army of trollocs using all of its abilities. Bashere and Ituralde hear a scream, and run to investigate after Rand finishes his destruction. They find Torkumen insane, his wife having just jumped out of the window. Both were Darkfriends affected by Rand’s strength.
Min watches as Rand stumbles through a gateway back in Tear. He regrets defying the Dark One so boldly in defending Maradon by himself. Rand resolves to leave the war to others, even as it intensifies. He intends to meet with the Borderlanders the following day. Cadsuane has returned from her mission, accompanied by someone. Rand has Ituralde accompany him to her quarters. Min explains her findings on Callandor: that its usage may leave Rand vulnerable. They reach Cadsuane’s quarters to find King Alsalam present. He was never imprisoned by Graendal, instead collected by the White Tower as it had with Mattin Stepaneos. Rand reveals he was informed of this by a friend.
Another thrilling sequence, although perhaps one-sided. That’s a theme I’m detecting in the Sanderson books that’s been criticized by some. When the characters are awesome, they’re a little too awesome. I don’t think Jordan would’ve handled scenes like the gholam duel or this battle exactly as Sanderson has. He very much acknowledged the flaws in his characters, and they were rarely completely triumphant. It made character interaction very interesting, as you couldn’t expect either of two strong-willed characters to easily overpower the other. That’s not as much the case in Sanderson’s books, in both character confrontations and actual battles. It makes for some very impressive scenes, but it occasionally bends plausibility and makes the heroes a little overpowered. The only occasion Rand overwhelmed a trolloc army like this before, so much as I can recall, was in KoD, but that was mitigated by being controlled by LTT.
Nonetheless, Sanderson was very skilled in depicting the absolute despair of this ongoing struggle for Maradon. It seemed as if it was the end for Ituralde until Bashere showed up. It was interesting that Torkumen was actually a Darkfriend, as I just thought he was an incompetent fool. But I guess Torkumen was more like Weiramon in that regard. The Alsalam reveal sort of came outta left field. It’s interesting, I never really connected the mystery of his location with the attack on Natrin’s Barrow in TGS. Obviously, if Alsalam really was a captive of Graendal’s, he’d likely have died in the attack, which didn’t really occur to me. So I suppose it’s good he was actually in the White Tower all along, because Arad Doman definitely needs its leader back. And it was sort of touching to see Ituralde’s profound loyalty. Finally something’s went his way!
Chapter 33: A Good Soup
Siuan and Egwene converse with Nynaeve about Rand. There has been mistrust in the Tower because of the murders. Siuan has been training some Aes Sedai with the dream ter’angreal. Egwene intends a trap for Mesaana in Tel’aran’rhiod.
Perrin continues to train himself in the wolf dream by overcoming nightmares. He still thinks his abilities aren’t adequate for challenging Slayer.
Gawyn and Elayne walk through the gardens in Caemlyn. He still retains that Rand is a tyrant that murdered his mother despite Elayne pointing out all the evidence suggesting otherwise. He considers returning to Egwene’s aid and toys with the assassin’s knife when Dimana, one of the Kin, recognizes it. Marille, a former damane, explains it is carried by the Bloodknives. Gawyn learns more from Kaisea, a former sul’dam. He contemplates when a servant delivers a letter from Egwene, demanding his return. Irritated, he instead replies with a message explaining the Bloodknives. He considers rethinking his stance on both Rand and Egwene.
Well, Gawyn continues to be absolutely infuriating, but at least there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m still baffled as to why Sanderson has protracted his arc for so long. He’s had two books to get over Rand, yet we’re forcibly reminded of his ridiculous stubbornness every step of the way. Even in admitting he could possibly be wrong about Rand, Gawyn remains arrogant and oblivious to the words of everyone around him. I mean, thankfully Elayne managed to call him out on his stupidity. Well, at least there’s the reveal on the Bloodknives, which is rather interesting. I knew they were suicide fighters, but I didn’t think it took weeks for them to die. And this chapter was a reminder of the damane and sul’dam still in Caemlyn. I wonder if they will play a larger role in the future.
Chapter 34: Judgment
Perrin dispatches the Maidens to scout. He acknowledges Dannil’s plan to rescue him as ordered by Faile. Perrin is certain the dome is connected to the wolf dream, and represents a trap by Slayer. He heads out for the trial.
Faile’s cooperation with Berelain has successfully been dispelling the rumors. Perrin explains his recent premonitions about being herded. They approach the pavilion with the Whitecloaks, Morgase seated upon an elevated chair. Berelain remains infatuated with Galad. Perrin considers abiding by Morgase’s judgment, but Faile impresses that his duty to Rand and the Last Battle is stronger.
Perrin is charged with the murder of the two Whitecloaks, and he admits to killing them to defend a friend. Byar retells the encounter at the stedding, evoking memories in Perrin. Perrin reveals he can speak with wolves, and lost control when defending them from the Whitecloaks. Bornhald accuses him of murdering his father, which is quickly disproven, although Byar remains zealously adamant. Morgase pronounces Perrin as guilty, but rules that the fight was between unauthorized mercenaries and therefore wasn’t murder. Perrin agrees to abide by whatever Galad’s sentence is, but not until after the Last Battle. Galad grudgingly agrees, despite Byar’s objections.
