Winter’s Heart is book nine of The Wheel of Time and it has the longest prologue so far of the series at a lengthy 86 pages, which is more than 10% of the book. The previous prologue in the series to hold the title was in Lord of Chaos. A quick look shows that book ten will have an even longer prologue. I’ve commented on prologues before in this series and, if I’m being honest, I don’t care how long they are because it is all just one giant story and I don’t really notice chapter lengths that much when I’m reading. The longer prologues are split up nicely to allow for breaks if you don’t feel up to reading all 80+ pages in one go.
Anyway, enough about prologues and let’s get into the nitty-gritty of this installment. As with previous books in the series, there will be spoilers ahead so read at your own risk.
First, the weather. It was in book seven when the Bowl of the Winds was found and then used at the beginning of book eight. The weather begins to change drastically to its normal patterns once the Bowl is used. We go from summer heat to, wait for it, Winter’s Heart. Thanks, I’ll be here forever (since it’s my blog). So the weather does a 180. Between the heat through the last few books to the extreme cold now dominating the landscapes, this series demonstrates how weather can become its own character in a book and can be used to great effect in a story. A few books that I can think of that have similar use of weather as influential pieces of the story are The Left Hand of Darkness, Dune, and The Martian. The weather is causing issues for everyone, especially our heroes, but one thing that doesn’t make much sense to me is how quickly the Aiel adapt to the snow. Most of them have never seen snow before. I know night in the desert can be extremely cold, but that is not really comparable to a wet, blizzard cold. Yet we see the Shaido Aiel are moving easily and quickly in the snow and several of the Wise Ones seem to not be affected by the cold. Even those who can’t channel, like the stupid snake Sevanna.
Before we get to her appearance, I want to cover a few minor scenes. The first is Seaine and her newfound group within the White Tower who are seeking out the Black Ajah. We last saw her about to discover a Black Sister and we get a brief scene of them questioning her until she confesses that she is one. She then claims that Elaida is Black Ajah, but this goes to show once again that Aes Sedai can say what they believe to be true even if it is not actually true. I still believe Elaida is not Black Ajah since Alviarin is taking advantage of her and Alviarin is the one who is following Mesaana’s orders.
We get very little of Egwene in this book. We last saw her at the end of book eight making a doorway/portal and leading her army through it to lay siege to Tar Valon. Apparently, she is still in Murandy during the events of this book and presumably goes to Tar Valon towards the end of this book, so maybe we will see more of her and her battle at the White Tower in book ten. The only glimpses of Egwene are in Tel’aran’rhiod when she meets with Elayne and Nynaeve.
I’ll circle back to Sevanna here before moving on to Elayne’s thread in this book. We see Faile get captured by Shaido at the end of book eight. Morgase/Maighdin, Alliandre, Bain and Chiad are also captured. We see them led/dragged through the snow naked until they finally catch up to the greater Shaido forces where they don the robes of gai’shain. They are all made gai’shain to Sevanna because Sevanna is a hag and wants to rule the world. She separates her gai’shain from the others by making them wear jewelry. Her hubris and greed are sickening and I still hate her with a passion. She is breaking almost every Aiel custom but gets away with it. Maybe that is what irks me the most. Not only is taking “wetlanders” as gai’shain a break from custom, and essentially a taboo, she has things set up where non-Aiel who are taken as gai’shain are not released after their year and a day. Therefore, she is basically just making every “wetlander” she can get a slave for life.
Faile and those with her are approached by Therava who is the only Wise One who is willing to openly go against Sevanna. She asks/demands Faile to spy on Sevanna for her. Galina, who has been answering to Therava, also approaches Faile and claims she can help them all escape if they can steal the Oath Rod from Therava. This is where we leave Faile and I am again left to hope that we see more of her in book ten.
Along with Faile’s few chapters, we get a few chapters of Perrin. They get the first third of this book and then we don’t see them again. Perrin is caught between what he came to do, get Masema and take him to Rand, and rescuing Faile after she is captured. Obviously the latter takes precedence. Masema actually agrees to help Perrin hunt down the Aiel who took her and even agrees to go by Traveling which he refused as a way to get to Rand quickly. This team-up will be quite interesting. Maybe Masema will actually do something useful before he gets axed.
