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 8: Over the Border
NOTE: The following chapter summary comes from wot.fandom.com
Point of view: Nynaeve al’Meara
Nynaeve has just channeled a storm to allow them to escape from bandits in Tarabon. She is no longer angry, though, so Elayne will have to deal with any that pursue them. They are fleeing Liandrin’s group of Black Sisters in Tanchico, having accomplished their mission and now need to return to the White Tower to report. Nynaeve gets a water bottle from Juilin, then makes her way to the front wagon bench where Thom and Elayne are sitting. Nynaeve is grumpy at everyone else for one reason or another.
Elayne is flirting with Thom while a group of Whitecloaks approach the wagon from the direction they are going. The leader of the Whitecloaks questions Nynaeve about what they are carrying and conditions in Tanchico. She answers they are carrying dyes and that Andric was still king and Amathera still Panarch when they left. She asks if they are in Amadicia, yet, and he answers that they are five miles from the border town of Mardecin. Elayne and Nynaeve go back to bickering before Thom finally tells them to be quiet. They need supplies and a break from traveling so they plan to spend the day near the town.
At last, a short chapter. I feel as though this is Jordan’s first short chapter since The Dragon Reborn.
We are back with Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom, and Juilin after the events from Tanchico. The group is now pretending to be refugee merchants and they are en route to Tar Valon. The reason they are driving this cart is that Nynaeve feared the Black Ajah would be looking for them on a ship – as that would have ben the far more logical way to flee the city. They’re just about to stop for the night in a village controlled by the Children of the Light.
Since this information could have been communicated without devoting an entire chapter, what was Jordan’s purpose here? I think he wanted us to see how Elayne is acting. The girl who is allegedly in love with Rand is holding onto Thom’s arm, deferentially flattering him, and “cooing” in his ear. (I mean if Nynaeve has to witness this, I guess the rest of us do as well.)
I have not not liked Elayne as a character throughout the series. I still don’t like her much. I can only assume she is pretty enough to offset her personality. When she was properly introduced as a character in The Great Hunt, Elayne was immediately in hot pursuit of Egwene’s boyfriend – right in Egwene’s face and even when her efforts were socially inappropriate. She finally got Rand and sent him an “I hate you” letter, right after sending him an “I love you, wait for me” letter, just before they parted. Now here she is (allegedly) in love with Rand, nervous about how he took her letters, and flirting heavily with an old man she met immediately after leaving Tear. Maybe someone else can explain it to me. Why am I supposed to like Elayne? She seems like she has a personality disorder.
In this chapter, btw, I think Nynaeve was completely in the right with respect to how she handled the Whitecloak officer – and then for how she handled Elayne for interfering.
For as much as I don’t like Elayne, I love Nynaeve. She’s second probably only to Mat in the series for enjoyable internal monologuing. She’s kind of a bossy know-it-all to everyone, despite being still pretty limited in her knowledge of the world. In her case it’s charming, though, because 1) she’s almost always directionally accurate, anyway, in the way she assesses people and situations, and 2) her lack of self-awareness is balanced by a sufficient amount of self-criticism (ex: she was self-critical for a lack of courage, intelligence, etc., even after beating one of the FORSAKEN in a fight, she verbalized that feeling, and she genuinely meant it.) Jordan manages in the mess of her mind to make her extremely competent and to make her lack of self-awareness funny and endearing.
Probably her best bit in this chapter was thinking to herself that Juilin’s hat looks like a cake on his head. She’ll often think about wearing Two Rivers attire, having her hair in a proper Two Rivers braid, etc., then subtly and begrudgingly admit to herself that she likes whatever foreign thing she is being pushed into wearing. I think as a reader of the series, you either *get* Nynaeve and really like her, or you don’t. I get her. I don’t get Elayne.