Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Eye of the World, chapters 16, 17, and 18, in which we need a better class of villain

Oh my god I have left this blog so bereft.  My apologies to the six of you who are still reading (because of those hypnotic messages I implanted in some of the hyperlinks).  Everything with my family over the holidays was more jam-packed than expected and then it's taken a couple of weeks to recover and get back into a writing groove.  I couldn't even maintain my intended Doctor Who marathon posts (although the rest of those will still happen).

In case you missed Sunday's announcement, my posts will now be going up on Wednesdays (the alliteration of WOT Wednesday was the final tipping factor).  I mean, Sundays are pretty good days already, but we need some stuff to look forward to in the middle of the week, so I decided to fill the niche.  Let's get back into it, eh?

The Eye of the World: p. 230--274
Chapter Sixteen: The Wisdom

When last we left Our Heroes they were busily not telling any of the women about their important plot discoveries, and learned that the careful efforts their party wizard went through to cover and block their trail were no match for their harpy of a witch-neighbour.  Naturally, the next chapter starts with them getting pulled aside by Min the prophet girl, who quickly tells Rand that Nynaeve is also radiating Plot Relevance.  Rand keeps this (and all of Min's plot-sensing powers) secret from the rest of the party, justifying it with a vague wave of 'it might be dangerous'.

Nynaeve and Moiraine are found staring each other down from either end of the dining table, filling the room with an icy aura, because powerful women are automatic nemeses I guess?  Nynaeve tugs at her braid, which Rand identifies as her habit "when she was being even more stubborn than usual with the Village Council".  Irrationally hard-headed women being 'stubborn' is the same thing as strong characterisation, right?

Nynaeve reveals that while she had already guessed that Our Heroes would go to Baerlon, she also tracked them, using the incredible hunting skills that her father taught her (specifically because he had no sons--apparently teaching things to girls requires special justification).  We are assured by Lan that almost no one in the world could do this.  Sweet Bahamut, was Two Rivers settled by a party of level 20s who got tired of dungeoneering?

I've tried twice already to write this post and I keep dragging to a halt in this section because I just can't take the recapping anymore.  Nynaeve wants them to come home because honestly who believes in trollocs; Moiraine says they can because obvs monsters and darkness and evil.  There is much staring down and posturing, the men flee the room and mutter to themselves, and finally Nynaeve emerges, relented.  There is just so much "what about monsters" "but I don't trust lady wizards" repetition I am in danger of losing consciousness.

This kitten has never known suffering like mine.

Rand asks why they sent Nynaeve rather than literally anyone else in town, and Nynaeve notes how much he's grown in a week, since he never would have questioned anything she did before.  Really?  Rand's been pretty inquisitive for a farmboy hero since the beginning (it's his strongest quality), and I like my character development earned.  Anyway, Nynaeve explains that the village meetings were a mess--"The Light save me from men who think with the hair on their chests" is one of the better lines so far, despite its ridiculousness--and the Women's Circle took swifter action and sent her on ahead, while the men are "probably still arguing about who to send".

While I get that 'girls rule, boys drool' rhetoric has its place in a patriarchal society, it doesn't exactly make for a cohesive case for inherent equality when the story is busily saying men are incompetent but they still make up the majority of the cast, while all the women are the exceptions: the wizard, the runaway, and now the renegade doctor.  I suppose there's a certain amount of realism to a setting wherein the women have to be twice as competent as the men just to earn a normal place, but this kind of 'men suck and run everything, what are you going to do' doesn't challenge that narrative so much as it reinforces a world where dudes aren't expected or required to do any better.

Lastly, Nynaeve explains that Moiraine was questioning her about the three boys' backgrounds, whether any of them might have been born outside Two Rivers, and Rand finally brings up Tam's "fever-dream".  Nynaeve awkwardly confirms that Tam left home long ago and she's just old enough to remember when he came back with a hot wife and a baby, but doesn't address whether Rand was a foundling or not.

