Book Review – Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

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Lord of Chaos (Wheel of Time, #6)

TITLE:  Lord of Chaos

SERIES:  The Wheel of Time Series, book 6

AUTHOR:  Robert Jordan

FORMAT:  Epub via Google Play Books

PAGES/LOCATIONS:  1142 pages of story, 1169 pages total

GOODREADS’ AVG. RATING:  4.07 out of 5 stars; 73,529 ratings

SYNOPSIS PROVIDED:

In this sequel to the phenomenal New York Times bestseller The Fires of Heaven, we plunge again into Robert Jordan’s extraordinarily rich, totally unforgettable world:

On the slopes of Shayol Ghul, the Myrddraal swords are forged, and the sky is not the sky of this world …

In Salidar the White Tower in exile prepares an embassy to Caemlyn, where Rand Al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, holds the throne — and where an unexpected visitor may change the world …

In Emond’s Field, Perrin Goldeneyes, Lord of the Two Rivers, feels the pull of ta’veren to ta’veren and prepares to march …

Morgase of Caemlyn finds a most unexpected, and quite unwelcome, ally …

And south lies Illian, where Sammael holds sway …

Source for Synopsis

DATES READ:  May 20-30, 2015

DISCLAIMER:  As with all of my reviews, this review is not spoiler free so please continue at your own risk!

MY REVIEW:

As I am reading further in the series, I am realizing that while the pace does feel slow that there is actually a lot more going on in these books than what appears on the surface.  This review is going to be a bit more in depth compared to some of my previous reviews, but it is all going to be centered around specific events which occurred within this novel.  After completing Lord of Chaos, I specifically want to focus on a few points which are:  Characters and Relationships (specifically Rand’s relationships of importance), Prophecy and Power of Interpretation, and Ethics, Morality, and Magic.

Characters and Relationships

One of my favorite parts of reading an epic saga such as The Wheel of Time is observing how the characters grow into themselves over the course of the story, I admit that I am a very character focused reader.  When Rand al’Thor started out from Emond’s Field he was nothing more than a “wool-headed sheepherder” to quote both Min and Nynaeve, yet after six novels he has grown to be a man in charge of three nations (Tear, Camelyn, and Cairhien) as The Dragon Reborn, is seen as the Car’a’carn or Chief of Chiefs among the Aiel, and is constantly looking to achieve his goal of a united land before Tarmon Gai’don.  Due to Rand’s position of importance and being a large focus over the course of the series, I am going to be focusing specifically on his relationships with other specific characters.

Rand/Aviendha/Elayne/Min

They had to be weapons, all of them, himself included.  Could weapons allow themselves families?  Could a weapon allow itself to love?~Rand al’Thor

It is incredibly interesting to observe the dynamic of this relationship because this isn’t what you would consider to be your typical love-triangle, or square in this case, for a number of reasons.  When Rand first set out from Emond’s Field he thinks he is in love with Egwene because they had all but been promised to each other from the time they were children.  On their journey, he meets Min at an inn in the city of Baerlon and through her ability to view and read auras she learned that she would ultimately fall in love with him as would two other women (unknown to her then, it would be Elayne and Aviendha).  Elayne was the first to express her feelings of love to Rand after they had succeeded in taking Tear after Egwene assured her that she wasn’t in love him and prior to him traveling to the Aiel Waste.  Elayne and Rand spent the majority of their time together in Tear sneaking away to dark corners where they would cuddle and kiss.  When Rand takes his leave of Tear, Elayne gives him two letters which contradict each other – one speaking of her love for him and the other expressing anger that he didn’t ask her to follow him to the Waste.  Elayne in this time has also developed a bond with an Aiel Maiden of the Spear named Aviendha and considers her a near-sister (best friend), asking her to watch over Rand for her in the Aiel Waste.  Aviendha consistently reminds Rand over the course of their travels that he “belongs to Elayne” not only as a reminder to him, but also as a reminder to herself to keep her own feelings in check.  In Lord of Chaos, Min admits to Elayne her feelings for Rand and tells her of the vision she had of three women loving him.  Elayne accepts Min’s love for Rand prior to Min traveling with the delegation of Aes Sedai from Salidar to Camelyn where she will once again be reunited with him.  Elayne wishes Min to watch over and help guide Rand through the use of her viewings.  Once Aviendha arrives in Salidar, she goes to Elayne and does exactly the same thing – Aviendha admits to Elayne that she loves Rand.  Elayne explains to Aviendha who Min is and that she is another woman who loves Rand further explaining that she is another near-sister.  What is most important about this is that instead of letting their love for Rand come between them as a point of contention, they instead choose to love him and each other.  While this is considered to be an acceptable norm according to Aiel customs, it isn’t normal among non-Aiel cultures.  Observing Rand’s reaction to being loved, he fears what will happen to any who love him preferring to not see harm come to any women – especially to the women he loves.  The thought of women dying because of him or for him disgusts him, and he suffers greatly at the loss of each woman through his own form of penance and self-punishment.  He tends to push away those he cares about, hoping that they will be safe because they are far away from him.  I am hoping that Rand will come to accept that he can be loved and will admit his love for each of them – while the reader knows how Rand feels about each woman he has yet to fully admit how he feels about each of them in turn and I am interested to see how their relationships will develop once he does so.  We have experienced Rand with each woman on an individual level and we have experienced the women together in this way as well, but we have yet to observe all four of them together and I look forward to it!

