“Only...I’ve heard Grady and Neald talk about how it is, holding the One Power. They say they feel more alive. I’m too frightened to spit, in a battle, but I feel more alive than any time except when I’m holding Faile. I don’t think I could stand it if I came to feel that way about what I just did back there. I don’t think Faile would have me back if I came to that.”
Elyas snorted. “I don’t think you have that in you, boy. Listen, danger takes different men in different ways. Some are cold as clockwork, but you never struck me as the cold sort. When your heart starts pounding, it heats your blood. Stands to reason it heightens your senses, too. Makes you aware. Maybe you’ll die in a few minutes, maybe in a heartbeat, but you’re not dead now, and you know it from your teeth to your toenails. Just the way things are. Doesn’t mean you like it.”
Author: Robert Jordan
Synopsis: As Rand cleanses saidin and sets out to make a truce with the Seanchan, Elayne continues to pursue her throne and discovers she is carrying Rand’s twins. Perrin comes across Darkhounds as he searches for Faile. Mat courts the Daughter of the Nine Moons, and Egwene puzzles out how to take the White Tower.
Notes: First, this novel ended on a cruel cliffhanger. I read spoilers on Wikipedia to keep myself from sacrificing this week to the next seven-hundred-page book.
Second, I managed to really enjoy this installment despite the fact that very little ground was gained toward any of the main plot threads. Aes Sedai and Asha’man dropped whatever they were holding all over the world to stare toward the massive beacon of the One Power as Rand and Nynaeve did their cleansing work. Elayne still isn’t queen; Egwene still hasn’t attacked the White Tower; Perrin has found the Shaido, but not Faile; Mat is still trying to get away from Seanchan rule....
Mat’s tale was hilarious in this novel. He’s such a womanizer that I’ve never been able to stand him, but Tuon appears to be just the person to shake him back into decency. I thoroughly enjoyed watching them attempt to set each other on their ears.
I’ve noted before that the depth of cultural worldbuilding is fantastic. At this point, I feel like I know the Aiel, the Atha’an Miere, and the Seanchan fairly well. The lot of them are strange and sometimes horrifying to the reader, much as they are to the Two Rivers folk, whose culture and morals are similar to those of nineteenth-century Western agricultural communities. But they’re also endlessly fascinating.
It’s been interesting to watch the young Two Rivers people make their way in a tougher world. Every one of them is harder, except possibly Nynaeve, whose ferocity has become more like petulance. Rand hardens himself to do what he thinks he must, and then tortures himself because women keep dying. Mat lives entirely for his own pleasure and safety until his few remaining shards of morality force him into stepping up and protecting someone who would die otherwise. Egwene is cool, calculating, and powerful, but has retained most of her conscience. Perrin has held onto his old ways better than any of the others, but he’s made Faile the start and finish of his existence and I get impatient with some of his thoughts.
It did feel very strange to get nothing of Rand until page 657, and then only a few pages. It was nice to see Loial return, though—he’s been gone for books and books.
How did people wait years for book eleven? I’ve had trouble waiting days.
Recommendation: Read it when you can plan on following it immediately with its sequel.