Chapter Seventeen: Watchers and Hunters

Back in the common room, Thom is telling yet another story of the Great Hunt of the Horn, which seems to be sort of a grail-quest that's been attempted a lot over the centuries.
"...To the eight corners of the world, the Hunters ride, to the eight pillars of heaven, where the winds of time blow and fate seizes the mighty and the small alike by the forelock. Now, the greatest of the Hunters is Rogosh of Talmour, Rogosh Eagle-eye, famed at the court of the High King, feared on the slopes of Shayol Ghul..."
At this point I think I'd rather listen to Thom for a chapter than endure any more of this recap-happy Rivendell-knockoff, but instead we just get a list of titles of Thom's stories, then it's music time (Robert Jordan desperately wishes he were Tolkien but his lyrics are vastly less inspired), then dancing time.  This reads somewhat less like swing dance and more like a swingers' party, with much talk of "passing his partner to the next man", but it's also a shippers' dream, since it means Rand dances with a series of hot local girls, Nynaeve, Moiraine, and Egwene, with increasing awkwardness.  (He considers and rejects the idea of trying to talk to Egwene again, because humph and also pfah.)  There's a man with a scarred face who spends the dance increasingly glaring at Rand, so presumably as usual ugly scars make you evil and dude's going to jump Our Heroes later.  Ah, yes, we're informed by the innkeeper that he's a Whitecloak spy.  That's what you really want in your spies: incredibly distinctive facial marks and a penchant for furiously staring at his targets.  It's like Battle School levels of brilliance all over again.

The dances eventually end, Rand goes to get some pre-bed milk, and on his way back down a dark hall gets ambushed by a Fade.  He can't look away from its pasty white eyeless face, which makes fleeing hard, and at the sounds of boots from above (Lan is supposed to sense these things coming from miles off, isn't he?) it draws its black sword, moves as if to slaughter him, and then just declares "You belong to the Great Lord of the Dark [....] You are his" before running off, and then Lan arrives and declares there's no point in chasing it.  Really, Lan?  You're supposed to be borderline superhuman; take a sprint.  At this point I almost suspect that he and the Fade are working together.

So again they have to run away in the dead of night, because that hasn't gotten old.  For some reason Egwene this time looks "frightened almost to tears", which hasn't been her reaction to any of the dangers so far faced.  I guess with Nynaeve added to the lineup we've reached Critical Girl Mass and Egwene is allowed to relinquish her position as the cool enthusiastic adventurer, in favour of being the chick?  Let's hope that doesn't last.  Rand's response to seeing her teary face is to think "At least she doesn't think it's an adventure anymore" (which: shut up, Rand), but then he feels shame and actually apologises for his general jackwagonry of late.  I don't hate Rand as much as I expected to--not yet, at least.

Lan bribes his way past the gate guards easily enough (there's a law against letting people into town after dark, but not specifically against letting them out) but is interrupted by a pack of Whitecloaks who do their best to make it sound like anyone who ever questions their whims is the devil's personal nutritionist and decorator.  Their leader reveals himself to of course be one of the guys Mat 'pranked' fifty chapters ago, Bornhald, and declares the whole party Darkfriends in need of interrogation, but Moiraine steps up and goes wizardly-booming-voice, telling them off.  Bornhald attacks:
...He slashed at her in the same motion that cleared his sword.  Rand cried out as Moiraine's staff rose to intercept the blade.  That delicately carved wood could not possibly stop hard-swung steel.
...Said no one who understands that swords are finesse weapons, not medieval chainsaws.  Delicate carvings or not, her unfixed staff is going to do just fine against a panicked one-armed swing with a sword.  Also, of course, wizard, so Bornhald flies back into his goons, sword half-melted and bent.  Moiraine, who has already grown taller than the rest of them, bursts up higher than the wall and literally steps over it once the rest of Our Heroes have booked it on horseback.

