Crossroads of Twilight

Crossroads of Twilight


Crossroads of Twilight is book ten in the Wheel of Time series and was published in 2003. Thirteen years after the first book. I was lucky to jump into this series after the final book was written and I have been flying through them. It has been less than eight months since I began the series and I just finished book ten. I took a short break between book nine and ten to read another book, that I had received and advanced copy of, and the prequel to this series New Spring.

I am unsure, but I think that short break threw off my rhythm of the series. I was really into things and reading the advanced copy book and then the prequel was like taking a step back. That being said, I still read this book fairly quickly, but I did come to it at a slightly different angle. Like returning to television series after waiting for the next season.

Anyway, I am writing my thoughts about this installment. There will be spoilers so read at your own risk if you have not read the series or are not yet to this book in the series.

First, let’s talk about that prologue. Another long one at almost 12% of the actual book (RJ likes his prologues). Several things happen in the prologue. There is no mention of Black Ajah outside of the Sisters in the White Tower searching for them. Nor is there mention of the Forsaken. However, we do get a new character I am assuming will come into play later on. Rodel Ituralde, known as The Wolf, is uniting forces in Arad Doman to defend the country against the Seanchan. We also get a glimpse of Logain who goes out to recruit more Asha’man. And lastly, we get my boy Loial showing up in Cairhein. I have missed this Ogier. Dobraine is almost killed and Logain shows up in Cairhein at the end of the prologue.

We then open with Mat. He is hiding out in Luca’s menagerie just outside of Ebou Dar. He learns that Tylin was killed the night they escaped and only he really knows it was the gholam that killed her. He feels immense guilt because he tied her up and left her. Tuon is in fact the main successor of the Seanchan throne, so I am led to believe she will inevitably inherit that throne. Furyk, a Seanchan Deathwatch guard sets off to find Tuon early on in this book and we don’t hear from him again so I guess we may see him in book eleven. Mat gets Luca to start traveling toward Tar Valon. Mat does make headway with his relationship with Tuon during their travels. I think he is only courting her because he was told she would be his wife the day he was hanged in Rhuidean way back in book four(?). The last thing we get that’s interesting in Mat’s storyline is that he seemingly sees ghosts of people that no one else sees when he takes Tuon on a shopping trip. This seems like a foreshadowing since we get mentions of ghosts in Perrin’s storyline.

So speaking of Perrin, let’s jump to him. He is still one of my favorites. This entire post is going to contradict my next statement, but I felt like not a lot happened in this particular installment. Perrin is still chasing after the Shaido to recover Faile. She was captured at the end of book eight I believe. We get a quick glimpse of Faile in the Shaido camp/city. There are 70,000 Aiel in the camp/city. I think this number includes the gai’shain. Anyway, Faile is planning her own escape because she knows if Perrin attempts a rescue, he will be slaughtered.

Perrin does catch up to the Shaido though and he is scoping out the best way to get Faile back. Outside of his camp though, he finds tracks of Darkhounds (which for some reason I pictured as the gargoyle dogs from Ghostbusters in this book). The last time we saw Darkhounds were outside of Illian and then in Rhuidean. Both times they had to be killed with balefire. Both times they had belonged to Sammael, who was supposedly killed in Shadar Logoth in book seven. Perrin, and Elyas, review the tracks and determine the Darkhounds are searching for something/someone else or else they would have attacked them a while back. Perrin enters So Habor to get supplies for his camp. This town is not doing well and supposedly the people are seeing ghosts, like Mat did, and they are living much more poorly than they actually are. Perrin buys grain but has the townsfolk clean the grain for weevils before sending it to his camp. The weevil issue shows up in Egwene’s camp as well despite it being unusual for winter and the fact that her containers were preserved using the One Power so it should have been impossible for weevils to manifest. More on Egwene later.

