Book 10 of The Wheel of Time
Review by Abby Goldsmith, January 2003
Okay. This book has the usual overabundance of inconsequential page-filler description. At first read, I thought that the action and pacing might have improved from the last three books. But after rereading the entire series, I realized that I was mistaken. This book drags until the last four chapters. ALL of the new major developments are packed at the end. The main characters are still placed on the verge of major danger, but the results won't be seen until (once again) the next book. Hundreds of pages are given to following minor characters that seem totally unnecessary to the overall story. The only reason I gave it three stars is for saleability. I like the story that centers around Rand, Mat, and Perrin, so I'll buy Book 11. Not the prequels, though. I may never bother to read New Spring.
And now on to my opinionated summary, dealing with each major character in alphabetical order. Beware of ...
I was pleased that Alviarin gained authority over Mesaana, although I feel it would have been more dramatic if she'd earned her new position by her own wit. I just have to say that Alviarin is one of my favorite WoT antagonists. Unlike the majority of bad guys (including most of the Forsaken), Alviarin is smart. I'm sure you'll agree when I venture that she's a good deal smarter than most of the protagonists. Okay, she shouldn't have left the Tower for an entire month--that was not a brilliant move--but did anyone pick up on what she was doing in her absence? She was on Tremalking, the location of the biggest female sa'angreal in existence, and it was in use during the time that Alviarin was gone. Was Alviarin figuring out a way to use the thing? I'm guessing that she's now one of a handful of living people who knows what the access keys look like.
Now Alviarin has been demoted by Elaida, but promoted (so to speak) by the Dark One. I think her demotion won't last very long. How long will it take her to figure out about the little Black Ajah hunting party in the basement? I'm guessing about a week. Mesaana looks like a bumbling idiot in comparison to Alviarin. The very fact that she is controlling her fear of being discovered and remaining in the White Tower -- with Mesaana as an enemy, and Elaida ready to have her whipped several times a day -- is testimony to her amazing courage and capability as a Darkfriend. Whatever information she finds about Pevara and the rest, she should be able to use. But there will be a few complications: the seige on Tar Valon, Egwene as prisoner, Gawyn roaming around with an army, the possibility that the Black Tower will forge an alliance with the rebel Aes Sedai, and the impending Seanchan invasion. My respect for Alviarin is such that I think she can handle all of these problems and still protect the Black Ajah.
So, Egwene has been captured by the White Tower Aes Sedai and drugged with forkroot. I'm guessing that her captors are ordinary Elaida followers, or the secret Tower faction that wants to bond men who can channel, although it would certainly spice things up if the Black Ajah holds her. Sure, it may have been Sheriam who betrayed her (Sheriam is a puppet of the Black Ajah), but I think it's more likely to be Nicola, and a simple case of jealousy.
The introduction of Egwene's urgent dreams about an upcoming Seanchan invasion was an interesting development. After the epilogue of Crossroads, with the mention that Suroth wants Rand to meet the Daughter of Nine Moons, I suspect Suroth has a trap waiting for Rand. She's got that male a'dam. Combine that fact with Egwene's dream of the Seanchan attacking the White Tower, and voilá! A theory! Suroth will collar Rand and use his power to make every Aes Sedai into a damane.
Then there's the other dream, about a Seanchan swordswoman who extends a hand and saves Egwene from falling off a cliff. The only Seanchan swordswomen ever mentioned in the series is Egeanin.
Egwene also dreamt of Mat bowling, and killing thousands of men, and knowing that an Illuminator was involved. This one is obvious. I think I'll take a page from Robert Jordan (excuse the pun) and not say it.
I'm glad Halima has finally started killing people. I'm not a fan of needless murder or anything, but Halima really needed to do something other than massage Egwene's head. S/he is too cool a character for such a minor role. By now, I think it's obvious that Halima was using some form of Compulsion on Egwene. Her maid and a few other characters kept commenting on what a sicko freak Halima is (more or less), and Egwene just acted surprised and promptly forgot about the complaints. Then again, she hasn't exactly been the most attentive Amyrlin. I wish she would have taken more notice when Sheriam burst into tears and began acting oddly. We know Sheriam's being put through some sort of daily or weekly torture, but you would think Egwene would pick up on the signs by now.
I loved the scene where Egwene turned the iron chain across the the gates to Tar Valon into cuendillar. I hadn't expected that, and it was a great idea. Unfortunately for Egwene, her brilliant idea now has her trapped inside the city beseiged by her own army. "D'oh!"
I hope the Compulsion will wear off Egwene while she's held as a prisoner. In fact, I have another theory about that. At some point, the Black Ajah hunters (or Elaida, or the Black Ajah) might force her to swear on the Oath rod. Compelled to speak only the truth, Egwene must take a deep look inside herself and realize that Halima was not quite the sweet and innocent friend she thought she was.