As soon as Moiraine's out of town she shrinks back down to normal size, and insists that Egwene was just seeing things when asked about turning giant.  Sigh.  Moiraine, everyone saw you, and in particular you've just tantalised this young girl with her wizarding potential and you think she won't be curious about how to grow tall enough to crush her enemies and make them rue the day they--but anyway, this is not how you win anyone's trust.  At this rate Egwene is going to become one of those people who experiments with powers she doesn't understand and tears holes in the firmament of reality.

A short distance from town, they look back to see a plume of fiery smoke over Baerlon, which Moiraine concludes is the inn going up in flames.  Unlike the destroyed raft, this wasn't her doing, though I find myself wishing that it was--that would actually provide some real moral confusion, clear evidence that Moiraine's ruthlessness in her world-saving quest includes screwing over allies once she has no further need of them.  She instead notes that she warned him but "he would not take it seriously", which we're meant to take as frustrated, but unless proven otherwise, I'm going to assume she's thinking 'If he'd only listened I wouldn't have had to burn down his life'.

But for now she'd have us believe it was Darkfriends still just a step behind them.  The Darkfriends apparently have terrible recon, since they were able to implement a plan to burn down an entire jam-packed inn that night but couldn't spare a scout to catch the party of eight and their horses sneaking away after the Fade tried to hit on Rand.  What kind of modus operandi are these villains even using?

Nynaeve continues to win points (as generally happens with women we're not supposed to approve of in these books, have you noticed?) by asking why Moiraine isn't helping any of the people now fleeing a burning inn because of her, and Moiraine just says she'd make things worse by drawing more attention to the victims, both from the monsters and the whitecloaks.  She does, however, promise to have gold mailed to the innkeeper, enough to rebuild his inn and help out anyone who lost anything in the fire, but anything more than that and they might as well ritually sacrifice their whole families to the devil right then and there so stop asking questions this isn't a cheerocracy.

The rest of the chapter is just them wearily marching and taking an uncomfortable one-hour pre-dawn nap, with the boys muttering to each other again about how this is more dangerous than they expected and they won't be safe until Tar Valon.  (Points to Perrin, who also thinks Moiraine should have done more to help the inn.)  It couldn't be more obvious at this point that they won't be safe at Tar Valon either, any more than the One Ring was really safe in Rivendell.  By Eru, I want to skip ahead.

Chapter Eighteen: The Caemlyn Road

We're two hundred and sixty pages in and we're still on Disc One, to speak in CRPG terms.  Maybe people become Darkfriends just because they're bored.  I might sign up with Satan for a chance to shake things up.
The Caemlyn Road was not very different from the North Road through the Two Rivers.
I would unquestionably sign up with Satan at this point.

They ride along this road through low hills for days, occasionally stopping on top of a hill to scout.  No fires allowed, ever, which means no tea, to their sorrow, since it would break up the monotony of endless bread and cheese.  It doesn't sound like Egwene's been getting her magic lessons, either--if her first test involved making a stone light up, wouldn't it be a good idea to maybe try the ever-practical 'how to boil water by wishing hard' spell next?  They're travelling with an awesome wizard, why isn't there any option for tea?  And if you're so desperate to not be seen, why are you hanging out on hilltops instead of ditches?  For that matter, you and everyone else knows you're heading for once again the Only Bridge For Miles, so why would a flying demon seek you out by daylight instead of lying in ambush?  (The gleeman points this out and gets brushed aside.)  I mean, if the devil knows where you were and where you're going, isn't step one 'destroy the Only Bridge For Miles'?  And why doesn't Moiraine have a spell on hand for crossing water?  Why does she keep leaving herself at the mercy of ferries?  Why is the fate of good and evil being left up to the robustness of the public transportation infrastructure?

Echoes of hunting horns announce that trollocs are after them, and Lan scouts to determine that there are at least three Fades leading platoons.  They finally decide they're being driven into a trap, and given the choice of going south into the menacing Hills of Absher or north to the Arinelle, Moiraine ignores Lan's suggestion of "a place the Trollocs will not go" and takes them north, riding hard as the trollocs close in.

