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View Full Version : Seeker rereads Path of Daggers (Heaven Help Us All)


Seeker
04-03-2015, 09:44 PM
So a couple weeks ago, I reconnected with an old buddy of mine that I haven't seen since high school. (No, not Garak. Though he was a mutual friend of both myself and the other man in question).

And since you don't care about my personal life, let me get right to the point.

Dave: So, did you ever finish WoT?

Rich: Yeah.

Dave: And? How was it? The ending I mean.

Rich: Didn't suck. Wasn't great.

Dave: I gave up after Crossroads of Twilight.

Rich: You and hundreds of people.

Dave: That had to be the worst fantasy book I've ever read.

Rich: I dunno... To be honest with you, I think Path of Daggers is worse.

Dave: Which one is that?

Rich: The one that came out when we were in grade 11.

Dave: Really? I don't really remember, but... It wasn't that bad, was it?

Rich: Let me put it to you this way. Crossroads of Twilight is a whole lot of nothing. Nothing really happens, and while that's not good storytelling, in terms of aggravation factor, it's kind of neutral. You just skip it and move on to the next one.

But Path of Daggers? Stuff actually happens in that book. But it's all terrible. You can't skip it because much of that is central to the plot of the next few books, but you really have to slog through a lot of crap to get at the few important nuggets.


Dave: What happened in that one again?

Rich: It's the one where they use the Bowl to fix the weather.


Dave: Yeah. Okay. I remember. What was some of this terrible stuff you were talking about?

Rich: What? Do you want me to go through it paragraph by paragraph.

Dave (joking): Sure! Why not?

Rich: ... Okay. Game on.

So here are the rules. I will present my thoughts as they occur to me. I will respond only to what I see in the text. I don't expect I'll get much past chapter 3 because that will be sufficient to make my point.

But many people - some of the denizens on this site included - have reacted with confusion when I tell them that Path of Daggers is just god awful. So I will explore the awfulness in intricate detail, holding a magnifying glass up to every paragraph.

And when this is over, people can disagree with me, and that's okay. People can have different opinions on art. But the one thing you can't say - something I've heard one too many times over the years - is that I didn't pay attention to the text. You can disagree; there's not necessarily an objective right or wrong when it comes to art. But at least you'll understand how my thought process works, what I look for when I read a book.

Here we go.

Chapter 1.

Oh... I'm skipping the prologue. Why? Because I want to focus primarily on the main characters and major storylines.

Seeker
04-03-2015, 10:03 PM
I'm going to be doing this in the style of SF-Debris. Why? Because I found myself sympathetic to his geek-rage while I read through this. Thus each chapter will feature a post chapter follow-up, and any chapter where she appears will have a Stupid Nynaeve Moment. Why? Because this was the point where she was an absolute shithead.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose above the great mountainous island of Tremalking. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

East the wind blew across Tremalking, where the fair‑skinned Amayar farmed their fields, and made fine glass and porcelain, and followed the peace of the Water Way. The Amayar ignored the world beyond their scattered islands, for the Water Way taught that this world was only illusion, a mirrored reflection of belief, yet some watched the wind carry dust and deep summer heat where cold winter rains should be falling, and they remembered tales heard from the Atha’an Miere. Tales of the world beyond, and what prophecy said was to come. Some looked to a hill where a massive stone hand rose from the earth, holding a clear crystal sphere larger than many houses. The Amayar had their own prophecies, and some of those spoke of the hand and the sphere. And the end of illusions.

So we have our standard opening. I have a theory that people who really like Wheel of Time books – the people who really obsess over them – are people who find themselves more fascinated by world-building than by actual story. Jordan takes a few moments here to talk about the Amayar and the Water Way, and the first thing that pops into my head as I read it is “Why?”
Seriously, why do I need to know this?

In light of what I know is going to happen to these people – they're all going to kill themselves off screen and be utterly irrelevant to the story – this is even more annoying. But even if I were reading this cold with no previous knowledge of the series except what was found in books 1 – 7, I would expect this scene to take place on Tremalking, among the Amayar. Which is why it's so annoying when...

Onward the wind blew into the Sea of Storms, eastward beneath a searing sun in a sky abandoned by clouds, whipping the tops of green sea swells, battling winds from the south and westward winds, shearing and swirling as the waters below heaved. Not yet the storms of winter’s heart, though winter should have been half gone, much less the greater storms of a dying summer, but winds and currents that could be used by ocean‑faring folk to coast around the continent from World’s End to Mayene and beyond, then back again. Eastward the wind howled, over rolling ocean where the great whales rose and sounded, and flying fish soared on outstretched fins two paces and more across, eastward, now whirling north, east and north, over small fleets of fishing ships dragging their nets in the shallower seas. Some of those fishermen stood gaping, hands idle on the lines, staring at a huge array of tall vessels and smaller that purposefully rode the wind’s hard breath, shattering swells with bluff bows, slicing swells with narrow, their banner a golden hawk with talons clutching lightning, a multitude of streaming banners like portents of storm. East and north and on, and the wind reached the broad, ship‑filled harbor of Ebou Dar, where hundreds of Sea Folk vessels rode as they did in many ports, awaiting word of the Coramoor, the Chosen One.

Across the harbor the wind roared, tossing small ships and large, across the city itself, gleaming white beneath the unfettered sun, spires and walls and color‑ringed domes, streets and canals bustling with the storied southern industry. Around the shining domes and slender towers of the Tarasin Palace the wind swirled, carrying the tang of salt, lifting the flag of Altara, two golden leopards on a field of red and blue, and the banners of ruling House Mitsobar, the Sword and Anchor, green on white. Not yet the storm, but a harbinger of storms.

You know, I have to give credit where credit's due. Jourdan can write some absolutely beautiful descriptions. The problem is that this – again – has very little to do with what is about to happen next. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's okay for a writer to deviate from time to time, but he already deviated once when he talked about the Amayar, and now we've got flags and waves and... Can we just skip to the part where the story starts?

Skin prickled between Aviendha’s shoulder blades as she strode ahead of her companions through palace hallways tiled in dozens of pleasing bright hues. A sense of being watched that she had last felt while still wed to the spear. Imagination , she told herself. Imagination and knowing there are enemies about I cannot face! Not so long ago that crawling sensation had meant someone might be intending to kill her. Death was nothing to fear – everyone died, today or on another – but she did not want to die like a rabbit kicking in a snare. She had toh to meet.

Servants scurried by close along the walls, bobbing bows and curtsies, dropping their eyes almost as if they understood the shame of the lives they lived, yet surely it could not be them that made her want to twist her shoulders. She had tried schooling herself to see servants, but even now, with the skin creeping on her back, her gaze slid around them. It had to be imagination, and nerves. This was a day for imagination and nerves.

Unlike the servants, rich silk tapestries snagged at her eye, and the gilded stand‑lamps and ceiling lamps lining the corridors. Paper‑thin porcelain in reds and yellows and greens and blues stood in wall niches and tall openwork cabinets alongside ornaments of gold and silver, ivory and crystal, scores upon scores of bowls and vases and caskets and statuettes. Only the most beautiful truly caught her gaze; whatever wetlanders thought, beauty held more worth than gold. There was much beauty here. She would not have minded taking her share of the fifth from this place.

So we've gone through three sizable paragraphs, and we've learned exactly one thing. Aviendha is afraid of... something. Normally, a scene like this is used to set up mood. The sense of some vague threat lurking in the background. But as we'll see, that's not what happens.

Vexed with herself, she frowned. That was not an honorable thought beneath a roof that had offered her shade and water freely. Without ceremony, true, but also without debt or blood, steel or need. Yet better that than thinking about a small boy alone somewhere out in this corrupt city. Any city was corrupt – of that much she was certain, now, having seen some part of four – but Ebou Dar was the last where she would have let a child run loose. What she could not understand was why thoughts of Olver came unless she worked to avoid them. He was no part of the toh she had to Elayne, and to Rand al’Thor. A Shaido spear had taken his father, starvation and hardship his mother, yet had it been her own spear that took both, the boy was still a treekiller, Cairhienin. Why should she fret over a child from that blood? Why? She attempted to concentrate on the weave she was to make, but although she had practiced under Elayne’s eye until she could have formed it sleeping, Olver’s wide‑mouthed face intruded. Birgitte worried about him even more than she, but Birgitte’s breast held a strangely soft heart for small boys, especially ugly ones.

Credit where it's due. At least we're getting somewhere. Aviendha is afraid for Olver.

Sighing, Aviendha gave up trying to ignore her companions’ conversation behind her, though irritation crackled through it like heat lightning. Even that was better than upsetting herself over a son of treekillers. Oathbreakers. A despised blood the world would be better off without. No concern or worry of hers. None. Mat Cauthon would find the boy in any case. He could find anything, it seemed. And listening settled her, somehow. The prickling faded away.

"I don’t like it one bit!" Nynaeve was muttering, continuing an argument begun back in their rooms. "Not a bit, Lan, do you hear me?" She had announced her dislike at least twenty times already, but Nynaeve never surrendered just because she had lost. Short and dark‑eyed, she strode fiercely, kicking her divided blue skirts, one hand rising to hover near her thick, waist‑long braid, then thrust down firmly before rising again. Nynaeve kept a tight hold on anger and irritation when Lan was around. Or tried to. An inordinate pride filled her about marrying him. The close‑fitting embroidered blue coat over her yellow‑slashed silk riding dress hung open, showing far too much bosom in the wetlander way, just so she could display his heavy gold finger ring on a fine chain around her neck. "You have no right to promise to take care of me like that, Lan Mandragoran," she went on firmly. "I am not a porcelain figurine!"

So, we're just dropping Olver now? Again, I have to be fair. Sometimes a character's mind wanders, and sometimes thoughts and worries pop at inopportune times. Used effectively, this can be a great way of showing emotional development. But I'd like to pause for a moment to count how many times we've deviated from the main plot-point of this chapter.

We had a paragraph about the Amayar, a paragraph about the harbour, some description of the palace's interior. We've established that Aviendha is afraid but that she isn't entirely sure why. And we've seen Aviendha fret about Olver. At the moment, it's hard to tell which – if any – of these things are related to the main point of this chapter.

It's not wrong for a writer to sometimes go off on tangent, but when the entire chapter is nothing but tangents, the reader starts to wonder why he's reading this. Why is this happening? What is the purpose of this scene? Does this scene even have a purpose?

Also, a very minor point, but the dresses Jordan describes in these books. I'm not sure what he's going for, but the mental image I get is hideous.

He paced at her side, a man of proper size, towering head and shoulders and more above her, the eye‑wrenching cloak of a Warder hanging down his back. His face seemed hacked from stone, and his gaze weighed the threat in every servant who passed, examined every crossing corridor and wall niche for hidden attackers. Readiness radiated from him, a lion on the brink of his charge. Aviendha had grown up around dangerous men, but never one to match Aan’allein . Had death been a man, she would have been him.

"You are Aes Sedai, and I am a Warder," he said in a deep, level voice. "Taking care of you is my duty." His tone softened, conflicting sharply with his angular face and bleak, never‑changing eyes. "Besides, caring for you is my heart’s desire, Nynaeve. You can ask or demand anything of me, but never to let you die without trying to save you. The day you die, I die."

That last he had not said before, not in Aviendha’s hearing, and it hit Nynaeve like a blow to the stomach; her eyes started half out of her head, and her mouth worked soundlessly. She appeared to recover quickly, though, as always. Pretending to resettle her blue‑plumed hat, a ridiculous thing like a strange bird roosting atop her head, she shot a glance at him from beneath the wide brim.

Aviendha had begun to suspect that the other woman often used silence and supposedly significant looks to cover ignorance. She suspected Nynaeve knew little more about men, about dealing with one man, than she did herself. Facing them with knives and spears was much easier than loving one. Much easier. How did women manage being married to them? Aviendha had a desperate need to learn, and no idea how. Married to Aan’allein only a day, Nynaeve had changed much more than simply in trying to control her temper. She seemed to flit from startlement to shock, however much she attempted to hide it. She fell into dreaminess at odd moments, blushed at innocuous questions, and – she denied this fiercely, even when Aviendha had seen her – she giggled over nothing at all. There was no point in trying to learn anything from Nynaeve.

Oy...

And now we come to my next point of annoyance. I've never cared for Nynaeve. With the exception of her appearances in the first three books and the last three books, I've always considered her to be a detestable character.

So Nynaeve is behaving like a seventh-grader who just discovered her secret crush wants to play spin the bottle. Which wouldn't be so bad if not for the fact that she's twenty-eight. And why not? She just had her cherry popped yesterday. It's just... There seems to be subtext here that sex brings about some fundamental change in a woman's character. Or maybe it's just Nynaeve. I don't know.

"I suppose you’re going to tell me about Warders and Aes Sedai again, as well," Elayne said coolly to Birgitte. "Well, you and I aren’t married. I expect you to guard my back, but I will not have you making promises about me behind it." Elayne wore garments as inappropriate as Nynaeve’s, a gold‑embroidered Ebou Dari riding dress of green silk, suitably high‑necked but with an oval opening that bared the inner slopes of her breasts. Wetlanders spluttered at the mention of a sweat tent or being unclothed in front of gai’shain , then walked about half‑exposed where any stranger could see. Aviendha did not really mind for Nynaeve, but Elayne was her near‑sister. And would be more, she hoped.

The raised heels of Birgitte’s boots made her almost a hand taller than Nynaeve, if still shorter than Elayne or Aviendha. In dark blue coat and wide green trousers, she carried herself with much of the same warily confident readiness as Lan, though it seemed more casual in her. A leopard lying on a rock, and not nearly so lazy as she appeared. There was no arrow nocked in the bow Birgitte carried, but for all her stroll and smiles, she could have a shaft out of the quiver at her waist before anyone could blink, and be loosing her third before anybody else could have fitted a second to bowstring.

She gave Elayne a wry grin and a shake of her head that swung a golden braid as long and thick as Nynaeve’s dark one. "I promised to your face, not behind your back," she said dryly. "When you’ve learned a little more, I won’t have to tell you about Warders and Aes Sedai." Elayne sniffed and lifted her chin haughtily, busying herself with the ribbons of her hat, which was covered with long green plumes and worse than Nynaeve’s. "Perhaps a great deal more," Birgitte added. "You’re tying another knot in that bow."

Ah, Birgitte... The only ray of sunshine.

Birgitte is one of three female characters who don't infuriate me. The other two are Moiraine and Min. Birgitte is one of the few women who break out of the very constrictive roles that Jordan seems to force on his female characters. For one thing, she's not a prude-slut.

What's a prude-slut?

