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newyorkersedai
02-09-2013, 12:55 PM
The strange case of Lanfear is such that I can't tell whether Lanfear had a good arc or not. If I had two big disappointments regarding this series, they would be (a) the books getting stretched out when they should've been edited more, and (b) I thought this series would be more about the Forsaken.

Dealing solely with the second point, I figured that we would learn more about our main antagonists, if for nothing more than they are counterparts for our main protagonists. It's a little unfair, as of course I would be interested in the story of a magical super-paradise and how it came to ruin; and it is exciting to spend time with smart and powerful people plotting to destroy the world. Paring down my own excitement, I can see that I expected more from a writerly perspective. I can understand not wanting to give away everything that's to come, but our heroes received a lot of development throughout the series. It felt like our villains received a lot of that in the past, but far less so as the series progressed.

On one hand, Lanfear's actions in AMoL fit with her introduction neatly. It makes a thematic sense that Lanfear would return to working with the powerful taveren in the way that she did in tGH. In the beginning, she could've gone off on her own and made her own power early on - save for her LTT obsession. It also makes sense that she's been so restricted by her fellow-Shadow-lovers that she has to rely on the Light-side to help her reach her goals.

So, yes, it's great to see Lanfear pulling strings and being pro-active. However, this is undermined because she mostly became an anecdotal character after her tumble through the redstone doorway. But part of me is displeased to see such an awkward series of scenes with Perrin, even though it reads fairly well and (perhaps most impressively) was just unexpected enough to be mysterious. It's also fitting that she becomes the final Chosen.

I just guess that I expected more from her - the POV suggests that she saw, in Perrin, a man and a tool. Otherwise, she shouldn't have noted that she would've won him fairly. The problem is that Lanfear is played as both brilliant as well as daft. I turned an ex onto this series, and she said she hated Lanfear because she came off as an idiot. I can skip past a lot of her early treatment of Rand (you can't seduce someone when you call them the wrong name all the time), but her final efforts to side with the DO and get revenge on Rand at the same time make her decidedly not dynamic. She's the only person (besides Moridin and maybe Buddha Rand) to have a grasp on the nature of reality and what the Dark/Light confrontation was all about.

I didn't need Lanfear to become "good" again, but if I can't tell whether her final actions were motivated by an utter dedication to the DO, then the character hasn't been serviced properly.

As to the series overall: sweet lord, I've been reading these books since 1994. I would read them late into the night, or even walking down the street in New York (you really need to use your peripheral vision). I've read the first 5 books more times than I can count. However, I have to note that many smart people I know said that RJ was "not a good writer."

I always found that to be weird, because these judgments came from people who enjoyed his work. Like many others, I enjoyed RJ's world-building and the balance between male and female characters. I think what I appreciated most, though, was how he would effectively (a) inject so many emotions into his work and (b) subvert my expectations.

The first several novels were full of unexpected moments - the story turning left when I was sure it would turn to the right. And, amidst all the action and narrative, we'd suddenly get humor, romance, personal conflicts, snark, and "real" emotions. And I think I fell in love with the fact that it managed to do this amidst scenes that were genuinely tense, gripping, and satisfying.

So, like others, I wasn't happy to get (at least) three novels that were... filled mostly with moving pieces forward two steps, then back one - describing the movements in close detail, even though such close description didn't make them more engaging. I stuck with it, then found that all of my fan-boy(?) optimism was undone by the tragic death of the author, by the way that the novels piled on more questions and facts while resolving very few of the old ones, and by the relative quietness of the message board I had joined.

So, what to make of the end itself? Well, it was very up and down. A lot of the amazing moments in the earlier novels felt like walking around the block to your house, only to see the greatest party in the world taking place there; it was always a shock, because the writing had pulled you in to the appropriate mindset. Now, I felt like I was having the most amazing party in the world described to me by a guy who... uses the Common Tongue instead of anything more eloquent.

And it didn't help that I had the analysis of my fellow fans to underscore the problems - especially Dom, with his freakish ability to tease out the underlying implications and then follow them with conclusions that were logically perfect. All of the imperfections in this series were laid bare, and my mind recoiled.

The last book was full of quality, on a level that put the prior two to shame. Regardless, the same problems in tone and language continued - but the various plots were much more engrossing, exciting in a way that has often been absent since the old tFoH days. Part of this is naturally due to the fact that the series was closing, and so there was no need to equivocate or put things off. As with many TV series, the urgency of the immediate end means that you can just cut to the chase, so to speak.

But I was 18 when I started reading this series, a girlfriend giving me the first book on the same day that she bought the sixth book, with its awful Fabio-esque cover drawing. I'm used to the slow build of films like Star Wars, not the omg-I'm-gonna-climax-every-three-seconds vibe of a lot of recent entertainment. JJ Abrams tells stories that are full of hyperbolic drama and gratifying button-pressing, and I resist being lured in by such cheap efforts. AMoL, then, was this weird hybrid of both styles of story-telling occurring at the same time.

I saw it in Rhuarc's final scenes as himself, in which he might have been a character in an Adult Swim cartoon. And, as much as I disliked Egwene at times, I didn't want to see her meet a death straight out of one of the Final Fantasy games; I wanted to see if she got the chance to add real humility and an empathic understanding of others to her formidable tool set. I wanted Tuon to come to grips with the nature of the world she presumptively dominates (although Mat's line to a spectral Hawkwing was great). I looked forward to the romance of the battered Bryne and the transformed Siuan play out, even though the way she met her end did fit the character.

In exchange for these flaws, I got Perrin on a quest that felt as urgent and filled with progression as his return to Emond's Field. I got a rapidly-unfolding battle with so many whistles and bells that I could scarcely keep up. I got unexpected character beats like almost everything with Mat (and many moments with Rand), which really did feel straight out of the interactions in the earliest novels.

AMoL often made me laugh - in derision - at the crudeness and modernity of the author's language. I'm indebted to Terez, not only for her hard work here, but for pointing out how disastrous some of BS's choices were. I'm even more indebted to Dom, who has posited a great theory for how the last books reflect a bungled attempt to pay off RJ's vision for AMoL.

And yet the events in this last book frequently had emotional resonance, and were exciting, and were unexpected. I was (at times) not satisfied by, but simply willing to accept, the way things played out. I've almost never been able to close a book's back hard-cover over the last pages and simply nod, while also feeling like some of what I read was pure shake-my-head wrongness. And yet that's what AMoL gave me.

It's a mixed bag of reactions, while my feelings usually tend to be more decisively in one direction or the other. I'm glad that I was able to read through some of the linguistic clumsiness to appreciate the ideas underlying them.

I hoped for more from many characters, but I am still left with a nagging sense that Lanfear was used poorly, overall, throughout these 13+ novels. I'm also less-than-thrilled that Pevera and Androl were back-ended so thoroughly, and that Demandred was written in a way that makes me wonder whether using cocaine would be the best way to enjoy his scenes.

Above all, I'm still grateful for the pleasure that the first 5 or 6 books brought me, and for the input of my fellow fans. Thanks for sharing this with me, and for your thoughtful ideas.

Fourth Age Historian
02-09-2013, 02:35 PM
Lots of substance here... thanks for sharing those thoughts.

I do think it's a short list of people who really "got it" but I would add Herid Fel and Min to Lanfear, Rand, and Moridin. Possibly Moiraine and Lan as well.

I don't think BS, or anyone else, could have done much better. There's some "wrongness" but only in the sense that no one can be fully inside someone else's head. Any other author would have been at least equally wrong, but in different ways. For all our nitpicking, this was a no-win scenario and I think we got the best conclusion we could expect to get. The concluding trilogy featured some of the best moments in the entire series, and frankly I think was better written than the last few of RJ's books. This doesn't mean I forgive all the things that didn't quite work... AMoL has plenty of flaws. But ultimately I am happy with it and the series as a whole.

As to RJ as a "bad writer" I think that's silly. Like all people who do anything, he had his flaws. But this series is one of the best in the genre ever and I think it's hard to argue that. It's interesting in particular how there's a vast disagreement over whether RJ completely nailed female characters or completely missed the mark - even among women there is strong disagreement about this. For myself, I thought his female characters had a certain sameness that showed he really didn't understand how to write women at all. However, I don't think this means he was sexist; just not great at putting himself in a female's shoes. Being a man, perhaps I am off-base with this. But to me it seemed as if all of his women were caricatures and in largely the same ways.

Lanfear disappointed me, ultimately. She had the potential to be such an interesting villain, and at times she was exactly that, but her role at the end (well, until the VERY end) was uninspired, to me. Her actual goal of saving the DO at the last second was a pretty solid and in-character piece of literature. But up to that point she could have been doing so much more, especially in regard to worming her way into Perrin's graces. She could have killed and replaced Berelain, for example, which would've both been in character and had an interesting resonance with the Hawk/Falcon stuff. Perhaps the mindtrap is what kept her from being as proactive as I would have liked. But I agree there is a dichotomy of awesome/terrible going on here.

Weiramon
02-12-2013, 12:49 PM
I do think it's a short list of people who really "got it" but I would add Herid Fel and Min to Lanfear, Rand, and Moridin. Possibly Moiraine and Lan as well.


