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Reading The Wheel of Time: A Rescue and a Battle for the Future of Saidin in Winter’s Heart (Part 22)


Reading The Wheel of Time: A Rescue and a Battle for the Future of Saidin in <i>Winter’s Heart</i> (Part 22)

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Reading The Wheel of Time: A Rescue and a Battle for the Future of Saidin in Winter’s Heart (Part 22)

Hold on to your cloaks and your ter’angreal, it’s the final chapters of Winter's Heart!


Published on June 18, 2024

Reading the Wheel of Time: Winter's Heart

We’ve made it, friends, to the last two chapters of Winter’s Heart. It’s a really exciting read this week, with claustrophobic dungeons and Cadsuane being incredible, not to mention the forming of circles between female and male channelers for the first time since the Age of Legends and a big ol’ battle between Rand’s new friends and most of the Forsaken. Hold on to cloaks and your ter’angreal, it’s chapters 34 and 35!

Nynaeve lingers, keeping an eye on the bootmaker’s shop. Suddenly, as many as a hundred Guardsmen appear, sprinting down the street and knocking people out of the way. When Nynaeve realizes that they are stopping at the bootmaker’s shop, she starts towards them, but Cadsuane and Alivia appear from nowhere, grabbing her and dragging her away from the commotion, followed by an anxious Min, who tells Cadsuane that Rand fell and is unconscious.

Despite Min’s worries and Nynaeve’s protests, Cadsuane continues to drag them away, telling Nynaeve that she was a fool to channel here, after Cadsuane told her about “Far Madding’s Watchdogs.” Min tells Nynaeve off for letting the men go, and that now they have to depend on Cadsuane.

Rand awakes in pain, and also in complete darkness. Feeling around, he realizes that he’s in a tiny, pitch-black stone cell. Lews Therin starts to shout that they are back inside the box, but Rand determines to fight the feeling, lest he be as mad as Lews Therin by the time they let him out. He sits in the middle of the space, trying to imagine that the walls are farther away than they are, and proceeds to go through his list of women who have died because he wasn’t hard enough.

Once Cadsuane has everyone under control, she proceeds down the corridors of the Hall of the Counsels with her entourage of Aes Sedai, Asha’man Warders, Nynaeve, Min, and Alivia. She pushes by clerks and servants and into the Counsels’ Chamber, where she finds all the Counsels assembled. She announces that she knows that they have the Dragon Reborn in the cells and demands he be set free. Aleis politely refuses, even after Cadsuane introduces Damer, Jahar, and Eben as Asha’man.

Cadsuane regrets the necessity to break Aleis—she is a good ruler, and may never recover from what Cadsuane is about to do. She dips into her hummingbird ter’angreal—which is a Well like Nynaeve’s belt—and uses saidar to remove Aleis’s coronet and set it on the ground. She reminds Aleis that even what appears to be perfect can have flaws, and that once those flaws are found, they can be seen by anyone who looks for them.

The Counsels are shocked, but Damer remarks that he liked the coronet better on Aleis’s head, and Nynaeve uses her Well to dramatically return the coronet, leading the Counsels to believe that Damer is the one who has channeled. Weakly, Aleis asks if it will be sufficient to return the Dragon to them, and Cadsuane says that it will. Despite everyone’s shock and fear, she can see the other Counsels are considering Aleis’s capitulation unfavorably, and Cadsuane thinks that Rand is already building up a large debt to her.

As Rand rides across the bridge and towards the northern gate, he doesn’t feel the cold wind.

He was colder than any winter could be. The guards who had come to take him out of the cell the night before had been surprised to find him wearing a small smile. He wore it still, a slight curve of his mouth.

When they reach the place where he can feel the True Source again, Rand fills himself with saidin, relieved despite the foulness of the taint and the sickness that takes him when he touches it. He leads Cadsuane to where he buried Callandor and uses the One Power to dig it up. He explains his intentions to link with Nynaeve, and then use the access keys to connect with the Choedan Kal sa’angreal and cleanse saidin. Harine is surprised that Rand knows where the second statue is buried—on Tremalking, one of the Sea Folk islands.

Kumira and Nesune point out the danger of failure, how trying to use those sa’angreal could “crack the world like an egg, while Lews Therin wails that the Choedan Kal were never tested and that Rand is mad, but Rand counters that the dangers of trying his plan are only possibilities, while the danger of not cleansing saidin, of having more and more Asha’man go mad and possibly Rand himself along with them, is certain.