Instead, Our Heroes crest a hill and find themselves staring down into a half-ready trap, a mess of trollocs with hooks and lassos led by a Fade, and with a variety of battle-cries that are all basically Tolkienish versions of #YOLO, they charge into battle.  Lan and the Fade get to do single combat, of course, and their swords hack at each other exactly the way no one who knows how to use a sword would ever do oh my god they're scalpels not clubs.  Sigh.  Moiraine's weapon of choice is Spontaneous Trolloc Combustion--not sure why she doesn't cast it on the Fade--and the Other Wimminz stick close to her while the boys get hacking.  Rand manages to chop a catchpole in half "with an awkward slash", so maybe the trollocs are just using Nerf weapons, but by sheer numbers they're all getting swarmed, Rand gets a hook in his shoulder, Perrin is halfway dragged out of his saddle, and--

Look, here's the thing, I was actually feeling some tension at this point.  For all that his characters apparently wield only Vorpal (TM) Brand Farm Equipment, the language is pretty tense and bit by bit our heroes are getting dragged down by terrifying beastmen and I don't think Moiraine has a spell of deus ex machina for this scene, so for a moment I forgot that there were six hundred sequels with all of these characters and I wondered how they could possibly get out of this unscathed.  Okay?  I got into the story.  I was onboard.

Then the trollocs en masse start screaming and falling over having some kind of fit, and Rand notices that Lan has beheaded the Fade.

Really?  I mean, really.  At least when they did this in Star Wars Episode One they had the decency to announce well in advance that destroying the central computer would break all the droid soldiers.  The devil's legions of evil need a command unit or they bluescreen?  Why would you ever send a Fade into melee combat if this is what happens?

(Also, and this is especially nitpicky, if all of the farmboys are deadly archers, why are they bothering with melee weapons at all?  Why didn't they go bow shopping in Baerlon?  Genghis Khan conquered most of Asia and Europe with horses, bows, and a mind like an icebreaker ship.  Especially when you don't want to get roped or something, distance weapons seem like the way to go.

They take off again, since there are still more trollocs coming, but then Moiraine gets a full page describing how she throws an earthquake at them and calls up a wall of fire to buy them more time (although earth and fire are her opposed schools, so she's very tired afterwards). Nynaeve slips her some herbs, which she takes.  (Nynaeve's been trying to talk to Moiraine about herbs for days, which I like to think was just really awkward flirting.  Yes, I'm shipping it.  Obvs.)

When they have a chance to stop, Moiraine talks about their impromptu battle-cries, because Mat in particular shouted something in a language he's never heard before, which turned out to translate to 'in the name of some of my ancestral rulers like the Rose of the Sun'.  Moiraine takes this as proof that the Manetheren blood (which makes them better than everyone else, I guess) is still strong in them, and not--just as a f'r'instance--evidence that someone is messing around with his mind and memories.  Questionable, is all I'm saying.

More horns sound, Lan brings up once again that they have a perfect hiding place and his brother Balin will set them a great feast so Moiraine casts a misdirection spell (why has she not been casting those all day) to buy them enough time to flee into ancient  Moria Aridhol, an enormous abandoned stone city just hangin' out in the middle of the hills.  It's all supposed to be very ominous for some reason, and Lan says they have to find shelter before dark, dodging the question of the city's current name.  As they sneak inside, Moiraine grimly announces that it's now called Shadar Logoth.

Is that supposed to mean something to me?  If you're going to end your chapter on a dramatic revelation, make sure you reveal something that the reader actually understands.  I feel like that's a pretty basic guideline.  This is a bit like trying to convince Lex Luthor it's a big deal that Superman is secretly Kal-El.  The fuck does that mean?

Next week: In a refreshing break from CRPG rules, Mat tries to loot the abandoned city and, instead of getting a weapon upgrade, ruins everything.