<ahem> Verin <ahem>

EvilChani
02-13-2013, 05:13 PM
For myself, I thought his female characters had a certain sameness that showed he really didn't understand how to write women at all. However, I don't think this means he was sexist; just not great at putting himself in a female's shoes. Being a man, perhaps I am off-base with this. But to me it seemed as if all of his women were caricatures and in largely the same ways.


I'm a woman and agree completely. I found most of the women in the series to be unbearable. Not only would I refuse to be friends with most of them - save Nynaeve, who I understand completely, and Min, who at least shows that she has a heart (beyond the Aes Sedai/Jedi 'compassion' of "Sure you're my friend but I'd stab you to death in a heartbeat if it furthered my goals and I found it necessary") - I don't think I could even work with most of them given their Borg-like mindset regarding female superiority, their constant need to battle everyone else to establish pecking order, and their ridiculous habit of glaring at people and expecting that to, somehow, cow people. To me, they seem childish and stupid. They aren't women - they're insecure little girls who believe that dominating others makes them appear "strong". It amuses me that Nynaeve only started to become the epitome of a strong woman when she stopped trying to dominate everyone, started listening to those around her (while not following blindly and having the spine to stand with Rand against Egwene despite knowing that Egwene might retaliate and would be angry at her) and started to realize that her family was the most important thing in her life (Lan, Rand, etc.). The problem is that I don't thing RJ ever saw it that way - Nyn, by the time she returned to the WT, was to be seen as a broken down has-been that was now under Egwene's thumb. Bah.

suttree
02-14-2013, 12:33 AM
The problem is that I don't thing RJ ever saw it that way - Nyn, by the time she returned to the WT, was to be seen as a broken down has-been that was now under Egwene's thumb. Bah.

You can't be serious.

maacaroni
02-14-2013, 06:31 AM
Regarding the 'bad writer' comment. Well, opinions are like arseholes. I think the last five books going to number one in the charts would say that many would disagree.

I think the problem with being a HCFF is that maybe expectation was maddingly too high. There was always going to be character arcs that didn't develop they way we would like.

Regarding Lanfear, it felt as if post-tFoH, her character was in limbo until this book. She didn't have a role to play so the whole Cyndane pseudo-mystery dragged along seven or so books.

Her 'tactics' though were not really any different to how she behaved in earlier books: coerce, convince and co-operate with the light to push towards her ends. I would say that her appearance at the end of ToM was a massive red herring and pretty unimportant in the grand scheme.

I still think it was engaging and interesting up until the end...a compulsion was soooo unLanfear.

GonzoTheGreat
02-14-2013, 06:42 AM
Regarding the 'bad writer' comment. Well, opinions are like arseholes.Actually, they aren't. For starters, very few people have more than one of the latter ...

Her 'tactics' though were not really any different to how she behaved in earlier books: coerce, convince and co-operate with the light to push towards her ends. I would say that her appearance at the end of ToM was a massive red herring and pretty unimportant in the grand scheme.
She made a last attempt to resurrect her original plan, then went with another one. Just as Egwene did with going after Gawyn when Galad turned out to be too hard to get. :p

I still think it was engaging and interesting up until the end...a compulsion was soooo unLanfear.
She was a bit pressed for time, then.

neurotopia
02-14-2013, 08:49 AM
I think the problem with being a HCFF is that maybe expectation was maddingly too high. There was always going to be character arcs that didn't develop they way we would like.


This. Had I not found this site I probably would've thought the series ended way better than it did. But when we've got plausible theories for some pretty amazing shit (Rand dying like 37x and being reborn/resurrected, Taim'al, Demandred gathering Shadowspawn from Mirror Worlds, Fain becoming the next DO, the Bore being in TAR, Valan Luca's cape is the Dragon Reborn's mighty ter'angrael penis*, you name it), the actual ending is bound to be somewhat of a letdown.

*that was obviously a joke

fdsaf3
02-14-2013, 12:18 PM
Regarding the 'bad writer' comment. Well, opinions are like arseholes. I think the last five books going to number one in the charts would say that many would disagree.

Popularity is not a great indicator of talent or skill. Look at Twilight. Just saying. As I'm sure you recognize, RJ had flaws as a writer that, in my opinion, too many fans of the series brushed off until the effect of those flaws really manifested themselves. Anyone who believes RJ himself, in perfect health, could have finished the series succinctly and to everyone's satisfaction is nuts. The series, ultimately, was too bloated and heavy. Brandon did a good job getting to the finish line, but he did so in spite of, not only because of, what RJ left him.

I think the problem with being a HCFF is that maybe expectation was maddingly too high. There was always going to be character arcs that didn't develop they way we would like.

I agree with you about the HCFFs, but I think it's more than that. It bothers me that so many plots and interesting ideas were introduced only to be abandoned by the end of the series. HCFFs had extremely high expectations, to be sure. I can't agree more. But I think the underlying problem is that the series just lost focus.

Dom
02-14-2013, 03:12 PM
Anyone who believes RJ himself, in perfect health, could have finished the series succinctly and to everyone's satisfaction is nuts. The series, ultimately, was too bloated and heavy.

I agree with the first statement, not fully with the second. Well.. it was "bloated", but personally it's one of the things I like most about the late series and why I much preferred it to the early books (what brought me to forums, the early books didn't), that it took time to meander in dozens of directions.

I knew much of that was "red herrings", as far as the "main arc" was concerned. I found it fun to try to guess what was relevant to the finale, and what would turn out to be just micro-arcs and background details with no relevance at all.

But I freely admit this can very well be considered as big flaws to anyone not in this frame of mind and getting impatient with the lack of progression of the central arc.

I was relieved KOD brought things back in control and the LB was at least plainly in sight.

But I'd lie to say that, speaking only for myself, I was bored with the late books.

After/with KOD, I was also became convinced the finale would disappoint a great deal of people, some average readers and HCFF alike, among them those convinced everything was very relevant and RJ would bring all of it together by the end (and those who wanted him to "cut to the chase" too!)

By that time, I was convinced a ton of things were mini-stories for their own sake, and they would find abrupt endings or none at a turn or another. The thing was, I was one of those who actually liked that, a lot in fact. But I could see tons of people around me getting really frustrated and not at all happy to have read all those scenes with, say, Rolan, or who were extremely pissed off about Aram's arc and it's abrupt end, who couldn't believe the Shaido arc and Galina were now over and it was all it had been about, etc. I'm more a journey than destination type of reader.


To many, this was "rushed" and a let down. Personally I was enjoying that, happy that Jordan made this about a much larger universe where tons of things just happened in parallel, with no a whole lot of greater importance and not everything was "placed" just right to serve a grand purpose in the finale.

Those aspects of the finale were some of my favorites, like Fain's end, Taim being simply recruited by Demandred, Verin turning up not quite were expected, the SF being all about the Bowl and weather, the Kin becoming a bone between Elayne and the WT, the Seanchan arc being largely left unresolved, Egwene dying without any of her reform necessarily surviving etc.

For the rest.. well, epic heroes' journeys set on a good vs. evil frame have patterns and writers like RJ respect those patterns, and it's what Brandon delivered and I think it's fairly similar at the core to what RJ would have delivered. No surprise there.

If I read WOT for that aspect of the ending rather than, somewhat, despite it, I'd probably be more satisfied with the ending, as many were (and some who somehow expected RJ would go somewhere else altogether for some reason, many did, have been disappointed).

I don't have much of a problem with the abruptness of many things in Brandon's version of the ending.

Most of my gripes have to do with the fact he simply dropped by the road most minor players and issues to replace them by mere card boards with fan names, hundreds of those. That felt lazy or "overwhelmed", or else pushing way too much side players to the front to simplify his task.

All that I think RJ would have used as opportunities to offer much better albeit very short and to some very abrupt "exits" to tons of side players and background elements and minor matters. In that sense, I'm quite convinced his version of the finale would no doubt have satisfied me better than Brandon's (or much of anyone's but RJ's) version possibly could ever have.

It's all small matters, but they pile up and if the Encyclopedia doesn't remedy some of this, it will hurt re readability of the series massively, for me. Many things were designed to remain mysterious (Fel is a good example) and that's all good, but I mean stuff like Alviarin having no role in TGS or TOM, Elayne's entourage being reduced to Birgitte and Dyelin, and that's only flagrant examples among a ton of those.

Sure, a lot of that was RJ's "fault", to have included so many of those in the first place, too many for the average readers to be sure (those I know all found that hyper annoying). But he kept track and for the really HCFFs keeping track like him the background was always full of "interesting" or at least consistent/coherent details happening to very minor players in micro background story arcs.

But he sure didn't make it easy, in fact near impossible, for anyone else to be able to pick it up and just continue and be able to weave in all those... details... to the end. That's too bad for those of us who were following those avidly, but we knew we'd lose a lot with his death.

Only HCFFs really care about this stuff (a lot of people simply skip stuff like that on re reads...), and it's harsh (or too one sided and biased) to judge Brandon's results solely or mostly on this rather than on the larger picture, when for the majority of readers it matters not, and they got the resolution to the main story they wished and to enough of the main secondary stuff. A lot of those people aren't hardcore re readers.

The only sad thing in all this is that for the the part of hardcore re readers who actually care for the minor characters and issues (which is not even all HCFFs or even close, in my experience on MB, but the other type of HCFF such as the OP FF also felt let down for other reasons) the final books not having been written by RJ, and not having remained consistent with the attention put to the little details, will hurt our interest in the series a lot. I fear this will happen to me, anyway.

