In this section, Egwene learns about the World of Dreams and passes the test for Accepted.
Dreams have played a significant role in the series so far, and their prevalence will only increase, as indicated by Perrin’s and Egwene’s newfound abilities. Despite having seen the World of Dreams several times, in climatic battles at the end of each of the first two books, and in short bursts elsewhere, little has been revealed about how the World of Dreams works. Verin provides the first real insight.
Along with the Creator and the Dark One, the World of Dreams is a constant, permeating all other worlds, whether a Mirror World or some stranger world that runs (metaphorically) perpendicular to them. The Ways and the World of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn may be examples of such worlds. There is only one World of Dreams for all existence. Mastery over it would be extremely advantageous, so it is little surprise that the Forsaken have made use of it to overcome real world obstacles, mainly by communicating with human minions through it. The Forsaken are a cautious bunch, else they would not still be alive, and they would rather meet in the World of Dreams where escape is quicker and they hold the advantage of knowledge and power, than in the real world where unforeseen circumstances may trap them.
Verin explains the paradox of the Dark One’s imprisonment. So long as he is trapped in one World, he is trapped in all of them. If he is freed in one world, he is freed in all of them. But this needn’t be a paradox, if the Dark One’s prison is in the World of Dreams. A single prison, accessible from a single place, in tel’aran’rhiod, which itself can be reached from anywhere in reality. Readers will later be told that Shayol Ghul is a place where the thinness can be sensed more than anywhere else in the World, but is no closer to the Bore than any other, which implies the thinness permeates the world, just as the World of Dreams does. There is circumstantial evidence in later books and chapters to support this, notably Lanfear’s expertise in tel’aran’rhiod and other Worlds, how strength of will creates the reality in the World of Dreams, Herid Fel’s study of the Seals and the metaphysical aspects of how they work, and ter’angreal that have effects in both waking world and the World of Dreams. I’ll delve into those more as they come up, for now I’ll end with noting all this emphasis on the World of Dreams is for more than simply to advance the plot and provide easy outs for characters, it is a cornerstone of the story and should figure prominently in A Memory of Light.
Mistrust and paranoia continue to worm their way into Egwene’s heart. She can’t even trust the Aes Sedai she has to. Given the options presented, readers might guess that one of the named Aes Sedai, Siuan, Verin, Sheriam, Alanna, Elaida, Alviarin, Leane, might be Black Ajah. Probably not two. Or three. Or all. To emphasize the mistrust, a short passage from Verin’s point of view is given, and it is deliberately vague as to her motivations. When she outlines her options for Corianin’s notes, the reader is given no reference points to determine which of the options is good or bad. Everything is presented in a neutral moral haze. Such an effort could only work when used on a character who is or who skirts close to being a villain, and is not simply absent-minded.
Egwene’s testing reveals possible elements of the future, and gives insight into her current dilemma. She learns, and Sheriam confirms, that channelers can be turned to the Dark. Much later in the series, readers learn that Black Ajah swear a Fourth Oath, in a ‘distinctive’ process. Is it different from the process Egwene learns of through the testing? My gut feeling is that they are one and the same, that you not only swear the Black Ajah oath on the Oath Rod, but that you do so guided by the circle of thirteen channelers and thirteen Myrddraal, to make the Oath irrevocable. The only difference is whether the swearing of the Oath was done voluntarily. There is no evidence that being turned transforms one into a cackling madwoman wreaking havoc, and Black Ajah should have concern about whether someone turned stands higher than themselves. Alternately, being turned could be a form of compulsion, but a circle is needed to channel that much power. Since Compulsion leaves signs, turning women would introduce a strong risk of discovery, so it could only be used sparingly, with great need.
The resonance between the Dream Ring and the testing ter’angreal shows the link between the World of Dreams and the visions in the test. Were they real? Yes, and the Pattern can use them to feed information to the women who use them, just as it does with Dreams and Viewings. Egwene learned some possible advantages that might come her way, and is now warned of possible dangers.
Wounds taken in the World of Dreams do not heal like other wounds, which explains Rand’s never-healing wound on his side. Ba’alzamon’s burns and stab through the heart should be equally difficult to recover from.
Mat has another encounter with a Forsaken, though neither he nor readers know it at the time. Else Grinwell insists he step aside and not come near her, probably for fear of ruining her Mask of Mirrors, possibly from concern over his Shadar Logoth taint. Mat’s encounter with Galad and Gawyn is used to establish his fighting ability, which he has no good reason for having. Combined with his speaking Old Tongue and memories, Mat is going through the same disorienting changes that his friends did, struggling to understand and adapt to new powers thrust upon him.
An editorial mistake? A deliberate pairing of similar passages, one to end a chapter, the other to begin one? Read the end of Chapter 22 and the Beginning of Chapter 23 for a nifty look at two different ways of conveying the same information. I think chapters may have been reordered, with these two originally intended to be separated. Normally an author might do this to remind the reader what had happened during that cliffhanger, which this book has more of than earlier books. Does the slight rewording change it much? Do you find one better?
Chapter 22 - ends
Light plucked her apart fiber by fiber, sliced the fibers to hairs, split the hairs to wisps of nothing. All drifted apart on the light. Forever.
Chapter 23 - begins
Light pulled her apart fiber by fiber, sliced the fibers to hairs that drifted apart, burning. Drifting and burning, forever. Forever.
Substituting one word for a more meaningful one can change reader perception. Try to be accurate. Every word has its purpose.