In which Egwene trains as a Novice and continues to bond with her new girl group, a member of the Black Ajah kidnaps the very credulous Supergirls, Egwene is collared while Nynaeve and Elayne escape but immediately head to Falme, Rand and company also head towards Falme, and Elayne channels recklessly and steals some apples.
I have a terrible confession to make. I hated the Supergirl chapters when I reread The Great Hunt as a tween (The Great Hunt used to be my favorite Wheel of Time book, so it is probably the Wheel of Time book I have reread the most times). I frequently skipped those chapters. I was surprised to realize this reread that we actually spend very little time with the Supergirls in Tar Valon.
This is another set of transition/setup chapters—getting the Supergirls to the same place Rand et al. are headed—but they are also immensely important because it is here that Egwene is first collared, and her experience as a damane will leave a deep mark on her character for the rest of the series.
There is a lot of little stuff here that stands out. We are introduced to Egwene’s strength with Earth for the first time, something I always thought was a nice touch that winds up being very plot relevant when the weave to create cuendillar is rediscovered. The former Aes Sedai Ryma is struggling to fight the damane conditioning now but will be completely broken later. “Yesterday, I heard one of the cooks saying she’d heard Artur Hawkwing was marching on Tanchico. Artur Hawkwing!” As always, the most ridiculous rumors are the closest to truth. Jordan carefully uses the Portal Stones and the Ways to line up and arrange his timelines.
The big event here is the Seanchan successfully putting a collar Egwene and, if only briefly, making her a damane. She probably only spends a couple months collared, but the effect on her psyche and her character arc is immense. Just like Rand’s induced claustrophobia later, the experience leaves her with a visceral reaction to capture. Which is bad, because the Supergirls get captured a LOT. It leaves her with a deep and well deserved distaste for the Seanchan that she will eventually have to overcome as a part of the (perhaps Faustian) bargain the good guys make. Fate and free will are major themes of The Wheel of Time, and Egwene’s experience is entirely in keeping with that. In the libertarian birdmen society from Perdido Street Station, rape is called “choice-theft in the second degree” (murder would be choice theft in the first degree). To take someone’s agency from them is a grievous sin. What the Seanchan do to damane is a great evil because it destroys the damane’s agency, autonomy, and individuality.
One question I brought with me out of these chapters was why Liandrin places so much importance on removing Egwene and Nynaeve to Seanchan. On one hand, it may not need much explanation. They are powerful future players on the side of Good. Taking them to Seanchan takes them off the board. And, given what we learn later, it puts them in Semirhage’s hands. This may have been a Semirhage plot. It would have given her leverage over Rand, too. On the other hand, I wonder if there was more to it. Some Prophecy of the Shadow perhaps. I flipped back to the prophecy scrawled in blood on the dungeon walls in Fal Dara, but it does not seem to offer any specific clues despite referencing the Seanchan.
You can find all of my reread posts at The Wheel of Time Reread Index.
 Your Mileage May Vary as to how much to blame the Supergirls are for their naivety in blithely following Liandrin into the Ways. Yes, this is extremely stupid. But they ARE Novice/Accepted and Liandrin is an Aes Sedai. At least all of them other than Elayne will get smarter later in the series.