We'll see. I've not reached the later books in my current re read, and I'm still in the part of the series were almost everything introduced gets resolved, and it's fun to spot new foreshadowing that played out in AMOL . It's the aspect Brandon did the best job with, and I suspect it's a mix of RJ's outline and Brandon's contributions, as he took care to go to fish in the series to find more he could use to fill the outline gaps.

But I dread a lot reaching LOC or so. Will I still love nearly as much reading about all the details, or will each only now remind me that by TGS all this stuff simply get dropped by the road, in effect destroying my enjoyment of the late series altogether and put me right in the same spot as those who have always disliked those books/found them slow, or ridiculously bloated. It's quite possible. I doubt the "main arc" with the long expected cliché ending the genre entails will be enough to carry me through the series many times again. *shrugs*.

I'm still holding to hope the Encyclopedia will feature enough details lifted from the notes about minor players and more important ones that it will solve part of the problems, but somehow I'm not that hopeful. I have the bad feeling for most side stuff RJ made it up as he went along, and added what he created to his notes, to remind himself of what he already had put there, to maintain consistency. His Elaida paragraphs from "Question of the Week" makes me hopeful that for some background things he bother to write himself a summary of what he conceived had happen behind the scene in case he forgot the details by the time he might or not wish to return to that stuff in later books, but was this a general habit? I also suspect he didn't project ahead much. I doubt the Encyclopedia will reveal what Alviarin did behind the scenes in TGS, because if Brandon knew, some of it would have been included. That stuff I'm half sure RJ crafted when he get there.

But I think the underlying problem is that the series just lost focus.

In part. RJ overdid it to an extent, and to how much of an extent depends a lot on how much one loved or disliked his meandering and piling up side details. Some thought little details happening to recurrent players like Sulin made all the fun of WOT - and it's that that actually made this TON of recurrent minor players bearable at all, for others it's a very good example of the series's losing its focus. There's no right or wrong in this, of course, it's all a matter of tastes.

I think we can all agree those who expected all this stuff would have gotten resolved by RJ and miraculously would have ended up having a role would have been disappointed. However, they would have kept popping up all the way to the end of AMOL had he been at the helm, and no doubt he would have tried very hard to offer all sort of little things and little twists to keep interest in these side players alive for his "hcff", compulsive re readers.

I would say RJ gave more the impression he cared about this category of readers, as he cared for the world building maniacs, and while he did try (and many would say, failed) to keep in mind the majority of his more casual readers, he indulged the HCFFs minority a lot more than Brandon did, or could manage to do.

Many might say RJ indulged us, the more visible and interacting minority, more than he should have for the series's own good. I more than a little suspect he partly got caught in the game himself and "bloated" things to satisfy us, forgetting a little too much the average readers who were not spending the in-between years with no book discussing them in forums, and who were getting a little annoyed with him. Then reception to WH and COT sobered him up a bit, and in KOD he walked a finer line, or tried to, between preserving all the details and accelerating pace and condensing (Egwene's "mega chapter" is a good example of a sudden effort to condense).

Brandon.. well, he isn't a HCFF, he's far more representative of the "big fans but casual fans" of WOT, who re read it a few times but didn't get obsessive with it. He wrote the finale aiming to satisfy this majority of "average to big fans". Perhaps it was the best thing to do, likely it was. Considering the massive difference in story development styles, with Brandon not too comfortable with RJ's static scenes covering tons of background stuff and thus needing more events and on-screen developments and many more short scenes to drive the plot forward, writing a HCFF-friendly version of the finale might have been twice as long and taken twice the time it did, diluting even more the whole thing and losing tons of readers.

SamJ
02-14-2013, 03:48 PM
Interesting discussion. I'm pretty satisfied with AMOL at the moment ( as satisfied as I can be when it's not by RJ), but I haven't tried a reread yet. I feel like a lot is missing, and that parts of the end were more conventional than I expected, but parts, such as the Perrin-Slayer-Lanfear build up, were great. I found lots of rewarding resonances alongside the usual frustrations, eg found it v hard to buy Mat just going away at the start.

AMOL has naturally given me a certain amount of perspective to the whole series. It's allowed me to really step back and recognise why I loved the Wheel so much. Best analogy I can come up with is that it's like a Cathedral. I'm talking a proper medieval gothic Cathedral here, or one of the great Mosques in Istanbul. I love the sheer scope of it. Seeing the whole at last, I can recognise the patterns in the way it was built, different stages of foundations, renovations, buttresses, spandrels, and things that are there for decoration or to trick the eye, quiet chapels at the side that are just there to be their own space, and so on. Parts are imperfect, but the architect's plan, and the ultimate delivery are a master work. RJ wasn't a beautiful writer (contrast Gene Wolfe or Elizabeth Hand who write books like sculptures - to extend the analogy), but, to me, he was a beautiful story-builder.

EvilChani
02-14-2013, 04:03 PM
You can't be serious.

To an extent, yes. Once Egwene forced Nynaeve to show complete subservience in private, as well as public, and insisted that she never speak her name and only use her title, their friendship was gone and Nynaeve basically become an Egwene lapdog. She attempted to voice her opinion once, only to be smacked down with a glare. That is a sign of being broken down, IMO. Egwene did not value her opinion at all, and only wanted a yes-man - she wanted the same thing from Gawyn, for her "friends" (though looking at her thoughts about her "friends", she saw them more like trustworthy slaves than anything, existing only to agree with her and "see her will done") and Nynaeve became exactly what Egwene wanted, keeping her opinions to herself, only responding with "yes, Mother" when Egwene snapped her fingers.

The only time we saw Nynaeve show some backbone around her, and not cower when glared at, was:

1. After her testing (when she flat out said Lan mattered more than the Tower and expressed concern that the AS were too haughty and put themselves on too high of a pedestal to really understand the people they claimed the right to rule), and Egwene tolerated that bit of opinion from her since no one else was there to hear and Nynaeve was careful to be completely submissive. And,

2. When she stood by Rand at the Merrilor instead of siding with Egwene, and it didn't seem that Egwene cared one way or the other about that, likely because Nynaeve is a nobody, as far as she is concerned, and her standing by Rand wouldn't change any other opinions on the matter.

But given the fact that Nynaeve was pretty much a non-entity once she went and prostrated herself before Egwene and became good little lapdog, yeah, I think that, to some extent, RJ meant for us to see her as "broken" to Egwene's leash. She basically did nothing of use once she went to the Tower (save surviving attempted murder during her testing), other than accompany Rand and help keep Alanna alive long enough for her to release the bond. It did make me happy when Rand gave her and Lan the crowns, though. They deserve to be happy, and Nyn needs to stay the hell away from the WT...somehow I doubt Cadsuane would treat her with any more respect than Egwene ever did...which is absolutely none.

Dom
02-14-2013, 04:31 PM
RJ wasn't a beautiful writer (contrast Gene Wolfe or Elizabeth Hand who write books like sculptures - to extend the analogy), but, to me, he was a beautiful story-builder.

I agree. He was always more a great storyteller/story crafter in the tradition of Alexandre Dumas (or even a kind of Fantasy John Irving.. to a small extent).

His books had many of the same flaws found in the old serials of the 19th century, and many of their qualities as well, and some they didn't have.

A "great writer" he wasn't by any credible standards, but it's like saying TV directors are no Ingmar Bergmans. Occasionally a brilliant great writer happens to be a spectacular story teller, but a lot were not and their literature transcended the mundane stories they were telling, just like many of the best storytellers are just average stylists and thinkers. WOT was always a vast enterprise of storytelling. RJ was a good craftsman, who paid care to his work, and to his audience. You ended up with many more drawers and ornaments and you better have more room than originally planned for the final furniture, but it's still good craftsmanship.

suttree
02-14-2013, 06:38 PM
somehow I doubt Cadsuane would treat her with any more respect than Egwene ever did...which is absolutely none.

Leaving aside many of the extreme, unorthodox interpreatations on Egwene & Nyaneve's character mentioned above, was confused by this. Cadsuane always treats people as their actions dictate and is not ever hesitate to give respect when due. In fact we see her inner thoughts on Nynaeve and how she is happy with her progress. She just doesn't suffer fools.

EvilChani
02-14-2013, 07:08 PM
Leaving aside many of the extreme, unorthodox interpreatations on Egwene & Nyaneve's character mentioned above, was confused by this. Cadsuane always treats people as their actions dictate and is not ever hesitate to give respect when due. In fact we see her inner thoughts on Nynaeve and how she is happy with her progress. She just doesn't suffer fools.

We will never agree on Cadsuane because you're stuck in the POV trap with her - if she says someone "deserves" certain treatment, you assume that's gospel. You assume every word she thinks is completely objective and not skewed with her own opinions and views of the world around her. As I said elsewhere to you, while I do believe Cadsuane is more self-aware than most of the WoT characters, she is not infallible and is not completely aware of her own weaknesses and is as averse to admitting fault as Fonzie was on Happy Days ("I was wr....wrr..... *looks like she's gonna puke* wrrr...."). She may think she knows what is best, and often times she might be correct, but she doesn't always know what is best and can be wrong (and has been wrong) when judging others and how to deal with them. She just manages to get away with it because she wears god-mode armor and she's so obnoxious that people figure anyone that obnoxious and rude must be able to crush them if they dare object. As for Nyn...

