In this 4th book of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan, the series is getting complicated. There are four main threads to the storyline, with the characters going off in different directions, plus more sub-threads to be continued later.

The book starts with Rand al’Thor in charge of the Stone of Tear (fortress) with the lords and ladies walking on eggshells and plotting for an advantage. Rand employs an unexpected tactic to force his will, and then leaves for the land of the Aiel, to learn of his ancestry, gain unconditional support, and set a trap for the Foresaken. Egwene, Mat, Morraine, and Lan accompany him, along with the Aiel.

Nynaeve and Elayne head to Tanchico in pursuit of the Black Ajah, since they learn there is an artifact that could control Rand. Thom Merrilin and Jailin Sandar, thief-catcher, are coerced into assisting and watching over them. In Tanchico, they befriend Egeanin, a Seanchan ship’s captain, who becomes a part of their plans.

Perrin, Faile, Gaul, and Loial set off for the Two Rivers to defend his family and friends from Whitecloaks and Trollocs. In the process, he becomes as a general, hero, and lord, whether he wants to be or not.

Min is the only one of the young women left in Tar Valon. She has been charged with spying for the Amyrlin Seat, leader of the Aes Sedai. She gets caught in the insanity surrounding the overthrow of the Amyrlin and helps her to escape the city.

New and different forms of travel are one of the sub-threads. Rand learns to fold space. Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene experiment with traveling and communicating through the use of Tel’aran’rhiod, the dream world. In his Wolf Dreams (Tel’aran’rhiod, but he doesn’t know it yet), Perrin discovers he can move immediately to an area on which he focuses. All of them are using a similar technique which involves the need to reach a certain destination.

Another sub-thread is the learning process for all of the inexperienced core characters. A few non-Aes Sedai channelers advise the young women. Egwene is taken under the wing of the Aiel Wise Ones. Morraine also closely observes them. Aviendah, sworn spear warrior, is forced to put that behind her and take her place as a Wise One in training. Nynaeve and Elayne meet a Windfinder who channels to speed her ship. The Seanchan are discussed more. All of these young people learn through their own experimentation. Rand is invited to learn under the tutelage of Asmodean, one of the Foresaken and Lanfear’s cohort. Nynaeve even learns from Moghedien, another of the Foresaken, who secretly accosts her and Elayne.

It is also the first book in which several of the Foresaken are loose and plotting. Sammael is only slightly mentioned in regards to the deterioration of Illian. Rahvin has become the Queen of Andor’s (Elayne’s mother) partner and controls her. Moghedien is sneaking around. Lanfear has revealed herself and her plan to Rand, is trying to tie him to her (as she has done in past lives of the Dragon), and offers Asmodean as a tutor in return for his loyalty.

At this point, I think it is important to note the intricacy of the saga. There is so much going on in this book, much of it interwoven and obviously leading to the next books. There are minor characters and plot lines developed in such a way that they must have major significance later on. It reminds me in a way of the Harry Potter series-the setting has finally been described enough that we can get to the action and the personal stories of the characters. It’s becoming real and obsessive. And, though lacking the humor, it is more complex than HP and well preceding it. It has been compared to The Lord of the Rings, but I think it veers away in the first book. I think also that The Wheel of Time is more fully developed.