In this section Egwene is plunged into the deepest depths of Aes Sedai intrigue…
The final part of this Egwene section is a study in Aes Sedai politics that makes your head spin. There have been several mentions of the too-young Sitters, and Siuan has discovered that Elaida has the same problem. In Tar Valon there are at least three, maybe four Sitters who are too young by custom. Egwene has another eight. It would have stood out as strange in either place, but together they point to somebody who has a hand in all Ajahs and is directing their decision-making. Once the Black Ajah has been ruled out, Siuan and Egwene can’t even conceive that the Ajah Heads not only know each other but may be communicating secretly with each other.
This is the behaviour Talene was investigating, which led to her capture by the Black Ajah hunters. Some of the Sitters had been meeting secretly, but Talene and the Black Ajah and Mesaana herself did not know their purpose. Interestingly, the Ajah heads meeting and the too-young Sitter mysteries solve each other, so we know who is behind it, and some of what they have done, but their motive is still lacking. Some readers may have the intuition to look at the unknowns and wonder how they may fit together to get this far, but I think most often they remain categorized as two separate mysteries.
Egwene’s meeting with the Hall goes on for pages, with every mannerism and action potentially laden with meaning. The author convincingly shows how much noise there is covering the true signal. One tool to help simplify our understanding of this mess is a grid showing common stances on certain issues.
The question is why didn’t the author make this plainer to the reader? He could easily have had Egwene notice this pattern and comment on it, or summarized the votes as “the newly raised Sitters were amenable to change, the ones raised before the split would die before agreeing to this proposal.” Instead, he spread one vote over six entire pages, challenging readers to cobble together clues from this section as well as from several other books to even have a clear idea of who is in the Hall and what the factions may be. He wanted readers to work for the answer and to have a life-like representation of the political complexities the Amyrlin faces with every proposal. I wonder how much of the time it took to write Crossroads of Twilight is as a result of this decision to present this vote in such a detailed way. So many characters, so many details.