Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Fires of Heaven Read-Along, Week 7



Welcome to week 7 of the Fires of Heaven Read-along. For this week, we read chapters 40-44. Remember that the series up until now along with this section are fair game for spoilers, so read at your own discretion!


Galad Damodred
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1. As usual, things have changed quite rapidly and Nynaeve now knows the location of the rebel Aes Sedai and has gained a personal ‘army’ of Shienarans. Do we really believe that Galad intends to let the girls leave without telling his superiors in the Whitecloaks? What reception do you expect them to receive when they reach Salidar?

With Galad, it's actually hard to say. I think Jordan does a good job of defining this character well enough that you really don't know for sure. Normally, I would say, since he's a relatively decent guy, that he'd never betray his sister in that way. But it's been drilled into our heads that he always does what's right to a fault, and now he's donned a white cloak. (See what I did there? :D) So, it's anyone's guess what Galad will choose. 

In Salidar, chances are they'll go back to the normal chores and routine of Accepted. I think that will be difficult for them as they've been running around for so long pretending to be full Aes Sedai and doing as they please. If they're resistant at all (and let's face it, this is Nynaeve we're talking about) the reception is sure to be chilly.

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2. It seems that both Rand and the Cairhien are using innovative technology to break the siege. However, my biggest worry is that only the Aiel can distinguish between the Shaido and the other clans. Any suggestions for how to avoid the loyal Aiel falling to ‘friendly fire’ from the non-Aiel taking part in the battle?

I don't know if there's a surefire way to do that. This battle became so all-over-the-place and disjointed, that there's no way to completely weed out one group of people from another.

High Lord Weiramon
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3. We are seeing open animosity between the Cairhien and Tairens. Do you think that this is typical of the hostility between neighbors, or is it more to do with the social status of the two groups? Do you think that Rand will ever be able to unite the various societies and social groupings to create a single force for the Last Battle?

I think the animosity is a little of each. Because of what happened at the Stone of Tear, the Tairens might think they're first among the nations following Rand, which will be hard to mold into a united front. Of course, as you say, they're rivals anyway and Rand will have a lot of bad blood to overcome in trying to unite the world. I think it's doable, but he's got a lot of hard work ahead of him. I don't envy him that.

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4. Poor Mat! It would seem that the Pattern still wants him to stay near to Rand. Do you think that he should simply give up trying and come to terms with his role as Rand’s military advisor? Also, how cross do you think Melindhra will be that he tried to sneak away?

Mat trying to get away and not managing it always makes me laugh. In a way, he's fighting fate and I think we all know that's a futile battle. On the other hand, I think it shows what a good guy Mat is at heart. Yeah, he's a gambler. And a jokster. And kind of a womanizer. And he's pretty self-involved. But when it counts, he can't help but jump in. It's a very redeeming quality in him. As for Melindhra, she doesn't strike me as the kind of woman who will be cool about him wanting to leave. Just sayin'.

Rand al'Thor
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5. Holy exploding hilltops, Batman! With just three channelers joining the battle we see a lot of mayhem and carnage. How effective do you think they are at defeating the Shaido? Is anyone else getting more than a little tired of Rand’s sexist attitude towards protecting women?

Only time will tell, but according to Lan--who would know--very effective. He said Rand not only won, he completely won. And Lan doesn't give undue praise. I remember being a little annoyed with Rand's protection complex the first time I read the series, but the second time through I don't mind it so much. A while ago, someone mentioned that it might be a throwback to the fact that Lews Therin killed his wife, which I thought was a really interesting take on things. I think it's kind of endearing, even if it does get repetitive. (And, you know, I'm not dealing with it, so I can say that. :D)

Sammael
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6. Sammael seems to have decided to act, and yet his attacks have been rather ineffective. Do you think that he was simply testing Rand’s strength, or did he really intend to kill or capture him?

It's hard to say. The actual attacks were pretty weak, which makes it seem that perhaps he's just feeling out Rand and trying to determine what kind of foe he'll be. But after what Nynaeve and Brigitte heard the Forsaken talk about in T'A'R, it seems like this would have been the perfect time for them to link and come against Rand. If what we saw was that...I gotta say, very unimpressive, Oh Evil Forsaken.

7. Finally, this battle seemed rather confusing to me and it was difficult to follow what exactly was happening. How did you feel about this aspect of the narrative? Would you have preferred a clearer account or not?

Agree and disagree. I didn't get lost reading it, but there was so much going on that it was a bit hard to visualize. I don't know how much clearer he could have made it, though, given what was happening and what kind of battle it was. Overall, I thought Jordan handled it pretty well.

Extras:

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This is the kind of thing I wouldn't have picked up the first time through. This is the first time Rand has channeled saidin with abandon. He's not shying away, or just using what he has to to defend himself or anything like that. He reached out and used all he could handle and threw it into the battle. On page 681: "The void trembled: for an instant Rand teetered on the brink of destruction. Waves of the One Power crashed through him in a froth of fear; the taint seemed to solidify around his heart, a reeking stone." After that, he has some thoughts that are very alien to him. I won't go into what that is for those who haven't read it yet, but we'll see more of that. From here on out, Rand will start to have some serious issues concerning how he thinks he needs to be. We've already seen it somewhat when he's said, "I need to be harder. I need to be able to take it," etc., but it will get way more intense. Anyway, my point is that this seems to be the turning point, and I didn't pick up on it the first time through. I thought it was incredibly interesting to read this battle. It's a major turning point for Rand and that's cool to see so tangibly.

I really liked that last scene we read in this section, where the Maidens took Rand to the Wise Ones and he talked with Lan while Moiraine was healing people in the background. Don't know why. It was just cool. Lan and Rand and Moiraine in the aftermath of a huge battle. Just something that's epic and sad and cool all at once. It was so well-written!

How did everyone else like this section?

***P.S. I'm guest posting today on In This World of Books today. Check it out if you have a minute!

4 comments :

  1. I too enjoy Mat's constant attempts to flee. Haha! It makes me laugh to see what he will try next.

    Nice fan art. Now I have an idea why Rand has a harem ;).

    I noticed this was the first time Rand used saidin with abandon and how things became a bit odd and later muddled for him. Perhaps the blood loss later on was adding to him fading in and out of Lews Therin's life, and perhaps a chunk of it was his full open use of the power.

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  2. Regarding your "other", I always thought the change in Rand was more due to that other thing in this book. But maybe we can discuss that in more detail later on.

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    1. Well that isn't intriguing AT ALL, Elvind! :D

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  3. 1. I am not sure that Galad would intend to actually betray Elayne, but I always worry about people who think that they know what is 'right' for everyone else.

    4. I always feel as if Mat is good almost in spite of his intentions. Poor lad, he just can't be as hard hearted as he pretends to be!

    6. I was a little confused by the attacks by Sammael as they didn't seem to lead to anything, which made them rather pointless. However, I do like the way that the Forsaken are rather feeble because of their personal hang-ups and they make good enemies that aren't too perfect or powerful.

    I really like the way that Rand develops slowly - it makes such a nice change from the way that so many heroes become instantly all-knowing and super powerful. I also like how his 'extra' personality is mirrored in Mat, so it doesn't seem quite so alien and worrying to us. As a reader, I know that Mat has the same kind of 'symptoms' and so I don't have concerns for Rand's sanity just yet.

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