What happens when you read the last three hundred pages of The Wheel of Time in one sitting:
I think the last time I cried this hard was when my rather inconsiderate ex-girlfriend told me my life was not worth saving. That was several years ago, and that was a really hard cry.
Thankfully, though, The Wheel of Time is not quite that emotionally abusive. Though it does cut close in certain instances where beloved characters you have followed for over four million four hundred thousand words DIE.
Commence a large round of spoilers.
A Memory of Light began with a dramatic one hundred page fall of Caemlyn, which was paralleled with a dramatic one hundred page epic of Talmanes Delovinde nearly dying. Shouts of “Curse you!” filled the room as Talmanes slowly, agonizingly fell to the Thakan’dar blade. I knew then that A Memory of Light would be exquisitely congested with emotional moments, the final moments with all my favorite characters, glorious and heartbreaking.
While that assessment ultimately ended up being true, that actually did not happen for quite a while.
Following the first chapter, A Memory of Light disappointingly careened toward a three star rating from me.
In essence, the first half of the book was a story about Androl, not Rand. While other battles and events certainly filled quite a bit of space in A Memory of Light, the distinctive storyline that progressed with the most momentum occurred in the Black Tower as Androl, Logain, and their companions fought Taim and the Dreadlords.
On one side, it felt incredibly odd to shift such a large focus of the novel to a comparatively new character – incredibly new character, really, considering the length of the series and the wide character cast Robert Jordan had already given us. Why not use someone we already cared about? Why suddenly make so many important things in the novel happen with someone we just met? It felt off-balanced to me, even if as I was reading I knew I cared to hear more about Androl, Pevara, Evin, and Emarin than about the three battlefronts raging against the Trollocs.
This is where I say “on the other side.” For there is another side where we can really appreciate the growth of Androl as a character. He WAS a gem, an interesting personality, and one totally worth rooting for – and that is, by the end of the book, what I found myself doing. Androl inserted himself as a hero in the final pages of The Wheel of Time. While other characters’ achievements spanned hundreds of thousands, even millions of pages, Androl made us root for him in the course of one book. Like the natural leader he was, readers gravitated toward him. “Go back to Androl,” I would tell the pages of the book when they had rambled far too much on other topics. “What’s going on in the Black Tower?” After all, the rest of the book was unfortunately NOT capturing much of my interest and attentions.
Sure, there were some poignant moments for me in there. I again shouted “Curse you!” when Lan Mandragoran rode to Tarwin’s Gap. I truly did expect this to be Lan’s death, and Brandon Sanderson played it like that, too.
I will stand when all others fall.
The oncoming Trollocs leveled spears as the distance between the two opposing forces narrowed.
Al Chalidholara Malkier. For my sweet land Malkier.
It was the oath a Malkieri soldier took during their first posting to the Border. Lan had never spoken it.
He did so now in his heart.
- AMoL p. 185
And it would have been a glorious and emotionally satisfying ending for both Lan and readers had he died that day. Yet then in gateways an army appeared, and “in seconds, his charge of six thousand had become a hundred thousand” (185). We flew into a glorious epic, a constant stream of battles.
That’s where the problem lay.
Battles can become incredibly boring.
Consider an action movie. There are several types of action movies, but I’m doing to describe them as a continuum between action movies which have a compelling plot and action movies which contain little more than strings of violence passing forward through time. Action movies without much of a plot tend to dull me – and probably a number of other audience members – because action alone cannot sustain our interests. We cannot be invested completely in explosions, injuries, deaths, and physical drama. We need something more substantial to be invested IN, so that when certain characters come into danger, our heart jumps into our throats and we worry about their safety. Regrettably, because the characters were simply fighting Trollocs to live, fighting Dreadlords to survive, and fighting Myrdraal and Darkfriends to buy time for Rand al’Thor… I didn’t feel much investment. Their motivations to fight, while grand, were not enough to sustain my interest, and I found myself becoming a bit bored with the wars.
The reader would switch between one battlefront to the next to the next to the next and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth again. We read the same basic, brain fluffy material of men killing Trollocs and Aes Sedai blowing up their enemies. Especially when all the fronts of the battle were going well, I felt bored. I did not have to worry about any of the characters; I did not feel as though I needed to worry about anything. And while there was an interest in the great captains’ minds being compromised by the Shadow, and that spiked the intensity up a little, still because of the constant onslaught of large war, I felt desensitized to drama by the time we finally got there. It is in contrasts, sudden increases in drama, rather than long sustained periods, that we can find the thrill. But as I said before, I was desensitized.
