In this section, two ta’veren take to the field.
With allies waiting for reinforcements, the failure to lure Trollocs out of Caemlyn hurts the heroes badly, though not personally. Androl too is failing to find a means of escape, adding to the building pressure, which culminates with Lan’s retreat from Tarwin’s Gap when faced with Dreadlords.
At last, the Trollocs take the bait and pursue the Andoran army, falling into a trap of gunpowder and shrapnel. Elayne thinks the invention of these cannons will change warfare forever, with their destructive power acting as a deterrent no sane person would risk facing. The comparison with the nuclear era is easy to spot. Early gains by Elayne and Bashere are whittled away as the Trollocs adapt to the tactics. Birgitte’s personal struggle to keep some part of her memories and her confusion serve as a nice metaphor for the skirmishes and stalemate that is emerging.
Rand tries to intervene to help the Borderlanders, but is rebuffed by well-organized Dreadlords trying to cut him off from the source. Incapable of helping any of the forces any longer, he must accept Moiraine’s urging for him to march on Shayol Ghul.
In his dreams, Rand encounters Lanfear, and a long-awaited opportunity for Mierin to turn back to the Light is rejected. So close. So close to the Light, like a feral cat in the night, stalking back and forth before the fire-lit barn! He found himself angry, angrier than before. Always, she did this! Flirting with what was right, but always choosing her own path. Yet despite her rejection of love and Light, and her dejection at discovering how little she means to Rand, readers may still entertain the idea that she can be saved, that she wants to be saved after Rand reveals himself fully to her. This perception is key to her upcoming interactions with Perrin.
Perrin feels a tugging which he knows is Rand. He decides to act as Rand’s guardian, facing dangers which he cannot, such as at the Black Tower, and countering the agents he suspects are arraying themselves against Rand. It is disappointing that even at this late juncture, Perrin doesn’t describe the dreamspike to Rand, and perhaps benefit from Lews Therin’s insight and memories, or even tell Rand about Slayer, if only to assure him that Perrin will finish him. Perrin and longtime friend Gaul enter Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh, which readers will have trouble convincing themselves isn’t an act of evil, for the only person who says different is Perrin himself, whose rationale is simply that it is not evil, just incredibly stupid.
Bornhald’s revelation that Padan Fain killed Perrin’s family is the first reminder that he is still up in the Blight, waiting for Rand, another danger which Perrin may be better placed to face than Rand.
Inventiveness allows the heroes to make progress in Kandor, whether by the use of Gateways for observation of the battlefield or by plans to include Aes Sedai as part of the military forces, which soon gives humanity its first uncontested and complete victory.
A feature of these last three Wheel of Time books by Brandon Sanderson has been the inclusion of a number of fan-friendly initiatives, from auctioning off naming rights of minor characters, to featuring the guardians of the largest Wheel of Time fan sites as innkeepers, to acknowledging fan theories in text. While there is a certain glee at receiving acknowledgement, such Easter Eggs can prove disruptive, taking a reader who is in the know out of the story. The same is likely true for any scene which has been heavily advertised to fans ahead of publication. Involving fans on an emotional level both rewards their long dedication and keeps them attached, so some kind of balance must be struck despite the potential disruption to the story. In theory, a minority of the millions of readers will be in the know, so by keeping these references subtle, the desired balance is reached.
Mat returns to Ebou Dar, which he realizes is his home more than any place else. Among his many fond memories, are those of Tylin. After a year of analyzing the story and finding deep meaning in even simple descriptive paragraphs, I find the sexual context surrounding his affection for Tylin offers surprising ways to interpret the rest of this paragraph:
Tylin. Bloody ashes, but that had been a fun game. She had had the better of him time and again. Light send him plenty of women who could do that, though not in rapid succession, and always when he knew how to find the back door. Tuon was one. Come to think of it, he would probably never need another. She was enough of a handful for any man. Mat smiled, patting Pips on the neck. The horse blew down Mat’s neck in return.
Readers may never know whether these words belong to one author or the other, or a combination of both, making it harder to judge whether their use is intentional. Since the relationship with Tylin sets the context for the rest of the paragraph, I think the imagery is intentional, not accidental, and very much in line with Mat’s unconventional behaviour. However, as an author it can be inconvenient to find out you’ve unintentionally implied something you never intended, and it seems the context of such oversights is often sexual.
Check your text for unintentional meanings.