Well, every single woman in this series is perfectly chaste and pure until the right man comes along to unleash her inner sex-goddess. They shame men for looking; they shame other women for flaunting, and when they finally decide to indulge in a little between the sheets action, they're always amazed by how “forward” they are. The next day, they're dreadfully embarrassed about whatever they did the night before. Just like a good woman should be.

Birgitte, on the other hand, is the only sex-positive woman in this entire universe. She likes the D, and she has no problem admitting it. This makes her a refreshing change from the others. Say what you will about George R.R. Martin, but at least his women can admit they like a good roll in the sack. Those of them that can actually consent to something like that, at least. Which is like three percent of the female population. And... Never mind.

Had Elayne not been her near‑sister, Aviendha would have laughed at the crimson that flooded her cheeks. Tripping someone who tried to walk too high was always fun, or watching it done, and even a short fall was worth a laugh. As it was, she leveled a firm stare at Birgitte, a promise that more might bring retribution. She liked the woman despite all her secrets, but the difference between a friend and a near‑sister was a thing these wetlanders seemed unable to comprehend. Birgitte only smiled, glancing from her to Elayne, and murmured under her breath. Aviendha caught the word "kittens." Worse, it sounded fond . Everyone must have heard. Everyone!

"What’s gotten into you, Aviendha?" Nynaeve demanded, prodding her shoulder with a stiff finger. "Do you intend to stand there blushing all day? We are in a hurry."

Only then did Aviendha realize by the heat in her face that she must be as red as Elayne. And standing still as stone besides, when they had need for haste. Cut by a word, like a girl newly wedded to the spear and unused to the banter among Maidens. She had almost twenty years, and she was behaving like a child playing with her first bow. That added flames to her cheeks. Which was why she all but leaped around the next turning and very nearly ran headlong into Teslyn Baradon.

Oh no! Not kittens! With the way Aviendha's reacting here, I half wonder if Jordan's insistence on PG language is masking the fact that what Birgitte actually said is a synonym for “kitten.” Something that is generally found before the word “cat.”

Skidding awkwardly on red‑and‑green floor tiles, Aviendha half‑fell backward, catching herself against Elayne and Nynaeve. This time she managed not to blush herself to fire, but she wanted to. She was shaming her near‑sister as much as herself. Elayne always held her composure, no matter what. Luckily, Teslyn Baradon took the encounter little better.

The sharp‑faced woman recoiled in surprise, gaping before she could stop herself, then shifting her narrow shoulders irritably. Gaunt cheeks and a narrow nose hid the ageless quality of the Red sister’s features, and her red dress, brocaded in a blue that was nearly black, only made her appear bonier, yet she quickly gathered a clan roofmistress’s self‑possession, dark brown eyes as cool as deep shadows. They slid past Aviendha dismissively, ignoring Lan like a tool she had no use for, burned a brief moment at Birgitte. Most Aes Sedai disapproved of Birgitte being a Warder, though none could give a reason beyond sour mutters about tradition. Elayne and Nynaeve, however, the woman fixed by turns. Aviendha could have tracked yesterday’s wind before reading anything on Teslyn Baradon’s face now.

I'd like you to pause for a moment to note that Teslyn is described as bony.

"I did already tell Merilille," she said in a thick Illianer accent, "but I may as well put your minds at rest, also. Whatever... mischief... you do be about, Joline and I will no interfere. I did see to that. Elaida may never learn of it, if you do have some care. Stop gaping at me like carp, children," she added with a grimace of distaste. "I be neither blind nor deaf. I do know of Sea Folk Windfinders in the palace, and secret meetings with Queen Tylin. And other things." That thin mouth tightened, and though her tone remained serene, her dark gaze flared with anger. "You will pay dearly yet for those other things, you and those who do allow you to play at being Aes Sedai, but I will look aside for now. Atonement can wait."

Nynaeve took a tight grip on her braid, back straight, head high, and her own eyes blazed. Under different circumstances Aviendha might have found some sympathy for the target of the tongue‑lashing plainly about to erupt. Nynaeve’s tongue carried more spines than a hair‑needle segade , and sharper ones. Coldly, Aviendha considered this woman who thought she could look fight through her. A Wise One did not stoop to thrashing someone with her fists, but she was still only an apprentice; perhaps it would not cost her ji if she just bruised this Teslyn Baradon a little. She opened her mouth to give the Red sister a chance to defend herself at the same instant Nynaeve opened hers, yet Elayne spoke first.

"What we are about , Teslyn," she said in a chill voice, "is none of your business." She, too, stood straight, her eyes blue ice; a chance ray of light from a high window caught her golden‑red curls, seeming to set them afire. Right then, Elayne could have made a roofmistress seem a goatherd with too much oosquai in her belly. It was a skill she honed well. She delivered each word with cold crystal dignity. "You have no right to interfere in anything we do, in anything that any sister does. No right whatsoever. So pull your nose out of our coats, you summer ham, and be glad we do not choose to take issue with you supporting a usurper on the Amyrlin Seat."

Perplexed, Aviendha glanced sideways at her near‑sister. Pull her nose out of their coats ? She and Elayne, at least, were not wearing coats. A summer ham? What did that mean?

Summer Ham? Really?

The only thing I can think is that Elayne is calling Teslyn fat, which – by the way – is not cool. But it's made even dumber by the fact that Teslyn is a SMALL WOMAN. Honestly, this has got to be some of the worst dialogue I've ever read.

Okay, RJ, I get it. You don't want to say “shit” or “piss” or “fuck.” But could you at least have your insults make sense? Maybe Elayne could call her a festering pile of horse dung or something?

While we're on the subject, I have to point out that one of the worst things about Jordan's women is their tendency to start grandstanding. They all do it! Teslyn comes along and gloats about how she knows they're up to something, and Elayne insists that she can't possibly know because it's a super secret plan by the super secret club for cool kids. And you can't join Teslyn. Nana nana nana. The thing is it comes off as bravado.

It's like watching two kids on the playground go “I could kick your ass.” “Oh yeah? Well I could kick your ass times 100.” “OH YEAH??? Well I could kick your ass times infinity!” There's nothing impressive about this.

What would work in a moment like this is for Elayne to show a little wit. Fans of the series will defend this as RJ trying to subtly point out that the girls are in over their heads, and that they're not really all that and a bag of potato chips. In short, Elayne and co are living testaments to the Dunning Kruger Effect. Okay...

That might have worked if not for the fact that Teslyn comes off as equally pathetic in this scene. All puffed up and full of empty threats.

As she turned to go, gathering her skirts grandly, Nynaeve caught her arm. Wetlanders usually let emotion gild their faces, and Nynaeve’s was the image of conflict, anger struggling to break through fixed determination. "Wait, Teslyn," she said reluctantly. "You and Joline may be in danger. I told Tylin, but I think she may be afraid to tell anyone else. Unwilling, anyway. It’s nothing anybody really wants to talk about." She drew a long, deep breath, and if she was thinking of her own fears in the matter, she had cause. There was no shame in feeling fear, only in giving way to it, or letting it show. Aviendha felt a flutter in her own belly as Nynaeve went on. "Moghedien has been here in Ebou Dar. She might still be. And maybe another of the Forsaken, too. With a gholam , a kind of Shadowspawn the Power won’t touch. It looks like a man, but it was made, and made to kill Aes Sedai. Steel doesn’t seem to hurt it either, and it can squeeze through a mousehole. The Black Ajah is here, as well. And there’s a storm coming, a bad storm. Only it isn’t a storm, not weather. I can feel it; that’s a skill I have, a Talent, maybe. There’s danger headed for Ebou Dar, and trouble worse than any wind or rain or lightning."

"The Forsaken, a storm that is no a storm, and some Shadowspawn I did never hear of before," Teslyn Baradon said wryly. "Not to mention the Black Ajah. Light! The Black Ajah! And the Dark One himself, perhaps?" Her twisted smile was razor thin. She plucked Nynaeve’s hand from her sleeve contemptuously. "When you do be back in the White Tower where you belong, in white as you all truly belong, you will learn no to waste your hours with wild fancies. Or to carry your tales to sisters." Running her eyes over them, and once more skipping past Aviendha, she gave a loud sniff and marched off down the hallway so quickly that servants had to leap from her path.

"That woman has the nerve to...!" Nynaeve spluttered, glaring after the retreating woman and strangling her braid with both hands. "After I made myself...!" She almost choked on her spleen. "Well, I tried." And now regretted the attempt, by the sound.

And once again – because she lacks any capacity for introspection – Nynaeve fails to recognize that Teslyn's reaction makes perfect sense given what she knows. What gets me is Lan. He has a reputation in the White Tower for being quite possibly the biggest bad-ass this side of the Dragonwall. He is most certainly not given to flights of fancy.

So you think Lan might... I don't know... speak up. Verify Nynaeve's claims. Or failing that, maybe they could have sent one of the senior sisters to talk to Teslyn and Joline? You know the ones who CAN'T LIE. Hell, Teslyn even says that she was talking to Merilille earlier, which means one of two things must have happened. Either Merilille failed to warn Teslyn about the impending danger – in which case everything that happens to the Tower Sisters is her fault – or Teslyn decided to dismiss the warnings of a woman who CANNOT LIE. Either way, there's plenty of stupid to be had here. Given Teslyn's reaction, however, I'm willing to believe it's the former. I doubt Teslyn would just brush off Nynaeve's warnings if she heard the same thing from an Oath-bound sister.

"You did," Elayne agreed with a sharp nod, "and more than she deserves. Denying that we’re Aes Sedai! I won’t put up with that anymore! I won’t!" Her voice had only seemed cold before; now it was cold, and grim.

I realize that Elayne is supposed to sound threatening here, but really what I get from this is the image of a child throwing a temper tantrum. And it just makes clear that whatever she might insist in her moments of bravado, Elayne is Teslyn's bitch.

"Can one like that be trusted?" Aviendha muttered. "Maybe we should be sure she cannot interfere." She examined her fist; Teslyn Baradon would see that . The woman deserved to be caught by the Shadowsouled, by Moghedien or another. Fools deserved whatever their foolishness brought.

Except Teslyn isn't the fool here, Aviendha. That title belongs to Merilille and to a lesser extent to Lan. Teslyn has no reason to believe anything that comes out of Nynaeve's mouth, because – from what she can see – Nynaeve is a fake sister raised by a fake Amyrlin who hasn't even taken the test for the Shawl. If anyone is to blame for the fact that Teslyn ends up leashed and collared, it's Merilille.


Nynaeve appeared to consider the suggestion, but what she said was "If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was ready to turn on Elaida." She clicked her tongue in exasperation.

All the more reason for you to send someone to talk to her! Adeleas, Vandene, Merilille. Anyone who has sworn on the Oath Rod. They saw the gholam with their own eyes for fuck sakes. You'd think that professional courtesy might at least convince them to warn Teslyn to get out of dodge. Also, you know it's bad when I end up going paragraph by paragraph.

"You can dizzy yourself trying to read the currents in Aes Sedai politics." Elayne did not say Nynaeve should know that by now, but her tone did. "Even a Red might be turning against Elaida, for some reason we can’t begin to imagine. Or she could be trying to make us lower our guard, so she can somehow trick us into putting ourselves into Elaida’s hands. Or – "

Lan coughed. "If any of the Forsaken are coming," he said in a voice like polished stone, "they could be here any moment. Or that gholam could. In either case, it would be best to be elsewhere."

"With Aes Sedai, always a little patience," Birgitte murmured as though quoting. "But the Windfinders don’t seem to have any," she continued, "so you might do well to forget Teslyn and remember Renaile."

Elayne and Nynaeve turned stares on the Warders cold enough to give ten Stone Dogs pause. Neither liked running from the Shadowsouled and this gholam , for all they were the ones who had decided there was no choice. Certainly neither liked being reminded that they needed to run to meet the Windfinders almost as much as to escape the Forsaken. Aviendha would have studied those looks – Wise Ones did with a glance or a few words what she had always needed the threat of spear or fist for, only they usually did it faster and with more success – she would have studied Elayne and Nynaeve, except that their glares had no visible effect on the pair at all. Birgitte grinned and cut her eyes toward Lan, who shrugged back at her with obvious forbearance.

That's right, ladies, you just keep acting like you own the damn playground.


Elayne and Nynaeve gave over. Unhurriedly, and unnecessarily, straightening their skirts, they each took one of Aviendha’s arms before setting off again without so much as a glance to see that the Warders followed. Not that Elayne needed to, with the Warder bond. Or Nynaeve, if not for the same reason; Aan’allein ’s bond might belong to another, but his heart hung alongside his ring on that chain around her neck. They made a great show of strolling casually, unwilling to let Birgitte and Lan think they had been brought to hurry, yet the truth was, they did walk faster than before.

As if to make up for that, they chatted with deliberate idleness, choosing the most frivolous subjects. Elayne regretted not having a chance to truly see the Festival of Birds, two days before, and never gave a blush for the scant garments many people had worn.

Prude-slut alert!

Nynaeve did not blush either, but she quickly began talking about the Feast of Embers, to be held that night. Some of the servants claimed there would be fireworks, supposedly made by a refugee Illuminator. Several traveling shows had come to the city with their strange animals and acrobats, which interested both Elayne and Nynaeve, since they had spent some time with such a show. They talked of seamstresses, and the varieties of lace available in Ebou Dar, and the different qualities of silk and linen that could be bought, and Aviendha found herself responding with pleasure to comments on how well her gray silk riding dress looked on her, and the other garments given to her by Tylin Quintara, fine woolens and silks, and the stockings and shifts to go with them, and jewelry. Elayne and Nynaeve also had received extravagant gifts. All together their presents filled a number of chests and bundles that had been carried down to the stables by servants, along with their saddlebags.

"Why are you scowling, Aviendha?" Elayne asked, giving her a pat on the arm and a smile. "Don’t worry. You know the weave; you will do just fine."

Nynaeve leaned her head close and whispered, "I’ll fix you a tea when I have a chance. I know several that will soothe your stomach. Or any woman’s troubles." She patted Aviendha’s arm, too.

They did not understand. No comforting words or teas would cure what ailed her. She was enjoying talk of lace and embroidery ! She did not know whether to growl in disgust or wail in despair. She was growing soft. Never before in her life had she looked at a woman’s dress except to think where it might be hiding a weapon, never to notice the color and cut, or think how it would look on her. It was past time to be away from this city, away from wetlander palaces. Soon she would start simpering. She had not seen Elayne or Nynaeve do that, but everyone knew wetlander women simpered, and it was obvious she had become as weak as any milk‑water wetlander. Strolling arm‑in‑arm, chatting about lace ! How was she to reach her belt knife if someone attacked them? A knife might be useless against the likeliest assailants, but she had had faith in steel long before she knew she could channel. Should anyone try to harm Elayne or Nynaeve – especially Elayne, but she had promised Mat Cauthon to protect them both surely as Birgitte and Aan’allein had – should anyone try, she would plant steel in their hearts. Lace! As they walked, she wept at how soft she had become.

