Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Eye of the World, chapters 14 and 15, in which a dream sequence is actually good

Only two chapters this week, because there's actually stuff worth talking about in them.  Still have to sift out great tracts of chatter, but I knew what I was getting into, and the novelty of a dream sequence that's actually got some weight to it was worth the slog.

(Content: animal death. Fun content: I am the captain of the HMS Mat/Perrin.)

The Eye of the World: p. 192--229
Chapter Fourteen: The Stag and Lion

We last left our heroes arriving at an inn, which is apparently jam-packed with waves of people finally leaving the mountains after getting snowed in all winter.  Wouldn't people leave the mountains for the winter and work mines in the summer?  I confess to not knowing standard practice, but that seems counterintuitive to me.  Lan splits off to find news from the loud and joyful common room, and Rand decides not to follow because he smells.  (Literally.  Shouldn't Lan smell just as much?  Or more?)  The ladies split off and the dudes are brought to a bath chamber, with a circle of twelve copper tubs (everyone likes washing themselves panopticon-style, right?) and inexplicably extensive quantities of hot water.  The gleeman is at one point described as sinking up to his nose, and there are four tubs, so I'm guessing 140 gallons of water at 38C, and they were just able to provide that, in this super-crowded inn in the chilly springtime, in the time it took Our Heroes to get naked.  [Drink!  Sorry, no, wait, this isn't Orson Scott Card anymore.]  The first house I rented couldn't provide that many hot baths on its best day.  Apparently there are witch-hunters in the city looking for Aes Sedai; have they searched the boiler rooms?  Or grown suspicious that there are boiler rooms?

The bathtub attendant (most awkward job?) sees their weapons and asks if there's anything Dangerous going on in hick country, and there's half a page of everyone bluffing and trying to stop Mat from revealing that they were attacked by trollocs.  Lan arrives and shoves the bath attendant out of the room.
"Don't talk about Trollocs," Lan said grimly. "Don't even think about Trollocs. [...] If the Children of the Light heard Trollocs were after you, they'd be burning to get their hands on you.  To them, it would be as much as naming you Darkfriend."
Doesn't that make the opposite of sense?  'The forces of evil want to murder him--he must be on their side!'  Shouldn't being wanted by trollocs be a badge of honour?  Anyway, Lan is so frigid about the risk they're putting Moiraine in that they all spend the rest of the bath in silence.  (That or Lan got naked and everyone was just so 'daaaamn, that butt is cubic' that they couldn't speak.)  Afterwards, despite the uber-crowded inn they get a private dining room.  There was no one else in the baths, either; how is this crowded?

Rand shows a rare flash of Doing Better when he sees Egwene again:
It seemed they could not trust anyone but themselves [....] And Egwene was still Egwene. Moiraine said it would have happened to her anyway, this touching the True Source. She had no control over it, and that meant it was not her fault. And she was still Egwene.
Folks round these parts already know my feelings on the 'born this way' argument, but if Rand's childhood friendships and teenage boners can help him grapple with the idea that people are complex and not just inherently and arbitrarily good or evil based on fairy tales, that's a start.  Of course, Egwene immediately spins away from him and he thinks 'well, if she's going to be like that about it' and they don't talk.  I would call this teenage realism, except I gather that this is going to be a running problem for everyone in the series.

The innkeeper delivers chickens and veggies for all, and his Distinguishing Character Trait is that he can't shut up, so his every appearance has resulted in at least half a page of blather, but Moiraine insists the food is a feast and he should feel proud.  I hope Lan overpays the hell out of him too and this isn't just perks of celebrity.  Lan's news says that the false Dragon, Logain, has won a major battle, but no one can agree what happened to the Aes Sedai that fought him, if they died or lived or joined him.  Rand's genre-savviness power detects that Lan and Logain were previously bros.  (Logain is such a brooding bad boy name; is he going to stay a mid-level bad guy or switch to Team Good?)

