In this entry of A Memory of Light, tensions rise in the confrontation at the Field of Merrilor, but the heroes disperse; with support, Lan brings the fight back to the Shadow at Tarwin's Gap, Elayne and Perrin conceive a plan to defeat the Trollocs at Caemlyn, Egwene prepares for battle in Kandor, Rand rethinks his role in the Last Battle, Mat searches for Tuon in Ebou Dar, and Androl and Pevara find themselves in dire straits at the Black Tower.
Chapter 5: To Require a Boon
So the big meeting’s begun! Sanderson did a good job ratcheting up the tension, I’m very excited to see how all this proceeds. Potentially explosively, I imagine. To be honest, I didn’t understand the whole exchange between Rand and Roedran. What was that about? Anyway, it’s rather ironic that the Borderlanders are pushing for war, considering they left their people to die for the last few books.
The vision of the future and the whole Dragon’s Peace from ToM obviously makes sense now. I applaud Rand for trying to establish a future of peace for Randland, but there were obviously some flaws. I think the whole concept of peace after the Last Battle can’t really coexist with the Seanchan, considering they’ve displayed no sign of relenting their aggression, and even if they were content with their current holdings, the Seanchan need to be taken to task for their vicious imperialism. There’s no way an Amyrlin, especially Egwene, would ever permit the damane system to persist in Randland. But I’m not sure what Rand can do about it.
I still agree with Rand on breaking the seals, and this heated confrontation with Egwene only reaffirms that. I didn’t expect Egwene to be so antagonistic. I mean, Rand responded in kind, but she was the most vitriolic. I’ll admit Rand was being a tad paranoid (but with good reason) about the White Tower’s intentions, yet it certainly seemed if Egwene wanted the Aes Sedai to run the Last Battle, which I can’t say I completely agree with. Obviously, they have their role, but the White Tower has proven itself incapable of responsibly leading the world in peacetime. How could they possibly manage it in war? Rand’s right to try to assert some kind of dominance. He’s also completely correct in wanting to eliminate the Dark One for good. Can Egwene really settle for repeating the cycle of apocalyptic warfare again and again? What if the next Dragon isn’t as adept as Rand? Better to finish the Dark One once and for all.
Anyway, Moiraine to the rescue! If anybody can stabilize the situation, it’s her.
Chapter 6: A Knack
Moiraine obviously didn’t show up until the very end of ToM, so it’s only now, really, that I have a feel for how Sanderson writes such an important, distinct character. It’s pretty solid, to be honest, although there’s naturally some inconsistencies. Only Jordan could write Moiraine perfectly. It’s still somewhat surreal to have this character back in action after so long. It’s only been 9 months for me in reading time; incredible to think that some avid fans had to wait almost 20 years for Moiraine to return. I’m curious what her presence will mean. Clearly, she’s capable of deflating these stand-offs, but what else will she contribute to the Last Battle? Rand’s obviously not at all the person she mentored in TFoH.
I wonder if Aviendha and Perrin’s little intervention to the Dragon’s Peace will be sufficient to averting the predestined fate. If so, it was a little too easily resolved. But there’s still potential for disaster in the current arrangement. Again, with the Seanchan in the equation, anything could happen. Rand really needs to attend to them.
I’m glad a compromise was reached, but it does seem as if most of Rand’s duties were delegated to others. Is he just heading straight to Shayol Ghul, or will he participate in other aspects of the Last Battle? If Elayne’s leading the armies, I don’t know. I’m intrigued by the choice, as Elayne really doesn’t have much military experience. Politicking, sure, but military strategy? Not so much. Hell, if Mat was present, he’d have been the obvious choice for leading the charge into Tarmon Gai’don. What else will he do, if not lead? Mat better be in his goddamn element in this finale… Egwene breaking the seals is also interesting, but it makes sense, given the foreshadowing. Hopefully she and the White Tower can be relied upon. I don’t trust Aes Sedai (at least some of them) not to vie for power or influence even during the freaking apocalypse.