This is not how I wanted to see my final beloved characters go in The Wheel of Time. Not with something as mediocre as this.
I have, after all, great investment in The Wheel of Time series. I never read the Harry Potter books and did not “grow up with the characters” and that round of emotional investment as did many of my peers. But I did begin reading The Eye of the World eight years ago and fell in love with a group of unique characters. I began drawing fanart, began dreaming of the Aiel and the Dragon Reborn. If there is any story that has captivated me the most for a long period of time, has sustained me in a fandom for eternity, growing and rooting for and laughing with and crying with the characters, it would be Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. It certainly never was a perfect series – I have a host of critiques, despite my secure roots as a fan in the series – but it was captivating enough to give me eight years of investment.
Now I could keep talking about critiques and the things I would have done differently (like the hair-pulling political naiveté of the Dragon’s Pact or Moiraine’s limited involvement in events after she dramatically returned to the world of the living), could analyze the differences between Sanderson’s and Jordan’s writing styles and whether or not those enhanced or degraded the final three books, could ramble a whole sort of high thought processes and discussion points… but that is not what I am going to do. For the last three hundred pages of The Wheel of Time were exactly what they needed to be. The Final Battle increased the tension and the shock of the series into something wholly, perfectly climactic. These were the emotional moments I expected the second I saw Talmanese dying in the prologue. These were the glorious moments of characters rising to their height, grown and heroic and fully epic. And so I dedicate this review to them. The characters in their final heroic moments.
So let us begin the tributes.
* * *
He wasn’t supposed to be here. He was supposed to be someplace warm, with Amethera, thinking about the next criminal he needed to catch.
He figured that every man on the field felt they should be someplace else. The only thing to do was keep on fighting.
Juilin might be a strange place to start, but I want to start simple and gain momentum. And Juilin is a character we’ve seen for a while, and though he might not have made any legendary contributions, he still is someone that I feel the desire to recognize.
We first met Juilan Sandar, Tairen thief catcher, in The Dragon Reborn, a character whose combination of lawful upholding and easy suspicions quickly grabbed a hold of my heart. Though I did not see much of Juilin in the later books, and those parts were mostly him coddling his girlfriend, my heart leapt when I saw him taking charge in The Last Battle. From the start to the end, Juilin Sandar stood for what was right. And while I wish Juilin could have been more present in later books, I salute to him solemnly in farewell, thanking for his service to the law and his dedication to do what was right even when swarmed with Trollocs.
“The Horn! You tried to steal the Horn!”
“No,” Harnan yelled back, “we tried to steal some of Mat’s tabac!”
“I thought you had buried it to leave it behind!” Vanin yelled from the other side. “I figured Mat wouldn’t care. He owes me a few marks anyway! When I opened that sack and found the bloody Horn of Valere… bloody ashed! I’ll bet they heard y yell all the way in Tar Valon!”</font></i>
The notorious horse thief entered the Band of the Red hand as yet another name on the list of recruits. He became one of the most memorable. Though wily and self-serving, following a code of personal pleasure and interests rather than a code of morality, Vanin captured my heart. He became a scout for Mat and a source of humor for the reader. But we never forgot he was a thief, and as a thief he exited The Wheel of Time.
Horses were expensive, great animals to steal. Nevertheless, by the end of the series, Vanin grew to become an almost-thief of one of the most important relics of the world: the Horn of Valere. And yet he is still the same old Vanin, serving his own self-interests – wanting a bit of tabac to smoke with a friend. And in the middle of the Last Battle, I could laugh. This is how I salute you farewell, Chel Vanin – with a smile. OLVER
Cornered and alone, a boy huddled in a cleft in the rock. Horrors with knives and fangs – the Shadow itself made flesh – dug at his hiding place, reaching with nails like knives and ripping his skin.
Terrified, crying, bloodied, the boy raised a golden horn to his lips.
We cannot speak of the Horn of Valere without speaking of Olver. I must say my emotions for him always waned back and forth – he was cute and entertaining, and his miming of Mat was amusing. But he was also a bit of a liability and didn’t really pan out well in The Wheel of Time world.
As is such, I did not expect the young orphan to play such a role – to be told by Faile to run to Mat and give him the horn, to become one of the great heroes of the story. He was always an entertaining little kid; I am glad he could be somewhat greater.
