Reread: “Heir of Novron” by Michael J. Sullivan

I’m going to keep this review very short because it’s an omnibus edition of books five and six of The Riyria Revelations, which means I’ve read and liked the rest of the series. And it’s a reread, which means I like the series enough to reread it. So there’s not a lot to say here. For my previous reviews of books set in the world of Elan, see Age of Myth, The Crown Tower, The Rose and the Thorn, The Death of Dulgath, Theft of Swords, and Rise of Empire.

The first book in the omnibus is Wintertide, and it’s a pretty standard penultimate book – our heroes conquer the immediate threat only to realize there is a much larger threat looming. Conquering the immediate threat is very satisfying, though, and Hadrian is especially great in this book. Arista does some morally questionable things under torture (condemning an innocent person to execution), and I would have liked her to have given it some thought afterwards, but it doesn’t get addressed at all. That’s a minor quibble, though.

The final book is Percepliquis, where humanity has to figure out how to deal with an invasion by the vastly superior elves, and the only hope lies in finding an ancient artifact in the lost city of Percepliquis. This is probably my least favorite book of the series because it’s basically a dungeon crawl for most of it, and I found that pretty boring. The ending is great, but it leaves me really curious to find out what happens next. Michael J. Sullivan has said he will not write an immediate sequel series, but I hope he changes his mind.

Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan (The Riyria Revelations, #3)
Orbit Books, 2012 | Buy the book
I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher or author.

On rereading Harry Potter


I recently reread the Harry Potter series, and it left me with a lot of conflicting and confusing feelings. I usually don’t like talking about myself much, but I’m going to do exactly that in this post, and try (and probably fail) to unravel my thoughts articulately.

First, some background: I grew up with Harry, I was pretty much the same age as him when each book came out, and I was obsessed with the series as a teenager. I would spend most of my internet time visiting Harry Potter fan sites and reading fanfiction, I was a fixture in the chatroom, and I constantly speculated on what would happen next with my friends. I even started a fan magazine in my hometown, and ended up becoming somewhat famous locally as the authority on Harry Potter stuff. I was pretty proud of this at first, but towards the end of school, I got kind of tired of it defining my identity so much.

Naturally, when I went to college (where everyone reinvents themselves), I didn’t really mention Harry Potter to anyone, and I certainly didn’t reread it. (I still ended up winning second place in a Harry Potter themed trivia tournament, but it wasn’t the main thing people knew about me.) I was a bit embarrassed about how much it had defined me previously, and although I was still fond of it, I mostly tried to forget about it.

Anyway, it had been seven years since I’d read a Harry Potter book, and I was finally ready to reread them without all the identity baggage (or so I thought).

I was pleasantly surprised by the first book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) – it was whimsical, engaging, and witty, and that also meant I wasn’t just delusional as a kid for liking it so much. It’s written in a somewhat different style from the other books; for example, I think it’s the only book that features scenes where Harry is present, but the scene is not told from his point of view (Ron and Hermione dealing with his broomstick trying to buck him off during a Quidditch match).

It took me a few weeks to read the second book (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), since it was always my least favourite of the first few. To my continuing surprise, I found it a pretty great read as well. The sense of whimsy isn’t as prevalent anymore, sure, there are flying cars and giant spiders and such, but people are actually in danger throughout the book and the whole school is paranoid. This makes the book’s atmosphere much more uncomfortable. Sorcerer’s Stone‘s plot is mostly driven by Harry and his friends’ curiosity – there’s no real sense of urgency except at the very end. It’s driven by a sense of discovery, not paranoia. In Chamber of Secrets,People in the wizarding world are consistently mean to Harry for the first time.

After this, I read the remaining five books pretty quickly. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book, was always my favourite when I was younger, possibly because it introduced us to the wider wizarding world beyond Hogwarts – Hogsmeade, Azkaban, and expanded the mythology and history significantly with werewolves, Animagi, and a lot of new wizarding classes. I was also fascinating by the Marauders (they seemed so much more fun than Harry and his friends). I’m not sure if it remains my favourite after the reread – I certainly enjoyed it for all those reasons, but it continued the “paranoia” trend (Harry and everyone else around him is constantly afraid of Sirius, and that drives most things in the story).

I’ve been focusing on the paranoia so much because that was one of the things that bothered me about the series during this reread. There seems to be a severe lack of regular, decent, friendly people in the wizarding world – people are far too easily swayed by public opinion and peer pressure, and everyone seems far too proactive about doing the wrong thing. This is sort of addressed in the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – Cedric Diggory is all of those things, and of course, he ends up dead for it.

I actually enjoyed Goblet of Fire much more than I remembered, despite the continuing darkness (and starting the tradition of ending each book with the death of someone we like a lot). This is probably the book that Harry seems happiest in; he has a godfather that he can correspond with, he’s having a lot of mostly harmless adventures (even if they are scary in the moment), and puberty opens up a whole new world to him (although that feeling is only fun in retrospect). I also liked the further expansion of the world – more wizarding schools, learning more about house elves, merfolk, veela, and other non-human magical creatures.

