Towers of Midnight – Book 13 of The Wheel of Time

The latest book in the Robert Jordan series The Wheel of Time has been out for a few months and I finally finished it, which at 800+ pages is somewhat of an accomplishment .  We talked about book 12 here

This book is the next to last book in the series and the word from Brandon Sanderson, the LDS author and BYU creative writing instructor hired to finish the series after Jordan’s death, is that the 14th and last book in the series, A Memory of Light, will be out around March of 2012. 

Which means that this current book is essentially the middle book in a trilogy that Sanderson has been writing as the conclusion to this overgrown series.  Cue alarm bells. 

The good news is that, as he did in the last book, Sanderson performs a yeoman effort at searching out and tying down the plethora of flailing strands of character and narrative that Jordan left him with.

The bad news is that Sanderson can’t completely escape from the trap that writing the middle book of a trilogy places him in, partly, I assume, because this trilogy is  one that is both highly anticipated and fraught with enormous deadline pressure and fan expectations.

This means that the book is concerned primarily with moving all of the chess pieces to the required locations so that the scene is set for the last battle and other scenes that are to take place in the final volume.  Which makes it far less interesting than, presumably, the final book will be, and yes, less exciting than the previous one as well.  It also seems slightly less well-executed.  There is a bit of a “rushed” feel to it, like Sanderson didn’t get a chance to flesh out all of the scenes as well as he would have liked.  I actually noted a few of typos as well, which is uncharacteristic of Sanderson’s work and this series.  These issues make me think that Sanderson and the publisher are pushing hard to get these books done in order to meet a predetermined schedule, rather than just getting them out at the time they are truly ready. 

That’s a shame, because although this series has dragged on way too long, it’s worthwhile at this point to take the time to wind it up in the right way.  My hope is that Sanderson will do that on the last book and really finish things off right.

Having said all of that, there are also a lot of good things going on in this book.  As the ebook cover art (above) shows, much of the book is concerned with the character Perrin Aybara, a blacksmith by training and one of the three friends who fled their small farming village of Emond’s Field in the beginning of the story.  I’ve always thought that Perrin was probably the least interesting of those three characters, having neither the romantic destiny of Rand al Thor nor the swashbuckling panache of Matrim Cauthon.  But this book proves me wrong in some ways. 

The most interesting thing about Perrin has always been his supernatural connection with wolves, a connection which causes his eyes to turn a wolfish yellow hue, getting him nicknamed “Goldeneyes.”  This book spends a lot of time delving into Perrin’s conflicted feelings about this supernatural gift, his recent marriage, the things he has had to do in rescuing his wife from his enemies, rumors of infidelity, his reluctant leadership of his people and his army, and his power over his dreams, his distatste for killing and violence, among other things.  We learn a lot about this character and, though not all of it is stellar storytelling, the things we learn and the action that takes place between Perrin and his arch-nemesis Slayer holds your attention for the majority of this long book.

Speaking of bad guys, the Forsaken don’t fare very well in this book, even compared with the defeats they’ve been suffering at Rand’s hands in the previous volumes of the series.  We find out that Graendal’s still alive, but Aran’gar is dead.  Then Graendal is tasked with killing Perrin and, when she fails, gets a visit from ubercreep Shadar Haran.  Makes you wonder how villains stay motivated.

I do have one major quibble with one of the plot devices in this book.  One of the things that Verin Sedai does before she dies in the previous book is give a letter to Mat that he’s not supposed to open.  We spend most of the last book and nearly all of this one wondering what’s in that letter.  Turns out that it’s pretty critical information that Verin actually wanted Mat to know about and act on.  That being the case, her actions with respect to this info are completely inexplicable.  The whole thing makes no sense whatsoever.

All in all, however, I enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to the final volume in the series.  In the meantime, Sanderson is doing a reread of the entire Wheel of Time series and tweeting about it as he goes along.  You can follow him @BrandSanderson or use the hashtag #wotrr to see all tweets on that subject.