Oh boy.

This leads us to the complicated topic of gender politics in WoT. Jordan embraces the gender binary in some very uncomfortable ways. Aviendha, a former spear maiden, is supposed to stand as an example of women breaking the feminine stereotype. She's a skilled warrior who has spent the vast majority of her live surviving blood feuds and clan skirmishes in a harsh and brutal land. Except what this paragraph is saying is that deep down inside, Aviendha's just as much of a “girly girl” as her best friends.

What's wrong with being a girly-girl? Absolutely nothing.

The problem is the implication that all women secretly like makeup, dresses and jewelery. And if they say they don't, they're lying. Or they just haven't tried it yet. Where does this implication come from? From the fact that the two characters who are supposed to break out of that mold – Min and Aviendha – develop a not-so-secret fondness for getting all gussied up to impress a man.

Even Siuan – the woman who shows absolutely no interest in men or romance, preferring to focus on power and politics – gets reduced the maturity of a twelve-year-old when a man comes along and tugs at her heartstrings.

Huge, paired stable doors fronted three sides of the palace’s largest stableyard, the doorways crowded by servants in green‑and‑white livery. Behind them in the white stone stables waited horses, saddled or loaded with wicker panniers. Seabirds wheeled and cried overhead, an unpleasant reminder of how much water lay nearby. Heat shimmered up from pale paving stones, but it was tension that thickened the air. Aviendha had seen blood spilled where there was less strain.

Renaile din Calon, in red and yellow silks, arms crossed arrogantly beneath her breasts, stood before nineteen more barefoot women with tattooed hands and brightly colored blouses, most in trousers and long sashes just as brilliant. Sweat glistening on dark faces did not lessen their grave dignity. Some sniffed at lacy gold boxes, filled with heavy scent, that hung about their necks. Five fat gold rings pierced each of Renaile din Calon’s ears, a chain from one dripping medallions as it ran across her left cheek to a ring in her nose. The three women close behind her each wore eight earrings and slightly fewer bits of dangling gold. That was how the Sea Folk marked rank among themselves, with the women at least. All deferred to Renaile din Calon, Windfinder to the Mistress of the Ships to the Atha’an Miere, but even the two apprentices at the rear, in dark trousers and linen blouses instead of silk, added their own golden shimmers to the air. When Aviendha and the others appeared, Renaile din Calon ostentatiously looked to the sun, past its noon peak. Her eyebrows climbed as she directed her gaze back to them, eyes black as her white‑winged hair, a demanding stare of impatience so loud she might as well have shouted.

Elayne and Nynaeve stopped short, dragging Aviendha to an abrupt halt. They exchanged worried glances past her, and deep sighs. She did not see how they were to escape. Obligation bound her near‑sister and Nynaeve hand and foot, and they themselves had tied the knots tight.

"I’ll see to the Knitting Circle," Nynaeve muttered under her breath, and Elayne said, a little more stoutly, "I’ll make sure the sisters are ready."

Releasing her arms, they went in opposite directions, holding their skirts up to step quickly and followed by Birgitte and Lan. That left her facing Renaile din Calon’s gaze alone, the eagle stare of a woman who knew she held the high ground and could not be dislodged. Fortunately, the Windfinder to the Mistress of the Ships quickly turned to her companions, so quickly that the ends of her long yellow sash swung wide. The other Windfinders gathered around her, intent on her quiet words. Hitting her even once would surely ruin everything. Aviendha tried not to glare at them, but as much she attempted to look elsewhere, her eyes returned. No one had the right to catch her near‑sister in a cleft stick. Nose rings! A good grip on that chain, and Renaile din Calon Blue Star would wear a very different expression.

The only complaint I have here is that once again it feels like we're taking forever to get anywhere.

Clustered together at one end of the stableyard, tiny Merilille Ceandevin and four more Aes Sedai also regarded the Windfinders, most with annoyance ill‑concealed behind cool serenity. Even slender white‑haired Vandene Namelle and her mirror‑image first‑sister Adeleas, who usually looked the most imperturbable of them all. Now and then one or another adjusted a thin linen dust‑cloak or brushed at divided silk skirts. Sudden gusts did raise a little dust and stir the color‑shifting cloaks of the five Warders just at their backs, yet clearly annoyance moved their hands. Only Sareitha, standing guard over a large white disc‑shaped bundle, did not twitch, but she frowned. Merilille’s... maid... Pol, scowled from behind them. The Aes Sedai heatedly disapproved of the bargain that had brought the Atha’an Miere from their ships and given them a right to stare at Aes Sedai with demanding impatience, but that bargain tied the sisters’ tongues and choked them on their own irritation. Which they tried to hide; they might have succeeded with the wetlanders. The third group of women, in a tight knot at the opposite end of the yard, earned almost as much of their study.

Reanne Corly and the other ten survivors of the Kin’s Knitting Circle stirred uneasily under that disapproving scrutiny, dabbing their sweaty faces with embroidered handkerchiefs, adjusting their broad, colorful straw hats, smoothing sober woolen skirts sewn up on one side to expose layers of petticoats as bright as the Sea Folk’s garb. In part it was the stares of the Aes Sedai that had them shifting from foot to foot; fear of the Forsaken and the gholam added to it, and so did other things. The narrow, plunging necklines of those dresses should have been enough. Most of these women showed at least a few lines on their cheeks, yet they looked like girls caught with their hands full of stolen nutbread. All but stout Sumeko, fists planted on broad hips, who met the Aes Sedai stare for stare. A bright glow of saidar surrounded one of their number, Kirstian, who kept glancing over her shoulder. With a pale face perhaps ten years older than Nynaeve’s, she appeared out of place among the others. That face grew whiter every time her black eyes met those of an Aes Sedai.

Nynaeve hurried to the women who led the Kin, her face beaming encouragement, and Reanne and the others smiled with visible relief. Marred a little, true, by the sidelong glances they directed at Lan; him they regarded as the wolf he resembled. Nynaeve, however, was the reason Sumeko did not wilt like the rest whenever an Aes Sedai glanced in her direction. She had vowed to teach those women that they possessed backbones, though Aviendha did not completely understand why. Nynaeve was Aes Sedai herself; no Wise One would ever tell anyone to stand up to Wise Ones.

Get on with it...

However well that might be working with respect to the other Aes Sedai, even Sumeko wore a slightly fawning air for Nynaeve. The Knitting Circle found it strange, to say the least, that women as young as Elayne and Nynaeve gave orders to the other Aes Sedai and were obeyed. Aviendha herself found it peculiar

Yeah, I find that strange too.

How could strength in the Power, something you were born with as surely as your eyes, weigh more heavily than the honor that years could bring? Yet the older Aes Sedai did obey, and for the Kinswomen, that was enough. Ieine, nearly as tall as Aviendha herself and almost as dark as the Sea Folk, returned Nynaeve’s every glance with an obsequious smile, while Dimana, white streaking her bright red hair, ducked her head constantly under Nynaeve’s eyes, and yellow‑haired Sibella hid nervous giggles behind a hand. Despite their Ebou Dari garments, only Tamarla, lean and olive‑skinned, was Altaran, and not even from the city.

They parted as soon as Nynaeve came close, revealing a woman on her knees, wrists bound behind her, a leather sack covering her head, and her fine clothes torn and dusty. She was as much the reason for their uneasiness as Merilille’s frowns or the Forsaken. Perhaps more.

Tamarla dragged the hood off, leaving the woman’s thin, bead‑studded braids tangled; Ispan Shefar tried to rise, and managed to reach an awkward crouch before she staggered and sank back down, blinking and giggling foolishly. Sweat ran down her cheeks, and a few bruises from her capture marred her ageless features. She had been treated too gently for her crimes, to Aviendha’s mind.

The herbs Nynaeve had forced down the woman’s throat still fogged her wits as well as weakening her knees, but Kirstian held a shield on her with every shred of the Power she could summon. There was no chance the Shadowrunner might escape – even had she not been dosed, Kirstian was as strong in the Power as Reanne, stronger than most Aes Sedai Aviendha had met – yet even Sumeko plucked her skirts nervously and avoided looking at the kneeling woman.

"Surely the sisters should have her, now." Reanne’s high‑pitched voice carried, unsteady enough to belong to the Black sister Kirstian shielded. "Nynaeve Sedai, we... we should not be guar – uh – in charge of... an Aes Sedai."

"That’s right," Sumeko put in quickly. And anxiously. "The Aes Sedai should have her, now." Sibella echoed her, and nods and murmurs of agreement rippled through the Kinswomen. They believed in their bones that they stood far below Aes Sedai; very likely they would have chosen guarding Trollocs over holding an Aes Sedai.

The disapproving stares from Merilille and the other sisters changed once Ispan Shefar’s face was revealed. Sareitha Tomares, who had worn her brown‑fringed shawl only a few years and still did not have the ageless appearance, glared with a disgust that should have flayed the Shadowrunner at fifty paces. Adeleas and Vandene, hands tightening on their skirts, appeared to struggle with hatred for the woman who had been their sister and betrayed them. Yet the stares they gave the Knitting Circle were not that much better. They, too, knew in their hearts that the Kin stood a very long way below them. There was much more to it than that, but the betrayer had been one of their own, and no one but they had the right to her. Aviendha agreed. A Maiden who betrayed her spear‑sisters did not die quickly or unshamed.

Why are the Kin in charge of the Black Sister? Is there some reason for this decision besides Nynaeve and Elayne deciding to give their sisters the finger?

Nynaeve pulled the sack back down over Ispan Shefar’s head with some force. "You’ve done well so far, and you’ll continue to do well," she told the Kinswomen firmly. "If she shows signs of coming round, pour some more of that mixture down her. It’ll keep her giddy as a goat full of ale. Hold her nose, if she tries not to swallow. Even an Aes Sedai will swallow if you hold her nose and threaten to box her ears."

Yeah, 'cause that always works.

By the popping eyes among the Aes Sedai, they liked the notion even less. Merilille opened her mouth, staring at Nynaeve, but just then Elayne reached her, and the Gray sister rounded on her instead, sparing barely a single disapproving frown for Brigitte. It was a measure of her agitation that her voice rose rather than dropping; normally Merilille was very discreet. "Elayne, you must speak to Nynaeve. Those women are confused and frightened out of their wits already. It won’t help if she upsets them even more. If the Amyrlin Seat really does intend to allow them to go to the Tower," she shook her head slowly, trying to deny that, and perhaps a great deal else, "if she does mean to, they must have a clear picture of their places, and – "

"The Amyrlin does," Elayne cut her off. From Nynaeve, a firm tone was a fist shaken under your nose; from Elayne, it was calm certainty. "They will have their chance to try again, and if they fail, they still will not be sent away. No woman who can channel will be cut off from the Tower again. They will all be a part of the White Tower."

Fingering her belt knife idly, Aviendha wondered about that. Egwene, Elayne’s Amyrlin Seat, said much the same. She was a friend, too, but she had wrapped her heart around being Aes Sedai. Aviendha herself did not want to be part of the White Tower. She very much doubted that Sorilea or any other Wise One did, either.

Merilille sighed and folded her hands, yet for all her outward acceptance, she still forgot to lower her voice. "As you say, Elayne. But about Ispan. We simply cannot allow – "

Elayne raised a hand sharply. Command replaced mere certainty. "Cease, Merilille. You have the Bowl of the Winds to watch. That is enough for anyone. It will be enough for you."

Elayne's got to be one of the worst leaders in the history of fiction.

So you've got the meek and frightened Kinswomen guarding one of the very people who leave them quaking in their boots, and when Merilille – the older and wiser sister – suggests a change in plan, Elayne just brushes her off. Granted Merilille is five kinds of stupid for not warning Teslyn, but again we have a moment of incompetence from one of our heroines. What was that Aviendha said about fools deserving what they get?

Here's a thought, why not have the experienced Aes Sedai guarding the dangerous Black Sister and let the Kin take care of the Bowl? I'm pretty sure they can handle a bowl. I'm not a prison guard or anything, but I'm pretty sure you don't want a prisoner in the hands of people she can easily intimidate. That seems like a recipe for escape.

Merilille opened her mouth, then closed it again and bowed her head slightly in acquiescence. Under Elayne’s steady gaze, the other Aes Sedai bent theirs, too. If some displayed reluctance, however small, not all did. Sareitha hurriedly picked up the disc‑shaped bundle, wrapped in layers of white silk, that had been lying by her feet. Her arms barely went all the way around as she held the Bowl of the Winds to her bosom, smiling anxiously at Elayne as if to show that she really was keeping a close eye on it.

The Sea Folk women stared hungrily at the bundle, almost leaning forward. Aviendha would not have been surprised to see them leap across the stones to seize the Bowl. The Aes Sedai saw the same, plainly. Sareitha clutched the white parcel more tightly, and Merilille actually stepped between her and the Atha’an Miere. Smooth Aes Sedai faces tightened with the effort of remaining expressionless. They believed the Bowl should belong to them; all things that used or manipulated the One Power belonged to the White Tower in their eyes, no matter who happened to possess them at the moment. But there was the bargain.

"The sun moves, Aes Sedai," Renaile din Calon announced loudly, "and danger threatens. So you maintain. If you think to worm free in some fashion by delaying, think twice and again. Try to break the bargain, and by my father’s heart, I will return to the ships at once. And claim the Bowl for redress. It was ours from the Breaking."

Oh look. Someone has decided to point out that they're all standing around doing nothing.

"You watch your tongue with Aes Sedai," Reanne barked, scandalized indignation from her blue straw hat to the stout shoes peeking from beneath her green‑and‑white petticoats.

Renaile din Calon’s mouth curled into a sneer. "The jellyfish I have tongues, it seems. A surprise they can use them, though, when no Aes Sedai gave permission."

In an instant the stableyard was full of shouted insults flying between Kin and Atha’an Miere, "wilder" and "spineless" and growing worse, strident cries that buried Merilille’s attempts to hush Reanne and her companions on one hand and soothe the Sea Folk on the other. Several Windfinders stopped fingering the daggers thrust behind their sashes and gripped hilts instead. The glow of saidar sprang up around first one then another of the brightly clad women. The Kinswomen looked startled, though it did not slow their tirade, but Sumeko embraced the Source, then Tamarla, then willowy, doe‑eyed Chilares, and soon every one of them and every one of the Windfinders shone while words flew and tempers boiled.