Book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was my other favourite when I was younger, and I had pretty mixed feelings about this one. I used to like it primarily because it focused a lot more on the Marauders, I think. Most of it was much more relaxed than the previous books (Voldemort is back, but other than that, there’s not a huge obvious threat hanging over Harry). It’s the first book since Sorcerer’s Stone to be driven by Harry’s own initiative – he leads Dumbledore’s Army, he researches what Voldemort’s looking for.

This is where Harry starts growing up enough to both be pretty unpleasant himself, and to notice all the adults around him being inconsistent and making mistakes. Sirius is too caught up in his own feelings about his house and his plight to actually do what he wants to do and help the Order, Dumbledore ignores Harry without considering what impact it would have on him, Umbridge continues the tradition of the wizarding world filled with pretty unpleasant people, even if they are not Death Eaters. Harry doesn’t ask enough questions, starts yelling at people when he’s mad, and generally is much less trusting than usual. I found it hard to be sympathetic to anyone in this book – my favourite characters were Fred and George Weasley.

Book six – I wasn’t very happy with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince when I first read it, because I thought the concept of Horcruxes came out of nowhere, and all the focus on romance seemed misplaced, and how could Dumbledore die? None of these seemed to matter on the reread – Horcruxes made perfect sense with all the information we knew about Voldemort so far, hormonal teenagers are pretty realistic/amusing, and I wasn’t all that attached to Dumbledore anymore. I rather enjoyed the titular “Half Blood Prince” (Snape is easily the most compelling character in the series), and Malfoy’s humanisation was a welcome relief.

I had never reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, since it came out just before I went to college, so I was most interested in my reaction to it. I remembered nothing but a vague feeling of disappointment. Unlike most of the other books, which I got a lot more from this time around, I ended up actually disliking this book. The Deathly Hallows did come out of nowhere and seemed mostly irrelevant to the story, the constant focus on Dumbledore was really annoying and also seemed mostly irrelevant (yes, he’s not perfect, let’s move on), the Hermione-Ron romance should have never happened (even J.K. Rowling admits that!), and the lack of Hogwarts changed the tone of the book significantly, and not in a good way. The ending where Harry has to die but he gets to live because of love seemed really Doctor Who-ish (what’s with British media and the power of love trumping everything?) and terrible. The plot was also pretty implausible, even by Harry Potter standards – Harry and his friends escape from three of the most heavily guarded places in the wizarding world (Gringotts, the Ministry of Magic, Death Eater headquarters) through pure luck. The only thing I actually liked was Snape’s story (although I wish it wasn’t fueled by everlasting love).

One of the other main things that irritated me about the series as a whole was the house system and the treatment of Slytherin. First of all, sorting people by personality seems like a terrible idea – giving young, impressionable people less of a chance to deal with and learn from people with differing ideals. Slytherin in particular is treated as “evil”; almost everyone in it is cowardly and horrible (even the ones with redeeming qualities like Snape, Slughorn and Malfoy are all pretty unpleasant). If Gryffindor can have smart people (Hermione) and ambitious people (Percy) and even cowardly people (Peter Pettigrew), why can’t Slytherin have a few decent people? What’s the point of sorting? No wonder the wizarding world seems so prejudiced.

Okay this is long enough, but one last thing: I don’t want to give off the impression that I didn’t enjoy my reread – I did. Well, I was a bit annoyed by the last book, but I still like the series a lot, and I probably wouldn’t be so hard on it if I wasn’t so prone to over-analysing it and I could view it as just another book series – but I don’t think I’ve gotten to that point yet.

Reread: “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

secret gardenI’ve been in a big reading slump lately, but I recently went to see a stage production of The Secret Garden, and it inspired me to reread the book. I used to read this book a lot as a kid; I bought it a library sale at my school. I had never heard of it before, but the title immediately intrigued me. I hadn’t read it for about ten years though, so I was wondering how it would hold up.

Before I talk about the book, a quick review of the play. The Oberlin Summer Theater Festival produced it, and as usual, the sets, direction and acting were all top-notch (although adult actors playing ten year old characters was a bit jarring). I thought the adaptation into a play could have been better though; it was vastly simplified (the characters were all one-dimensional) and some of the events didn’t quite follow. I didn’t remember it being that way in the book, so that’s partly what prompted the reread.

I ended up enjoying the book a lot. Burnett has an engaging writing style, and even though her exposition can be a bit preachy, it rings true enough to be entertaining. The characters are (mostly) pretty complex, except for Dickon who’s basically magical, but that’s okay. Mary and Colin’s friendship made me smile – they’re both lonely, selfish and spoiled, but paradoxically they’re the only people that can help each other become a better person. Everyone else is just too normal.

I definitely picked up on a lot more of the subtle characterisation now that I’m older. The characters are all products of their experiences – Mrs. Medlock seems unsympathetic at first, but she’s just used to minding her own business, Dr. Craven is not terribly invested in his patient’s recovery, but he still holds to his Hippocratic Oath pretty strongly. I’d forgotten about the wonderful character of Mrs. Sowerby, who is responsible for everything sensible that happens in the book (the play omitted her entirely!)

