Angel Mage

I entered a giveaway for a chance to win an advanced copy of Angel Mage by Garth Nix. Well, I’m happy to say I won said copy and quickly read the book so I could write this post for you. This is the first book I’ve read by Garth Nix. I first heard of him through my wife, who had read his Old Kingdom series when she was younger and raved about it to me when we were first dating. Her copies sit on our bookshelves but remain on my TBR list (I will read them eventually, I promise). 

“More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.Angel Mage

It’s a seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding. Four young people hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, a glory-seeking musketeer; and Dorotea, icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet but do not suspect their importance. And none of them know just how Liliath plans to use them, as mere pawns in her plan, no matter the cost to everyone else . . .”

Angel Mage is a standalone novel and was a great introduction to his work. This book is a neatly wrapped, satisfying adventure. However, the world Nix created is rich and could potentially spawn future stories if he chooses to write more. I have always been interested in angels as supernatural/mythological figures. Nix takes the concept of angels and uses them in an interesting way by having their influence within reach of the characters in this world but they do not physically manifest in their own right. This allows a form of magic to be present, but the cost to call upon the angels also limits its use.

There are five main characters throughout this book. The first, Liliath, almost reads as a villain from the start and this makes her interesting, but I quickly came to like the other four as they are introduced. There are not any clear lines between heroes and villains or good and bad in this story and I enjoyed being able to decide for myself how to connect everything together. I also enjoyed trying to figure out the motivations and intentions of each character as the story progressed.

Nix partly dedicates this book to Alexandres Dumas and states this story was influenced by Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. This influence can be seen throughout the swashbuckling adventure found within the pages of Angel Mage, but only as a fun allusion picked up by those familiar with the work of Dumas.

If you are fan of Garth Nix, like fantasy, or enjoy sword fights and monsters, you will like Angel Mage. The recommended age range is 14 and up, but I think this story would be okay for younger, ambitious readers. This book is expected to release on October 1st, 2019. Pick up a copy or check your local library.

Happy Reading.

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 part, 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 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 Faile 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 viewing about Aviendha showing she will have four of Rand’s 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 found 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 knows, even the Forsaken, 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 it 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 Cairhien. 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 to be 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 Cairhien. 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 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 dismissed the idea once he realized 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 Moiraine 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 Moiraine 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 four in the Two Rivers. We barely knew anything about him then but we 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 four. 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 Dashiva was actually Osan’gar 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 accidentally 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.

On J.K. Rowling

JKRowling_2016GalaJ.K. Rowling. One of the biggest literary success stories of the past 25 years if not of all time. I don’t think it is much of a surprise that she has been a big influence in my life since she has influenced hundreds of millions of people around the globe with her immensely popular series Harry Potter, but she is an inspiration beyond her writing as well. Before I get into the details of why and how she inspires me, let me herd an elephant out of the room.

I think there is a cliche response associated with aspiring writers that has been based on J.K. Rowling’s success. When someone says they are a writer, or want to be a writer, the response sometimes given is “So you want to become the next J.K. Rowling, huh?” I think this has become too common and is actually detrimental to many of these writers for several reasons. One, they probably don’t want to be the next J.K. Rowling because what they write is completely different and they want to carve their own path and be recognized for their own merits. Two, the question itself is often asked in a snarky way which shuts down any chance of the writer sharing their dreams, goals, and stories with those who ask it. They feel like that initial response tells them that they aren’t good enough because it is a direct comparison with one of the masters of the craft. If you have experienced this response before, I hope you read the rest of this post because I think it will enlighten some things about J.K. herself, help you no longer consider that question an apathetic response to your dreams, and possibly provide the perfect response to such questions.

The question above does give credence to J.K.’s success (J.K. Rowling’s full name is Joanne Rowling. She uses the “pen name” J.K. Rowling where the K is an honorific for her grandmother’s name Kathleen). I think her story of rags to riches has become fairly well known, but I’ll give a brief summary here just because it is insightful. J.K. was a single mother on welfare when she began writing Harry Potter. The book was rejected by 12 publishers before getting picked up and published. These books, along with the movies, made J.K. Rowling a billionaire. That’s right, with a B. She is also one of the few people, perhaps the only person, who has gone from billionaire status to millionaire status by charitable giving. Her recent “net worth” is just shy of one billion dollars. I remember hearing her story about how she started her charity, Lumos, to assist orphaned children. She was reading a paper and saw a story about orphaned children and thought, as many of us surely have, that someone should be helping these children. Where most of us would have left it at that and continued on with our lives, she had a second thought which was a realization that she was in a place that would let her personally offer help because she had the funds to make a big difference and help address the issue. This led to the creation of Lumos. I haven’t followed the charity too closely but I hear great things from time to time about what they are doing. I did buy a pair of shirts for myself and my wife for a Lumos fundraising event (I haven’t written my international bestseller yet, but every little bit helps). I just think it is fantastic that she has taken her success and used it to assist others. I think this shows more about her character than her writing ever could.

I read a brief biography on J.K. when I was maybe twelve years old and the only thing I really remember from it was that she was on a train headed somewhere and was looking out the window (maybe at some cows?) and the name Harry Potter simply popped into her head and she knew she had the character for her book. She had known a family with the last name of Potter earlier in her life but the name that has become infamous simply came out of the ether, as most ideas do, and simply struck her and inspired her to start writing his story. She wrote the name on a napkin if I remember correctly to make sure she remembered it.