Aviendha wanted to groan. Any moment blood would begin to flow. She would follow Elayne’s lead, but her near‑sister was glaring cold fury at Windfinders and Knitting Circle alike. Elayne had small patience with stupidity, in herself or others, and shouting insults when an enemy might be coming was the worst sort. Aviendha took a firm grip on her belt knife, then after a moment embraced saidar ; life and joy filled her to near weeping. Wise Ones only used the Power when words had failed, but neither words nor steel would do here. She wished she had some idea of who to kill first.

"Enough!" Nynaeve’s piercing shriek sliced the words short on every tongue. Astonished faces swiveled toward her. Her head swung dangerously, and she stabbed a finger at the Knitting Circle. "Stop behaving like children!" Although she had moderated her tone, it was by hairs. "Or do you mean to squabble until the Forsaken come to scoop up the Bowl and us? And you," that finger thrust at the Windfinders, "stop trying to wriggle out of your agreement! You won’t get the Bowl until you’ve met every last word! Don’t think you will!" Nynaeve swung round on the Aes Sedai. "And you...!" Met by cool surprise, her flow of words tapered off into a sour grunt. The Aes Sedai had not joined in the shouting except to try quieting it. None shone with the light of saidar .

That was not enough to calm Nynaeve completely, of course. She tugged fiercely at her hat, plainly still full of anger she wanted to loose. But the Kinswomen were staring at the paving stones in red‑faced chagrin, and even the Windfinders appeared a little abashed – a little – muttering to themselves yet refusing quite to meet Nynaeve’s glare. The glow winked out around one woman after another, until only Aviendha still held to the Source.

She gave a start as Elayne touched her arm. She was getting soft. Letting people sneak up on her, jumping at a touch.

"This crisis seems to be weathered," Elayne murmured. "Perhaps it’s time to go before the next breaks out." A touch of color in her cheeks was the only sign that she had ever been angry. And a bit in Birgitte’s; the two reflected one another in some ways since the bonding.

"Past time," Aviendha agreed.

Then why the fuck have you been standing here all this time? Well, to be honest, I shouldn't yell at Aviendha. She wouldn't start making the gateway until someone in charge – probably Elayne – gave her the go ahead. So really this is more Trackand incompetence.

I guess that last little bit was meant to show Nynaeve's strength of character. At best, it's neutral. I'm not very impressed by people who yell to get what they want.

Every eye followed as she walked out into the open space in the center of the stableyard, to the spot she had studied and felt until she knew it with her eyelids closed. There was a joy in holding the Power, a joy in working saidar , that she could not have put into words. To contain saidar , to be contained by it, was to seem alive beyond any other time. A delusion, the Wise Ones said, as false and dangerous as a mirage of water in the Termool, yet it seemed more real than the paving stones beneath her feet. She fought the urge to draw more; already she held nearly as much as she could. Everyone crowded close as she began to weave the flows.

Sigh...

This is the eighth book in the series. And while I wouldn't expect him to resort to the Sanderson-style “Aviendha embraced the Source and made a gateway” minimalism, this is too much description for something we already know backward and forward.

Don't get me wrong, writers have to repeat themselves sometimes. But why do we need this much information on Saidar?

That there were things many Aes Sedai could not do still startled Aviendha, after all she had seen. Several of the Knitting Circle were strong enough, but only Sumeko and, surprisingly, Reanne openly studied what she was doing. Sumeko went so far as to shrug off the encouraging pats Nynaeve tried to give her – which earned a look of startled indignation from Nynaeve that Sumeko, her gaze fixed on Aviendha, never saw.

Shouldn't you be focused on making the Gateway, Aviendha?

I'm not entirely sure about where everyone is positioned, but it seems to me that if they were watching Avienda make the gateway, they would be standing behind her. Which means she would have to look over her shoulder to see what they were doing. For one thing, if they were standing in front of her, they would see the weave's mirror image. What Aviendha puts on her right, they would see on their left. I don't think this would be a good way to learn.

I don't get the impression that the weave for a gateway will explode if she fucks it up, but just the same, this is something she really struggles with.

For that matter, why is Aviendha making the gateway? The text has never explained it thus far. Why assign this task to the one person who struggles most with it? I guess Elayne and Nynaeve have to oversee the exodus, but that doesn't explain why Merilille couldn't do it. This is an example of what I call contrivance. We have to put Aviendha in charge of the gateway because she's the only one who can perform the unraveling of the weave in the next chapter. So even though that makes no sense from a logistical point of view, it still goes this way for the convenience of the plot. I don't know. Maybe Merilille isn't strong enough? Vandene and Adeleas aren't strong enough on their own. I suppose they could link, but... Whatever. It's a minor gripe. I wouldn't even mention it if this chapter hadn't pissed me off in so many other ways.

Aviendha focused, and the flows wove together, creating identity between this place and the place she and Elayne and Nynaeve had chosen on a map. She gestured as though opening tentflaps. That was no part of the weave Elayne had taught her, but it was almost all she could recall of what she herself had done, long before Egwene made her first gateway. The flows coalesced into a silvery, vertical slash that rotated and became an opening in the air, taller than a man and just as wide. Beyond lay a large clearing surrounded by trees twenty or thirty feet high, miles north of the City, on the far side of the river. Knee‑high brown grass came right up to the gateway, swaying through in a small breeze; it had not truly turned, only seemed to. Some of those blades were sliced cleanly, though, some lengthwise. The edges of an opening gateway made a razor seem dull.

The gateway filled her with dissatisfaction. Elayne could make this weave with only a part of her strength, yet for some reason it required all but a fraction of Aviendha’s. She was sure she could have woven a larger, as large as Elayne could, using the weaves she had made without thought while trying to escape Rand al’Thor what seemed a very long time ago, but no matter how often she tried, only scraps came back to her. She felt no envy – rather, she took pride in her near‑sister’s accomplishments – but her own failure made shame surge in her heart. Sorilea or Amys would be hard on her, if they knew that. About the shame. Too much pride, they would call it. Amys should understand; she had been a Maiden. There was shame in failing at what you should be able to do. If she had not had to hold the weave, she would have run away so no one could see her.

The departure had been carefully planned, and the whole stableyard sprang into motion as soon as the gateway opened fully. Two of the Knitting Circle pulled the hooded Shadowrunner to her feet, and the Windfinders hurriedly formed a line behind Renaile din Calon. The servants began bringing horses out of the stables. Lan, Birgitte, and one of Careane’s Warders, a lanky man called Cieryl Arjuna, immediately darted through the gateway, one behind the other. Like Far Dareis Mai , Warders always claimed the right to scout ahead. Aviendha’s feet itched to run after them, but there was no point. Unlike Elayne, she could not move more than five or six steps without this weave beginning to weaken, and the same if she tried to tie it off. It was very frustrating.

This time there was no real expectation of danger, so the Aes Sedai followed immediately, Elayne and Nynaeve as well. Farms dotted that treed area thickly, and a wandering shepherd or a young couple seeking privacy might need guidance away from seeing too much, but no Shadowsouled or Shadowrunner could know that clearing; only she, Elayne, and Nynaeve did, and they had not spoken in the choosing, for fear of eavesdroppers. Standing in the opening, Elayne gave Aviendha a questioning look, but Aviendha motioned her to go on. Plans were meant to be followed unless there was reason to change them.

The Windfinders began filing slowly through to the clearing, each suddenly irresolute as she approached this thing she had never dreamed of, taking a breath before she entered. And abruptly, the prickling returned.

Aviendha’s eyes rose to the windows overlooking the stable‑yard. Anyone might be hidden behind the white screens of intricate wrought iron and piercework carving. Tylin had ordered the servants to stay away from those windows, but who would stop Teslyn, or Joline, or... Something made her look higher, to the domes and towers. Narrow walks ringed some of those slim spires, and on one, very high, was a black shape haloed by a sharp nimbus from the sun behind. A man.

Her breath caught. Nothing in his stance, hands on the stone railing, spoke of danger, yet she knew he was the one who put that crawling between her shoulder blades. One of the Shadowsouled would not stand there simply watching, but that creature, that gholam ... Ice formed in her belly. He could be just a palace servant. He could be, but she did not believe it. No shame in knowing fear.

Anxiously she glanced at the women still edging though the gateway with agonizing slowness. Half the Sea Folk were gone, and the Knitting Circle waited behind the rest with the Shadowrunner firmly in hand, their own unease at the passage warring with resentment that the Sea Folk women were allowed to go first. If she voiced her suspicions, the Kinswomen surely would run – mere mention of the Shadowsouled dried their mouths and turned their bowels to water – while the Windfinders might well try to claim the Bowl straightaway. With them, the Bowl stood above anything else. But only a blind fool stood scratching herself while a lion crept up on the herd she had been set to guard. She caught one of the Atha’an Miere by a red silk sleeve.

"Tell Elayne – " A face like smooth black stone turned to her; the woman somehow made full lips seem thin; her eyes were black pebbles, flat and hard. What message could she send that would not bring down all the troubles she feared from them? "Tell Elayne and Nynaeve to be wary. Tell them enemies always come when you least want them. You must say this to her, without fail." The Windfinder nodded with barely concealed impatience, but surprisingly, she waited for Aviendha to release her before making her hesitant way through the gateway.

The walk up on the tower stood empty. Aviendha felt no relief. He could be anywhere. Making his way down to the stable‑yard. Whoever he was, whatever he was, he was dangerous; this was not a dust‑funnel dancing in her imagination. The last four Warders had formed a square around the gateway, a guard who would be last to leave, and much as she despised their swords, she was grateful that someone there besides herself knew the use of sharp metal. Not that they would have any more chance against a gholam , or worse, one of the Shadowsouled, than the servants waiting with the horses. Or than she herself.

Grimly she drew the Power, until the sweetness of saidar grew near to pain. A hair beyond, and pain would almost become blinding agony for the moments needed to die or lose the ability completely. Would those shuffling women quicken their feet! No shame in feeling fear, but she was very much afraid that hers was painted on her face.

So was Moridin following them through the palace hallways? Because Aviendha's shoulder blades were itching then too. Or is she just reacting to his presence. If so, how. She can't feel him channeling. Unless the True Power manifests as a wiggins or something. A general sense of unease whenever someone nearby starts channeling it. Aginor insists that no one can feel the True Power except the person channeling it.

Or is Jordan really trying to tell us that Aviendha's battle instincts are so good they border on precognition. Yeah. That'll be the day.

Post chapter follow-up.

The stupid Nynaeve moment was her telling the Kin to box Ispan's ears. For all her complaints that men can only solve problems with fisticuffs, she's really no better.

As an introduction the story, this chapter is...bad. It's not the slow pace – that would be fine for a first chapter – but rather the absolutely detestable characters. This chapter is a long string of nothing punctuated by moments of stupidity so profound it honestly makes me want to watch a Jar Jar Binks stock footage marathon just to get the memory of it out of my head.

So why would I read this eighth book in the series.

Well, believe it or not, the first three books in this series were brilliant. The next three were still pretty good, and it was only the seventh book where Jordan started to falter. When I got to this point in the story, I still had hope that things would turn around. A hope that would be crushed in the following chapters.

Terez
04-04-2015, 02:18 AM
Are you going to post the whole book? Because I'm pretty sure that's illegal. We have always pushed the limitations of Fair Use here, but this goes beyond pushing.

I loved TPOD. I don't need to be reminded what was in it, nor do most people here. We have read it a dozen times.

Seeker
04-04-2015, 02:38 AM
No just a couple chapters. I don't plan to do the whole thing.

Seeker
04-04-2015, 02:52 AM
As I said, I didn't intend to go past chapter 3 - mainly because I had fair use issues in mind - but honestly, I think that one is enough.

The point was to illustrate the thought process as I was reading it, things that pop into my mind as I read without any real polishing. Just first impressions.

These are the things I notice.

Relevance issues
Hammy dialogue.
character motivations that don't make any sense.
Excessive descriptions.

I read chapter 2 and my thoughts on that were even worse, until we get to the part where Aviendha unravels the gateway and then Moridin's scene. Both of those are actually quite good. Why? Because something is happening.

Seeker
04-04-2015, 03:45 AM
The sheer length of the last post convinced me to re-evaluate how I'm going to do this.

Why do I mention the obvious? Well, because it's a case of try something, figure out why it doesn't work and adapt. Something the characters in this story are utterly incapable of doing.

Chapter 2 opens with some beautiful description, and then Elayne – who has just walked through the gateway, turns around to look at Aviendha on the other side.

From where Elayne stood at first, Aviendha was clearly visible through the gateway, studying the palace rooftops as if she expected an ambush. By her stance, she could have been carrying spears, ready to leap into battle in her riding dress. She made Elayne smile, hiding how distressed she was about her problems with the gateway, so much braver than she herself. But at the same time she could not help worrying.

So once again, we're reminded of the fact that Aviendha stuggles to make gateways. And once again, I'm forced to point out Elayne's complete lack of leadership skills. Part of being a leader in anything is learning how to delegate. So Elayne – who can easily make gateways – is standing here doing nothing while Aviendha's natural scouting abilities go to waste because she has to stand here holding the damn gateway open. Incidentally, I can't help but wonder why she didn't just tie the gateway off.

Elayne actually points out that Aviendha is a perfect target for the Forsaken. With every last ounce of saidar directed into the gateway weave, Aviendha would be unable to defend herself should anyone attack. But rather than having someone stay behind to guard the lynch-pin of their evacuation, Elayne decides that she would rather not offend Aviendha by doing something perfectly practical. Never mind that the lives of several dozen people might hang in the balance. And then we get this.

With a sigh, Elayne let the Atha’an Miere crowd her further from the gateway as they filed through. She stayed close enough to hear any shout on the other side, though. Close enough to leap to Aviendha’s aid in a heartbeat. And for another reason.

So wait. You mean to tell me that you just stood in front of the gateway for at least several seconds, just blocking the way. ***** Elayne. You're so stupid.

Remember when I suggested that maybe Elayne didn't make the gateway because she was too busy organizing the evacuation? Well, throw that idea out the window because once she's through the gateway, she literally just stands there watching people come through. We get some long descriptions of every single Wind-finder, Aes Sedai and Kinswoman she sees. Because why the hell not? Then Elayne starts sorting and categorizing the Wind-finders by strength. Why? How is this in any way relevant to what she's doing? Wind-finders don't use the Aes Sedai system; so strength ratings don't mean fuck all to them. How is this a productive use of your time, Elayne?

Then we get to see the Kin display some truly disturbing incompetence with their prisoner.

Famelle, one of only four among the Knitting Circle without a touch of gray or white in her hair, and Eldase, a fierce‑eyed woman when she was not looking at an Aes Sedai, held Ispan by the arms. They could not seem to decide between holding her firmly enough to keep her upright and not clutching her too tightly, with the result that the Black sister moved in a bobbing fashion, sagging halfway to her knees when they loosened their grips, then pulled back up just before she fell completely.