The book is not without its flaws, some due to its time (I winced at the description of native Indians as “not real people”, although Mary was being particularly bratty at the time). Sometimes Burnett is pretty moralistic, and the serendipitous Magic that everything good is blamed on seems a bit hokey to me (but these days, everyone is taught to take charge of their own life and make stuff happen themselves, not depend on the universe’s goodwill – another sign of the cultural shift since the book was written). It is a book with ten year old protagonists, though, and I can distinctly remember being in awe of the wonders of the world then, so maybe I shouldn’t fault it.

My favourite Burnett book when I was younger was Little Lord Fauntleroy; I think I’m going to reread that next.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Frederick A. Stokes, 1911 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #13: Towers of Midnight

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.

towersofmidnightFinally, we’re at the last book of the Great Wheel of Time Reread. I’d originally thought about rereading New Spring too, but I can’t keep myself from reading A Memory of Light anymore.

Probably the biggest change in this book is Rand turning into an infinitely compassionate Messianic figure. While I’m glad that Emotionless Rand is gone, I’m not sure if I like Jedi Rand any better. He still lacks the quirks that make a character endearing, but I guess his job is to save the world, not be endearing. At least I didn’t wince every time there was a scene with him.

So… Graendal isn’t dead? Dammit! I did not remember this, I thought she was a goner. She actually drives a lot of Perrin’s plot, so I’m not sure why I didn’t remember it, but that sucks. At least Halima/Aran’gar is gone.

Perrin finally accepts his destiny as a Wolfbrother and undergoes extreme Tel’aran’rhiod training provided by Hopper. Perrin’s character arc has been stagnant for a while – he’s always had problems accepting his wolf nature, his leadership qualities, his battle skills. He’s always said “fine, I’ll do this ONE thing, and then I can go back to being a blacksmith”. He confronts much of the same issues in this book, but instead of just accepting it, he embraces it. And then he proceeds to school Egwene in Tel’aran’rhiod! And then he rediscovers Power-wrought weapons and forges a legendary hammer! Go Perrin!

There’s a lot of embracing reality in this book – Gawyn finally realises that to have Egwene, he needs to drop his preconceptions and actually start listening to people. Galad realises that the world isn’t just black and white – Light and Dark, and that allies can be found anywhere. Morgase realises that she can marry Tallanvor and be okay with it. Lan realises that his people regard him as a king despite his reluctance, and fully accepts that he needs to lead them. Finally, everyone’s getting over their shit!

I was glad that Morgase finally got a break – she’s been through hell and back again several times already. At least she knows it wasn’t her fault, and that it was a Forsaken that messed with her mind. I was also glad that she was able to reunite with all three of her kids.

Moiraine gets rescued! I don’t really have any words for this except “YAY!” And Jain Farstrider finally revealed himself! I hope Mat gets to pass Jain’s message to Malkier on to Lan.

There were several touching and very well done moments in the book – in no particular order – Lan riding through the Borderlands, Faile and Perrin’s anniversary and reconciliation (as well as Faile’s realisation of how immature she used to be), Bornhald stabbing Byar, Ituralde’s desperate fight in Saldaea, the Kandori Guard Tower scene, Olver picking up his knife to defend Caemlyn, Grady and Neald realising that they’re fighting to live instead of die with the taint cleansed, Bethamin and Seta assuring Mat that they will do their best to show the Seanchan Empire that channeling is okay, Mat and Perrin’s meeting after eight books, Perrin watching and rejoicing at Rand’s epiphany on Dragonmount in Tel’aran’rhiod.

This book also has funny moments! Mat’s letter to Elayne was hilarious (“Your Royal Bloody in My Back”), and so was Moiraine’s disbelieving “You accidentally married the Seanchan Empress?” I was also very amused by Berelain and Galad falling in love immediately – the two most beautiful people in the world, of course. I particularly loved Faile’s comparison of Galad and Perrin’s looks (“you can’t compare a stained glass to a sturdy cabinet built by a master carpenter”). And Mat and Birgitte got to go drinking together again!

Elayne continues to annoy me – her treatment of Perrin was abominable. I understand that she fears rebellion in Andor, but… the Two Rivers hasn’t seen any support from Andor in five generations, and she says she’s going to execute Perrin? Plus, she goes off alone again to interrogate the Black Ajah. Plus, she’s trying to seize the throne of Cairhien two days before the Last Battle. It’s not that I dislike Elayne, but she’s just so… royal.

Nynaeve gets back to being awesome in this book – she heals the madness caused by the taint on saidin, she gets Lan’s bond from Myrelle and she passes the hardest Aes Sedai testing ever. I loved Rand telling her not to be a Stock Aes Sedai and instead focus on her strengths – passion and compassion, and let them show. And then she does exactly that at her testing, and stands up for herself. Very cool.

Egwene… I wish she wasn’t opposed to Rand’s idea of breaking the seals, because dammit, don’t make the same mistake every Aes Sedai makes and try to control Rand! Trust him! Other than that, Egwene is pretty awesome – defeating Mesaana and killing a bunch of Black Ajah, creating a Channeling Women Alliance of Randland, bringing the Hall of the Tower to line by changing some rules that allowed people to be super sneaky. Oh, and bonding Gawyn and saving his life, I suppose.