I grew up with Harry Potter. Literally…okay not in the actual literal sense as I didn’t go to Hogwarts with him, but I grew up alongside him in a way that made if feel like I went to Hogwarts with him. I’ll date myself here, but I was six years old when the first book came out in 1997. One of the only memories I have of being read aloud to as a kid was my mom reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to me and my siblings. I think my mom had won the book at a raffle or something because it was the first book in the series we had. I eventually got the first book and began reading through the series myself. I also had to wait for each book to come out because she was still working on them. The third book may have been out at that time because I remember waiting for the fourth. I ended up reading the first four books four times before the fifth book came out. I remember going to get the book when it came out too. We ended up getting it from Costco of all places and I remember there just being a pallet of books, a literal pallet full of just copies of the new Harry Potter book, sitting near the entrance for people to pick up and it seemed like everyone coming in was taking one. Then I waited for the sixth, which I read in three days, and then I waited for the seventh. Both of which were picked up from another pallet-full of copies. I remember I didn’t read the seventh right away for some reason, but I did read it not too long after it came out. Nearly ten years after the final book came out, they came out with a print edition of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play that had become a big success. So, in 2016, almost 20 years after the first book, I found myself going to a Barnes & Noble for a midnight release party of a Harry Potter book. I went by myself but ran into some friends. We bought copies and went home. I went to bed, but I woke up the next day and read the play straight through (plays are often much quicker reads than books) in a handful of hours. I met up with the same friends I ran into later that day and we talked about the book/play since they also read it straight through. We liked and didn’t like various things, but we mainly just happy to have more of the story we grew up with.

I remember waiting in line for the first Harry Potter movie. I was nine or ten years old. They would rope off an area and you could wait in line to get into the theater. This was before theaters had assigned seating or the ability to buy tickets online. We got there early and were one of the first in line for the opening night and it was a magical experience seeing it for the first time. They had started making the movies before the books were all released, but the movies did get released not long after the books were released. The last book came out in 2007 and the last movie came out in 2011.

I remember seeing the sixth movie when I was at college getting my undergraduate degree. I went to a decent sized university in a smaller town and they had a fairly new theater built which held a total of ten screens. Of course, me and some friends bought tickets for opening night. The theater was running the movie on all ten screens. I worked at a movie theater back home when I wasn’t at school so I knew a bit about how things worked, and I think I remember this theater saying they only had one copy of the film. This was when they had actual film, everything wasn’t all digital yet (do I sound old yet? haha), so they rigged it up, which they were actually outfitted to do so it wasn’t a questionable type of rigging, where the film would start on one projector and then go along pulleys to the next projector and so on and so forth until it went through all of them. The result being that one theater would start the movie and the tenth would start the movie only a mere few minutes later. It was crazy. So they had the film in all ten auditoriums so when you went in, they tore your ticket, and you could go to any of the auditoriums you wanted. It was a one night show of only Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Many of my friends had re-read the book prior to seeing the movie. I had not. They ended up not liking the movie much, because they had the book fresh in mind, but I enjoyed it quite a bit since I had decided to keep a little distance between the adaptation and original content.

I was actually working, physically, at a movie theater when the last movie came out. I had recently won an “employee of the month” award or something similar and one of my rewards was to pick my schedule for two weeks. Luckily for me, the last day I was able to pick my schedule was the opening night of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. I would have felt bad taking the whole day off since it was going to be insanely busy, so I set myself to work from 12pm to 8pm. I had bought my tickets for the midnight show, the earliest it was shown back then (I can hear my bones cracking in my old age). I came into work and there were people already lined up since 9am. They were seeing the special double feature of the sixth and seventh movies that would then show the new movie at midnight, but I was surprised to see people waiting in line that early. Anyway, I’ll avoid the hellish work day I had and just say that I made enough popcorn to feed a pod of whales for a year. I got of work at 8pm, ran home and showered in an attempt to remove the smell of popcorn from myself, and then went right back up to get in line and watch the final, amazing experience of a generation. I still remember hearing that line “Always” in the theater and feeling the entire audience’s reaction. It was simply incredible. Movies are somewhat heightened when in a packed theater full of dedicated fans. I was really into films back then and I do recall that J.K. had let Alan Rickman know about Snape’s relationship with Lily very early on in the film series. He was the only one who knew until that final scene so he could have a driving motivation for his character. He wrote a letter about it when the films were completed and you can find it online. It is quite touching and hints at J.K. fully understanding of the story even though only three books had been completed when she told him the little secret that would become a huge moment.

A few final things about Harry Potter before I move on to the real focus of this post, the one behind the stories. A study was done titled “The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter: Reducing Prejudice” which showed that reading Harry Potter actually makes people more empathetic. This is fantastic and shows how stories can influence people. Think of a few stories that have really gripped you. Can you imagine yourself without ever having experienced them?

There are theme parks entirely dedicated to bringing the world of Harry Potter to life. I still need to go to the bigger, more in-depth park in Florida, but I went to the one in Los Angeles a few years ago and had a blast. I bought a replica of Sirius Black’s wand since he is my favorite character in the series. I also bought a set of wizard robes. Ravenclaw robes since that is my “house.” A lot of people put a lot of emphasis on their sorted house. J.K. herself is a Hufflepuff.

Harry Potter was so successful that J.K. thought that anything she wrote afterwards would be impacted by simply having her name on the cover, that an expectation would be placed on the story before people even knew what it was, so she adopted an actual pen name of Robert Galbraith. She did publish a handful of books under J.K. Rowling, but she has a few successful series under her newer pen name, specifically the Cormoran Strike novels which are also now a TV series. I think the Robert Galbraith pen name was quickly found out to be J.K. Rowling, but she still uses the name today for some of her series. I think she has broken out of the shadow of her first success and continues to write new and interesting stories to find newer successes. She loves what she does and continues to find new audiences. She didn’t let herself get stuck in the expectations of others. She has always paved her own way. This is why I think she is a great role model.

I think her influence on me was not just the story that gripped the world, but the fact that it came into my life at the right time and has had a lasting impression. This is another aspiration I have with my own writing. To become a positive influence to a younger generation. To help kids experience stories that awe them and hopefully encourage them to become better people and believe in themselves. I’m not limiting that to those younger than me actually. I would love for everyone to have these reactions. I haven’t had the “so you want to be the next J.K. Rowling” response in a long time. I think I got it more when I was younger and the Harry Potter movies were still being released, but I’ve finally found an answer besides shutting down and thinking I could never be that successful, which then turns into believing I’ll never be successful with that comparison. My answer now is “No. I could never be J.K. Rowling. I don’t want to be. I’m going to be the first Ryan Yarber.”