Perrin returns from So Habor to find his scouts had captured five Shaido. He finds them being tortured by Masema’s men. Aram is with Masema at this time. Aram seems to be losing it a bit. He kind of turned fanatical after he picked up the sword initially, but he was following Perrin and things were going well. He has been slipping though since Faile was captured. I hope he doesn’t go crazy. Perrin cuts off the hand of one of the Shaido with his ax. Doing so convinces the other prisoners to tell all they know, which isn’t much. Afterwards, Perrin goes off and chucks the ax into a tree and leaves it there. I don’t think he is really abandoning the ax, but we will see.

Masema has been a bit of a background character since he joined up with Perrin in book nine. I’m sure something will happen soon with him since he is literally insane.

Not much happens with Elayne in this book. She is in Caemlyn working to secure the throne while everyone is worrying over her being pregnant with twins. There is a lot going on technically, but it is mostly political and I didn’t really care about the “lords” opposing her. At least right now. What did kind of catch my interest was that there is small mention of the Forsaken having plans afoot in Caemlyn and the throne, but again we have to wait to see what happens.

Book nine ended with Rand and Nynaeve cleansing saidin of the Dark One’s taint. We find out that this event takes place during the events of this book and we get a better glimpse of what the aftermath looks like. After they finished wielding an enormous amount of the One Power (supposedly it was mainly saidin with the comparison being that the amount of saidar used was like a foothill next to a mountain), all that was left of the former city known as Shadar Logoth was a giant hole roughly three miles in diameter and a mile in depth. I can’t help but wonder how this will impact Padan Fain. Will he be weaker? His source or origin of evil was from that place. Will the city being eradicated make him easier to defeat? Again, we have to wait and see, but he has been in the series since book one so I’m sure there will be a big fight or event that will mean the end of him.

Anyone who can wield the One Power is able to feel what Rand and Nynaeve did. It seemingly was like a beacon and everyone knew where it was taking place and how much power was being wielded, but no one knows what it was or what it was used for after it finally dissipates. This leads to several interesting developments we will get to in a minute.

First, let’s cover Rand short storyline in this book. He is hiding out somewhere in Tear recovering. He still gets dizzy when embracing saidin but it isn’t as bad. Lews Therin is still in his head. Loial, Bashere, and Logain arrive at the estate he is at and Min sees her viewings that Logain is still destined for glory, but she also sees something ominous about Bashere. That he may betray Rand or do something similarly dark or against Rand. I like Bashere, but of course now I am wary of him as well. Rand sends these three to strike a truce with the Seanchan. They return stating the Seanchan are amenable to a truce, but Rand must meet with Tuon personally. This will be interesting since the Seanchan don’t know where Tuon is right now.

We do get a few insights into Cadsuane’s angreal that she wears as ornaments in her hair. One lets her know if a man is channeling nearby, and she doesn’t even know what some of the other ones do, which makes me wonder why she has them and how she came about acquiring them as she starting collecting them only in relatively recent years.

Last thing about Rand’s story is Elza. She is an Aes Sedai sworn to Rand, but she is still Black Ajah. She has grown unusually protective of Rand recently. She apparently wants to ensure Rand gets to the Last Battle only so the Dark One can defeat him. Her Warder is also a darkfriend and likes killing.

The rest of the events of this book center around Aes Sedai. Mainly Egwene and those in the White Tower. The last time we saw Egwene in earnest was at the end of book eight when she Travels to lay siege to Tar Valon. She is outside Tar Valon in this book and has only been there for about one week. The Hall with Egwene comes to a decision that they must form an alliance with the Black Tower. This stems from the fact that many Aes Sedai have forgotten. That circles are not limited to thirteen users when a man wielding saidin is included. They all believe they must form an alliance so they can form circles large enough to combat whatever it was that destroyed Shadar Logoth. They all think it was the Forsaken using a weapon. We know it was Rand cleansing saidin, but no one else really does. Not even the Asha’man. All they know is that the taint is no longer there when they embrace the One Power. However, none of the Aes Sedai know that saidin is cleansed accept those who have bonded with them, which means only those in Rand’s party.