There is a great deal about Nynaeve that Cadsuane doesn't know (besting Moggy, rescuing Egwene from the Seanchan, etc.), and she does not give credit where credit is due with her. Or did you forget her dismissal of Nyn's abilities with the One Power only for us to see, first hand, that Nyn's ability to learn and duplicate a weave perfectly frustrated the woman who was teaching her the 101 weaves? Not being interested in much but Healing doesn't make Nyn "suck" at everything else..sorry, Caddy. Bottom line, Cadsuane was wrong on Nynaeve. Dead wrong. She knew nothing of what Nynaeve had "endured" so far, she merely assumed that, because Nynaeve was young and hadn't gone through the testing yet, she was pretty much stupid and worthless until she knelt before Cadsuane's alter and agreed to obey her like a mindless slave. Only then was Caddy willing to recognize that she might not be such a worthless sack of crap after all.

fionwe1987
02-14-2013, 07:21 PM
Or did you forget her dismissal of Nyn's abilities with the One Power only for us to see, first hand, that Nyn's ability to learn and duplicate a weave perfectly frustrated the woman who was teaching her the 101 weaves?
Because copying weaves is a sign of great talent with the One Power? RJ himself backed Cadsuane's opinion by saying that while Egwnee and Elayne would pass the Aes Sedai test, Nynaeve would have difficulty. After that, she learned more, and let Diagian teach her, so she did indeed pass an insanely difficult test. Before she let Daigian teach her (and Corele's behest, which means Cadsuane probably had her fingers in that prodding), she did indeed envince little interest in the OP apart from Healing.

newyorkersedai
02-14-2013, 08:38 PM
Thanks, everyone, for all your replies and thoughts. There's a lot to respond to, but I should really correct a stupid omission I made when I first posted: Alanna Sedai also got the shaft by this series.

I have loved many fantasy and scifi novels; I have over 20 novels by Philip K. Dick, and my brothers had large collections of Heilein, Herbert, Wolfe, Zelazny, and other for me to read from. I only got through a fraction of the books they had amassed, for a variety of reasons.

I like to believe (and, thus, might be kidding myself) that I take a balanced approach to fandom: I hope for the best, but I accept a result that I didn't want if it feels "natural" to the characters and settings provided. I don't need every foreshadowed moment to pay off, nor do I need every mystery to be resolved with crystal-clear language that explains everything. I can accept when some storylines fizzle out, as well as adapt when some get expanded beyond what seemed "organic" at a prior time.

Still, Alanna was, in the end, a very thread-bare role who seems to have existed in order to make certain moments happen. This character has no agency, when you take everything that she's done together with what has been done to her, and whether either (or both) of those make any sense.

Similarly, I simply saw no reason for Lanfear to decide that (a) she should support the Dark One at the end, and (b) using Perrin was the best way to accomplish this goal instead of relying on her own power. It's not these developments seemed impossible, it's just that there really wasn't enough foundation (for me) for the way these things simply occurred, and then played out.

I agree with Fourth Age Historian - it's in character for Lanfear to save the DO and to do it in that fashion, but it makes no sense that we have no sense of any of her actions between her resurrection and her sudden hyper-important actions at the very end. Hell, even if things had played out the exact same way, I would've wanted to get some POV or other material that indicated that she was still pulling strings and trying to get things done. Instead, I think we have 3+ novels of "Cyndane" doing nothing more than "gathering DFs" and shivering when Moridin touches her mindtrap (btw, did that disappear or something?).

Alanna herself met our heroes in TGH, joined Perrin's campaign in EF. Then, later, she suddenly bonds Rand, and her actions afterward were more minimal than I could possibly imagine. Then she disappears for ages - despite even normal Rand knowing that she presented a great threat to him - and then she suddenly appears at the very end, yet another one of WoT's horrificly-mistreated women.

It's no small surprise that I found this all distracting and unsatisfying...

newyorkersedai
02-14-2013, 08:50 PM
EvilChani, I both agree and disagree with you. I don't think that all of the women have this Borg-like mentality. It's certainly common among the women that are tied to organizations (e.g., most all the WT, Kin, SF), but that makes sense because they are tied to over-arching causes...

The individual main females (Faile, Egwene, etc) do tend to have their own particular interests and goals. At times, I think, they are portrayed as having many traits in common, but it's not quite as absolute as you describe. In particular, Nynaeve, at least, was given her own mini-arc with her attempt to both get Lan to the LB and to provide him with some support. I didn't really notice any sense that she had been "diminished" - then again, I might've been so annoyed with her bullying manner in the early novels that I was happy to see even the slightest change in her role. Even if I flat-out hated Nynaeve (as I did, at times, in the past), I wouldn't have been satisfied if she eventually "settled into" being someone who humbly accepts whatever happens. I may be giving the writing too much credit, but it would make some sense that Nynaeve would realize and respond to Egwene's new position with something like the appropriate (public) deference and respect.

It's hard to tell whether that balance was really struck, or whether I'm being too forgiving and you're not being forgiving enough. I like a lot of the women in this series - even if they have a lot of ups and downs that might make sense in the moment, but not play out well in the long-run.

Then again, I am a man, so I accept that I might not have the best perspective on these things. We're a long way off from the early days of a very-determined Moiraine and Nynaeve, a combative Min who lives only to satisfy her personal integrity, and a Faile who struggles as much with what she wants her life to be as she does with what her feelings demand her to do...

suttree
02-14-2013, 09:34 PM
We will never agree on Cadsuane because you're stuck in the POV trap with her - if she says someone "deserves" certain treatment, you assume that's gospel. You assume every word she thinks is completely objective and not skewed with her own opinions and views of the world around her.

Please do away with this "pov trap" nonsense. I was a lit major in college. It has nothing to do with taking every word at face value and everything to do with analyzing her character, viewing how she relates to others and combining it with RJ's notes. Time and again we see here respond to people based on their actions and treat them accordingly. It is one of the defining characteristics along with trying to better those around her. It's rather funny actually because not only do you constantly ignore povs but you also ignore all context and facts written around characters in order to advance your biased viewpoint.


Or did you forget her dismissal of Nyn's abilities with the One Power only for us to see, first hand, that Nyn's ability to learn and duplicate a weave perfectly frustrated the woman who was teaching her the 101 weaves? Not being interested in much but Healing doesn't make Nyn "suck" at everything else..sorry, Caddy. Bottom line, Cadsuane was wrong on Nynaeve. Dead wrong.

I didn't forget, you just have it wrong. Dead wrong. Being able to duplicate weaves on sight says nothing about ones skill in the op it is basically a talent for her. Further we have word of god on this and know Cads was absolutely correct in her assessment. RJ agreed with Cads and says Nyn has "too much specialization". In the text we see her not have much dexterity or skill outside of healing. We see the lack dexterity outside of healing a number of times like when she gets schooled by the Sea Folk apprentice while dueling.

Fourth Age Historian
02-14-2013, 09:37 PM
<ahem> Verin <ahem>

Duly added to the list :D

Fourth Age Historian
02-14-2013, 09:47 PM
By that time, I was convinced a ton of things were mini-stories for their own sake, and they would find abrupt endings or none at a turn or another. The thing was, I was one of those who actually liked that, a lot in fact. But I could see tons of people around me getting really frustrated and not at all happy to have read all those scenes with, say, Rolan, or who were extremely pissed off about Aram's arc and it's abrupt end, who couldn't believe the Shaido arc and Galina were now over and it was all it had been about, etc. I'm more a journey than destination type of reader.


Yes! Maybe I'm giving RJ too much credit here, but I think some of that was intended to show us that not everything ties up neatly. That there are people in the world who are relevant to where that world is going, and people who aren't really, and everything in between. Yet all of them are still people, and thus it's worth learning many of their stories. That's what I took away from all the complexities and "bloat," whether it was intended or not.

Fourth Age Historian
02-14-2013, 10:22 PM
For me, the "bloat" that bothered me wasn't so much the minor character arcs that would crop up and fizzle out here and there... it was a lot of the stuff that happened to the major characters. The freaking bath scene in WH comes to mind, and the what felt like 4,000 pages of Perin hunting Faile. A lot of that was great, but after a while it really wasn't adding anything new to the characters and that resolution should have come much sooner so we could observe that cast of characters in new situations.

I am definitely not in the "bad writer" camp with RJ, because if he's a bad writer than how many good ones are alive today? His prose wasn't perfect, but prose is only one part of writing. He had some other flaws that have been mentioned here, but his breadth of vision was stunning, his grasp of all the major literary elements was solid, and that imperfect prose I mentioned was still more than adequate most of the time. And he told a damn compelling story.

I've read a LOT of SF and Fantasy, from Lord of the Rings down to the Star Trek media Tie-ins. Contemporarily I've read Goodkind, David Drake, Terry Pratchett, Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, George RR Martin, Michael Crichton, Sara Douglass, Douglas Adams, Jack L. Chalker, and many others, and several of the classics as well. I would put many of those listed below Jordan, and only a few would I honestly say were "bad." I say this not to impress anyone but to make the point that if RJ is bad so is almost everyone who has ever written in the genre.

neurotopia
02-14-2013, 11:46 PM
All one has to do is force themselves to read a Kevin J. Anderson book and they'll develop instant appreciation for every other fantasy/sci-fi writer out there.