The Path of Daggers

A Path of Daggers

The Path of Daggers is book eight of The Wheel of Time series and is the shortest of the fourteen. I think I mentioned around book four that I felt our main characters had come into their own and grown or matured greatly over the course of the first three books. As we get into book eight, I can’t help but feel like our characters have matured even more. So much that they are beyond just adults but taking on commanding roles within the world. I’m continuing this series discussion as before, with spoilers, so be warned if you have not yet read this far. If you have not read the series at all, I still advise against reading these spoilers, but we may be so far into it that the spoilers might not make sense without knowledge of previous events. Despite being the shortest book, there is still a lot to talk about. Let’s get into it.

Beginning with something brief, I noticed that Mat is not in this book at all, whatsoever, and I’m a bit disappointed. I’m disappointed because I was excited to see what happens to him after the ending of the previous book, but we don’t even get a glimpse, which means we last saw Mat getting buried in a pile of rubble in Ebou Dar during the invasion by the Seanchan. We do get information that the Seanchan have settled into Ebou Dar so surely the next time we see Mat he will have been through a few things and we will probably just get a brief summary about them before jumping back into his story. Also, I think Thom and Juilin had stayed behind with Mat so we don’t know what is happening with them either. We just know they are not with Elayne.

Elayne has only a few chapters in this book but they are important. We open up with her, Nynaeve, Lan, Aviendha, and Birgitte, along with the Kin from Ebou Dar, the Atha’an Miere, and the Aes Sedai who were in Ebou Dar all going out to the Kin’s farm/retreat. They Travel there via a Gateway made by Aviendha. She gets everyone through but then quickly undoes the Gateway by tearing the weaves, or “unweaving,” so no one can follow them. The Aes Sedai are appalled. They forbid that practice because it is high risk, but she does it for a purpose. They were being watched by what could have been the gholam that attacked them in the last book. She was right, but they were also being watched by Moridin (more on him later).

They travel out to the farm and end up using the Bowl of the Winds by creating a large circle. Strangely enough though, the Bowl uses saidin alongside saidar when it spreads across the sky to return the weather to normal patterns and reverse the Dark Lord’s touch on the world. They are successful and their success ends up having consequences later on. After they use the Bowl, they see that Ebou Dar is under attack by Seanchan so they prepare to leave. The Seanchan begin to scout into the area when they are finishing their Travel into Andor near Caemlyn. Getting everyone through took time and some of the Seanchan start coming through as Elayne, who made the Gateway this time, is still unweaving the threads so the Seanchan can’t follow with a damane who might be able to trace the weave. Some Seanchan come through and start attacking Elayne and Birgitte, and Aviendha, and Elayne isn’t able to fully remove the weave successfully. The result is a major explosion that wipes out most of the area around the weave on both sides of the Gateway. The explosion takes out the Seanchan on both sides and hurts Elayne, Birgitte, and Aviendha as well. Nynaeve is able to heal them once she comes back to help them. I have a feeling this “unweaving” will come into play later on since it can effectively wipe out an entire army if used as a weapon.

So Elayne & Co are in Andor and begin to make their way toward Caemlyn so she can claim the Lion Throne. The weather is turning back to normal, effectively turning abruptly to winter, and impedes their progress and they take much longer to get to Caemlyn. Along the way, they discover a Darkfriend is among their party after Adeleas is found dead and the Black Ajah they captured, Ispan, is killed as well. The main goal seemingly was to silence Ispan from revealing too much. Either way, they can’t trust anyone until they find out who did it. They all make it into Caemlyn and everyone is housed in the palace after Elayne announces her claim to the throne. She does meet with Dyelin who asks what her intentions are and then decides to support her. I can’t help but hope that Dyelin will be a good friend to her.

Morgase and her little group had run from the Seanchan invasion of Amadicia and we find them being hounded by some of the Prophet’s people. Perrin comes in to save them and sends a warning to the Prophet/Masema who he has come to meet with. Morgase is going by the name Maighdin and is picked up by Faile to become a servant. She apparently is slowly coming to terms with her new path in life since she is no longer queen, and Lini even tries to make Perrin marry her to Talanvor (he doesn’t, yet).

Perrin is still my favorite character along with Loial. Loial left to find a Stedding and we haven’t seen him in a long time, but Perrin is back in a somewhat major way. He has come to get Masema and bring him to Rand and he is supposed to be quiet about it. He is able to get Alliandre, the Queen of Ghealdean, to align with him. She even swears fealty to him. Elyas shows back up too. I think this may be the first appearance from him since book one. He joins Perrin and actually gives Perrin some marital advice, which ends up helping Perrin out quite a bit. Perrin ends up meeting with Masema at the end of the book and convinces him to come see Rand, but he refuses to go by Traveling and Perrin agrees to take him to Rand by horse/foot. I doubt they will make it all the way to Cairhien considering the last bit of info we get with Faile. She is out hawking with Alliandre and gets info that Masema has been meeting with the Seanchan. She tries desperately to get the info to Perrin, but they are attacked by the Shaido Aiel. Faile, Maighdin/Morgase, Alliandre, and a few others including Bain and Chiad are taken prisoner as gai’shain. Supposedly, Berelain escapes and can inform Perrin of what has happened. Perrin will go crazy to get Faile back so I bet he takes out the Shaido for Rand now. Faile was more worried about getting Perrin the info about Masema than she was about being prisoner, but that may be because she knows Perrin will come get her soon.