He makes a Gateway to a hilltop a few miles from Shadar Logoth, and Cadsuane instantly takes charge of organizing everyone, which Rand decides he can allow, even when she gives Callandor to Jahar without asking Rand first. Nyneave reluctantly gives over her angreal and ter’angreal to Alivia.

As Rand puts himself on the edge of taking hold of the Source, he is struck by a different kind of dizziness, and sees a man’s face in his mind’s eye that he almost recognizes. He tells Nynaeve to begin. There is a moment in which saidin is flowing through him but he isn’t controlling it, and not being able to fight it is agony. Then Nynaeve tells him to take control. Despite what Nynaeve has told him about using saidar, Rand at first struggles to control the river. It becomes more and more unruly until he at last forces himself to surrender and guide the flow. He finds it difficult to fight saidin while surrendering to saidar, but he carefully makes a conduit of saidar stretching from the source of saidin to Shadar Logoth and channels saidin through it. At first it seems like nothing is happening, but as he strains to see any change, he thinks he feels a slight shifting in the foulness of the taint. Nynaeve, her face radiant, urges him to continue.

Elza Penfell watches Nynaeve and Rand. The entire White Tower together could only channel a fraction of the saidar that is flowing through Nynaeve. At Cadsuane’s command, Merise brings Elza and Jahar into a circle with her. The others also join together in groups of three or four: Sarene, Corele, and Damer; Nesune, Beldeine, Daigian, and Hopwil; Verin, Kumira, and Shalon. Aliva and Cadsuane are on their own, wielding ter’angreal. They all move off in different directions, with Cadsuane and Merise’s circle remaining in defense of the hilltop. Elza asks if she can lead the circle, and is surprised when Merise agrees.

In the village Tremonsien, a man is passing the pit where the great statue is located when the pit begins to glow. When he looks in and sees the ball in the statue’s hand getting brighter he realizes it must be the One Power, and quickly turns his wagon back towards his home, determined to drink all the brandy he’d intended to sell at the inn.

On Tremalking, a woman named Timna worries over the behavior of the Atha’an Miere, and how even the governors have left the island to search for the Coramoor. Suddenly,  she catches sight of the great hand that sticks out from one of the hilltops. The sphere it holds has begun to glow. Timna sits down to watch, smiling at the thought that she might see the fulfillment of prophecy and the end of Illusion.

Cyndane is distracted from a conversation with a Darkfriend when she feels a woman channeling so much saidar that Cyndane knows the access key is being used. Furious that Lews Therin has betrayed her and found another woman to use the key, she executes the man she is talking to and opens a gateway towards that beacon of channeling. She is determined to kill Lews Therin for betraying her.

Lightning hits the shield that Cadsuane is only able to maintain with the aid of one of her ter’angeal. Another shows the direction the attack came from, and Elza directs the counter attack through Jahar and Callandor. Cadsuane’s ter’angreal indicates the next location, towards Shadar Logoth.

Demandred arrives in Shadar Logoth, hoping to undo whatever Rand is doing at the source and kill Rand in the process, but when he sees the huge black dome rising over the city and feels it tremble beneath his feet, he rethinks that plan. He avoids a fiery attack because he was already weaving a gateway, and he runs from that spot to avoid the next attack, deducing that Rand must have a ter’angreal that can detect a man channeling. He sees Flinn searching the trees but underestimates the old man until he realizes too late that he is an Asha’man linked with Aes Sedai—it is all Demandred can do to fend off the attack. Demandred wants to be the one to kill al’Thor.

Cyndane runs through the trees, pursued by explosions, praying to the Great Lord that she will reach al’Thor first. Elsewhere, Osan’gar stalks through the forest cautiously, afraid of Moridin but hoping someone else will kill al’Thor before Osan’gar reaches him.

Verin, leading the circle of Shalon and Kumira, is puzzled by the strange woman in the color-shifting dress she sees moving through the trees. She decides to try to capture this Forsaken, but her attack is blocked by something invisible, and in a moment Verin is fighting for her life.

Eben, Merise, and Beldeine encounter a woman who claims to have become lost in the woods. They are all puzzled by her until suddenly Eben realizes that, somehow, this woman is holding saidin. Shouting a warning, he throws himself at her.