Cortar
02-14-2013, 11:56 PM
Honestly, I loved the "bloat" of this series. Its what gave this world character and meaning. A story that focused solely on Rand plus a few other of the Main Guys would have been much more boring.

Instead, RJ showed us an actual world, where ordinary people lived beside the giants like Rand and Perrin and the Aes Sedais.

The stuff with the Shaido was great because it showed how not everything happening in the world was directly related to Rand and the Last Battle. That people still lived and fought outside of that great conflict.

suttree
02-15-2013, 12:06 AM
I am definitely not in the "bad writer" camp with RJ, because if he's a bad writer than how many good ones are alive today?


Think Dom meant bad as in doesn't necessarily hold up outside of genre. He was a skilled fantasy writer, it just needs to be put in perspective. If you are talking about the some of the literary greats like McCarthy, Pynchon or DeliLLo it's just on another level.

That said from a prose standpoint you have "fantasy" writers like Peake, Wolfe and Crowley whose work is at a very high level. A more modern writer I would put almost there is R. Scott Bakker.

Zombie Sammael
02-15-2013, 01:58 AM
I don't know if I'd be that dismissive of the fantasy genre. Salman Rushdie and other magical realists could be argued to fall under the broader umbrella of fantasy, and even if they don't one shouldn't discount authors like China Mieville, Susannah Clarke, or Neil Gaiman.

GonzoTheGreat
02-15-2013, 03:54 AM
Please do away with this "pov trap" nonsense. I was a lit major in college. It has nothing to do with taking every word at face value and everything to do with analyzing her character, viewing how she relates to others and combining it with RJ's notes. Time and again we see here respond to people based on their actions and treat them accordingly. It is one of the defining characteristics along with trying to better those around her.
Does she really try to do that, though?

For instance, she notices that Rand confuses being hard and being strong. Does she tell him that? No, she doesn't. She simply keeps pushing him harder and harder, notices that it does not work, and pushes harder still.
And on what did she base her assumption that Rand would not listen to reason, that only using bullying would have a chance? Apparently, on the fact that that was the conclusion Elaida had reached upon prompting from Padan Fain.

Cadsuane was very good at faking things, and based on that she'd built a huge reputation for herself.
Nynaeve was very bad at faking things, and as a result she had a reputation for being in need of further training, even though her accomplishments were far more impressive than those of any other AS apart from Moiraine.

suttree
02-15-2013, 11:10 AM
I don't know if I'd be that dismissive of the fantasy genre. Salman Rushdie and other magical realists could be argued to fall under the broader umbrella of fantasy, and even if they don't one shouldn't discount authors like China Mieville, Susannah Clarke, or Neil Gaiman.

Dismissive? In that short post I mentioned four authors who transcend the genre. Heck McCarthy's the road is basically a SciFi novel.
That said RJ is not one of those authors.

Does she really try to do that, though?

For instance, she notices that Rand confuses being hard and being strong. Does she tell him that? No, she doesn't. She simply keeps pushing him harder and harder, notices that it does not work, and pushes harder still.
And on what did she base her assumption that Rand would not listen to reason, that only using bullying would have a chance? Apparently, on the fact that that was the conclusion Elaida had reached upon prompting from Padan Fain.

After the way Rand ran rough shod over Moiraine that approach would have been the worst possible way to go about things. Sorilea and the WOs are very clear on this.

tPoD
"Most men will take what is offered, if it seems attractive and pleasant," Sorilea said. "Once, we thought of Rand al'Thor so. Unfortunately, it is too late to change the path we walk. Now, he suspects whatever is offered freely. Now, if I wanted him to accept something, I would pretend I did not want him to have it. If I wanted to stay close to him, I would pretend indifference to whether I ever saw him again." Once more, those eyes focused on Cadsuane, green augers. Not trying to see what lay inside her head. The woman knew.

& Cads after a careful study came to the same conclusion.

WH
But I must wait for him to come to me. You see the way he runs roughshod over Alanna and the others. It will be hard enough teaching him, if he does ask. He fights guidance, he thinks he must do everything, learn everything, on his own, and if I do not make him work for it, he won't learn at all."

Far from just bullying we see her use a variety of methods based on who she is facing and their actions.


Cadsuane was very good at faking things, and based on that she'd built a huge reputation for herself.


Wait what? She built a large reputation because she was the most accomplished AS of this age. Per RJ:

Riots suppressed and wars stopped single-handedly; rulers steadied on their thrones, or pulled from them, sometimes toppled openly and sometimes more subtly (toppling rulers was something Aes Sedai had not really done much of in the last thousand years, but Cadsuane seemed in many ways a throwback). Rescuing people carried into the Blight or kidnaped by dangerous bands of Darkfriends, breaking up murderous rings of Darkfriends plaguing villages and towns, and exposing powerful Darkfriends who tried to kill her to protect themselves.

Add to that things like reforming poor Amyrlins her developing the alternate method for stilling in which men integrated back into normal society and lived almost a full life span. That in itself remarkable. We also know over 270 years had passed since she last met a task she couldn't perform. She has hardly built her rep on "faking it".

GonzoTheGreat
02-15-2013, 11:31 AM
After the way Rand ran rough shod over Moiraine that approach would have been the worst possible way to go about things. Sorilea and the WOs are very clear on this.
Sorilea and the WOs had had more success with explaining things and sharing information with Rand than any AS after Moiraine had managed. And, when it comes to Moiraine, she had been a lot more successful when she started explaining things, using reason and sharing facts, than when she had been using the "obey me because I'm AS" approach.

Verin too had had a lot more success (starting right in TGH) with sharing information than, to name another example, Elaida had had with the "I'll ignore him and then he will come to me" approach.

Cadsuane kept the information about Callandor's flaw to herself until after Rand had killed a lot of his soldiers (and nearly himself) with it. What precisely did she gain from that?
Cadsuane kept the information about being strong instead of being hard to herself until Semirhage nearly used that flaw in Rand to bring about the end of existence. What did she gain from that?
Cadsuane kept the information about Rand's state of mind from Tam, so that he very nearly got killed by his own son. What did she gain from that? Did she really hope to drive Rand into a "I'll simply end the world unless I happen to solve a riddle that had stumped the greatest philosopher I've ever met" mood?

Those cases all worked out, not because of what Cadsuane had done, but in spite of her efforts.

fionwe1987
02-15-2013, 12:00 PM
Sorilea and the WOs had had more success with explaining things and sharing information with Rand than any AS after Moiraine had managed. And, when it comes to Moiraine, she had been a lot more successful when she started explaining things, using reason and sharing facts, than when she had been using the "obey me because I'm AS" approach.
Except they were not teaching him life lessons, but Cairheinin and Aiel customs. They were sharing facts. Cadsuane had to change his approach to leadership. And she was dealing with him after the kidnap, not before.

Verin too had had a lot more success (starting right in TGH) with sharing information than, to name another example, Elaida had had with the "I'll ignore him and then he will come to me" approach.
Verin had success... but in LoC she failed quite spectacularly. Alanna played a big role in that, but as Verin's PoV reveals, Rand himself had grown harder and more suspicious.
Cadsuane kept the information about Callandor's flaw to herself until after Rand had killed a lot of his soldiers (and nearly himself) with it. What precisely did she gain from that?
She told him in their third meeting, after she heard he'd taken Callandor from the Stone again.
Cadsuane kept the information about being strong instead of being hard to herself until Semirhage nearly used that flaw in Rand to bring about the end of existence. What did she gain from that?
This is not information. This is not something you tell someone and have them accept it and change in a day.
Cadsuane kept the information about Rand's state of mind from Tam, so that he very nearly got killed by his own son. What did she gain from that? Did she really hope to drive Rand into a "I'll simply end the world unless I happen to solve a riddle that had stumped the greatest philosopher I've ever met" mood?
She did not hide anything from Tam. At least, nothing that Nynaeve objected to. She didn't expressly tell him to avoid mentioning her, but that was hardly a matter of "witholding info" as not realizing that Tam himself had problems with Aes Sedai, and this would seep out in his conversation.
Those cases all worked out, not because of what Cadsuane had done, but in spite of her efforts.
I don't see how any but the last one is "despite" her.

Weiramon
02-15-2013, 02:47 PM
Duly added to the list :D

Bah, I don't know what you're talking about I'm sure. Merely clearing my throat, as I feel ill reading all these arguments here using facts, and reason, and logic, rather than a proper appeal to authority. Burn my eyes!

GonzoTheGreat
02-16-2013, 04:04 AM
This is not information. This is not something you tell someone and have them accept it and change in a day.
Not in a day, probably. But how one learns things depends on the person. Some people would indeed be a lot more likely to grasp such a concept if it were explained as a concept rather than being hinted at through incomprehensible Zen koans.
I'm not sure that Rand would have gotten it if it had been put in words in the way Cadsuane did to Sorilea, but I do know that made it an enormous deal clearer to me than her "slap his face and watch him try not to kill her" stick ever did. If she had done that to me, then I would have either slapped back, or blocked her arm in such a way that there was a real chance her arm would break*. I would not have learned what she tried to get across. But if she had talked, if she had tried to explain, then I might very well have figured out what she was getting at. Changing myself would have been difficult even then, of course, but at least I would know what the problem was, what kind of mistake to be weary of.

