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The Wheel of Time, retrospective

 
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Iroh
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 3:08 am    Post subject: The Wheel of Time, retrospective Reply with quote

Yep, that's right folks! I am going to tackle the fantasy behemoth known as The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and review each book, first on its own, and then as part of a greater whole, and give my final verdict on Randland. It will be long, it will be arduous, I will have to endure Cadsuane again, but it must be done!

But to start, I'm going to talk about Brandon Sanderson's short story, River of Souls, which details a particular character from the series in a light we never saw, and really, truly colors some things in a way I'd never have thought.

By the way, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.


So, this story involves a man called Bao. Which I think is a silly name, but then, we get names like Zarine in this series, so it's par for course. Bao is a grim man who is fulfilling prophecies by accident who tries his hardest to feel nothing, can channel, and is good at the mental exercise the series loves so much where you block everything out and are just in 'the zone' (called the Flame by Rand, the Oneness by Bao).

Bao has this elderly man who is helping him fulfill prophecies and seems to fill some sort of mentor role to him. Bao also has companions with whom there is a sense of camraderie, including one who wants to make him laugh (did I mention that Bao is a total stick in the mud?) and the tomboyish woman who clearly has the hots for him and believed in this crazy Bao fella when he started doing amazing things. Actually, she believed in him before he was awesome. He was just "I shall be awesome" and she was like "And so you shall".

Bao also has some character tics, like being surprised at himself when he feels something other than nothing. Cause he reciprocates on that girl, big time. And that bothers him. And Bao fulfilled a few prophecies accidentally and insists that he was trying to break their country, but ends up unifying it and making it stronger than ever, as per some fancy words written a long time ago. And from then on, he seems to care that he not let them down and fulfills their prophecies to the letter. Even when it makes his life harder.

Now, there are some odd things about Bao. Aside from his obviously Anti-Hero bent. In actuality, Bao and Rand are a lot alike, except Rand is more crazy and Bao is more stoic. But Bao knows ancient sword forms no one else does. And Bao can Travel. And Bao speaks fluent Old Tongue. And Bao is an exceptional general and leader of people. No, Bao isn't a Wolfbrother, so there goes the three-for-one deal. Also, Bao doesn't seem to be Ta'veren. Also, Bao likes to point out he's a bad person to the people who support him. They think he has self-esteem issues.

And most tellingly, Bao knows what that big monster is in that cave of destiny-esque place with the ARTIFACT OF PLOT SIGNIFICANCE, as well as what a Nym is (I actually had to look this one up, but the Green Man from The Eye of the World was a Nym, so there was more than one left). Monster is a matured Worm, as in, those things in the Blight that scared Moiraine and Lan so badly in the first book that they ran until they came up to the Forsaken, which scared the Worms so badly they abandoned lunch plans. Yeah, those were babies. Bao here fights the real deal.

And barely wins. Admitting he only won because he knew what it was. And he curses Aginor's name, and is familiar with the Forsaken and what Aginor was up to back in The Bad Ole Days, aka The War of Power in the Age of Legends. And when he finds the plants in the cave, he deduces the Nym's prescence due to the "Great Lord's grip" making the above world dead and lifeless. So, we can deduce a few things here.

Bao is at the very least a Darkfriend. Calling the Dark One the Great Lord is a neverous tic of theirs it seems like. However, Bao's personal knowledge of Aginor, and that he is dead (twice, actually) suggests that Bao is one of the Forsaken. Spoiler alert (like I haven't spoilt everything for you already) Bao is Demandred. And not Taim, so ha! (I totally bought into that theory way back when, so I'm in there too.)

Bao then mercy kills the Nym in a rather reverent way, recovers THE ARTIFACT OF PLOT SIGNIFICANCE, attaches it to something he recovered in a previous adventure, and then gloats about how he's got the second most powerful male sa'angreal ever, of all time. Suck it Lews Therin, your puny Callandor is weaker than my shiny Scepter! (and you blew up the Choden Cal, but I don't know if Bao knows that yet)

I will refrain from making a joke about Demandred's overwhelming inferiority complex and how it reduces him to waving his phallic symbol around screaming it's bigger than Lews Therin's and let you do that on your own.

Then Demandred/Bao runs all the way back to his travelling companions and brandishes the BIGGER THAN LEWS THERIN'S PHALLIC SYMBOL (oops... well, guess I make my own joke after all) at everyone and they all name him Dragonslayer and swear loyalty to him, in a mirror to how Rand is named Dragon Reborn and people swear fealty to him. Demandred daydreams about being better than Lews Therin some more, and end.

So what did I think?

FRIGGIN AWESOME! I want to know more about Shara, and Demandred's story. It'll never happen, and it was understandably cut from A Memory of Light because it introduces too much new in the last book and distracts from the actual climax of the entire huge ass series. But the little bits of Shara were great. They complete lack of gender bias that we've seen, the creepy crazy animal men that respond to loud and direct commands, the fact their society seems to be run by female channellers (because up til recently, male ones went mad), their Dragon Mythology and how a hero will rise up to stop the Dragon from Breaking The World 2.0, and even the fact they use a different set of weaving analogies than everyone else. (They call it the Great Tapestry instead of the Pattern of Ages).

Also, EXTREMELY DEPRESSING.

Look at a map of Randland. Not the Westlands, which is the main region the story takes place in, the world. Now look at Seanchan, and realize it's half the world, literally. Now look at the Westlands, and realizes it's the size of Europe. Now look at Shara, that place that Demandred united. It's the size of two Westlands. Demandred has their loyalty, love, and all that good hero jazz going.

Rand on the other hand loosely directs less than half of the Westlands. One must wonder, why didn't Demandred think to wave his chuck of the globe at Rand instead of a powerful sa'angreal. More seriously, the man's obsessive hatred of Lews Therin/Rand is toxic. He's a broken man. He's evil because he has some sort of emotional psyschosis, I am almost certain. I mean, there's several male Forsaken who joined because they were Lews Therin lite. Sammael and Be'lal both did too. But Demandred was closer to Lews Therin than either of those posers, and shown here a whole lot more humane. The previous two set up evil governments with them in control and enjoy it. Demandred 'causes chaos to take over'. Instead, he abolishes slavery, unites disparate kingdoms, and provides hope, order and purpose to half a continent. In two years. Rand can't say that for himself. No one else in the series can. Artur Pendrag Hawking can, but he's over a thousand years dead.

It's like Zen-Buhdda-Jesus Rand says, if he'd been a friend instead of a rival, Demandred would've been his friend and ally. Lews Therin was a hero, a great man, and a dick. Rand al'Thor, however, it not naturally a dick. Most of the time.

So this story, to me, makes Demandred either first or second among the most tragic Forsaken. Probably first. Really, only he and Ishamael are tragic in any sense that I can recall, and I think Demandred actually has more positive traits than Moridin.

Done.
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Armaius
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

And thus it begins. That was interesting and fun to read.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This makes me actually want some of the spin off works that Jordan promised, although River of Souls was 99% Sanderson in that all Jordan wrote was "in Shara". But Randland might have some of the most intricate world building in fantasy ever. Including Arda. So, I'm likely to do part one of my multi-part Eye of the World review starting sometime soon.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2014 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh yes. There's so many details in Randland that you need an extra reading or two to appreciate them all.
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