Book; 11: Knife of Dreams
Chapter; 36: Under an Oak
Somewhere, who knows where: Rand, Min, Nynaeve, Lan, Cadsuane, Verin, Alivia, Logain.
Altaran/Andoran border: Mat, Thom, Julin, Thera, Noal, Olver, Tuon, Selucia, Egeanin, Setaille, Aludra, 3 Aes Sedai, 3 sul'dam.
Malden: Perrin, Faile, Elyas, Morgase, Berelain, Alliandre, 'The Prophet', Two Rivers Army.
Caemlyn: Elayne, Birgitte, Aviendha.
Outside Tar Valon: Siuan, Rebel Aes Sedai, Rebel Aes Sedai Army.
Inside Tar Valon: Egwene, Leane.
Just in case anyone cares, !!SPOILER WARNING!! This post is going to discuss some major plot points and I don't want to be responsible for spoiling anyone's fun.
Are they gone? Good.
So I would like to talk about a character that I think has had one of the most impressive arcs in the series, Egwene Al'Vere. Egwene has always been far from my favourite character but I cannot deny that she has turned from a silly, whiny little girl to a powerful and commanding woman and I'll be damned if I can see the join.
Egwene Al'Vere was one of the original four hobbitses that left the Two Rivers all the way back in book 1. Back then her purpose was basically to be a sounding board for Moiraine so that the we on this side of the fourth wall could learn about the Power, channeling, men going mad, all that stuff. She was also all but engaged to Rand at the time and so provided the love interest that these stories always seem to need.
She wasn't too important until she went to Tar Valon and almost immediately fell afoul of an evil scheme that left her a captive of the Seanchan. She was rescued by Min, Nynaeve and Elayne but developed a phobia of captivity that made her do some very silly things on the slightest provocation. Things like causing an earthquake under a bunch of soldiers feet or threatening anyone who looked at her funny with a lightning bolt. This got very annoying.
Pretty soon though Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne were embroiled in another, less evil, scheme that had them haring off to Tear where they were captured, again. After being rescued, by Mat this time, Egwene decided against returning to Tar Valon instead heading off to the Aiel Waste with Rand, Mat, Moiraine and Lan to learn about Dreams (with a capital D) from the Wise Ones.
This is where the changes start to happen. The Wise Ones of the Aiel, as well as being masters of the dream world, are incredibly formidable women. They rule the Aiel in all but name with the shear force of their will as the fact that many of them are channelers is not generally broadcast. Egwene learned fast. While she was still impatient and slightly self-absorbed, she starts manipulating people with nothing more than the tone of her voice and a look. This has a particularly noticeable effect on Nynaeve who until than has simply stomped on anyone who opposed her. Egwene quickly becomes one of the increasing number of people who can call Nynaeve down and regularly does.
While Egwene is in the Waste, events take a turn for the worse in Tar Valon. Rebellion has broken out in the White Tower and a new Amyrlin has been elected. The rebels have fled and with a little persuasion from the former Amyrlin, Siuan, form a Tower in Exile. Who do they choose as their rebel Amyrlin? Why Egwene Al'Vere of course.
Remember that none of the Aes Sedai had seen Egwene since her silly I'll-put-a-lightning-bolt-through-you phase and so they assume that she will be a weak and easily controlled figurehead that they can all hide behind if the rebellion fails. It takes a while but they eventually realise that they have in fact raised a highly skilled player of the Great Game (read, politics) and now they have to live with it.
Egwene has come a long way and my opinion of her is never higher that during the chapter 'Honey in the Tea' in Knife of Dreams. Egwene has been captured (bad habit) by the Aes Sedai in the White Tower. Instead of executing her they decide that she can't have been responsible for her actions and have sent her back to be a novice. She has no friends, she is guarded day and night and forced to drink a herbal concoction that stops her from channeling with any strength. All she has is her mind and her voice and she uses them to slowly pull the Tower down from the inside. I love this. I am one of those people that always thinks of something clever to say about five minutes after it would have been relevant and so nothing makes me happier than a good put-down. It's pure wish fulfilment, and what else is fantasy about?