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I've mentioned that it's sometimes hard for me to remember which events happen in which book. Obviously, I knew going into this one that I'd be reading about the fall of the Stone of Tear—the cover gives a handy hint on that. However, some of what I'd THOUGHT happened here—the pages and pages of Egwene being held by the Seanchan, the training of the three in the White Tower—all was covered in the last book. (Man, he packed a lot into THE GREAT HUNT.) And now, it turns out that another big event (Rand using the lightning to clear the Stone from shadowspawn) is actually in the next book.
So, I went into this one a little bit confused, trying to remember what exactly happened in Book Three. About a hundred pages into it, I suddenly remembered. This is the one where Rand disappears.
As if in foreshadowing of future books in the series, where side characters become main characters, this is the book where we only get brief glimpses of Rand. I remember being annoyed by this when I was younger. Oddly—this is another change between my young self and my older self—I didn't feel that any more. I've grown, over the years, to see the WHEEL OF TIME less as Rand's story, and more of the story of the end of an age. It's the story of the entire world and the people in it, not just the story of one person. And so, I actually enjoyed reading the different viewpoints, which allowed me to get to know the world and setting better. Perhaps that's just the writer in me knowing that in another month or so, I'm going to have to write in this setting, and so anything that shows me more viewpoints, more characters, and more places is going to be well appreciated.
All admit to a slight longing, however. Not for more Rand viewpoints specifically, but a longing to know him better. The man whom we read about at the beginning of this book has changed a lot since the end of the second book. That progress, that change, is trapped between books, lost to us. A friend recently explained to me that Mr. Jordan looked at Rand's changes during this book as a metaphor for the way he himself changed during his years in Vietnam. That same friend suggested that maybe showing those changes explicitly might have been to close to home for Mr. Jordan. I'd never heard that before, but it makes a whole lot of sense.
My only other complaint about this books is Moiraine. She's always been one of my favorites, but she got on my nerves here. It's okay to push around Mat—he deserves it. Rand is fair game too; he can blow up cities. He needs direction. But why does she have to pick on Perrin? He doesn't deserve it.
And, speaking of Perrin, my favorite moment in this book came when Perrin entered the blacksmith's shop near the end and worked the forges. Something about the beauty of the writing there, mixed with Perrin's inner turmoil of the surrounding chapters, worked for me. It was one of the most amazing moments in the series so far for me, and reminded me why I like Perrin as a character so much.
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