Here’s yet another thing he and Mat have in common: Hornblower. And while I wish Mat could have in all his glory blown the Horn of Valere in the final battle, Olver’s initiative is wholly appreciated and applauded. Well done, little kid.
Noal was one of those character I thought, “Why on earth are you here? You are just pointless and annoying.” Until I found out he was Jain Farstrider. Then my mouth dropped open, I screamed “WHAT?”, and celebrated the author’s incredible ingenuity with inserting the legend into the novel. And there was something else to appreciate in this otherwise not-favorite character of mine: when the legend from the horn came to Olver.
Suddenly, Olver felt a deep warmth. He had lost so many people, but one of them… one… had come back for him.
"Give me one of those bloody punks!” Talmanes shouted, holding out a hand. One of the dragoners obeyed, passing him a flaming brand with a glowing red tip. He pushed away from Melten, determined to stand on his own for the moment.
Talmanese swiped the brand down in the air, leaving a trail of red. His signal ignited a roar of dragonfire that echoed throughout the square.
Trollocs – pieces of them, at least – blew into the air. The wall under them exploded like a stack of children’s blocks kicked at a full run. As Talmanes wavered, his vision blackening, he saw the wall crumble outward. When he toppled, slipping into unconsciousness, the ground seemed to tremble from the force of his fall.
After the death of Nalsean to the gholam, I feared for the lives of others in the Band of the Red Hand. Talmanes seemed so nondescript when the reader first met him, yet another Cairhienen lord with a pompous attitude and little outward facial expression. However, we did not leave Talmanes as some flat, nondescript face. We cheered for him in the fall of Caemlyn. We mourned his near-death, screaming out at the horrors of someone we loved falling. We left him smiling in the caves, shooting dragons out of the Last Battle. Talmanes Delovinde, you are an incredible and well-liked character. I salute to you farewell.
Rhuarc did not stand out to me the first time I read the series. The second time where I reread books one to fourteen, I greatly respected and appreciated him. For him to die in the manner he did wholly upset me. That was not fitting for such a great chief as you, Rhuarc.
Nearby a youth looked at Logain with admiration. A dozen youths. Light, a hundred. Not a hint of fear in their eyes.
“Thank you,” the young mother said again. “Thank you.”
“The Black Tower protects,” Logain heard himself say. “Always.”
To speak of unexpected growths, one need look no further than Logain Ablar. He takes an amazingly central role in The Wheel of Time despite the fact Robert Jordan introduced us to him through the rumor chain of townspeople. Emonds Field listened to tales of False Dragons roaming the world, and of one of them, Logain Ablar, being captured and gentled by the Reds of the White Tower. It seemed inconsequential, and it seemed like Logain Ablar had vanished from the picture.
We could not be more wrong.
We saw Logain in a host of other settings. So very many, greatly adding to his personality and making him someone incredibly complex, someone well worth holding on to.
Logain suffered enormous despair after gentling, desiring death. Yet Logain lived, finding himself in Salidar amongst the rebel Aes Sedai. Then Nynaeve healed him, Logain spoke out against Elaida and her group of Reds, and we could begin to see why Min saw a crown of glory in his future.
Still, it was a long time in coming. When he came to the Black Tower, he immediately fell into a subservient role against Mazrim Taim. At this point, I felt frustrated, for while Taim was a compelling enough character on his own, it did not feel right that Logain was so slighted after Nynaeve restored his ability in the Power. And again we wondered why on earth and how on earth Logain would rise to glory.
And despite first hating him for being a False Dragon, then loathing him for being a useless, depressed, broken soul, we came to admire him for being one of great resilience. A leader to whom the men of the Black Tower looked up to, and a man which the entire world could admire.
“The Black Tower protects,” he said, and he took upon the authority equivalent of the Amyrlin Seat. And it was he – not the female Amyrlin – who broke the seals of the Dark One’s prison. And we cheered.
I salute farewell to you, Logain, with tears in my eyes for how far you have come. Truly, the glory to which you have arisen is more than greatly well-earned.
Bashere stood beside the Lord Dragon for probably a million words in Robert Jordan’s series. He was loyal, he was strong, he was a great captain, and he was a great character. Davram Bashere’s death, while not explicitly shown in the novel, brought me great sadness. The world lost a great man the day you fell, Davram. You will be greatly missed. GARETH BRYNE
Elayne touched Gareth Bryne’s cheek softly. She closed his eyes, one, then the other, before nodding to the soldiers who had found his body. They carried Bryne away, legs dangling over the edge of his shield, head hanging down on the other side.
