Book; 9: Winter's Heart
Chapter; 34: The Hummingbird's Secret
Far Madding: Rand, Min, Nynaeve, Lan, Cadsuane, Verin, Alvia.
Ebou Dar: Mat, Thom, Julin, Thera, Noal, Olver, Tuon, Selucia, Egeanin, Setaille, Aludra, 3 Aes Sedai, 3 sul'dam.
Ghealdan: Perrin, Elyas, Berelain, 'The Prophet', Two Rivers Army.
Ghealdan too: Faile, Alliandre, Morgase, Shaido Aiel.
Caemlyn: Elayne, Birgitte, Aviendha.
The soothing balm of book 9 has washed away the stresses of the mid-series slump (although for obvious reasons, Mat's entourage is getting a little hard to keep track of) and I feel the urge to be positive again.
In Winter’s Heart, Mat schemes, Perrin hunts and Rand, finally, mans up and gets his murder-rampage on.
Ok, so maybe rampage is a bit strong as he is actually being very calm about the whole thing, and yes, he only manages to personally kill one of the four men on his death list but it’s the thought that counts.
The important point is that these events take place in the city of Far Madding, a small independent city state that is all that remains of the country of Maredo. Far Madding’s survival is in no small part due to the presence of the Guardian, a huge ter’angreal that blocks channellers from using the source. The men that Rand wants to kill are Asha’man, men who can channel and have attended the school that Rand set up. At the end of book 8 they had a damn good go at killing Rand, destroying half a royal palace in the process. The fun part is that since none of them can throw fireballs or blow each others heads up while in Far Madding we get to see some good, old fashioned swordplay.
Rand al’Thor is a blademaster. He picked up the sword in the months after he left the Two Rivers under Lan’s tutelage and is known to be one of the quickest studies ever. This is not entirely surprising as he is the reincarnation of the chap who invented sword-fighting in the first place. However, apart from a bit of sparring in book 8 which was interrupted by everyone’s favourite death-fog, since he became more proficient at channelling he hasn’t really bothered. Why draw your sword when ripping someone out of time is so much easier? Unlike most of the Asha’man though, who think that swords are a bit beneath them, Rand has at least stayed in practice.
Sword fighting in Randland is, like everything else, a verbose affair. Every movement in the ‘dance’ has a long flowery name that I guess is supposed to allow readers to visualise the action. I have the good fortune to have some experience with Japanese sword forms (and a library of martial arts and anime DVDs) and so I can kind of figure out what is meant to be happening. It can get a bit silly at times, especially if there are two blademasters duelling and you get sentences like “Boar Rushes Down A Hillside meets River Undercuts The Bank, Hummingbird Kisses the Honeyrose meets Crane Takes Flight, Great Big Pointy Sword meets Feeble Knee Ligaments”. Not only are there Far Too Many Capital Letters in there but you can sometimes miss something because your brain has just started to filter out the surplus.
Still, I like this return to form by Rand. With Elayne filling in the intrigue and politics quota and the Seanchan doing the big armies thing, the three musketeers can get out of the mud and get back to what they are best at, dancing for my amusement. Dance monkeys! Dance!