The rescue of Lan’s forces was quite awesome. Such a noticeable change from Rand’s rhetoric in TGS, when he was willing to leave Lan to die if it helped him against the Shadow. Now Rand managed to provide a colossal army to intervene at the last moment! Pretty exciting battle scene. Lan’s recent arc is pretty powerful, when you think about how suicidal this all was, up until the very last moment. The fortitude of the common Borderlanders, especially Lan, living in constant danger of the Shadow yet approaching death fearlessly, is pretty incredible.
Chapter 7: Into the Thick of It
So the Last Battle seems to be starting surprisingly quickly. Obviously, it’s just preparations for now, but I didn’t expect things to proceed at this pace, which is good. Already, the armies are being prepared to battle the Shadow at strategic locations. So Agelmar and Lan are obviously handling Tarwin’s Gap, Bryne and Egwene will fight for Kandor, Elayne and Bashere will defeat the Trollocs in Caemlyn, and Ituralde will help Rand at Shayol Ghul. So…what’s left for Mat?
While there haven’t been any character fatalities yet, and the Last Battle hasn’t even really begun, the impending doom is quite palpable. I never expected Caemlyn to be destroyed to such an extent; hell, I expected Talmanes to pull a miracle out of nowhere, but the entire city is devastated. At least there’s hope for Elayne destroying the Trollocs, if not saving the city. In addition to Caemlyn, it appears Kandor is falling apart. Damn, the Borderland defenses didn’t last long. It didn’t help that all the armies were gone screwing around… That still pisses me off. Anyway, I had no idea how devastated Kandor was. It’s pretty horrific. I’m curious to see how much success Egwene will have there. This is the Green Ajah’s day; after how irritating they’ve been throughout the series, I’m hoping they can at least kick some serious ass in the Last Battle. That leaves Ituralde for Shayol Ghul, which is interesting, I expected Bashere to accompany Rand in the final battles. But Ituralde’s campaign in Saldaea in ToM was pretty exciting, so I’ve no qualms.
Also of note is the return of the Ogier, in which I was a little disappointed. I expected the Great Stump to be one of the numerous hanging threads that ToM would resolve, but when Loial was once more absent, I hoped to witness his moment of awesome in the prologue of AMoL at least. But Sanderson just omitted it. I can somewhat understand, as there’s simply more to get to, but I definitely would’ve preferred to see the culmination of Loial’s arc rather than one of the gratuitous Perrin chapters last book. Unless Loial does something really significant in this book… I mean, he’s a fan favorite who was relegated to the sidelines for much of the series, and just when there was a potential for awesome in swaying the Ogiers into the Last Battle, it’s all off-screen. Sigh.
Oh, and Mat’s in Ebou Dar. I expected him to have a (potentially disastrous) reunion with Tuon in this book, but I didn’t expect it so soon! But I suppose it makes sense to get it out of the way so Mat can get to battling. As the Seanchan pretty much sat out all of ToM, I’m apprehensive to return to their storyline. I’m a little worried there won’t be any satisfactory resolution. If the readers are expected to accept the Seanchan’s current brutal rule… There’s no feasible way they can be redeemed at this point, but I don’t see how else they can be dealt with in such little time. Hmm.
Lan’s speech again reinforces just how gruesome the life of a Borderlander (and really any soldier in this apocalypse) is. To accept death, to detach like that… Of course, people in Randland know without doubt that they’ll be revived in the pattern (at least in most cases), so death in WoT doesn’t quite have the terrifying mystery that it actually has. Still, that kind of courage is moving.
Chapter 8: That Smoldering City
So everybody knows that Elayne is carrying Rand’s baby. Glad that’s cleared up, I suppose. But it does remind me, what’s Daved Hanlon and gang up to? Those damn Darkfriends have hung around on the periphery of the plot for several books now, I hope they’re not written off too easily, I wouldn’t mind a solid confrontation. Anyway, the plan to defeat the Trollocs seems sound, although it still bites to see Caemlyn burn even further.