They get split among three rooms, girls in one, Lan, Thom, and Rand in another, so the good ship Mat/Perrin is still sailing steady.  Rand immediately falls into another plot-relevant dream, but I don't hate this one.  I actually think it's one of the better passages we've had so far, because Rand wanders an Escher-esque castle with a view of an impossible sky until he meets a dude who calls himself "Ba'alzamon".  I was a big fan of Digimon as a child, so I'm going to take this sole incident to call him Ballsmon and then show restraint for the rest of the series.  For some reason Rand identifies this dude as the Dark One, but he's the guy from the prologue:
Dressed in dark clothes of a fine cut, he seemed in the prime of his maturity, and Rand supposed women would have found him good-looking. [NO HOMO YOU GUYS.] 
"Once more we meet face-to-face,"the man said and, just for an instant, his mouth and eyes became openings into endless caverns of flame.
The thing that's less boring about this dream sequence is that Rand spends the whole time insisting that it is a dream and being distressed about his inability to wake up, while Ba'alzamon basically starts singing Sympathy for the Devil:
"I stood at Lews Therin Kinslayer's shoulder when he did the deed that named him. [....] I whispered in Artur Hawkwing's ear, and the length and breadth of the land Aes Sedai died."
He tries to get Rand to drink from a goblet, insists that he has never been bound and could destroy Rand at any time, mutters a lot of stuff that obviously won't make sense until later, but there's one interesting bit, when he claims that Logain and various others (past false Dragons, I assume) are "being used", as Rand will be.  He also claims that if Rand tells the Aes Sedai about this, he'll be a threat to them and they'll kill him instead of using him.  I've become so inured to people expositing half-sensical phrases at me that I mostly just enjoyed the scene.  Maybe that's the secret of the series?  Sort of like how in Fifty Shades we start looking forward to the sex scenes because people talk less, maybe Wheel of Time transitions into a state where the Generic Fantasy Cliches become a kind of bland cracker base upon which we can start to savour the hints of things that have actual flavour.  (Plus I just enjoy villains cheerfully delivering their resumes.)  When Rand finally awakes, he thinks about asking Moiraine for help with his nightmares, but doesn't, because that would make that last scene relevant.

Chapter Fifteen: Strangers and Friends

Rand wakes late with aches and a headache, which are obviously totally reasonable symptoms of a nightmare.  He sees the others have taken their weapons with them, and straps on his sword as well, with a nice lampshade as he tells himself "it was not because he had often daydreamed about walking the streets of a real city wearing a sword".  Of course, Rand knows that his heron sword hypothetically marks him as a master fencer, which could be a mite attention-grabbing, but I guess we'll just skip that for now.

Rand wanders to the kitchen, where there's a full page and a half of the innkeeper and cook talking about her cat and guest complaints, but in a shocking twist, it turns out to be plot-relevant, as a dozen rats were found around the inn with their backs broken, just as Ba'alzamon did to a rat in Rand's dream.  Interesting way to prove your power.  I don't expect this to be anything more than a throwaway scare tactic, but having sufficient physical power to snap a dozen rats in half at will seems like a waste of that power, when you're an imprisoned god of evil threatening the Chosen One.  If you know where he is (in order to kill the surrounding rats), why not drop your monster horde on him?  If you have Rat Control, why not swarm him in the night?  If you can snap bones, why not kill him outright, or one of his friends if you have some purpose for Rand left?  The only way this makes sense to me is if the Dark One only has the power to harm vermin, and can channel that into the vicinity of someone whose mind he has invaded, but can't use that connection to actually find the target.  That is a very specific power.

Perrin turns out also to be in bed, and he and Mat apparently had the same dream Rand did, but Mat tried to laugh it off, whereas Perrin still feels ill.  Rand leaves him behind, steps outside and is immediately bewildered by the sheer number of people on the street, none of whom know each other.  Rand's bemusement at the idea of people from the same city being strangers is the first rural thing with any verisimilitude about him, and I approve.

Also, called it, because a short-haired girl whom he saw talking with Moiraine the night before appears and immediately comments on how weird it is to see a country boy with a heron sword.  Rand is a bad spy.  The girl introduces herself as Min, reveals that she knows their deal, and quickly exposits that she has Plot Relevance Senses, or sees "pieces of the Pattern", if you prefer.  There's some really blatant imagery about how their party altogether creates and aura of sparks trying to ward off a great black shadow.  She also states that Rand and Egwene are in love with each other (which: what, no, they at best are in boners with each other) but are not meant for each other, so yay for the initial love interest not being the real One True Love Interest?

Oh god, it goes on with the symbolism forever, Lan has "seven ruined towers around his head" and a baby with a sword, Mat and Perrin have stuff like "an eye on a balance scale", and this would all be much more interesting to me if it were in any way informative.  It's just the author coming up with shorthand symbols for future plot points and rattling them off, so that readers can spend the rest of the series going 'That's the thing that Min meant when she saw the thing!'  Rand gets a better quality of montage, including "a sword that isn't a sword" and three women standing around his funeral bier.  That's at least got some plot gravitas to it, because we've already heard something about a legendary maybe-a-sword-but-not-quite, and in another series we might actually be wondering if Rand would die in the end.  She also sees a fuckton of lightning, which I assume hints at Rand's future duel with the false Dragon.

