Wheel of Time Reread #6: Lord of Chaos

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.

WoT06_LordOfChaosAnd, it’s book six! Rand has continued to try and unite the nations in preparation for Tarmon Gai’don, now that he holds Caemlyn in addition to most of Cairhien, Tear and the Aiel Waste. Mat has somehow found himself commander of an army, against every instinct he has to get away from trouble. Perrin is relaxing in the Two Rivers while Faile helps him be lordly. Egwene is also relaxing in Cairhien, and Elayne and Nynaeve are back to being Accepted at Salidar.

This is the first book in which there is no clean self-contained “plot” – books 1 to 3 were Rand’s journey to accepting his fate as the Dragon Reborn as he repeatedly confronted Ishmael, book 4 was Rand’s quest to learn how to channel properly while learning how to be the Dragon, book 5 was Rand consolidating power and defeating Rahvin. There are plans made throughout the book to attack Sammael, but no Rand vs. Sammael confrontation occurs. There is a climactic battle, but no Forsaken are involved.

Some notable events: Egwene becomes the Amyrlin Seat of the Rebel Aes Sedai (wow, that was sudden!), Nynaeve figures out how to Heal stilling/gentling and fixes Logain, Siuan and Leane (I really thought Siuan and Leane stayed stilled for longer), Mazrim Taim is introduced along with the asha’man and the asha’man go on their first away mission. Oh, and some more servants of the Shadow crop up – the creepiest Shadowspawn so far, Shaidar Haran, is introduced, and Aginor and Balthamel are reincarnated.

I didn’t make much of it when Lews Therin muttered crazily whenever he was around Mazrim Taim, but now that I know more about Taim’s allegiances and power… I wonder what he was seeing.

I was excited when Graendal started talking about Shara… Shara has always been the most mysterious part of Randland, and I hope to see it or people from it featured in A Memory of Light. I mean, if Graendal was able to “procure” their rulers, there should be some way in, right?

Mat continues to be awesome (except for a tiny bit in Salidar, but he couldn’t have been expected to believe that Egwene was actually Amyrlin) – Olver is introduced in this book, and it’s so adorable how Mat adopts him. I love how Mat’s always trying to pretend that he’s apathetic about everything, but he’s just a big softie. Although, I’m disappointed that Mat and Birgitte haven’t really hung out yet, despite travelling together for a while.

There was some other fun stuff in this book – Perrin meeting the in-laws was hilarious, as was Loial’s impending marriage. I’m kind of sad that the Ogier that came after Loial ended up in the Two Rivers after Loial had left, but I guess it’s worth it.

Some things were definitely not funny though – Morgase and Lan, especially. The Whitecloaks are pretty awful, and it’s terrible that Morgase ended up in their control for no fault of her own. What’s worse is that she hasn’t even been treated that badly yet, compared to what’s coming up. Lan only shows up once in the book, but it’s really, really sad. Why didn’t Moiraine just pass the bond to Nynaeve?

Also, Gawyn continues to be insufferable – why does Egwene suddenly LOVE him? The last time she was around Gawyn, she was ignoring him for Galad… but then she dreams a lot about Gawyn and decides that that means love? The romance in Wheel of Time is not very credible at the best of times, but this is horrible! But Egwene and Gawyn are both sanctimonious to a fault, so I guess that makes sense?

I wish there had been some sort of conclusion to Elayne and Nynaeve’s adventure in Ebou Dar – so far, they’re just looking for the Bowl of Winds (although they don’t know that’s what it’s called), and have no luck.

Last question – what seeds of chaos did Demandred sow? What was carried out under his orders, for him to be so pleased at the end of the book?

And now onto The Crown of Swords, where Sammael gets his comeuppance. And I don’t remember this, but hopefully that’s the book where Cadsuane shows up.

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #6)
Tor Books, 1994 | Buy the book

“Kushiel’s Scion”, “Kushiel’s Justice” and “Kushiel’s Mercy” by Jacqueline Carey

I am once again behind on my reviews, so I’ll be reviewing the second Kushiel’s Legacy trilogy (Kushiel’s Scion, Kushiel’s Justice, and Kushiel’s Mercy) in this post. WARNING: Contains spoilers for the first (Phèdre) trilogy – Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, and Kushiel’s Avatar.

Kushiel’s Scion

Our protagonist is now Imriel de la Courcel, the son of the infamous Melisande Shahrizai, Terre D’Ange’s greatest traitor, and the foster son of our beloved Phèdre and Joscelin. The story begins with a fourteen year old Imriel, who is being raised by Phèdre and Joscelin, much to Queen Ysandre’s chagrin.

