|Thoughts on Winter's Heart
Wasn't that fun?
I refer of course to the latest of the Wheel of Time books, Winter's Heart, and more specifically to the experience of reading it. I was beginning to be disappointed with the books past number 5, seeing signs of Continuing Series Syndrome, but the pendulum has just swung upward again. Winter's Heart is very, very good.
Of course, there are also people who think it's very, very bad.
But no matter. On to details. From the beginning - a darkened basement, a Black sister and an Oath Rod. No real surprises for most of that scene, since, except for the details, there was only one way it could be played out. Interesting that Talene thinks Elaida is Black, though - and I wonder how that's going to go.
The next scene... I seem to have developed an allergy to Renaile and her friends, one of the few irritations of the book, but the first-sister ceremony was another matter. Very interesting. And continuing with the prologue - welcome, Gabrelle, to my list of well-liked characters. Speaking of which...
Cadsuane has shot nearly to the top of that list after her 'discussions' with the Sea Folk, the Far Madding Council and, to be frank, just about everyone else. Although I'm still very curious to know just how one does spank someone diplomatically... Alivia also stands high, and Mat and Elayne, neither of whom I really liked that much before, are creeping up there. Some of their scenes - especially Mat's - were priceless. Tuon, Domon and Egeanin, of course, are right up there with Mat, and Nynaeve still holds top place.
Toveine, though, I've begun to like a little less. She still has the qualities I appreciated in book 8 - intelligence, presence of mind and dislike of Elaida - but she's absolutely ruthless. I still like her as a character, but I'm not so sure I'd want her as a friend. Of course, I'd want her even less as an enemy.
This one really was the Seanchan book, with both a large number of Seanchan points of view and Mat immersed in an increasingly Seanchan society. And more to come, no doubt, as the Seekers and their conspiracy theory are going to go crazy with the departure of Egeanin and company. Mat, Tuon and assorted prophecies - the Creator only knows how that's going to turn out.
And the climactic event of the book, the cleansing of the taint. Still a cliffhanger, with some doubt about whether the operation was fully successful and several questions to be asked (such as "What happened to all the Forsaken?") Osan'gar was finally confirmed to be Dashiva, right before he got taken down by a sa'angreal-wielding maniac (my brother Shadar's memorable phrase). Poor Osan'gar. (His fellow 'gar might also be in some trouble, if Nynaeve, who's presumably seen Halima at Salidar, gets a good enough description from one of the group fighting her of the mysterious woman channeling saidin. And you'd think Cadsuane, at least, would have the sense to have everyone pool their knowledge of what the Forsaken look like - of course, this is the Wheel of Time and characters do not necessarily behave in sensible ways.) We can presume, however, that Aran'gar is safe for now and that Demandred, Graendal and Cyndane also got away safely, if singed. Moghedien - who knows.
The Taimandred issue deserves an essay of its own, and will get one before long. For now, enough to say the theory is muddied but not yet disproved. We have no new indications of what Mesaana is up to, but the third member of that trio is probably stationed in Seanchan. Anath, Tuon's Truthspeaker, has some remarkably Semirhage-like traits. Cyndane is confirmed as Lanfear, Moridin is without doubt Ishamael and Sammael is apparently toast (Jordan's words at an interview).
There are many, many things which can be said and no doubt will be said over the year or so waiting for book 10 - but those, for now, are my thoughts on Winter's Heart.