In this section, Mat makes a daring escape from Tar Valon, and Perrin continues the search for Rand.
Mat’s extraordinary luck needs an explanation, and several are offered. An ability unleashed by the Shadar Logoth Dagger. A side effect of Aes Sedai Healing. He was always lucky, he is just luckier now. He is ta’veren. Not mentioned is a ter’angreal that alters chance. His battle prowess comes from some other source, his Old Blood connection. Although in the past life he relived a few chapters ago, he was known as gambler, not as lucky. It could be argued that no one would be called a gambler unless they were lucky. The only two that have so far been demonstrated to twist chance in the extreme fashion seen during Mat’s dice games are ta’veren and the dice ter’angreal. It’s worth noting that Lanfear has an interest in keeping Mat alive, and the Black Ajah stole dream ter’angreal, and the dice ter’angreal, at her direction. If Mat has ta’veren luck enhancements, it would be hard to distinguish them from any dice ter’angreal effects. If Mat’s intuition that the luck comes from Shadar Logoth is correct, then Padan Fain must have some too. I’ll keep an eye out for when the dice roll in his head, which is a variant ability he displays later, but is so far absent.
A number of assassins, including a Gray Man, pursue Mat through the city and downriver. One of the Forsaken is directing efforts to kill Mat, but there is no indication as to which one. Odds favour it being the same one trying to kill Rand, since they are using the Soulless.
Mat and Thom learn about the High Lord Samon. When a knowledgeable character professes surprise at something they should know about, the reader should be alerted that something is amiss. Since Thom is not an Aes Sedai shrouded in mystery and suspicion, his statements can be taken at face value. This technique will be difficult to use with Aes Sedai from now on, due to the overhanging question of whether they are Black Ajah.
Rand makes a brief appearance. His sections marked the transition from Perrin to the Tar Valon characters, and back again. As the character around which everything revolves, it’s Perrin who has the closest link and is carrying out the main quest. The Tar Valon scenes are like an interlude with marginally associated ideas and quests. You can imagine the banner “MEANWHILE…” hanging over the whole length of the Tar Valon sequence. In the end it is linked with the Black Ajah hunters heading for Tear at the same time as Rand, but it makes for a unique story structure.
Perrin gets in deep trouble by helping Gaul out of the cage, but fulfills an important Viewing by telling Gaul about Rand’s destination. The Aiel connection to Rand has been set aside since The Great Hunt, but with this second reminder about He Who Comes With The Dawn, the Aiel should soon be finding him. To date, the only humans Perrin has fought and killed are Whitecloaks. References to how things smell are continually and frequently inserted in Perrin’s part of the story.
So much attention to Mat lets me focus on humour. Jokes, like plot twists, depend on setting up expectations, misdirecting attention from the true cues and drawing attention to the misleading ones, and revealing a solution that makes sense yet is surprising.
Burn me, you would think I was encouraging him to drink more! Women! But pretty eyes on the pair of them.
Surprising but makes sense: Mat is incorrigible.
Besides, whoever is feeding you is not doing a good job of it, but you still have pretty eyes.
Surprising but makes sense: Saal was unhappy with Mat, but now that he’s reinvigorated Thom, she makes the exact same observation he made of her.
The first bloody ship, Thom! If it’s sinking, we’ll be on it!
Surprising but makes sense: Mat is desperate to leave and wants Thom to know it.
Nynaeve gave me the paper. I don’t know where she got it.
Well if you’re not going to tell me, I am going to sleep.
Surprising but makes sense: Mat lies so often no one believes when he tells the truth.
He did not think anyone needed to look after Nynaeve; around Nynaeve, to his mind, other people needed to look after themselves.
Surprising but makes sense: It’s funny because it’s so true!
Humour works by being surprising, yet making sense.