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48 thoughts on “Towers of Midnight – Book 13 of The Wheel of Time

  1. I am going to wait until the thing is done before starting. George R R Martin has killed my willingness to start unfinished series. So hopefully in a year I can get started at long last.

  2. arJ, funny, because I’ve done the converse. I’ve been reading Wheel of Time since book 4 came out. I’ve refused to read Martin because of the pain of reading an unfinished series.

  3. If anyone is interested in interesting SPOILERS:

    Moiraine is back, and she’s getting a new Gaidin and will marry the same guy.

    And the lucky guy is Thom Merrilin.

    Didn’t see that one coming. And Dan, don’t tell me you did because I don’t believe you.

  4. I’m not gonna say I saw it coming, MCQ, but I saw definite hints that there was Something between them.

    As for Verin Sedai’s actions – this is Mat we’re talking about. He strikes me as the kind of character who, when tasked not to do something, is pretty much guaranteed to do that thing anyway. Especially when said task comes from an Aes Sedai. So it makes sense to me that she would stress that he wasn’t to read it; it would be the one way to be absolutely sure he did just that.

  5. That didn’t work out so well though did it?

    And considering the nature of the information, that gamble was completely stupid and unnecessary. Why not just leave word for Elayne? Why not send a letter through Mat to other Aes Sedai that Verin knows are trustworthy? There are any number of ways to convey that info to someone in a much more reliable way than gambling on Mat’s curious nature.

  6. haha MCQ, the old “opposites attract” is a common storytelling tool. Why else would Moiraine send Thom a letter? What exactly could Thom do? She trusted him because she had feelings for him.

  7. I gave up on these around book 6 or 7 or 8 or so. Is it really worthy it? I found them pretty unsatisfying, like a less interesting/more convoluted version of the Belgariad.

  8. Whether it’s worth it is a debate that can only be settled completely by reading the series Matt, and I am completely sympathetic to anyone who gives up on these overly wordy volumes.

    But I have to say that, after rereading the series all the way through last year, I liked it better than when I was reading them as they were coming out. The books suffer from taking a break in between because there are too many characters and plot points that are too easily forgotten.

    On the downside, there are just too many characters and plot points.

  9. Here’s a handy-dandy summary of the Forsaken, for those who are interested. I have personally found that keeping track of who and where the Forsaken are and which of them are alive or dead or reincarnated to be one of the major difficulties of the series. With that in mind, enjoy:

    “Original” Forsaken:

    Males:

    Aginor (Ishar Morrad Chuain), deceased (killed by Rand al’Thor), resurrected as Osan’gar (see below), posed as the Asha’man Corlan Dashiva and then killed again.

    Asmodean (Joar Addam Nessosin), deceased (killed by Graendal as confirmed in the glossary of Towers of Midnight)

    Balthamel (Eval Ramman), deceased (killed by the Green Man), resurrected as Aran’gar in a female body (see below), posed as Halima Saranov with the Rebel Aes Sedai before fleeing with Delana. Killed again, irrevocably, using balefire by Rand al’Thor.

    Be’lal (Duram Laddel Cham), deceased (killed irrevocably with balefire by Moiraine Damodred).

    Demandred (Barid Bel Medar), whereabouts unknown.

    Rahvin (Ared Mosinel), deceased (killed irrevocably with balefire by Rand al’Thor).

    Ishamael (Elan Morin Tedronai), deceased (killed by Rand al’Thor), resurrected as Moridin (see below).

    Sammael (Tel Janin Aellinsar), deceased (killed by Mashadar while fighting Rand al’Thor). His death is confirmed in an interview with Robert Jordan.

    Females:

    Graendal (Kamarile Maradim Nindar), last seen alive in a remote hideout in the Aryth Ocean, last seen before her “punishment” for failing to kill Perrin Aybara.

    Lanfear (Mierin Eronaile), last seen passing into the twisted door ter’angreal while fighting Moiraine Damodred. By unknown means returned as Cyndane in a new body (see below) and has since been mindtrapped.

    Mesaana (Saine Tarasind), survived an encounter with Egwene al’Vere in tel’aran’rhoid that left her severely mentally handicapped. Condition is believed to be permanent.