Cyndane attacks Alivia, and is shocked when Alivia turns out to possess a ter’angreal that causes Cyndane’s weaves to unravel.

Then the woman struck back at her, and she suffered her second shock. She was stronger than Cyndane had been before the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn held her! That was impossible; no woman could be stronger. She must have an angreal, too.

The two fight, the earth heaving beneath them.

Elsewhere, Moghedien finds a spot in the woods to hide and watch the dome building over Shadar Logoth, confident that Moridin can’t know what she is, or is not, doing.

Min reports to Cadsuane that Rand is in agony. Cadsuane doesn’t want to do anything that might disrupt Rand’s concentration, but when Nynaeve sags from exertion, Cadsuane risks pulling a little power from her shield to Heal Nynaeve and give her more strength.

Osan’gar watches her and the others from the trees, preparing a weave of balefire and plotting to take Callandor after everyone is dead. Elza is walking a circuit around the hill, remembering how, during her time of captivity, she had suddenly realized that it was necessary for Rand al’Thor to reach the Last Battle.

It had suddenly become so blindingly obvious that it astounded her she had not seen it before. Now it was clear to her, as clear as saidar made the face of the man trying to hide on that hill while peeking around a tree trunk. Today, she had been forced to fight the Chosen. Surely the Great Lord would understand if she had actually killed any of them, but Corlan Dashiva was only one of those Asha’man.

Elza draws on saidin through Jahar and Callandor and obliterates Dashiva and the entire area around him with a huge ball of fire.

From her hiding place, Moghedien watches the Chosen be defeated and the dome over Shadar Logoth grow bigger and more horrible. It stretches up like a mountain, and she can imagine it might envelop the whole world. She wonders why she is not afraid. Suddenly something writhes up within the dome and then it collapses in on itself with a terrible roar, and everything is dragged in towards it, including Moghedien. She thinks that if she survives, she will never be afraid again.

Cadsuane secures Callandor and the male access key—the female one has melted and is destroyed. Shadar Logoth is now a huge open pit, and Rand and Nynaeve are unconscious, though alive. Rand’s wounds are unchanged, which surprised Damer when he examined them. Damer has healed some of the injured, including Alivia, whose arm was broken and seared to the bone during the fight, but Kumira and Eben are both dead. 

Both Damer and Jahar claim that saidin is clean now, but Cadsuane doesn’t know how anyone can be sure.

That was a great last chapter. I loved the way it was paced, and I loved seeing the Forsaken coming to Rand in an unprepared panic, rather than the other way around. The description of the dome building over Shadar Logoth was really powerful and evocative, and we have revelations about a few different identities. We have confirmations of my suspicion that Cyndane is in fact Lanfear and Dashiva is actually Osan’gar; we also know that Elza is a Darkfriend, which is fascinating. Ever since Verin began her little compulsion-esque work on the captive Aes Sedai, I’d been wondering what would happen if one of them was a Darkfriend, and I’d kind of assumed that at least one must be—now we have our answer.

In Verin’s version of compulsion, the victim must supply her own reason for swearing to Rand, as the impulse to do so is slowly pressed into her by Verin. Elza has decided that Rand has to live until the Last Battle, which makes a certain amount of sense. The idea that Rand is supposed to face the Dark One at Tarmon Gai’don is part of prophecy, as is the fact that he will Break the world a second time. However, it is not prophesied whether he will win or lose. So Elza might believe that Rand’s survival is important for the purposes of the Dark, not just for the Light. Perhaps she believes that Rand will be turned by the Dark One, either at the Last Battle or before, and become an essential part of the Dark’s triumph. Or perhaps she believes that the Dark One can only win if he faces Rand directly. Whatever the exact shape of what she’s decided, if the compulsion makes her truly believe Rand’s survival is necessary, then of course she would be serving the Dark One best by protecting him, and Rand would never allow her to do that unless she first swore to obey him. The logic gets a little fuzzy if you push it too far, but presumably the compulsion covers that.

Ironic that she didn’t know Dashiva was really Osan’gar. Despite hoping that the Great Lord would forgive her if she killed one of the Forsaken, she might have hesitated if she knew she was actually facing that chance. But I do love that it was a Darkfriend who took him out, unknowingly, even though it would maybe ease Cadsuane’s frustrations over losing two of her people if she knew they’d killed one of the Forsaken. Not her grief, of course, but the price paid versus the achievements attained might sit a little differently.

