In which Rand wakes up someplace very strange but also the same, Ingtar discovers his disappearance, the Hunt continues in both universes nonetheless, Perrin comes out as a sniffer, Verin arrives unexpectedly, Rand picks up his first heron brand, his small party learns the horrid truth of the university they are in, Rand finds a suspiciously beautiful woman under very suspicious circumstances and gets to show off his archer skills on grolm(!), and Rand returns to Earth-Prime . . . now well ahead of Ingtar AND the Horn.
I love the introduction of Portal Stones and a multiverse. They overshadow the introduction of Lanfear by a great deal for me, I am afraid. And it is in these chapters that we see both Rand and Perrin really step up to the plate as leaders in response to the call of duty.
Rand is the obvious leader of the ta’veren trio when the series begins. Perrin starts to first step up when he and Egwene are separated from the Fellowship after Shadar Logoth. (We will have to wait awhile on Mat.) We really see their leadership start to flourish here. It starts with, or perhaps more accurately, is foreshadowed by, Ingtar’s talk with Rand from last week’s chapters. In both cases they take on a leadership mantle not because they want the mantle—they emphatically do not—but because they have a duty to do. Hurin looks to Rand for leadership, and Rand does not want to let him down. Ingtar and the rest of the Shienarans need Perrin, and Perrin does not want to let them down. Faced with duty, both step up as leaders and embrace powers they swore to set aside.
I have surprisingly little to say about the appearance of Lanfear (spoiler!). Her appearance should be just as suspicious to Rand et al. as it is to us. Although I guess Rand has the advantage/disadvantage of seeing how hot she is, not just reading about it.
I am more excited about the appearance of the grolm, to be honest. I loved this sequence reading the book as a kid. I love Rand getting to show off his very considerable skill with a bow. His swordsmanship is so much of a bigger part of the series, but he was a master archer before he ever picked up a sword.
Vis-à-vis Lanfear, she is mostly interesting to the question of how Rand got to that alternative universe. There are only three options. One is Ba’alzamon, who finds Rand there easily enough (proof, I think, that the World of Dreams touches all possible universes). But nothing in his dialogue with Rand suggests he brought Rand there, nor does there seem to be any apparent reason for doing so. After all, he can pull Rand in the World of Dreams just as easily in the Earth-Prime. So I think we dispense with him easily enough. The obvious answer is Rand himself. The book suggests it; he falls asleep beside the Stone “and with sleep, unbidden, the void surrounded him, flickering with an uneasy glow that disturbed his dreams.” But the only thing you can channel in your sleep is Spirit, and every other encounter with a Portal Stone suggests they require immense amounts of power, not the level you would channel without noticing. That passage is a red herring, then, in my estimation. Lanfear, on the other hand, was we know watching the party. She has ample motivation to separate Rand and meet him with fewer people around. She immediately starts prodding him to experiment with the void and is able to corner him into consciously channeling to transport them back to Earth-Prime. His ability to do so without knowing what he was doing would not be remarkable if he already did it once, and knowing even less.
I love the introduction of Portal Stones, always one of my favorite bits of minor Wheel of Time worldbuilding and, like the murderous flocks of ravens, one criminally underused. Although we do get quite a bit of Portal Stone action in The Great Hunt.
Robert Jordan was a physics major at The Citadel (which is the coolest possible name for an alma mater for a fantasy author, now that I think about it). His academic background in physics shows up in some cool ways in his worldbuilding. The introduction of a multiverse is a good example. It also, in true Jordan fashion, comes along at just the time convenient for the plot, but done with a deft touch such that we don’t care and intensely interesting in its own right.
You can find all of my reread posts at The Wheel of Time Reread Index.