Rand/Egwene/Mat/Perrin

I will use anybody I must.  You said it yourself; I am who I am.  And I’m using myself up, Perrin, because I have to.  Just like I’ll use anybody I have to.  We don’t have a choice anymore.  Not me, not you, not anybody!~Rand al’Thor

The quote mentioned above is probably my favorite quote in Lord of Chaos because it really brings to light just how much pressure Rand is under in his attempts to unite the land before Tarmon Gai’don.  The scary part about this quote though is just how brutally honest it is, Rand truly is using everyone around him.  Earlier in the series, Rand was fighting against the fact that he was going to have to use people, fighting against the truth that people were ultimately going to be sacrificed towards his cause.  In recent novels, Rand’s mindset has changed and he has come to understand what the costs of his campaign are going to be though it still tears him apart inside.  It is disturbing to witness how he is using those he consider to be his friends.

In Lord of Chaos, Rand uses Egwene as his eyes and ears in regards to what the Aes Sedai of Salidar are up to through her ability to enter Tel’aran’rhiod.  Originally Egwene entered Tel’aran’rhiod to speak with Nynaeve and Elayne under the supervision of the Aiel Wise Ones.  After these meetings, Egwene would remain in Tel’aran’rhiod unbeknownst to the Wise Ones to speak privately with Nynaeve and Elayne.  These meetings eventually evolved into meetings between Egwene, the Wise Ones, Nynaeve, Elayne, and a select few Salidar Aes Sedai – who eventually promised to support Rand as The Dragon Reborn.  What is so interesting about this exchange was that while Egwene was passing on a great deal of information to Rand, she was also keeping just as much from him that was either Aes Sedai secrets or Wise Ones business.  So even though Rand was using Egwene, I don’t believe he ever truly had the upper hand with her.  It is interesting to think how different these novels would be if information was shared more freely between people.  Now that Egwene has been raised Amyrlin of the Salidar Aes Sedai, a fact that Rand does not yet know, there is going to be a further shift of power in their relationship that is going to likely benefit Egwene moreso than Rand.  I don’t see Egwene abandoning Rand to face Tarmon Gai’don without her, but I wonder what she will demand of him in return for her support and just how willing she will be to share information with him in the future.