"Forgive me, Aes Sedai," Famelle kept murmuring to Ispan with a faint Taraboner accent. "Oh, I am sorry, Aes Sedai." Eldase winced and gave a little moan every time Ispan stumbled. Just as if Ispan had not helped murder two of their number and the Light alone knew how many others. They were fussing over a woman who was going to die. The killings in the White Tower that Ispan had conspired at were enough to condemn her by themselves.

"Take her over there somewhere," Elayne told them, waving away from the gateway into the clearing. They obeyed, bobbing curtsies and nearly dropping Ispan, murmuring apologies to Elayne and to the hooded prisoner. Reanne and the rest scurried along, anxiously eyeing the sisters around Merilille.

And I love how dismissive Elayne is here. “Just take her over there somewhere.” Translation. Get the incredibly dangerous killer out of my sight so I can focus on comparing myself to other women. Because my estrogen-addled brain won't let me focus on anything practical. No. Instead, I have to fret about my own insecurities during a crisis.

Elayne then reacts with annoyance at the Kin's inability to handle Ispan. Well who's fault is that since you're the one who decided that the god damn Kinswomen should be put in charge of a homicidal psychopath with access to the One Power? Elayne, you have no one but yourself to blame.

Can you imagine if Ispan was faking? If she had recovered enough of her faculties to pretend to be incapacitated. Then maybe, at an opportune second, she stabs Famelle with a sharp rock she had palmed on one of her stumbles? The Kin panic, Kirstian loses the shield and chaos breaks out? Why the fuck aren't trained sisters handling this?

And yes, Jordan is very clearly making a point here. He clearly wants us to know that giving Ispan to the Kin was a bad call. And despite that, Elayne is going to hold steadfast to that blunder for the next two chapers. Why?

We have our stupid Nynaeve moment when Elayne catches sight of Nynaeve sitting in a field and staring off in the direction Lan went. Elayne inwardly chastises her friend, then starts crying about Rand because she was reminded of the fact that Rand is going to die. To her credit, she manages to pull herself together and says

Just because Nynaeve was slacking her duties was no reason for Elayne to slack hers.

Oh, so you're gonna do your duty now? (We'll see how long that lasts).

I guess that means you're going to start organizing the Kinswomen, Aes Sedai and Wind-Finders into an orderly procession that will make its way to... No. Silly me. Of course you're not going to do that. No, Elayne chooses instead to start sorting ter'angreal. Her justification for doing this in front of an open gateway when she suspects there might be a Forsaken on the other side?

"If there’s an angreal in this somewhere, Nynaeve, I would like to find it before Moghedien taps one of us on the shoulder."

Yeah, okay, an angreal would be helpful. But I would like to point out that you are surrounded by several dozen women who can channel. If Moghidien does happen to show up, the lot of you could cut her to pieces before she so much as blinked. Meanwhile, your insistence on sorting this crap here and now is slowing your departure and making it more likely that you will be attacked.

When Nynaeve fails to convince Elayne to stop fussing with the ter'angreal, Vandene comes along and tries her hand. She points out that there was sister some years back, an extremely careful woman who still managed to burn herself out after an experiment with a ter'angreal went wrong. Elayne sniffs and dismisses the suggestion with the arrogant assumption that she'll be fine because she makes ter'angreal.

So, Elayne is legitimately afraid that Forsaken might be skulking about, and her first instinct is to go poking around the stuff that might burn out her ability to channel. Brilliant. I wonder if the Aes Sedai have ever heard the word “mutiny.” Because that might be in order.

Let's pause for a moment to review the long list of terrible decisions Elayne has made thus far.

Assigned Aviendha the task of making the gateway.
Did nothing while a fight nearly broke out.
Stood in front of the gateway, blocking everyone else's path.
Did nothing to protect Aviendha after acknowledging there was a good chance Aviendha might be attacked.
Assigned the Kin to watch over Ispan.
Dismissively ignored the Kin when it became clear they weren't up to the task.
Did nothing to help organize the group.
Fiddled around with dangerous ter'angreal at the worst possible time.

God...

And people wonder why I despise her! In the space of two chapters, she has made more blunders than most characters make in an entire book. People who defend this book will usually point out that RJ intended to write flawed characters, and to them, I say, “There is a huge difference between characters who occasionally make mistakes and characters who do nothing but make mistakes.” A lot of this is shit that doesn't require one to be a genius tactician.

In fact, there is a type of Mary Sue called the Anti-Sue which is summed up in one line. “I'm genuinely useless, but everybody still loves me.”

That's Elayne.

Finally, something good happens.

The gateway trembled as Aviendha carefully picked apart the weave that had made it. It shivered and flexed, the edges wavering. The last flows came loose, and instead of winking out, the opening shimmered, the view through it of the courtyard fading away until it evaporated like mist in the sun.

"That is impossible!" Renaile said incredulously. An astonished murmur of agreement broke out among the Windfinders. The Kinswomen gaped at Aviendha, mouths working soundlessly.

Elayne nodded slowly in spite of herself. Clearly it was possible, but one of the first things she had been told as a novice was that never, ever, under any circumstances was she to try what Aviendha had just done. Picking apart a weave, any weave, rather than simply letting it dissipate, could not be done, she had been told, not without inevitable disaster. Inevitable.

So Aviendha did this because she didn't want to leave any residues for the Seanchan or anyone else to follow – which actually makes a certain amount of sense. And you have to love Aes Sedai arrogance because their reaction to seeing someone do something they thought impossible is “You've been trained wrong!” This part of the chapter actually reads well, and primarily because something is happening.

We're learning something new about the One Power – you can unravel weaves – and the relationship between Aes Sedai and Aiel is further explored. You don't need a lot of words to articulate a complex point. This little scene shows us that Aes Sedai are rather set in their ways while the Wise Ones are more willing to adapt.

Then we get an absolutely gorgeous scene where Moridin watches the whole thing, including the dissolving gateway. Now you might be thinking I'm about to say “Why didn't he just attack them?” Well, you'd be wrong. It makes perfect sense that he wouldn't attack them – he knows at least some of them can channel by the presence of the gateway – and they have nothing he wants. So why take the risk? And yes, I know this because this is one of the rare moments where we actually learn not just what a character thinks but why he thinks it. Why is very important. The question of why Aviendha was assigned to make the gateway is important but it's never addressed. Sigh.

Moridin's scene is great.

Post chapter follow up.

The stupid Nynaeve moment is sitting in the grass and staring off into space. Nynaeve, you're useless. Please walk off a cliff while carrying a large boulder.

About eighty percent of this chapter is pointless filler. Elayne assessing the strengths of the Wind-Finders? Pointless. Elayne fussing with a wagon full of junk? Pointless. Yes, I know she found an angreal. That still doesn't justify it. You could easily mention in a single sentence “By some luck, she had found an angreal among the refuse, one strong enough to make her a match for Nynaeve and more.” One sentence in a more relevant scene.

This leads me to an interesting discussion of show don't tell. Because while it's true that a writer should show and not tell, that really only applies to events that push the narrative forward. Watching Elayne paw through some garbage does nothing positive. I was about to say that it doesn't give us any insight into her character, but the sad truth is that it does. It tells us that she's very self-involved person, that her priorities are mainly doing whatever she wants to do – whenever she wants to do it – rather than seeing to the well-being of the people under her care.

This is not a positive development for the story.

Elayne as a protagonist is someone that we have to like – otherwise her presence becomes grating – and people lose their emotional connection. Most people do, anyway. Elayne is an objectively horrible person. Selfish, egotistical, and unconcerned with the well-being of the people around her. We see this in her complete apathy to the presence of a MURDERER in the hands of women who are ill-equipped to deal with her.

So, did RJ do this deliberately? Is he deliberately trying to tell us that Elayne is a deeply flawed person? It doesn't matter. Because whether deliberate or accidental, defining Elayne in this way was a terrible decision in my opinion.

GonzoTheGreat
04-04-2015, 06:11 AM
Well, every single woman in this series is perfectly chaste and pure until the right man comes along to unleash her inner sex-goddess. They shame men for looking; they shame other women for flaunting, and when they finally decide to indulge in a little between the sheets action, they're always amazed by how “forward” they are. The next day, they're dreadfully embarrassed about whatever they did the night before. Just like a good woman should be.
That last seems to fit Rand better than Min. And most of the Maidens weren't bothered by such shame either; from what we know, Aviendha was an exception in this.
Most of the societies that RJ described were fairly prudish, but then, in our own history most society have been (and are) fairly prudish too.

Terez
04-04-2015, 08:07 AM
Apologies for not actually reading your posts, Seeker; it's not personal. I just find it odd that you would make a point about the book as a whole by concentrating on the most universally hated chapters in the book. They are not representative of the whole book. You skipped the prologue...perhaps mostly because it was awesome? From the Bowl on, even Elayne's chapters are good. Rand's are amazing. Egwene's are pretty amazing too. Even Perrin is not bad. By far the most consistent complain about TPOD is that Mat wasn't in it.

SomeOneElse
04-04-2015, 09:19 AM
I don't see why some one would say that book is poor, nothing really suggests that. Ofc some moments could be better and some worse, that bowl stuff was really boring, I must admit I skipped half of it when reading, but then it went well.

For me the worst book was 3rd one (TDR), really nothing happens, a lot of nonsense. when reading it was a shock for me after first two books which are really good, for some moments I even thought of stopping my reading but the 4th book was awesome again as well as most others and tPoD amongst them.
And to be honest that was a pain in the *** to read that wall of text :(

Zombie Sammael
04-04-2015, 11:11 AM
I'm puzzled as to why on Earth you would think anyone would care, Seeker?

Seeker
04-04-2015, 05:33 PM
So, I had originally planned to analyze each chapter paragraph by paragraph. The motivation for doing this was the fact that when I talk about my problems with PoD, people often tell me that I should read it more closely. The purpose was to demonstrate that yes, I am reading this closely and have reached a different conclusion. Now that doesn't mean the people who like this book are wrong.

I am simply trying to articulate the point that disliking this book is not necessarily a consequence of failing to understand the story. However, in addition to the fact that – as Terez points out – you can't employ this method for more than a few chapters and still be covered under fair use, there's also the fact that going line by line creates a post so long it's essentially unreadable. I'm debating whether I want to revise chapter one to this summary approach.

However, in the meantime, let's move on to chapter 3.

And once again, I remind you that everything I post here is my opinion

As always, chapter 3 opens with some wonderful description.

Farms and pastures and olive groves covered most of the land around Ebou Dar, but many small forests stretched a few miles across as well, and while the ground was much flatter than the Rhannon Hills to the south, it rolled and sometimes rose in a prominence of a hundred feet or higher, sufficient to cast deep shadows in the afternoon sun. All in all, the country provided more than enough cover to keep unwanted eyes from what might have passed as some odd merchant’s pack train, nearly fifty people mounted and almost as many afoot, especially when it had Warders to find unfrequented paths through the undergrowth. Elayne did not sight a mark of human habitation beyond a few goats cropping on some of the hills.

This is good.

But then we get too much of it.

Even plants and trees used to heat were beginning to wither and die, yet at any other time she might have enjoyed merely seeing the countryside. It could have been a thousand leagues from the land she had seen riding down the other bank of the Eldar. The hills were strange, knobby shapes, as though squeezed together by huge, careless hands. Flocks of brilliantly hued birds soared up at their passing, and a dozen sorts of hummingbirds flitted away from the horses, hovering jewels on blurred wings. Thick vines hung like ropes in some places, and there were trees with bundles of narrow fronds at the top for foliage, and things that looked like green feather dusters as tall as a man. A handful of plants, fooled by the heat, struggled to put out blossoms, bright reds and vivid yellows, some twice as wide as her two hands. Their perfume was lush and – "sultry" came to mind. She saw some boulders she would have wagered had once been toes on a statue, though why anyone would make a statue that large with bare feet she could not imagine, and another time the way led through a forest of thick fluted stones among the trees, the weathered stumps of columns, many toppled and all long since mined almost to the ground for their stone by local farmers. A pleasant ride despite the dust the horses’ hooves raised from parched soil. The heat did not touch her, of course, and there were not very many flies. All the dangers lay behind them; they had outrun the Forsaken, and no chance any of them or their servants could catch up now. It could have been a pleasant ride, except...

This is bad.

The human mind can only picture so many things simultaneously, and once you move past that point, the whole thing becomes cumbersome. This also plays into the way that people read.

In general, readers perk up whenever the author starts offering lots of detail. Why? Because in most books, the detail is significant in some way. The assumption is that the author wouldn't be telling us all this if knowing it didn't matter to the story. A problem occurs when the author offers enormous amounts of detail on every thing the character sees. It becomes impossible to distinguish signal from noise. You can miss important details because they're buried in minutiae.

As a result, the Wheel of Time is one of the only series where I have to frequently pause and reread that last paragraph to make sure I didn't miss anything. This breaks up the flow of the narrative which makes the whole process less enjoyable.

When the story finally begins, Elayne is discussing the Sea Folk with Aviendha. Apparently Aviendha is pissed that the Wind-Finder she cornered in chapter 1 didn't actually deliver her message to Elayne.

For one thing, Aviendha learned that the message she had sent about enemies coming when least expected had not been delivered. At first Elayne felt relief at anything to change the topic from Rand. It was not the jealousy come back; rather, more and more she found herself wanting what Aviendha had shared with him. Not jealousy. Envy. She would almost have preferred the other. Then she began really hearing what her friend was saying in a low monotone, and the hair on the back of her neck tried to stand.

"You can’t do that," she protested, reining her horse closer to Aviendha’s. Actually, she supposed Aviendha would not have much trouble drubbing Kurin, or tying her up, or any of the rest. If the other Sea Folk women stood still for it, anyway. "We can’t start a war with them, certainly not before we use the Bowl. And not over this," she added hastily. "Not at all." They certainly were not going to start a war before or after the Bowl was used. Not just because the Windfinders were behaving more highhandedly by the hour. Not just because... Drawing breath, she hurried on. "If she had told me, I would not have known what you meant. I understand why you couldn’t speak more clearly, but you do see, don’t you?"

And what exactly would Elayne have done if a Forsaken had come through the gateway? Knowing her, she'd probably decide it was a good time to start planning the seating arrangements for her coronation. In her defense, however, Aviendha's message did sound pointlessly vague. Then again, if one of my most trusted friends sent me a pointlessly vague message, I'd probably want to go talk to her. Elayne would probably think it's some kind of game and reply with something equally pointless.