I’m a sucker for good coming of age stories, and this is definitely one of them. Imriel is a complex and sympathetic character, and his character arc is thoroughly satisfying. He starts out as a confused young man, unsure of how to deal with his parentage and the mistrust that that generates, despairing of ever living up to his foster parents – heroes of the realm, sickened by his desires (being Kushiel’s scion and having lived through the zenana of Darsanga do not mix well.) He finds friendship and attraction, maybe even love, and escapes Terre D’Ange, before realising that he can’t run away from who he is. And of course, he ends up saving a few people along the way.

As with all of Carey’s stories, the plot just flows and is beautifully written. It’s fascinating to see Phèdre viewed through third party eyes, as well as others, like Nicola L’Envers y Aragon and Queen Ysandre, who Imriel does not like, and the Shahrizais, who Phèdre has always mistrusted (but Imriel gets along with.) Phèdre and Joscelin make great parents, and it’s a joy to see them in this role.

I also enjoyed the quintessential coming-of-age experience – university. Traveling to yet another part of Carey’s Earth was terrific – especially a city as iconic as Rome. Imriel’s relationships, both friendships and romances were also very believable. And of course, there’s the Unseen Guild, which I couldn’t wait to learn more about.

The climax in Lucca – both the problem and  the resolution were not what I expected, although they were foreshadowed heavily. Carey seems to be using more and more magic as the series progresses, but that’s not a bad thing.

Overall – great characters, great world, great writing, great story. The end is especially touching.

Kushiel’s Justice

After the events of Kushiel’s Scion, Imriel nó Montrève de la Courcel has realised that he must accept who he is and his position in life. In light of this, he agrees to Ysandre and Drustan’s proposal that he wed Dorelei, an Alban princess, so that his children can inherit the Alban throne and Terre D’Ange’s ties with Alba are solidified. However, he doesn’t account for his crush on Sidonie – his cousin and heir to the throne of Terre D’Ange – developing into a torrid (mutual) love which must be kept secret.

This book is a further coming of age for Imriel – he’s accepted his parentage and his personal desires, but he does not yet understand what it means to be D’Angeline, especially of Elua and Kushiel’s lines. He weds Dorelei in the name of duty, but this violates Elua’s one precept, “Love as thou wilt“. Alba’s great magicians, the Maghuin Dhonn (people of the brown bear), oppose Imriel and Dorelei’s union, and bind him magically with his desire for Sidonie. Things go downhill from there.

In the end, at great personal cost, Imriel learns that he should not defy the will of the gods (especially when it is also his own will) for the sake of duty, and also truly accepts Kushiel’s gift of merciful justice. This book is tremendously sad, but a good read – Carey is truly a skilled writer. All my compliments for Kushiel’s Scion apply here as well.

Kushiel’s Mercy

Imriel has survived the events of Kushiel’s Justice and is finally fully at peace with himself. His relationship with Sidonie has been publicly revealed, and Queen Ysandre is beside herself with anger. She cannot openly forbid their love – that would be against Elua’s precept, but she has threatened to disinherit Sidonie if she marries Imriel – unless he can track down Melisande Shahrizai and bring her to Terre D’Ange to be executed.

Imriel has no great love for his mother, but he doesn’t really want to see her executed. However, he loves Sidonie, so he resolves to fulfill Ysandre’s condition anyway. Before he can begin, however, Terre D’Ange faces a greater threat – one which could drive it to destruction.

This is probably my least favourite of the Imriel books (it’s still very very good) – I would’ve loved the straight up story of Imriel having to find his mother. I loved that portion of the story – Melisande meeting Imriel, and her redemption, and the full circle that the characters came to.

However, a large portion of the book is dedicated to magic, memory loss and effects of arcane arts, which wasn’t nearly as interesting. The thing about Carey’s magic is that it doesn’t have any rules – magic can do anything, and there’s no described system. It can be a deus ex machina or a huge obstacle.I think her strongest writing is to do with characters and their motivations and their actions – that seems to follow a logical pattern, at least. The magic does afford Imriel the chance to save Terre D’Ange and be reckoned a hero, though – the populace finally loves him.

It was heartbreaking to see Phèdre and Joscelin be deluded by magic – that’s just not done. However, deluded-Imriel and deluded-Sidonie falling in love again made for a more compelling romance than their actual romance.

A fairly good end to the trilogy.

Kushiel’s Scion by Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Legacy, #4)
Tor Books, 2006 | Buy the book

Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Legacy, #5)
Tor Books, 2007 | Buy the book

Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey (Kushiel's Legacy, #6)
Tor Books, 2008 | Buy the book