Wow. These chapters dragged. I was hoping for some action or plot advancement, and instead, we got a five page long scene of Elayne and Aviendha taking a bath while learning about world affairs. Great. I was amused by the children Lords and Ladies, however. That's a topic that hasn't been touched upon until now. All in all, the chapters in Caemlyn seemed to underline the point that Elayne has almost no support for the throne. Bashere's army was keeping an eye on the nobles camped outside Caemlyn, but Bashere was summoned by Rand at the end of the book, so Elayne is pretty much on her own now. Oh, sure, she's got an Aiel army, but you know they could care less about wetlander political wars. The Borderlander armies are in a good spot, but they wouldn't waste time and resources fighting for her. Meanwhile, it seems that one noblelady under Amirylla -- Elenia -- is getting quite ambitious. The fact that a long chapter was devoted to her POV probably means that she'll be a major rival to Elayne.
But what happened to Daved Hanlon, and all that hinting that he was supposed to rape Elayne once she attained her crown? I'm disappointed that whoever gives him his orders apparently changed her or his mind. All that build-up, for nothing! But he's still around, and he's still the Captain of the Queen's Guard, so maybe he'll ruin Elayne's life yet. The fact that everyone thinks he's the father of her unborn twins will probably come into play. Am I the only one who thinks Elayne is incredibly stupid to let people think he's the father? I understand that she wants to protect her children by keeping the real father a secret, but couldn't she just hint that it's someone else? All she has to do is find a sexy, scrupulous soldier and pay him to spread the rumor. But then, that would require the introduction of ANOTHER character.
Everyone who doesn't think Mat is in serious shit raise your hand. Okay. That's what I thought. Let's see now. There is a Seanchan army equipped with Ogier Gardeners, damane, a Seeker, and who-knows-what-else, all seeking Tuon. There is a pack of fifty Darkhounds loose who bypassed Perrin, and if they aren't after Rand, they are almost certainly after Mat...who nearly died the last time he encountered a single Darkhound. The Gholam that wants to rip Mat's head off is still at large. It probably gained information about Mat's possible whereabouts from Tylin before it killed her (no one else has any motive to kill Tylin in such a brutal manner). Mat is currently heading north into Shaido Aiel country, and we all know how friendly those Shaido Aiel are. He also seems to have bumped into a few ghosts, and I'm pretty sure that's a sign that Paidan Fain in nearby. Noal is probably a Graendal spy acting under Compulsion. All of Mat's in-camp allies either hate him, want to use him for his money, or want to make him into a sex slave. And one of the Forsaken probably wants to destroy Tuon and Mat, knowing that Semirhage (Anath) was going to use them somehow. By the way, Mat is without his army, and has no way to call on Rand.
Conclusion: Whatever enemy Mat faces, he'll need some sort of miraculous protection. Maybe Aludra will help him invent cannons, and it will turn out that Darkhounds and Gholam can die if shot by silver bullets. Hey, why not? Wasn't the Gholam burned by his silver medallion?
I found the Mat/Tuon relationship to be frustrating. Why, exactly, is Mat trying to woo her??? Because the Aelfin told him that it was his fate? I have two things to say to that: 1) Mat has always struggled against his fate. He didn't want to go to Rhuidean and he never wanted to be the Hornsounder. 2) He hates the "foxy and snaky folk." Why would he want to fulfill one of their prophecies? Ugh. I kept hoping for him to run away from Tuon, not towards her.
I loved the developments with this storyline. I mean, I knew there were a lot of Shaido Aiel, but 70,000??? With 400-500 channelers??? Light! It sounds like even that approaching Seanchan army will be defeated by Sevanna, Therava, and their followers.
A number of people seemed to think that Perrin did something completely out of character toward the end of the book. I assume they refer to the scene where he chops off the Aiel prisoner's hand. Although it was a shocking scene, I don't think it was out of character at all. Perrin is neither an idiot nor a docile wuss. He is portrayed throughout the series as a powerful, forceful man-wolf who is constantly holding himself in check. He knows he has a temper and the potential for serious violence, and he is so mindful of it that he forces himself to act gentle and put on a smile, even in situations where Rand or Mat would explode. How many times have characters around him commented that he looks "like murder walking" and that sort of thing? Whenever Perrin sees someone run away from him in fright for no apparent reason, he immediately forces himself back into his mild good-dog persona...and the fact that he has to force himself indicates that the wolf side comes more naturally to him, especially under stress.
In this book, Perrin was nothing if not under stress. I think I would have been tempted to chop off that Aielman's hand myself, if I was in that situation. Come on, the guy was provoking him! In fact, I really thought this scene was one of the strongest in the entire book. I loved that little speech Perrin made, about how he would leave the Aielmen alive as beggars for children to point at and laugh at. All of that bravado, and he cut right to the heart of their deepest fears immediately. We're so used to rooting for the Aiel in every situation (because they're usually the good guys), but Perrin just revealed the dirty underside of their Romanticism.