Pseudo-exposition done, Min lets Rand run off to wander the city in a distressed daze.  We get a solid page and a half of city description before Rand finally finds the peddler from several chapters ago, believed deceased, now a ragged homeless man.  Rand promises his horses are safe back in Emond's Field, and says he should come back with Rand to the inn, where they're staying with Moiraine.  I'm going to say 85% chance that the peddler is going to sell them out to the witch-hunting Whitecloaks in vengeance for how he feels Rand's village betrayed him.

Rand runs into Mat next, they recap their dream and the rats, and resolve not to tell Moiraine, because she's obviously untrustworthy and might murder them all on the spot if she finds out the devil is in their heads.  Rand also promised not to tell her that he found the peddler.  So beginneth the path of Oh My Fucking Word Just Tell People What You Know And Get It Over With, I think.

They spot a bunch of dudes with white cloaks and pointy metal hats, making me wonder if they are intentionally supposed to invoke the KKK.  If so: I find this sketchy, especially since thus far we have an utterly white cast.  They're the Children of the Light, of course, and because Mat makes bad decisions he 'pranks' them by using his sling to set a small avalanche of full barrels rolling into the street, thus panicking everyone and splattering the neat white cloaks with mud, ha ha.  Rand half thinks this is a bad idea and half wants to run with it, and is left laughing alone with the whitecloaks when they recover.  He tries to intimidate them by casually displaying his heron sword, to little effect, and they bluster until the town guard arrives.  I think the implication is that some magical force is pushing Rand to get into trouble, but it's not clear.

Rand escapes, they regroup with the gleeman, and recap again all that's happened.  Thom confirms that all the names in their dreams were powerful figures in history (he doesn't say what they have in common, but I'm running with 'false Dragons' for now), but he's Obi-Wan levels of vague on whether the Aes Sedai killed them.  We've also now had the Eye of the World and the Horn of Valere name-dropped as big magical artifacts (the Horn being related to the Great Hunt, which I know is book two's title) that people go on quests to find.  They return to the inn where Perrin reports that Nynaeve from back home has caught up with them, having bullied the ferryman into rowing her across the river after Moiraine obliterated his ferry.
"From my observation of the young woman," Thom said, "I don't think she will stop until she has had her say." [....] 
They exchanged glances, drew deep breaths, and marched inside as if to face Trollocs.
Totally less sexist than Tolkien, though!

Next week: 


  1. Does anyone with better memory of the first three books have any clue what Ba'alzamon was doing with Rand? This seems like the least efficient way to turn someone to the Dark Side ever. (Also, I'm not sure Tel'aran'rhiod as later described even works such that he could have killed those rats.)
    The Whitecloaks, as witch hunters and as an international force, make even less sense than Ba'alzamon's actions, iirc.

  2. Did Jordan literally use Fellowship of the Ring as his outline? *boggles* Yeah, sure, we've got prophetic dreams and women and such, but he even made sure to include a bath scene.

    The only way this makes sense to me is if the Dark One only has the power to harm vermin, and can channel that into the vicinity of someone whose mind he has invaded, but can't use that connection to actually find the target.

    It could - in a turn your head just right and squint sort of way - make sense if Ba'alzamon wants to recruit the potential Chosen Ones. I would still think that capturing them and trying to win them over in person - through logic, explanation of the benefits package, torture, how much worse things will be if they don't join Team Evil, or whatever - would make a lot more sense.

    I do want to know what it is about villains that make people opt to believe them. "Don't tell the Aes Sedai." "Okey-dokeys!" Why do people never run off and do the exact opposite of what the villain tells them to do? They're villains, damn it, they're not trustworthy. It's right there in the job description!

    (Yes, I realize a smart villain could take advantage of that, too, and tell people to do the opposite of what they want them to do.)

    I do kind of like that they're still all potential Chosen Ones. Even if Samurai Dad makes it too obvious who the Chosen One is.

    because Mat makes bad decisions he 'pranks' them by using his sling to set a small avalanche of full barrels rolling into the street, thus panicking everyone and splattering the neat white cloaks with mud, ha ha.

    Why? Okay, yeah, I'm sure he's based on That Fool of a Took, but Pippin's mistakes were a lot more plausible than this. You're being hunted by supernatural horrible things, you're trying to keep yourselves a secret, so you decide to prank another group of people who might be a danger to you? In a strange town? Is his alignment Chaotic Stupid?

