In this section, the Heroes take desperate actions to free Rand
There are a series of reversals in the concluding chapters of this book: The Tower Aes Sedai turn the tables on Rand. The Shaido turn the tables on the Aes Sedai. And finally Rand’s allies turn the tables on them both. A constant theme has been the idea of chaotic, surprising events, often revealed in the form of humour or jokes. A second theme particular to this book is misunderstanding due to lack of context. Even when the reader knows what is going on, the characters don’t. The overarching way this is presented is through the Dark One’s orders to Demandred. Only the first part of the order is known, and the manner in which Demandred accomplishes his mission remains a mystery at the conclusion. This is a joke that only they two get, and the punchline is yet to be understood by Rand and his allies.
There were two very important cues that led to the inception of the theory that Mazrim Taim is Demandred. The first is a physical and behavioural resemblance: neither of the two ever smiles or finds anything funny. The second is related to timing: Demandred’s success immediately follows Taim’s moment of glory during Rand’s rescue. Together, these provoke a powerful reaction in the reader. However, the theme is deception and tricks. Any resemblance between the two characters may seem like the trick they are pulling is hiding Demandred in plain sight, but even that itself could be the deception intentionally played on the reader. In light of the theme, I have to recant my advocacy of the theory that Taim is Demandred. This book is filled with so many punchlines, I now feel quite certain this one is at the reader’s expense. The book was published just as internet chat groups took off, and on the heels of sudden intense fan interest in Asmodean’s murder, and I am now left with the sense that in reaction to this strange new phenomenon, the author placed a very deliberate red herring. A big fat joke to end the book, as befits the theme.
(Despite this, “RJ is wrong... Taim is Demandred!”, remains a hilarious statement befitting the madness that is Theoryland. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about emotional attachment to a position, it is that it withstands all reason and evidence, as true in life as it is on Theoryland. The author of that other reread blog on Tor.com took the statement (or one just like it) at face value, so bonus points to me for successfully yanking her chain: She fell for it!)
That still doesn’t answer what Demandred succeeded so well at that the Dark One’s laughter filled his head. Getting Rand to trust Taim? Unlikely since Rand never sets foot anywhere near him again. Getting Rand to mistrust Aes Sedai? He was already there. Getting the Aes Sedai to bend the knee? Maybe. The Lord of Chaos is akin to the King of Fools, a figurehead that everyone must obey, no matter how ridiculous the orders. Obedience is one of the characteristics of the evil societies in the series. There have been consistent thematic elements which have the Heroes representing free will, and the Dark One representing obedience. Forcing Rand to take on the role of the one who receives obedience from others is an attempt to crush him under the burdens of leadership and to give him an emotional stake in controlling the actions of others.
What was Demandred’s involvement in this success? If he wasn’t Taim, was he controlling Taim? Someone is. If Demandred used balefire up until now, readers didn’t see it. The Asha’man could unleash balefire at some later point, and have proven to be a force that Rand can’t control or even risk approaching. They have no equivalent in the world, unless it is the damane who could be equally battle-trained. Even if Taim isn’t Demandred, setting up Rand’s own force of male channelers to betray his purposes at some later point still fits best with the theme and with later events. This is likely what the Dark One was so pleased about.
Lews Therin’s progress from mad rants, to running from Rand’s calls to leave him alone, to reacting to what Rand sees and says, to finally carrying on a discussion with Rand is masterfully handled. Each step leads inexorably to the next one. The moment when they agree to work together is when Rand embraces the madness, agreeing to cooperate with a mad voice in his head, which again fits with the theme. Lews Therin agreeing in turn to work with whoever Rand is, assuming Rand is real, is a brilliant twist that makes the reader see Lews Therin as an equal of sorts, since he has all the same questions as Rand. Having the voice in his head or listening to it doesn’t make Rand that crazy. Trusting the voice can’t help but induce spine tingles. That is crazy.
The epilogue is a stream of almost one-liner surprise twists, the most effective of which are the gholam and Moghedien’s release. Out of nowhere, the Gholam kills a minor character. The only possible conclusion the reader can reach is that Herid Fel had something to say that the Forsaken didn’t want Rand to hear. The Gholam belongs to Sammael, so this murder is also an added pressure to take Rand’s attention from Illian and focus him to the north, where Sammael has also been prodding the Shaido. Moghedien’s disappearance is instantly exciting because her captivity has paralleled Rand’s experience in the chest, and we just saw Rand’s cold fury as he dealt with his captors.
For once, Perrin showed no hesitation or shame about his wolf abilities. He simply acted. In the context of this book, such concerns would have been misplaced since it would be difficult to present this in a way that shows deception, trickery, or chaos. Instead, it’s just handled straightforwardly, which also helps keep the tense pace of the final confrontation.
A lack of context risks confusing the reader. Be certain that the payoff is worth the risk.