The idea "talking to men is useless, physical violence is all they'll understand" is just not one I subscribe to.

* I've seen that happen accidentally. A fourth dan karate expert (at the time coach of the Dutch karate team) attacked his (and mine) teacher (6th dan) who blocked. I heard a snap, and the attacker had a broken arm. Normally, I wouldn't have a chance of duplicating that, but with someone as old as Cadsuane is, things might be different.

fionwe1987
02-16-2013, 09:15 AM
Not in a day, probably. But how one learns things depends on the person. Some people would indeed be a lot more likely to grasp such a concept if it were explained as a concept rather than being hinted at through incomprehensible Zen koans.
You're saying Rand isn't clever enough to interpret what she says about willows and oaks?
I'm not sure that Rand would have gotten it if it had been put in words in the way Cadsuane did to Sorilea, but I do know that made it an enormous deal clearer to me than her "slap his face and watch him try not to kill her" stick ever did. If she had done that to me, then I would have either slapped back, or blocked her arm in such a way that there was a real chance her arm would break*. I would not have learned what she tried to get across. But if she had talked, if she had tried to explain, then I might very well have figured out what she was getting at. Changing myself would have been difficult even then, of course, but at least I would know what the problem was, what kind of mistake to be weary of.
All this is great. I even agree with most of it. But since you're not a highly stressed leader of the world who has been put in a box and beaten, and you're not suffering from paranoia and madness coming from the taint, I don't quite see the relevance here.
The idea "talking to men is useless, physical violence is all they'll understand" is just not one I subscribe to.
Good, because Cadsuane doesn't either. Rand being a man has nothing to do with it. She's doing those things for one reason only: to reassure him. To make him understand that she doesn't have ulterior motives, that she doesn't want to use him for her, or the Tower's, ends. To keep him thinking, "No one who wants to manipulate me into doing something for them could possibly be so abrasive and suicidal". And it did work. She was getting to him, if slowly. By KoD, he'd even acknowledged that her rules weren't really onerous.

GonzoTheGreat
02-16-2013, 10:42 AM
There is one reason and one reason only why it sort of worked: Min's viewing that he needed Cadsuane.
With that viewing, she could also have used a far more direct approach, and come out and said what she wanted to explain.
Without that viewing, he would have refused to see her quite rapidly.

Even with the viewing, it was all he could do to refrain from severing all ties, and eventually, when she pushed him too far, he did that, even though he believed the results would be disastrous.

EvilChani
02-17-2013, 11:10 PM
There is one reason and one reason only why it sort of worked: Min's viewing that he needed Cadsuane.
With that viewing, she could also have used a far more direct approach, and come out and said what she wanted to explain.
Without that viewing, he would have refused to see her quite rapidly.

Even with the viewing, it was all he could do to refrain from severing all ties, and eventually, when she pushed him too far, he did that, even though he believed the results would be disastrous.

I agree with all you've said, especially this part. Though, I have to admit I found it a bit dim-witted of him not to consider the fact that Min's visions always come true, no matter what and that, in that case, he didn't have to put up with her crap. In other words, he could've told her to take a flying leap and come back when she learns to show a bit of the respect and manners she demanded from him while refusing to return the favor.

In a way, this whole "test" between Rand and Cadsuane mirrored Aviendha's test with the Wise Ones - the WOs were far less abusive and rude to Avi than Cadsuane was to Rand, but the similarities are still glaring at this point. For a long time, I was convinced that Cadsuane was intentionally trying to push Rand so far that he'd lose it and try to kill her so she could squash him like a bug and force him to obey her, but after aMoL, I almost wonder if she wanted him to stand up to her the way the WOs were waiting for Avi to stand up to them and would've changed her methods after he did so.

fionwe1987
02-18-2013, 12:33 AM
In a way, this whole "test" between Rand and Cadsuane mirrored Aviendha's test with the Wise Ones - the WOs were far less abusive and rude to Avi than Cadsuane was to Rand, but the similarities are still glaring at this point. For a long time, I was convinced that Cadsuane was intentionally trying to push Rand so far that he'd lose it and try to kill her so she could squash him like a bug and force him to obey her, but after aMoL, I almost wonder if she wanted him to stand up to her the way the WOs were waiting for Avi to stand up to them and would've changed her methods after he did so.
How can you wonder about this? That is exactly what she wanted. Not for Rand to declare himself her equal, but for Rand to behave as the adult he claimed to be. She had no issues treating him with respect, and following his orders once he cleaned up his act and started acting like a leader instead of a bloody tyrant.

Terez
02-18-2013, 01:22 AM
I dread a lot reaching LOC or so. Will I still love nearly as much reading about all the details, or will each only now remind me that by TGS all this stuff simply get dropped by the road, in effect destroying my enjoyment of the late series altogether and put me right in the same spot as those who have always disliked those books/found them slow, or ridiculously bloated.
Amusingly, I said something very similar a day before you did at Malazan (http://forum.malazanempire.com/index.php?showtopic=25284&view=findpost&p=1031821). Like you, I don't think RJ would have necessarily used the details of those books to the fullest; I think he always intended to leave quite a few things hanging. I just think he would have used them...more. And I'm not really trying to put all the blame on his death/Brandon, either; there wasn't a great deal to work with, relatively and I do think there was....not bloat, but lethargy in 7-10 (or 6-10 if you prefer). He cut down on his writing hours because of his health, and that led to shorter books with less ground covered, less rigorous self-revision, and more time in between books.

I think 7-10 would have been drastically improved if they were 3 longer books instead of 4 short ones; I don't agree with those who say 'nothing happens' in COT at all and that the book could have been skipped altogether. And really, the Faile rescue plot wasn't even all that long; it was just stretched out over 4 books and several years for fans.

But anyway, it's the plots/mysteries of the later books that have the most disappointing finishes. The Black Ajah hunters were made mostly obsolete; the Ajah Heads mystery was farcically resolved (I understand now why you like that word; it's French!); Roedran was nobody; Harine did nothing important; Tuon's role in AMOL was anticlimactic at best; etc. Red herrings abound in the later books, which screams to me "killing time while I develop my characters to where I need them to be and distracting fans from the conclusions they already came to about books 1-5 because the answers weren't as well hidden as I thought".

fionwe1987
02-18-2013, 01:46 AM
But anyway, it's the plots/mysteries of the later books that have the most disappointing finishes. The Black Ajah hunters were made mostly obsolete; the Ajah Heads mystery was farcically resolved (I understand now why you like that word; it's French!); Roedran was nobody; Harine did nothing important; Tuon's role in AMOL was anticlimactic at best; etc. Red herrings abound in the later books, which screams to me "killing time while I develop my characters to where I need them to be and distracting fans from the conclusions they already came to about books 1-5 because the answers weren't as well hidden as I thought".
I'm not sure these were meant to come to such subdued ends, though. The BA hunters' role in Elaida's chastening (before the Seanchan attack) would, I think, have been shown a little more. This was the group that had contact with the Rebel spies, and the greatest fears about Elaida. In KoD, they learn that Elaida never meant for them to find the BA, and thus their fears of her being BA were awakened. We never saw that again. I can't help but believe that RJ fully intended that they would investigate Elaida and find mixed signals about her, because of Alviarin's acts. But they'd certainly be exposed to her extreme errors, and I think we'd have seen some of their thoughts on how incompetent she was, and maybe Egwene would make a decent choice after all. Into this mix comes the Ajah Heads, who maybe would hold these women back from revealing enough to topple Elaida, only to eat crow after the Seanchan attack.

Roedran could have been much better handled too. Perhaps Rand revealing his suspicions to Egwene, and a quiet investigation revealing ominous hints that something was not right. Only to have the whole thing come crashing at Merrilor.

Tuon... this one bugs me the most. Especially because RJ intended there to be Outriggers with her in it, I thought we'd see quite some character development for her. KoD showed her talks with Setalle, and we were told that Setalle had made her concede on some points. I doubt that had anything to do with damane, but the rational, complex character who showed flashes of great humanity and humor died after KoD. And Brandon never gave her really interesting scenes. Wouldn't it have been great to get her reaction to Egwene, rather than the other way around? And a PoV from her after the LB would have been very good, I think.

You're right that all of this is not a consequence of Brandon taking over. Things like Roedran being Demandred could be red herrings RJ meant only for HCFF's, and not something to be explored in the books proper. But tons of other stuff could integrate with the story as it is, and was probably missed because RJ didn't leave any notes on those finer aspects of the ending.

GonzoTheGreat
02-18-2013, 03:10 AM
Though, I have to admit I found it a bit dim-witted of him not to consider the fact that Min's visions always come true, no matter what and that, in that case, he didn't have to put up with her crap.
Unless the DO would win.

How can you wonder about this? That is exactly what she wanted. Not for Rand to declare himself her equal, but for Rand to behave as the adult he claimed to be. She had no issues treating him with respect, and following his orders once he cleaned up his act and started acting like a leader instead of a bloody tyrant.
All right, let's check how much of a "bloody tyrant" Rand was during their first meeting. For comparison, consider the following hypothetical real world example:

I barge unannounced into the Oval Office in the White House. While there, I first insulting look over some secret service agents. President Obama orders them to "do nothing". I then order Obama to pour me some tea. He obeys. I praise him with "that's a good boy". Obama then says "I will ask one more time. What do you want? Answer, or leave. By the door or a window; your choice."