We get an interesting dynamic here. The Hall in the White Tower came to the same conclusion as well about an alliance with the Black Tower, and for the same reason. One main difference being that Tarna, who recently replaced Alviarin as Keeper to Elaida (we will talk about that soon), suggests that the Red Ajah must be the ones to make the Asha’man their Warders since they have the experience of handling men who can channel. She suggests they make all the Asha’man Warders of the Red Ajah. A crazy concept considering the Red Ajah’s reputation of having no Warders and the realization they would all have to bond several Warders each in order to get all the Asha’man. I don’t think this will happen, but I do think that the Black Tower and White Tower will form an alliance no matter who is in the White Tower after Egwene and Elaida battle it out. I think the alliance will be mutual with Aes Sedai bonding Asha’man and vice versa since Logain already has bonded a few Aes Sedai. Perhaps it will be a new type of bond that is mutually exclusive.

During the Hall’s meeting with Egwene present, Sheriam basically breaks down. She seems to be losing it. She was a strong character when she was the Mistress of Novices in the White Tower, but she has lost that strength and I think it is partially because she is being manipulated/tortured by a darkfriend, possibly Halima, because we saw her get attacked in a previous book while in the camp. Two Aes Sedai are killed in the camp as well and they learn that they died by saidin. We know Halima is a former male Forsaken reborn as a woman and can wield saidin, but no one else does so a hunt begins to find this murderer.

Egwene is last seen attempting to cut the enormous chain that is blocking one harbor into Tar Valon. She is attacked and wakes up, presumably, by an Aes Sedai of the White Tower. So she has been captured. I think this may accelerate the actual attack on Tar Valon when Gareth Bryne finds out. Her being captured also hints that she was betrayed in some fashion because they knew there would be an attempt to cut the chain.

Elaida is open to meeting with Egwene’s group for negotiations but she states that her edicts, those stating the Blue Ajah no longer exists and all rebels in Egwene’s group would face punishments from Elaida herself before being allowed back into the Tower, must remain. Egwene let’s negotiations take place only to buy time. Her only requirement was that Elaida be removed as Amyrlin. Obviously the negotiations do not progress much at all, but they do take place.

Alviarin returns to the White Tower after a month of running errands for Mesaana. She returns from a visit to Tremalking. She also admits to having a quick glance at what happened at Shadar Logoth. She comes back to find Elaida has replaced her since she was nowhere to be found when the rebel group showed up outside of the city. Alviarin reports to Mesaana that she thinks Elaida knows of the Black Ajah and may be close to obtaining evidence. We learn that the Black Ajah has apparently been within the White Tower since its founding three thousand years ago. We also learn that Alviarin is the only one who knows every member of the Black Ajah. If Pevara, the one Elaida asked to hunt the Black Ajah, gets a hold of Alviarin, then they could get the whole lot of them.

During Alviarin’s report to Mesaana, Shaidar Haran arrives and binds Mesaana for not coming when called. He goes on to torture her after he marks Alviarin as one of his servants. Alviarin believes that Shadar Haran is the Dark Lord using a unique Myrddraal as a vessel.

That pretty much wraps up book ten. I’m on to book eleven, Knife of Dreams, which has another lengthy prologue. I’ve only just started but the opening scene is great. I’ll hopefully finish this next installment soon.

10 Quick Reads

Today I’m talking about some of my favorite books that are less than 200 pages long. I am not including short stories, collections, or series and will be focusing on full-length, standalone books that tell a story in its entirety. These are not in any specific order. I hope you find something you like and pick one up for a leisurely weekend read. 

1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit-451

Coming in at 158 pages and first published in 1953, this dystopian novel has been a favorite of mine since I first read it in high school. I read it again recently and still love it. A world where books are considered contraband, “firemen” are dispatched to burn any books that are found. Everything is fireproof so the firemen in this book actually start fires instead of put them out. Bradbury was an excellent writer and this is a great introduction if you have yet to discover his work.