I think that Mat is the friend who has gotten the shortest end of the stick when it comes to being friends with Rand, being ta’veren, and just by his own bad decisions.  I am going to give a bit of backstory on Mat because he is a character that I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about over the course of my reviews.  He has always been a bit of a troublemaker and gotten himself mixed up in things that he shouldn’t have .  For example, Mat finds and takes a dagger from Shadar Logoth which curses him with sickness, paranoia, hostility, and some understanding of the Old Tongue – it was basically possessing him.  He also became bound to the Horn of Valere, charged with sounding it at Tarmon Gai’don because he blew it during the battle of Falme against the Seanchan.  Upon being healed of the taint of the dagger by Aes Sedai in Tar Valon (prior to the split of the Tower) created holes in Mat’s memory.  He eventually traveled from Tar Valon to Camelyn then to Tear ultimately saving Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve.  While in Tear, Mat eventually enters a ter’angreal where he receives three answers regarding his future stating how he must travel to Rhuidean or die and were he to die it would be because he had sidestepped his fate and he’d be killed by those who don’t want his fate fulfilled.  He also learned he’d marry the Daughter of the Nine Moons, he would die and live again twice, and that in order to save the world half of the world’s light would have to be given up (this is likely not meant literally due to prophecy and interpretation).  Upon reaching Rhuidean, Mat discovered another ter’angreal that was similar to the one in Tear but when he entered he was granted wishes instead of glimpses of his future – this is where further trouble comes into play.  Mat was unspecific and wished to have the holes in his memories filled, to be free of Aes Sedai and the One Power, and to return to Rhuidean if the creatures wouldn’t answer his questions.  It was here, when Mat had his memories filled with the memories of historical military leaders turning him into one of the greatest military minds of his time.  However, Mat was tricked by the creatures and didn’t name his payment for his wishes the creatures chose to have him pay for them with his life and left him to hang to his death from a tree until Rand found and revived him.  Mat is a reluctant ta’veren and attempts to fight against the pull of it over the course of the first few novels, consistently filling his head with plans to leave Rand until something occurs which either delays or prevents him from leaving.  It is during Lord of Chaos that he has seemingly begun to accept his role as ta’veren and become a military leader participating in the planning of military strategy with Rand and leading the Band of the Red Hand.  While Mat is still seen as the same troublemaker he was in Emond’s Field mainly by Egwene and Nynaeve, he isn’t truly the same person having lost much of himself to the course of the Pattern and becoming Rand’s general.

Perrin changed from the boy he was upon leaving Emond’s Field rather quickly compared to Mat and Rand.  After being separated from the rest of the group while escaping Shadar Logoth, Perrin and Egwene only manage to survive thanks to a chance encounter with  a strange man by the name of Elyas, a man who calls himself a Wolfbrother.  A Wolfbrother is a person who develops a relationship with wolves and develops some wolf-like abilities and characteristics, Elyas further explains to Perrin that he is one as well according to the wolves who travel with him.  Whether this is the will of the pattern or there is more to the cause of Perrin’s being Wolfbrother, I don’t know, but he does develop the ability to communicate with wolves telepathically, enter the wolf-dream (Tel’aran’rhiod), his eyes turn to the same yellow gold, and he develops heightened senses of hearing and smell.  He started this journey wanting to be nothing more than a simple man, to become a blacksmith in the Two Rivers.  While this is no longer what the Pattern holds for the future, Perrin doesn’t fight against the pull of ta’veren as Mat does.  Once Rand has gained control of Tear, Perrin begins to hear rumors of White Cloaks approaching the Two Rivers hoping to draw out Perrin from Rand’s protection in order to take revenge on him for his and Egwene’s escape in an earlier novel.  Faile, Loial, and a few Aiel travel with Perrin and ultimately lead the Two Rivers to victory against both the Trollocs and the White Cloaks.  After the battle, he married Faile and the two of them have seen to the rebuilding of the Two Rivers.  Since his return to the Two Rivers and the subsequent victory, Perrin has now been named Lord of the Two Rivers and is the first to hold the title though he dislikes being called and considered a lord.  Months later, the pull of ta’veren signified a need for Perrin to return to Rand and he made preparations to do so immediately ultimately helping to save Rand’s life.  Perrin has yet to be used by Rand to the same extent as Mat or Egwene because of his time spent in the Two Rivers, but since his return I can only imagine what the Pattern has in store for him.

It is going to be interesting to see how relationships continue to change and develop over the course of the rest of the novels.  Will the pull of ta’veren become so much that it will just hang them all?

Prophecy and Power of Interpretation

He had lived too many prophecies to believe any of them meant exactly what they said.  Or even that they ensured anything.  In his opinion, prophecy set the conditions that had to be met for a thing to happen; only, meeting them did not mean the thing would happen, just that it could.~Rand al’Thor

This quote may end up being one of the most important quotes of the entire series because it brings to light one of the most difficult parts to accept in regards to prophecy, that nothing is guaranteed.  The problem with prophecy is that a great deal of it is vague and relies upon interpretation.  One individual can interpret the exact same set of words differently than another.  Does this mean that one is right and the other wrong?  No, it just shows that both of them are able to find different meaning in the same words.  It is true that Rand has been greatly touched by prophecy and is meeting it, however, Mazrim Taim raised an excellent point regarding prophecy as well:

Victors write history.  Had I taken the Stone of Tear, history would have shown I was born on Dragonmount, of a woman never touched by a man, and the heavens opened up in radiance to herald my coming.  The sort of thing they say about you, now.