We get a short chapter about the Shaido and Sevanna. She is losing influence with the Wise Ones after the Shaido were scattered by Sammael’s Travel boxes. She tries to make Galina swear an oath to her using something similar to the Oath Rod that Sammael had given her, but the oath Galina takes is to obey the Wise Ones and not just Sevanna.

One of the opening events in the prologue shows the leaders of the four border nations, including Agelmar from Shienar who we last saw in book one, meeting and deciding to band together, via an old pact not used in two thousand years, and move south to settle the unstable countries.

I’ve noticed that many of the events in the prologue of each book don’t often, if at all, get mentioned further in the book they prelude. The plot lines are simply mentioned to plant the seed and then come into play in either the next book or even a few books later on. This prologue includes the four border nations making the pact, Moridin who gets a little more mention in this book, and Verin who is apparently questioning the captured Aes Sedai from Dumai’s Wells. Within the prologue, she is doing something that apparently is forbidden. It seems to be some kind of mind control to make the Aes Sedai do what she thinks needs to be done. She even, at least it is hinted at, helps some of them escape. Presumably so they can carry out her “orders.” I like Verin, but this is kind of a red flag.

Moving on to Moridin. He seems like he will become a major villain, especially since the Forsaken have been absent of late. All we see in this installment though is that he has Moghedien and another woman go to summon Graendal. They accept that Moridin has been named Nae’blis, the top person named by the Dark Lord, but Graendal is skeptical until Shaidar Haran, the altered Myrddraal, shows up and convinces her. She is supposed to go meet Moridin and become his minion. There are still several Forsaken out there who we haven’t heard from. Only six remain from my count. We see a little of Mesaana who is still in the White Tower. We don’t see Demandred, Semirhage, or Asmodean (where has he been?).

We get one line during a scene with the Seanchan that tells us that Liandrin, the original Black Ajah troublemaker, is now a servant/slave to the Seanchan since she is still blocked from the One Power by Moghedien’s weave from a few books ago. Another Black Ajah, the one who was with Ispan but got away in Ebou Dar, has been captured and is now a damane. The Seanchan have captured Ebou Dar and are expanding further west. Many of the nations now know about them but have not yet done anything to move against them. Little is known if they are even preparing to defend against an invasion by them either.

Most of the main action of this book centers around Rand rooting out the Seanchan in Altara. He Travels from Illian with a small force of nobles who have issues with him or caused him trouble in the past. They each come with a few soldiers making up a force of about four thousand. He also brings about 50 Asha’man who are meant to do most of the killing. They Travel and scout through the mountains and drive the Seanchan out and back toward Ebou Dar. He then faces off against them in large numbers in the forests north of Ebou Dar. Both Rand and the Asha’man with him are uneasy about using saidin in this area because there is something off about it. I’m curious if this is another side-effect of using the Bowl of the Winds since it was used in Ebou Dar, but either way it is making things difficult for them. Unstable perhaps. Rand continues onward despite this. He first meant to just get the Seanchan out of the mountains to lessen their hold on the area, but he decides later to take them out of Ebou Dar. To drive them back to the sea like in Falme. He gets so focused on this that he has Narishma go get Callandor from Tear. He then uses the ter’angreal to finish off the Seanchan but he loses control and ends up killing some of his own people, including one of the Asha’man he first recruited to the Black Tower. He only stops because Bashere tackles him and makes him stop. Bashere is great. Rand believes this is his first defeat in battle since becoming the Dragon Reborn. We as readers get to see that the Seanchan also consider the battle a defeat.

Rand later learns from Cadsuane that Callandor is flawed and can only be used safely when one man, the wielder, is linked with two women and one of the women controls the flows of power. This info seems a bit too convenient for Cadsuane’s purposes and I’m not sure I believe it, but Cadsuane is bound by the three oaths and cannot lie (but we do see how believing something to be true lets an Aes Sedai claim it as truth, but more on that later). This also sets up many possible combinations of Rand using Callandor with a few Aes Sedai. The most likely combination either him with Elayne and Egwene, or him with Elayne and Aviendha.

Rand almost dies, twice, while fighting the Seanchan. The first is right after Traveling to the area and it was an attempt on his life by one of the men in his party who was paid supposedly by Aes Sedai, but Davrim Bashere pretty much shows that it couldn’t be assumed it was Aes Sedai. We don’t get to know who paid the man, yet, but it does seem like it was planned to look a certain way. The second time is when Weiramon gets too eager and leaves a side undefended, thus letting some Seanchan through who almost kill Rand.

Lews Therin’s voice also returns in Rand’s head and the issue with saidin is persisting with Rand. He pretty much is incapacitated temporarily when seizing the source and when letting it go. The fact the Asha’man state they feel the disturbance within saidin too soothes Rand at first but he still pushes himself and his soldiers too far. This leads to the final confrontation of the book, which I will save for last.

Next, let’s move back to Cadsuane. She was introduced a while back and was made out to be a prominent character. She is slowly getting there. She and Sorilea have a scene where they make a pact to bring Rand out of his downward spiral and remind him what it means to be human. This will be a great thing considering Rand has been too enveloped in his “purpose”of being the Dragon Reborn that he is pushing himself non-stop and is losing sight of why he has to do what he is doing. Min has seen an image of Cadsuane teaching Rand and all the Asha’man something important that they won’t enjoy learning, but it will be essential. Because of the viewing and Min’s insistence that he needs her, Rand asks Cadsuane to become his advisor. They discuss the possibility of this but never come to an agreement. They test the waters and it seems like they will eventually become official allies once they find acceptable terms.

Sorilea brings the remaining five Aes Sedai prisoners before Rand to make a final decision regarding what to do with them. They are all now willing to serve him and have learned their mistake. They all swear the same oath of fealty to him that the other Aes Sedai did at Dumai’s Wells. If I can remember correctly, none of these five Aes Sedai were Black Ajah, or even Red Ajah, so they are still bound by the three oaths. They are then given back to Sorilea to be made apprentices to the Wise Ones like the other Aes Sedai who swore fealty.