Stranger

2. The Stranger by Albert Camus

At 123 pages and published in 1942, The Stranger is the story of a man who seemingly commits murder for no reason whatsoever. The despondency of the main character, Meursault, is a mystery that pulls the reader in and his apathy is what makes the ending memorable.

3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The-Little-PrincePublished in 1943 and 96 pages of pure innocence, The Little Prince is one of those stories that remind you that life is actually simple and magical when you remove all of unnecessary responsibilities we place on ourselves. It does so by reminding us of what the universe looks like through the eyes of a child. This short read is accompanied by several illustrations so it is an even quicker read than you might expect. Perfect to read during a morning coffee or to read aloud to a child before bed.

4. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the SeaPublished in 1952, this novel comes in at 127 pages. It was also the last major work of fiction published during Hemingway’s life. The story follows an old Cuban fisherman as he spends roughly an entire day attempting to haul in the largest catch of his life. Kind of like a mini Moby Dick, this book gets to the point much faster and tells a more personal, introspective account.

5. Anthem by Ayn Rand

AnthemAnother dystopian story, but published in 1938, this book imagines a world “after World War III,” or effectively after humanity blows itself back to a stone age. The resulting society has eliminated the use of the word “I” or any other possessive term. People are simply known by a combination of a word and numbers and everyone practices the belief that they must only act in the interest of everyone else. At 104 pages, it is a very quick but thought-provoking story.

6. Art Matters by Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell

Art MattersLess of a book and more of a speech/credo, this 112 page book doesn’t feature actual page numbers and is filled mostly by beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. I greatly enjoy this little title because of its brevity and reminder that life is a beautiful thing much simpler than we like to make it out to be. It released just last year in 2018.

7. A Slow Regard for Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Slow RegardThis title comes with a caveat. At 159 pages and published in 2014, this book I consider as supplemental material to Pat’s popular series The Kingkiller Chronicles. I consider is supplemental because it is the week in the life of Auri, a minor but important and mysterious character from the series. You can definitely read this without reading the series first, but you may not fully appreciate Auri’s nature. It is not technically included in the series itself so I consider it standalone but with recommended a prerequisite.

Time Machine

8. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Published in 1895 and coming in at only 84 pages, this story contains and is itself a time traveling story. It reads like it was written recently save for a few dated word choices and a somewhat dated initial setting. I consider this an essential read for anyone interested in the history of science fiction.

9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Ocean2014 brought us this 178 page story about a man revisiting his childhood home after attending a funeral. He remembers the events that took place 40 years earlier, which include a young girl named Lettie Hempstock, an evil spirit, and the clash of supernatural forces. Another magical read by a master craftsman.

The Screwtape Letters10. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Formatted as a series of letters from the demon Screwtape to another demon by the name of Wormwood. This story shows a one-sided tale of an uncle attempting to guide his nephew in his task of securing a man’s soul for the devil. At 160 pages, and published in 1942, this book was dedicated to Lewis’s good friend J.R.R. Tolkien and provides plenty of laughs.

 

Happy Reading.

New Spring

New Spring


New Spring is the prequel to the Wheel of Time series. I’ve looked online to what other readers think is the best time to read the prequel. The general consensus is to read the books in chronological order of publication, which would put New Spring in the reading order just after book ten. I read this prequel after book nine. I’m just getting into book ten and I am glad I read the prequel since the prologue of book ten references some characters from the prequel. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I think it is safe to read the prequel between books eight and eleven. I may edit that statement once I finish the series, since I did play around with the idea of waiting until after book fourteen to read the prequel.

It’s hard to give a spoiler warning with a prequel since you already know a lot of what the story is about if you’ve read book one of the series. I’m not going to discuss the detailed events of the story in this post, but I am going to talk about what type of information we get from this book, so I’ll give a spoiler warning now if you prefer to wait and read it all yourself first.

