Robert Jordan: The Dragon Reborn

Sitting his horse just inside a thicket of leatherleaf and pine, Perrin Aybara shivered and tugged his fur-lined cloak closer, as close as he could with a longbow in one hand and a great, half-moon axe at his belt. It was a good axe of cold steel …

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Why I read it

When you are sick, you need a book. When you’re sick enough to be home for days and days, you need something meaty. And when you’re sick enough that you can’t think properly, or make any kind of decision, you need something familiar and non-challenging. Book three in a fourteen-book fantasy series? Yes please!

What happens

Curtains open to reveal our protagonist, Rand, sulking in a valley. Moiraine has made it clear to him that his life, the whole world, and the very balance between good and evil depend on him being careful with what he does next. The situation is, in fact, so complex that they will need all the carefully-gathered knowledge they can get to win this most important battle.

Knowing all this, Rand decides the best plan is to run off to the city of Tear, by himself, to get the shiny sword and fight baddies and just make it all stop. Dum dum DUM! Yes, dumb. And he never redeems himself: even after everyone else mops up all the chaos, and after he gets the sword at the end (I’d say spoiler alert, but it’s right there on the cover), he not only thinks he’s done it all himself but he’s completely mistaken about what he did actually achieve.

The moral? Shut up, sit still, and listen to Moiraine for once.

The same could go for the others, too:

Moiraine: Shadar Logoth is so evil, even the evil things are scared of it – so don’t touch anything. Mat: ooh, a shiny knife! I shall treasure it forever!

Moiraine: Perrin, you are so important everyone is trying to kill you. I will protect you and help you save the world. Perrin: Moiraine sucks and this whole thing is her fault and I wish she’d never come to Emond’s Field and I’m sick of her totally using me!

Moiraine: Nynaeve, you are stuck in a tiny village fixing people’s cuts, being a glorified weather girl, and getting in petty arguments with the Mayor. I will show you the world and enrol you in its best school for grade-A awesomeness, so you shall realise your full potential. Nynaeve: Moiraine is such a bitch!

Maybe I’m just too meek or accepting of authority. Whatever it is, everyone getting stroppy about Moiraine is getting on my nerves in this book. The only time she’s not interested directly in their welfare is when she has to concentrate on SAVING THE FREAKING WORLD. So stop the teenage temper tantrums. Oh wait, most of them are teenagers. But still.

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All that aside, this is an interesting book. Rand, having gone mental, is mostly just a background presence in the narrative. Attention is on everyone chasing him to Tear: Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne, surviving a lot of very bad situations using their increasing smarts and powers; Mat, being a lovable ruffian who’s becoming my fav male character; and Perrin, being all conflicted over Faile and very very moody (mind you, we’ve now seen the bad stuff wolfiness can do to a man, so we forgive him this last bit).

Through the whole thing, the narrative passes through some of the major cities and we realise there’s serious evil brewing in all of them. About three quarters of the way through the book you realise none of this is going to be resolved at the end. Sigh. I guess this is the point in the series where, from here on, none of the books have actual endings anymore. This gives me a sinking feeling – partly because I hate reading a 900-page book knowing there’s no ending, but also partly because I know now I’m hooked and am going to read all the rest of them anyway.

Gender politics

There’s a lot to talk about in these books re. gender, mostly because unlike other fantasy books (*cough lord of the rings cough*) there is more than one gender of person in this book. But because I’m sick I’m going to leave anything smart for later. Instead I present you with the map of Tar Valon. Tar Valon is the big city where all the powerful magical ladies live together.

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I was so delighted when I saw its shape. It’s so… Hildegaard von Bingen, if you know what I mean. Oh, you know, very Georgia O’Keefe (wink wink). Oh okay FFS IT’S A VAG (sigh).

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This book was mostly read while feeling really, really bad.

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