Quick explanation of the last two months: my antidepressants are letting me down, I am tired all the time and I feel lucky if I get six hours' sleep, and there was a three-week break between my first and second therapy sessions because I picked a bad time to start. Thus, not so much with the energy and willpower to create blogposts, or write much of anything. But I am by nature a writer and rambler and ranter, and it was long ago foretold that I would eventually be compelled to return. Fortunately, the blogqueen also saw fit to establish a new posting regimen and nudge me as needed to get material ready in time. Victory.
Let us now return to that rock of stability: the directionless meandering of Egwene And Her
The Eye of the World: p. 512--556
Chapter Thirty-Four: The Last Village
The eponymous village is Carysford, over the river Cary, and it looks normal enough to Our Weary Heroes, by which I mean it's got a bridge and no other discernible features. They end up sleeping in haystacks again:
Heroes in the stories never had to sleep in haystacks, or under hedges.I only have so much patience for characters in books thinking about how their lives aren't like books to begin with--it was probably clever the first time someone did it, back in the Triassic, but it's pure cliché now at the best of times. At the worst times, like this, when people start thinking 'heroes in stories are never uncomfortable' I just start wondering what kind of unspeakably bland literary traditions this world has been saddled with*.
In the morning they join a slow parade of young men and token girls who are all apparently on their way to see the False Dragon in Caemlyn. There's an encounter with an angry speeding merchant and a mounted guard that I don't fully understand, in which someone appears to call Rand 'Darkfriend' in a way that they intend to convey 'jackass'. On the one hand, this makes some sense for people who haven't seen much in the way of apocalyptic cultists for many generations; on the other hand, it also seems linguistically uncreative, and this is a usage that we haven't seen in the previous 500 pages.
Sweet Eru Iluvatar, this is a slog. I mean, I started this post half an hour ago thinking 'it's been forever; I am totally ready to dive back into the Generic Fantasy Adventures of WOT', but this is truly inedible word-paste. (And let me add that I wrote this paragraph and then failed to get any further on this post for another two weeks. Yesterday I climbed 26 flights of stairs for the hell of it, and I have an active World of Warcraft subscription, but Wheel of Time is a grind too far.)
Skim skim skim. I don't know to what extent Robert Jordan popularised this method of characterisation, but as is my standard operating procedure, I hold him fully accountable for his contributions of human suffering: when Jordan wants to quickly make someone sympathetic and 'deep' even though we're never going to get to know them personally, he gives them a catchphrase and makes them ramble. Rand and Mat overhear someone looking for them (big bounty on their heads) and then hop a ride with a guy who infodumps at us for a couple of pages, constantly repeating the phrase "I'm a good Queen's man" to shore up his credibility. I threw the torrent of verbal meandering into the centrifuge and here's what came out:
- This country strictly has ruling queens, but is not called a queendom, I guess because that's the sort of thing a crazy feminist would do?
- Tradition states that the crown princess (or "Daughter-Heir" in WOT speak, because that's so much smoother) studies with the Aes Sedai and the eldest son studies with the Warders.
- This got the last prince killed and the princess disappeared before her coronation, leading to civil war a few decades ago.
- Queen Morgase also has an Aes Sedai
grand vizieradvisor whom many people suspect of Scheming.
- Robert Jordan thought it was reasonable to write "a queen is twice a woman, wed to a man, wed to the land" and no one stopped him.
The quantity of rambling done by minor characters in this book is amazing, and it irritates me, because it doesn't make them seem more realistic--it makes them seem like information nodes where our heroes just Press A To Talk at worst, and naive, scatterbrained inferiors at best. The protagonists are far too wise to prattle on like that, and when they talk, they say important things, while extra after extra keeps jabbering, to the vexation of smart listeners like Rand and Mat. The only positive I can spot is that Jordan has white guys doing this, not just women and brown people, but that would also require him to have more women and brown people, and in case you didn't notice he already has three women in this book and a queen who is like two women so obviously we're pretty close to capacity already.
Chapter Thirty-Five: Caemlyn
Our Heroes have finally arrived at the vast
To remind us who's the real protagonist, Mat despairs how they can ever hide with so many people around, and Rand has to point out that they'll be impossible to find among so many people. I assume this is meant to be Mat's evil dagger making him grouchy and hopeless, but how are they still alive, and is there any good reason that we had the details of their convenient journey chronicled for us for so many pages rather than montaged? Mat keeps despairing for a few pages, but Rand is determined to find an inn called The Queen's Blessing that the gleeman mentioned before he died to show that the situation was serious. Seeing that the local fashion involves sword hilts and scabbards wrapped in cloth, Rand finally strikes upon the incredible genius move to cover up the herons on his signature weaponry, although of course this takes two full pages to occur rather than getting summarised in a sentence so we can move on to actual action. They finally find the inn, where the innkeeper is friendly and cautious and refuses to believe Thom is dead but otherwise accepts their story.
