In this entry of A Memory of Light, Mat becomes the new leader of the forces of good when the battlegrounds erupt into chaos due to the sabotage of the four captains, Perrin emerges from the Wolf Dream wounded, Faile's mission to retrieve the Horn of Valere takes a drastic detour, Aviendha clashes with Graendal in Thakan'dar, Nynaeve attempts to keep Alanna alive in Shayol Ghul, and Rand challenges the Dark One as Tarmon Gai'don begins.
Chapter 29: The Loss of a Hill
Yep, something’s definitely up with Bryne. Damn.
And, of course, Agelmar’s been touched by the Shadow too. That confrontation with Lan was pretty intense. It’s fortunate that these legendary generals are normally good people. I imagine many in their place would refuse to recognize they’ve been corrupted, and would just get rid of Lan for subordination. Of the five generals, we’ve seen the least of Agelmar, so it was difficult to be certain, but I had a feeling he couldn’t have been a legitimate Darkfriend. Now it’s obviously apparent that the Shadow (presumably Graendal) is employing a strategy to eliminate Randland’s forces by interfering with its generals. Which means Rodel Ituralde is probably next. And that’s at Shayol Ghul, the most crucial location. Gulp. Hopefully Perrin can do something about Graendal.
Well, I’m glad Mat finally saw some action. I can sense he probably won’t be as directly involved in battle as he was in his crowning moment at Cairhien, taking on a more strategic approach, planning from afar. Which is cool, I suppose, but Mat to me belongs on the battlefield, organizing and waging war in the midst of chaos, so this little interlude was a relief. Oh, and he happened to discover Bryne’s a Darkfriend, just like that, before disaster could ensue. Nice. Of course, Bryne’s not really a Darkfriend, just Shadow-touched, but Mat’s pretty close anyway.
Chapter 30: The Way of the Predator
So Perrin’s figured it out now, Graendal’s messing with the four great captains’ heads. And he’s probably the only person who knows. Hmm, he’s not really in a position to divulge that information, is he? Agelmar and Bashere have already been outed, but Bryne’s clearly been touched (and Mat at least kinda noticed) and I’m sure something will happen to Ituralde. If something isn’t done quickly about this, these four battlefronts will likely collapse just as Graendal intended. Lan and Elayne are already struggling to survive, and things could go to hell very easily for Egwene, and the folks at Shayol Ghul. I’ll admit, this twist with the captains caught me by surprise, and I commend Sanderson/Jordan for shaking things up with these betrayals just as the battles were starting to get stale.
Rand touched the all-consuming darkness. Shit… What does this mean? Is his duel with Moridin over? This is all happening so fast!
But wait! Androl just unleashed a volcano on an army of Trollocs. Seriously. I wasn’t completely behind this new character when Sanderson rather hastily introduced him in ToM, but at this point, I’ve totally turned around. In addition to his entertaining interactions with Pevara and his courage against Taim, he just rescued Elayne’s entire army with that Gateway skill of his. It’s incredible that Androl was ostracized as a weakling at the Black Tower. Sure, he can’t do much else than Gateways, but what else do you need when you can unleash goddamn volcanoes? Sanderson’s really been playing with Gateways in war in this book. It’s not exactly Jordan, but I like the possibilities nonetheless, using Gateways to survey battlefields and, you know, unleash volcanoes.
Chapter 31: A Tempest of Water
Yeah, things are going to hell on Egwene’s front as well. Where the hell is Bryne? Even though I’m pretty sure I know where this is all going (it’s been done twice before on the other battlefields, after all), this is all still pretty suspenseful, given that the fates of these battles hangs in the balance with the sabotaged commanders.
And now it’s happening to Ituralde! Damn, it’s even freakier from a commander’s perspective. Seeing Ituralde literally struggle against his own thoughts is evocative of the Imperius Curse from Harry Potter (which is no surprise, as it’s pretty much identical to Compulsion). Fortunate that the wolves were there to interfere and that Ituralde had the strength of will to resist for long enough. Although I hope Ituralde’s okay!
Now Bryne’s been outed. Again, it’s lucky that all the great captains are reasonable, strong-willed people, otherwise they’d likely refuse to believe their own minds would’ve been sabotaged like that, and then there’d have been real problems. This exciting plot twist with the captains became a tad redundant when applied on all four battlefields in the same detail, but I appreciate it all the same. And now Mat has control over the armies! Awesome, I’ve been waiting for him to really enter the battlefield.
Chapter 32: A Yellow Flower-Spider
Ugh, I can’t believe Min has to spend Tarmon Gai’don verbally abused by Tuon. I guess it was an unexpected turn, but I don’t like Min trapped among the Seanchan. Not to mention Tuon’s intentions to act preemptively on Min’s ‘omens’ by executing people! There’s no way that Min could live with that on her conscience. Awesome of Min to stand up to Tuon like that. And Mat’s officially in charge. Excellent. The idea of a last stand at Merrilor seems rather appropriate, bringing things back to where the novel started.