“He just went riding off, screaming,” Birgitte said. “Right into the enemy lines. There was no stopping him.”
Perhaps worse to read was Gareth Bryne’s death, gone mad as a Warder must upon his bond being unexpectedly severed. He began as a man of honor serving Queen Morgase, was a man of honor tracking Siun Sanche down to Salidar, and was a man of honor fighting for the White Tower. From The Eye of the World to A Memory of Light, Bryne was a man to admire, and his death was wholly tragic. You will be greatly missed.
One cannot mention Bryne without mentioning his wife, Siun. Here was another character whose growth in life took many shocking twists and turns. She was someone hard, the Amyrlin Seat, someone we did not expect to love, someone we did not expect to make us laugh, someone we did not expect to make us cheer. Yet she did all that. She became Egwene al’Vere’s mentor, and with tears in our eyes we heard her say:
"As a queen ages,” Siun said, “she begins to think about her legacy. Light, every goodwife probably starts to think the same things. Will she have an heir to hold what she has created? As a woman grows in wisdom, she realizes that what she alone can accomplish pales compared to what her legacy can achieve.
“Well, I suppose I can’t claim you entirely as my own, and I wasn’t exactly pleased to be succeeded. But it is… comforting to know I’ve had a hand in shaping what is to come. And if a woman were to wish for a legacy, she could not dream of greater than one such as you.”
Even without her legacy in Egwene, though, Siun held up a great legacy of her own – a fiery woman, tenacious and intelligent, completely involved in the workings of the world. Of all the characters to die in The Wheel of Time, hers was the first major shock, and a great loss to my heart. You will be missed, Mother. You will be missed.
So much. Augh. Curse you, Brandon Sanderson.
FORTUONA ATHAEM DEVI PAENDRAG
“Hawkwing, would you do me a favor?”
“Ask it, Hornblower.”
“Do you know the Seanchan?”
“I am… familiar with them.”
“I think their Empress would like very much to make your acquaintance,” Mat said, galloping away. “If you could go speak with her, I’d appreciate it. And if you do, kindly tell her I sent you.”
A ruler of a different sort than Siun, Fortuona nevertheless brought us great marvels of her own. She began as an annoying Seanchan, one of many in an Empire we wished never existed, much less land on this side of the Aryth Ocean. She became an incredible monarch, one we can gaze upon with just as much respect as her husband Mat. And all her interactions with Mat, and with other people, Seanchan and non-Seanchan alike, make her a wonderful addition to The Wheel of Time. I never expected I’d cheer for the Seanchan. But I did. Loudly. I might not prostate myself on the ground for you, Empress, but I will greatly miss leaving your lands.
Rand. His face had grown pale. He stumbled away from the table, as if all else had been forgotten, and pushed his way to Moiraine. He hesitantly reached out and touched her face. “By my mother’s grave,” Rand whispered, then fell to his knees before her. “How?”
Moiraine smiled, resting a hand on his shoulder. “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, Rand. Have you forgotten that?”
Moiraine brought me into The Wheel of Time series. She represented, in many ways, the depths of the entire novels. She started out as mysterious and powerful, but something we wholly wanted to understand. She was a guide, taking the characters on a journey, just like the words of the book did. Her “death” in the fourth book was an ultimate shock, the biggest character death probably in the entire series (until this final book).
As is such, Moiraine was an incredibly easy character to like. And while I was not wholly pleased with her marriage to Thom, I was very glad to see her back and stand up, speaking those familiar words about the Wheel weaving as the Wheel wills. It is ironic that out of all the characters who have died, she lives on – she, who to me embodies so much of the text of The Wheel of Time.
Maybe this will remind me my memories of the text live on even when the pages of this book end.
Thank you, Moiraine, for leading me into this epic adventure, just as you did with Rand, Mat, and Perrin.
Then he returned to his perch and took out a sheet of paper and his pen. And – to the thunder, the yells, the explosions, and the howl of the wind – he began to compose.
Here is another favorite, someone to celebrate from book one and onward. Thom was a hero in many ways – looking out for Rand and his younger relatives, standing up and fighting – but I found it wholly apt to see him end the series as he began: an entertainer, out to flourish a story with his wonderful words.
LOIAL SON OF ARENT SON OF HALAN
The entire Wheel of Time series is a quote from him to me. I more than imagine in my headcanon that this wonderful, bumbling, book-loving character is the true narrator of this story. Thank you, Loial, for your dedication, both in history and on the battlefront.