As much as I anticipated the trial, I really didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Would Perrin be judged a murderer, and would he be forced to retreat, perhaps prompting the bloodshed he sought so hard to avoid? Would he successfully prove himself to Morgase, leaving the Whitecloaks without a leg to stand on? Would the Whitecloaks impede Perrin regardless of the judgment? Or would Perrin be judged guilty, yet still reach an impasse with Galad, as depicted here? There was plenty of exciting possibilities, and I enjoyed how the tense scene played out. It’s clear that Galad’s faith in his little sycophants is starting to diminish, and I really hope there’s justice regarding Byar and Bornhald sometime soon, ‘cause damn, they’re annoying. As for Morgase actually judging Perrin guilty, I suppose she was doing her job as an impartial judge, but I can definitely sympathize with Faile’s fury. I’m also tentative about Perrin’s agreement with Galad. It’ll be rather depressing if Perrin wins the Last Battle only to get executed by Galad. Hopefully they’ll come to a different agreement soon, but that may be too cheap.
Chapter 35: The Right Thing
Egwene and Siuan prepare their trap for Mesaana. Silviana reports that Gawyn has yet to respond. Egwene prepares to sleep.
Faile is infuriated that Perrin accepted Galad’s judgment, yet he retorts that battle must be avoided at all costs, as every soldier is required for the Last Battle. He believes Slayer’s trap is ready to spring, and intends to confront Slayer inside the dome. Perrin has Faile ready the army for Traveling.
Galad orders Harnesh to strike camp and begin the march for Lugard. Byar remains defiant, but Bornhald is no longer so convicted that Perrin killed his father.
Perrin enters the wolf dream and, with the remaining wolves, finds Slayer at the center of the dome. After intense battle, Slayer kills Oak Dancer and wounds Sparks. Perrin chases Slayer until he discovers a large metal spike. Recognizing it as the source of the magical dome, Perrin has the wolves distract Slayer while he moves the dome to the north.
This book is definitely ramping up towards a climax, and there’s still like 400 pages left! Damn, I’m looking forward to what will hopefully be an explosive finish. Perrin has to deal with Slayer, Egwene has her confrontation with Mesaana right around the corner, and Mat has to enter the Tower of Ghenjei. I’m not entirely sure where Rand and Elayne’s arcs are going in this book, but hopefully they will have strong finishes too. Anyway, I understand Perrin’s noble excuse for accepting Galad’s judgment, but still… Although Galad clearly is well aware of the importance of the Last Battle, I’m not sure how reliable his soldiers are going to be. Will it all be worth it, is the question. It does seem as if Galad’s slightly less zealous philosophy is catching on amongst the Whitecloaks, though, as Byar is becoming increasingly distanced and alienated. Even Bornhald is having second thoughts, which was a surprise to me. Will he turn around completely by the book’s end? Hmm.
Anyway, the little battle under the dome was pretty exciting, and confirms that this dreamspike he received was indeed what created the dome and hindered Traveling. I wonder how it can be disabled, though. Does Slayer alone have that power, or is there a way for Perrin to deactivate it? As is, it’s gonna be a hindrance to dispose of.
Chapter 36: An Invitation
Egwene enters Tel’aran’rhiod and has Nynaeve stand guard in the eventuality that Mesaana and the Black Ajah indeed attack. Egwene proceeds to a meeting with the Wise Ones, three Aes Sedai (Leane, Yukiri, and Seaine), and the Windfinders. Elayne has yet to arrive. Egwene encourages a bargain that prompts cooperation between the three hostile entities by training apprentices from one another group. She impresses the importance of standing united against the Seanchan. The Windfinders depart to contemplate. The Wise Ones seem agreeable. Siuan suddenly appears to reveal that the Black Ajah indeed attacked.
Perrin continues to flee with the spike, but Slayer pursues him doggedly. Spotting the White Tower in the distance, Perrin decides to seek refuge there.
It’s all coming together, I can see! Damn it, Perrin, Egwene has her hands full with, you know, a Forsaken and a legion of Black Ajah, so the last thing Tar Valon needs is Slayer and a giant dome that prevents Traveling. Seriously, what was he thinking? I know Perrin didn’t have many options, but it’s pretty much the worst place to drag that huge dome.
Anyway, on Egwene’s whole bargain, I quite like it. The lack of cooperation between the myriad of channelers in Randland has always been irritating. The Sea Folk, of course, are the most notable case, but the animosity between the Wise Ones, the Aes Sedai, the Kin, etc., has been frustrating for some time. The apocalypse is on the horizon, and these groups continue to squabble pettily. It’s good to see that Egwene is not only resolving the unity in the Tower, but bringing the other channelers into the fold as well (although I’m not certain what her policy regarding Asha’man is just yet). Regardless, progress is finally being made to address the ancient corruption, backwardness, and hostility amongst channelers, which is very satisfying.