In this entry of A Memory of Light, Rand confronts Tuon for the last time, Elayne is cornered at Cairhien, Egwene's strategy turns to disaster with the intervention of the Sharans and the appearance of a very dangerous foe, Aviendha leads the push into Thakan'dar, and Perrin hunts Graendal in the dream.
Chapter 17: Older, More Weathered
Okay, this chapter pisses me off. I guess I should’ve expected it, but still, I’m pretty disappointed. So just like that, the Seanchan are good guys. This tremendous conflict has been resolved in one meeting, and now the Seanchan have consented to help Rand save the world, and with essentially no concessions. If this was only a temporary ceasefire, I wouldn’t be so irritated, but Rand is pretty much consigning several nations to remain under the yoke of an unjust conqueror. In the last few books, it seems as if Jordan/Sanderson have attempted to imply Tarabon, Altara, Amadicia, and everything else the Seanchan have invaded as having benefited from the occupation, but I just don’t buy it. The Seanchan are an aggressive empire that have brutally been invading and conquering nations they have no right to. And now Rand has pretty much sanctioned that.
I don’t want to be too hard on him, as he really has very few choices regarding the Seanchan debacle. I’m more pissed off at Tuon than anything, but I would’ve hoped for at least some concessions. I mean, even if the Seanchan deserved to keep the nations they invaded, the horrific damane policy simply cannot be permitted, especially since it threatens Aes Sedai, crucial allies of Rand. I know Tuon would never have conceded to liberate the damane, but I just can’t feel good about an agreement that condemns untold numbers of innocents to perpetual torture and enslavement. I shouldn’t be surprised of Tuon either, really. She’s always been a proponent of the damane system and an apologist of the empire. For some reason, I hoped her ascension would result in some change to the Seanchan’s policy (I assumed Jordan/Sanderson would use the opportunity to make the Seanchan more sympathetic), but it’s been essentially the opposite. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to sympathize with a character so fervently dedicated to enslaving, humiliating, and torturing entire populations.
I’m more irritated with Jordan/Sanderson, if anything. Why did Jordan spend so many books establishing this clearly-evil empire, depicting in detail its flagrant, destructive imperialism and its sadistic slavery institutions, if we were supposed to accept them as protagonists in the end with essentially no changes to their structure? Unless Jordan planned differently and Sanderson’s to blame? Meh, I don’t know. I had a feeling Jordan/Sanderson wouldn’t be able to properly wrap up this plotline (there just wasn’t enough time), but I’m irritated that events turned out in such a fashion that this agreement Rand made was the only possible conclusion.
On a sidenote, Rand and Mat’s banter was really jarring. I can’t remember when they last met, and this is what they decide to talk about? Trying to outdo each other in ‘who did the coolest shit in the last few books’? Really? Especially at such a crucial and serious plot point? Another example of Sanderson’s humor backfiring, I suppose. Ugh.
Chapter 18: To Feel Wasted
I completely forgot about Gawyn and the rings. I can certainly tell that’ll end in disaster. I’ve obviously never been a huge fan of Gawyn, but I certainly don’t want him to put on the ring and die! At least now he knows what they do, but I still imagine the rings will be important later.
Other than that, not too much significant about the chapter. I enjoyed the Cadsuane-Rand interplay, although I’ve noticed Cadsuane hasn’t really played a large role in the Sanderson books. She was certainly a very Jordan-style character, and I’m wondering whether Sanderson exactly knows where to take her. She’ll clearly be present at the last battle, but I’m not sure how. As for the Lan and Agelmar scene, it struck me as highly suspicious. Agelmar’s competence and energy will clearly prove important later in Lan’s storyline, and their conversation already gives me the impression there’ll be further tensions between the two. I just can’t imagine what could be up with Agelmar, if there may be something more sinister about him. Hmm.
Chapter 19: The Choice of a Patch
It seems as if Elayne’s battle strategy against the Caemlyn Trollocs isn’t working out so well. It’s incredible how quickly the fighting has translated from uprooting the Trollocs from Caemlyn to a battle to protect Cairhien. Well, I’m excited to see how it plays out.