    Moghedien (Lillen Moiral), mindtrapped and Moridin’s servant/slave.

    Semirhage (Nemene Damendar Boann), deceased (killed irrevocably with balefire by Rand al’Thor wielding the True Power).

    Six more Forsaken were mentioned by Semirhage in Winter’s Heart, but they were said to have been destroyed by the Dark One during the War of Power.

    “New” Forsaken:

    As of the end of Knife of Dreams, four of the Forsaken who have been killed have been reincarnated by the Dark One. They are, Ishamael, Balthamel, Aginor, and, presumably, Lanfear.

    Their reincarnated forms do not resemble their former identities at all. For example, Cyndane is described as having silver hair and light-colored eyes, whereas Lanfear possessed dark beauty.

    The reincarnated form of Cyndane who was once Lanfear is not as strong as she used to be, due to her time spent as a captive of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn. And Balthamel, a male Forsaken, was reincarnated into a female body, although Aran’gar continues to channel the male half of the True Source.

    Ishamael, reincarnated as Moridin.

    Lanfear, reincarnated as Cyndane; mindtrapped by Moridin.

    Balthamel, reincarnated as Aran’gar, deceased (killed (irrevocably with balefire) again by al’Thor during his attack on Graendal).

    Aginor, reincarnated as Osan’gar, deceased (killed again by Elza Penfell (a Darkfriend) during the cleansing of saidin).

  10. This is a series I have always kinda wanted to read but just have too many other things in my queue of more interest to me than to start this behemoth. I always figured I’d get into it if I went to prison :D

  11. I haven’t even read Sanderson’s volume 12 yet let alone 13. However the reappearance of Moiraine and her connection with Thom was foreshadowed pretty heavily. Remember that just before she goes through the ring with Lanfear she gives Rand a letter for Thom. Also there were always some weird vibes there. Also through the two books prior to Moiraine’s disappearance she actually says a lot about knowing who she would marry and it was pretty clear contextually it was one of the existing characters. Rand already had more women than he could handle. For a while I thought it would be Mat, but then his girl appeared. Who else does that leave honestly?

    Bret, the books are actually pretty good. Especially the first five volumes. They drag a bit when the original author started getting ill with cancer. His writing really went downhill. However I’ve heard good things about Sanderson’s book 12.

  12. Can I just say that I know that by the end we all feel we’ve been pregnant forever but I think Elaine actually has? :D

  13. She’s been pregnant for what, two books now? And now we learn that Aviendha is pregnant too? Or soon will be?

    That’s the most bizarre part of this series: We’ve been through 13 books of 700-850 pages each and those books have covered a time period of about a year. Unbelievable.

  14. I haven’t finished “Towers of Midnight” yet but if (as seems likely) she hasn’t had the babies by the time its done, I predict she’ll go into labor at some key point in The Last Battle. Pregnancy can never be anything but an impending disaster in men’s books. :P I guess they feel a need to turn it into something they can do something about. ;D

  15. BTW – am I the only one who found the whole polygamy angle kind of icky and unbelievable in the book? (And the first think I thought of when Sanderson took over is how he’d react given the history of his particular culture)

    I know Robert Jordan was inspired by a lot of Islamic legends in making the story and I suspect the Aiel were a kind of weird mixing of Arab stereotypes with Ninjas. Still…

  16. What is icky and unbelievable about it to you, Clark? I can see a case for not believing that all the girls would be ok with it, but what was icky about it? None of them were forced into it. Rand himself fought the idea for a long time.

    As for me, I’m starting to think that either The Dark One is also the Creator-God with a split personality disorder. Either that or the Creator-God is actually working his way back into the world. That’s the only thing I can think of that explains Rand’s access to the True Source and the stuff Nyneave found protecting him from the Taint Madness. (Forgive me if I’ve got her name wrong – I’m listening to the audio book.)

    Whatever happens, I hope it’s explained. It really annoys me when The Big Bad in a story gets to be, well, Big and Bad and powerful and so do the minions but the good guys have no supernatural back-up of their own.

