It should go without saying that this will have spoilers.
It’s been almost a week since I got the book and after the initial excitement of getting Moiraine back, I have to say the book wasn’t really anything to write home about.
Rand: Zen Buddha Rand is very…distant. At least crazy Rand was someone you could relate to and feel something about what he was or wasn’t doing right. New Rand is so untouchable and “perfect” it can be a bit boring. Thankfully he is barely in this book otherwise it would have been overkill.
Nynaeve: Another character barely in the book. Her Aes Sedai test lacked the emotional investment we had with Moiraine’s in New Spring. First off, Nynaeve’s took too long: we didn’t need to see her go through that many trials especially since it was the same motif over and over. With Moiraine we saw her as Accepted struggling to practice the weaves and doubt her abilities. Nynaeve had no such struggle or any doubts. It felt like Nynaeve’s Accepted Test Redux. She didn’t follow the rules or seem to learn anything from it. If the only point was to show her telling the Aes Sedai how wrong they were for doing things a certain way, I would have preferred her test being done off screen. Waste of paper.
Egwene: Egwene is Egwene and seems back to her old self. Whatever good she did in the previous book in readers’ eyes is pretty much negated by her returning to the norm.
Perrin: This was a Perrin novel and it didn’t need to be. Far too much time was spent on his training with Hopper and his inner confusion. His confronting the Whitecloaks and finally doing away with that part of his past was a very nice touch indeed, he seems to have finally obtained an adult relationship with his teenage wife, and he has found balance with the wolf inside him. But it still took way too long to get there. Not to mention he suffers from the same “this is my playground!” as Egwene when it comes to the World of Dreams. They both need a wake-up call.
Elayne: I have tried to like Elayne. She is going to be a part of Moiraine’s life thanks to Thom (and well, being Moiraine’s niece and all) and she reminded me of a young (albeit annoying) Moiraine. However, she frankly disturbed me in the novel. Her power hungry nature has come out and she has all the makings of a future tyrant, if a well-intentioned one. She has roped the Kin in to be her personal channeling service, arm wrestles to make the Band of the Red Hand Andor’s own personal army, her eyes light up at the thought of being the only nation with dragons, and she only seems to want Cairhien to solidify her throne in Andor and to act as a buffer for any bad guys.
Even if I wasn’t a Moiraine fan I would still dislike Elayne as Queen of Cairhien. I was willing to accept it once I realized how late in the book Moiraine returns to the fold, but after reading Elayne’s ideas about the country and its people I have changed my mind. Moiraine needs to be queen to save them from the redhead.
Mat: Even though it was slow going at first by the end I actually became a Mat fan. Of course as it turns out those last Mat chapters were written by the late Jordan so I wonder if I’ll still like Mat when I read Sanderson’s take on him next book. For me the kicker was him finally seeing Moiraine as a human being and realizing he didn’t hate her after all. His whole banter with her was just awesome and wonderfully written. Good job, RJ!
Moiraine: She’s back and she’s naked. Not really much to say. I hope she cuts back on the smiling. Freaky.
Thom: I already ranted on Moiraine’s World about Thom, but I’m going to do so again!
I am honestly baffled at his whole hesitation. Not just with the marriage proposal but even before when she just wanted to hold hands. He has been mooning over her letter for probably close to a year, made it clear that he was going with or without Mat even though that meant certain death, was eager as a beaver to get going once Mat agreed, dug high and low for any information on the Tower of Ghenjei and the Eelfinn and Aelfinn, according Perrin he smelled “excited” when Mat said they were going to go to the Tower, scolds his hands and burns his clothes digging her out of steam blanket, runs himself half to death carrying her around, and then HESITATES when she wants to hold hands.
Now, I can see how he might have fallen in love with the idea of Moiraine and having the real thing is something else all together. Except, after Moiraine offers up her grand sacrifice Thom no longer seems to care about her channeling abilities and declares he’ll marry her then and there. So if deep down you didn’t care, why all this drama? Moiraine is just as guilty: he said he wouldn’t rob her of anything but then she has to double check. Both of them are drama queens and deserve each other.
Other points: Galad becoming human was interesting, his falling in love at first sight tiring. I get so tired of characters doing that. I’m starting to think it a Damodred trait because Morgase seems to at least wait a few months. Speaking of, her reunions with her three children were so anti-climatic. Galad didn’t seem all that moved, but it is Galad. Gawyn who has spent Lord knows how many books obsessing over his mother’s death…we don’t even get his point-of-view. It might as well have been off-screen. Elayne! Elayne seemed more concerned with whether or not her mother not being dead would be an issue with her own hold on the crown. God forbid Elayne has to give up her power! Mat had a more emotional experience with Moiraine than these three with their formally dead mother.
The Black Tower plot bored me. Tarna being turned is sad, but we saw her from the point-of-view of characters I couldn’t care less about. I couldn’t make myself read them all the way to be honest.
Tuon is a bitch and I hate her.
Oh, Aviendha. Her vision of the future is, well, not a very emotional issue for me as some others. I hate the Seanchan but I also hate the Aiel. So do I want to see the Seanchan take over the world? No. But do I like the idea of the Aiel finally get the smack handed to them? YES. Also, it was nice how Elayne’s granddaughter isn’t some OH MY GOD awesome beauty.
Olver. Um. I saw nothing of anything really important in his part of the novel. It didn’t break my heart in the least and he seems like an annoying ten year old kid. Just like always. So he wants revenge on his family’s killers? How is this some shocking revelation? I was hoping he died, to be honest.
Lan’s scenes were the most painful and awkward writing I have ever read in the Wheel of Time series.
In the end I’d probably give this book six out of ten stars, and most of that is because of Mat and Moiraine. It’s right down there with The Path of Daggers and Crossroads of Twilight. Lots of things happen that I just don’t care about and all the good stuff is saved until the very, very end.