Book Love Affair blog discussion for this book and the Tor reread outline by Leigh Butler.
I love the feeling of being absorbed in a richly imagined alternative world, as I used to enjoy in Everquest, and I experience some of that in these books. They're very long, with enough juiciness and intrigue to stay inviting, although they have their frustrations for this reader.
It has become more clear to me how women dominate in the Wheel of Time world. The breaking of the world legend turns female power (saidar) into the authority, and women dominate or are equals in most of the societies, as compared to our world. To the extent that it's not mere "political correctness" I find that angle interesting and compelling. Compare Jordan's WoT world to the Tolkien world of The Lord of the Rings: female characters there have a distinctly minor importance, Galadriel excepted. Is there a well-conceived theme of feminine and masculine principles organizing the thread of the Wheel of Time story and the trajectories of character actions? Mmmm... sort of, but not really. I'll see how it unfolds.
Perrin and Mat, and to a lesser extent, Nynaeve and Egwene, are the main points-of-view this book, with Rand a more enigmatic character and Moiraine much further in the background. Mat and Perrin are both a lot more interesting in this book. Although Perrin is still annoyingly resistant to his wolf-world inclination, there is a scene where he sees the horror of a man who has completely lost his human identity to his wolf identity, and that made me go "oh, yeah, of course! Well, I guess just following one's wolf-self could be destructive of one's identity." (duh.)
I enjoyed the dreaming magic practices (shades of Carlos Castaneda) where characters operate in a parallel dream world which bears some mysterious but altered connection to our world. The "gates of perception" always seem to me to be the wisest framework for magic for our modern minds.
I enjoyed the interactions with the Aiel - warrior clans always get my vote.
At least Rand is moving along with accepting being the Dragon Reborn, and that of course is the central motivation for the other characters' courses of action. These books are all about actions, and not much about awareness or character development.
I liked the Callendor sword-in-the-stone thing, and the thrillingly evil Black Ajah.
Romances have to be deeply tragic for me to enjoy them -- give me Charlotte Bronte any day. The quiverings of attraction between various characters don't do much for me, and the level of eroticism in the book is minimal (except the really delicious wicked repressed kind, like the Seanchan damane -- enslaved Aes Sedai -- I hope there's more of that to come, please!) I remember being disappointed with the Farscape TV Sci-Fi series when the budding romance between (oh I forget their names) became a sex-partner thing. So boring!
The prospect of Nynaeve hooking up with Lan will be a dreary thing to read about. Lan really should be 100% devoted to serving Moiraine, I see a conflict of interest there.
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