Moving along to other topics...I was a little bit disappointed that the pack of fifty Darkhounds did not show up in this book, which was, after all, named Crossroads of Twilight (a Randland myth states that you are most likely to encounter Darkhounds at crossroads during twilight). The discovery of their pawprints was tantalizingly creepy. Unlike most Shadowspawn, Darkhounds are a good threat. I mean, Rand can cut down a Draghkar with no problem, and he slew Mydraal and Trollocs when he was a farmboy...but even when he was holding three nations as the Dragon Reborn, he could barely handle a pack of Darkhounds. I think they rank second to the Gholam as dangerous WoT creatures. It's interesting to learn that each Darkhound is a wolf made ten times more powerful and ruthless (not to mention given certain powers), because it opens up the possibility that Perrin or Elyas can be turned to the Shadow against his will. Random survey: Who would win in a fight of Rand vs. Perrin as a Darkhound?
I was delighted with the developments in the Faile storyline. On one hand, I was kind of hoping Rolan would turn out to be gay, just to see something fresh and new (we see plenty of characters who are into S&M, and polygamy and polyandry, and lesbian relationships, but not a hint of a gay man). On the other hand...does anyone else see the great potential with the Rolan/Faile thing? Aw yeah. Think Perrin and Faile have a solid relationship? Wait until Perrin catches a glimpse of his wife seducing Rolan! Of course, she'll only be doing it to escape, but we all know how quickly these WoT characters jump to conclusions. Perrin is only a hair away from losing all sense of rationality and patience. He threw away his ax! And don't forget all the doubtful gossip surrounding their love for each other: Even the Two Rivers people believe that Perrin is committing adultery. He has lost the respect of his people and his armies due to her. He is barely sleeping, and eating weevil-filled meals because of her. He chopped off someone's hand in hope of finding her. He's lost all sense of safety for himself, and is all but ignoring the danger of Masema, due to her. And he has decided to enlist the help of Rand's enemies in order to rescue her.
Conclusion: Perrin will completely lose it at the first hint that Faile is unfaithful, and either hit her, turn into a wolf, or run away and grab his ax and go on a murderous rampage.
One more comment concerning Faile: Who is this Aravine woman? It must be nice to be so powerful and famous that a complete stranger will spontaneously kneel and swear fealty to you while you're a slave washerwoman in an Aiel camp. I looked up "Aravine Charnel" in the immense Character Archive, which has very recently been updated. There is no sign that she has been mentioned before in the books, but I'm not completely convinced that she's a new character. She's obviously hiding something about her identity, she acts like a noblewoman, and the fact that she has made a point of befriending Faile indicates (to me) that we (the readers) have met her before. Fishy!
Now, what about those walking death hallucinations? Are they signs of Paidan Fain? Filth such as weevils sounds like a sign that he is near, and we know that he can cause hallucinations, but if this is his doing, then he's become far more powerful. One problem: How did he get from Far Madding to western Ghealdan and Altara in such a short time? It has been suggested that the visions of ghosts have something to do with the Dark One breaking the last Seals, rather than Fain. He's the Lord of the Grave, and he wants to break the Wheel, so it stands to reason that the cycle of rebirth would get screwed up as a side effect.
I still think it's Fain. Rand saw a similar hallucination when he fought Fain in Far Madding.
Rand did even less in Crossroads of Twilight than in volumes 3 and 8. That's understandable, given the amount of overlap with Winter's Heart. The timeline didn't progress forward at all until the book was halfway over.
Summary of Rand's part: There is only one Seal on the Dark One's Prison remaining. Cadsuane is doing a good job of manipulating him so far. He's cleansed saidin, but Lews Therin is more "alive" than ever, and Rand still has the unique channeling illness, which will probably lead to his downfall at some point. Logain finally told Rand about the crap that's going on in the Black Tower, and even brought some proof in the form of enslaved (ahem, bonded) Aes Sedai. Rand has, once again, decided to ignore it and ignore Taim. Maybe he's afraid Lews Therin will take over the next time he confronts Taim.
Anyway, Rand was invited by Suroth to meet the Daughter of Nine Moons (whom we all know is MIA from Ebou Dar), and he accepted. As I've commented above, Egwene's dream about an upcoming Seanchan attack on Tar Valon indicates that Rand might walk straight into a trap set by Suroth and Anath. Right now Rand and company are hanging out at some lord's manor house north of Mayene, which leads me to guess that those fifty Darkhounds who bypassed Perrin are either heading toward Rand (unlikely, but at least he can balefire them), or heading toward Mat (which means Mat will need Rand, or a miracle, to save him).