I can already tell that this series is going to eat my brain, and not in the super special fun way, but like in the way where some things about it annoy the hoobedy-boobedy out of me, but other parts of it compel me to persevere. I will spend the next five books (before Brandon Sanderson takes over) being yo-yoed back and forth between moments of “yes, give me more of that!” and “NO MAKE IT STOP.” I know this because that was what started happening to me while reading Lord of Chaos. I can only imagine it will get worse.
I’m going to hold off on writing a full treatise on my very complex feelings regarding the way gender is portrayed in this series until I have a fuller picture of the story, which may mean waiting until the last book, but may be as early as book eleven (the last one Jordan wrote–worth noting I have had zero issues in any of Sanderson’s books regarding the portrayal of gender, and sexism). I am holding off because one of y’all tried to convince me all this sexist nonsense going on was done by Jordan on purpose. I reaaaaally do not get that feeling, but I’m willing to be open to it for now.
What I will not hold off on judging at this point is how tired I am of 99% of all the characters in these books being so combative and untrusting with each other, and when trying to win arguments or positions of respect or power, making unilateral moves that in no way consider their opponents or people they are against/with as actual human beings with skills and valid ideas and viewpoints. A classic move for a character in Wheel of Time who wants to seen as powerful and respected (read: wants everyone to do what they say at all times no matter the situation) is to get in the faces of the person they want to respect and obey them and completely dismiss them as a human being. YOU WILL RESPECT ME BECAUSE I AM BEING VERY BELLIGERENT. THE MOST BELLIGERENT NON-LISTENER OR THINKER IN THIS ROOM!!!!!!!
Mat’s behavior in this regard was the worst in this particular book. He completely dismisses Nynaeve and Elayne and Egwene as capable people, insists on treating them like “women” and “Aes Sedai” (at the same time dismissing them as “not real Aes Sedai”) rather than individuals. He spends the last quarter of this book acting like an asshole, insisting he needs to protect the “girls” from themselves, when those “girls” know WAY more about practically everything than he does, and they could LITERALLY hand him his own ass. (He also spends that time mistrusting them and thinking they are dangerous to him, even as he thinks they are incompetent. He needs to open his damn eyes. He’s so good at battle and strategy, but he can’t spot a trustworthy, capable ally when they’re a foot away from him.) MOST of these characters need to pull their heads out of their butts and look around at reality for a change, rather than the scenery from inside their own intestines. I could probably name at least five instances of similar behavior from other characters in about ten seconds, but I should move on. I could easily write about 1,000 words on this, and that seems like effort I could better spend elsewhere.
Really, though, the main problem with this book, and why it’s the first since The Eye of the World to get less than four stars from me, is that a great deal of the events that happen in this book could have been cut entirely and nobody but the most die-hard worldbuilding fans would even notice. This is a 986 page book with about 450 pages of plot-relevant prose. And that might be on the generous side. There is mostly no DOING in this book, only characters talking about doing, or planning it, or going about tasks that we don’t need to read about. Rand spends the entire book Traveling from place to place, checking in with his various territories. It’s basically an entire book of status updates from Rand. Here is a list of most of the actual important things that happen in this book:
1. We get some insight into the plans of the Forsaken, but it’s nothing concrete, because not only are the Forsaken being cagey with each other, the narrative doesn’t let us in on what’s actually going on with them.
2. Nynaeve learns how to heal someone who’s been stilled. She STILL has her block. She heals Logain, Siuane, and Leane.
3. Egwene is made Amyrlin Seat by stupid Aes Sedai who think they can use her as a puppet. She in turn raises Nynaeve and Elayne to full Aes Sedai. Egwene also learns how to Travel. Egwene also commits to Gawyn as her Warder, and they make out a lot.
4. Rand finally decides to stop running away from his romantical emotions.
5. Mazrim Taim and Rand build up an army of men who can channel, and call them the Asha’man.
6. Rand is kidnapped by the White Tower Aes Sedai, and the resulting battle codifies some power structures in Rand’s new, er “army”? The first Aes Sedai kneel to Rand.
7. Winter isn’t coming, and Elayne and Nynaeve discover a cache of angreal hidden in Ebou Dar. They set out with Mat to retrieve it.
And that’s really it. Anyway, this trend towards treading water doesn’t bode well for future installments, but I will try to remain optimistic. Good news is I actually like Nynaeve now! I will always like a character or person who learns to admit their faults.