  17. Most of the philosophical and cultural material in the book comes from Asian influences. The polygamy thing is not a significant part of the plot as it involves only one guy, and since he’s the reincarnation of a perpetually reborn warrior-prince who is destined to both save and destroy the world; well, you have to make allowances.

    PDoE, why do you say the good guys have no supernatural back-up? Rand, Moiraine, Nynaeve and Egwene have been kicking Forsaken ass the whole series, haven’t they?

    Rand’s access to the true source is happening because he has developed a subconscious connection to Moridin, who has been accessing the true source after being raised to Nae’blis. The connection happened because Ishamael, who has now become Moridin, created a permanent wound in Rand’s side when they fought in Falme, then Rand killed Ishamael in Tear.

  18. Eve it was icky more from a meta view. i.e. I have a hard time believing Elayne and Min’s actions and reactions. (Aviendha is brought up in a culture where it’s dominant) I also think Jordan is kind of trying to have it both ways. That is he has a culture which while not quite a matriarchy is pretty close. At a minimum the women are very empowered. Yet there’s polygamy. Is he trying to think through Islam in a way where polygamy isn’t tied to patriarchy and unequal gender roles?

    Clearly gender stereotypes are an ongoing joke – especially in the earlier books. Indeed the longest running joke where most characters have a blind spot for simultaneously others faults as well as a kind of grass is always greener is tied up in the gender roles. (Honestly I found these elements a bit wearing after the 6th volume – I’m glad to hear a lot of these asides aren’t in Sanderson’s take on Jordan’s plot notes)

    So to get back to your question I guess I see it icky as it’s a kind of false fantasy where someone lives this purported dream life without the natural consequences that tend to come along with it.

    MCQ, I’d dispute it’s not a major point in the books. Rather Jordan while he’s writing the main plot has these weird cultural asides. And his cultural elements really do seem exploratory. Yes, you’re right, that he has lots of strong characters. And they are strong on their own. Which makes the relationship elements that much odder. Also how can you say it’s all Asian? There’s a pretty strong Islamic mystic element in the book not to mention many of the names are quasi-Islamic. (Ishmael, Nae’blis for Iblis, Ashaman, Shaitan from al-Shaitan, etc.) That’s not to deny the Asian elements as well (such as the obvious lifting of the ying and yang symbols for the Aes Sedai). But he’s been explict that the old language and the Aiel language borrow from arabic, Russian, Chinese and Gaelic. He also says that the Aiel are partially modelled on the Bedouin and Apache (with obvious martial arts lifted from China and Japan).

  19. Clark, I think he’s disputing exactly what you’re saying. He’s saying that patriarchy is not a natural consequence of polygamy, or vice versa. He’s saying that it can happen in a matriarchal society too, or for reasons completely unrelated to sexual politics.

    The Aiel, for what it’s worth, are not polygamists in the majority of their relationships, only in a few, and they explain their polygamist relationships as being a natural outgrowth of two women deciding to become “first sisters,” even when they are not be blood related.

    For first sisters who adopt each other in this way, it is common to marry the same man and become sister-wives, which means they are married to each other as well as the man. The books don’t explain whether there is ever a sexual relationship between the women, but it implies that there can be.

    All of this is background, however, because it’s just not a major part of the plot. The only plot points that revolve around any polygamous relationship are the ones related to Rand and his relationships with Min, Elayne and Aviendha. But since he has no permanent residence and doesn’t actually live with any of these women (except possibly Min), the fact that he is supposed to be in a relationship with all of them is pretty academic. He barely ever sees Elayne and Aviendha.

    Polygamy is not presented as a fantasy for the man in these books. If anything, it’s just the opposite. Gaul is emotionally tortured by Bain and Chiad, who, as first sisters, make it clear that he must marry both of them, or neither. Rand has nothing but difficulties with his multiple relationships, and the other polygamous relationships that are shown demonstrate that the man has little or no say over anything in the relationships with his wives.