Okay I know that was a lazy tribute but really do you need to say anything more about this wonderful, endearing Ogier?
“Keep fighting, you daughters and sons of goats!” Birgitte yelled, loosing arrows at the mercenaries. “I might be dead, but I’m still your bloody commander, and you will obey orders!”
Birgitte was one of my favorite characters from the first time I met her. Granted, when she fought in the air at Falme, I expected her simply to remain a figure of legends – not someone real, concrete, fighting at Elayne’s side. Birgitte showed herself to be an admirably strong woman, helping Elayne and Nynaeve in Tel’aran’rhoid, and ultimately pulled out during her fight with Moghedien. Her bond as Elayne’s Warder became incredible, and when the two of them worked together for the last time in the Final Battle, I well and truly cried.
“You’re not my Warder any longer,” Elayne said. “But you’re still my friend. Will you ride with me?”
“I’m not the one who just refused to stay dead. Together?”
“Together,” Birgitted said, nodding.
Her bawdiness and interest in ugly men, her interactions with Mat and Elayne, her roughness and strength, her dedication and her protectiveness all stood out gloriously. Not only did Birgitte live up to be an incredible woman of legends – even when she lost her memories, she remained an incredible, heroic figure.
I must say, though, that seeing her in her final glory, standing over her own decapitated body, silver bow in hand, was one of the best moments ever. An incredible thrill, and an incredible way to leave us.
"Anyway, I must be far from insufferable, since you’ve done an excellent job of suffering me these last months.”
Elayne turned to her again. “That sounds like a farewell.”
Birgitten smiled. She could feel it, sometimes, when it was coming. “It is.”
FAILE BASHERE AND MIN FARSHAW
I honestly really have nothing much in way of tribute to say to them. They began as interesting female characters and then sort of puttered out of interest. But they did contribute to these books, so in that sense I will miss them, too.
That would be fine with her. If she brought down one of the Forsaken alongside her, that would be a wonderful death.
She had to try.
Aviendha’s characterization was always interesting. On one side, we love the warrior woman. She’s a trope, and she recurs in many stories. But Aviendha was more than that. She showed that power can come from beyond being able to fight – even if one is able to, the ability to be a political leader, a Wise Woman, can be of infinite more value.
What a great woman you became, Aviendha. I will miss you.
”Our blood is our passion,” she shouted. “Too much of what I hear from my armies is about resistance. We cannot merely resist! We msut show them our anger, our fury, at what they have done. We must not resist. Today, we must destroy.
“Our blood is our land. This place is ours, and we claim it! For our fathers and mothers, for our children.
“Our blood is our life. We have come to give it. Across the world, other armies are pushed back. We will not retreat. Our task is to spend our blood, to die advancing. We will not remain still, no!
“If we are to have the Light again, we must make it ours! We must reclaim it and cast out the Shadow! He seeks to make you despair, to win this battle before it begins. We will not give him that satisfaction! We will destroy this army before us, then destroy the one behind. And from there, we bring our blood – our life, our fire, our passion – to the others who fight. From there it spreads to victory and the Light!”
If there is one thing pretty consistent throughout the series, it is that I hated Elayne. The ONLY time I liked her was in the first book when she met Rand in the garden. And then it all fell apart. She is annoying, pretentious, and much too much of a pompous royal priss for me to enjoy too much out of her. All the plotlines involving her were annoying. She would preen after Rand shallowly. She would get grouchy at anything. She would spend bloody eternity securing Caemlyn. There really was little about her that I could enjoy.
But the way in which she commanded the armies in this final book was wonderful and wholly admirable.
A woman in charge of the armies, pregnant and standing in the front lines, giving inspiration to her people is inspirational in its own way.I might not like you, Elayne, but you did wonders. Good job and what a great leader you have become.
“This will hurt her,” Gawyn said through pale lips. “And at the end of it, I failed. To kill him.”
“Demandred,” Gawyn whispered. “I tried to kill him, but I wasn’t good enough. I’ve never… been quite good… enough…”
Galad found himself in a very cold place. He had seen men die, he had lost friends. This hurt more. Light, but it did. He had loved his brother, loved him deeply – and Gawyn, unlike Elayne, had returned the sentiment.
“I will bring you to safety, Gawyn,” Galad said, picking him up, shocked to find tears in his eyes. “I will not be left without a brother.”