    If this happened before the prophetic dreams and near destruction of the town and flight from things that want to eat your face and all, fine. But now???

  3. Could prove popular as a pest control measure, though. "Hey, we've got a bad rat infestation, let's get that al'Thor guy to stay the night!"

  4. Re: the Dark One's very specific rat-related power, my family ended up discussing this after I read that paragraph to them. We came up with a theory that... well, it's still a ridiculously specific power, but at least it's funny. We came to the conclusion that the Dark One doesn't have the ability to control vermin or kill things, or anything like that. He has the ability to drop dead rats anywhere he chooses. He didn't know where Rand was, so he just peppered the countryside with dead rats, hoping to intimidate him (wherever he was).

    We spent about fifteen minutes discussing what will happen when he finds out where Rand is, and just barrages him with a steady stream of dead rats on his head to annoy him. Rand gets a specially-designed steel umbrella that he has to carry with him, leaving a trail of little rat corpses everywhere he goes. He can never take a boat anywhere unless he has at least three sailors standing beside him with buckets to bail the rats off the side, otherwise they'll sink under the weight. He becomes very popular with local cat populations, and can be easily found by the loud meowing and constant "thud thud thud" of the rats falling on his umbrella.

    It's a good thing they don't travel by car or airplane here, because that would offer all kinds of problems. He'd either have to charter low-flying planes (so that they could keep a door open and sweep out the rats periodically) or else stick to short flights and buy dozens of tickets to make up for the weight of rats that will accumulate. He would need to remove the doors of his car and just constantly sweep the rats off his lap and into the road, leaving behind a major road hazard. It would be a nightmare.

  5. I think the dead rats are a Ta'veren effect. With the way Tel'aran'rhiod works, it's possible to enter someone's dreams without knowing where they are in the waking world, so I don't think Ba'alzemon did it.
    As for his lack of seduction skills, the man is basically a mess from living far too long on the Dark One's power supply. I think he's basically trying to intimidate his target before said target gets too strong to resist him. But it doesn't work out.

  6. It is something of a recurring motif that the Forsaken are all varying degrees of incompetent isn't it...

  7. Spoiler for some later reveals, but the rat thing may actually make sense
    Gur qernzf bs punaaryref bsgra fcvyy bire vagb gur erny jbeyq, rira vasrpgvat bgure crbcyr'f qernzf naq jnxvat zbbqf. On'nymnzbaq qvqa'g xvyy gur engf, Enaq qvq. On'nymnzba whfg nygrerq Enaq'f qernzf, naq gura uvf punaaryvat cbjref xvpxrq va naq xvyyrq engf arneol va ersyrpgvba bs fnvq qernzf.

  8. Oh, so that's why he wakes up with a headache and then has the random euphoria around the Whitecloaks.

  9. Yikes. That suggests that channelers are really freaking dangerous to have around.

  10. The Stag and Lion, sheesh, now Jordan is ripping off George R.R. Martin!

  11. the Forsaken are all varying degrees of incompetent

    Yes, they are, and toward the middle of the series even they start to facepalm at Ba'alzamon's... idiosyncratic... approach to dealing with Rand.

  12. Is [Mat's] alignment Chaotic Stupid?

    HELL yes, to the point that it takes a fairly major bit of actual magic to get him to grow up a little. He takes several dozen levels in competence later on, but I don't know anyone who actually liked him in the first two books.

  13. I'm not sure if you were being ironic, but The Eye of the World was published five years before A Game of Thrones.

  14. And now I'm wondering A) how he survived the first two books and B) how the rest of the group doesn't consider him The Load. He sounds like a frat boy version of Jar-Jar Binks.

    (Also, why invent a character so annoying you have to actually use magic - not character growth - to fix them? ???)

  15. how the rest of the group doesn't consider him The Load

    Simple. Nynaeve is too busy being a self-righteous asshole Strong, Empowered Woman and demanding that Moraine and Lan justify their every move to her for Mat to get a look in.

    Also, I believe he's the first one to split off from the rest of the party, since once the plot allows him to behave sensibly he pretty promptly realizes that being in the Chosen One's party is a bad survival choice.

  16. He went from being Frat Boy Jar-Jar to the Lone Sane Man? That is some pretty intense growth.

  17. If it makes you feel any better, he still acts pretty much like a frat boy, just one with a functioning survival instinct.

  18. If the Children successfully massacred everybody with supernatural powers, would that not assure the world's continued survival?

