And we reach the end of Book 7 of The Wheel of Time. The ending of this one is very bittersweet for all of the characters. They all have a triumph as well as a sign of a future problem.
Rand starts the last section by finally meeting with the Sea Folk, and then after forcing them to start a negotiation, sets to deal with the rebels in Cairhien and nearly dies when he is attacked by Fain. This also leads to one of the first times that the Asha’man and Aes Sedai interact without wanting to kill each other when Flinn is able to do something that the Aes Sedai cannot and stop Rand from dying after he is attacked by Fain. When he finally wakes up two days later, he is determined to go ahead with the plan that he set into motion about 2 books ago to defeat Sammael. He takes the Asha’man with him and uses all of the defenses that Sammael had set up against him by having the Asha’man trigger every ward that he had set so that he doesn’t know where Rand is. While attacking Rahvin at the end of book 5 was the first time that Rand openly attacked one of the Forsaken, this is the first time that he uses a well-planned strategy to defeat them. And he is ultimately rewarded when Illian’s Council of Nine (actually 8 since Sammael was posing as a member) crowns Rand the King of Illian.
Elayne and Nynaeve also have their fair share of victories towards the end of this book. Nynaeve is able to overcome her block so that she can channel at any time, in part to save her own life and in part to save Lan, who she later marries. Elayne manages to acquire the help of the Kin in finding the Bowl of the Winds. But again they run into more trouble, specifically they know that Moghedian is still after them, as well as the gholam, which is really one of the more frightening shadowspawn in the entire series. When so many of the main characters in the series can channel, and those who can’t are effective fighting physically, the presence of a monster who isn’t affected by the one power and who can’t be hurt by traditional weapons is very dangerous to all of the characters in the story. And then of course Mat learns that the Seanchan are back after having been barely routed before, and we have a ton of other problems to deal with.
This is why this story works so well over so many books, Jordan introduces small conflicts and then later brings them into the forefront, and then even when some of the conflicts are resolved, he introduces new ones that could potentially be worse than those that were just overcome. There were also a several things introduced in this book that will be problems later, even if you don’t realize it until they manifest later. This leads to another strength of Jordan’s, everything that happens in the series – all those countless plot threads that add up to so many books – is foreshadowed to so that when you look back on the earlier books (or read through them again) you see so many things that point to events that might not happen until 3 or 4 books later. The level of depth in these books is so great that it’s impossible to discuss everything that happens, and that’s also why it’s such a joy to be able to read through these books again and again.