As for the revelation about the seals…well, I didn’t exactly expect that! So after all that conflict over whether or not to break the seals, turns out Rand doesn’t actually have them! Damn. I haven’t really been keeping track of the seals over the last few books. I remember certain attempts to steal them in CoT, but I don’t believe they came of anything. When could the Shadow have stolen the seals? How? More importantly, how the hell is Rand gonna retrieve them if he doesn’t even know where to look? Taim’s probably involved, he’s the only one of the Shadow aside from Moridin with the competence to pull off something like that.
Nothing to really say about the Mat scene. Another thing that irritates me about the fate of the Seanchan is that Mat’s role in the Last Battle has him working with a faction I seriously despise. Back when Tuon was tagging along with Mat’s Band, it didn’t bother me much, but now Mat’s the outsider expected to adjust to the customs of the Seanchan. Interesting twist, if the Seanchan customs weren’t so deplorable. I mean, I was never exactly a fan of Tuon, but after the last few books, it’s really jarring to see Mat fall for someone like her so hard.
Chapter 20: Into Thakan’dar
Sharans. Way to enter the game late, guys. Damn, Jordan/Sanderson kinda timed adding an entire new culture and civilization into the mix really tight, didn’t they? There really wasn’t time earlier to bring the freaking Sharans into the plot, but in the middle of the apocalypse is pretty abrupt too. I’ve been vaguely curious about the Sharans since they were first mentioned in…LoC, I think. I didn’t really expect them to be, well, bad. Seriously, this huge civilization that’s managed to utterly crush the Aes Sedai forces like that is working for the Shadow? What else could go wrong? Damn, things are going to hell pretty quickly here.
Anyway, it’s surprising that we’re getting into Thakan’dar this quickly. The Last Battle is really ramping up if Rand is entering the valley of death. Does that mean he’s finished interfering on other fronts? Because I think Egwene could seriously use some help with the Sharans! And what’s Rand gonna do about the seals? Just wait and see?
Chapter 21: Not a Mistake to Ignore
So the whole Sharan invasion seems to have been more disastrous than I thought. Egwene’s entire army was routed, the Amyrlin herself is missing, everything’s chaos. Damn. Almost hard to believe these warriors appearing out of nowhere could cause so much damage. I guess that leaves another force to contend with in the Last Battle.
How did Lyrelle and Myrelle get into the same scene together? That’s really annoying and confusing to read, I can’t tell the names apart. Anyway, Lyrelle seemed almost cartoonishly irritating (did she always act like a Red?), but Androl’s ploy was pretty clever, so I commend that. I almost forgot about this envoy to the Black Tower, glad to see that got resolved. I don’t really blame the Asha’man for feeling resentful towards Rand. I mean, he did leave Mazrim Taim to screw things up for half the series.
Chapter 22: The Wyld
Wow. Demandred. I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming. Through the entire chapter, I was completely puzzled over this Wyld character. Was it really the time to introduce another devious, ruthless villain with a complex backstory and motivations? This Sharan subplot is becoming really confusing. And then bam, turns out he’s Demandred. Duh. I almost forgot about Demandred in this book, to be honest, there’s so much going on. So Demandred’s hidden among the Sharans all this time. That actually makes a lot of sense, although there was really no way to predict that. Well, that was definitely an intense and, for me, surprising introduction. This Sharan culture seems…intriguing, and I credit Sanderson for the difficult task in introducing them so late in the game. So Leane’s captured, and Egwene and Gawyn are in a really bad position.
And Graendal’s up to something in Tel’aran’rhiod. So Perrin’s hunting her now as well as Slayer? I suppose I’m getting the showdown I was hoping for in ToM! Damn, he came close to capturing her! Perrin’s mastery over the dream is pretty shocking, although he’s had plenty of practice. What the hell does Graendal want with Bashere?