They're warned not to talk too badly of Aes Sedai (lest they draw the attention of royal guards) nor too positively (lest they get mobbed by Whitecloaks) and not to mention Thom, who PLOT TWIST used to be the queen's personal bard and possibly lover right after she was widowed. Then Thom got tangled up in undefined business and spoke rudely enough to the queen to get a warrant on his head, because "he said some words, all right [...] words you don't say to any woman with Morgase's spirit. [....] And the Queen never forgets anything. You ever know a woman who did?"
Would any lady readers like to comment on this constant stream of WOMEN AMIRITE as compared to Tolkien's unyielding manscape in terms of women in classic high fantasy? This is an atrocious choice: don't exist, or exist as caricatures and showpieces that explore the variety and complexity of women with all the nuance of open mic night at Judd Apatow's comedy club.
Chapter Thirty-Six: Web of the Pattern
The innkeeper predictably supplies them with the minimum necessary food and shelter and mentions the plague of rats lately, which Rand ties to being the devil's spies. The maid gives Rand level five giggly eyelash batting, but he is too shy to say anything and she can't talk because she's set dressing. Oh, no, she does finally talk when Rand asks for a private dining room, and she directs him to the library, where he meets an Ogier for the first time, which looks almost exactly like a trolloc, apparently. The ogier, Loial, is very polite and very old (but still immature by his standards) and I'm beginning to think they're the elves of the setting--if so, ten points to Jordan for making them 'ugly' by human standards? He's been hiding in the inn for four days after people tried to mob him in the streets, and there's a lot of the type of hard-to-parse dialogue that comes up whenever Jordan is trying to worldbuild subtly, but by the sound of it Loial ran away from home because official processes to let him set out at the tender age of ninety were taking too long. He just wanted to see the world, and the Great Trees and you must shape the vision to the land and not the land to the vision et cetera et cetera.
Ogiers apparently built most of the cities for humans after we broke the world. Nice of them. Not clear on why. They can't leave their home steddings for long, also not clear on why, and thus they're content to leave the majority of the planet to humans. Which: this is very convenient for a writer who wants to have non-human characters but still wants basically everywhere to be Humanville, and it's also kind of uncomfortably similar to the way a lot of white people seem to think of people of colour: sure,they're fine, as long as they stick to their enclaves and don't show up too often in our
I eagerly wait to see if any of my expectations here steer me wrong.
Rand and Loial bond, and Rand ends up spilling the whole truth to the dude, who sums it up by declaring that Rand is ta'veren. Y'all, this is the best thing. Check it:
"...sometimes the Wheel bends a life-thread, or several threads, in such a way that all the surrounding threads are forced to swirl around it, and those force other threads, and those still others, and on and on. That first bending to make the Web, that is ta'veren, and there is nothing you can do to change it [....] Artur Hawkwing was ta'veren. So was Lews Therin Kinslayer, for that matter, I suppose."LOIAL HAS IDENTIFIED RAND AS PLOT-RELEVANT. Rand is very literally and metaphysically a main character and everyone else really is a background character swept up in the course of his fate. I had heard rumours about this but I did not realise how blatant it would be.
In true RPG fashion, Loial immediately declares that he wants to travel with Rand, but Rand refuses because Loial is ten feet tall and less than stealthy, but they agree to hang out as long as they're both in Caemlyn, and hope to meet up again in Tar Valon.
And that's as far as I can make it this week, but come back next Wednesday for the blogqueen's next post, and tune in again in two weeks to catch up at last with Nynaeve.
*There was some book I read around age 10 with kids going camping and getting into a competition with their girl-nemeses culminating in some kind of capture-the-flag battle, and the clearest thing I remember about it is near the end, when the protagonist and his buddies are drenched and muddy, in a standoff with their opponents, and he thinks to himself how silly it is to try to look like some grand champion in such a state. Even as child-me read that, I thought Yes, that is how a champion looks: exhausted, battered, reaching for the pinnacle of the thing that is so difficult everyone would have thought it was impossible. There's a quote from George Bernard Shaw:
"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap"...Which isn't for everyone, obviously, but is something that's always resonated with me. I learned this last week that my great-grandfather was Shaw's bartender. Neat.