A few more areas to discuss before the finale. Elaida is still Amyrlin in the White Tower but she is basically a puppet for Alviarin right now. She is hoping Seaine will get the dirt she needs to have Alviarin dealt with. This brings me back to the Aes Sedai needing to believe something to be true in order to speak it. Seaine and Pevara are using the Oath Rod to try and find the Black Ajah members in the White Tower. They inadvertently discover the Salidar spies, or the spies the “rebel” Aes Sedai sent to the Tower. Pevara tells the spy they uncover to stop telling the “lie” that the Red Ajah set up False Dragons, specifically Logain. She tells her to renounce the lie, but the spy believes it to be true so she can’t say it is false. She starts choking since Pevara told her to say it is false after she had just sworn an oath to follow Pevara and Seaine’s commands, but she is still bound by the oath to tell the truth, so she is stuck between each oath of obeying Pevara and telling the truth as she believes it, which are contradicting each other. Pevara ultimately has to remove her command so the girl doesn’t die. Right after this event, other sisters, Sitters of the Hall, pop into the basement room Seaine and Pevara are using for their questioning. They were hoping to dig up some dirt about what is going on in each Ajah since the Tower is basically split by Ajah now and the Aes Sedai are not trusting each other as they had previously. They think Pevara and Seaine are sneaking to this room to discuss information related to their Ajahs. Anyway, these Sitters come in and find the Oath Rod and they all retake the Three Oaths and claim they are not Black Ajah. The scene cuts short before the final sister takes the Oath Rod, who we know is actually Black Ajah, so I’m sure we will get to see the repercussions of this later on.

Elaida also has sent about fifty Aes Sedai and two thousand guards to take out the Black Tower since they think only a handful of men are there who can use the One Power. They are of course terribly wrong since Mazrim Taim has been recruiting like crazy. One of the Aes Sedai groups, one of ten that would regroup in Andor before attacking the Black Tower, gets intercepted by a group of Asha’man which includes Logain who we last saw escape the “rebel” Aes Sedai camp with Egwene’s help. Logain does…something…to get one of the Aes Sedai to calm down. It seems like he bonded her similar to a Warder, but we will have to wait and see. Min’s viewings did show an Aes Sedai bonding an Asha’man as a Warder, so we may be getting some cool Aes Sedai/Asha’man team-ups in the future.

Last section before the climax of this book. Egwene. She finally takes control of the Aes Sedai group by having them declare war on Elaida. An older law in the White Tower claims that if war is declared, as done with a majority vote by the Tower, then the Amyrlin must have full support in all decisions regarding the war. Few seem to remember the law but it does bind them to her. Siuan is tutoring Egwene and has aligned with her, as has Gareth Bryne, whom Egwene realizes Siuan is in love with. Egwene threatens to tell Bryne in order to get Siuan to behave herself. There was a weird scene where Sheriam was attacked/forced into submission by someone we don’t get to see. It is hinted that she is being subservient to a Darkfriend, but not in a way that would claim Sheriam is a Darkfriend herself. The person I think may have done this is Halima. We know Halima is a Darkfriend to say the least. We find out in this book that Halima is actually a (former?) Forsaken who apparently was reborn by the Dark Lord, who we know can bring people back from death somehow. However, this reborn Forsaken was a man prior to being reborn so he is now technically a woman who can weave saidar, which means that he/she/they is the one who freed Moghedien from the a’dam and from Egwene. Halima is indirectly shown killing the two maids given to Egwene from Romanda and Lelaine. She remains with Egwene as well and is too close for comfort considering what we know. Egwene spends a month on the border of Andor resting her troops, who are making poor time traveling with the new weather. Then, at the end of the book, she Travels her entire camp to Tar Valon to lay siege to the White Tower and depose Elaida. I hope we get to see this battle and resolution in the next book. Or at least the start of this conflict. I would hate to have to wait an entire book before getting back to  Egwene’s story. Similar to how we didn’t see Mat in this book.

Okay, on to the climax of this book. As with previous books, we get an unexpected fight at the end. Usually it has been with a member of the Forsaken. We are first lead to believe it is either Demandred or Asmodean, but we ultimately see that it is a few members of the Asha’man who attempt to kill Rand. They are all members who had gone with Rand to root out the Seanchan, including Dashiva. I was skeptical of Dashiva since the beginning, or since Rand chose him to follow him after Dumai’s Wells, and never understood why Rand chose him since he mutters all the time and seems to be on the brink of insanity. I thought for a moment that Dashiva’s muttering was him talking to a past hero as well, or someone from the past who could wield saidin. Maybe this will turn out to be true. It could be an interesting development. Perhaps some of these Asha’man will join the Forsaken. The Black Tower was made to assist Rand but may turn out to be detrimental to his cause. I doubt this since Logain is now an Asha’man and he is supposed to attain some sort of glory according to Min’s viewing.

So a handful of Asha’man attempt to kill Rand in the Sun Palace in Cairhien. They were all insubordinate or questioning Rand’s orders during their fight with the Seanchan and seemingly held a grudge. I think maybe they are just ambitious as well. Below are two quotes I included when talking about book five, The Fires of Heaven, that I think apply once again.

  • If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals – J.K. Rowling
  • Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

The Asha’man have definitely been given power, or at least trained to enhance and control the One Power. I think some of the Asha’man were bound to lose themselves to ambition or believing they were or could do better than Rand despite knowing Rand is the Dragon Reborn. They probably question that as well. At first, I thought that maybe these Asha’man were rebelling at the orders of Mazrim Taim (I never trusted him and still don’t) because I can see Mazrim taking the forces he trained and turning them against Rand. But Mazrim shows up later to report a few deserters, who end up being the ones who attacked Rand, and Rand tells him who else was included and demands that Mazrim hunt them down and kill them. Rand kills Fedwin Morr by feeding him a cup of something poisonous. Mazrim is impressed that Rand can be ruthless and he assumes Fedwin was part of the group that tried to kill Rand. I was confused at first as to why Rand kills Fedwin since he had asked him to protect Min, but after reading the section again, it sounds like Fedwin may have lost his mind. He was young, but it says he reverted to the mind of a young child and Min had to convince him to play like a child with wooden blocks instead of using the one power to tear stones from the palace walls to play with. So this makes me believe Rand kills Fedwin mercifully since Fedwin is no longer the man/boy that he was and is too dangerous to be left alive and still able to use the One Power.