Wow, so much stuff happens in this book. I’ll attack them by plotline.

Black Tower – there’s a Dreamspike on it! And everyone’s trapped within, and people are being turned to the Shadow (poor Tarna, I liked you). I guess this might be to create a Dreadlord factory for the Last Battle, I hope Pevara and Androl can stop it. And bring down Taim.

The future of the Aiel – these were actually some of the best chapters of the book, including Aviendha’s encounter with “Nakomi”. I really hope A Memory of Light explains who Nakomi is. I also really hope the Aiel’s future can be changed once Aviendha convinces Rand that the Aiel need a purpose, that the Dragon’s Peace should apply to them too? Also, the future that Aviendha saw says that Rand bowed to the Seanchan – I hope that can change too, but judging by Tuon’s current attitude, I’m not sure.

The Seanchan – they now have traveling, and Tuon is still adamantly opposed to leaving channelers free. I’m not sure how her attitude will turn around in one book, but I really hope it does. Right now, they seem to be planning more assaults of the Dragon-related forces.

Padan Fain – is still alive and kicking, but now has a can of Portable Mashadar. Last seen heading to Shayol Ghul to wait for Rand. Scary.

Borderlander armies – now on Rand’s side! Yay! And Rand apologises to Hurin!

Caemlyn – last seen burning. Luckily, Talmanes is on it, thanks to Olver. Why didn’t Mat open Verin’s letter?!

And last, but not least – R.I.P. Hopper and Nicola Treehill. I was hoping Nicola would make something of herself, and Hopper deserves sainthood for teaching Perrin so well. I will miss you, Hopper.

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (The Wheel of Time, #13)
Tor Books, 2010 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #12: The Gathering Storm

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.

GatheringREV_thumbThe Gathering Storm continues the newly established tradition of A Lot of Stuff Happening. Tarmon Gai’don is most definitely coming, and the people of Randland are getting ready.

Rand continues down the path of going totally nuts – he’s convinced that he has to a weapon and show no mercy, but fails to realise that he’s not really different from the Shadow if all he can do is destroy. His chapters make for very unpleasant reading, but it’s because it’s so believable, considering all the stuff that’s been happening to him. He goes absolutely as low as he can go – using the Choedan Kal to balefire an entire fortress controlled by Graendal, for example (and a lot more, but I don’t want to dwell on it). His final epiphany on Dragonmount was a little cliché, but also necessary, and also nicely fulfills the “he shall weep over his own grave” prophecy. But I guess your life would seem pointless if you had to lead the world every time you were reincarnated, and the thing you had to realise would be that you can learn, love and improve despite that.

Anyway, for me, Verin is the real star of the book. I love the idea of Verin poking her nose into the Black Ajah out of curiosity, ending up drafted and deciding to be a spy for the Light. I also love that she goes to Egwene with her suspicions, as well as sets off a bunch of different plots – I counted a letter for Mat, and a letter for Rand and a letter for Alanna show up in the next book. I can’t wait to see where they all go. I also loved her revelation that the Shadow looks for selfishness above all in its minions, that makes the Forsaken make more sense.

Oh, and the White Tower finally reunites and Elaida is conveniently kidnapped by the Seanchan, so Egwene gets raised to be the Amyrlin! I wasn’t really happy with how Elaida was disposed off, but I’m happy that the plotline is over. Not that I disliked it, but it’s been a long and arduous road and at least they’re reunited in time for Tarmon Gai’don. I’m not sure how I feel about Egwene – I thought she was a lot more awesome the first time around. She’s still pretty awesome, but I’m not sure if I buy her character arc as much. I guess her time with the Aiel really hardened her, she’s always been full of initiative and she’s a breath of fresh air for a complacent Tower. She just seemed to jump from childish to authoritative very quickly.

I wonder where the Seanchan storyline is headed – Rand scared Tuon into opposing him, and Seanchan have to deal with that now. They also now know that Trollocs and Myrddraal aren’t a myth, and that the Last Battle is close. I’m not sure why they attacked the White Tower – killing Aes Sedai is just less power for the Light, but I guess Tuon sees herself as opposing the Shadow AND the Dragon.

Other small but very good things – Faile takes it upon herself to kill Masema in secret. I can’t say I disagree. Siuan finally bonds Gareth Bryne and promises to marry him after the Last Battle! That’s one couple I’m really rooting for – I think they’re one of the only couples where both parties are equally confident and strong. Tam and Rand reunite (even if it goes terribly) – it was nice to see Tam be a father to Rand again. Nynaeve is grown up – I’m not sure when it happens, but she controls her anger now. Maybe it’s being married and also being terrified of Rand that made her realise what’s important.

Perrin – Perrin is emo all the time, and his timeline is a month or two behind Rand’s, but we get hints of what’s happening with him through other eyes – for instance, Tam has left Perrin’s camp, and Rand sees Perrin with Galad. Most of the actual Perrin POVs are just set up, though. The same goes for Mat, although Mat is considerably more entertaining. He’s not as smoothly written (his jokes are a bit off – he’s a bit too immature), but any Mat is better than no Mat.