    Unfortunately, they'd have to keep killing innocent people for that to work. Then again, the end of the world would kill a whole heck of a lot MORE innocent people. That this is actually morally complicated is why groups like the Children of the Light are usually wrong. Oddly, here, they seem to be right.

    "So what you're saying is, I should basically never ever listen to you about anything or my life will be ruined?"

    This is what just kills me about Rand listening to the guy about not telling the Aes Sedai! Dude, he flat out said that everyone who listened to him met a sticky end (and did some horrible things to boot). Do NOT listen to him. About anything. Ever. Arghfragle!

    I'm moderately surprised Mat isn't going to turn to the Dark Side, since his definition of a prank is apparently "damage somebody else's property in order to fuck with some strangers who've never done me any harm, risking injury to assorted innocent bystanders."

    Yeah, he really is the obnoxious D&D player's idea of Chaotic Neutral. Even Jordan's fix of it with magic makes me think of D&D. After all, it can be easier for a gamemaster to hand out some kind of magical "you have common sense now" item than to solve this sort of play by having logical consequences befall the character. Less whining from the player and all.

  19. Or have really strangely G-rated dreams, considering the general lack of chaos in human society.

  20. Can the Dark One warp dead rats into Rand's lungs? That would turn him into an ex-Rand fairly quickly. (Or maybe into his gut, if the Dark One can choose how the rats died, and picks "arsenic overdose.")

    And if the Dark One can drop rats at plane height, he should be able to kill Rand that way. Not sure what the terminal velocity of a rat is, but it can probably concuss.

    ...maybe the Dark One's power is to warp live rats anywhere he chooses, and Rand's power to is automatically kill any rat that approaches him. Natural enemies!

  21. And thus, Rand became the first hero pelted to death by magically transported rats.
    A fate seriously lacking in proper gravitas.

  22. I'm moderately surprised Mat isn't going to turn to the Dark Side, since his definition of a prank is apparently "damage somebody else's property in order to fuck with some strangers who've never done me any harm, risking injury to assorted innocent bystanders." That kind of minor but pointless evil seems classically devilish to me.
    He ends up as the lost-to-time inspiration for Odin, so this is surprisingly appropriate behaviour. (Also what is it with "merry pranksters" so often being written as "sadistic assholes"? It happens here, it happens in Harry Potter, it happens in Doctor Who every now and then... Tyrion in ASoIaF is maybe the closest Martin gets to the archetype and he too is more unsympathetic than I think Martin's going for. Is it a problem with protagonist-centred morality or just that comedy's really hard?)
    (About the only time it works is with actual trickster gods. Because they're assholes anyway.)

  23. iirc Ba'alzamon has major issues. Part of it is that he has two incompatible goals. He wants to kill therin/rand but he also really wants to win. He seems to define winnin as therin/rand fearing/loving/admiring/etc. him before Ba'alzamon kills him. (I think they used to be besties before he got a tad jealous and turned to the dark side so he could be more powerful than Lews Therin and therefore WIN.) Plus he really, really needs therin/rand to acknowledge that Ba'alzamon won or it isn't winning, so killing therin/rand isn't such a good idea yet.

  24. ARGH.
    The thing is, this could actually work, provided we got to see Lews Therin and Elan Morin Tedronai's interactions that spawned such behaviour. Without that it just feels contrived. (Although I think you're getting your Forsaken confused - iirc it was Demandred who was jealous of Lews Therin Telamon. Elan Morin turned evil out of despair at the endless pointless repetition of it all.)

  25. Is it a problem with protagonist-centred morality or just that comedy's really hard?


    Sometimes authors forget that what's funny in a Bugs Bunny cartoon isn't at all funny when you're dealing with real people who can be actually harmed or killed. (Rowling suffered from that. A lot.) Sometimes authors don't do a sufficient job of setting up the target of a nastier prank as deserving of it, or the audience and the author disagree about who's a deserving victim, or the circumstances are wrong, or...

    Jordan seems to have a mix of all of the above here. Barrels are dangerous. That the Children of Light are bad guys isn't sufficiently established. And there's no reason - beyond random malicious "fun" for Mat to do this. In fact, there's a whole lot of reason for him not to call attention to him and his friends.

    If the group were being chased by the Children of Light and Mat pulled this as a distraction/delaying tactic, it would work much better.

  26. The Whitecloak approach would simply drive every channeler to the hands of the Dark One, enabling him to field channeler-supported armies to trash and burn civilization while no one else had any to fight back with. It would also ensure that you would have periodic unstoppable outbreaks of male channelers rampaging with no other channelers to stop them.