“Run and tell Aviendha that I don't like this pink lacquer on my nails. Blue is definitely my colour!”

Adeleas hears all this and decides that she's going to put in her two cents, insisting that she couldn't help but overhear. Her advice is to turn Aviendha loose on the Sea Folk. Why? To intimidate them and make them less eager to cross the White Tower. Everybody got that? In order to make the Sea Folk less willing to piss off the White Tower, Adeleas will send an Aiel with no affiliation to the White Tower to intimidate them. Which makes about as much sense as America saying “Hey, France? Yeah, we're really not liking the way ISIS keeps stirring up shit. So to teach them that the USA isn't something you just casually fuck with, can you send some of your guys over there and give them a talking to?”

Turns out this is Merilille's idea... What a surprise.

I would like to point out that this is a horrible idea; antagonizing the Sea Folk won't intimidate them. It will only piss them off. Elayne, who has stated several times that she wants to smooth over the rising tensions, should be most opposed to this plan. Which is why it's no shock that she gives it the go ahead. Is anyone really surprised? Elayne is the kind of woman who would dry off her wet clothes by hanging them in a cool, damp basement with no sun exposure.

I would like to note that Aviendha is talking about “drubbing Kurin and tying her up,” and Elayne's astonished reaction of “you can't do that!” suggests that she believes Aviendha is serious. Aviendha is quite ready to enter into a fistfight with the Wind-Finder, and Elayne sends her down there to smooth things over. Brilliant.

So Aviendha goes and talks to the Wind-Finders, and... Oh look! Antagonizing the Sea Folk didn't make them any more compliant. It only pissed them off. Who could have predicted that.

Then Renaile sends one of her minions to talk to Elayne.

The most junior of the Windfinders sat her horse even more awkwardly than Aviendha, whom she pretended to ignore on Elayne’s other side just as she ignored the small green flies buzzing around her dark face. "Renaile din Calon Blue Star," she said stiffly, "demands that you snub in the Aiel woman, Elayne Aes Sedai." Aviendha grinned toothily at her, and Rainyn must have been watching at least a little, because her cheeks reddened beneath the sheen of sweat.

"Tell Renaile that Aviendha is not Aes Sedai," Elayne replied. "I will ask her to be careful," no lie there; she had, and would again, "but I can’t make her do anything." On impulse, she added, "You know how Aiel are." The Sea Folk had some very odd ideas of how the Aiel were. Rainyn stared wide‑eyed at a still‑grinning Aviendha, her face going gray, then jerked her horse around and galloped back to Renaile, bouncing in her saddle.

Homer: Marge, tell Lisa to pass the syrup.

Marge: Pass the syrup, Lisa.

Lisa: Bart, tell Dad I will only pass the syrup if it won't be used on any meat products.

Bart: You dunking your sausages in that syrup, homeboy?

Homer: Marge, tell Bart I only want to drink a nice glass of syrup like I do every morning.

Marge: Tell him yourself; Lisa is the one you're avoiding.

Homer: Lisa, tell your mother not to contradict me.

When I discuss the disturbing lack of plot development in these later books, fans of the series often point out that Jordan chose to forgo action scenes in favour of political intrigue. Two problems with that. 1) Political thrillers still need a complex, engaging plot. And 2) This is POORLY-WRITTEN political intrigue.

A good political thriller keeps you on your toes with all the backstabbing, scheming and “trust no one” atmosphere. This shlock, however, reads like a conversation between seventh graders. In fact, here's a conversation that I remember hearing when I was in seventh grade.

Amy: Jen, tell Melissa that I'm ignoring her.

Melissa: Jewel, tell Amy that no one cares what she thinks.

My friend Dave – who is reading this anonymously – is laughing his ass off because he knows which girls I'm referring to.

So Elayne starts thinking about the other people who have come up and pestered her throughout the day, and – shocker of shocker – everyone seems to want her to remand Ispan to the custody of the Aes Sedai. Reane is the first one to make her case. Well, the first one that Elayne thinks about anyway since this chapter is being told out of order.

Reane suggests that maybe the sisters might want to question Ispan, and therefore they should take charge of Ispan. Elayne dismisses her without any real discussion on the matter. And this is why I hate her oh so much.

When all signs point to the fact that the Kin are not up to the task of guarding a Black Sister, Elayne doubles down and insists they do it anyway. When everyone else points out the obvious flaw in this plan, Elayne triples down and insists that she won't listen to their pointless complaining.

You want to know the thing that makes Elayne horribly unqualified to be in charge of a flea market – never mind a country? When faced with the realization that she made a bad call, a good leader would reassess the situation and amend her plans accordingly. Elayne, however, chooses to save face by fully committing to her mistake in the hopes that the people around her will think she couldn't possibly be this dead set on going through with it unless there was some method to her madness. And she decides to just ride out the consequences. That's assuming she even cares. Honestly, Elayne has displayed such a blasé attitude to task of guarding a murderer who has the power to LEVEL BUILDINGS WITH HER THOUGHTS that I genuinely wonder if she might be a sociopath.

Superficial charm? Check.
Obsession with appearance and social standing? Check.
Disregard for the safety of others? Check.
Gross overestimation of her own abilities? Check.

These things are on the psychopathy checklist. Go look it up.

If it seems I keep harping on this point, it's only because the book keeps coming back to this issue. Again, I am only the messenger here, reacting only to what I see on the page.

Chilares makes a similar attempt, suggesting that Ispan might be unwell and that Nynaeve should take care her. Well... of course. You've sedated her and left her to stumble about in confusion. Elayne replies that Sumeko is just as good a healer as Nynaeve.

I don't think Ispan is faking, but my point is that Elayne SHOULD worry about that. Given what she knows, leaving the murderous Black Sister in the hands of people who are too afraid to touch her – much less restrain her – is pure idiocy. Yes, I know Ispan is tied down to a horse and shielded. But given the way we've seen the Kin handle her, I would honestly worry that they might not have done a good job tying her up. And again, I'm not saying that IS what happened, but it's definitely something Elayne should worry about. All Ispan has to do is get loose and kill one Kinswoman. If that happens, the most likely outcome is that the rest will panic.

And yes, I'm aware Ispan is surrounded by women who channel, and that trying anything would be suicide for her. But there's no way to rule out the possibility that she just might be desperate enough to try it. I'm aware that worst case scenario is probably that she kills one or two Kin before someone subdues or kills her, but so what? A leader's job is to plan for worst case scenario, even if worse case scenario is unlikely. If Ispan gets loose because the Kin were too inept to handle her, that's on Elayne. If she manages to kill someone in her attempt to flee, that's on Elayne too.

Elayne's insistence on sticking with her decision despite all evidence that it is the WRONG decision is criminally negligent. Plain and simple.

So then Merilille comes along and tries to insinuate that the Kin can't be trusted.

Merilille joined Elayne only moments after Reanne left, and the Gray sister made a much better pretense at simple chat than the Kinswoman had. In her manner of speaking, at least, she was poise itself. What she had to say was another matter. "I wonder how trustworthy those women are, Elayne." Her lips pursed in distaste as she brushed dust from her divided blue skirts with a gloved hand. "They say they do not take in wilders, but Reanne herself may well be a wilder, whatever she claims about failing her test for Accepted. Sumeko, as well, and certainly Kirstian." A slight frown for Kirstian, a dismissive shake of her head. "You must have noticed how she leaps at any mention of the Tower. She knows no more than she might have picked up in conversation with someone who really was put out." Merilille sighed, regretting what she had to say; she really was very good. "Have you considered that they may be lying about other things? They could be Darkfriends, for all we know, or dupes of Darkfriends. Perhaps not, but they are hardly to be trusted very far. I believe there is a farm, whether they really use it for a retreat or not, or I would not have agreed to this, but I will not be surprised to find a few ramshackle buildings and a dozen or so wilders. Well, not ramshackle – they do seem to have coin – but the principle is the same. No, they are simply not trustworthy."

Elayne reacts to this by screaming at her, pointing out that the Kin fought the Black Sisters and the gholam, and therefore, they can't possibly be darkfriends. It never seems to occur her that darkfriends -who are known for their ruthlessness and willingness to throw each other under the bus – might just kill other darkfriends to gain your trust.

Hell, Elza Penfell kills “Corlan Dashiva” in the very next book, reasoning that the Dark One would not mind if she kills one of his lower flunkies to advance her position. And yes, I'm aware that Elza was under compulsion at the time. I don't think that matters much. I'm pretty sure she'd still have been willing to kill other darkfriends to advance her own goals. It's just that protecting Rand wouldn't have been one of her goals without Verin's influence.

So Elayne sends Merilille back to the the end of the line. Then Vandene approaches and tries to tell Elayne that it's important to counter the Sea Folk because Aes Sedai maintain their position at the centre of Randland politics by maintaining the appearance of superiority. Aes Sedai are “a different flesh,” mysterious and aloof. Elayne figures out that this is yet another attempt to get Ispan away from the Kin, and then she actually thinks the following.

A different flesh, mysterious and apart, could not have a sack thrust over its head and be tied across a saddle. Not where anyone who was not Aes Sedai could see, anyway. In truth, the sisters would be rougher on Ispan than the Knitting Circle could possibly make themselves be, just not in public. The argument might have borne more weight had it come first, but as it was, Elayne sent Vandene packing as quickly as she did anyone else.

This is the first argument that actually gets Elayne to reconsider her decision, and note what it is. Not the threat to health and safety that Ispan represents. No, Elayne doesn't care about that. But tell her that something might affect her rep, and suddenly you have her undivided attention. “Finally you morons have managed to bring up something I actually care about. Of course, I'm still going to say no just to spite you for not making me aware of the threat to my reputation sooner.”

Elayne is a sociopath.

Well, in this book, she's a sociopath.

When Careane tried her hand, Elayne insists that “Ispan stays where she is.” And once again I feel the need to remind you that I am only talking about Ispan because the book keeps talking about Ispan. I've already discussed my objections to Elayne's stupidity; so let me just go with this.

Why do you want this so badly, Elayne?

Why are you so dead set on keeping Ispan where she is?

We've seen that the Kin are doing a terrible job of handling Ispan. The Kin want to get rid of her; the Aes Sedai want to take her. Both sides are in total agreement on this point, and the only one forcing the conflict is Elayne. In fact, if there is friction between the Aes Sedai and Kin, we can safely say that it's Elayne's fault. They want to agree, and she's forcing them to remain at odds.

Why?

Just to get her way?

What's going through your head, Elayne? Is it honestly a fear that if you're anything less than an iron-fisted autocrat, you'll be perceived as weak? You of all people should know better. Elayne was schooled in the art of diplomacy from a very young age.

And again, we never really get an explanation of what's going on in Elayne head. Jordan spends enormous amounts of time detailing a character's internal monologue, but most of that is wasted on trivial minutiae. He's quite happy to tell us what a character thinks, but he seldom tells us why. And no, I can't figure it out for myself anymore than I could figure out the motivation behind someone who sincerely insisted that he wants to shove his penis in a crocodile's mouth. There is honestly no benefit to Elayne's decision and all kinds of cost.

Finally, we get our stupid Nynaeve moment when we learn that the reason I haven't had to listen to her shrill diatribes is because she's actually been off following Lan whenever he goes scouting. Sigh... Okay, Nynaeve, let's take a moment to discuss your idiocy. What do you hope to accomplish by following Lan around? You can't really help him, and you're probably just getting in his way. She takes off in a moment that makes her look like a ditsy twelve-year-old.

"I’m sure you can handle everything, Elayne," Nynaeve said. "You have had all that training to be a queen. This can’t be anywhere near so – Drat the man! He’s going again! You can handle it." And off she went, galloping that poor mare as though it were a warhorse.

Anyway, I've been dreading this moment because I knew it was going to lead into an uncomfortable discussion. People don't like it when I talk about misogyny in WoT, but this is a perfect example of it. Every woman in this scene has demonstrated herself to be either catty, inept, manipulative, immature or some combination thereof. Let's run down the list.

Elayne, the megalomaniac.
Aviendha, the hot-head
Merilille, the manipulative schemer.
Adeleas, the passive-aggressive bitch.
Nynaeve, the immature school girl.
Renaile, the catty Wind-finder.

Not to mention the constant bumbling of the Kin.

Give me one example of a positive female character in these last few chapters. I suppose Birgitte, but she's not really in these chapters. And depending on your interpretation, Birgitte can be somewhat of a problem because she embodies the cool girl stereotype. You know, the hot chick who drinks beer, tells raunchy jokes and never gets moody?

And I know what's going to happen. A bunch of angry WOT fans are going to shout “How dare you accuse RJ of misogyny?” Again, I am only responding to what is here on the page. I can't say how Robert Jordan saw the world, and I doubt that his portrayal of women was a deliberate attempt to show misogyny. Let me stress that I have no way of knowing what he was thinking. But if I had to take a shot in the dark, I would say that he wrote the series this way because he honestly believed this is how women actually behave.

So Aviendha spends some time talking about how much she likes it when Rand kisses her neck, and then Elayne starts mentally griping about Rand.

She was angry with Rand. It was unfair, but if not for him, she could have told Nynaeve to stop treating Lan like a child who might trip over his own feet and attend to her own duties. She almost wanted to blame him for the way the Knitting Circle was behaving, too, and the other sisters, and the Windfinders. It’s one of the things men are for, taking the blame , she remembered Lini saying once, and laughing while she did. They usually deserve it, even if you don’t know exactly how . Not fair, yet she wished he were there long enough for her to box his ears, just once. Long enough to kiss him, to have him kiss the sides of her neck softly. Long enough to...

You know, I really don't like talking about gender politics, but if I'm going to discuss these books, I don't get much choice in the matter because Jordan won't stop talking about gender politics.

So Elayne is angry with Rand. She understands that her anger is unjustified, but she chooses to blame him for her own childish behaviour.

This paragraph reads like man-bitching. “Oh, those horrible women! They blame us for everything!” This is the kind of bullshit you hear from men's rights activists. Jordan is not so subtly suggesting that this is how the average woman thinks about men.

Note that I say this because Elayne is not treated as an anomaly in this universe. Other women don't look askance at her and say “grow the fuck up.” When female characters voice such thoughts, other women in the story greet them with sympathy and a sharp nod of approval. If a man happens to be present when a woman voices such thoughts, usually all the other women will turn and glare at him.

Elayne is normal in this world. She's average. It's the “cool girls” like Min and Birgitte who are anomalies.

Nynaeve comes back, and...