Returning to Androl and Pevara, they certainly seem in trouble. Considering Taim’s conversion process is supposedly irreversible, the stakes are high here. Is somebody gonna rescue them before they’re turned? Will they escape by themselves? Logain can only hold out for so long, and if he’s turned, the whole resistance falls apart. Damn, it’s amazing how quickly Taim’s turned from an obviously nefarious but discreet manipulator into an unabashed Forsaken villain! And still no response from Rand!
Chapter 9: To Die Well
After Rand’s last-minute intervention, I sort of expected Lan’s troubles to be over! That was clearly unrealistic, as the fate of the Malkieri is still very much undecided. I’m glad Lan is finally starting to think rationally. It’s commendable as hell to die for a cause, but Lan’s line of thought has been suicidal up till now. At least now he realizes he and his men can accomplish more if they don’t charge to their deaths.
Not much to say about the Egwene scene, I’m still not sure where the Leilwin subplot is going. Her character hasn’t really interested me in some time. Similarly, the Rand-Elayne sequence seemed a little redundant and poorly-written. Sanderson definitely doesn’t have Jordan’s grasp of fantasy-esque but realistic dialogue, especially when it comes to romantic or humorous scenes. But Elayne now has a Seed, which I’m not sure was mentioned before, as it certainly isn’t familiar to me. Still, interesting. But where did Elayne get the last-minute ter’angreal for Rand? I suppose she probably made it, but it seemed rather sudden.
Chapter 10: The Use of Dragons
UNO. He’s back. After not appearing since, like, the middle of the series, I was convinced he would just vanish into the tremendous cast of characters, but kudos to Sanderson for bringing back a rather memorable supporting character, even just for a moment. Elayne’s swearing is still pretty ridiculous, but it was like that under Jordan too. Anyway, excited for shit to go down in Caemlyn.
Things aren’t looking good for Androl. Looks like Toveine is next to be turned. Interesting how she was originally brought into this whole Black Tower storyline and then thoroughly ignored. Why did Jordan bother introducing her character back around TPoD if nothing important was gonna happen until Pevara arrived in KoD?
Dreadlords at Tarwin’s Gap. Not good. Is this the first major appearance of dreadlords? I think they popped up briefly last book, but aside from that, they haven’t played a major role.
Chapter 11: Just Another Sell-sword
Horizontal gateways, huh? Can’t believe I didn’t really think of that. Gateways are so ingenious, it’s no wonder they’re being used for purposes other than transportation. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
Anyway, moving onto Mat’s first appearance! I was worried there would be more redundant ‘Mat in a bar’ scenes, but this seemed to be a rather plot-driven section. I can’t really detect any difference in Sanderson’s writing to Mat since ToM. It’s just a matter of how much he tries to stuff in comedy. Can’t say I enjoyed the tidbit about Tylin. I would’ve hoped Sanderson wouldn’t resurrect (and exacerbate) that messed-up subplot. Well, it seems we’re not done with Seanchan politics just yet, which I suppose shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s been a while since TGS, so I need to refresh on the state of things. What I remember of Galgan wasn’t particularly encouraging, so it’s not surprising that he’s trying to assassinate Tuon. I’m not sure how Mat intends to rescue her, and frankly, I wouldn’t be too torn up about her death, except for the fact that Galgan would probably be even more murderous as Emperor or whatever.
The Rand scene was an interesting loss for him, considering how messianic and over-powered he’s been lately. I agree with Moiraine’s premonitions to an extent, but I don’t want Rand on the sidelines until it’s time to confront the Dark One. He shouldn’t waste too much energy, but I would love to see him crushing Shadowspawn on the battlefield, as that’s always memorable. But apparently dreadlords, in number, can match even Rand. One thing that bothered me was the return of the fat man angreal. That’s disappeared since LoC, I’ve assumed for ages it was just a loss for Rand, but then he magically finds it when he needs it, off-screen? That just seems like lazy writing, and I don’t think Jordan would’ve intended Rand to recover a rather powerful angreal like that, if at all. Sanderson could’ve at least used a different angreal, rather than one assumed gone for half the series.