In this section, the Great Captains are removed and Mat takes over everything.
The next chapters contain a bit of overlap, as we see closely-spaced events from several perspectives. Since they all concern the erratic behaviour of the Great Captains and the events on the field, they mesh together well, though they remain strongly plot-driven.
Lan investigates Agelmar’s tactics, and finds disturbing facts. Lan resolves the problem with dutiful competence. He doesn’t grow, he doesn’t learn, he simply applies what he already has, and solves the problem. Perhaps the fact that the solution is to admit defeat constitutes character development of a sort, but it feels much more like plot-driven necessity. The scene is perhaps most successful in how it sets up later expectations. Lan does not consider a final stand to fulfill his long-awaiting destiny to fall fighting the Shadow. He instead tries to save as many lives as he can with a hurried withdrawal, carrying on in the way he promised his Malkieri followers.
Mat scouts the battle with Tuon in tow. In true ta’veren fashion, he learns what he must do to save humanity, capturing a new damane and other followers in the process. The Seanchan captain won’t work out in the end though, if this paragraph follows the same type of symbolism used in earlier books: The Seanchan captain reminded him a little too much of Talmanes, and Mat had enough people following him about. I wonder if he plays dice, Mat thought idly, stepping into the water. His boots were good, but all boots eventually leaked, and his feet squished inside his stocking as he walked across the ford with Pips. The way the author leaps forward with the action throughout the book makes it harder to tell if this set-up was intentional, but the section is so introspective I think it must be.
The following sentences both succeed and fail to capture Mat’s personality: Any man who wanted to wield the One Power was already crazy, so far as Mat considered it. Adding more crazy to them would be like pouring tea into an already full cup. The physical analogy of an overflowing cup is common enough that readers easily identify it with a man who yearns for the simple life. His disdain for the men who channel saidin is equally well captured, consistent with his previous thoughts on the subject. Where the analogy fails, is that Mat rarely drinks tea, and tea has no association with erratic behaviour. A better choice to bring out Mat’s personality even more could have been to make the analogy with an alcoholic beverage, such as a cup of wine or a mug of beer. He speaks about his bedtime mug of ale only two pages later!
Perrin enlists Elyas to help stop Ituralde from sabotaging his own army in the waking world.
Rand’s leg slipped backward, and brushed the darkness behind, which waited like a pool of ink. A light brush is more effective than a plunge or other motion in conveying the danger.
Elayne’s army almost wins, having overcome Bashere’s treachery too late. She fires a final ball of flame to protect the Dragons, the symbol of human innovation. Almost as if summoned by her gesture, Logain’s Asha’man rally her forces and quickly devastate the Trolloc horde in a particularly inventive fashion. Androl leads the first ever circle of male and female channelers cooperating on a large scale. Differences are set aside in desperation, here as has happened elsewhere. Once control has been established, Elayne asserts that the Trollocs will be slaughtered down to the last one standing, lest they get up to havoc while she helps elsewhere.
Egwene has the hardest time of everyone accepting that her trusted general is a traitor. She finds that she trusts Mat more than even Bryne, despite his carefree ways. This is justified by her memories of his past actions, newly minted to reinforce that she knows his true heart despite staying an arm’s length from him for years. A couple of plot-driven reasons to trust also are invoked: he broke Bryne’s orders to the Seanchan cavalry to save many men, and he is the only one who they can be sure is under no Compulsion.
Assessing the situation, Mat decides to assemble all the Light’s forces in one location, close enough to the Shadow’s two main forces to draw them irresistibly into battle, before they can ravage elsewhere, or return to Thakan’dar. Displaying weakness should work, after all it was the Shadow who launched the initial attacks against humanity, putting them on the defensive. Rand used their desperate plight as cover for his own daring raid on Shayol Ghul, yet the Shadow must not be worried, as only a handful of Dreadlords and Graendal have intervened there. Perhaps keeping the good guys penned up just trying to survive is the minimum objective, as they would be powerless to help Rand. Who would benefit most of everyone just Traveled to Shayol Ghul?
Galad’s perspective is well-suited to state the blunt awful truth about how bad things are, and how much worse they are about to get. Tam and Elayne counter grim reality with hope, spreading the message that all must focus on what has been won, not what has been lost.
Analogies must fit the character making them as well as the situation they describe.