“We’ll be there very quickly, now," Nynaeve told Elayne, not seeming to notice the sullen stare Elayne gave in return. "Lan, fetch Reanne up here, please. Best if they see a familiar face right away." He whirled his horse away, and Nynaeve turned in her saddle briefly to fix the sisters with a firm eye. "I don’t want you frightening them, now. You hold your tongues until we have a chance to explain what’s what. And hide your faces. Pull up the hoods of your cloaks." Straightening without waiting for any reply, she gave a satisfied nod. "There. All settled, and all right. I vow, Elayne, I don’t know what you were moaning so about. Everyone’s doing exactly as they should, so far as I can see."

No. I take it back. THIS is the stupid Nynaeve moment.[/quote]

Post Chapter Follow-Up

The Stupid Nynaeve Moment is mocking Elayne after shirking her duties to run around like a ditsy schoolgirl. Hypocrisy, thy name is al'Meara.

This chapter is pointless.

It's incredibly repetitive with various Aes Sedai and Kin showing up to present different versions of the same argument while Elayne ignores them all simply to be a bitch. Take a moment and consider the flaws of someone like Graendel: vanity, arrogance, belief in her own innate superiority, a complete lack of empathy or concern for other people.

These are all flaws Elayne shares. And in roughly the same proportion.

Sure, she's not out there using the One Power to bend people to her will, but the only real difference in character is in whether Jordan decides to portray them as sympathetic or not. His story does not deal in shades of gray. It's not like the Stannis Baratheon and Daenerys Targaryen who – though they find themselves on opposing sides of a conflict – both do what they do because they genuinely believe that it is the right thing to do. Darkfriends are evil, followers of the light are good. Period.

And before anyone thinks I'm making a criticism here, I'm not. There is nothing wrong with writing a strict good-guy vs bad-guy story. In Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is good; Sauron is bad, and that's all there is to it. No my criticism is not the black and white morality of WoT.

It's the fact that – in this book – the difference between good guy and bad guy is negligible. It's solely in the fact that we are told we should feel sympathy for Elayne and that we should hate Graendel. We're told this by the way that Elayne's POVs are written to elicit pathos – she's given ample opportunity to whine and bemoan her problems – where Graendel's POVs are written to illustrate just how much she loves being an evil bitch.

But in terms of how they act, they're not that different. Elayne is good by definition – not because of what she does or what motivates her – but because she is one of the main characters and therefore good. And here's the thing. By this point, Rand has been sucking down taint for the better part of two years; so when he acts like a megalomaniac in later chapters, I'll actually feel a little sympathy for him. What's Elayne's excuse? Or Nynaeve's?

If you feel comparing her to Graendel is too harsh, then perhaps I should compare to Elaida. What makes Elayne different from Elaida? Both are mostly concerned with getting their way, both are more interested in their social standing than they are in the safety of their subordinates. Both expect immediate obedience without question even there is overwhelming evidence that they are wrong. Why are we supposed to celebrate Elayne's victories while simultaneously celebrating Elaida's defeat? Neither one is a good person.

This is a flaw from a story perspective. In my mind, it is an objective flaw, but you are free to disagree. So it's not just that this chapter does nothing to further story. No, this chapter actually hinders the story.

rand
04-04-2015, 06:06 PM
I actually really like tPoD. I usually rate it (along with Winter's Heart) in my top five. I agree though that the opening chapters suck, but that's really the only part I don't like in this book. But I'd go as far as to say that the opening 6 chapters of tPoD are the worst stretch of the entire series.


And I know what's going to happen. A bunch of angry WOT fans are going to shout “How dare you accuse RJ of misogyny?” Again, I am only responding to what is here on the page. I can't say how Robert Jordan saw the world, and I doubt that his portrayal of women was a deliberate attempt to show misogyny. Let me stress that I have no way of knowing what he was thinking. But if I had to take a shot in the dark, I would say that he wrote the series this way because he honestly believed this is how women actually behave.

I think you're determined to see misogyny no matter what it is you're reading. But for the record, it's pretty obvious RJ is writing the entire world from the stance that women are the dominant sex. They may have been equal in the AoL, but ever since the male AS when crazy and destroyed half the world, the male sex has been looked down on as the weaker one in Randland. It started out with just female AS, but spread throughout pretty much everywhere since the AS are the dominant power in the land. But this concept is seen in every culture (except the Whitecloaks). The TR has mayors, but the Women's Circle is really in charge. The Aiel have clan chiefs, but the WOs are really in charge.

Now, you can argue all day about whether or not RJ portrayed this accurately, but there isn't much doubt that that was what he was trying to do. So when all the female characters seem overly bitchy, RJ's trying to write them as he sees men acting in modern society. Again, you can certainly argue that he did or didn't do this well. But RJ wasn't just portraying female characters in a negative light (sometimes, at least) for the hell of it, or because that's how he assumes women actually act.

isamu237
04-06-2015, 09:29 AM
A million points to rand. That's the best response to the "misogyny" critique I've yet to see. (Apologies to anyone else who may have said it, I've been away for awhile. You can have a million points too.)

isamu237
04-06-2015, 09:40 AM
Coincidentally, I was just getting into my PoD reread when you started this thread, and I'm one of those people who look at you and say, "huh?" Not that you're "stupid," just that I don't get it. I mean, I see not loving PoD, but to me it's a real head-scratcher to call it the or one of the worst in the series.

Yes, the first set of chapters are rather weak, but that's more from being overly verbose than the actual content. Think about all that happens in that sequence taking place with 1/2 to 2/3 of the words.
What we do get, is a really in-depth look into the psyche of the Wonder Girls. Sure, we've had plenty of PoV scenes of theirs before, but I would argue those scenes were mostly WHAT and these chapters are really more about WHO these women are. So if you've been rolling your eyes at some of their "stupidity" earlier in the series you now see WHY they do what they do and say what they say.
And of course the sequence ends with some really well written action. Which is fun.

It's really hard to remember first impressions after so many years and so many rereads, but I recall my first and biggest problem with PoD being to shout "WHAT?!" rather loudly and my roommate looking over and saying "huh?" and exclaiming "there's no Mat!" At which point he grabbed his copy and started flipping through because confirmation was more important than chemistry homework.
Of course I've soured on Mat as I've thought about the series over the years, and knowing what happens makes that not as big a negative against it. It really is hard to read the books I recall not liking because they were "just setup and nothing happens" and not see things happening since I know what happens next.

....I haven't had any coffee yet and I feel like I'm rambling incoherently. Gonna stop now and see if I made any sense whatsoever.

Davian93
04-06-2015, 01:00 PM
I work in an office that is approximately 80% female to 20% male...those descriptions by RJ of what women seemingly focus on seem pretty accurate to me...

~ducks to avoid balefire from female posters~

Zombie Sammael
04-06-2015, 11:27 PM
I work in an office that is approximately 80% female to 20% male...those descriptions by RJ of what women seemingly focus on seem pretty accurate to me...

~ducks to avoid balefire from female posters~

Yes, but as your posting history shows, you're also a misogynist.

Seeker
04-08-2015, 06:36 PM
Sorry, guys. Got a little busy prepping for a presentation I'm giving.
I will give credit where it's due. As I said in my discussion of chapter 2, Moridin's scene was excellent. As for chapter 4, it's actually pretty good. It lags in a few places, but nothing serious.

The first thing that happens is Elayne and her companions riding up to the farm. We get our usual flowing description, and then an older woman comes out to chat with Reanna. This is Alise, but I'd rather refer to her as stern middle-aged woman #4370. I'll confess something to you. I might just be a little prejudiced against channelers because all Aes Sedai look alike to me. And some of the Kin also. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. The central characters are all very distinct. Moiraine, Siuan, Leane, Cadsuane, Alanna, Verin Sheriam: they all have their own features. But there are just so many side characters that my brain has started creating generic Aes Sedai character models. It's almost as if the Wheel of Time were a TV show that reused the same actors to play mulitple minor roles.

For instance, Pevara, Romanda and Alise may as well be triplets. Reane and Kiruna are twins. Why? I don't know. Bair and Sorliea? Twins. Melaine and Lelaine? Twins except the former has green eyes and the latter blue. Huh. I wonder if similar names might explain that last one. This is not a criticism. Just a random little tidbit that I find interesting.

So Alise notices that Careane has an ageless face and the whole farm goes into an uproar. We get our stupid Nynaeve moment here. Always good to get that out of the way.

“Light!" Nynaeve barked, yanking her braid. "Some of them are running into the olive groves! Stop them! The last thing we want is a panic! Send the Warders! Quick, quick!" Lan raised a questioning eyebrow, but she waved a peremptory hand at him. "Quick! Before they all run away!" With a nod that seemed to begin as a shake of his head, he sent Mandarb galloping after the other men, curving to avoid the spreading pandemonium among the buildings.

So Nynaeve sends the warders off to corral a bunch of women who are afraid of warders... So that they won't panic.

I wonder if Elayne's got room for Nynaeve's stuff in that cool, damp basement.

So Reanne and Alise get into it because Alise thinks the other woman sold them out to the Aes Sedai. Reanne that it's not like that and clarifies that the Kinswomen can go back to the White Tower if they want. Alise insists she's not at all interested in that. I like this.

It's always good to show that there are differing opinions inside a group. Too often in fiction – and I'm WoT here – groups get painted with broad strokes, and you can generally assume that everyone within has the same opinions on everything.

So we get a little more description before Elayne looks around and spots Ispan being pulled along by Adeleas and Vandene. Apparently the Kin decided to just hand her over to the Aes Sedai without Elayn'e's permission. I like this even more. Though it does make me wonder why we had to sit through a whole chapter of Elayne insisting that Ispan stay with the Kin if they were only going to circumvent her anyway.

When Elayne and Aviendha catch up, they find Ispan tied up while Adeleas and Vandene question her. Ispan keeps insisting that she doesn't know a thing about the Black Ajah. It's interesting to watch her try to wiggle. First she claims that she was acting under the Amyrlin's orders, and then she insists that she doesn't have to answer questions because her interrogators are rebels, and she doesn't recognize their authority.

Aviendha threatens to torture Ispan if she doesn't start talking, but Adeleas points out that Aes Sedai are forbidden from shedding blood during an interrogation. Or letting someone else do so in their name. I really like this. With the many questionable things we've seen the White Tower do, it's nice to see they have some principles they won't break.

Elayne asks Adeleas and Vandene to leave, but it's mainly an attempt at intimidation. Instead, Vandene takes her outside and explains that this is the sort of thing that's best left to people with experience, and for once, Elayne is smart enough to take good advice. If this keeps up, I might actually start to feel cautiously optimistic about this book.

Sadly, I realize my optimism may have been premature as the very next thing I witness is a pissing contest between Renaile and Alise.

"Come with me," she said in brisk tones that brooked no argument. "The Aes Sedai say you will want to be out of the sun until matters are more settled." The words "Aes Sedai" held as much bitterness as they did the awe Elayne was used to from Kinswomen. Maybe more. Renaile stiffened, her dark face growing darker, but Alise plowed on. "You wilders can sit out here and sweat if that’s what you want, for all of me. If you can sit." It was obvious none of the Atha’an Miere had received Healing for their saddle soreness; they stood like women who wanted to forget they existed below the waist. "What you will not do is keep me waiting."

"Do you know who I am?" Renaile demanded in a tight fury, but Alise was already walking away and not looking back. Struggling with herself visibly, Renaile dashed sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand, then angrily ordered the other Windfinders to leave the "shore‑cursed" horses and follow her. They made a spraddle‑legged line wobbling along after Alise, everyone but the two apprentices muttering to herself – Alise included.

Now, you might be asking “what's wrong with pissing contests?” Nothing. Sometimes, they work quite well as a vehicle to further the story or illustrate character conflicts. The problem is that this book has had more than its fair share.

Let's count them, shall we.

Chapter 1
Elayne and Nynaeve vs Teslyn.
Reanne and the Kin vs Renaile and the Sea Folk

Chapter 2
Elayne and Vandene*

That one gets an asterisk because while Elayne is very clearly having a pissing contest, Vandene is just being polite and logical.

Chapter 3

Elayne and Adeleas
Elayne and Merilille.
Aviendha and Kurin (Yes, it was at a distance, but we still had to read about it second-hand, so I'm counting it).
Elayne and Renaile... by proxy.

It gets monotonous after a while. And we're still very close to the beginning of the book. This goes back to what I mentioned in chapter 1 about Jordan's women grandstanding. Though I suppose I should be fair and point out that Rand and Logain have a few pissing contests. I think it's the method of conflict resolution that bothers me most.

In general, characters in these books don't win arguments through sound, logical reasoning. Rather they shout down their opponents.

Oy... and the chapter ends with more excessive description. Listing the contents of the wagon full of ter'angreal does not make for good reading. It'd be no different than if I were to have a character note that she needs to go grocery shopping and then painstakingly describe every item on her shopping list. And yes, I know that these are magical artifacts that do funky things. But with the exception of that knife that Elayne gives Rand, it's not like any of them will be of any serious relevance to the story. No, the thing that makes her do something embarrassing in a later chapter doesn't count.

Ugh... Let's just get out of here.

Post Chapter Follow-Up

The stupid Nynaeve moment is her sending warders after women who are afraid of warders in the hopes of preventing a panic.

This chapter was pretty good from start to finish. No one behaved like a self-centred idiot – except Nynaeve, of course – and Jordan decided to weave some actual narrative threads. The only complaint I have is not really about this chapter. It's that this really should have been chapter 2. A simple paragraph or two at the opening could describe the trip through the gateway and the ride to the farm. We didn't need to see the whole thing.

I know I've mentioned this already, but what was the point of Elayne's insistence that Ispan stay with the Kin if the sisters were just going to take her into their custody anyway? Why did I sit through the long pointless arguments – why did I suffer through the long pointless arguments – just to have it all be irrelevant in the end?

SomeOneElse
04-09-2015, 04:09 AM
Well if you get bored by these long descriptions etc but you still wanna know what's in the end you probably should read some summary (I've seen some website around that lists it all just like one page per book).
Of course you seem to already read WoT to its end but I think what you list is part of reasons why people like these books. Cutting them would turn books into being like a report.

Seeker
04-14-2015, 08:13 PM
Chapter 5 opens with the following.

The sun stood little more than halfway down toward the horizon by the time they clambered up the well‑worn, snaking path to the top of the steep‑sided hill above the barns. That was the spot Renaile had chosen. It did make sense from what Elayne knew of working weather, all learned from a Sea Folk Windfinder, to be sure. Changing anything beyond your immediate vicinity required working over long distances, which meant being able to see a long distance, much easier on the ocean than on land. Except from a mountain or hilltop. It also needed a deft hand to avoid causing torrential rains or whirlwinds or the Light alone knew what elsewhere. Whatever you did, the effects spread like ripples from a stone tossed into a pond. She had no desire whatsoever to lead the circle that would use the Bowl.

