Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Eye of the World, chapters 28, 29, and 30, in which I am the least disappointed I've ever been

At some point I apparently stopped doing content notes, on the basis that most of the stuff being covered no longer seemed half as startling and triggery as Ender's Game got, but this week it's back with a vengeance because oh my god Perrin that had better have been Satan's idea and not yours.

(Content note: misogyny, discussed murder-suicide.  Fun content: candids of Moiraine and Elyas.)

The Eye of the World: p. 414--440
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Footprints in Air

We catch up with Nynaeve and her amazing pals as they also arrive at Whitebridge, and they have experienced zero change in party dynamic over their many days of travel since Shadar Logoth.  I mean, if things don't even happen on page I can't really expect them to start acting like real people off-page, can I?  She still fumes at Moiraine all day while Moiraine stays perfectly calm and says they're going to Tar Valon once they find the boys.  The only new addition to this is that Nynaeve protests a little too much inside her own head about how she totally doesn't have a boner for Lan.  Nynaeve is made of self-repression and indignation.

They arrive at Whitebridge and a bunch of homes have been burnt to the ground.  Oh no, are our heroes oh screw it if Jordan can't be bothered to create tension I'm not doing it for him.
In the next moment [Moiraine] was down off Aldieb and speaking to townsfolk. She did not ask questions; she gave sympathy, and to Nynaeve's surprise it appeared genuine. People who shied away from Lan, ready to hurry from any stranger, stopped to speak with Moiraine. They appeared startled themselves at what they were doing, but they opened up, after a fashion, under Moiraine's clear gaze and soothing voice.
So at first this seems like yet another redundant 'Moiraine is actually nice and Nynaeve should trust her' moment, but the bit about people startling themselves suggests that Moiraine is in fact using Old Jedi Mind Tricks on these folks who've just had their houses burn down.  From a narrative standpoint, I fully approve--morally, I think that's really inappropriate, but the Moiraine who steamrolls other people because she's a fricking wizard and she has things to do is the best Moiraine.  Give me all your dangerously intent wizard ladies.  She's the most compelling character we've met.

Moiraine [pictured without her magic soothing glamour].

So most people lie in spite of the glamour, and others have a host of useless rumours, but the gist of it is that folks (including a gleeman) showed up by boat, there was evil magic trouble, and the boat left again just before the mob arrived.  Nynaeve wonders aloud if this was Rand and company, because she is not Moiraine and therefore she must be wrong (they did not leave by boat).  They eat at the same inn as Rand, and Moiraine does some psychometry to confirm they were there recently, while Lan sniffs around and announces there was a Fade as well.  Nynaeve, showing again why she's actually a better person than everyone else, asks what Moiraine intends to do for Egwene, whom she never mentions in spite of Egwene supposedly being a potential superwizard, and Moiraine basically says "Oh, yeah, her too, totally, right, like totally, but shit happens, you know?"

And... oh, that's the end of this chapter.  It gave us another view of the White Bridge, and a recap of what happened last chapter, but with fewer details.  How extraordinarily unnecessary.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Eyes Without Pity

Back with Elyas, Perrin, and Egwene, they're making double-time across the grasslands, and Elyas is trying harder to cover the signs of their camps, but...
The fires he made were small, and always hidden in a pit carefully dug where he had cut away a plug of sod. As soon as their meal was prepared, he buried the coals and replaced the plug. Before they set out again in the gray false dawn, he went over the campsite inch by inch to make sure there was no sign that anyone had ever been there. He even righted overturned rocks and straightened bent-down weeds.
Are you... are you serious?  Bent-down weeds?  Fact one: these are explicitly described as grasslands; you can't possibly erase all the footprints created by your teenage tagalongs.  Fact two: weeds can bend on their own.  Fact three: if you cut a fricking hole in the ground, anyone who's paying enough attention to notice a bent weed is going to notice the carved earth, even if you did slap it back in place like a peaty jigsaw puzzle afterwards.

We don't know what Elyas is afraid of chasing them--not trollocs, we're assured, partly because Perrin knows the wolves can't small trollocs.  He throws this in casually, despite having sworn last chapter that he would never let the wolves inside his head again.  I'm starting to feel like that last chapter was supposed to get edited out, since the dream-raven-in-the-eye and his vow against wolf telepathy have apparently been ditched this fast.

They just barely manage to (probably) not get spotted by a flock of a hundred ravens and Elyas mutters about places they can hide, noting that ravens roost at night.  Apparently the devil can control ravens' every move (we saw the flock do an abrupt about-face) but can't order them to stay up past their bedtime.  They do, however, demonstrate the scientific fact that ravens have the same jaw structure as piranhas, as they flock a fox and devour it in moments.  A raven spots Perrin, but Egwene takes it down with her sling, which apparently means that it can't report back to the rest of the flock.  I do not in any way understand the rules of the devil's raven telepathy.  It can't be one-way only, or they'd make terrible scouts, but apparently it can't give the flock orders based on what that one raven spotted?

