“The unstained tower breaks and bends knee to the forgotten sign.
The seas rage, and stormclouds gather unseen.”
The White Tower, once the center of power, influence, and training for Aes Sedai, has been truly broken. A rival tower has set themselves up as rebels, selecting their own Amyrlin Seat to lead. Egwene, newly chosen to lead the rebel White Tower as a figure head, finds herself thrust into a cutthroat political world unprepared. Her determination to lead can either be seen as ambition gone wrong or as dedication to a higher cause.
Meanwhile, Elayne demonstrates both a lack of leadership skills and a minimum of ambition. From birth, the throne of Andor has been her destiny, yet she continually choses her own interests over responsibility. When informed that her mother was dead, Elayne continued to follow Nynaeve rather than returning to take the throne. Rand took over instead, killing the Forsaken who had stolen it, and holding the nation in trust for Elayne. Yes, it becomes hard to separate my impression of the writing from my opinions about the characters. Elayne’s choices remain in character, but I cannot agree with them.
Nynaeve and Elayne find themselves once more sent from their sister Aes Sedai on a new quest. This time, they must find a magical artifact that can return the weather to its normal season. The Dark One’s power has increased enough that he has forced the land into perpetual summer causing draught, famine, and hardships. Elayne believes she alone has the knowledge to recognize what they are looking for and figure out how to use it.
The rebel Aes Sedai, worried about handing Elayne over to the Dragon Reborn, instead sent Min as part of an embassy to Rand. Meanwhile, the Aes Sedai also sent women to meet with Rand in hopes of gaining control over him. To balance the predominance of women with magical power, Rand announces an amnesty on men with the ability to learn magic and starts a training program for them. Thus, Mr. Jordan sets the stage for a conflict of the magic users of this age.
Rand tries to create peace and stability in the lands he currently rules. However, the voice of his past life continues to push him toward insanity (if having a voice in your head can be considered sane) and his increasing obsession with the women who have died for him leaves him struggling to feel nothing. The internal turmoil within Rand remains one of the most fascinating aspects of this series. Where else does the main character, the secondary characters, and the reader all hold their breaths hoping the main character is not too insane to save the world?
The bad news: Lord of Chaos truly cannot be appreciated on its own; it is meant to be read as part of the entire series. Multiple points of view and multiple plot lines continue from previous books and none find resolution. Readers who have not been paying close attention can easily be overwhelmed by the number of characters in the series and their individual plots.
The good news: The only one of the romances that ever resonated with me was the Min-Rand love affair, which this book does an amazing job with. Min remains focused solely on Rand, not the politics, which provides him with one small piece of stability in the chaos of his world and his mind. Perhaps, this one pure relationship will give him a place of stability as the taint on his magic continues to erode his sanity.
More good news: Lord of Chaos exemplifies the best of Mr. Jordan’s style. Fewer writers these day attempt to write from the point of view of multiple limited view characters, making Mr. Jordan’s writing a change of pace. The characters remain oblivious to the motivations, thoughts, and feelings of themselves and others. Yet, the varying points of view give the reader a global sense of the action. The tension derived from the reader knowing so much and the characters so little, leaves the reader wanting to shout at some of the characters.
The climax of Lord of Chaos remains one of the best in the series. Foreshadowed throughout previous books, Rand’s relationship to the Aes Sedai comes to a head risking Rand’s sanity as much as his health. The loyalty of Perrin (who reappears in this novel after taking a book off) and Rand’s stauncher allies face off against some of his foes. For the first time since the breaking of the world, male and female magical powers meet in a full scale battle. For the first time in this series, the enemy is not one of the Forsaken, merely misguided mortals (some of whom are good guys in their own way). And I will admit it, I cried.