Taim brings up one of the simplest truths of even modern history, victors are the ones who write history.  The Prophecies of the Dragon were foretold before, during, and even after the War of Power.  It is very likely that due to the amount of time between the War of Power and Rand’s time that these prophecies are quite vague which leaves them open to a wide array of interpretation.  Therefore, it is possible that an individual reading the prophecies could come up with ways to show they had met prophecy and therefore were The Dragon Reborn – so long as they were able to prove they had met the interpretation they presented who would argue with them?  I will admit, I looked up The Prophecies of the Dragon and read them out of curiosity; there are a quite a few stanzas which reference specific events which would be difficult to dispute, but there are passages which are open for interpretation as to how they are going to happen.  As I have said, it is interesting to me just how important prophecy is to this series and I am curious as to whether or not Rand will meet the entirety of it and if he does, how will it come to pass.

Ethics, Morality, and Magic

Over the course of my college career I have studied a lot of philosophy, specifically the subjects of ethics and morality.  Only once you have studied these subjects in depth do you come to realize just how much actually falls within the grey areas between right and wrong, how something which is right for one can be wrong for another, etc.  Yet, in all things there are certain lines which just shouldn’t be crossed.

To her, what Alanna had done was little short of rape.~Merana Sedai of the Grey Ajah

In Chapter 11 of Lord of Chaos, Rand hears news of two Aes Sedai staying at an inn in the city of Camelyn and takes time to investigate the claim finding many young women from the Two Rivers in the company of Alanna of the Green Ajah, Verin of the Brown Ajah, and their Warders.  Rand was overly confident in his own abilities coming into this meeting with Alanna and Verin, I will agree with this point, and it was because of his having known and trusted these specific Aes Sedai previously which caused him to let his guard down and it was enough of an opening to allow Alanna to forcefully bind him to her as a Warder.  Not much has really been explained on the bond between Aes Sedai and Warder except that it creates a psychological link between the two and grants each of them heightened ability.  As previously exhibited between Lan and Moiraine, a Warder is typically charged with the protection of the Aes Sedai to whom he/she is bound.  The most important point of a bond of this magnitude is that it is to be done with consent!  Alanna made an impetuous choice to bond Rand, then attempted to manipulate him through the bond using compulsion (she isn’t exactly helping to justify her decision).  Luckily for Rand, he was able to resist Alanna’s compulsion (likely due to his own ability to channel) and returned to the palace.  I felt disgusted by Alanna’s decision to bind Rand against his will and agree with Merana that what Alanna did is basically a form of magical rape.  I am unclear of what exactly Alanna was hoping to accomplish by bonding Rand, what was her motivation for doing this?  I am going to assume that she didn’t realize her compulsion failing was a possibility and it begs the question of what now?  How is this bond going to impact both Alanna and Rand in the future?  I am also curious as to whether or not Alanna will ever be faced with the ethics and morality of what she has done.

OVERALL THOUGHTS AND TL;DR REVIEW:  4.75 out of 5 stars.  Firstly, I am going to apologize for the sheer length of this post.  I normally don’t post such in depth reviews, especially with such specificity, but I have been thinking a lot over the course of reading these novels and wanted to write out some of my thoughts on certain subjects which caught my interest.  I admit, my rant regarding Alanna wasn’t building up over the course of the series but was done as an examination of her actions specifically in this book because I just couldn’t stand for what she did and needed to rant.  Lord of Chaos was incredibly well done in its capacity as a continuation of the whole story, were it a single standalone novel I likely wouldn’t have been able to stand the pacing of it though the story was well done.  I tend to find my mind wandering while I am reading at times, specifically during chapters which deal largely with politics.  I understand the importance of the politics in play and Rand’s need for strict planning, but I just get tired of watching nobles attempt to garner favor, manipulate, and/or back stab each other.  Basically, I don’t care much for The Wheel of Time‘s daes dae’mar (The Game of Houses) – yet I am somehow compelled by the same concept based on my almost obsession with the Game of Thrones tv show without having read the novels.  I can’t point out specifically what it is about Jordan’s daes dae’mar that I don’t find compelling, but something about it just irks me.  Either way, I am looking forward to continuing the series with my reading of A Crown of Swords!

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