[Mat] felt Aviendha’s eyes on the back of his neck, heard a rasping sound. Sitting cross-legged against the tent wall, she was drawing her belt knife along a honing stone and watching him.
When Nalesean entered with Daerid and Talmanes, he greeted them with, “We are going to tickle some Aes Sedai under the chin, rescue a mule, and put a snip-nosed girl on the Lion Throne. Oh, yes. That’s Aviendha. Don’t look at her crosswise, or she’ll try to cut your throat and probably slit her own by mistake.” The woman laughed as if he had made the funniest joke in the world. She did not stop sharpening her knife, though.
Author: Robert Jordan
Synopsis: The Aes Sedai are divided, Rand has Mazrim Taim teaching men to channel, and the Forsaken are plotting against both Rand and each other. Nynaeve and Elayne go looking for a ter’angreal to change the endless drought weather, Egwene learns to love Gawyn Trakand and finds a surprise waiting for her in Salidar, Mat leads an army to divert Sammael’s attention, and Perrin and Faile rejoin Rand. With both Tower and rebel Aes Sedai courting his attention, Rand tries to keep a firm hand on his cities, his sanity, and his heart.
Notes: Over two million words in, this story has given me the feeling of friendship that most tales only offer after several re-reads: a warm familiarity for the world and characters that extends somewhat to the author. Nowadays, when one of the three ta'veren thinks for the nine hundredth time that the other two understand women better than he does, I roll my eyes. When thirteen Aes Sedai have Rand, and some of them are of the Black Ajah, there's no distracting me from what Robert Jordan will say next. When Gawyn is thunderstruck by Egwene’s admission, or when Mat foolishly confronts the new Amyrlin Seat, I grin and think “Nice scene. Well done.” There were some fun scenes in this book.
Intelligent interplay of male and female is something I'll almost always enjoy, and I've loved learning the difference between the handling of the halves of the One Power. Saidin, the male half, must be fought, wrestled, challenged at every moment; saidar, the female, must be surrendered to in order to gain control. It’s a fascinating depiction of the way male and female relate in general. I suspect, too, from a few hints about the way things used to be, that this concept is headed toward an alchemical resolution.
As for the boys and girls themselves, I love watching Perrin with Faile and Egwene with Gawyn. Rand’s dealings with Min and Elayne and Aviendha, on the other hand, make for an odd emotional ride. All three of the girls have won my sympathy to some extent, though none of them fully. Rand, who is in love with each of them and horrified at himself, has never yet lost that sympathy. All this leaves me reading in a very weird tangle of feelings. The Dragon Reborn and his three girlfriends aren’t going anywhere I’m likely to think well of, but we’ll see what happens.
The different cultures continue to interest me, and I find myself loving the Aiel despite their bloodthirsty tendencies. Ji’e’toh is an incredibly well-drawn study of honor and obligation. I thought about the concept all day one day—what it means, what it doesn’t mean, how it compares and contrasts to Christian and Western ideas.
Of course, there needs to be a whole glossary just for the Aiel words. Jordan surprised me with algai’d’siswai in this book. If he’s mentioned that before, I missed it, so I could only guess at its meaning. I complained to my husband about the word, and he just said “Be grateful he transliterated it,” which made me laugh. But what am I supposed to do with all those apostrophes? Pause? Glottal stop? Speak as if no interval exists, as with don’t and aren’t? I don’t know.
On the topic of words, let me just say that the names of the Forsaken were brilliantly chosen. Ishamael, Demandred, Lanfear, and Graendal strike me as particularly clever, and I’m curious about references that may be in the names of the rest.
Egwene’s new role provided some character interest; I also found it intriguing that her persuasion to be allowed to serve included stripping part way and washing the feet of the Sitters. I do love seeing a modern story hint at an older one, something Biblical or mythological or classical.
I stayed up past midnight finishing this book, and was rewarded with a startling amount of gore and way too many cliffhangers. That worries me about the rest of the books. But I intend to read on.
Recommendation: It’s fascinating, but expect to be cliffhung.
P.S. I've created a Wheel of Time label, so anyone who wishes can see all the reviews for this series at once. Hopefully that helps.