  27. I could easily have gotten them confused, it's been years since I've read these. On the other hand, if Demandred was the jealous one, and Tedronai was the despairing one, then Tedronai's behavior makes even less sense than I thought.

  28. If the group were being chased by the Children of Light and Mat pulled this as a distraction/delaying tactic, it would work much better.

    Or if the Children were chasing some other poor soul. Then Mat could actually be motivated by altruism, which would make him a lot more sympathetic and might explain why people put up with his mischief.

    Seriously, there's like forty scenes in cartoons and video games where the hero exploits a slingshot and a bunch of barrels to do something worthwhile. Just copy them.

  29. (About the only time it works is with actual trickster gods. Because they're assholes anyway.)

    And trickster gods usually face consequences for it, unless they only ever trick poor mortals who can't retaliate. Hermes had to learn to play nice with the other gods and only play pranks in the cause of justice (or at least the cause of making Zeus happy, which is the same thing as justice at least 22% of the time.) Loki didn't, and suffered for it.

  30. That would be even better.

    You know, a lot of the scenes in this have felt miscopied. Like the familiar elements of the trope are there, but the circumstances aren't quite right or things are just a little bit out of order or something. Here Mat does what lots of other characters have done, but for solely for the lols. We got a bath scene a la The Fellowship of the Rings, but while those characters had only a vague idea of the dangers, these characters have had their village half destroyed. Even Rand's angsting over his father still being his father - when no one had said otherwise and it's highly unclear whether anyone would see it otherwise - had that same not-quite-right vibe.

  31. We got a bath scene a la The Fellowship of the Rings, but while those characters had only a vague idea of the dangers, these characters have had their village half destroyed.

    Seriously. At that point in FotR, the forces of evil were represented by one or two mysterious black figures, sneaking around and hiding from any powerful good guys. In this book, we already have a literal army of carnivorous monsters plaguing the countryside and bent on mayhem. You were being openly chased by a winged, soul-sucking demon last night, people! You need to focus! No jolly pranks right now!

    And aren't we supposed to be worried about the ferryman and all those other people our heroes passed on the way here? Might it not be a good idea to somehow tip off the Children of the Light to the marauding monsters nearby...maybe without mentioning that they're chasing our heroes specifically? They may be fanatics and all, but I'm assuming they're well-armed fanatics--are they not competent to send out patrols and maybe save a few peasants from becoming Trolloc chow?

  32. Even Rand's angsting over his father still being his father - when no one had said otherwise and it's highly unclear whether anyone would see it otherwise - had that same not-quite-right vibe.
    Having finally finished Tor's re-read of the series, all I can guess is that Jordan really wanted his foreshadowing for an upbringing-versus-inherent-qualities resolution to be firmly established.

  33. (it would be terriers, not cats. cats are for ladies) (no, but really)

  34. Having now actually read the book, I think you're understating it. The Whitecloak approach seems designed to drive everyone into the hands of the Dark One.

    And I am really confused as to how this world spawns so many groups that don't quite have official power and whom everyone hates. The Aes Sedai are seen as dangerous to bad by nearly everyone, yet some how manage to persist, despite having to draw their ranks from said everyone. (They're an all female Jedi Order, far as I can tell, except they're utterly distrusted, except near the Blight.) The Whitecloaks do not have any authority in this country, yet act as if they do, and are your average Lawful Righteous Sadists. But, despite no one but actual Darkfriends (or people who've come face to face with Trollocks) believing in Trollocks and such they're allowed to wander the countryside harming people.

    Actually, I am also bloody confused as to what people believe in this world. Actual monsters are taking over countries along the blight in the lifetime of some of these characters, yet a lot of people don't seem to quite believe in them. The only groups trying to fight evil are seen as evil. (And one is.) There's a lot of random magic. And people who can channel the One Power die without Aes Sedai help. (For some reason.) There are Darkfriends everywhere.

    It just never really became a coherent whole. And it felt painfully like the chronicals of a D&D game. (Though I might not have minded if I liked the characters better, but there wasn't enough life in most of them. And a lot of the attempts at characterization just felt weird, like Rand's persistent thing about his dad. Why are you flipping out about this, dude?)

  35. And a lot of the attempts at characterization just felt weird, like Rand's persistent thing about his dad. Why are you flipping out about this, dude?)
    I'm wondering now if this is a legacy from an earlier draft where people were more scared of the Aiel. Rand is half Aiel, and the Aiel should be continent-wide bogeymen after the Aiel War, so maybe he's latching on to Tam's upbringing to prove his identity as a Two Rivers-ian? Except that since anti-Aiel racism only shows up in isolated incidents (except in Cairhien, and even that only lasts a few books) until Rand gets them on his side it's just left hanging there along with the Whitecloaks' inexplicable international influence.

