The Wheel of Time Retrospective: A MEMORY OF LIGHT: The Black Tower
Just a reminder, all. Steelheart—my new novel—is out right now! It hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in the Young Adult category. If you’re curious, you can read about the book here, and listen to a cool audio sample here. And as a side note, Amazon’s US Kindle store today has The Way of Kings at $1.26 for some reason.
For an explanation of my Wheel of Time retrospective, see the previous posts on the topic. Here’s post number eight. Before we begin, it should be stated that this post will contain spoilers for the entire series, ending included. If you haven’t finished, you will want to do so before reading this post.
Robert Jordan didn’t leave me a ton of direction regarding the Black Tower. There were a few gems that we knew, but in a lot of places I was left to follow my instincts regarding the plotting points he had built across the last few books. He did leave a lot of clear instructions regarding Taim, fortunately, including his backstory and instructions for a scene where Taim was named as one of the Forsaken.
Androl and Pevara
In working on the Black Tower plot, one thing I realized early on was that I wanted a new viewpoint character to be involved. One reason was that we didn’t have anyone to really show the lives of the everyday members of the Black Tower. It felt like a hole in the viewpoint mosaic for the series. In addition, each wheel of time book—almost without exception—has either introduced a new viewpoint character or added a great deal of depth to a character who had only seen minimal use before. As we were drawing near to the end of the series, I didn’t want to expand this very far. However, I did want to add at least one character across the three books I was doing.
I went to Team Jordan with the suggestion that I could fulfill both of these purposes by using one of the rank-and-file members of the Black Tower, preferably someone who wasn’t a full Asha’man and was something of a blank slate. They suggested Androl. The notes were silent regarding him, and while he had been around, he so far hadn’t had the spotlight on him. He seemed the perfect character to dig into.
A few more things got spun into this sequence. One was my desire to expand the usage of gateways in the series. For years, as an aspiring writer, I imagined how I would use gateways if writing a book that included them. I went so far as to include in the Stormlight Archive a magic system built around a similar teleportation mechanic. Being able to work on the Wheel of Time was a thrill for many reasons, but one big one was that it let me play with one of my favorite magic systems and nudge it in a few new directions. I’ve said that I didn’t want to make a large number of new weaves, but instead find ways to use established weaves in new ways. I also liked the idea of expanding on the system for people who have a specific talent in certain areas of the One Power.
Androl became my gateway expert. Another vital key in building him came from Harriet, who mailed me a long article about a leatherworker she found in Mr. Jordan’s notes. She said, “He was planning to use this somewhere, but we don’t know where.”
One final piece for his storyline came during my rereads of the series, where I felt that at times the fandom had been too down on the Red Ajah. True, they had some serious problems with their leadership in the books, but their purpose was noble. I feel that many readers wanted to treat them as the Wheel of Time equivalent of Slytherin—the house of no-goods, with every member a various form of nasty. Robert Jordan himself worked to counteract this, adding a great deal of depth to the ajah by introducing Pevara. She had long been one of my favorite side characters, and I wanted her to have a strong plot in the last books. Building a relationship between her and Androl felt very natural to me, as it not only allowed me to explore the bonding process, but also let me work a small romance into the last three books—another thing that was present in most Wheel of Time books. The ways I pushed the Androl/Pevara bond was also something of an exploration and experiment. Though this was suggested by the things Robert Jordan wrote, I did have some freedom in how to adapt it. I felt that paralleling the wolf bond made sense, with (of course) its own distinctions.
Finding a place to put the Pevara/Androl sequence into the books, however, proved difficult. Towers of Midnight was the book where we suffered the biggest time crunch. That was the novel where I’d plotted to put most of the Black Tower sequence, but in the end it didn’t fit—partially because we just didn’t have time for me to write it. So, while I did finish some chapters to put there, the soul of the sequence got pushed off to A Memory of Light, if I managed to find time for it.
I did find time—in part because of cutting the Perrin sequence. Losing those 17,000 words left an imbalance to the pacing of the final book. It needed a plot sequence with more specific tension to balance out the more sweeping sequences early in the book where characters plan, plot, and argue. I was able to expand Androl/Pevara to fit this hole, and to show a lot of things I really wanted to show in the books.
Rand and Logain
I made a few interesting decisions with the Black Tower sequence. The first was to not involve Rand. Though it would have been a nice narrative balance to have Rand come save the Asha’man in contrast to them saving him in book six, I felt that Rand was riding to the rescue too often. The Black Tower was about to lose him permanently, and if its members could not face their problems on their own, then thematically they’d be left at the end of the series hampered and undermined. Beyond this, I believed that Rand’s personality (as shown in earlier books) would push him to avoid being pulled into a potential trap at the Black Tower. His argument that he couldn’t risk a confrontation is a good one. Androl and company had to face their problems on their own—save for the help of an Aes Sedai, another thing I felt to be thematically important.
Perhaps the most controversial decision (among Team Jordan) that I made with this sequence was to push Logain toward being a darker figure. Following his extended torture, I felt that Logain would emerge as a different person—though he’d always been somewhat dark. Some members of Team Jordan felt he was past that, and I disagreed. Logan was a false Dragon, gentled then healed, head of a group of men going insane who owed loyalty to Rand—but who rarely interacted with him. There is so much going on with this guy that he could have carried an entire series on his own.
I wanted him to wrestle with all of this. Logain’s life ever since his capture way back when seemed to have been one of being shoved this way and then that. He needed to decide for himself what kind of Black Tower he was going to rule, if he was going to earn the honor of men as was promised. (And yes, this had not yet happened at the end of the series.) Logain, so far as I know, never once let go of power in the series—it was always ripped from his fingers. In this case, he was allowed to choose.