Eben’s death made me really sad, and I wonder if throwing himself at Aran’gar was the only reason that Aran’gar wasn’t able to kill all of them—that momentary advantage Aran’gar had might have been enough to strike at one or more of the Aes Sedai before Daigian could draw enough power to attack herself. I also wonder if Daigian’s choice to only keep the tiniest flow of saidin running through her delayed her ability to respond.

Jordan really wanted to tug on the old heartstrings, though, with the way he had Eben talk to Rand about his excitement over the idea of channeling without the taint, and his reminder of how young Eben was.

Of course, the real achievement of the battle is the cleansing of saidin, and it’s kind of hard to imagine a price that would be too high to be worth paying, even if reluctantly, for the removal of the Dark One’s taint from the One Power. I can understand why Cadsuane feels unsure, however—she knows very little about saidin, of course, and I don’t think she linked with any of the men before the taint was removed, so she has nothing to compare it to. She links with Jahar afterwards and doesn’t know how anyone could be sure there wasn’t anything of the Dark lurking “in that mad chaos.” I don’t think that you could make that mistake if you had truly experienced the taint, but the taint has also been a fundamental fact of existence for as long as humanity can currently remember, so it wouldn’t be an easy thing to accept in your heart that it’s gone, when you mostly just have to take the Asha’man at their word about it.

I wonder what it was like for Jahar and Damer, who must have been holding saidin in the moment that Shadar Logoth imploded. Did they feel the taint leaving, siphoned away by Rand’s channeling? Or was it simply there one moment and gone the next? And what was it like for the rest of the Asha’man back at the Black Tower, who would have been aware of the power of Rand’s channeling through the Choedan Kal but wouldn’t have any idea what was happening? How did they experience the disappearance of the taint? What are they doing now that it is suddenly gone?

No more poison wine from Taim, now.

I have a lot of thoughts about the experiences of being linked and channeling through someone of the opposite gender, so much so that I’m going to put it in a separate essay. It is fascinating to me that Damer was put at the head of one circle. It also feels fitting to me that Nynaeve was the one Rand chose to link with to use the Choedan Kal. Rand chose her because she was the Wisdom of Emond’s Field, because of his connection to her outside their identity as channelers. But Nynaeve is someone who struggles with surrender and who prefers to barrel through things through pure strength of will; I’ve often observed that her temperament makes more sense for a channel of saidin than of saidar. So it feels right that she would be one to help Rand understand the difference in channeling saidar, and to have a little taste of channeling saidin.

But to back up a little, last week I was operating under the assumption that Nynaeve didn’t know about Far Madding’s special One Power sensing, ter’angreal, but now we know Cadsuane told her about it, so I do kind of agree with Cadsuane that she was behaving pretty foolishly. I imagine that Nynaeve didn’t like feeling powerless to help Rand and Lan, and so she did what felt good rather than stopping to think about what was smart. Given her last-moment realization that going after Torval and Gedwyn wasn’t going to be a grand adventure but was instead intended as a cold-blooded execution, I also wonder if she would have been less willing to let the men go if she’d had that realization when they were still in the inn. Maybe not, since she claims to be trusting Lan in this matter, but what Nynaeve says and what she’s thinking are not always aligned, so it is possible.

The relationship between Nynaeve and Cadsuane is very interesting to me. Nynaeve is still frustrated when she doesn’t get her way, and struggles to accept Cadsuane’s authority, but it’s very different from the way she would have a few books ago. Nynaeve is aware of how much Cadsuane can teach her, and clearly wants that teaching, which is not something she has felt for most other Aes Sedai in her life. Cadsuane is very aware of Nynaeve’s inexperience, of course, but it’s very pointed that this is because she hasn’t taken the Three Oaths that Cadsuane can’t think of Nynaeve as an Aes Sedai, not because of how little time she spent as a student or how young she is. I find that fascinating, especially because Cadsuane also acknowledges that not everyone can learn all the important lessons from the White Tower—that Cadsuane herself received the lesson she most needed from an aged wilder that she met after she had already been raised to the shawl.