    Clark, the Seanchan are 100% Japanese culturally. Many of the other symbols, cultural elements and philosophies are Chinese, right down to “the Art of War” elements that are discussed by the generals and the Warders. Yes, there are Islamic elements too, and Native American, but the Asian and Oriental elements outweigh those by a landslide.

  20. That’s a good thesis MCQ. I’m not sure I buy it, which might be why I found it icky. It is interesting that he makes women the drivers of the polygamous relationship rather than the men. He also mentions polandry briefly in one of the earlier books that mention the Aiel. But he doesn’t go very far with it. (It would have been more interesting if what was good for the goose was good for the gander)

    All the cultures are a mix of our cultures. I’m not sure I’d say the oriental outweigh everything else by a landslide. Even with the Arabic and Asian cultures I think the traditional European fantasy tropes out of Germaic culture dominate.

  21. MCQ, yes certain characters kick butt and take names but they do so with the same tools available to the other good characters. No reincarnation in another adult body two days later, no secret prophecies, no access to the True Source. The baddies get actual marching orders from the Dark One and basically the armies of hell at their command. There is no similar support for the good guys; they don’t even have a (real) prophet to guide them. Rand is the focal point but he has no more idea than any of the rest of them what to do. There are no “good” Trollocs to help them fight, just tons of humans who may or may not be Darkfriends or even stop fighting each other long enough to fight the Last Battle.

  22. I’ve not read the Sanderson books yet, but one thing that’s bugged me are all these prophecies. I know Aleida had that gift of prophecy so there is a bit of that going on. But you’re right it seems pretty odd that there’s no connection to the creator. Just magic which is really technology with varying skill levels tied to genetics. There’s no rhyme or reason for some of the things that happen to the good guys beyond some sense of direction behind the scenes. (i.e. why were Mat, Perrin and Rand all born in the same place etc.)

  23. Clark, you’re right that it’s a mix. Tel’aran’rhiod is lifted directly from gaelic mythology, Artur Hawkwing is King Arthur, Lan is Aragorn, etc, etc. Most authors, especially in this genre, use elements from other mythologies, Jordan’s just more prolific at it.

    But Jordan was a student and admirer of Asian cultures and that is evidenced in the books in the way that Asian influences predominate over others, like the yin and yang symbol that you pointed out. That symbol is central to the imagery of the series as it is the symbol of the Aes Sedai, the seals on the Dark One’s prison, the dragon’s fang, the flame of Tar Valon, etc.

    PDoE, I think you’re right that the good guys always seem to be working with a shorter deck, but you have to admit that things have generally gone their way throughout the series. This is a reflection of the idea that Jordan seems to be working under that the Creator does intercede on behalf of good, but the good guys are not generally allowed to know of the creator’s involvement. Thus his intervention seems to be explained by coincidence.

    Evil, on the other hand, is a direct result of the Dark One’s influence, which is generally obvious, with the Forsaken and darkfriends carrying out his direct orders. This difference shows Jordan’s philosophy toward ultimate good and ultimate evil and the manifestations of those influences on mortals.

    The trollocs are important evil minions because without them, there would be no way the evil side would stand a chance, since most of the people in the world are on the side of the Creator. The Dark One would have no armies at all if it were not for the trollocs. They function the same way the orcs do in LOTR, and are essentially a direct ripoff of the orcs, right down to the name, which is a combination of “troll” and “orc”.

  24. There are more prophecies than Elaida’s. There was the prophecy of the Dragon’s birth, that started Moiraine and Siuan on their search, and others are mentioned as well, including a whole book called “Prophecies of the Dragon.”

    The seemingly random coincidences, such as Rand, Perrin and Mat all being born in the same town, along with Nynaeve and Egwene, and all of them ending up having or acquiring amazing powers that seem to somehow coincidentally work together at just the right time, all of that is not really coincidence, but evidence of the Crator’s hand on the pattern.

    “The wheel weaves as the wheel wills” is a prominent saying, but what it really means is that the Creator has weaved the pattern according to his forknowledge and essentially stacked the deck.