Here is another character who did not garner my favor. Again, he had so much potential when I met him in the garden. I thought I would really like him. And when it came to a contest between him and Galad, Gawyn won heavily for most of the series. He seemed to have a level head on him, and was much less… perfectionistic… than Galad. He was someone I could relate to, at first.
His impulsivity wrecked him not only literally, but also from my standpoint as a reader. Constantly reading of his stupid misadventures where he brashly ran around making a mess of everything made me want him dead. His dedication to Egwene was annoying and was a totally mismatched marriage. She deserved so much better than some fool like him.
I guess I got what I wanted.
And I totally cried.
This somewhat unexpected brotherly love was horrific and it was a beautiful, touching way to let him go. In this tribute, I want to tell Gawyn, "Thank you. You did well. Your death was not a failure."
“Demandred!” Galad yelled. “Demandred, you call for the Dragon Reborn! You demand to fight him! He is not here, but his brother is! Will you stand against me?”
Talk about epic moments in history.
Many of the character transformations that have occurred have caused me to dislike a character. With Galad, he suddenly became a hero. One of my least favorites became one of my favorites.
For what a hero he became!
To stand up and to fight the Forsaken, to stand up declaring himself the brother of the Dragon Reborn, is the exact sort of amazing Epic Fantasy material I love.
The cost of the battle was high. He lost a hand. But he found Berelaine. And while I do not care to ship many characters, those two ARE meant for each other. So there will be happiness in the end for him, and for this I am glad. His life came out well. He still has some issues to figure out about morality's lack of blackness and whiteness, but he's off to a start, and will no doubt progress along an interesting path.
Well-done, Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light. I never thought I’d say that, but I totally mean it.
Demandred felt at the wound in his cheek, and his eyes opened wider. “Who are you?” Demandred asked.
“I am the man who will kill you.”
* Continues to gasp at the drama *
Lan is a stone character, but somehow we see such great depth in the stone. He’s someone we can sympathize with even when he does not wear his heart on his sleeve, or even act like it’s a big deal at all. He shows little affection to friends or even Nynaeve, but we can see the heart behind it somehow anyway.
Watching Lan fight at Tarwin’s Gap was heart-wrenching, and seeing him stand up to Demandred made me freak out. First I see Gawyn die to Demandred, then Galad lose a hand and get defeated, and now ANOTHER great character was going to fight him??? Would the drama never end?
In my tribute to Lan I just want to say “WOW.”
Tam went up to the bier, beside Thom and Moiraine, who were holding hands, faces solemn. Moiraine reached over and gently squeezed Tam’s arm. Tam looked at the corpse, gazing down into his son’s face by the fire’s light. He did not wipe the tears from his eyes.
You did well. My boy. . . you did so well.
He lit the pyre with a reverent hand.
* cries *
Of all the minor characters, here is one I respected beginning to end. And I cannot imagine the hurt he must have gone through to see his son die.
I need a hug.
* * *
And so we are left with the Big Five, the five men and women we first met in the Two Rivers, who escaped the clutches of Trollocs way, way, way back in the day that was two years for them and eight years for me.
The five people that made this all happen.
I believe Nynaeve was the first character I drew fanart for. Though she was a very static character with little development, she was a great pillar from beginning to end. She was fierce and protective of all the Emond’s Fielders who left the village, and she continued to protect them even when it was clear her role as Wisdom of the village no longer applied.
And yet her ferocity and passion continued to guide her life. We saw her become just as boldly a woman of the Yellow Ajah. We saw her lose her block from the Source and become a woman even more powerful than the Wisdom of a village. We saw her flourish in a world which she once loathed.
And still she grew.
Nynaeve helped cleanse saidin from the Shadow with Rand. She was the one who initiated the Malkieri army at Tarwin’s Gap. And while ironically she became the lesser in authority between her and Egwene, she remained a sense of wonderful distinction, an Aes Sedai of great might who we could respect. And she, standing at the end of it all, watched as Rand “died.”
There at the beginning, she left to help him. There at the end, she was there to help him leave.
Lead us, Young Bull.
Why must the heroes all be human?
A howl rose in the same pitch as that of the sounded Horn. He looked upon a field suddenly filled with a multitude of glowing wolves.
Perrin let loose a yell of his own, a howl of pleasure, then charged forward to meet the Darkhounds.
The Last Hunt had finally, truly arrived.
It is hard to describe my relationship with Perrin. I loved the quiet, deep-thoughted, slow-to-speak young man who left Emond’s Field. He made a wonderful contrast from rambunctious Mat and run-of-the-mill Rand. He was gentle, he was pure-hearted, and he was simple-minded.