Cadsuane seems much more openminded, or at least flexible, in her attitude about which rules about being an Aes Sedai are most important. Like Siuan, she views the Oaths as being a fundamental part of being a sister, but she’s less interested in the details of discipline for discipline’s sake. She makes use of the hierarchy because it favors her as the automatic leader in almost any group of sisters, but she sees the flaws in it, and the ways it causes talented, valuable Aes Sedai to be overlooked. She is adventurous and independent—very much like Moiraine and Siuan, I think. And like them she is able to see what needs to be done with Rand, and for Rand, more more clearly than most others. I’m really looking forward to seeing how her relationships with both Rand and Nynaeve develop.

I can’t imagine what it was like for the Counsels of Far Madding to realize that people can channel in Far Madding now. They are so very set apart from the world in the fact that they not only could thumb their noses at the White Tower (somewhat, anyway, since of course though the political might of Tar Valon would still be something that could affect Far Madding) but also didn’t need to worry about male channelers, either visiting ones or ones that might be born in their city. That is an incredible amount of safety, not to mention power, within their city. And it’s easy to understand why the “revelation” that channelers have found a crack in the system that they can get through would rock their world as much as it has. It also makes sense that the other Counsels, facing this sudden and intense instability in their understanding of themselves and their city, would turn on Aleis, focusing on her inability to stand up to Cadsuane instead of their fear about having channelers in their city.

Cadsuane’s manipulation of the situation is immaculate. Never once does she say that the Far Madding ter’angreal is flawed, or claim that anyone can channel there now. She speaks entirely in general terms, and then makes everyone believe that she is speaking specifically by using the Wells—and by exploiting the fact that non-channelers can’t tell if saidin or saidar is being used.

The existence of well ter’angreal is an interesting idea. Presumably this is what the Eye of the World was, a ter’angreal well constructed to hold saidin. One wonders what other uses the Aes Sedai of the Age of Legends had for making wells. Maybe they wanted to be able to bring some touch of the One Power with them when they went to visit the Ogier, a practice that was probably much more common in the Age of Legends. And if you had a well, could you channel even when shielded? It’s an interesting thought.

Demandred guesses that ter’angreal that can detect men channeling were invented after the Breaking, because that’s when such things would be needed. Perhaps the Far Madding ter’angreal was also invented during that time—I can think of many reasons ordinary humans might want a place that prevented channeling, but I’m having a harder time coming up with a reason that channelers themselves would want to invent ter’angreal that cut them off from the Source for such a huge distance. Except maybe as a prison for channelers—but surely it would be easier to just shield them instead?

I’m also very interested in Jordan’s choice to make Far Madding a matriarchal society. The rest of the nations around it are mostly patriarchal, in more or less the standard form of western fantasy, but with the added detail of the fact that there are only female Aes Sedai. The narrative plays a little with how the existence of sexism and social order is affected by the fact that only women can channel, most notably with the idea that Aes Sedai are powerful and feared, but also deemed at best as untrustworthy and at worst as being Darkfriends. However the concept isn’t really explored in that much depth, and it isn’t in Far Madding, either, where the structure of power is just the same as other places, simply reversed. Having a strongly matriarchal society evolve in the one place in the world where channeling doesn’t matter seems thematically important, and certainly interesting, but it really isn’t touched on at all, which I think is a missed opportunity—though of course we may return to this subject later in the series, in which case I will rescind this judgment!

It’s not really surprising that Dashiva turned out to be Osan’gar. Planting one of them next to Egwene and the Aes Sedai and one next to Rand and the Asha’man makes a lot of sense as a tactical move. What I find most interesting about this placement of Osan’gar, however, is how it might affect the ongoing question as to whether Taim is a Darkfriend.

I’ve pretty much made up my mind about Taim—I think he is either already a Darkfriend or that he will become one over the course of the story. His jealousy of Rand and the way he behaves towards him clearly shows how discontented he is that Rand, not Taim, is the Dragon Reborn. Taim isn’t content with the fact that he’s one of the most powerful male channellers and an important leader of the Asha’man. To him anything less than being number one seems to be unacceptable—which reminds me of nothing so much as Lews Therin’s male Forsaken enemies, most of whom turned to the Dark because they were jealous of Lews Therin’s stature and status.