  25. There’s the written prophecies but there’s no evidence they functioned different from Elaida’s ability. That is there aren’t prophets in say the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Rather there’s more a vague ability to state things about the future. Think Nostrodamus rather than Amos. (Although clearly Jordan’s influenced by the vague prophecies in places like Isaiah)

    I certainly agree Jordan’s philosophy of the creator is quasi-deistic though. Or at least non-interventionist. Rather than having intervention he gives people abilities.

  26. I just think that if you have Big, Bad, In-Your-Face evil, then you need to have Big, Bad, In-Your-Face good too. Given that the Forsaken are basically Super Generals of bad, and that humans in this series seem to have the usual “mortals get to chose which side they serve,” I don’t believe that the trollocs are the only way the bad guys could be a threat. They could easily corrupt or trick enough people to their side.

  27. There seems to be more intervention than that, Clark. Think of all the help Perrin gets from Hopper. that’s not available just because of Perrin’s abilities, Hopper attaches himself to Perrin as an instructor and becomes an asset on his own.

    Also, think of the coincidence of Perrin arriving at Tar Valon in possession of the dreamspike at just the exact time when that is necessary to help Egwene, as well as Gawyn arriving in her chambers against her orders at just the right time.

    There are numerous coincidences like this that happen over and over. The good guys seem to lack any knowledge or ability to figure out what to do, then some seemingly random coincidence happens at just the right time to allow them to win.

    That’s apparently how the Creator operates in these books. He intervenes constantly, but makes it seem like random coincidence. None of the characters seem to figure this out, so faith plays no role in the story. In that sense, the story is not religious in nature, although it constantly touches on religious themes.

  28. But they don’t, PDoE. There are never nearly as many darkfriends as there are normal people, because in order to be a darkfriend you have to basically decide that you have no problem with murder and other evil acts as long as you get immortality and power for yourself. Most people just aren’t that selfish or corrupt.

    Because of that, there’s no army for the Dark One without the trollocs, and you notice that even with the screaming hordes of trollocs, the bad guys usually lose, because something happens to allow the good guys to win at the last minute.

    That’s the power that the good guys have going for them: the Creator has woven the age lace of the pattern to allow them to succeed if they use the abilities given to them. they always have an advantage, even when they appear to be lost, because coincidence and chance always work in their favor, as it always does for Mat personally.

    Mat is an archetype for all humanity in that whenever he rolls the dice, he wins. The more he learns to trust to chance, the better he does.

  29. I don’t think you’re wrong, MCQ, but I have to admit I don’t feel satisfied with that reasoning either. I guess it just seems incomplete to me, to have a book with such clear religious over-tones essentially leave half of the equation out.

    On the other hand, I wonder if that’s just how the rest of Christianity sees God – He’s not active to them, but he’s very active to me (and I assume other LDS).

  30. You’re misreading me, PDoE. I think Jordan is saying that God IS active, just not in a way that the characters in the book recognize. Everything in this story is a (sometimes ironic) commentary on our own world, so I think Jordan is saying that, like the characters in the book, we don’t often recognize when God intervenes in our lives. This idea is reminiscent of the old “Footprints in the Sand” story, which is very popular among evangelical Christians, among others.

    By contrast, stop to think how it would work if the story worked the way that you’re asking for:

    For every trolloc horde, there would be a horde of angels ready to swoop down and fight.

    For every Forsaken, there would be a Hero with the same powers ready to do battle.

    For the Dark One, you have the Creator, commanding his followers in battle against evil.

    That would be totally silly and boring, wouldn’t it? It makes for a much better story if the forces of evil always seem to have all the power. that’s how they win darkfriends to their side, by looking powerful and superior to the witless and wandering forces of good.

    In order to be on the side of good, therefore, you have to actually be good, not just want to win, because the powers of good are not open and obvious and showy. They are quiet and unpredictable and come to humble people living normal lives.

  31. MCQ Hopper is just and other character like Brigette. Both from the dream world.

    I agree with you regarding chance though and that’s a pretty insightful comment about Mat. I’d not considered that before. The whole issue of chance is pretty intriguing in the series. Even then whole idea of a wheel of time suggests that the fabric of time really can’t be upset: balefire or no balefire.