I really did like this book and I am continuing to love the series. I still have six books to go and I’ll be jumping right into book nine: Winter’s Heart.

A Crown of Swords


A Crown of Swords is book seven of the Wheel of Time series. I have made myself the goal of finishing this series by the end of the year. I started the first book in February and book seven marks the halfway point. That said, I think I am making good progress and I should be able to meet that goal. So far, this book is the quickest one I have read in the series. I finished all 850+ pages in 7-8 days. Below are my thoughts on this installment. As with the previous discussions of this series, there will be spoilers ahead, so be wary if you have not read the series or are not yet to this book in the series.

Starting at the beginning of the book is actually the best area to open the discussion this time. We begin with the final battle from the previous book, but we get to see the events through the eyes of Sevanna. Oh man do I hate Sevanna. She is actually worse than a Darkfriend at this point. Worse than a Forsaken as far as behavior and childishness. She is power-hungry and delusional and I am just waiting for her to meet her demise. We get the tail-end of the battle from her perspective and her running away with those who have survived. We get to see her talk with a man and a woman who end up being Sammael and Graendal. Sammael says he can give her the item to bind Rand to her but only after she has captured the Dragon Reborn. She is obviously being manipulated by him, but of course she thinks she is manipulating him and can even turn Graendal over to her side. She thinks she can conquer the world she is so delusional. I can’t help but wonder why any of the Wise Ones follow her or even enable her with the title of Wise One. Some of them even killed a fellow Wise One just to convince the rest of their tribes to attack the Aes Sedai and capture Rand. Anyone directly involved with her has no honor among Aiel. I think her “army” would abandon her if they knew half of what she did.

Towards the end of the book, we get another glimpse of Sevanna. Galina, the Red Ajah Aes Sedai who captured Rand initially, is discovered to have been captured by Sevanna’s tribe. She is brought back and turned into a “despised one.” Sevanna does this because she wants to control her like a damane. All so she can use the One Power second-hand since she can’t use it directly herself. Again, she is a power-hungry idiot. What I did like was the fact Sammael used some temporary Gateway thing to scatter her forces halfway across the map. He simply gave them the device and they used it willingly. I thought it was sad in a way, because we see this happen through the eyes of a would-be clan chief who still follows the Aiel ways and customs. He even says he would only be clan chief after he goes to Rhuidean. He goes through the Gateway and is surrounded by Rand’s forces somewhere outside of Illian if I remember correctly. He is concerned more about clan and family than anything else.

After Sammael watches Sevanna’s forces use the Gateways without a second thought, which was dumb on their part, he and Graendal part ways and we get a scene of Shaidar Haran watching them leave. He was spying on them and mentions the need to break himself away from the need to return to Shayal Ghul because he was away for too long. He seemingly wants to break free from the Dark One’s influence. This is strange because he is a Myrddraal but something more than just a Myrddraal. We still don’t know what he is really, but he seems to be scheming on his own.

Since I mentioned the Red Ajah, let’s jump to events in the White Tower. Elaida is becoming a bit paranoid and shut herself in the highest part of the Tower. She is having a palace built for herself too. She is ruling through fear and turning on anyone for any small thing just to maintain control. She does have a Foretelling though that lets her believe she will “win” overall but the Foretelling only mentions the Amyrlin so obviously I believe that reference is to Egwene. Later on, Elaida is put in her place by Alviarin (who is still under the Forsaken Mesaana) , and basically becomes a puppet of the Black Ajah. This confirms my original belief that Elaida wasn’t Black Ajah but was simply hungry for power and was manipulated by the Black Ajah. However, Elaida did do something interesting here. She went to Seaine, a White Ajah in the Tower, and instructed her to conduct a secret, internal investigation. Seaine recruits Pevara to assist her because she can trust her from their long history despite Pevara being in the Red Ajah. This could become quite important later on depending on what they discover and what can be done about it. I think it might be able to split up those in the White Tower just enough that Egwene and her group can easily take them over. This should be easy either way since Elayne recruits the Kin to Egwene, but we will get to that a little later.

The Black Ajah are led, apparently, by Mesaana. We still don’t know how many exist, but we do discover that Galina and Alviarin are two of the top three under Mesaana. Or were, at least. Mesaana takes Alviarin directly under her wing and teaches her how to use a Gateway.

I’ll quickly cover the story of Morgase that is still simmering on the back burner. Pedron Niall is assassinated and the Whitecloaks are taken over by Valda, who blackmails Morgase to sleep with him which is absolutely horrendous. This blackmail effectively shatters her confidence. While Valda goes north to deal with the Prophet Masema, the Seanchan invade and take over Amadicia or at least the Fortress of Light. Morgase relinquishes her rights to the throne of Andor, in secret, and nearly attempts suicide before being shown a way to escape the Seanchan. We last see her heading east toward Andor.

Which brings me to the Seanchan. I still hate these people, but they were bound to return eventually. It seems they have been working “off-screen” with their invasion of Tanchico and taking over Tarabon. They are making their way eastward in conquest. Amathera, the Panarch of Tanchico, is shown as a captive named simply Thera and is used to try and convince Morgase to play along with the Seanchan. The last time we really saw the Seanchan was in Falme at the end of the second book. I expect there will be much more of the Seanchan in the next book, especially with what happens with Mat, which I’ll cover shortly.

