Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sniffing, Healing, and Being Raised to the Seat - Lord of Chaos

For the uninitiated, Lord of Chaos is book number six in The Wheel of Time. This is an entry in the series, that looking back on it now (seventeen!) years later, some consider the book where Robert Jordan’s indulgence in exposition becomes ever more problematic.

For my part, I originally read the book about 13 years ago (1997 – 1998 ish) in a catch-up series of reads for the Wheel of Time where I’d rotate a WOT book in with my other reading. I remember really liking Lord of Chaos having built off the events of Fires of Heaven. The novel starts out with a lengthy prologue setting the table, what I got out of it is how the Forsaken are shown to tremble at the power of the Dark One both despite of their infighting and as the impetus to much of their infighting.

Then the novel proper begins and early on, we meet a character who has been spoken about fairly often and has gone one to be one of the more controversial characters in the series – Mazrim Taim. The exchanges/scenes when both Taim and Rand are ‘on page’ worked very well for me, showing promise of big things to come, not the least of which is the beginnings of the Black Tower, where the male channelers are to be trained. These scenes also illustrated Taim's frustration with Rand.

Then RJ switches over to the girl's power trio (or one of the female power trios) of Elayne, Egwene, and Nynaeve. Well, Egwene is undergoing training with the Aiel Wisewomen, which is a stand-in for her Aes Sedai training. Elayne and Nynaeve are still dithering about with the leashed Moghedien. I can sum up those chapters (and a fair portion of the book) as follows, using Nynaeave:

Sniff…sniff…braid-tug…sniff…braid-tug..sniff sniff...braid-tug...sniff-sniff..random fish metaphor...SOMETHING AWESOME.

Granted many of the ladies in Randland are guilty of the sniffing, and to say it becomes very pronounced in this volume is a kindness.

That something awesome is the momentous event of Nynaeave healing the previously stilled Logain Ablar, something many of the Aes Sedai thought impossible. Ablair is an interesting character for many reasons. He claims to be a Red Ajah political puppet set up to be False Dragon and Min foreshadows that he goes on to do great things. He also mentions having seen Rand in Camelyn, hinting that Logain can se Ta’Veren. For the moments I read of him in Lord of Chaos, I was intrigued and wanted to read more about him.

As I’ve said in my other discussions of my WOT re-read, Nynaeve is a character I’ve come to respect a lot more. However, here in Lord of Chaos is where the braid-tugging trait/character tick gets tiresome. That having been said, what I’ve been liking about her character is how she cuts through a lot of the bullshit, especially the haughtiness of the Aes Sedai. So for her to have a great watershed moment like healing a stilled man was rewarding. A bit too much sniffing and braid-tugging preceded it; however.

Egwene, up to this point in the saga, was something of a furniture piece getting shuffled about and trapped as the girl in peril. With her training under the Wise Ones, her power begins to shine and WHAM she’s made the Amyrlin Seat nearly 2/3 into the book. It was a surprise on one hand, but she’s gone through the training, has the power, seems an impressionable age for other Aes Sedai to use her as a puppet. Early on in her ‘reign’ as the Amyrlin, it becomes clear she may not be one have her strings pulled. Lest people forget she also is a Mayor’s daughter, so she spent many years first hand learning how to govern, even if she didn’t realize it.

Mat doesn’t get enough page time in this book, though when he does he vacillates between stubborn hot-headed jerk and father-in-the making with Olver. He and Rand share some good scenes, though my favorite (which does come to bite him in the ass) is when he yells at the aforementioned Power Trio. Lots of pigheadedness to go ‘round in that whole scene, but still kind of entertaining nonetheless, IMHO.

The early portions focusing on Rand, however, were perhaps the most enjoyable portions of the novel. Lews Therin's voice grows and the burden of what Rand needs to do and the constant juggling is starting wear on his patience, thoughts, bearing, and sanity. What is as powerful is Moiraine's absence. Rand doesn't say it so much, but his actions speak that he misses having her around.

I’m about 175 pages (in the original hardcover) from the end, so I know the proverbial shit has yet to hit the fan. I’m enjoying the ride quite a bit, despite the wordiness, sniffing, and braid tugging. Lord of Chaos would not have suffered, nay it would have benefitted, from a substantial trimming of details, but it still holds up as a fun read where BIG STUFF happens.

Of course as I read and finish each chapter, I've been going back to Leigh Butler's AWESOME re-read of the series, as well as the Wheel of Time Wiki.


Bryce L. said...

I'm on this one in my catch up for next year. I had a pretty rough time with the lengthy prologue and I can really see the slow down in the narrative...but it's still great stuff.

RobB said...

Yeah, I'll fully admit that with Wheel of Time, I can see faults and shortcomings, but I enjoy the experience despite of those shortcomings.