|A Book By Any Other Name
What can we say about book 9?
The logical place to start, I suppose, is with the title. Even ignoring the obviously made-up ones (such as The Return Of Lanfear - see my plot contest results for an explanation) there are at least six possible titles floating around the Net. We have The Fisher King, Towers of Midnight, The Cliffs of Fire and A Song of Ages, plus two more that I just heard about, A Broken Seal and Tower of Ravens. Clearly, they can't all be right. It seems likely to me, in fact, that none of them are. But let's look at them one by one.
The Fisher King - The first rumours of this title came even before
of Daggers was officially released - in other words, BEFORE Jordan
stated in an interview that he had not yet chosen a name. I think we can
dismiss this one. It seems to me that someone read the POD prologue, picked
up on the Arthurian reference in the 'Fisher' piece of sha'rah, and decided
to start a rumour.
Other titles I have heard suggested are The Breaking of the Storm and The Spears of Dawn, but both of those are pure invention rather than claiming to be the 'real' title.
So, whatever book 9 is called, what's going to happen in it?
If Mr Jordan doesn't want to cause a riot among his fans, there are some things that absolutely have to happen. The resolution of exactly what happened in Tar Valon; Mat making an appearance; the hunt for the Black Ajah being well underway. If none of those things happen, who's going to join me in an march on the Jordan household?
(yells and warcries from the rest of the Wheel-reading population)
Thought so. All right, then: Tar Valon. I've written two essays on this already, but I'll summarise. Egwene's army has reached Tar Valon. Fact. According to rumour, they either won, or lost, or nothing was resolved. Thank you, Mr Jordan, I think we could have worked that out for ourselves.
My best guess is that nothing was resolved - yet. Sometimes, the epilogue of one book is a shortened version of events that are given, in more detail, in the prologue or early chapters of the next. For example, in the epilogue of Lord of Chaos Egwene feels a flash of pain and knows Moghedien has been released from the a'dam. In A Crown Of Swords, this discovery is repeated, and we find out that it was Aran'gar who released her. I think that the Path of Daggers epilogue is another case like this: at some time, fairly early in book 9, the Tower factions will come into direct conflict, but at the beginning of the book none of this will have happened, Egwene having only just led her army through the gateway.
I also think that Elaida will be deposed (Why? Incompetence, idiocy, insanity, take your pick) and Egwene raised as Amyrlin of a unified Tower, without too much conflict. The full reasons for this are detailed in my essay Counter-Coup, but basically, Aes Sedai will do almost anything to keep the Tower whole. Egwene has a strong grip on her faction; Elaida is rapidly losing hers. Elaida is also the obvious one to be blamed for the troubles the Tower has been having, with the world in general and specifically the Dragon Reborn.
This may seem too easy, both to readers and to Egwene and her followers, but the real problems are going to come a little later. Those problems are the Black Ajah and the Forsaken.
This situation is also detailed in an essay, A Price Must Be Paid, which is admittedly somewhat incoherent and possibly inaccurate. I'm revising it soon. In summary, though, my idea is that most of the Black Ajah will be caught and trialled, but that sometime (near the end of the book?) Egwene will be captured or at least cornered by the remainder of the Black Ajah and/or one or both of the two resident Forsaken. What happens then? Cliffhanger - since we all know how Jordan loves them.
How about Mat? By the time we meet him again, a lot of time has probably passed, and he's been found by the Seanchan. If he was badly injured when the wall fell on him, some of that time will be in recovering from his injuries (since he's wearing the medallion, he can't be Healed). Because of the medallion and various other points (see Nine Moons Rising - sorry to keep referring you to other essays, but this is going to be way too long if I repeat all my ideas here) the Seanchan haven't let him go, and aren't quite sure what to do with him. He's being kept as a prisoner, but in luxurious accommodations; his captors are polite but aren't telling him what's going on. That's my guess for the first scene from Mat's point of view; the second is after the Return proper, when he's summoned before the newly-appointed commander of the Seanchan forces, the Imperial Princess Tuon.
AKA the Daughter of the Nine Moons, in case anyone was wondering.
Now we get to link in those two plotlines, and the first step is - reading yet another of my essays. The Golden Hawk hypothesizes a meeting between Egwene and Tuon in Tel'aran'rhiod, which - I believe - will happen right before, probably the night before, the Black Ajah catches up with Egwene. Probably, this scene will be from Tuon's point of view, and end with Egwene learning that the Seanchan have Mat, and Tuon learning a few key facts about sul'dam and damane (and maybe that Suroth is a Darkfriend). And then? Cliffhanger!
Egwene and the Black Ajah / Mat and the Seanchan will be the major plotlines, but obviously not the only ones. For one, Perrin has to find out about Faile's capture by the Shaido and risk his soul to save her. I therefore refer you to another, newly-written, essay, The Brambles and the Cliff. Perrin will find out from Berelain, who did escape, and go charging after the Shaido. He'll be intercepted by some Whitecloaks led by, you guessed it, Galad. Berelain promptly swoons over Galad's handsome face, and Perrin, after calming down slightly, makes a deal with them to help rescue Faile, since the Whitecloaks also have an interest in getting rid of the Shaido (and Galad in rescuing Morgase). Some more skirmishing occurs with Seanchan and with Masema's army, and Masema dies (good riddance!) before the final battle with the Shaido, in which Perrin fights like a maniac. The 'risk his soul' idea, I think, refers to Perrin's constant worry about losing his humanity, and the hammer/axe choice. He very nearly does, but of course manages to hold out, and rescues Faile (and the other captives) right at the end of the book.
Look, I know a lot of people think the world would be better off without Faile, but I like her, okay?
But the most important plotline is, of course, "What happened to Rand?" It's also the one I have the fewest opinions about, but I'll take a guess. Rand and Min Travel from Cairhien to the Two Rivers, to give Rand a break, and to tell Tam who his son really is (although I suspect that Tam already knows, or at least is pretty sure of it). They do this very secretly, of course, as Rand still doesn't want his enemies to think of the Two Rivers as a target. Meanwhile, no one knows where the Dragon Reborn is, but I can guarantee that rumours will be flying fast and furious. Back at the Black Tower, Taim and Logain will be competing for power.
Random happenings: Graendal meets Moridin and starts subtly working against him; Toveine and Logain fall in love (Yes, you heard right) and Bayle Domon and Egeanin make at least a brief reappearance. If we don't see them personally, we hear about them from someone else.
Yes, I know I've missed a lot of things out. But I'm not Robert Jordan - I'm only Raina, who has a good knowledge of the books, an imagination and a certain talent for prophecy, but not personal insight into the mind of the Creator. If you want to know the rest of the plot, write to him. But I think we all know that the answer to almost any question regarding the next book that you ask will be RAFO.