Is Obama truly acting like a bloody tyrant in this hypothetical, or is he acting like a leader?
In your answer, please take into account that I would be recognisably a member of an organisation that had just days earlier kept that very president prisoner, beating him once a day (in public, now and then) and kept him locked up in a box the rest of the time.

fionwe1987
02-18-2013, 10:24 AM
Unless the DO would win.


All right, let's check how much of a "bloody tyrant" Rand was during their first meeting. For comparison, consider the following hypothetical real world example:

Who said Rand was a tyrant in her first meeting with him? She was actually impressed by him then, but she could see him fraying at the edges. I certainly don't expect Obama of all people to erupt in rage and hurl a teapot and tray across the room. Especially if he was facing someone from an organization that kidnapped him.

All Cadsuane got from Rand in her first meeting was that he was still a boy, and one who had difficulty controlling his rage even while holding on to the OP, an especially dangerous state of mind for a channeler. And she saw that even when she gave him critical information about the voices in his head, he wasn't able to get over his suspicion and accept her as a resource he should use.

While I totally sympathize with Rand's reaction here, he hardly came across as a leader capable of controlling himself. Was there a good reason for that? Yes. Does that matter, in the larger scheme of things? No. All Elaida's actions did is make Cadsuane's task incredibly hard. Rather than going back to him, explaining herself, and offering to help him, she had to allay his suspicion that she was yet another manipulative Aes Sedai out to get him by pretending she didn't care, by putting in rules to show that she didn't have any awe of his power. Was she helped along by Min's viewing? Yes. But that and that alone didn't do it. In Cairhein, he went to meet her after Min told him he needed her. He still left the meeting without taking her on as an advisor. It was meeting Verin in Far Madding, and her telling him Cadsuane didn't care two figs about him, that finally convinced him.

And Cadsuane knew all along that Rand's state of mind when he reached Shayol Ghul would be critical. He needed a firm resolve that he just did not have at this point.

Terez
02-18-2013, 11:47 AM
I'm not sure these were meant to come to such subdued ends, though.
Like you, I don't think RJ would have necessarily used the details of those books to the fullest; I think he always intended to leave quite a few things hanging. I just think he would have used them...more.
.

Dom
02-18-2013, 12:17 PM
Indeed, we see this much the same way.

I think the most problematic book was WH rather than COT. And it's not that WH isn't good. It's much like TGS (and TOM reproduced the mistakes made in COT). It's just that in hindsight it should really have been more like LOC in length and scope, and cover all the pre-Cleansing story lines. Its climax like Dumai's Wells was more than momentous enough to have accommodated a slower build up (which wasn't much of one anyway. It's really a character development book, suddenly taking an epic turn for its ending).

RJ's pinpointed himself COT's problem, and it's how he arranged the timelines. To have everyone witness the Cleansing, he covered stuff he didn't really need, ending up incapable to bring them to the planned climaxes. Thus COT became two books. It's not that COT is bad, it's really more that it's an inflated half-book (inflated notably by the usual re intro slow chapters, and by having to build toward non optimal stop points). It's like a LOC missing its second half pay-off but conceived originally for that pay off to have been there.

It diluted the themes too. That was conceived as the book bringing everything and everyone to the Seanchan: Elayne and the sul'dam, Mat embroiled with Tuon, Egwene fearing their attack on TV, Perrin/Berelain almost but not quite solving it for Rand with his alliance... that was punctual and not lasting in the end, kicking the Seanchan vs. Aiel thing, and with Rand deciding to solve it but picking the wrongest possible interlocutor for his plan to work.


I just think he would have used them...more.

Totally agree. There's a ton of little things he placed that normally he tended to use later at need. Some of these are so "classic RJ" we can even guess how, in general ways.

He had given Elayne a kind of Nicola/Egeanin/Gawyn counterpart with Catalyn Haevin. He had given her an Olver (a kind of older-younger pair with Branlet and Perival, actually) who could be used as comic relief as she had to keep them alive through TG. She had Ellorien set to return and sulk and criticize. Brandon didn't keep up and conveniently pushed all her entourage of "utilities" aside for TG. It's most unlikely RJ would have done the same. The thing is, RJ used these people like he did with Egwene's secondary AS: they provided accents. He didn't have "plans", it's the type of charactes he could bring forward punctually if he thought a scene needed something they were built to be able to provide, adding flavor to his scenes. Getting rid of most of them as he chose to do, Brandon ended up with something far more generic and a little impersonal, peppered with generic "picket fences" not quite as colourful that step up for a moment and vanished forever. He made his job more difficult in a way, as he was stuck with only Birgitte and Galad to provide him everything. All advice, support, opportunities for humor, contrary opinions etc. had to come from them, and often didn't, Brandon just concentrating on bringing the plot forward through too many on-screen events in a flatter, more generic way.

Curiously, if he could create an entourage from scratch or close, he did surround his players with one in a more RJ-like way. Androl got his, and TGS Gawyn got his, and Lan to an extent. He was remotely more comfortable with Perrin's entourage as it was his own favorite story line, though again he discarded quite a few (the WO became Enaila, and the Maidens Sulin etc.). With Mat the Band became Talmanes (while RJ was setting the stage to bring back the less competent Daerid, notably), and Thera is one who was simply pushed aside.

Egwene's story suffered the most in a way. RJ had worked more on her, but what Brandon gave us felt like the raw deal or close, lacking all the usual little accents RJ would have woven in the polishing phase only. They were not important to the plot, they were to come in to give it all the tone and mood of Aes Sedai scenes.
And it sounds like we paid for the possible fact RJ meant to figure out as he went what to do with Alviarin. Alas, all those little accents are what would have polished in small strokes here and there the AH conspiracy, the BA hunt etc.

And I'm not really trying to put all the blame on his death/Brandon, either; there wasn't a great deal to work with, relatively and I do think there was....not bloat, but lethargy in 7-10 (or 6-10 if you prefer). He cut down on his writing hours because of his health, and that led to shorter books with less ground covered, less rigorous self-revision, and more time in between books.

That's for sure. The lethargy also provided him too much with opportunities to "overbuild" some players. That importance he didn't really need, but that forced him to give them a little ending moment somewhere down the line. He wouldn't have found it so easy to fit all of that in, or to make those satisfying. I'm one who loved how abruptly he dealt with Aram, Masema, Rolan, Galina, but I know a lot perceived those more as bad pay offs not worth the built up then as good plot twists. There were no doubt more of those coming. He mastered those elements better than Brandon even with help from Maria could ever do though, so he would have tried harder, but it wouldn't have been easy.

The preparatory work alone would have been astounding. Brandon would have had to build a database of the minor players and analyse RJ's books to identify their storytelling more than plot purposes. Branlet has Olver's attitude toward women and is a bad role model for young Perival.The show up in scenes to serve as counterpoints to Birgitte finding Elayne rushes without calculating the risks/consequences enough.

That sort of literary analysis to break the "RJ code" would have taken Brandon well over a year or more.

It would have given him a much deeper familiarity with each story arc to come up with more RJ like ideas to fill the gaps, though.

He did try to do that.. before he was rushed. Writing by clusters as he did was a way to get there. Both TGS and TOM start with much greater efforts to use the side players, then it petered out and picket fences replaced them in all accents/utility roles more and more. He had time to analyze deeper the early series, and he found there a lot of things he put to good use. He did not pay nearly enough attention to the later books to do the same (and yeah, it's when it would have been a challenging undertaking), except to an extent for Perrin. And it shows massively in the final results.

I think 7-10 would have been drastically improved if they were 3 longer books instead of 4 short ones; I don't agree with those who say 'nothing happens' in COT at all and that the book could have been skipped altogether. And really, the Faile rescue plot wasn't even all that long; it was just stretched out over 4 books and several years for fans.

His Perrin arc was ironically his tightest and most focused. To make the timelines fit and faced with the fact/decision he had to write the final pre-TG book as two, Perrin's arc turned out to be too thin. And he was screwed since he had just a few weeks post-Malden to finish his arc, and that meant delaying Malden as long as he couldn't bring Elayne/Egwene/Mat to similar points. And his tight arc became... pretty loose, and variously frustrating depending on the patience of readers and their very variable degrees of interest in Perrin's story.

But anyway, it's the plots/mysteries of the later books that have the most disappointing finishes.

Indeed.

Harine did nothing important

This was also the part of the series where Rand's aspects of Coramoor (his powers to hold off the storm) finally became more concrete (and the reason why it wasn't time to go into that much earlier... Rand's "weather-power" and over more metaphysical storms had to appear first. That was largely evacuated and not tied nearly enough to the Coramoor aspect and the SF. That made the build up for Harine/Zaida and the final role of the SF really flat. It's largely RJ's fault. He did build up to this in TPOD, then the way he approached the next phase of story, ending up forced to put Rand on hiatus through COT and KOD, he couldn't follow on Rand's TPOD's emerging Coramoor motifs and themes until the final book (his planned "one-book" version). That would have made it really difficult to make this satisfying even for him. Those analyzing things a lot still remember the whole Rand-meta storm, SF-real storms, Seanchan motifs. For most readers it's too far apart (in time thanks to publishing, and in word count) to mentally bridge that with the early AMOL (TGS) themes.