Perrin catches the wolves' thoughts as they skirmish with the flock, but the ravens give up after just injuring them a bit.  Perrin reveals this, and apparently this is the first confirmation Egwene's had that he's got wolf telepathy, so there's all the usual 'oh no now she'll think I'm terrible and gross because I have innate magic' business, apparently forgetting that Egwene has already been marked as Future Best Wizard by Moiraine.  They move on without addressing it.  When Perrin calculates they have an hour before the second flock catches up with them, he decides not to tell Egwene, but he does wonder to himself if he'll "have the courage" to mercifully kill her first rather than let the ravens do it.

Perrin, you monstrous tool.

I mean can we just.  He doesn't ask Elyas if there's any hope of finding shelter before then (their hiding spot is two hours off, apparently), or if he's got any other solutions or defences.  He doesn't ask Egwene if she'd prefer a clean death if they know they're doomed, or if she'd rather fight to the last the way he apparently intends to do.  He doesn't ask himself if he could stomach offing himself before the ravens get him either.  This isn't a matter of grim mercy, this is a matter of a man seeing a woman as a subordinate object and himself as the one who has the responsibility to prevent her from being despoiled.  Does anyone think there's the slightest chance Perrin would be puzzling this murder-suicide business over if he were with Rand or Mat?  He sees Egwene as his lesser, incapable of bearing burdens or making difficult decisions, and above even her own life needing to be preserved in her pretty naive state.  This is a thing that happens in the real world and it's horrifying.  I can't actually think of an adequate obscenity or profanity to sum this up with.

(But he cries while he contemplates this, so we know he's really just scared and sensitive.  Retch.)

And then, conveniently enough, they walk into the safe zone ahead of schedule: a 'stedding',a haven of legend, where the One Power doesn't work and no one can touch the True Source and there's a strict limit on the use of Significant Capitalisation.  It's actually nicer inside the stedding, more green grass shoots, presumably because the devil doesn't have as much power to poison the land within.

Which... huh.

Remind me again why these places aren't incredibly important settlements where people build fortresses the forces of magic can never touch?  Would a stedding not be an ideal community spot to keep all your male wizards in to prevent them from getting magic madness?

Anyway.

They get to a cold pool and drink deeply and Perrin decides to never talk to Egwene ever about his mercy-kill plan, though a voice (guessing the devil) in his head tells him he would have done it.  There's actually some further taunting about that, about how easy or difficult it would have been, but none of it addresses the underlying misogyny that riled me in the first place, so whatever.

We get another history lesson, about how this place was going to be the capital of the empire of Artur Hawkwing, beloved king of legend who ruled most of the world under the law of Pax "I Have A Sword And No Conscience", i.e., criminals and tyrants got shanked right quick.  He also hated magic, and thus no one could heal him of his final sickness/poisoning, and then his whole peaceful world crumbled as everyone fought for the throne.  And apparently in the thousands of years that followed, no one else who hates magic ever decided to build here either.  So that question remains unanswered.

Chapter Thirty: Children of Shadow

I wasn't planning to start on another chapter, but I scoped out the first couple of pages and PRAISE ERU ILUVATAR Elyas calls out the misogynistic stupidity of Perrin's mercy-kill plan.
"You were ready to kill her because you despise her, always dragging her feet, holding you back with her womanish ways. [....] If she had to choose her way of dying, which do you think she'd pick? [....] I know which I'd take."
"I don't have any right to choose for her."
Elyas [pictured after a shave and a mani/pedi].

I am honestly blown away that this was addressed at all, and not just a throwaway moment to show that Perrin was taking the situation seriously.  I'm filled with so much less hatred right now.  My venom glands aren't even a little swollen.

Of course, these are Manly Men, so when Perrin is filled with disgust just looking at his axe, thinking about throwing it away, Elyas tells him to keep it, use it against the people who actually need an axe in the face, and only throw it away if he ever feels like he is okay with casual murder.  Can't get too soft.

[Edit: The more I thought about this after posting, the more I realised that, in the complete context of the scene, it's much more likely that Elyas is being ironic when he says 'you were ready to kill her because you hate her' in order to shake Perrin into realising that he doesn't hate Egwene and his mercy-kill plan was a completely blameless scheme of generosity, not a terrible thing at all.  BUT I CAN'T DEAL WITH THAT RIGHT NOW so I'm going to allow the above to stand.]

And that is where I will leave it for this week, because then we get into more stuff with how nowhere is safe and Jordan has the gall to kill off Hopper the bouncy wolf.  Note to my readers: if you ever feature a bouncy wolf in your stories, don't kill it off.  Make it the backup protagonist.

19 comments:

  1. Seriously, OMG, Elyas unbends the weeds? I hope he unfarted all the farts while he was at it.

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  2. He even righted overturned rocks and straightened bent-down weeds.

    This sounds like the sort of thing Mark Twain took the piss out of Fenimore Cooper for. Yet another reason Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offences should be required reading.


    so there's all the usual 'oh no now she'll think I'm terrible and gross because I have innate magic' business, apparently forgetting that Egwene has already been marked as Future Best Wizard by Moiraine.