34 comments:

  1. Ominous name is ominous. When did ominous start having negative connotations, omen is not in itself a negative term? For example "awful" meant something like awe-inspiring until fairly late. Now it definately doesn't, these books are just awful, in the modern sense. That being said, the following few chapters and the one much later on are the few bits in the book where they manage to be genuinely creepy for a while.

    Anyway, welcome back and yay, more Wot snark! Glad you're no longer a tiny bird.

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  2. Nynaeve wants them to come home because honestly who believes in trollocs


    What.


    What.


    Did she sleep through the whole attack on the village? Did Moiraine disintegrate all the corpses? HOW CAN SHE DOUBT THE EXISTENCE OF SHADOWSPAWN?!


    As soon as Moiraine's out of town she shrinks back down to normal size, and insists that Egwene was just seeing things when asked about turning giant.


    Technically this is true: once people actually explain the magic system it becomes clear this was just an illusion. This is not the stupidest “technically I’m not breaking the First Oath” statement we’ll hear but it’s one of the more annoying and pointless.


    Maybe people become Darkfriends just because they're bored.


    Hey, that’s pretty much why Ishamael signed up…

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  3. During the long break in your posting (come on, I demand you do a better job of entertaining me for free) I managed to read through almost to the end of book 2. I have a burrning question not germane to this blog post but I'm interested in opinions. Backstory spoliers ahead.
    We are told regularly through both books that by and large, people at best mistrust the Aes Sedai. The Shienarans coming up later in book 1 are an exception. What I don't understand is why the Aes Sedai are so reviled in some quarters.
    So we had the Dark One threatening to take over the world. The Aes Sedai, male and female, opposed him. In a climactic battle of good versus evil, the Dark One gets sealed away somewhere, but as a consequence of the struggle, the male Aes Sedai all went mad and the world got Broken.
    Now, given the choice of nigh-apacolyptic levels of earth movement, or being enslaved by the devil and eaten by trollocs, I think I would take my chances with the earthquakes. Certainly from an ancient history point of view, I would tend to look back at the sacrifice the Aes Sedai made in beating back the Dark One with quite some gratitude. If I really was going to pick a bone with the Aes Sedai, since we are told it's the male ones, and specifically Lews Therin, who broke the world, it would be the male ones I might be ticked off with. I don't see anything in the backstory which suggests the female Aes Sedai did anything but good in opposing the Dark One. So why all this anti-AS sentiment amongst the people, and in particular the Whitecloaks - they know the AS were mortal enemies of the Dark One, and if anyone is going to stand up against the Return of the Dark One it is going to be the AS and Mr. Dragon Reborn. It's a weird triangular political set up - Dark One versus Aes Sedai versus Whitecloak. How can Whitecloaks oppose Aes Sedai without knowing they are doing the DO a great favour?
    It's like everyone knows the Jedi are fighting the big bad Sith, yet ordinary people, in fear fo the Sith, actively were reviling the Jedi for some self-defeatng reason.

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  4. Nynaeve wants them to come home because honestly who believes in trollocs

    I think this was just Will's poetic hyperbole; Nynaeve's actual argument was more on the lines of "because honestly who thinks trollocs would have the patience to stick around for a second attack". Which, granted, isn't all that much better.

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  5. Key words: we're told. In-universe, there are very few preserved historical records of what actually happened, and those mostly known only to Aes Sedai and some nobles. The popular version is something like "Once upon a time there was the Age of Legends when everything was great, but the Aes Sedai went and tore a hole in the firmament of reality (supposedly by accident while experimenting with power they didn't understand) and let the Shadow out, and there was a terrible war and then their leader the Dragon smashed up the world."

    At least, this is what Jordan seems to be going for. I don't know if it's because the story focuses on rulers and the nobility, but in the later books people often seem way too well-informed about the AoL and the Breaking compared to the early worldbuilding we get here.

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  6. Sweet Bahamut, was Two Rivers settled by a party of level 20s who got tired of dungeoneering?