  36. "They return to the inn where Perrin reports that Nynaeve from back home has caught up with them, having bullied the ferryman into rowing her across the river after Moiraine obliterated his ferry."

    See: True Grit.

  37. The Aes Sedai are too powerful to throw out and too powerful to be trusted, especially since they don't act in *your interests* but in their own, which may include sacrificing you for the greater good as they see it. (Also note, though, that we've only actually seen people's views of the Aes Sedai in a small slice of the world. In the North, the Aes Sedai are loved and respected because without them, the North would have fallen to the Blight's forces by now.)
    As for the Whitecloaks... this is a world where authority is crumbling and distances are long. The Whitecloaks have their own country and can field large armies and if you piss them off, they may well kill you before help can come.
    As for the situation with the Blight... basically, this is like the situation in Europe in the Middle Ages, where news travelled slowly and especially to backwaters and where no one in the Two Rivers has seen a Trolloc in nearly 2000 years. Surely the Trollocs all died in the Trolloc wars or we would have seen them by now, right?

  38. Ah, but the opinions of the Two Rivers folk seem to be pretty much the opinions of everyone, except those near the Blight. (And news of the False Dragons seems to travel just fine, so why is the Blight nearly a myth in Two Rivers when a country fell to it in the last...however old Lan is supposed to be?) And why doesn't news from the Blight have more of an effect on people's opinions outside of Two Rivers? The consistency of opinions almost seems to argue for better communication rather than less. (And there's the weird fact that information doesn't seem to really follow the usual Winners Write the Histories. It appears that the Aes Sedai must have shared their part in the breaking of the world. And, after several thousand years, everyone agrees on what happened? And are right? (Not that that's a flaw unique to these books.))

    And the explanation for the Whitecloaks is basically that they're an invasion force? Or a very poor diplomatic avoidance of being flat out invaded? (Let us wander your country killing your people or we'll invade and kill even more of them. Rather like that one city/town's deal with them.) This country doesn't do a very good job of protecting it's people. Between the threat of the Blight and the Whitecloaks and their country, I'd think this country would be desperate to form an army for protection!

    I don't know. The world building just didn't really come together for me. There were too many things that seemed like they should've effected other things, but apparently didn't. (Like the cursed city.) And, like I said, everyone was too consistent in their opinions and too in agreement (an apparently accurate) about stuff that happened a really long time ago.

    Honestly, though, if the characters had been gripping, I'd probably care less. But most of our heroes were just too bland (or annoying), and too prone to juggling Idiot Balls. And the whole explanation for why stuff keeps happening to them came way too late to save it. "You three have the power of plot contrivance!" Oh, well, okay then. (I suppose that would've been okay if it had been foreshadowed in some way. As would some of the other plot contrivancy things.)

    If the story were about Moriaine and Egwene (who is not reduced to doing random stupid things because she's a girl), I'd probably ignore most of the things that irked me. But following bland dimwits across the countryside just didn't do it for me. Oh well. (And, yes, they may get better and the world building may get better, but Book One didn't inspire me to read Books Two through... Fourteen? Fifteen? However many there are.)

  39. On the subject of how sexist this book is, I do want to note that, actually, having women in the book is kind of a good thing.

    I say this because I just read a book (from the early '90s no less - though space adventure or space fantasy rather than fantasy) that literally had four women in it. Total. Beyond that, every named character, every walk on bit part, every person described in any way was male.

    Jordan may be fumbling on how he handles his female characters, but at least he doesn't see the world as almost entirely male. It's a bit cookies for not sucking as bad as he could have, but after reading this other book, I feel like he deserves at least the acknowledgment that he was trying. (Three at least quasi-main female characters and named and existing female characters most of the places the main characters go isn't too bad representation-wise. Could be better still, but, hey, it's not "my galaxy has exactly four women in it!".)

  40. As a reader I vastly prefer when authors imply that women aren't exactly people by not including them than when they straight out say it and then hit you over the head with it for thousands of pages. There's really...there's a lot of it.

    Though I think you're probably right, in a grand scheme of things sense, about which is better. Jordan tried. *saddest gold star*

  41. I don't know. Both are terrible. "You, half the human race, you're not quite people." "You, half the human race, you only exist/are worthy of note if you're exceptional." Ugh.

    I'd forgotten that people have said that Jordan gets many, many times worse with his female characters as the story goes on. :\ Comparing single books may not have been fair. Perhaps we should just fail them both.

