The Eye of the World: p. 557--581
Chapter Thirty-Seven: The Long Chase
The long chase? Really? I've been struck by a prophetic vision that this chapter will include lots of running around to create the illusion of plot development.
I have also formed a hypothesis there's some kind of rule every chapter must start with four pages that don't do anything to advance the plot or reveal character in any way. Nynaeve, Moiraine, and Lan continue on Perrin's magic trail (not that they know which farmboy they're after) and eventually find the Whitecloak camp where we left him and Egwene. Nynaeve snarks at Lan for implicitly impugning her willingness to face peril to save a neighbour, or her knowledge of wolf behaviours, which is presumably supposed to be a reminder of what a capable and courageous Lady Heroine Woman she is. Personally, I think it'd have played better if Lan had been all 'You're a village Wisdom despite your youth and you've stuck with us this far, so obviously you're a colossal badass, here's what I need you to do'. In fact, why hasn't Lan internalised that yet? He's bonded with Moiraine; he knows better than to underestimate someone just because they're a woman or small enough to fit in his backpack. Do better, Lan.
"There are two guards on that side of the camp, beyond the picket-lines, but if you are half as good as I think you are, they'll never see you."
She swallowed hard. Stalking rabbits was one thing; guards, though, with spears and swords... So he thinks I'm good, does he? "I'll do it."There's something ironic that the one skill of hers he is willing to notice is her ability to not be noticed. Also, hasn't Nynaeve been fighting trollocs? A few unwary guards don't strike me as unusual threat for her these days. But she still freaks out a bit as she creeps in, dodges patrols, and starts cutting the ropes to loose the horses for purposes of distraction. She almost runs after she's cut four out of five, and thinks for a moment about how Lan wouldn't judge her for running away now (given that she's just a little mortal), but Nynaeve is struck by a vision that if she leaves any horses secure, some of Our Heroes will die in the escape, and so cuts them loose too. (The possibility that she just got an actual prophecy further freaks her out, because Nynaeve was trained to use magic but she didn't think it was Capital Letters Magic, I guess?) The final group includes faithful horse Bela and another friendly one, and Nynaeve flees into the night with them as Moiraine starts fulminating the camp with a rain of lightning (go Moiraine), and wolves join in the fight, confusion, running, et cetera.
Well, that chapter wasn't nearly as prolonged as I expected it to be. It helps, of course, that on my first read I accidentally skipped about a third of it and didn't notice. Which is a reasonable measure of the breakneck crawl we're proceeding at. Let's savour this opportunity to talk about Nynaeve, because she's one of my favourite characters so far.
We're more than 550 pages into the book, and Nynaeve's motivations are starkly few. She chased after Our Heroes because she had no patience to sit around and wait for a Manly Decision, and she's stuck with them because it's her job to protect her neighbours. That takes a hell of a lot of dedication. She's been told that she has incredible potential to wield earthshakingly powerful magic, but she doesn't appear at all tempted by the prospect. Admittedly, she doesn't have great reasons not to trust Aes Sedai, but tell the average person 'By the way, I can teach you to perform miracles' and see if that doesn't shake their convictions even a little. Nynaeve doesn't even know that she's plot-relevant; she's just here because she knows who she is (or who she wants to be) and that person won't let her neighbour brats run off to get murdered on their own.
And somehow the main gorram character of this book still isn't her, but the brat who thinks it's insufficiently heroic that he has to sleep in haystacks while everyone tells him how incredibly important he is (quarry of the Darkfriends, warper of the Pattern of reality, first-name-basis with the fricking devil who hangs out in his dreams).
Rand al'Thor might be (shpoilersh) the Dragon Reborn, but as far as I'm concerned he's a case study in mediocre men inexplicably drawing attention away from extraordinary women. I'm sure he's going to get 'character development', but I'm not at all convinced that said development will consist of him actually gaining sympathetic qualities to compare with Nynaeve's fierce loyalty, courage, and conviction.
Anyway, let's get back to Nynaeve and Moiraine saving the day.
Chapter Thirty-Eight: Rescue
PerrinFIGHT ME ROBERT JORDAN.
Perrin shifted as best he could with his wrists bound behind him and finally gave up with a sigh.Do y'all know why this book is precisely seven hundred million pages long? Because Jordan thinks that it's quality storytelling to give us an unnecessarily long depiction of rescuers catching up with hostages, making plans, enacting plans to save the hostages, and then leaping backwards in time to show us yet more of what things were like for the hostages before they got rescued. Surely we could just have Egwene recap for Moiraine what their captivity was like afterwards? (If we get all this description and then a recap as well, I will burn down the sun.)
General advice: if you can timeskip something in a story and not leave the reader confused about how you got there, there's a good chance you should timeskip it. More specific advice: if you can timeskip something in a story, for the love of gay shipping, please don't pretend to timeskip it and then go back to explain. This is like episodes of TV shows that start with a Dramatic Scene, go to opening credits, and then come back with Three Days Earlier... which never fails to annoy me. (Not least because it's used to set up shocking swerves like Why Are These Two Bros Pointing Guns At Each Other and then forty minutes later we discover they were both actually aiming at ambushers behind each other.)
Uuuuugh.BUT BACK TO PERRIN. He's spent the last few days walking tied to a horse and getting regular updates from Byar about the inventive ways the Questioners will torture him into confessing when they get to Amador. They're also in a rush to Caemlyn, though, and one day Byar shows up, tosses him a sharp rock, and says it'd be much more convenient if Perrin somehow managed to cut himself loose and vanish into the night. Perrin rolls just well enough to realise that there's something fishy about this generosity, but not quite enough to realise that if he makes a getaway they'd have ample reason to just kill him on the spot and wrap matters up that way. He gets a telepathic ping from Dapple that there's a rescue coming, and stalls long enough for Lan to arrive and karate the guards into submission.