    Basically, yes. (Don't you remember Moiraine's story about Manetheren?) And because of the way genetics work in this universe, that means that their descendants will start out at that level as well. My favourite example is the minor plot point later in the series that the Two Rivers population has a much higher percentage of channelers than anywhere else. Compare that to Rand's musings at the start of this book about how they consider male channelers the next best thing to fairy tale monsters.

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  7. "insists that Egwene was just seeing things when asked about turning giant."
    I see we're going with the classic bad fantasy "treat every damn thing in the whole damn universe as a big damn secret that must be kept from everyone, just cuz."

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  8. OK, I suppose that could be some kind of explanation, that the general populace and the Whitecloaks don't know that the breaking of the world was caused by the Aes Sedai stuffing the Dark One back into his box. But I didn't pick up on that from the books so far as I have read.
    But even so, it begs the question, why would the AS keep this history hidden away? The purposes of Tar Valon could be accomplished far better if they would have shared this vital information. Clearly the AS have the Shienarans (am I spelling that right?) firmly on their side, so whatever convincing it may have taken for that to come about, could also have been done in every other city in the realm where the AS were planning to spread their influence - which is basically everywhere.

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  9. The Shienarans are on their side, iirc, because they're living right next door to the Blight and I think the AS have historically helped them not be wiped out by monsters? I can't remember if that's in the books or if I just head-canoned it, but if it is, then it's understandable why they wouldn't be keen on convincing everyone else the same way. (On the other hand, at least two generations of queens of Andor are trained at the White Tower, so the level of public distrust is kind of in flux given that Andor still has diplomatic links with everyone else...)

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  10. the thousand lakesFebruary 5, 2015 at 1:23 PM

    Passing partners is not exactly uncommon with your folksy country dances. The connotation of passing one's partner is very different in a line dance.


    Think of the Two Rivers bows as English longbows. Great weapons, but too tall to use on horseback. The Mongol bow was a masterpiece of technology because it was nearly as powerful as a standing bow but small enough to be used on horseback. They also took huge amounts of time and talent to make, to the point that Steppe cultures like the Scythians, who enjoyed burying their leaders laden with gold, huge bags of weed, ritually sacrificed horses and human servants, almost never buried someone with their bow unless it was broken because it was just too expensive. Accurate horse-archery isn't easy either, although somehow I doubt that would be much of a factor in these books.

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  11. the thousand lakesFebruary 5, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    The amount of information a common person has does shift around a bit over the series, even taking different nations knowing/believing different things into account. Jordan practices quite a bit of subtle retconning over the course of the series, which can be annoying but isn't really uncommon in the case with long-running series. The big one for me is how different magic is in Book 1 compared to the rest of the series. It's a lot more subtle, and heavily implied that Moiraine actually does need her staff to do magic.

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  12. Moiraine has a vague general plan of "get Rand to be a cooperative Dragon Reborn" but naturally she's not telling anyone about it nor is she doing much if anything yet to get him on side.

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  13. There's several things going on:
    1. The Breaking was 3000 years ago. To compare it to our history, that's equivalent to 1000 BC. How many people today know or care what humans of any kind were doing in 1000 BC? And that's in an information rich world where you CAN learn if you care. Knowledge of what exactly happened at the end of the second age is vague among many people in Randland.
    2. The modern Tower doesn't have institutional continuity with the old Hall of the Servants of the Second Age and does many things differently. They have the same name and powers, but they're organized and operate differently (the same as comparing, say, Christians in 50 AD and modern Catholics or Protestants).
    3. The Tower has its own agenda and that agenda is
    A. Often secret
    B. Not your agenda
    C. Possibly going to involve total disregard for your laws, customs, and government in the name of a greater good which only the Tower gets input on.

    In the last 3000 years, the Tower has struggled to keep civilization from total collapse and often used a combination of bullying, violence, the One Power, bribery, kidnapping, murder, war, etc, to do so. This has alienated a lot of people from the Tower because the Tower did what it pleased to fill its vision of the greater good while trampling their own.