We’ve gotten the basic backstory from each of them by now, how desire to prove themselves better than Lews Therin drove them to strive for the power only the Great Lord of the Dark could give them. And even now, with Lews Therin destroyed by the taint and dead for an Age, their minds still dwell on that jealousy. Take this moment from Demandred, when he shows up in Shadar Logoth:

He had reasoned out what al’Thor’s plan had to be as soon as he realized where the access key was. A brilliant scheme, he did not mind admitting, however insanely dangerous. Lews Therin had always been a brilliant planner, too, if not so brilliant as everyone made out. Not nearly as brilliant as Demandred himself.

The need to compare themselves with the long-dead Lews Therin is still ingrained in each and every one of the men who turned because they were jealous of Lews Therin’s power. Perhaps this is because they spent all that time locked in the edges of the Dark One’s prison, technically outside of Time but still experiencing it in some small way, with nothing in their minds but their recent defeat and deep hatred for the Dragon. But also, I wonder if this isn’t also part of the nature of being intimately connected to the Dark One. Existing outside of Time, apparently obsessed with, and working towards, the same singular goal since the beginning of Creation, with a sentience so fundamentally different from that of a human beings—it stands to reason that this creature must be stagnant and unchanging. 

Even the entropy and destruction that the Dark One brings is not part of change. In nature, even the most unpleasant waste and rot is part of a cycle of change. Death and decay doesn’t just make way for new life, it nourishes it, providing the very building blocks for the life that follows—but the rot of the Blight does not feed new growth. It is stagnant, held in unnatural stasis by the Dark One’s touch upon the world.

This is why it makes so much sense to me that Osan’gar is responsible for the creation of Shadowspawn. Though foul and violent and terrible, these are still living creatures. Even the gholam needs to eat, and can be wounded—though it is hard to kill, it is not immortal and must surely have had a birth and a death. Shadowspawn are still beings that are part of the world, albeit corrupted ones, and they are not forever and unchanging. If something wholly came from the Dark One himself, I don’t think it would be recognizable as alive, or having once been of life.

But as we learn more about what the Forsaken want, and why they swore themselves to the Dark, it becomes clear how unnatural these desire would be if they were fulfilled. Some of them want to be able to pursue their passions without hindrance or limit, in a sort of mad scientist way, while some of them solely want power and prestige, but they don’t just want to have those things for a time. They want them forever. They want perfect, stagnant lives in the world the Dark One claims he will give them, a world unmade from time and change. And I think it speaks to the madness that comes of such lust for power—human minds can’t really comprehend infinity, but the idea of existing unchanging forever? Surely it is a kind of madness to want that.

Immortality, I get, if with it comes the idea of infinite experience. The Forsaken are from a scientifically and philosophically advanced Age, when surely some of these concepts around time and the human desire to prolong life and escape death would have been explored by the great minds of their time. They themselves are incredibly long lived by virtue of being channelers (who weren’t bound by the Oath Rod), and would have a better concept than most about what living longer than other humans was like.

Obviously they chose the Dark with these goals in mind, but I wonder if their connection to the Dark One, a connection that is much closer than the Darkfriends of Rand’s Age, has stagnated their minds in the place where they were when they swore. If the influence of the Dark doesn’t prevent them from questioning their own thoughts, from ever wanting something different for themselves, even from seeing how foolish it is to believe in promises made to you by a being like the Dark One. Are they all, in some way, frozen caricatures of the selfish, violent, emotionally-driven people they were the moment they went to Shayol Ghul?

It would make sense of how relatively simple they are to foil. Not that Rand has had an easy time of it, but the Forsaken are very predictable. Even Sammael, who planned ahead for Rand’s attack more than Rand anticipated, behaved exactly as Lews Therin predicted he would, and you could argue that it’s Rand’s fault that the fight went so badly. Ishamael himself was defeated by an inability to adapt. Lanfear by her single-minded obsession over getting Lews Therin back. The other deaths mostly came through Rand or someone else exhibiting skills that the Forsaken hadn’t anticipated them having, or allies showing up unexpectedly.

