She opened herself to saidar--and her stomach sank. Saidar was there--she could feel its warmth and light--but between her and the True Source stood something, nothing, an absence that shut her away from the Source like a stone wall. She felt hollow inside, until panic welled up to fill her. A man was channeling, and she was caught in it. He was Rand, of course, but dangling there like a basket, helpless, all she could think of was a man channeling, and the taint on saidin. She tried to shout at him, but all that came out was a croak.
"You want me to do something?" Rand growled. A pair of small tables flexed their legs awkwardly, the wood creaking, and began to stumble about in a stiff parody of dance, gilt flaking off and falling. "Do you like this?" Fire flared up in the fireplace, filling the hearth from side to side, burning on stone bare of ashes. "Or this?" The tall stag and wolves above the fireplace began to soften and slump. Thin streams of gold and silver flowed out from the mass, fining down to shining threads, snaking, weaving themselves into a narrow sheet of metallic cloth; the length of glittering fabric hung in the air as it grew, its far end still linked to the slowly melting statuette on the stone mantel. "Do something," Rand said. "Do something! Do you have any idea what it is like to touch saidin, to hold it? Do you? I can feel the madness waiting. Seeping into me!"
Author: Robert Jordan
Synopsis: Between keeping tabs on the disgruntled lords of Tear, studying up on the Prophecies of the Dragon, amicably breaking up with Egwene, and beginning a romance with Elayne, Rand has his time full. But when he and Perrin and Mat are all attacked by an unseen foe, the relative calm subsides. Mat, after trying unsuccessfully to leave Rand, follows him into the Aiel Waste. Perrin, Faile, and Loial travel back to the Two Rivers, which is under oppression from the Children of the Light on one side and Trolloc attacks and a strange man called Slayer on the other. Rand, pressured by Moiraine to make his next move, goes with the Aiel to Rhuidean, where he will begin to prove himself the rightful head of his people, or die trying.
Notes: As with the previous book, I'm glad I read spoilers. Otherwise, the shift in emotions with which the book gets moving would have come off as abrupt, and I might not have believed it at first. That said, considering the way Jordan has developed the Wheel and its pattern, it only makes sense that the Two Rivers ta'veren, their feelings, and the feelings of everyone around them, should change by predestination without the aid of will or reason.
I've only one complaint about the book: every time the suspense got ratcheted up, the tale went on a head hop. If Rand wound up in extreme danger, we turned the page to end up with Perrin. Once Perrin got to a live-or-die moment, we went to Elayne. Elayne would get into trouble, and we'd be off with Egwene. And in case all of them were desperate, we could always go to Min. Well played, Mr. Jordan. I couldn't put it down. But it always made me want to yell in frustration.
On the other hand, I loved all of those characters. And I've thoroughly enjoyed the fierce, determined Faile thus far.
Siuan's spirit in her crux moment honestly encouraged me, and I've thought many times of her exhortation to Leane. Her words gave me a lot to consider.
Moving beyond characters: the variation among the created cultures is one of the best-done things about the series, and this book contains intricate portrayals. The wholesome Emond's Fielders, used to farm community and a quiet way of life, find themselves among the Cairhienen with their Game of Houses, the seafaring Atha'an Miere with unique ideas of honor, the fishmongering Tairen, the shockingly unchaste First of Mayene, the controlling barbarian Seanchan, and, most intriguing of all: the desert-bred, spear-dancing Aiel.
It's been obvious from the first book that Rand was born Aiel, but in this book, we actually get to know that people. There are so many details: clans and chiefs, Wise Ones, the culture of the Maidens of the Spear, the idioms arising from desert life. Deeply held, strictly-lived ideas of honor. The concept of family which includes degrees of sisterhood, sister-wives (it's clear where that's going for Rand, anyway), and the way the Maidens pass on their children... The details are endlessly fascinating.
Recommendation: I'm on a mission to make it through the Wheel of Time books! Are you with me?