    We’ll see how Sanderson ends it. I’m sure Jordan had most of it mapped out. His style of writing suggests a lot of planning and pre-structuring. (As opposed to Orson Scott Card: when he plans you get dreck like his Memories of Earth series) Sanderson was infamous for pulling everyone’s expectations at the end. I doubt that’ll happen with Jordan’s series.

    Maybe now that Sanderson has saved Jordan’s series he can turn his eyes to Gordon R. Dickson’s.

  32. In some ways, despite the pressure he’s under, Sanderson has every writer’s dream job. I think anyone would love to be handed a complete world and set of characters to write about. Coming up with the ideas in the first place is the hard part.

  33. Pingback: This Week in Mormon Literature, Feb. 25 | Dawning of a Brighter Day
  34. I wonder if Bryne’s advice to Gawan (which seemed very feminist, if reversed in gender) was Jordan or Sanderson’s idea.

  35. I think you mean Gawyn.

    And I’m sure it was Sanderson’s. From what I understand, Jordan left extensive notes about the plot points and characters involved in ending the series, but little in the way of things like dialogue or details. Sanderson understands the characters, and he actually writes the dialogue and action a bit better than Jordan did, in my opinion. The conversation between Gawyn and his mentor Bryne strikes me as very Sanderson.

  36. Bryne’s advice to Gawyn:

    “It seems to me that men who spend time making something of themselves–rather than professing their devotion–are the ones who get somewhere. Both with women, and with life itself.” Bryne rubbed his chin. “So, if I have advice for you, it’s this: Find out who you would be without Egwene, and then figure out how to fit her into that.”

    Very good advice, for both men and women, I think. I’m not sure it’s feminist, except in the obvious fact that it treats women as real people with minds of their own.

  37. It put me in mind of the things I’ve been hearing women say lately, especially in reaction to books like “Twilight.” I thought it was funny, sneaky and brilliant of Sanderson to present it to us reversed like that.

  38. Not to go all tangental, but I think both extremes are just that: extremes. The whole find yourself bit (taken to a ridiculous extreme by the Beat poets in the 50’s and early 60’s) doesn’t work unless you take a leap and embed yourself in some activity larger than yourself. However the other extreme (just to irritate certain philosophical friends I’ll call it the Kierkegaardian tradition) of just finding something or someone to devote oneself to completely fails as well. That’s because you give up too much and always feel dissatisfied. Further in your devotion you don’t offer much of interest to the other other person. The middle way (let’s call it Aristotle) of balance seems the wisest approach.

    It’s interesting as you can find these moves in the books somewhat. The classic example of a Kierkegaardian in of course Lan who devotes himself to a cause. Then he’s torn because of discovering conflicting devotions. You also of course have Moiraine who does the same.

    In a sense a lot of the real conflict in the stories aren’t really the good guys versus the bad guys but various stereotypical characters finding they have to balance (i.e. become Aristotilean) their Kierkegaardian notions of devotion to duty, love, tradition or so forth with their own self-actualization. The classic example of this are the Aiel who have a complete Kiekegaardian like devotion to an image of themselves as a people. It’s interesting that the step to becoming a leader of the Aiel is to be forced to confront that this image is, in fact, a lie. Many can’t face this and die. Those who can are able to be wise leaders because they’ve broken this Kiekegaardian mold.

    Of course the classic example of this is Rand who interestingly is also battling maddness of a sort for a period. He has this huge duty thrown on him but also has desires he wants to achieve along the way. The balancing act is remaining true to himself but this is only possible within his duty.

  39. Overall, I thought this was a good book in the series and while I could have done with a bit less of Perrin’s philosophizing, most of it seemed pretty tight.

    The one thing that really bugged me was the timeline issue. I couldn’t figure out why Tam was in Perrin’s camp and later gets sent to see Rand, when that happened at the end of the last book. (Could they be referring to a different Tam?, I wondered) Later, this does get cleared up, but man, that was aggravating.

    Mat’s pseudo-lecherous thoughts bothered me a little, but it seemed in character.

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