Lan, Egwene, and Perrin meet up with Moiraine, who reports that she's lost track of Nynaeve, whom she fears has "done something foolish". Hey, why hasn't Moiraine given the rest of the party those tracker coins like she did the boys? Can she only maintain three of that charm at once? It's not like they haven't had time for her to make more. Anyway, Lan turns and almost charges back to find Nynaeve, but Moiraine tries to stop him:
"Some things are more important than others. You know that. [....] Remember your oaths, al'Lan Mandragoran, Lord of the Seven Towers! What of the oath of a Diademed Battle Lord of the Malkieri?"
Perrin blinked. Lan was all of that?Lan was all of those things that we don't understand and have no context for and therefore I don't care about? ASTONISHING. (Also, I see Jordan is one of those authors who thinks that bemusement is best identified by a character's blinking, which strikes me as particularly weird in this high-tension high-action scene where presumably they're running around a lot and blinking away sweat or dust from one's eyes might be expected rather a lot. Suggestion: if a character's shock is so understated that it can best be expressed through blinking while they flee homicidal religious zealots, maybe you're not dealing with as dramatic a moment as you'd like to think. Shout something gaspworthy, at least.)
Nynaeve returns with the horses and as she leaps off to embrace Egwene she gets intercepted by Lan who just grabs her arm for an intense second. He wants to tap that, if we hadn't noticed yet. He wants to tap that like he's sending a telegram. Nynaeve has picked up on this, as highlighted by the way she gives "a low laugh" as she runs to hug Egwene, which Perrin figures doesn't have "anything to do with happiness at seeing them again".
Let us take a moment to contemplate the situation: our split party has just started to mend itself after eight thousand chapters of running around scattered, they're being hunted by religious zealots, and this is the moment that Jordan has decided to drop in a romantic subplot with all the grace and versimilitude of a new fanfic author. We got none of this last chapter, when Lan was actually talking to Nynaeve about sending her into danger, but now they're reunited and there is Needful Tension. Priorities, Jordan. Lan is the male character I hate least, but that's such a low bar. Try to remember you had a plot in here somewhere.
They make their getaway, and the wolves leave Perrin with a mental note that they are ordained to meet again someday. The next day, Nynaeve tends their wounds, treating us to a scene in which she rubs ointments all over Perrin's bare chest--he's been gruesomely bruised, but his ribs were protected from breakage because he's so incredibly ripped.
If you unlock the secret ninth ab, you become fireproof.
Nynaeve's ointments basically heal his mangled torso instantaneously, which either means they have some really sweet herbs in this world or she should have realised she was a gorram sorcerer a long time ago. Nynaeve notices Perrin's wolf eyes, but doesn't know what they are; Moiraine does, but doesn't say what it means; Nynaeve is upset that Moiraine won't 'heal' Perrin's eyes, but is weirdly uninterested in knowing what's actually going on. Lan just hears the name Elyas MacWolferson and says he used to be a Warder until the Red Ajah came after him, and assures Perrin that communing with wolves isn't of itself satanic. He does note how improbable it is that Perrin would have the ancient gift and meet someone who was capable of teaching him:
"The Pattern is forming a Great Web, what some call the Lace of Ages, and you lads are central to it. I don't think there is much chance left in your lives, now."In fairness, if Jordan doesn't find a new word to capitalise every four pages, his keyboard will explode. Lace of Ages? Honestly, at this point I almost want to congratulate him on so thoroughly committing: he actually made it an emphatic plot point that incredibly convenient coincidences and contrivances swarm around our heroes. That's so much more audacious than just trying to make the story feel plausible.
I also feel like this chapter highlights a certain weakness of prophecy: Lan claims that Perrin's life is basically already set in the world, but it's only thanks to Lan's intervention just now that Perrin's life wasn't a very brief sprint in the night or several long days of torturous dying at the hands of the inquisition. So, Perrin has no choice in what happens to him next, but Lan apparently does, since he had the option of turning and running. Or a lucky whitecloak could have murdered them all with a few quick sword strokes. At what proximity to Our Heroes do people stop having choices? If there are certain people who bend fate around themselves, shouldn't the Dark One's central plan be to stay the hell away from those people as much as possible and stick to working with the people who have no fates at all and therefore might be capable of anything? Lan implies that the Dark One can manipulate events a little, but when he says the three boys are definitely super-prophesied for either good or evil, he doesn't make it clear whether he thinks that has been determined yet.
Basically, what I'm saying is that there are at least three kinds of prophecy and it matters a lot which kind we're dealing with. There's contingent prophecy ("If/unless this happens, this other thing is guaranteed to happen"), total predestination (choice is an illusion and all future events are fixed), and fate in the ancient Greek style ("No matter what choices you make, sooner or later you're going to X"). Lan doesn't appear to believe in predestination, but his talk about the lack of chance in Perrin's life implies that fate is a thing, except that he obviously still thinks Rand and Mat can be and need to be saved from evil, which suggests that his non-predetermined actions still matter.
Jordan could have saved me a headache by dropping the vague prophecy talk and just saying "The universe has willed that the three of you are main characters, so please do better".
That's it for me; come back next Wednesday to see if I managed to convince Erika to watch Bring It On for her next post!