Gawyn continues to make me want to thump him over the head. He’s like, the Lanfear of this age, mooning over Egwene instead of Rand. Yeah, yeah, I know he has a good heart but he’s so dense! Why isn’t he in Caemlyn doing his duty to Elayne? Egwene doesn’t even need him! He’s shirking his true responsibilities AND treating Egwene like someone who can’t take care of herself. Ugh.

Other random plot points – Aviendha finally passes her test to become a Wise One (boring in this book, but good set up for the Rhuidean revelations in Towers of Midnight), the Altaran King Beslan swearing fealty to Tuon and meaning it (makes sense, his people are mostly happy, and he’s more likely to get rid of slavery from within), the Moridin/Rand connection continues – is this because of the streams of balefire? Also, where the hell is Demandred and his army?!

This was the first book partly written by Brandon Sanderson, so I was paying a lot of attention to see if the style changed. It didn’t change enough to be distracting – the plot and characters still shone through fine (with a couple of minor missteps, like Mat). I had to pay special attention to it to notice. Sanderson tends to be more direct than Jordan – Jordan will make characters hint and dance around things, but Sanderson’s more likely to have them just explain. I’m not sure which one I prefer. Most people aren’t very self-aware in the moment, so Jordan is probably more realistic, but Sanderson’s writing makes me want to punch the characters less.

Only one more book to go!

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (The Wheel of Time, #12)
Tor Books, 2009 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #11: Knife of Dreams

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.

KnifeDreamsSmallKnife of Dreams is the last Wheel of Time book written entirely by Robert Jordan. I got into the Wheel of Time after Mr. Jordan (or, properly, Mr. Rigney) died, but it still makes me very sad. Thank you for these incredible books, Mr. Rigney.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming. So, stuff starts happening again in this book! A whole lot of stuff!

We start off with Galad being awesome and killing Eamon Valda in a duel (for mistreating Morgase). Since Valda happened to be Lord Captain Commander at the time, Galad gets to take over and insist that the Whitecloaks will fight for the Light at Tarmon Gai’don, even if it’s with Aes Sedai and other former enemies. Yay! I guess this is what Galad joining the Whitecloaks was building towards, but I’m glad the Whitecloaks aren’t a force that need to be destroyed, now.

Speaking of other fanatics, Masema manages to turn Aram against Perrin, but Aram dies before he can do any damage. I’m glad Faile gets rescued, though – that plotline is probably my least favourite. I was hoping Masema would die too, but I guess that happens in the next book. Perrin’s temporary alliance with the Seanchan is awesome; Tylee was pretty cool. I especially loved when they “recognise” him as part of the Prophecies of the Dragon – now both Mat and Perrin are in the Prophecies.

Another scene with Ituralde in the prologue, and he disappears for the rest of the book. At least stuff is happening in Arad Doman, though, with Rand sending his forces there, plus food via the Sea Folk. Graendal, you’ve got it coming.

Oh, and Halima/Aran’gar is finally exposed by a visiting Asha’man who battled her at Shadar Logoth. Unfortunately, she escapes before she gets her comeuppance. And we get a Romanda point of view to expose her.

The Forsaken of the Book is undoubtedly Semirhage, who shows up in style. She’s been masquerading as Tuon’s Voice, but apparently she’s tired of being a servant (even one that gets to legally torture Tuon), so she went ahead and killed most of the Seanchan leadership and thrown the whole continent into chaos. The most impressive Forsaken so far, I think. She also causes Rand to lose his left arm, so that’s pretty cool too. I thought she died in this book, but I guess we have more awesome evilness to look forward to, which is fine by me. (Rand has been so bland that I’m kind of on Semirhage’s side, even if she is a horrible sadist. At least she has personality!)

Oh and Elayne finally becomes Queen of Andor, after a bunch of fighting. She manages to get kidnapped by Darkfriends along the way, but is heroically rescued. This is a major part of the book, and it’s not like I dislike Elayne, but I don’t like her enough to care whether she gets the throne. Rand’s political machinations are fun because the fate of the world depends on him uniting everyone, but Elayne is just a queen. Not to mention that Rand could’ve popped into Caemlyn at any time and insisted that Elayne was queen, but it’s only pride that keeps her from accepting that. It worked fine for the other countries – why not Andor? The only thing about the Caemlyn plotline that I was interested in was Vandene’s revenge for her sister’s murder, and that ended up being anticlimactic.

I’ll get to Mat in a second, but this book was filled with people being awesome. Lan rides off to Tarwin’s Gap and Nynaeve goes around and spreads the word that the last King of Malkier is riding, and raises him an army. Verin leaves Rand a cryptic note warning him about the Black Ajah – this doesn’t seem awesome right now, but considering what Verin does in the next book, it is. And the Moiraine rescue plot begins – Thom, Mat and Jain Farstrider (I refuse to call him Noal) decide to set forth to the Tower of Ghenjei once they can. And Suroth gets totally owned by Tuon – bye Suroth! It was not at all nice to know you.