Okay. The events of this book take place roughly twenty years prior to The Eye of the World. The two main characters we follow are Moraine and Lan with the main focus being on Moraine. She and Siuan are both Accepted at the beginning of the book and are with the then Amyrlin Seat, Tamra, when the then Keeper has a Foretelling of the Dragon Reborn. The Keeper promptly dies after her Foretelling so the Amyrlin Seat, Moraine, and Siuan are the only ones who heard it. Moraine and Siuan are sworn to secrecy regarding the content of the Foretelling, which was that the Dragon was born again on the slopes of Dragonmount. Tamra orders all Accepted to go out into the camps around the city to collect the names and information of all children born within a ten day period. The camps around Tar Valon are the armies that were defending the city during the Aiel War, which was ending as the Aiel turned back toward the the Spine of the World the day of the Foretelling. This endeavor is how Siuan and Moraine gain a list of all children born around that time which they use to search for the Dragon Reborn.

There are a lot of names we recognize in this book and some newer characters. One fun thing about reading the prequel was knowing characters and events that were still to come. Many of the Aes Sedai we see in the series are Accepted at this time and we see them in a different light. We get glimpses into what they were like before they became full Aes Sedai, and we get little insights into their lives that somewhat foreshadow why they make decisions later on in the series. Siuan and Moraine are thick as thieves and love pulling pranks on others. Myrelle is a close friend of theirs. Elaida was recently raised to Aes Sedai at this point and she is hard on Moraine and Siuan during their training to become Aes Sedai. Hard to a point where it seems like torture but Moraine is later told that Elaida nearly “helped them cheat” for the test to gain the shawl. After Elaida is told not to help them train, aka torture them during their training, she grows distant from both Moraine and Siuan. A little animosity remains between Siuan and Elaida, but not enough to warrant what Elaida does to Siuan later on. The relationship was strange in that Elaida was both a kind of mentor and tormentor to the young women.

We do learn what the test is like for an Accepted to become Aes Sedai. We already know what the test from Novice to Accepted when Nynaeve took the test, and again when Egwene does, but this is the first time we see the test to become full Aes Sedai. We see it through Moraine’s test. Siuan takes it moments after her and they both gain the shawl at the same time. They both choose Blue of course. Siuan is taken in right away to work with the then eyes and ears of the Blue Ajah.

The Aiel War ends when Moraine’s uncle, Laman, is killed. Moraine begins to think the Tower intends to have her sit on the Sun Throne, so she leaves Tar Valon even though it is against the new Amyrlin’s orders. I say new Amyrlin because Tamra is believed to have died in her sleep a few weeks prior. Moraine leaves and begins her search for the Dragon Reborn. Her search takes her to up north to Kandor. Siuan later catches up with her there to tell her the five Aes Sedai Tamra had designated as searchers for the Dragon Reborn had been killed. This leads Moraine and Siuan to believe the Black Ajah are real and they only trust each other from then on. They are possibly the only two who know about the Foretelling at this point.

Moraine disguises the fact she is Aes Sedai so she doesn’t get found out by other Aes Sedai and dragged back to Tar Valon for disobeying the Amyrlin. She is found out of course by a few Aes Sedai. Mainly Merean, who just vacated the position of Mistress of Novices when the new Amyrlin was chosen. Merean is with Cadsuane. Moraine believes Cadsuane is Black Ajah. We do later learn, via a scrap with actual Black Ajah, that the Black Sisters know about the Dragon Reborn, but they don’t know when he was born. Since they don’t know when, they are killing any boys who may possibly channel. This gives Siuan and Moraine an advantage in their search because they know when the child was born and thus the age to look for.

