Can I read over 3,000,000 words in six months (and keep my job and friends)?

Monday, 23 January 2012

If anybody can, Seanchan.

Book; 9: Winter's Heart
Chapter; 1: Leaving the Prophet
Character Groups;
Ebou Dar         Caemlyn        ???                Ghealdan 1                   Ghealdan 2             Tar Valon 
Mat                  Elayne          Rand             Perrin                            Faile                       Egwene
Thom               Nynaeve       Min               Elyas                            Alliandre                Rebel Aes Sedai
Julin                 Aviendha                          Berelain                        Morgase                  Egwene'sArmy    
Olver                Birgitte                            'The Prophet'  
The Seanchan                                           Two Rivers army       
As the relevant cast list slowly and inexorably builds to some kind of critical mass, I would like to take a moment to discuss just one group. Yes, as promised, it is time for the Seanchan. That's SHAWN-chan by the way, like Jackie's Irish little brother.
The Seanchan first showed up way back in book 2 where they received a darn good spanking from the scooby gang and fled across the sea to regroup. They returned in spectacular fashion at the end of book 7 by dropping a building on Mat. Even after a second, less decisive defeat in book 8 (which I finished in less than a week by the way) they now control Tarabon, Amadicia, Altara and most of Almoth Plain and Arad Doman. They are a force to be reckoned with, the only force on the planet that has so far been able to teach Rand a touch of humility. And they kinda get on my nerves.

The story goes that 1000 years ago, the High king of all Randland, Artur Hawkwing, sent his son Luthair with a great big army to conquer the lands across the Aryth Ocean. This took him, and his descendants, eight HUNDRED years. Frankly I would not be giving that boy his pocket money. Anyway, having done what Daddy said, they built an armada and turned their thoughts to going home, expecting to find the glorious Empire waiting for them with open arms. To their surprise, a lot seems to have changed over the last millennium. Declaring that everybody in Randland is an oathbreaker and a traitor, the only reasonable course of action was of course to invade.

Tarabon and Arad Doman put up little resistance as they were busy having civil wars and definitely seem to have improved under Seanchan rule. Other countries have been less willing but the coupling of a highly trained army and a ruthless bureaucracy has so far won out.

Obviously the new overlords have new laws for their subjects to remember. Whilst bowing to any Seanchan in the street and baldness being illegal are odd, they are a minor inconvenience compared to what they do if you can channel.

The power of the Seanchan throne is built on the Power of the damane, women who can channel, on leashes. The leash, known as an a'dam, controls a channelling woman making her no more than a complicated tool or a well trained animal. Which is exactly how the Seanchan see them. The controllers are known as sul'dam and are amongst the most respected and honoured people on the whole Seanchan Empire. 

But there is a dirty secret behind all this power. Although the damane are treated like animals and the sul'dam like heroes, they can, in fact, both channel. Damane are women like Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve who can channel whether someone teaches them or not, while the sul'dam are like Elayne's mother Morgase, they will never channel unless someone draws it out of them. If this became common knowledge it would destroy the Empire from the inside out, especially since the Empress herself (may she live forever) is know to be sul'dam. But no one seems to be able to come up with a way of spilling the beans. The few Seanchan who have discovered the truth have done everything in their power to cover it up and the war machine simply keeps chugging on, refusing to listen to reason.
But at least they get stuff done. An approach that has finally rubbed off on some of the other characters. With his megalomania given a kicking by the Seanchan boot, Rand has turned away from politics and is concentrating on more interesting things. And the plot moves on! 

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Storm IS Coming. But First...

Book; 7: A Crown of Swords
Chapter; 41: A Crown of Swords
Character Groups;
Ebou Dar        Cairhien       Somewhere in Andor     Somewhere in Altara  
Mat                  Rand            Perrin                             Egwene
Nynaeve          Min              Faile                               Rebel Aes Sedai
Elayne             Cadsuane     Berelain                         Rebel Aes Sedai's Army
Aviendha                              Two Rivers army          The Band of the Red Hand

Ok... Ok... So it has been a month since my last update, but with Christmas and family and food and food and birthdays and food, I have fallen a bit behind, all right?
All right.

Not that I've had much of interest to say really. I am, of course, not trying to sync blog and plot line here but I do sort of rely on what I am reading to spark off some musings. As may have come across in my last, short but horribly bitter post, the current story arcs could not be described as action-packed, hence a dry spell. 
But as my handsome boyfriend pointed out, that in itself might be worth talking about.

Let one thing be clear. I love the Wheel of Time. If I didn't, I wouldn't have kept reading all those years ago when I first got to books 6 and 7 and found myself faced with quite startling monotony. At least now I have the benefit of knowing that it gets better. 

I have pondered, at length, on what exactly is wrong with these books. Here are my conclusions, feel free to disagree.

As I mentioned before, the first three books of the series had a clear, well executed if predictable arc. In book 4 the arc gets mussed up a bit and longer games come into focus. Book 5 follows up on this with a big flash-bang finale that removes several key pieces from the board and sends others off on seemingly random trajectories. Thus, book 6 and 7 are concerned with the aftermath of book 5. The world is slowly cooking in its own juices and no-one can pull themselves together long enough to do anything about it. In book 6 especially, I feel that even the editor (who I believe was Jordan's wife) was having trouble getting through it. On this read-through I noticed so many silly grammatical errors and things like people channelling the wrong half of the power (women channel saidar, men saidin. This was made worse by the sudden appearance of a character that actually does channel the wrong half of the power.) that it was almost painful to read.

But it wasn't just an editing issue. Sad as it makes me to say it, Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords were simply not as well constructed as those that came before. In both books there is a climactic battle with swords and spears and things exploding and burning all over the shop. Should be grrrrrreat, but each battle is crammed into the last chapters with hardly any build up and not even the previously used device of seeing the same thing from a number of different points of view to help you get the full picture. They feel rushed. They feel small. They do not feel like characters should still be speaking of them with a sense of horror and awe six books later. To be honest, when I first read the series and people talked about "the battle of Dumai's Wells", I had to google it and then re-read the chapter. And bare in mind that there were only nine books in the series at that point! 

Anyway, The difficult second album is nearly behind us (ok, so sixth, seventh and eighth album. You know what I mean) and thankfully, at a mere 641 pages, book 8; The Path of Daggers is practically a short story. 

The storm IS coming. Promise.