Egwene is pretty great too, as she convinces everyone that she is the true Amyrlin. I don’t think it’s that hard, given that Elaida is being totally crazy (it has to be Mashadar! No one is that insane.) and the Black Ajah is sowing chaos.

Mat is finally reunited with Talmanes and the Band of the Red Hand, and he gets to use his General skills and cause trouble for the Seanchan that are (unknowingly) trying to kill Tuon. I love the scene where Tuon realises that she’s underestimated him, and he’s only been amusing because a “lion stuffed in a stable” can be amusing – but now that he’s loose, he’s very awesome. Mat and Tuon also get married just as Tuon leaves, but it has to be the strangest marriage I’ve ever heard of.
Tuon: “Maybe we’ll eventually fall in love.”
Mat: “Well, I’m going to continue fighting the empire that you rule.”
Tuon: “And I’m going to try and take over this whole continent.”

I wish there was some definitive solution to damane and slavery – Rand, Mat and Perrin all tolerate damane to achieve their aims in this book (Perrin actually helps hundreds of Aiel get collared!), but I’m really not sure how they’re eventually going to convince the Seanchan that people aren’t property or pets.

I’m terrible at endings as always, so yeah. See you next time!

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #11)
Tor Books, 2005 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #10: Crossroads of Twilight

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.

COTCoverAh, Crossroads of Twilight. The Book Where Nothing Happens. Okay, several plotlines are advanced by a hair, and some new ones are introduced. But they go nowhere.

The fifth Great Captain, Rodel Ituralde, finally shows up, and he seems to making the best of a situation where he should’ve been playing into Graendal’s hands. I already like him. Too bad he doesn’t show up again. Eamon Valda and the Whitecloak army are the next to show up, also never to be seen again. I guess the point was to establish that they exist and will be in play at some point.

Logain and his two “bonded” Aes Sedai are the first characters to show up that don’t disappear for the rest of the book, but when they do show up to warn Rand about Taim’s evilness, Rand has way too much stuff on his plate to deal with it. Poor Logain.

The White Tower has several different plotlines going on and those are a big part of the book – the Black Ajah hunters stumbling upon the mystery of too-young Sitters, Alviarin finally being deposed (but then set after the Black Ajah), and Gawyn and the Younglings being banished. Not to mention peace talks with the Rebels, the Red Ajah making a plot to bond Asha’man and Egwene being captured (okay, that happens in this book, but it happens in the last page! It doesn’t count as something exciting.)

Speaking of Aes Sedai plotlines, it’s so frustrating to be aware that Halima is Aran’gar, and is channeling saidin despite being in a woman’s body. Of course this is unthinkable for the Aes Sedai, so it makes total sense that no one thinks about it, but argh! Stop having her massage you, Egwene! Realise that she’s killing Aes Sedai! Dammit!

Mat and Tuon’s plotline remains my favourite – I love that both of them know they’re supposed to get together because of prophecy (although neither knows the other knows) and are trying their best to like each other. Not much actually happens, but they get to know each other and try to outsmart each other. And Mat kills a woman to keep her secret (and regrets it, but doesn’t get into a puddle over it. I wish Rand learned from him.) There’s also foreshadowing of the Moiraine rescue, when Mat notices Thom repeatedly reading her letter (he doesn’t know it’s her letter).

Oh, and the Andoran succession plotline… snore. A bunch of stuff happened, but it looks like the Darkfriends have Elayne under watch, but are also supporting her enemies. Her enemies plot, Elayne is determined to survive the siege. Lots of talking happens. Snore.

Perrin’s in this book too! He gets madder and madder and can’t wait to save Faile! He’s willing to torture Shaido to save Faile! He gets emo and abandons his axe after he realises he’s willing to torture! Meanwhile, Faile is plotting her escape before Perrin gets hurt trying to find her. Faile has failed to plot and Perrin has failed to find out about her by the time the book ends, though. At least there’s a glimmer of a plan – allying with the Seanchan.

Rand is in this book too – he’s hanging out in a manor and resting. Why is saidin making him nauseous? (Maybe it’s because he’s sad and affecting the world, much like weevils in all the food?) Also, what’s the deal with the tav’eren and colours? Oh, on the last page of the book, he agrees to meet Semirhage the Daughter of the Nine Moons.

I think the only main character that doesn’t get a POV is Nynaeve. But Loial shows up! Yay!

Onto Knife of Dreams, where Stuff Happens.

Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #10)
Tor Books, 2003 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #9: Winter’s Heart

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.

WoT09_WintersHeartOkay, this entry is going to be much shorter than the previous ones (although probably not shorter than the next one). I want to get to Knife of Dreams and further as soon as possible.

The major awesome thing that happens in this book is that saidin gets cleansed. This is probably one of my favourite scenes in the series – Rand and Nynaeve channeling furiously for hours while their allies, both male and female, Aes Sedai, Asha’man, Sea Folk, and Seanchan fight off at least six Forsaken. I would really love to see this on film at some point.