I did mention Lan is one of the main characters of this book. We only get a few chapters from his point of view, but it was great getting some more insight into his character. We do learn quite a bit about Malkieri custom and a little about the dead kingdom itself. We get to see how he and Moraine meet and how they build a relationship up to the point he becomes her Warder. We learn, via Moraine to Lan, that the White Tower did send Aes Sedai to help Malkier during the attack, but they did not make it in time and the White Tower kept this “failure” secret. Her confession, of this and her search for the Dragon Reborn, is what leads Lan to accept her proposal to become her Warder. Lan was very wary of Aes Sedai at the beginning of the book. He was actually outside of Tar Valon fighting the Aiel at the beginning, but Moraine and him don’t meet until they are in Kandor. Since much of the story takes place in Kandor, we do get to learn a little more about the borderlands as nearly the whole series (at least through book nine) takes place in the southern lands. The only exception is at the end of book one and the beginning of book two when they are briefly in Shienar.

At the end of this book, Siuan returns to the White Tower to continue being the eyes and ears of the Blue Ajah so she can get information that might help them find the Dragon Reborn while Moraine sets out with Lan to continue the search using the list of names she has in her book. I assume she gets through that list and has to use other methods during her search, but we all know where that search leads her.

On Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff AuthorTobias Wolff is one of my favorite writers. Specifically, he is one of my favorite short story writers. I consider him one of the greatest American short story writers of all time. I of course would be more than happy to hear who your favorite shorty story writers are since I love discovering new writers. If this post is the first time you’ve heard of Tobias Wolff, then I hope you read some of his work and come to enjoy it as I do.

I first discovered Tobias Wolff in a college course. If I remember correctly, the first story I read of his was “Bullet in the Brain.” I recently discovered that this story was made into a short film, and there is a recording online of it being read by Tobias himself. This story remains one of my favorites and it is a great introduction to his work. It may also be the best known of his short stories because it is often used in classrooms alongside several others he has written such as “Powder,” “Say Yes,” or “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs.” There is something about Wolff’s stories that capture what I like to refer to as human moments. He is able to weave a story together that could seemingly be about nothing in particular, but then can also be read as a revelation about a core element of human nature. Enveloping an entire species and capturing it within a single moment. His stories often linger with you afterwards and prompt an introspection of our own lives. He often pinpoints moments that define, in a that single moment, the entirety of a character. It is this aspect that I admire to great degree, and I aspire to write stories that have similar moments the readers keep with them. I think any fellow writers can learn a lot about the craft from reading his work as well.

Wolff’s works include several collections of short stories, a novel (Old School), a novella (The Barracks Thief), and two memoirs. I’ve written book recommendations about several of these. His memoir, This Boy’s Life, reveals much about himself through the lens of his childhood. It was made into a movie not long after it was first published. His second memoir, In Pharaoh’s Army, provides a description of his time in Vietnam during his military service. I found the man himself as interesting as his writing. I even built up enough courage to write to him. It was my first and only time (as of this writing) that I’ve written to a writer who I admire. This was about three years ago now. I wasn’t sure what to say, so all I ended up saying was a general thank you for his work and an offer to buy him a drink if was ever in my area. To my surprise, he responded with equally kind words.

There are several interviews with Wolff that you can find online. I recently found one by The Creative Process that I found really interesting. They have interviews with other artists as well. I learned a few things on this site as well, like Tobias Wolff taught George Saunders and was rewarded the National Medal of the Arts from President Obama.

I don’t have any fun stories about gong to see him or things that have happened to me while reading his works. I haven’t really found many people who have read his works or at least have talked to me about them. I know short stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but every so often I can convince someone to try one and I usually recommend one by Tobias Wolff. I do remember one occasion where I did have a coworker/friend read “Bullet in the Brain.” The story itself is quite short but has incredible impact. He loved it and agreed with my initial comments I used to try and “sell” the story to him. Those comments being that Wolff’s stories have an unclear but substantial human moment. It’s hard to describe but easy to understand once you’ve read the story. If you want ever want to pick up a collection of his, I definitely recommend Our Story Begins. It has 31 short stories including several I have mentioned above.

I would love for the chance to meet Tobias Wolff one day. But if that never comes around, I know I can always pick up a collection of his stories, flip to any title, and be reminded once again what any amazing, intricate, and simple thing it is to be human.

Winter’s Heart

Winter's Heart


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.