But Galad’s not really lending to a positive atmosphere, is he? Well, it is the apocalypse…
Chapter 33: The Prince’s Tabac
All I can say about the Slayer fights, as always, is that they’re certainly not in Jordan’s style, but they’re pretty damn impressive in their surrealism. The unreality of the Wolf Dream in general has always impressed me and Sanderson’s handling of these battles is definitely commendable. But it looks like Perrin’s in trouble again. When’s he gonna kill this bastard?
And I was wondering when we were gonna hear from Faile. This book has been hectic, dealing with so many characters, I almost forgot about Faile and her mission to deliver the Horn of Valere. We’re over halfway through the book, and only now is it being addressed. Well, I’m intrigued with this subplot. It gives Faile something interesting to do for the Last Battle (let’s face it, as neither a channeler or an accomplished warrior, she otherwise probably would’ve been on the sidelines) and it’s been so long since the Horn of Valere has been relevant, it’s interesting to see it again. But I didn’t expect Faile to get stranded in the Blight! That’s…quite a dilemma.
I was a little worried for Aviendha and Cadsuane in that scene there. Nobody major has really perished yet, but it looked like those red-veiled ‘Aiel’ had Aviendha cornered there. Anyway, Graendal clearly made another appearance, but I’m not entirely sure what she was doing there, as she already sabotaged Ituralde’s mind. Hmm.
Chapter 34: Drifting
Rand’s fighting the Dark One. Shit, we’ve technically seen the Dark One before (back in LoC and everything) but this is something else. This is it. The final battle’s really starting. I didn’t expect Rand to tackle the Dark One with Moridin still alive! I’m really not sure where this is going to go, but I’m excited!
And what the hell happened to Perrin? He got hurt real bad, it seems. Lanfear’s behavior towards Perrin remains confusing…
Anyway, it’s rather fitting that the first book concluded with the Blight and now we’re really returning for the first time since, just as the final battle heats up. Jordan’s description of the Blight was very visceral and creepy in EotW (in fact, Jordan’s distinctly ominous writing style in that book was one of its major draws when I first read it years ago), and Sanderson does a pretty respectable job in maintaining the terror of the Blight. This is a land that will kill you if you even touch it. And Faile and gang are trapped in the middle of it. And the only way out is to Shayol Ghul. Mat’s not even there, but I suppose Faile could contact Aviendha and everyone.
Speaking of Aviendha, not much to say about her, except it seems Graendal’s really hounding the Aiel in Thakan’dar. Poor Damer Flinn, though.
Chapter 35: A Practiced Grin
It was entertaining to get a perspective from Olver. I forget if we’ve had one before, but I think Sanderson did a good job. And poor Olver, man, stuck in the Blight. I suppose he was always looking for adventure. I really hope his eagerness doesn’t lead to disaster in a land when stepping on the wrong plant can kill you painfully. I don’t think Jordan/Sanderson would have the guts to kill Olver like that, but still…
I’m excited for Cadsuane, Aviendha, and Sorilea to challenge Graendal, though.
But things are going to hell for Faile back in the Blight. Vanin and Harnan, Darkfriends? Damn, I didn’t expect that. It’s difficult for me to believe that these long-standing, lighthearted characters would be of the Shadow. I don’t see why they would’ve been forcibly turned to the Shadow (although stealing the Horn would certainly be an important task for the Shadow to infiltrate), but it’s difficult to believe that good old Vanin was always plotting to betray Mat while he was in the Band. I have a feeling there’s more to this. But at least Faile recovered the Horn!
Chapter 36: Unchangeable Things
I totally forgot about Alanna. Wow. I guess this might fulfill the viewing about Nynaeve huddled over somebody’s corpse, huh? Well, Alanna’s not dead yet, and if anybody’ll save her, it’s Nynaeve. I wish she had a little more to do in Shayol Ghul, but I guess this is Rand’s fight. Anyway, it’s actually a pretty devious scheme of the Shadow, as the loss of a Warder/Aes Sedai obviously has a toll. It would’ve been tougher to capture and kill Elayne, Aviendha, or Min, but Alanna? Even I forgot about her. Damn it, why did she have to arbitrarily bond him eight books ago? I guess I now know what the purpose of all that was, from a narrative perspective.
Nothing much happened with Mat except battle preparations, but things are really heating up. This entire book has pretty much been battle so far, but this is the battle. And it’s finally starting.
And I have no idea what’s going to happen with Perrin. Tarmon Gai’don’s started, and he’s half-dead? Well, here we go. It’s begun.