The man he became is one who I imagine completely differently than the boy who left Emond’s Field. Yet that characterization grew naturally around him. I watched his shock as he learned he could speak to wolves. I saw him fight with the axe and whether or not he should kill. I witnessed him fall in love with Faile and get married. I saw that love for her consume him and create in him the ability to be a ferocious, terrifying leader.
Perrin in the end fits very well in a fantasy epic. He is powerful, he is mighty, and he is a brutal leader. But while he is the muscle of the three main men, he is also the thoughtfulness, the level-headedness, the voice of caution. It’s an interesting combination and one to respect.
I did not care as much for his fight in the wolf dream as I did him wielding the hammer (though the wolves being heroes of legends was one point where I screamed in happiness). To get back to the point, it was so easy to imagine him as Thor when he flew around in Tel’aran’rhiod. Please tell me you didn’t imagine that, too. And in that sense, even though he just led a group of villagers around, Perrin became a fantasy legend.
Lord Perrin indeed!EGWENE AL’VERE
She yelled, forcing herself to her feet. She would not face him on her knees! She drew every scrap of the Power she could hold, throwing it at the Forsaken with the fury of the Amyrlin.
The two streams of power sprayed light against one another, the ground around M’Hael cracking as the ground near Egwene rebuilt itself. She did not know what it was she wove. The opposite of balefire. A fire of her own, a weave of light and rebuilding.
The Flame of Tar Valon.
I always said my favorite character was Mat Cauthon. And that probably still holds true. He is most certainly the most steady favorite character of mine. I always liked him, start to finish, no exceptions.
My relationship with Egwene, as I have mentioned in reviews, is much, much more complicated.
I liked her as the innocent Emond’s Field girl infatuated over Rand. I liked the girl whose eyes glowed over the campfire exclaiming that she successfully touched the One Power for the first time, much to the shock and discomfort of her boyfriend Rand. I liked the girl who giggled in the White Tower novice quarters much like a gaggle of junior highers would do.
I didn’t like the Aiel apprentice who became over-fervent in her studies. I didn’t like the Accepted who went around hunting Black Ajah. While I appreciated the woman who no longer loved Rand, I most certainly hated the girl who giggled foolishly on Gawyn’s knee.
The middle period completely reversed when she became the Amyrlin seat. I rewarmed myself to her as she grew in power, interacted more with Siun Sanche, and manipulated the rebel White Tower from Salidar into something grand.
And she became grand.
A favorite just as much as Mat.
The entire battle for the White Tower was amazing. The way she stood up while imprisoned was amazing, and you totally saw a woman full of respect, not a novice at all. And the way in which she fought off the Seanchan was a thing of legends. I thought it could not be matched.
It could be matched. And it could be overcome in the Final Battle.
Of all the characters I wanted to die, I did not want it to be her. I wanted her to lead the White Tower on to glorious periods. So many of her plans were left unfinished.
But a main character had to die, and the way she went was probably the best moment in the entire series for her.
You are absolutely amazing, Mother. THIS is the greatest thing of legends in the entire book series.
”We will have to put our armies under the command of Matrim Cauthon,” Egwene said. “May the Light watch over us.”
I never would have pictured Mat as a war hero, much less a battle commander.
He was, after all, the boy we met playing pranks with badgers and stealing pies from windows in the village.
Mat was the most rural-like of all the villagers in many senses. He was the one I imagined as the most comfortable in the small-town life, the mischief maker, the son of a horse dealer, the kid who ran around and thrived in this small environment. The twinkle in his eye and the mischief he caused were endearing and wonderful.
So much of that changed. It got sucked out of him first with the dagger. Now that was wonderful drama. We saw a mischievous, lighthearted boy become a frighteningly cold, suspicious, treacherous, creepy lunatic obsessed over the red ruby. We saw him Healed by Moiraine and awkwardly apologize to everyone about the actions he committed which he only hazily remembered. We saw him freak out completely when Rand wore fancy clothes and touted the Dragon’s Banner. Mat staggered back, shocked and repulsed, realizing at that moment that Rand could channel.
We saw Mat’s impulsiveness and disregard for authority shape him into an authority figure himself, beginning when he visited the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn. He began to hide secrets, wrapping a scarf around the scar on his neck. We saw him take on extra dimensions, extra memories. We saw him fighting with himself and his own head, all the while trying to shirk authority, but all the time being shaped and realized he needed to take responsibility.
