Wheel of Time Reread #3: The Dragon Reborn

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

the_dragon_reborn__frontcover_large_kVhYQJryhkOh43UThis is where the Wheel of Time finally starts getting awesome for its own sake, and not just “wow, check out all the references to later books!” Until the travesty that is Crossroads of Twilight, anyway.

Okay, first things first: Aviendha! Faile! Tel’aran’rhiod! The pieces are sliding into place.

Finally, Mat starts being totally awesome. Maybe he was awesome all along inside his head, but this is the first time we’re in his head and we see that he’s actually a pretty compassionate guy, he’s just fighting it all the time. And he’s started to realise it too. Also, his trouncing of Galad and Gawyn was awesome (and totally conceivable – I don’t think Galad and Gawyn usually fight people with quarterstaffs, and Mat’s been trained by his dad, the best in the village).

Now that I’ve brought up changes of perspective when you’re not in someone’s head all the time… Rand is totally nuts. I’m not sure if this is because he openly declared himself Dragon at the end of The Great Hunt, and so the Forsaken and Shadowspawn are harassing him a lot more, or if his channeling is driving him a bit insane. The bit where someone tries to join his camp and he kills them all (including a woman), and makes their corpses kneel to him because he’s the Dragon… uhhh… (yes, they did end up being Darkfriends and assassins, but still!) Now I understand why I dislike Rand so much – he was pretty nice, if boring, in the previous books. Do we ever get an explanation of this? Are his duties just depressing him so much, and is this a downward spiral until he ends up laughing on Dragonmount in one of the later books?

The Aes Sedai get a lot less intimidating in this book – they all have admirable composure, but it’s made clear in this book that Moiraine actually has no idea what she’s doing (although she’s still pretty awesome, balefiring Be’lal). It’s also interesting to see how people react to Nynaeve, Elayne and Egwene when they’re pretending to be Aes Sedai – their intimidation causes them to take them a lot more seriously and see meanings into innocuous comments. Confidence is everything! Moiraine was somewhat  annoying, though – her continued refusal to tell Perrin anything, and her occasional needling of Lan about passing his bond on were not cool. I guess she was just stressed about what she should do and was succumbing to the pressure.

It’s hilarious how Moiraine and Siuan still think they’re in control – they see Perrin and Mat as boys that they can use in their schemes (yes, they’re well-intentioned schemes), rather than powerful people in their own right.  Their scheming does work sometimes, the way Siuan handled Elayne’s inclusion into her band of Black Ajah hunters was pretty smooth.

The whole way women treat men is irritating – I do sympathise with Jordan’s intent (I think?) of flipping gender roles/power, but he does it so blatantly. Some subtlety would’ve been nice. The way Elayne, Nynaeve and Egwene treat Mat is horrible, especially after he travels all the way from Caemlyn to Tear in the fastest way possible to try and save them. I like that Jordan doesn’t take his characters too seriously, but when the women in his story don’t even take them seriously… it’s irritating. Faile does this too, but she hasn’t done it in this book very much.

Speaking of Faile, I don’t really get the Perrin/Faile relationship. How the hell do they fall in love? At least Mat/Tuon’s relationship, even if it isn’t normal, is done with full awareness.

I was glad to see the Forsaken out in full force again – Be’lal in Tear, Sammael in Illian and Rahvin in Andor, plus Lanfear and Ishmael in everyone’s dreams. I assume Mesaana is in the White Tower too. Political intrigue is always fun, and it finally begins. I’m also relieved that everyone realised that Ba’alzamon wasn’t the Shadow himself – I didn’t realise that took so long. I also finally understood why Lanfear is the “Daughter of the Night” – she is the best Dreamer.

As usual, there were a lot more clues to the future, as well – Gawyn having a thing for Egwene, Sheriam being found on the scene after a Grey Man is killed, Alanna being given some attention – even High Lord Darlin makes an appearance.

I’m glad this this is the last book where everyone ends up in the same place – that way there doesn’t have to be all these contrivances to get them there, and people have the freedom to pursue their own story. I’m not sure why Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve even had to be in Tear.

One last thing – I’ve always assumed that the Age of Legends was a really futuristic place, and there’s a lot of clues that Jordan leaves to support that – the portal stones (wormholes to alternate realities), the tower made out of metal, etc. I was wondering how the Forsaken were dealing with a more primitive society, they seemed so used to it. But then Be’lal says something to the effect of “remember when we decided to learn to sword fight, as men of old used to?” to “Lews Therin”, and that answered that question for me.

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