In the battle to reach Rand before he can cleanse saidin, we see the Forsaken arriving suddenly to fight a battle they hadn’t anticipated or fully prepared for. Moridin ordered them to be ready when they felt Rand using the Choedan Kal, but they were surprised that he had allies defending him, surprised by the joining efforts of linked Aes Sedai and Asha’man, surprised by their opponent’s possession of ter’angreal. And yet, none of these were surprising possibilities. The Forsaken have been searching in vain for ter’angreal but they know that the Aes Sedai have some. They know about Rand’s training of Asha’man, so a circle made up of both male and female channelers was theoretically possible, even if the enmity of the two made it less likely. And surely Rand knows enough about channeling by now that he would anticipate being sensed and possibly attacked if he were to use the Choedan Kal.

Although to be fair to the Forsaken, Rand did anticipate it. When he first put this plan into motion, he only wanted Nynaeve with him—Min, Lan, and Alivia were only included because their will in the matter was stronger than Rand’s own. He was still struggling with the decision to ask Cadsuane to be his advisor, and he certainly couldn’t have anticipated that she would end up in Far Madding at the same time he did, along with other Aes Sedai who bonded his most trusted Asha’man. Did it occur to him that this task he set himself to would take all his attention, and he’d have none left to devote to his own protection, or did he think that the Choedan Kal would give him so much power that he could perform the cleansing and fight off multiple Forsaken at the same time?

I’m honestly really curious about what Rand would have done if Cadsuane and her little army hadn’t (from his perspective) basically fallen into his lap.

I do think it’s interesting how Osan’gar—who seems like an idiot in a lot of ways but is very smart in certain technical areas, including the metaphysical—can’t even conceive of how to start with the idea of cleansing saidin, but Rand was able to come up with a plan despite his very limited knowledge. In many ways, this seems like a case of the Pattern stepping in to give Rand exactly the information he needs to do what he must do. It’s kind of like how in Slumdog Millionare, Jamal’s life has provided him with the answer to every question on the quiz show: It’s less about having years of education and learning, and more about the universe providing in some mysterious and serendipitous way. Except in Rand’s case, the way the Pattern works explains just how and why these things come about.

I wonder if Rand has considered the idea that these two wounds may have been given to him “for a reason.” I wonder if such a thought would comfort him, or if it would make everything feel worse. After all, much of Rand’s story is about the burden of being the Chosen One, and that knowledge of his Destiny has already done some pretty awful things to Rand’s psyche.

As has being locked in small boxes. We see him falling back into his “I am a sword,” metaphor as he tries to engage with his experience being imprisoned in Far Madding, considering that he is grateful to be forged, but that doesn’t mean he loves the thing that did the forging. It’s a brutal idea, as evocative for the reader as to Rand’s current mental state as the feeling of him through their bond is for Min. I could just picture that cold smile, too, and it did in fact give me the shivers. As cold as winter’s heart, indeed.

I was wondering if Mordeth-Fain’s power might be affected by the destruction of Shadar Logoth and neutralizing of its evil, but if Rand’s wound isn’t healing now, it’s probably that the dagger and the spirit of Mordeth retain their corrupt power. Which is really too bad. I’m also wondering if the revelation of the fact that Cyndane is Lanfear and that she didn’t die falling through the stone doorway means that Moiraine might also return soon. Her memory hasn’t been actively in the forefront of the narration for a while, but when Rand is in the cell, he specifically reminds himself that Moiraine died because he wasn’t strong enough to do what needed to be done, and that her death is the genesis of the running tally of women for whose death Rand holds himself responsible.

Rand is perhaps learning the wrong lesson from Moiraine’s death if his point is that he wasn’t hard enough to kill Lanfear himself—given that his hang up about killing Lanfear was also that she was a woman. The Wheel isn’t the only snake eating its own tail, here.

And that’s it for Winter’s Heart. I’ve really enjoyed this book, and I’m super excited to find out what the consequences of cleansing saidin are. How will this change the relationship between the Asha’man and the rest of the world, between the Asha’man and the Aes Sedai? How difficult will it be to convince the world that saidin has indeed been freed from the taint, and that men who can channel are no longer doomed to be deadly and to die? When will Rand learn the lesson from Cadsuane, and how will he pass that lesson on to the men who follow in his footsteps?

I can’t wait to find out. icon-paragraph-end

About the Author

Sylas K Barrett


Sylas K Barrett is a queer writer and creative based in Brooklyn. A fan of nature, character work, and long flowery descriptions, Sylas has been heading up Reading the Wheel of Time since 2018. You can (occasionally) find him on social media on Bluesky ( and Instagram (@thatsyguy)
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