There was the first battle with Couladin where he took a large role. The Band of the Red Hand became his, and while it was an unconventional group of soldiers, it was also an enormous, shocking step for his character. And yet as he became a great gambler and a more grouchy, ever-complaining soul, we still felt that atmospheric “Mat”-ness the entire time, which made his story so unique and enjoyable. He continued to trip into adventures, though in a much different sort – instead of seeking out simple pranks, he found himself complaining about fighting gholam, rescuing women, and getting involved with nobles he wished to steer away from. He provided us both a source of comedy and of great adventure.
His flirtations with Tuon were endearingly awkward, his usual graces with women turned onto a hysterically hopeless head. That relationship was one I could never have enough of, and I cheered (and definitely laughed) when the two of them married. I loved that he had become a noble, fully embracing his name and title.
Sure, other characters grew a lot and took on responsibility. Egwene, as I just reviewed, had enormous steps taken. But she always had that grain of responsibility inside of her. It made more sense that she contained the potential for Amyrlin within her than it did that Mat had the potential to lead the armies and be the Emond’s Field character with the greatest amount of wealth, land, and power by the end of the series.
And yet it was PERFECT that he was the one directing the Last Battle. It was completely perfect.
Of all the characters in this series, I will miss Mat the most. I want there to be more misadventures with him! I want him to blow the Horn again, I want him to get into another argument with Tuon, I want him to deny yet again that he is a bloody noble, I want him to dice and gamble and fight and be awesome with his eyepatch. I won’t have that anymore. It impacts me greatly. It’s really hard… to think… there will be no more adventures.
And then, he let go.
He let go of the guilt. He let go of the shame for having not saved Egwene and all the others. He let go of the need to protect her, to protect all of them.
He let them be heroes.
And here I let go of my tears and completely bawled.
Rand had several stages of character himself: the normal, well-meaning sheephearder, the confused and young man told he is the Dragon Reborn, the insane, raging maniac, the political manipulator, the terrifyingly moody wielder of balefire, the ancient four and a half century year old man who achieved Nirvana ready to save the world. Of all his permutations, I like the simple farmboy and the raging hellhound the best. But as far as main characters go, here is one who truly became a hero.
The fight he took to the Dark One was very satisfying, especially because his other enemies – the Dark Ones, the Forsaken, and the Shadowspawn – were pretty one-dimensional. The idea that darkness needs to remain in the world is not a new one, but it was very nicely written into the story, and a very satisfying ending and explanation for why the Wheel of time keeps returning.
I end my tributes by smiling upon the Dragon Reborn for saving the world. And while I expected him to die, I also feel like it was so appropriate to watch him go, to wander as he did at the beginning of the stories, his name and face unknown:
Traveling without being chased, or having to rule here or there. Traveling where he could just sleep in a barn in exchange for splitting someone’s firewood. He thought about that, and found himself laughing, riding on south and smoking his impossible pipe. As he did so, a wind rose around him, around the man who had been called lord, Dragon Reborn, king, killer, lover and friend.
He leaves as a very different person. While it was a shock to learn he could channel, it was equally a shock to realize he could no longer channel. It became such an innate part of his character that it’s almost unfathomable to imagine a Rand al’Thor without a spark of the ability. At the same time, while I found it an appropriate and very large loss for his life, there was such a sense of newness in the end of the book. After all that pain, of the political fights, of the wars fought, of the suffering, of the post-traumatic stress, of the Forsaken and the rage and the burdens… I felt a sense of newness. Of a new beginning for him. No longer is this man the Dragon Reborn.
And that was incredible. I did not expect the book to end with a beginning. It’s a strange hope – the hope of the unknown, the hope of leaving behind – but it’s one to which I think we can all celebrate and relate. In the face of the painful aftermath, there is something – we don’t know what, but still something – to look forward to. That new beginning which follows an end.
In my heart, the timeline progresses forward, and there is no end. There are no endings in The Wheel of Time.
This will always be a book series after my heart.
The wind rose high and free, to soar in an open sky with no clouds. It passed over a broken landscape scatted with corpses not yet buried. A landscape covered, at the same time, with celebrations. It tickled the branches of trees that had finally begun to put forth buds.
The wind blew southward, through knotted forests, over shimmering plains and toward lands unexplored. This wind, it was not the ending. There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time.
But it was an ending.
THE END OF MY REVIEWS FOR THE WHEEL OF TIME