It's a good example of RJ's own awkward, compromising execution of good ideas. It's classic and sound literary devices, but they lose much of their potency in a multi-volume work, those volumes published over 10 years, and for but a few chapters essentially a two-book hiatus in Rand's story arc...

The SF/Coramoor stuff suffered most, but he was even similarly starting to lose focus and control of the Aiel themes.

It often happened with RJ. If you focus only on one storyline, reading only the relevant chapters, from a literary standpoint it's much clearer and interesting. In the early books he was also able to reflect this in the overall novel. After LOC he lost control of those more literary aspects. They're still there in each story lines, and he still created themes for the novel, but the thematic progress of each arc gets diluted by the gaps.

The Black Ajah hunters were made mostly obsolete

Infuriatingly so. That was obviously meant to take a sour turn first. It's very reminiscent of the surprise resolution to the siege of Caemlyn. In the BA hunters' case, it went well, stalled and was on the verge of heading to disaster with Alviarin getting very close to ending it, followed by the Verin plot twist. It's one of those story arcs that just had to... go bad and peter out, since Verin brought resolution. I'm really not surprised RJ had not worked out the details and meant to develop it as much or as little as he felt AMOL needed or could sustain, after Egwene's key points were put in place. Brandon not filling up the gaps with something was highly disappointing, however. It was all the more jarring that Brandon stretched so much Egwene's timeline. Alviarin and the BA hunters just spent... months doing nothing. Miscalculating the consequences of splitting Elaida's dinner episode in two is one of Brandon's really big errors in the three books. RJ had not designed the side stories to leave him that option; he had designed them to all rush to a conclusion within maybe 2-3 weeks. Egwene's captivity was designed to take a bad turn (ending in a cell) now, and the BA hunters were to run into trouble now, and the Red envoys to the BT, and the disappearance of the Reds, and the AH's having to make a decision since their plan was now quite blocked. RJ had rushed Egwene's timeline in KOD ahead to make this happen, which obviously meant Egwene could not return early in AMOL. RJ had written her arc to not have it in his way at the start of AMOL, bringing her back as Rand failed with Tuon. Brandon made this very weird call of adding a gap in Rand's story (the weeks that were to cover his AD arc...) to bring him to the dinner's date and in synch with Egwene, then he split the dinner in part 1 and two to spread Egwene's arc over the whole duration of Rand's. He likely used for this outlines/dialogues RJ meant to be visitors to her cell, while in the background AS coudn't decide if they should put Elaida on trial at the risk it might force them to also depose her. They ended up with a
frustrating compromise instigated by the AH that left Elaida on the seat but forced her to the novice she had put in a cell.. in time for her to see Meidani show up, and to learn about the BA hunters. Meanwhile Alviarin had identified the BA hunters and had set spies on them, but realized they had a number of allies beyond the Sitters (the ferrets) and were using the OR, and she couldn't risk moving before she was sure she got them all and had identified every BA who had been compromised. The number and status of the hunters also made it very difficult for her to strike without the BA leaving the WT after that strike. SH ordered her to order all the BA to leave and join M'Hael.. hinting at some reward for Alviarin. Mesaana had to stay behind. They were about to all escape to merge with the male Dreadlords. On that point, Verin showed up, the Seanchan attacked and all got resolved. Alviarin's half success didn't get her equal status to Taim.

Tuon's role in AMOL was anticlimactic at best; etc. Red herrings abound in the later books, which screams to me "killing time while I develop my characters to where I need them to be and distracting fans from the conclusions they already came to about books 1-5 because the answers weren't as well hidden as I thought".

What I referred to as "overbuilding".

And leaving Brandon to put an end to that. Which he did and had to (RJ would have had to as well), but he overdid it, cutting out a few players he shouldn't have, like Alviarin, or clearing out all the side players around some characters as he did with Elayne and Egwene, forcing him to bring up tons and tons of picket fences to fill minute roles in scenes where RJ would have used the secondary/tertiary cast.. as by and large it was always his purpose to have them around anyway.

That's one reason why more casual fans are a lot happier with Brandon's books. To most of them RJ's tertiary cast has felt just like picket fences since the mid series. It's essentially hcffs who kept track of them all, and saw them as real characters (Pevara is a good example of this. I've seen many who say Brandon made her a real character, that she was just a name before, and one whose scenes they read without much attention as they never could remember who she was or what back story she had, and by the time they finally could tell the BA hunters apart, their appearance in a book was over. Same for all the Sitters; many mixed up even Lelaine and Romanda. Most HCFF would beg to differ, of course.).

Terez
02-18-2013, 04:48 PM
His Perrin arc was ironically his tightest and most focused.
And in COT, it's really beautiful writing. It's just frustrating for readers who wanted resolution to instead read about So Habor. "What Must Be Done" (with the return of Tallanvor) should have been a mid-book highlight, much like "Killer of Trollocs" (or rather its preamble) was in TSR. I liked the cliffhanger aspect of the ending of COT, but one major resolution would have made it more tolerable to the fandom at large.

I enjoyed the echoes of the Cleansing in COT; that was one of my favorite aspects of the book. He would have had to make the Cleansing cover at least two chapters to fit a lot of it into WH, but that would have probably helped to make it a more convincing battle. In other words, I think there are a few options concerning how those books might have been restructured, but it involves erasing a lot of what has become canon, because it wouldn't have happened exactly that way.

That's one reason why more casual fans are a lot happier with Brandon's books. To most of them RJ's tertiary cast has felt just like picket fences since the mid series. It's essentially hcffs who kept track of them all, and saw them as real characters (Pevara is a good example of this. I've seen many who say Brandon made her a real character, that she was just a name before, and one whose scenes they read without much attention as they never could remember who she was or what back story she had, and by the time they finally could tell the BA hunters apart, their appearance in a book was over. Same for all the Sitters; many mixed up even Lelaine and Romanda. Most HCFF would beg to differ, of course.).
I have seen this as well, and of course I'm with you here. It's like the Pevara of AMOL only vaguely relates to RJ's Pevara, and things like saying "She really hated Darkfriends. She hated them!" (or whatever it was) don't really tap into the potential of her character. ;)

I think Aram was disappointing, not because he deserved anything better, but because of his layered connections to the major plotlines. I suspect those would have been realized a little better if RJ had written the psychological aftermath. I think RJ wanted to write his ending surrounded by tools of every imaginable size/function; the entire series was about stocking those gadget boxes (in a very stereotypical American male way, you might say). Aram was one of them. Brandon used him, but perhaps not to greatest effect.

Dom
02-19-2013, 10:44 AM
And in COT, it's really beautiful writing. It's just frustrating for readers who wanted resolution to instead read about So Habor. "What Must Be Done" (with the return of Tallanvor) should have been a mid-book highlight, much like "Killer of Trollocs" (or rather its preamble) was in TSR. I liked the cliffhanger aspect of the ending of COT, but one major resolution would have made it more tolerable to the fandom at large.

I think COT really has some of RJ's better writing. He just happened to keep it for some things many readers didn't care much about.

I always thought the whole fight between those who hated COT and those who loved it was pretty absurd whenever it went into "I liked/hated it therefore it's a great/horrible book" territory, and it did most of the time.

In other words, I think there are a few options concerning how those books might have been restructured, but it involves erasing a lot of what has become canon, because it wouldn't have happened exactly that way.

Definitely. A good example of him just buying time was to introduce these games of Annoura and co. with Masema, all the time knowing Faile would kill him just out of Malden and put an end to the whole story line. All these things gave him his slow early chapter where Berelain and Perrin chatted, an excuse to review pretty much everyone and everything in that story line. By COT, he was fairly clever with those, he was no longer bluntly having a character just reminisce but was rather giving us (HCFFs) various things to chew on to buy our patience with the slow re intros. But between two chapters to start, and a few to set up the stop point (So Habor and the torture scene and the news about the Seanchan in this case), that left little place for a lot of developments.

There were tons of options, and it's often hard to tell what RJ would have done had he could or wished to write those story lines over less books. But quite a few of the more self-contained elements like So Habor, Masema and the AS etc. might have turned out quite differently, or not at all.


I have seen this as well, and of course I'm with you here. It's like the Pevara of AMOL only vaguely relates to RJ's Pevara, and things like saying "She really hated Darkfriends. She hated them!" (or whatever it was) don't really tap into the potential of her character. ;)

And I can't really fault them. It did take some dedication to get involved in those minor story lines. :)

I think Aram was disappointing, not because he deserved anything better, but because of his layered connections to the major plotlines.

I rather liked it myself. I think a defense of that arc and how it ended was part of my real first visit here (brought by Isabel who had reposted my post from Wotmania).

I agree it's likely RJ would have brought it back later a little more, though I think Brandon had the right idea.

I liked Rolan's arc even more, though. The brutal end really worked well for me.

I think RJ wanted to write his ending surrounded by tools of every imaginable size/function; the entire series was about stocking those gadget boxes (in a very stereotypical American male way, you might say). Aram was one of them. Brandon used him, but perhaps not to greatest effect.

I'm undecided.

To me Aram was an object lesson about radical, dogmatic, unbalanced mindsets. The Ila POV wrapped it up, IMO. It's all shades from the fanaticism/"Shadar Logoth" cluster.