Other plotlines that advance – the Black Ajah hunters in the White Tower finally find their first sister, Perrin finds out about Faile’s kidnapping and is anxious to do something about it (while Berelain takes full advantage of the situation), Rand kills the Asha’man that tried to kill him at the end of the last book, and finally accepts Cadsuane’s guidance. Oh, and Min, Elayne and Aviendha bond Rand (which involves Min and Aviendha meeting and getting drunk with Birgitte). And the Sea Folk continue to be extremely annoying.

A major part of the book is Elayne trying to consolidate her power even more, and some Darkfriends trying to get closer to her. I wasn’t really that interested in it, although it should be more interesting now that she has armies marching on Caemlyn, and she’s made a deal with the Borderlanders to pretend to match on Caemlyn. Oh, also, she’s pregnant.

Also, apparently Mazrim Taim being a Darkfriend was made clear in this book – one of the evil Asha’man says that Taim ordered him to kill Rand. I guess it isn’t fully clear – he could’ve just been jealous of Rand, but it’s a very strong sign.

It was interesting to see Elaida’s party’s reception at the Black Tower – I didn’t remember the forced bonding, and definitely not that Logain did it. It seemed way too much like a mixture of Compulsion and damane to me – I didn’t like it at all. I guess it’s Taim’s orders, and Logain’s trying to obey enough not get kicked out of the Asha’man so he can help the Light, but ick.

I know you’ve been waiting for me to mention Mat. Mat is back, although he doesn’t show up for half the book. And Tuon is finally introduced! And kidnapped when Mat escapes Ebou Dar, along with her maid, a couple of former Aes Sedai damanes, some sul’dam, Egeanin and Bayle Domon, Setalle Anan, the former Panarch of Tarabon, Thom, Juilin and Jain Farstrider (whose identity we’re not aware of yet). A very disparate group of people, and I’m looking forward to their adventures.

Rand is still extremely hard – he talks about killing people with absolutely no emotion, and he mistrusts everyone. He makes for a really unpleasant protagonist, especially since not just one but three of the main character girls are in love with him. There are already mentions of weevils in the food (although it’s not connected to his temperament yet). I can’t wait until he gets over his nonsense, but I think that takes until Knife of Dreams.

Crossroads of Twilight next… I’m not really looking forward to it.

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #9)
Tor Books, 2000 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #8: The Path of Daggers

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.

thepathofdaggersI have no pithy introduction for The Path of Daggers, so let’s get to it.

The biggest things that happen in this book is that Elayne, Aviendha and Nynaeve finally use the Bowl of the Winds and fix the weather caused by the Dark One, and Rand finally battles (and vanquishes) some Seanchan that were threatening his new kingdom of Illian. But of course, the fun parts of Wheel of Time aren’t the “big” things.

This book was a bit annoying because Mat wasn’t in it. I probably wouldn’t be so irritated about this, but last we saw, Mat was running around Ebou Dar during a Seanchan attack, looking for a ten year old boy. In this book, Rand pushes the Seanchan back to Ebou Dar, so we cover a lot more time with no whiff of what happens to Mat. Yeah, I know he meets Tuon and all that, but still, it’s annoying!

Egwene begins her road to awesome with this book, finally taking control of the Hall and using obscure legal rules to declare war against Elaida and give herself absolute power during wartime. I was wondering why they weren’t using Traveling to get to Tar Valon, but I guess the rebel Aes Sedai were generally dragging their feet – Egwene puts a stop to this and last we saw, the army was outside Tar Valon.

Some exciting things happen with Perrin’s camp – the Queen of Ghealdan joins them, the ex-Queen of Andor becomes Faile’s servant (no one knows who she is, of course) – probably the best time in Morgase’s life for the last couple of years. Elyas shows up! I love the Wolfbrothers, so that was pretty exciting. But then of course, she gets kidnapped by Sevanna’s group, so that ended – at least that’s the last of her troubles. (This also means Faile gets kidnapped and that plotline gets stretched out to forever and is probably one of my least favourites… but I’ll suffer through it).

The Consolidation of the women-who-can-channel into the White Tower begins, and that is one of the more awesome parts, even if it’s slow. Egwene gathers a thousand new Novices, Elayne and Nynaeve gather Windfinders and Kinswomen, although there’s a lot of friction there (I hope that gets resolved quickly). And Rand collects sul’dam and damane on his battles against the Seanchan – I think those join, too.

What does Cadsuane end up teaching Rand? I love that her tactics of ignoring him worked and he’s asked her to be his advisor. He also gets a few more Aes Sedai to swear fealty to him – I can’t really approve of that, but I guess the Light can’t win without some dirty tricks. Although Rand being mad all the time isn’t doing any good, either.

Elayne finally reaches Caemlyn and starts consolidating her power. I can’t believe Dyelin’s willingness to support Elayne, but I guess she’s smart enough not to want the job of Queen, but dutiful enough to make sure someone good gets the throne. I don’t think I found that plotline that interesting on my first read, but we’ll see.

Other random things – the Shadow has had enough of the Forsaken trying to do their own thing, and is now putting them all firmly on a leash. Osan’gar tries attacking Rand with a few more Darkfriend asha’man, but he manages to avoid harm, and they escape – too bad. Nynaeve hasn’t learned to control her anger yet – she’s just madder because she likes being around Lan so much and knows it. Oh, and Rand has been thinking about cleansing saidin using Callandor, but quickly abandons that plan after he discovers Callandor’s flaw. I didn’t remember that happening, or even Callandor being used again. Good to know he had a plan, though, and that it involved Nynaeve.