    At least since the time of Hawkwing, when the Tower literally ended up at war with the ruler of the known world, it's faced a lot of distrust in those lands which don't urgently *need* the Aes Sedai the way the Borderlands do.

    4. Aes Sedai are rare and thus mostly only known through hearsay and rumors. There's only a thousand in all of Randland and many of them rarely leave the White Tower these days. The Two Rivers haven't seen an Aes Sedai in generations.

    If the Yellow Ajah wandered the land healing people and the Browns went around teaching and the Whites settled legal disputes, etc, etc, there would be a lot more trust. Instead, if you DO see an Aes Sedai, it is probably a Red come to take away one of your male kin. Or come to seek some agenda of the tower.

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  14. They're headed for the Tower. But to a large extent, Moiraine is improvising and most of the party doesn't know enough to come up with any other plan.

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  15. All of that just makes it weirder that people are fairly consistent in what they believe. (At least in Book One.)

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  16. This book is putting into Play a lot of the tropes that were lampshaded in the opening of the original Scary Movie, especially the one where the fleeing female character must choose between a signposted "Safety/Death" pathway, considers them both, and then chooses Death. There's nobody here who knows to listen to the people offering practical advice about not getting found or killed by evil creatures. And, apparently, also know very little about staying under the radar and out of sight so the evil creatures and their legion of spies and allies can't track them.

    And while I'm wishing, I'd also like a party that has women in it where none of them ever even flirt with being The Chick.

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  17. I think you're just supposed to go along with the idea that real world cultures generally mistrust people with mysterious powers. Even a shaman lives separately from the general population. Blacksmiths were frequently thought to be at least semi-magical. Even Gandalf, Goodest of Good wizards, gets a lot of people saying "I don't know, on the one hand you're correct about everything, on the other hand Suspicious Wizard!" It also helps that Aes Sedai used to be gender neutral, so "the male channelers broke the world" and "the aes Sedai broke the world" are both technically correct and could pretty reasonably become garbled over time.

    Just kind of a shame that all of the explicit reasons people give for mistrusting Aes Sedai boil down to "can't trust those women, amiright? Always trying to make you do stuff you don't want to".

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  18. This brings up kind of an interesting side point for the fantasy genre in general: since all these Key Magical Events in history took place (usually) at least 1000 years ago, how do the Mystical Know it Alls know the information they impart to the protagonist? In LotR you at least had the excuse that Gandalf and the elves were immortal, so they actually were around to witness firsthand when things hit the fan. But in a lot of stories, it's just information that's been passed down by some Secret Order over generations. And yet the fallibility of information transmission never comes up.

    I mean, any source of information held over such a long period of time is prone to having a lot of errors and changes creep in, no matter how accurate the keepers attempt to stay. You're going to have a lot of linguistic drift, for one, not to mention translations if the lingua franca changes, and of course the knowledge is always going to be prone to being altered by people for personal/political gain.

    As you say, we live in an incredibly information-rich world, and there is still a ton about the world/individual civilizations from 1000 years or more ago that we don't know. How the hell do people get away with so much perfectly preserved information in fantasy worlds, which usually don't have anything past medieval era technologies?

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  19. And it is even worse than usual in this series, where the inevitable loss of knowledge over time is a major theme. Hell, every book except the second starts with the same lines:

    The Wheel of time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.

    Don't even get me started on how the languages (don't) develop and change.

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  20. My apologies to the six of you who are still reading

    For the record, I never stop reading a blog due to inactivity alone. It doesn't cost me anything to leave a blog in my RSS reader's list, and on occasion even long-dormant blogs do start up again. (Like this blog I read, which recently began posting again after over ten months of unannounced hiatus.)

    Occasionally I do go through and clear out old blogs, but only ones that have been deleted or made announcements that they will no longer be posting. I don't always notice those things happening at the time, so it's good to check every so often.