This book could have been called The Bowl of the Winds if it weren’t for the last chapter, the title chapter, because most of this book centers on Ebou Dar with Elayne and Nynaeve looking for the Bowl of the Winds. They showed up in Ebou Dar at the end of the last book with Mat as escort since he was tasked with bringing Elayne to Caemlyn and got dragged along to help her find the ter’angreal that would return the weather to normal.

The Bowl of the Winds is what the ter’angreal is called by the Atha’an Miere whom Elayne and Nynaeve visit and apparently strike a terrible bargain with, which Mat ends up leveling out when he speaks to the Atha’an Miere. Nynaeve gets herself and Elayne mixed up with the group of women called the Kin. They take in women who were cast out of the White Tower or had left the tower. They run a little group to help these women and control their ability to use saidar. Their leader, Reanne, is apparently almost 500 years old. Elayne and Nynaeve get poorly treated at first by the Kin who believe they are runaways from the Tower or pretending to be Aes Sedai. Elayne confronts Merilille and the other Aes Sedai in the Ebou Dar palace about being treated poorly and calls them out about their behavior and thinking her and Nynaeve are not full Aes Sedai despite Egwene’s, the Amyrlin’s, statement that they are. During her confidence boost, we are reminded that Elayne is only 18 years old. After the confrontation, Elayne basically takes full control of all matters in Ebou Dar, including showing the Kin who she is, truthfully, despite them not believing her at first. She effectively recruits the Kin to Egwene’s group. The Kin make up almost 2,000 women. Practically twice the number in the White Tower before it was split. So technically, with that amount of Sisters, they should be able to retake the White Tower easily.

Quick side-update on Moghedien. She was set free from Egwene at the end of the last book. We still don’t know who helped her escape but the woman-who-can-wield-saidin is apparently still in the Aes Sedai camp. We next see Moghedien in Shayal Ghul and is pretty much tethered again but this time instead of an a’dam, she is linked by a Mindtrap which makes me think of a mix between an a’dam and a Warder’s bond. The Mindtrap is in the hands of Moridin, who I don’t think we have met before. Moghedien is practically a slave again but for a Forsaken or whatever Moridin is. I would feel bad for her if she wasn’t a Forsaken herself and an evil person.

Egwene discovers Lan in the Aes Sedai camp, but he was hidden off to the side by Myrelle and Nisao. She sends Lan to protect Nynaeve. It seems Moiraine originally transferred Lan’s bond to Myrelle because Myrelle has saved several Warders in the past who lost their Aes Sedai. Myrelle was then supposed to transfer Lan’s bond to Nynaeve once he was “healed” so he wouldn’t run off to die fighting somewhere. This gives Lan his reason-to-live since he loves Nynaeve. Myrelle and Nisao swear fealty to Egwene as Amyrlin to avoid harsher punishment from their keeping Lan a secret. I don’t think this is a great move for Egwene because Aes Sedai are about the Tower and not a specific Amyrlin, but now we have Aes Sedai who have sworn fealty to Rand and some who have sworn to Egwene. Last update on Egwene: She is apparently, in fact, a Dreamer. Her dreams can potentially predict things, so she spends most nights in a half-sleep cataloging her dreams. This prevents her from getting fully rested and may be the reason behind her headaches, but her headaches have been present since she was tortured by Lanfear right before Moiraine intervened. I’m sure this is all foreshadowing something.

Anyway, Moghedien shows up in Ebou Dar randomly. She is apparently on an errand for Moridin but all we see is her try to kill Nynaeve on sight using balefire. This whole scene almost seems like Moghedien showing up was just an excuse to have Lan save Nynaeve. The balefire kills Mat’s men who were guarding Nynaeve and sends her to the bottom of the river. She gets saved by Lan and apparently also gets her “block” removed so she can use saidar without getting angry first. Near-death experiences can cause real changes in people, but with the build-up from the last book, this seemed like an underwhelming way to have the block removed. Also, Nynaeve and Lan get married that night. Good for them.

We don’t see Moghedien again, but we do see two of the original Black Ajah who were with Liandrin way back when. They show up to get the Bowl of the Winds or another object out of the supposed house-full of angreal at the exact same, convenient time that our heroes do. They fight. Several loads of items are taken off by the Black Ajah’s men. Nynaeve takes on the two Black Ajah and Mat rushes up to help Elayne and fights what we find out is a gholam, a man who is crazy strong and doesn’t bleed when stabbed, but is burned by Mat’s fox-head medallion. We later learn, from Mat via Birgitte, that there are six gholam that were made before the Breaking. Three men and three women (in appearance at least) who are unaffected by the One Power and are assassins of the highest talents. They apparently were held in stasis boxes so who knows how many are freely roaming around or under a Forsaken’s command. This one was apparently under Sammael’s command, who also had the Whitecloak Carridan in Ebou Dar doing something. Our heroes were keeping an eye on Carridan but nothing happened once they started keeping tabs. At least in this book. In the end, our heroes capture one of the Black Ajah but the other one gets away. They also do find the Bowl of the Winds. Mission accomplished.

Elayne, Nynaeve, Birgitte, and Aviendha leave with Lan to the Kin’s farm outside Ebou Dar, but Mat stays behind to find Olver. Mat was eager to leave but of course he is obligated to look after the boy. He is eager to leave because Tylin was playing him like a fiddle and took advantage of him multiple times. He wasn’t fond of being chased instead of doing the chasing, but it was fun to read. While he is searching the city for Olver, the Seanchan arrive in Ebou Dar and their invasion begins. We last see Mat get buried in a pile of rubble. Now, this sets up Mat’s prophesied encounter/eventually marriage to the Daughter of the Nine Moons who was hinted at as being the Empress of the Seanchan. I expect this is the next story arc for Mat. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

We, again, don’t get to see much of Perrin or Loial in the book. Hopefully they get more attention in the next book. All we really get is Perrin fake fighting with Rand and then taking a band of soldiers, and Berelain for added stress (not his choice), to Ghealdean to take care of Masema the Prophet. This was all after Perrin refused to take over things in Tear. The fake argument ended up being a little real since Rand flung Perrin across the room, but it was all a public display.