Elyas goes out with Gaul to look for the Shaido once they learn Faile was taken. I can’t help but hope we get more of Elyas because I like his character and would like to know more about him. Also in Perrin’s group is Berelain who escaped getting captured. She informs Perrin that Masema was meeting with the Seanchan. I can’t help but wonder what is going on with her though. Is she in love with Perrin? It’s starting to seem that way, which leads me to wonder if Berelain is the hawk from Min’s viewing back in book three. The viewing had the falcon, Faile, the Tuatha’an with a sword, Aram, and a hawk. The hawk and the falcon were both female and would cause trouble. Is her house symbol a hawk? I’m afraid to look into this because I want to avoid spoilers myself so I’ll just wait and see what happens as I go.
Back to Elayne. She is in Caemlyn and becomes first-sisters with Aviendha in a weird birthing ritual that lets them have a bond similar to a Warders but not as strong or invasive. Her claim to the throne is unsteady and she is having to rebuild the city guard. There is an attempt on her life that almost kills Dyelin. We later learn that the attack was set-up by an agent of the Forsaken to get close to Elayne. He was successful and is now her captain of the guard. He is still under Birgitte though so I hope Birgitte finds him out and puts an arrow through him. Elayne meets with the borderland alliance that is marching south to contact the Dragon Reborn. She expertly makes an agreement with them that will get them closer to their goal while putting her in a position to strengthen and possible secure her claim to the throne.
My favorite scene in this book is shortly after Elayne, Aviendha, and Min all bond Rand to them while he is in Caemlyn to talk to Nynaeve about his plan. After they complete the bond, we get a few different reactions. Min is excited to discover that Rand really does love them all equally and fiercely. Aviendha is overjoyed to know with certainty that Rand does love her. And Elayne is surprised to realize that her fears of sharing the bond were unfounded. We also get to see through the bond that Rand is basically in constant pain from his never-healing wounds and from using saidin. Shortly after the bond, Elayne basically tells Rand that there is one thing that Min and Aviendha have had that she hasn’t yet (Rand in the sack), and what happens next is hilarious. Nearly all intimate scenes have occurred “off-screen,” I think every one actually, and this one technically is as well but we get hints of what is happening through the newly formed Warder’s bond with Aviendha and Min, as well as the Warder’s bond via Birgitte. Honestly, sex scenes hardly ever need to be included in books, and they are rarely ever written well, but this second-hand account was absolutely brilliant because we get reactions from characters who are privy to the emotions involved. They try to block it out but they can’t and everyone is embarrassed and they all three go get drunk to help block out what is happening. Min also has a viewing that Elayne gets pregnant from this encounter and that she will eventually have two of Rand’s children. She has another about Aviendha showing she will have four of his kids and they will be quadruplets. Min wishes she could see her own aura so she would know if she would have any of his kids but she can’t.
Outside of Caemlyn is the ever-growing Black Tower. Mazrim Taim agrees to let Elayne and Birgitte view the little town whenever they please. It is in the Black Tower that we get a scene from the point of view of Toveine, the Red Sister who was captured and bonded by Logain. We get a brief look into Logain’s actions in the town. The camp is apparently split between Logain and Mazrim. Mazrim declared that all the Asha’man who were with Rand are traitors and are to be hunted down along with the ones who actually attacked him. I don’t see Flinn, Narishma, or Hopwell turning on Rand, and we get confirmation of this toward the end of this book which I will cover when I get to Rand.
I would move to his parts now but I’ll save it for last since it is a big moment. So next I’ll move on to Mat. Mat shows up halfway through this book. We last saw him under a pile of rubble at the end of book seven during the Seanchan invasion. One thing that has started in this book is that Rand and Mat, and presumably Perrin, start seeing visions or colors whenever they think of each other. I’m assuming this may come into play later on or it is just something that is tying them all together again and will force them to the same place later on. They haven’t all been in one place together since the start of book four.
