Welcome back to my re-read, recap, and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This post will only have spoilers through the current chapter.
You can find my previous chapter recaps HERE.
Chapter 58: The Traps of Rhuidean
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com:
Point of view: Rand al’Thor
Rand is following Asmodean using a platform he created through Skimming. As Asmodean turns around, Rand can see that it is the face of Jasin Natael, not Hadnan Kadere as he had suspected. Asmodean jumps through a gateway, but as it is about to close, Rand channels and wills it open again to let him through to Rhuidean. They both run through the city, destroying a good part of it in the process, and reach the statue at the city center at the same time, each controlling half of the One Power from the giant statue in Cairhien. Their battle destroys a good part of the city and Avendesora is now on fire. Their powers are evenly matched until Rand remembers the angreal he found in Tear in the shape of a little fat man. Rand then visualizes the black threads he has seen previously around Asmodean and severs them with the extra power gained from the angreal, winning the battle.
The fog surrounding the city is dissipating. Lanfear appears and is shocked by the news that Rand has severed the bond between the Dark One and Asmodean―she did not know such a feat was possible. She agrees to tell the other Forsaken that Asmodean turned on his own and shields him partially so that he can only channel a small portion of his true potential.
Rand realizes that Lanfear was the one in his memories from the glass columns who opened the Bore to the Dark One’s prison when Asmodean refers to her as “Mierin”. They talk for some time and Lanfear always refer to Rand as Lews Therin. She leaves through a gateway and before Rand does the same with Asmodean, he finds the female part of the pair of statues. As Rand looks around the city he notices a vast lake forming. Rand and Asmodean agree that they will continue to call him Jasin Natael―gleeman to the Dragon Reborn―but that in reality Asmodean will serve as Rand’s teacher to prepare him for his fight against the other Forsaken. The first thing he wishes to learn is to shield his dreams.
Back at Alcair Dal, Moiraine notes the two statues Rand is holding, but says nothing. Rand is informed that the Shaido have left the other clans.
We did it! We finished The Shadow Rising. I will write a review of the book, in its entirety, but first I will react to this chapter in the post here.
The end of this book feels a lot like reaching a starting point. Rand has a teacher. He has maybe the world’s best fighting force. Now he’s going back across the mountains to unify the world and make it ready for The Last Battle. You can make an argument that Books 1 – 4 are the setup for the things that will be remembered in Randland’s history books.
I enjoyed this fight sequence a lot and I cannot wait to see it onscreen. That said, this is now four straight books, covering Rand fighting against Aginor, Ishamael, Be’lal, and Asmodean. Though he needed some help with Be’lal, he has held his own against all of them. Does that make sense? Not really. Any one of these opponents should have destroyed Rand one-on-one pretty easily, right? If not, then why does he need a teacher? This is one of those critiques that only occurs after one is done reading the book. Jordan’s writing is masterful and gripping. But once you do think about it, it’s a little bit annoying.
For the sake of comparison: when Harry Potter faces off against Voldemort, and survives, there’s always a reason that has nothing to do with Harry’s skill. There *has* to be a narrative reason other than skill because the skill balance is not in his favor. The reader needs to be given a plausible explanation for his survival. The same dynamic has been true for the ending of each of the first four The Wheel of Time books, too. Readers generally do not mind its chief protagonist being protected by fate, so long as the fate is explained. Should we assume Rand is protected by being ta’veren? That doesn’t really fit the way the fights are described.
I’ll posit a couple other theories:
- In the first three books, Rand is largely allowed to survive his one-on-ones against Ishamael, by Ishamael himself. The Forsaken wanted Rand to join the Dark One, not to kill him. (Rand’s win against Aginor might be explained by the fact that the Forsaken was still weak from his recent escape from the Bore. Be’lal was not a Rand victory.)
- Rand seems as though he is remembering information from his past life. Lanfear even comments on it more than once. Rand was the most skilled Aes Sedai in the Age of Legends. If he can remember any of that, then his wins make sense.
Going forward, this will no longer be much of a narrative issue because Rand now has a teacher.
Now that the big ending is divided between the ensemble, in different locations, I think going last is a disadvantage for the arc that goes last. How is Rand’s fight here supposed to live up to Nynaeve having the same fight with Moghedien or
Perrin Faile saving the Two Rivers? It doesn’t quite succeed. It was really good… just not quite as good as the two previous boss fights. I think I might feel differently if Rand had gone first. I’m not sure.
Lanfear is a great villain. The fact that she seems to love Lews Therin makes her motivations hard to pin down. Could she be persuaded to return to the Light? She mentions taking on the Dark One with the two powerful sa’angreal. Is that what she *really* wants? Is her desire for that completely contingent on Rand being by her side? Is getting Rand a teacher part of bringing him to the Shadow?
We learn from Rand that Lanfear is the person who bored the hole into the Dark One’s prison during the Age of Legends. He wonders if she knew in advance of what she was doing. Perhaps. Or maybe she turned to the Dark One in that moment, in desperation, to save her own life. If so, then maybe she was the first Darkfriend and unwillingly so. You can make a case for a lot of things when it comes to Lanfear.
Is she crazy? I think so. But what kind of crazy? Rabid? Can someone be a rabid wolf and a chess board master? The rage outbursts we see in this chapter point us in the direction of “rabid.” On the other hand, she’s capable of going from a face twisted in rage to a smiling seductive look in the blink of an eye. She’s clearly a master manipulator (she thwarted one of the Forsaken’s attack on the Stone, on the fly, earlier in this book, and she arranged for Rand to get the Forsaken teacher she said she would get for him.) She’s also willing to swallow her pride, wear an unflattering disguise for weeks on end, sleep on the ground for weeks during The Great Hunt, etc. How much of what she does is an act? Alright, enough about Lanfear.
Rand goes back to where he left the Aiel. He opens a door in reality and walks through it with his new teacher. Moiraine is unhinged. Everyone else is pretty close to the same. We find out the Shaido are gone and that many others have thrown down their spears and run away. Overall, though, Rand has a big win. He now has probably the world’s best fighting force. He has someone to teach him saidin. He has the two most powerful sa’angreal (male and female) in the world. When he returns to “the Wetlands” he will be incredibly formidable.
Jordan casually mentions, as the book ends, that Egwene reaches out a hand toward Rand, and seems to want to comfort him, but he ignores her. We’ll keep an eye on the “Egwene didn’t mean it when she broke up with Rand” theory in the next book. Based on what we just heard from Lanfear, Rand moving on from her is probably the main thing keeping Egwene alive.
4 thoughts on “The Shadow Rising (Chapter 58): The Traps of Rhuidean”
My sons would like these books!
They might! I really like them but they do lean into horror and gore pretty heavily as the series goes along (it’s an apocalypse story after all.) I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone too young.
Yes, this makes sense. Reading is so good for them, though! Thank you for sharing.
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