    (The women in this book didn't seem too bad. Moiraine was one of the most competent people in the book, as well as one of the most likable. Egwene only had a couple of moments of randomly acting like "a girl" (more like the sexist idea of one). And while Nynaeve is annoying, at least she has a personality, not to mention actual goals. The trio of guys really seemed flat to me and were carrying around the biggest batch of Idiot Balls I think I've ever seen. Especially Rand. V xabj - nf jvgu nyy rivy negvsnpgf - vg jnf n qbjajneq fyvqr engure guna n crefbanyvgl syvc, ohg Enaq'f boyvivbhfarff gb Zng pneelvat gur negvsnpg bs rivy sbe yvxr unys gur obbx yrsg zr guvaxvat gung rvgure Zng unf nyjnlf unq n ubeevoyr crefbanyvgl be Enaq vf fyvtugyl qrafre guna tenavgr. Be obgu.)

  42. Mat is genuinely a terrible person. But it's both.

    Even in this first book, though, just the pure gender essentialism pisses me off more than the simple absence of women would have. At this point it's divided pretty purely up into women are magic users, men are mighty warriors (and even though they're a bunch of backwater hicks they are super good at fighting). It would be nice if the man with the destiny as a wizard was maybe not naturally skilled with a sword? And maybe Nynaeve could be pretty good at it instead. Just anything to break up the monotony of the skillsets.

    And the way that whenever a man thinks about women or a woman thinks about men they are just confused and exasperated with no understanding that everyone is just people...grating.

    Part of it is my knowledge of how it just goes on and on forever getting more bullshit, I'm sure, but...well.

    Nynaeve is basically the embodiment of how women are violent and irrational and men are saints for just putting up with them without beating the shit out of them. Even a couple of moment of sterotype girl is too many and I'd rather go without entirely. Moiraine is manipulative and secretive and often for no purpose except to drag the plot out a little more and because that's how women are. I'm glad you liked her but I don't think the narrative cares much for her and that's not a ton of fun to read, either.

    Lan's silent stoic badass routine isn't tons better. Matt is an asshole. Rand is...well, a chunk of granite. I like Perrin, for much much longer than I should have I continued to like Perrin. He is also a chunk of granite, but a fluffier one? The blatant sexism isn't just bad for the women.

    It's a background radiation of bullshit and I would much rather read about spaceships and manly men and occasional cardboard l(ust)ove interests and their amazing boobs. But yeah, throw 'em both out.

  43. Ha, I probably gave Moiraine a lot of slack because she pretty much acts exactly like a Jedi. And she's dealing with a trio of guys who would succumb to the Pick Me Up grenade from Mom and Dad Save the World in about five seconds flat.

    And I don't recall Nynaeve actually being violent - we're told she hits people, but I'm not sure she ever does in this first book. She's just kind of abrasive. And argues with herself about wanting to be a Jedi Aes Sedai. (Which gives her about three hundred percent more personality and characterization than the entire trio of guys put together.)

    I completely missed the fact that the women are all magic users and the guys all fighters. Yep, that's a fail right there. (I'm afraid I didn't really credit the trio with fighting skills, even though, you're right, the book said they had them. They were all too thoroughly engaged in finding a light socket to stick their fingers in for me to give them any credit for anything. Okay, Perrin did stop that as soon as he was separated from the other two. I will give him that.)

    Jordan: so bad at making his protagonists likable (or brighter than a box of rocks) that some readers go off and like the wrong people.

    I'd much rather have some non-shitty fantasy and space adventure. That isn't full of gender existentialist bullshit, or missing half of humanity.

  44. I completely missed the fact that the women are all magic users and the guys all fighters.
    We do, eventually, get some variance in this. Mostly in the Slave-Owning Imperialist Horrifically-Abusive-Towards-Female-Channellers But At Least It's Gender-Equal IIRC Culture. (Also in the Irish Slavic-accented Fremen, which has one warrior society defined as For Girls, and some of the legendary heroes are women. It takes until literally Armageddon for the Borderlanders to allow women into their armies, though.)

  45. Slavic-accented? Where did I miss that?

  46. According to the FAQ, anyway.

  47. Tedronai's rivalry with the Dragon is based on his understanding of the way their universe works--that they're fundamental opposites who balance each other.

  48. I think the big deal for Rand is not so much "I was adopted and there is something inherently horrible about that," and more "I was adopted and no-one ever told me and now I'm finding out about it years later and it's a big shock and I don't understand".