We get into Mat’s story after we get a scene including Tuon who we learn is the Daughter of the Nine Moons. The Aelfinn/snake people who were in the doorway ter’angreal, located in Rhuidean at the time, told him that she would be his wife. We learn that Tuon is of the Seanchan Blood and is leading the next stage of the invasion, The Return, which includes settling a lot of Seanchan into the already conquered lands. I first thought that the Daughter of the Nine Moons was the Seanchan Empress, but I must have been mistaken. Maybe Tuon will eventually become the Empress since she is of the Blood.
Mat has apparently been holed up/held captive by Queen Tylin while he healed from his wounds. Tylin is doing well by working with the Seanchan. We also discover that Aludra, the Illuminator Mat saved back in book three and who gave him the fireworks he used to blow a way into the Stone of Tear, is traveling with Valan Luca’s menagerie, which is performing outside of Ebou Dar. The Seanchan invasion isn’t as oppressive as previously indicated. I for one could have done without seeing Valan Luca again, but here he is. Mat is trying to learn the Illuminator’s secret of how to construct fireworks so he can use them as weapons to aid his escape from the city. His entire story in this book is trying to find a way out. Thom and Juilin also are with him and have the same mindset, though Juilin apparently has been shacking up with a Seanchan slave/servant named Thera, and if my memory serves me well, Thera is the former Panarch of Tanchico named Amathera. Mat has another encounter with the gholam in the city and picks up another companion named Noal who effectively saves him from getting killed by it.
So Mat is trying to find a way out of the city safely and is hesitant to use Valan Luca’s troupe as cover. The dice start rolling in his head and only stop when he sees Tuon. He is wary at first because nothing happens right away. He continues trying to plan an escape when he is confronted by Bayle Domon, who is now a servant/lover to Egeanin who was the Seanchan in Tanchico who helped Nynaeve and Elayne. She was supposed to drop the male a’dam in the ocean but we find out that she had to hand it over to Suroth. Apparently there is a Seanchan prophecy that states the Dragon Reborn will kneel to the Empress. Supposedly this a’dam may be a part of that prophecy. Bayle and Egeanin also have a need to escape the city and the plan moves forward until it includes saving two Aes Sedai from being damane and getting another Aes Sedai out before she is found and collared.
During the rescues and escape, Tuon gets in the middle of it and Mat finds out who she is. He then says they will take her with them as a captive and Tuon actually smiles at this after her strange reaction when Mat called her his wife. We are left to wonder what will happen next. I expect we will see Mat and company getting outside the city in book ten and more on Mat and Tuon’s relationship. It will likely be a slow build but they will probably find a way to love each other.
I’m going to cover the rest of the events together. We really only have three parties left to discuss: Rand, Cadsuane, and the Forsaken. They eventually all come together so I’ll mix and match until we get to the main event.
Rand decides his next goal will be to remove the taint from saidin using the sa’angreal he finds in Rhuidean. They turn out to be keys that access the actual sa’angreal in the forms of humongous statues of the same design. One we saw several books ago being uncovered/excavated. The other is located on the island of Tremalking. Each one uses one half of the One Power. These sa’angreal are known as the Choedan Kal and were constructed toward the end of the Age of Legends. They were never used and therefore no one, even the Forsaken, knows what would happen if they are used. Rand believes using these is the only way to remove the Dark One’s corruption of saidin, which was the main reason for the breaking of the world and the end of the Age of Legends. This is his goal for this book, and is founded in the fact that he can’t use the power anymore without being physically sick or incapacitated, but first he decides he needs to eliminate the Asha’man who betrayed him at the end of book eight.