Okay.

I suppose it's time to bring up something that I've been putting off until now. Why is Elayne doing this here? No, not on the hill; that part makes sense. Why are they doing this a stone's throw from Ebou Dar? Remember that chapters one and two established that Elayne was legitimately afraid that one of the Forsaken might be lurking nearby. Specifically Moghidien.

Well, that being the case, wouldn't it occur to her that using the Bowl of Winds here would draw her enemies like a beacon? “Changing anything beyond your immediate vicinity required working over long distances.” This implies that she knows the weaves are going to be big and far-reaching. So why not open a gateway to Andor and use the Bowl there? I mean the point on the globe where you do this doesn't really matter, does it? All you need is a clear view.

Anyway... Nynaeve starts grumbling about wasting time, which is exactly what happens every time Nynaeve opens her mouth. My irony meter just exploded trying to measure that one.

Of course, Nynaeve being Nynaeve, she was not about to admit that she should have done anything so simple as ask Alise who was still at the farm. Or even tell Alise what she was looking for before the woman inquired. Nynaeve never expected anyone to have sense to know up from down. Except herself.

I feel a Stupid Nynaeve Moment coming on.

Merilille had negotiated treaties and mediated disputes between nations; few in the White Tower were better than she.

And yet this is the woman who thought the way to deal with the Sea Folk was to send an Aiel to antagonize them! If this is the best the White Tower can produce... See what I mean by bad political intrigue?

Elayne remembered hearing a story once, a joke of sorts, about a Domani merchant, a Sea Folk Cargomaster and an Aes Sedai. Not many people told jokes involving Aes Sedai; telling one might not be entirely safe. The merchant and the Cargomaster found an ordinary rock on the shore and proceeded to sell it back and forth between them, somehow making a profit each time. Then an Aes Sedai came along. The Domani convinced the Aes Sedai to buy the simple stone for twice what she herself had last paid. After which the Atha’an Miere convinced the Aes Sedai to buy the same rock from him for twice that again. Only a joke, but it showed what people believed. Maybe the older sisters would not have done any better bargaining with the Sea Folk.

Maybe you should consider WHY people believe the Aes Sedai are incompetent, Elayne. This is starting to drag. Could we just get on with it already? These descriptions of how everyone is looking at everyone else are not nearly as significant as Jordan seems to think they are. We get it. No one gets along. Move on to the next part.

So Elayne sees Aviendha moping by the ledge and goes over to see what's up. Aviendha replies with

"I have failed you," she said finally. Her voice was flat, empty. "I cannot form the gateway properly, and all saw me shame you. I thought a servant was one of the Shadowwrought, and behaved worse than foolishly. The Atha’an Miere ignore me and glare at the Aes Sedai, as if I am an Aes Sedai dog yapping at their command. I pretended I could make the Shadowrunner talk for you, but no Far Dareis Mai is allowed to question prisoners until she has been wed to the spear for twenty years, or even to watch until she has carried it ten. I am weak and soft, Elayne. I cannot bear to shame you further. If I fail you again, I will die."

Oh so many things wrong with this.

1) You formed the gateway just fine, and everybody got through with no major problems. So if you're going to mope, could you at least mope about one of your actual failures?

2) Once again, I am reminded that it was Elayne who – for no reason known to man – decided to put you in charge of making the gateway; since she knew about your struggles with that weave, any problems that might have cropped up are on her.

3) Aviendha, you successfully did something the Aes Sedai thought impossible. Why exactly are you ashamed?

4) Just jump already

So Elayne replies that Aviendha has never shamed her, and that the Sea Folk are probably quite afraid of her. Gee, it's a good thing Elayne never swore on the Oath Rod because that's an obvious lie. Or have we just forgotten the events of Chapter 3. God knows I'd like to. Maybe this is more of Elayne's warped reality.

Then Elayne goes and talks to Nynaeve.

"I... I’ve been behaving like a fool. It’s that bloody man’s fault! When he’s not right in front of me, I can hardly think of anything else, and when he is, I can hardly think at all! You... you have to tell me when I... when I’m acting the fool. I depend on you, Elayne." Her voice stayed low, but her tone became almost a wail. "I can’t afford to lose my wits in a man, not now."

(With extreme exasperation...) This is misogyny. Women do not behave this way. They don't, in general, blame men for their own bad decisions. Get over your shit, RJ.

Caire insists that Nynaeve teach them how to link. We get to watch a demonstration of that which I will not summarize. Sarethia points out that it is impossible to put a woman into a link against her will. The Sea Folk insinuate that the Aes Sedai only know that because they've tried, and the only reason they would try is for nefarious purposes.

You know because no one would ever try to figure out a potential weakness so that they could come up with ways to overcome it. There's this one scene in Gathering Storm where Cadsuane puts on an a'dam just to see what – if anything – she can do to get out of it. I like that. It shows tactical thinking.

Then the linking begins.

Caire starts channeling at the Bowl. Weaves go all over the place.

I will say that I do like this.

At that moment, Caire drew deeply. Saidar flooded through Elayne, almost as much as she could hold; an unbroken ring of light blazed into being, joining the women in the circle, brighter wherever one used an angreal , but nowhere faint. She watched closely as Caire channeled, forming a complex weave of all Five Powers, a four‑pointed star that she laid atop the Bowl with what Elayne somehow was sure was exquisite precision. The star touched, and Elayne gasped. Once, she had channeled a trickle into the Bowl – in Tel’aran’rhiod , to be sure, and only a reflection of the Bowl, though still a dangerous thing to do – and that clear crystal had turned a pale blue, and the carved clouds moved. Now, the Bowl of the Winds was blue, the bright blue of a summer sky, and fleecy white clouds billowed across it.

The four‑point star became five‑pointed, the composition of the weave altered slightly, and the Bowl was a green sea with great heaving waves. Five points became six, and it was another sky, a different blue, darker, winter perhaps, with purple clouds heavy with rain or snow. Seven points, and a gray‑green sea raged in storm. Eight points and sky. Nine and sea, and suddenly, Elayne felt the Bowl itself drawing saidar , a wild torrent far greater than all the circle together could manage.

Jordan rarely describes for us what weaves look like. He usually just mentions what goes into them. “A weave of Fire touched with Earth and Air...” This was a nice touch.

The bowl starts drawing saidin as well as saidar and this happens.

Her hope that no one else had puzzled that out vanished with one glance at the other women. Half stared at the twisting column with a revulsion that should have been reserved for the Dark One. Fear grew stronger among the emotions shared in her head. Some were approaching the level of Garenia and Kirstian, and it was a wonder those two had not fainted. Nynaeve was a hair from sicking up, for all her suddenly too smooth face. Aviendha appeared just as calm outwardly, but inside, that tiny fear quivered and pulsed, trying to grow.

Here's what I don't understand. What are you afraid of, exactly? I could understand a little uneasiness, but it's not like you're coming into direct contact with the taint. Sicking up? Isn't that a bit extreme?

So Caire finishes channeling, and they sit around talking about how tired they are. One of the Aes Sedai spots lightning in the distance, and they all assume it's the Forsaken.

"One couldn’t do that," Nynaeve agreed quietly. "Maybe they didn’t feel us the way we do them, maybe, but they’ll have seen, unless they’re all blind. The Light burn our luck!"

No, Nynaeve, it's not luck. It's just stupidity. Again, why didn't you do this someplace far away from Ebou Dar?

Nynaeve makes some noises about going back for Mat – nice to see her showing some loyalty – and Avidendha talks her out of it, reasoning that if the Forsaken get their hands on her, they'll force her to reveal the location of the Bowl, and this could all be undone. Good. Finally someone thinking tactically.

Then a raken shows up, and we get what is arguably the best part of the chapter.

"Shadowspawn!" someone screamed, and suddenly women were embracing saidar all over the hilltop. Balls of fire shot up from Merilille’s hands, from Careane’s and Sareitha’s, as fast as they could throw. A huge winged shape enveloped in flame tumbled out of the sky trailing oily black smoke, falling just beyond the cliff.

"There’s another one!" Kirstian shouted, pointing. A second winged creature dove away from the hill, body as big as a horse, ribbed wings spanning thirty paces or more, long neck stretched out before and longer tail streaming behind. Two figures crouched low on its back. A storm of fire rained after it, quickest of all from Aviendha and the Sea Folk, who made no throwing gesture as part of their weaving. A hail of fire so thick it seemed that Fire must be forming itself out of the air, and the thing dodged behind the hill on the other side of the farm and appeared to vanish.

When Jordan puts his mind to it, he can do some absolutely brilliant description, and when he decides to describe something intense, it's nothing short of wonderful. Again, this book was a low point in what was otherwise a decent series.

And that's pretty much it.

Post Chapter Follow-Up

The stupid Nynaeve moment was blaming Lan for her own idiotic behaviour. After the spike in quality that was chapter four, I honestly went into this with optimism. I started to think that maybe I was wrong about Path. Maybe it wasn't that bad.

Nope. This chapter went right back down into the abyss. More stupid behaviour, more pointless description, more women acting like straw-man feminazis. The part with the Bowl was intriguing but only because it's a small diversion where the chapter shifts to high-concept fantasy as opposed to the never-ending soap opera of the damned.

Part of what makes the interpersonal drama fail is that these characters are kind of one-dimensional. I've talked about it in previous chapters, but it's hard to care about who comes out on top in their little squabbles when they all want something petty, selfish and mostly irrelevant. One example of the way in which Jordan paints all his women with the same brush is that they all have the same attitude toward men – mainly thinly-veiled exasperation.

This whole men are from Mars, women are from Venus thing is largely something that exists only in Jordan's head. Men and women are not so different in real life.

http://www.news.iastate.edu/news/2015/01/29/genderdifferences

As a result, most women don't blame all their problems on men. Feminists – and feminist allies such as myself – may look at structural conditions that favour men over women. (Systemic bias toward men in tech fields, for instance). But that's not really the same as blaming men. Nor is it anything like blaming someone else for your own emotional instability (What Nynaeve does).

Now are the gender dynamics of WoT a problem from a story perspective? They are when they push the boundary of caricature. In a way, you could almost argue that Nynaeve is a case of unintentional gaslighting. In this story, Nynaeve is very clearly suffering from personal problems that she assumes are caused by someone else. But so far as we can see, Lan hasn't done anything to undermine her physical or emotional well-being.

In real life, however, the situation is very much reversed. Abuse victims tend to blame themselves and their own emotional fragility rather than recognizing the harm done by an abusive partner.

It's problematic.

I don't think it's intentional, but it's problematic.

GonzoTheGreat
04-15-2015, 04:11 AM
I suppose it's time to bring up something that I've been putting off until now. Why is Elayne doing this here? No, not on the hill; that part makes sense. Why are they doing this a stone's throw from Ebou Dar? Remember that chapters one and two established that Elayne was legitimately afraid that one of the Forsaken might be lurking nearby. Specifically Moghidien.

Well, that being the case, wouldn't it occur to her that using the Bowl of Winds here would draw her enemies like a beacon? “Changing anything beyond your immediate vicinity required working over long distances.” This implies that she knows the weaves are going to be big and far-reaching. So why not open a gateway to Andor and use the Bowl there? I mean the point on the globe where you do this doesn't really matter, does it? All you need is a clear view.
No, of course not. That is, obviously, a rather dumb idea.

If she had done that, then she might very well have remembered what led her to go search for the Bowl in the first place: something that would help tie the AS and Rand together. Then she might have combined that with the fact that the Bowl also drew saidin, and she could then have gone to Cairhien or Tear (or wherever) to find Rand and let him join in the circle that was operating the thing.
Can't have that, can we?

fdsaf3
04-15-2015, 01:02 PM
This has to be one of the most self-indulgent discussion threads I've ever seen. Wow.

GonzoTheGreat
04-16-2015, 04:31 AM
Maybe the most self-indulgent of this year (though there's still time for someone else to outdo it), but definitely not of all time.

Seeker
07-20-2015, 07:48 PM
I got an IM asking why I stopped discussing Path of Daggers a few months back.

The answer is this.

I actually got as far as chapter 8, but I couldn't bring myself to post a my thoughts on chapter 6. Let me just sum it up like this.

I honestly believe that PoD Chapter 6 is the worst chapter in the entire series. It's the epitome of every negative trend in books 6-11.

The discussion I wrote on it is 3000 words long; and while I wasn't intending to be mean-spirited, I don't think I can post a discussion on this chapter without sounding...Well, harsh.

If you thought I was harsh before, multiply that by a factor of ten. As I reread it, I'm honestly reminded of the tone I hear in my head whenever I read Luckers talking about Brandon's work. Like him, I'm sincere in my dislike, but when honest critique starts taking a back seat to anger, it's problematic.

I will say this. The ending of Pod Chapter 6 - the narrow escape where Aviendha and Birgitte hold off the Seanchan while Elayne unravels the gateway - that part is fantastic. It's glorious and wonderful and amazing and indicative of everything that's good about WoT (In my opinion)

It's just sad that the lead up to that moment is indicative of everything that's bad about WoT (Once again, in my opinion)

So I just can't do it, I'm sorry. (Not that most of you care all that much). I can't bring myself to be that mean.

GonzoTheGreat
07-21-2015, 05:13 AM
Why not use the simple, time honored summary that was made for situation such as this?
Women!

Daekyras
07-21-2015, 05:26 AM
I got an IM asking why I stopped discussing Path of Daggers a few months back.

The answer is this.

I actually got as far as chapter 8, but I couldn't bring myself to post a my thoughts on chapter 6. Let me just sum it up like this.

I honestly believe that PoD Chapter 6 is the worst chapter in the entire series. It's the epitome of every negative trend in books 6-11.

The discussion I wrote on it is 3000 words long; and while I wasn't intending to be mean-spirited, I don't think I can post a discussion on this chapter without sounding...Well, harsh.

If you thought I was harsh before, multiply that by a factor of ten. As I reread it, I'm honestly reminded of the tone I hear in my head whenever I read Luckers talking about Brandon's work. Like him, I'm sincere in my dislike, but when honest critique starts taking a back seat to anger, it's problematic.

I will say this. The ending of Pod Chapter 6 - the narrow escape where Aviendha and Birgitte hold off the Seanchan while Elayne unravels the gateway - that part is fantastic. It's glorious and wonderful and amazing and indicative of everything that's good about WoT (In my opinion)

It's just sad that the lead up to that moment is indicative of everything that's bad about WoT (Once again, in my opinion)

So I just can't do it, I'm sorry. (Not that most of you care all that much). I can't bring myself to be that mean.

Throw on some Nikes. Just do it. If you are angry then let it show.

I found your posts very long but they were interesting.