Okay, onto Winter’s Heart and Mat. Mat, you’re never allowed to leave again.

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #8)
Tor Books, 1998 | Buy the book

Wheel of Time Reread #7: A Crown of Swords

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.

ACOSCoverA Crown of Swords is where the books start to really slow down – the whole book takes place over a couple of weeks, along with some events from the previous books from other perspectives. There’s a definite shift in writing style, there are more flashbacks and retrospectives, and more things happen off-screen. For instance, we see Sevanna’s view of Dumai’s Wells, and Egwene’s POV way before Moghedien goes missing.

Rand continues to make preparations to attack Sammael, and he is finally killed at the end of the book (although by Mashadar, not Rand). The Crown of Illian is offered to Rand (and renamed the Crown of Swords) – now he controls the Aiel, Illian, Tear, Andor and Cairhien. Aside from that, Rand doesn’t do a lot in this book – he does a lot of political maneuvering and moping. (Yeah, I know Rand has a hard life with immense amounts of responsibility, but it’s still not that interesting, despite all my sympathy).

Cadsuane finally shows up! I know she’s very polarising, but I love her. She’s the one Aes Sedai that doesn’t mind saying what she thinks, and although she treats Rand with little respect, I think it’s good for him that he sees that not everyone who wants to help him is either intimidated by him or loves him.

We finally meet some honourable nobles – the Cairhienin Lord Dobraine was shown to be honourable at the end of the previous book, but it continues here. We also meet Cairhienin Lady Caraline and the Tairen Lord Darlin, who were rebelling against Rand – one would assume that that meant they were annoying, but we find out that they’re just concerned about their homelands, and are actually pretty cool people. That’s what I love about Jordan’s books – he creates stereotypes, but then isn’t afraid to break them. Another example – we also meet someone from the Red Ajah that’s actually nice, hey Pevara! I think Teslyn is actually pretty cool too, although it’s not made clear in this book.

Morgase continues having the worst time in the world – she’s coerced into sleeping with Eamon Valda, and then the Seanchan attack and ask her to be their puppet ruler in Andor. She finally escapes, though (but as I recall from future books, she’s headed straight to Sevanna’s camp).

Nynaeve finally gets over her block! Maybe now she won’t be so angry all the time, since there’s no advantage anymore. I hope so, anyway. Oh, and Lan and Nynaeve get married, and everyone else thinks Lan is nuts but also step even more lightly around Nynaeve now. I can’t help but like Nynaeve, despite her total craziness, but I concur.

I like the story with the Kin – it advances the plotline of “how far the Aes Sedai have fallen” even more, and they seem like good people. I also like the Elayne and Nynaeve corral the Sea Folk Windfinders, and they all get out of there before the Seanchan arrive and make everyone damane (I’m attributing that to Mat’s lucky ta’veren-ness, since no one knew the Seanchan were attacking except for Nynaeve’s vague premonitions of a storm coming). And they even manage to find the Bowl of the Winds! And they apologise to Mat and start being (somewhat) nice to him!

Mat continues to be my favourite character – the scene I was waiting for where Mat and Birgitte realise who the other person is, and get drunk while reminiscing over memories of thousands of years ago… yeah. That’s one of my favourite scenes in the Wheel of Time. I forgot that the Horn of Valere connected them both, I was just assuming they’d get along because of their personalities. I also loved the moment where Mat realises that Birgitte is a woman that doesn’t confuse the hell out of him, and that women like that apparently exist.

The whole Mat/Tylin story always left me uncomfortable, especially the way everyone laughs at him about it. Reversing the genders would make it a horror story, but this is a problem that Jordan always has. Mat does have a bunch of funny moments though – especially the scene where he has different Aes Sedai factions pulling at him from different sides… literally, until his coat comes off. I’m so mad that Mat isn’t going to be in the next book.

Other things – I don’t think I picked up that Dashiva was Osan’gar on my first read. I knew there was something off about him, but I thought he was just going insane as male channelers are wont to do. Also, I was really confused about Elaida building a palace for the Amyrlin where she was clearly also worried about the Last Battle coming up, but Leigh Butler’s Wheel of Time reread points out that she’s being influenced by Mashadar/Mordeth since she was hanging out with Padan Fain earlier. Makes some sense. I’m sorry for what happened to Colavaere (I wish Rand didn’t have his Woman Hangup), but at least I’ll stop being reminded of this song.

I guess I should say a bit about Egwene, but there wasn’t that much – she’s still trying to consolidate power, and she’s fighting with some Forsaken-given headaches. And she’s taking after Rand (although she doesn’t know it) and demanding oaths of fealty from people. I thought Egwene was a lot more awesome in my first read, and I still can’t see why.

Last but not least – welcome back, Ishmael! You’re way better as Moridin-with-a-mysterious-connection-to-Rand than as “Ba’alzamon”.

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time, #7)
Tor Books, 1996 | Buy the book