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  21. *ponders this*
    I think there's a making of an interesting and different fantasy story in there. Imperfect information, groups with different ideas of what's going to happen/should be done/whatever, never mind exactly what happened in the past. Done dramatically, humorously, or somewhere in between, it could be really good.

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  22. I guess the important point that's not in this summary that makes Aes Sedai hating slightly more understandable is that the Aes Sedai are the ones who let the Devil out of the box in the first place.

    Which made everything worse.

    And then they stuffed him back in the box.

    And somehow this made everything even worse than that.

    And the Whitecloaks have come down firmly on the side of 'Jedi suck.'



    I mean, if all the Sith Lords start out as Jedi, even if the Jedi are opposing them, you could still prevent any more Sith Lords by killing all the Jedi.

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  23. Moiraine is Puddleglum.

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  24. There's a small subplot on this theme that shows up several books in. Sadly it has little to no effect on anything outside some characters' internal monologues.

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  25. The Borderlanders are generally strongly pro-Aes Sedai. Mayene, because it's badly outnumbered by Tear, cultivates good relations with the Tower as well. And Andor is officially on good terms but the public tends to have mixed feelings about the link.

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  26. Finally caught up. Haven't been on top of a number of things for the last few months, due to mental illness.


    Man, Will, you are totally not going to make it through this series if the repetition is already driving you this bonkers.


    P.S. Anyone figured out how sinking the ferry a few chapters back managed to stop the FLYING-THING that was chasing them, because I'm still wondering about that all these years later?

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  27. Which one are you referring to? Mat's and Birgitte's memories?

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  28. My theory is that the flying thing wasn't much of a threat on its own, the problem was that it could report on their movements to the small army chasing them.

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  29. This comment makes me realise I could use a good political primer on Randland. I didn't think to question this before but with all the False Dragons popping up and leading armies - who are the kingdoms rallying behind Dragons and who are they actually opposing when they do? If by and large people fear the coming of the Dragon, due to the foretold ending of the world, how is each Dragon raising support? Whom do they choose to raise battle against? I don't think it's a case of 'my Dragon is better than your Dragon' since there are no reported clashes of Dragon armies, at least up to the end of book 2.
    And again on the Whitecloak-Aes Sedai conflict: it is common knowledge the AS are trying to capture False Dragons and gentle them. The Whitecloaks are also anti-Dragon, and yet there is no indication in our scenes with the WC high command that they recognise their common ground with the AS.
    I guess it's a little frustrating to read these books without seeing these issues addressed. Book 3 starts with the new Dragon's armies in conflict with 'places on the map' but I don't know why that happened and I don't know why the characters don't discuss it amongst themselves.

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  30. The "kneel before the Crystal Throne" prophecy.
    (On reflection that might have an effect on stretching out Rand's diplomatic efforts a few books longer but it's not like Jordan needed any help doing that.)

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  31. But that would deprive you of the benefits of having Jedi around like... like... hang on, I'll think of something...

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  32. Which should still only delay the army. Not that it slowed Nynaeve down.

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  33. Girls rule, boys drool also makes the situation turn into the girls/women becoming caretakers of the boys/men which isn't exactly a deviation from the patriarchal thing either. Berenstain Bears is a good case study for this. Yeah Mama Bear is all competent and on top of shit but having Papa Bear be useless and stupid for comparison just means that she has another kid instead of a partner. Surely strong, competent women have other things to do than trailing after less competent men, cleaning up their messes. Doesn't Moirane have anything else she'd rather be doing than herding farmboys? Can't Egwene go off and get wizardy training somewhere other than in this traveling gong show? Hasn't Nynaeve anything else she'd rather be doing? Wouldn't a sensible bear like Mama look for a partner who was able to be beneficial to her too rather than just benefit from her?

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  34. My impression is that until they conquer something to get a base, the main support of False Dragons comes from disgruntled people. Kings and Queens don't sign up with them because they know the FD will go down but the desperate and angry see their chance, especially now with the Pattern READY for a Dragon.
    I think the two FDs we've seen so far were in Saldea and Ghealdan.

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