    This does make sense, given the reputation of male channellers. Normally I’d agree with you, given that they’re meant to be childhood friends and Egwene might reasonably be expected not to treat him as a monster, but fuck Perrin, he deserves to be shunned.


    Would a stedding not be an ideal community spot to keep all your male wizards in to prevent them from getting magic madness?


    There’s a partial explanation for this: holding the One Power is addictive and when the male Aes Sedai did take refuge there after saidin was tainted they all left because magic withdrawal is similar to depression. No explanation for why no one lives there, though.

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  3. I'm thinking the real reason he's worried about it is "because angst"

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  4. "Art[h]ur Hawkwing [Pendragon], beloved king of legend who ruled most of the world [England] under
    the law of Pax "I Have A Sword And No Conscience", i.e., criminals and
    tyrants got shanked right quick. He also hated magiclost his wizard, and thus no one
    could heal him of his final [wound/]sickness/poisoning, and then his whole
    peaceful world crumbled as everyone fought for the throne."
    FIFY
    Man, Jordan's finally not doing The Fellowship of the Ring for Dummy Hacks for ten seconds, and he's doing the previous "default" fantasy setting.

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  5. "And... oh, that's the end of this chapter. It gave us another view of
    the White Bridge, and a recap of what happened last chapter, but with
    fewer details."
    I'm starting to see how something this flat and lifeless stretched out to 57 books.

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  6. You're probably right. I'm genuinely unsure what Perrin adds to the series.

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  7. ...yeah, I'm not getting why there isn't a retreat of renunciants that have taken over every inch of that anti-magic zone who intend to shun or convert the clearly magic people wandering inside.

    Also, it had better be the devil talking to Perrin, otherwise he should find himself staked out for the ravens on virtue of being clearly untrustworthy.

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  8. I hope he found a way to stop the flow of time, cause otherwise they're going to get overrun while Elyas spends hours and hours unbending weeds, then unbending the weeds he bent while crawling all over looking for bent weeds.

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  9. I picture the party staring at him in silence while he crawls around on all fours doctoring and re-doctoring the weeds, then -- collective shrug -- they head off without him.

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  10. I’m trying to imagine myself in Perrin’s position as the ravens come in.
    Me: *stab*
    Egwene: Ow, what the fu-
    Me *stabbity stabbity*
    Egwene: Jesus CHRIST what did you-
    Me: *stabbity STABBITY stab stab stab*
    Elyas: It’s ok, they’ve flown off now.
    Me: ......

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  11. He fills out the adventuring party. You need a tank, a healer, and a damage dealer. And then a rogue for the sneaky stuff.

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  12. the thousand lakesMarch 18, 2015 at 3:43 PM

    I think he's meant to be the everyman hero. Rand's the ineffable sky god/messiah, Matt's the aristocratic Odin figure, and Perrin is Thor/Perrun, god of forges, farmers, and the common people (Odin was more powerful and important, but Thor was more widely beloved since he was a more accessible character). So you get your three types of gods, and more importantly your three different tiers of heroism (cosmic hero, nation-wide hero political, local person-to-person hero). And I think that's a decent idea. It's just that his arc ends after like book 4 but all that buildup said he had to be sooper important and then I'm pretty sure Jordan just runs out of ideas for him. So he limps along in the background, one more casualty to the undisciplined structural mess of this series.

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  13. the thousand lakesMarch 18, 2015 at 3:44 PM

    I think he's meant to be the everyman hero. Rand's the ineffable sky god/messiah, Matt's the aristocratic Odin figure, and Perrin is Thor/Perrun, god of forges, farmers, and the common people (Odin was more powerful and important, but Thor was more widely beloved since he was a more accessible character). So you get your three types of gods, and more importantly your three different tiers of heroism (cosmic hero, nation-wide hero political, local person-to-person hero). And I think that's a decent idea. It's just that his arc ends after like book 4 but all that buildup said he had to be sooper important and then I'm pretty sure Jordan just runs out of ideas for him. So his story drags its feet along in the background, one more casualty to the undisciplined structural mess of this series.

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  14. the thousand lakesMarch 18, 2015 at 3:45 PM

    Good lord I am making so many Disqus mistakes today. My comment up top is supposed to go here. My apologies.

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  15. Wasn't Disqus part of Shai'tan's vision for the world in AMoL?

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  16. the thousand lakesMarch 18, 2015 at 6:24 PM

    I believe so.

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  17. Interesting! I've never thought about that before. I wonder if Jordan would have been better off sticking closer to that model, rather than forcing Perrin into the role of a lord by any means necessary.

    Apparently, the first versions of The Eye of the World included four boys from the Two Rivers. Now I really want to imagine that the fourth one would have represented yet another type of heroism, just as important and heroic as the others, but never involving any kind of wider fame or political power.

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  18. I think the plan was for the fourth one to turn traitor.

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