Rand approaches Nynaeve first because he needs her to wield the female half of the Choedan Kal. He chooses her because she is one of the few he can trust. He picks her up from Caemlyn at the palace. He tried to be secretive but Min gave him away to Elayne and Aviendha which led to what we discussed earlier. He then takes Nynaeve, Lan, Alivia, and Min to the city of Far Madding. Alivia is a former damane from Rand’s battles against the Seanchan in the last book. Min had a viewing about her that showed she will somehow “help Rand die” so Rand is keeping her close and begins to trust her based on this. Far Madding is the most interesting city I have seen so far, and there are many interesting locations in this series. The first encounter in the city shows Rand following and then facing two of the Asha’man in the streets. He lured them there by planting information back in Cairhein. They fight and he kills one and the other escapes. None of them use saidin when fighting. We later discover that there is a ter’angreal in Far Madding that replicates a Stedding, or creates a field where the One Power cannot be accessed. Therefore, no one can use the One Power in the city. They can’t even sense it there, which causes many who can use it uneasy until they leave the city. Not only does this ter’angreal prevent the use of the One Power, it can pinpoint where the Power is used on the outskirts of the city and within if someone figures out how to use it within the city limits. Surprise, someone does and it is our very own Nynaeve and Cadsuane who have angreal called Wells that can store the Power for later use. A somewhat deus ex machina moment but not a huge one. Another cool thing about Far Madding is that there is little crime. Partly because of the replicated Stedding and cutting off of those who use the One Power, but also because no one is allowed to use a sword in the city. You can either check your weapons at the gate or have a Peace Bond placed around your weapon until you leave the city. A Peace Bond is a wire weaving around the sword that locks it into the scabbard. Cutting a Peace Bond results in a huge fine and a public flogging. Peace Bonds are only removed when you leave the city and they are all registered when they are created at the gates. There are also extensive guards throughout the city to maintain the peace without the use of weapons.
Guess who is also in Far Madding? Padan Fain aka Mordeth. Padan Fain has been in this series since book one and has evolved, or devolved, into different levels of evil. Fain kills the Asha’man who escaped Rand’s first encounter. Rand believes he killed two of the others when Rand and Lan try to go kill them. There wasn’t confirmation of this but I could have just misread the scene. Anyway, Rand fights Fain while Lan fights Riatin. Riatin was seen with Fain outside Cairhein. He was leading the rebellion against Rand and is a master swordsman. Lan kills him, Fain gets away, and the guards of the city capture Rand and Lan. Cadsuane uses her influence and skills to convince the city to release Lan and Rand. They get to leave the city without being checked too. The record of them being in the city is wiped as well. All because Cadsuane and Nynaeve use their Well angreal to shock the Counsels/rulers of the city.
We do learn that the Asha’man who betrayed Rand were promised power and immortality from Demandred and Moridin. They were also ordered to kill Rand by Mazrim. This means that the Forsaken have reached the Black Tower and possibly could be within the Black Tower. Mazrim may even be one of them. This would be interesting but harder to believe unless they killed the original Mazrim and took on his identity since he had a reputation of being a false Dragon before we see the first Forsaken were released back in book one.
Speaking of the Forsaken, we do get quite a bit of information from them in short sections of this book. They have been somewhat on the edges of the story lately and not actively involved. A few new characters have been introduced but they have been operating outside the main story, which is weird considering how prevalent they should be at this point. So they all have a meeting in one scene and the only one who doesn’t show is Mesaana, who we know is in the White Tower. Moridin shows up. He is Nae’blis or the chosen one by the Dark Lord and therefore can command the others. We learn that Moridin is actually Ishamael reincarnated. We get references to two others who were reincarnated. Osan’gar and Aran’gar. Aran’gar was one of the two who were reincarnated as the opposite sex but can use the original half of the One Power they could access prior to reincarnation. This was a bit confusing at first and I’m not sure of the logic behind it, but it is interesting and causes misinterpretations and some tense scenes. Aran’gar used to be Balthamel. He is the one who was reincarnated as a woman. I can’t remember who the one was that was reincarnated as a man, but Osan’gar used to be Aginor, who was killed in book one. We also learn that Cyndane is the reincarnation of Lanfear. We didn’t know anything about her in the last book or two when she first appears. Apparently Demandred thought it was Lanfear reborn at first too but then dismisses the idea once he realizes that Cyndane is a lot weaker than Lanfear was. He thinks she is someone from the current time who was elevated to their level. The truth is she is Lanfear reborn, but she is weaker than her original form. This raises some concerns. I didn’t think Lanfear and Moraine were dead when they went into the doorway ter’angreal that is inhabited by the Aelfinn and Eelfinn (the snake people), but apparently Lanfear does die and is reborn. The question is why is she weaker now? Did she die in the ter’angreal after being held prisoner by the Aelfinn? Does this mean that Moraine may still be alive? I’m sure I’ll find out as I continue the series.
