The Path of Daggers – Part 2

Apparently I should have split this one up into 3 different posts after all, because there is an awful lot that ends up going on in this book.  Needless to say (yet I’m saying it anyway) this is going to be a fairly long post.

The first thing that I’m going to mention is something minor that I mentioned before, but it still bothered me as I read it this time.  There is a short scene where Elaida is meeting with several of the sitters talking about some of the events going on in the world (or the rest of the book) and it bothered me for two reasons.  The first is that they have absolutely nothing right in what they’re telling Elaida.  They’re wrong about the Seanchan, the Asha’man, and any number of other things.  This along with the fact that Elaida is still keeping charge of them strictly through her personality and she refuses to even try to be subtle.  Most of the main characters have shown that they can’t simply be bullied by their opposition, so to have an opponent be a person who is that blunt just doesn’t seem like an effective challenge for the characters.

Since I’ve started out by talking about Elaida, let’s keep going with some other things about the White Tower.  The first thing is the one time that I can remember Elaida actually showing some restraint, but it is more from fear than actually wanting to be subtle.  She obliquely asks another sister to look for anything unusual that she can find, and this leads that sister (I can’t remember her name offhand) to assume that Elaida wants her to search for the Black Ajah.  This is one of the first times that the Aes Sedai openly admit that there is a Black Ajah, let alone to actually do something about it.

The other event that Elaida set into motion was sending a coterie of sisters to attack the Black Tower.  This ends about as poorly as it can for the Aes Sedai, with many of the sisters bonded by Asha’man.  This also shows that there is a rift among the Asha’man, primarily between Taim and a newer arrival to the Black Tower, Logain.

I had commented before that I was surprised that Rand didn’t check in more with the Asha’man, but I keep forgetting that the entirety of this series only takes place over about 3 years.  But while he doesn’t check on them much, he is willing to use them.  And he uses them to drive the Seanchan back when they start to come towards Illian.  This is one of the best examples of yet another of Jordan’s strengths as a writer, his knowledge of warfare.  The battle between Rand’s army and the Seanchan takes place over the better part of a chapter and has viewpoints from both sides.  Rand’s army is small, well suited to fighting in the lands that they’re in, and extremely mobile.  While Rand has all of that going for him, the Seanchan have superior numbers and a well-trained force.  It’s very interesting to see the battle take place, and it’s interesting to see how it plays out, especially as Rand gets a little trigger-happy at the end with using Callandor.  I also love the very end of the battle, with both sides thinking that they’ve been handed a horrible defeat.  It brought to mind one of the phrases said by the characters probably 3 or 4 books ago.  When they’re talking about a battle, they say that the only thing sadder than a battle won is a battle lost.  It also shows that the relative outcome of a battle is very subjective.

Without getting into too much about Cadsuane (because I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say about her from the later books) it probably wouldn’t hurt to talk for a minute about Callandor.  Obviously it was one of the earliest signs of the truth of Rand being The Dragon Reborn, but it’s also flawed in a very important way.  This also leads back to thinking about how deep the foreshadowing in this series is.  The first time that Rand really uses Callandor is early in book 4, and after using it to drive the shadowspawn from the Stone of Tear, afterwards he tries to being a little girl back to life, going as far as pumping her blood and forcing air into her lungs using the power.  He knows that she’s dead, but refuses to see it.

Another big step forward in this book is that Egwene finally starts to gain a foothold of power as the Amyrlin Seat.  She asks the Hall of the Tower to declare war on Elaida, and then invokes a largely unknown law that when it comes to war, the Amyrlin must be obeyed by the tower and thusly all Aes Sedai.  This is exactly the type of subterfuge that Elaida refuses to even attempt to use.  It’s also what makes these books interesting, seeing all of the behind the scenes moves, and the moves behind those, and the moves behind those, and so on.

So now we come to the ending of this book.  In many ways, this book has a very atypical ending.  For one, it’s the first book that doesn’t really end with much of a battle.  Rand’s rooms in Cairhien are attacked, but he ends up being safe and very carefully searches for the Asha’man rather than openly attacking them.  Along with that, we have Perrin finally meeting Masema (or The Prophet) if you prefer, and at the same time Faile is captured by the Shaido who were sent to Amidicia and Altara and who follow Sevanna.  At the same time, Egwene begins to lay siege upon the White Tower.  While the last book did end with a cliffhanger with Mat being stuck in Ebou Dar with the Seanchan attacking (speaking of which, he wasn’t in this book at all) it still had a conclusion to part of the story, with Rand defeating Sammael and being crowned the King of Illian.  By comparison, this book really just sets up more threads that are going to be explored over the next 3 or 4 books.  Either way, it’s still a great book, and I’m one step closer to being able to start reading A Memory of Light, so it’s all good.

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