Lastly, let’s discuss the Dragon Reborn himself. Rand returns to Cairhien after the events of the last book and has to recapture it from Colaveare, which he does easily. The Aes Sedai who swore fealty are holding their oaths so far. They even help, along with much ta’veran luck, with Rand’s discussion with the Atha’an Miere to secure the Atha’an Miere to Rand. Rand tells Min about Fel’s death and they both “comfort” each other. Min gets mad at Rand later for trying to claim that he took advantage of her when she of course was overly eager herself. This brings Rand’s lovers to two of three. He has been with Aviendha and Min. Next, I bet, he will be with Elayne and the love tetrahedron will be complete [insert ironic laughter here].

Back to the matters at hand. Cadsuane shows up out of nowhere and becomes a prominent character. An Aes Sedai nearly 300 years old and is considered a legend among the Aes Sedai. Min sees a viewing that Cadsuane will teach Rand and all the asha’man a lesson they will not like, but it will be important for them to learn. This is after Rand gets back from his visit in the forest.

So Rand goes to the forest outside of Cairhien to sneak among the Cairhienan and Tairen rebels. He is pressing his ta’veran luck here since it was right after meeting the Atha’an Miere. He infiltrates the camp easily with the help of Moiraine’s cousin Caraline. During this covert mission, Rand sees several Red Ajah Aes Sedai in the camp and another group consisting of Cadsuane and two others. Padan Fain is also in the camp but under the name Mordeth. He somehow calls in a fog full of monsters or at least tendrils similar to those seen in Shadar Logoth. The camp is effectively destroyed. As Rand, Min, Cadsuane, Caraline, and others make their way out of the fog, Fain jumps out and slices Rand with his dagger from Shadar Logoth. Eventually everyone gets back to Cairhien. Rand gets healing from two Aes Sedai and one of his asha’man, Flinn. One of the Aes Sedai makes a very generous offer to Flinn to teach her exactly what he did to assist Rand’s healing. The cut from the dagger sliced right over Rand’s wound from Falme. We learn that both wounds are filled with evil but they each are a different kind of evil. The two evils may actually combat each other. Rand survives because of the three who healed him as best they could.

Then we get to the final chapter. When Rand wakes up from a coma two days after getting cut, he makes another dumbass decision. He disappears with an asha’man to Caemlyn to pick up Bashere and Co. then travels to Illian to take over the city. He chases Sammael to Shadar Logoth to fight it out. While there, he finds Liah, the Maiden he lost when he traveled there to put a trap on the Waygate with the help of Loial’s mom, future wife, and the Stedding Eldar in the last book. This means she has survived for who knows how long there, which seems improbable. Rand fights some Trollocs and a Fade then almost falls into a dark pit, but he is saved by a mysterious figure. A man who can channel but supposedly not saidin. I think it may be saidar since we have the opposite going on inside Egwene’s camp. This man helps Rand but says he won’t help him kill Sammael. He only helps because “many plans will be impacted” should Rand die. I guess he is a Forsaken or at least on that level. This guy channels balefire at a tendril of Mashadar, who is seeping through Shadar Logoth as before, at the same time Rand does, and their balefire attacks intersect. I don’t know if the attacks canceled each other out or if they just touched for a second, but it effectively shakes Rand and mystery guy out of the Power and puts them on their knees to recover. After the brief encounter, this guy disappears without a word.

Rand goes on to find Sammael. He is about to take him out with balefire when he sees Liah getting picked up by one of Mashadar’s tendrils. He redirects his balefire to kill her so she wouldn’t die a horrible death since she was already touched by the evil. He turns back to find the area Sammael was in covered in the fog of Mashadar. He presumes Sammael is dead, killed by Mashadar, due to the lack of time he could have had to make a Gateway. I of course don’t believe Sammael is dead for three reasons. We didn’t see it, or a body, so it cannot be confirmed, Sammael is the only Forsaken still alive that we have gotten to know to some degree (besides Moghedien), and he has a huge grudge against Lews Therin that will likely play a role later on. He is still an interesting enemy. All the other current enemies are still shrouded in mystery if not simply names we’ve recently seen.

Rand ultimately is given the crown of Illian, the crown of swords, which he accepts. So he is king in Illian. He still plans to have Elayne rule in Andor and Cairhien. The high lords technically still rule in Tear. I’m not sure where he plans to take over next, but I bet it is westward and will involve fighting the Seanchan. We will see.

One last comment before we end this. I have noticed that these books are becoming, or have always been and I am just now fully realizing it after several books, a little formulaic. I mean this in the way they are written. We get similar events at similar times in each book. In the beginning it was the repetition of facing a Forsaken at the end of the first three books. We didn’t get a huge surprise moment in this book like we have in others, but we did get a few lesser ones. Don’t get me wrong, I am still enjoying myself with the story and this “formula” may just be Robert Jordan’s way of handing the massive amount of story-lines going on at once. Like in previous books, we get little glimpses of some stories in this book. Mainly small updates on Sevanna’s and Morgase’s stories, while the main focus is on a few of our main characters. Mainly Rand of course, but I would say Elayne, Nyneave, and Mat were the biggest characters of this book. We also got a few sprinklings of new story-lines and introductions of new characters. Some of which will become important and others will probably never be seen again. This could just be me analyzing the series from a writer’s perspective, but I think any reader could pick this up after the first few books. It may turn some readers who do see it away from completing the series. It doesn’t change any of my opinions. I’m of course going to finish the series regardless, but I thought it interesting that the practices have continued in each book. I wonder if they will persist throughout.

On to book eight. The Path of Daggers.