Moridin commands the other Forsaken to capture Rand while he is using the Choedan Kal. They all also agree that they need to kill Mordeth/Padan Fain since he opposes them as another evil power and may disrupt their plans. Sammael has not been reborn yet, if he truly is dead. We last saw him disappear/die by the fog in Shadar Logoth. Along with the Forsaken we get to see Luc/Slayer again for the first time since book three in the Two Rivers. We barely know anything about him then but get a few tidbits here. He apparently is an assassin known as Isam who sometimes works for the Forsaken but truly only reports to the Dark Lord. He seems to have a split personality or something. He Travels through Tel’aran’rhiod and can pop up anywhere. Perrin actually injured him in Tel’aran’rhiod back in book three. I’m not sure who/what he is, but I’m sure I will find out more as I read on.
Cadsuane and Sorilea have a fragile alliance and may end up having different goals, but they agree to work in the interest of Rand. When Rand gets bonded by Elayne, Aviendha, and Min, Alanna feints and this concerns Cadsuane. She apparently couldn’t feel her bond with Rand at that time. This leads to Cadsuane seeking Rand out by using Alanna as a dowsing rod. They both go, with an entourage of Aes Sedai and a few Atha’an Miere, to find him in Far Madding. The three Asha’man, Flinn, Narishma, and Hopwil, are now bonded as Warders to different Aes Sedai in this party. Verin is also in the party. She is getting more and more mysterious. I like her and want to trust her, but I am also wary of her. Alanna really wants to see Rand when they get to the city and is actually really happy to see him for some reason, though she is really upset when she finds out that he let someone else bond him. He says he actually allowed it this time which promptly shuts her up.
Okay. Final Scene. Rand and Nynaeve use the Choedan Kal outside of Shadar Logoth. As they try to control the power to remove the taint on saidin, the Forsaken are drawn to them. Anyone who can use the One Power will have felt them since they draw on so much. Cadsuane and her group defend Rand and Nynaeve as they attempt to cleanse saidin. The Forsaken Travel to Shadar Logoth to try and stop Rand from his objective and capture him. It is here that we learn that Osan’gar was actually Dashiva the whole time. He is also the only Forsaken who seemingly dies in this battle. He dies by fire to an Aes Sedai called Elza. She is one of those who swore fealty to Rand, but she apparently is also still Black Ajah because when she kills Osan’gar/Dashiva, it is because she thinks he is only Dashiva the Asha’man and she therefore wouldn’t get in trouble for attacking one of the Forsaken.
Rand and Nynaeve succeed in cleansing saidin. This should let Rand be a full-on badass for the rest of the series. Hopefully he gets his wounds healed too so he can be completely unhindered. This may also help Cadsuane bring him back to being a human being again since he doesn’t have to fight the Dark One’s touch every time he uses the One Power.
Overall, I really did enjoy this book. We get decent sections from each character but a lot is still left open, especially about Perrin and Faile. I know there are still five more books to go and I’m still aiming to finish them by the end of the year. I just hope I don’t have to wait until book eleven to find out what happens to those two. I almost prefer seeing a little from all characters than not seeing them at all. I guess that really only pertains to the characters who were last seen in a bit of trouble. Rand right now is passed out but he succeeded in his task and is protected by Cadsuane and Lan so I wouldn’t worry about him too much if I didn’t see him for a bit. Egwene was last seen marching off to attack the White Tower so I do want to see what happens there sooner than later. Since she wasn’t in this book, I expect to see her in book ten, which I will be starting shortly.
On to Crossroads of Twilight.