Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10.
Spoilers for those who are unfamiliar with the series. Note that this summary is designed to help people who have already read the books get back up to speed before the release of the final volume in January. First-timers are advised to read the books directly, as in some cases these summaries may spoil things that are not revealed in the books until much later.
Rand al'Thor confronts the Forsaken Sammael in the abandoned city of Shadar Logoth.
Follow the break for the summary:
A Crown of Swords
In Tar Valon Elaida fumes at the lack of word from Teslyn or Joline, her representatives to Queen Tylin in Ebou Dar. However, Alviarin has had communication from her agents in the city and confirmed the presence of Nynaeve al’Meara and Elayne Trakand. Elaida orders them taken and bundled back to Tar Valon, even to the extent of using forkroot (The Fires of Heaven). She also decides the time has come to break the Black Tower. Since no man will want to learn how to channel there can only be a maximum of two or three male channellers at the Tower. Fifty Aes Sedai and their Warders, plus 200 of the Tower Guard will overwhelm them easily. Toveine Gazal, an experienced member of the Red Ajah who has spent fifteen years out in the world searching for men who can channel, will be placed in command. Alviarin reports that the 300 rebel Aes Sedai are on the move; the latest estimates place them somewhere just inside the border of Murandy. Reports on their army place it in the region of 15,000 troops or even higher. Elaida laughs at that: Tarna’s report suggested 3,000 at most. No Altaran or Murandian lord in his right mind would choose to support rebels against the rightful Amyrlin Seat. Alviarin’s suggestion that the Tower Guard be increased is ignored. The Shining Walls held Artur Hawkwing’s armies at bay for two decades; a tiny disorganised rabble should stand even less of a chance. When Alviarin questions her again Elaida is suddenly gripped by the Foretelling: "The White Tower will be whole again, except for remnants cast out and scorned, whole and stronger than ever. Rand al’Thor will face the Amyrlin Seat and know her anger. The Black Tower will be rent in fire and blood, and sisters will walk its grounds. This I Foretell." Alviarin is stunned by this prophecy. She reports the meeting to the Forsaken Mesaana, who is amused by Elaida’s ambitions, though intrigued by the Foretelling. She decides the time has come for Alviarin to know how to Travel...
In Amador, in the Fortress of the Light, Abdel Omerna relays a series of new reports to Pedron Niall, Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light. He has not yet located Elayne or Gawyn (though Niall already knows they are in Ebou Dar and Tar Valon respectively through Sebban Balwer’s agents). Reports are emerging that Queen Tenobia Kazadi has left Saldaea, though for what reason is unclear. Dragonsworn are burning and looting their way across Altara and Murandy, though their virulence seems to be lessening. Omerna also has a message from Tanchico, brought to the city by pigeon. The new agent Niall dispatched a few weeks ago has located and found the two other agents there and they have prepared a new report, confirming Niall’s fears. It seems that he has been doing the right thing, assembling the Children of the Light en masse in Amador. However, before he can tell Omerna that one of his more whimsical flights of fancy was correct after all, Omerna stabs him with a dagger. Lord Captain Eamon Valda enters and dispatches the ‘assassin’. Realising that Valda means to take power, Niall, with his dying breath, tries to direct Valda’s attention to the report from Tarabon, but dies before he can succeed. Valda finds the note stained with wine and unreadable anyway. Rhadam Asunawa, High Inquisitor of the Hand of the Light, confirms that Omerna murdered Niall and that Valda slew Omerna in righteous wrath. Balwer is commanded to bring news of Niall’s death to the other Lord Captains and arrange a general meeting of the Council of the Anointed. Then the Children will ride north against the Prophet of the Dragon and rid Amadicia of him once and for all.
North of Dumai’s Wells Gawyn Trakand has regrouped almost 200 Younglings, much less than half of those he took south. They drive off a Shaido attack and continue to retreat northwards. However, there are no sign of the Tower Aes Sedai who survived the attack.
At Dumai’s Wells itself, Rand al’Thor and his forces regroup after the battle. Rand is distraught that 151 Maidens of the Spear perished in the battle, as well as more than 100 Mayener Winged Guards. He assigns the Wise Ones to guard the captured Tower Aes Sedai and also ‘advise’ the nine rebel Aes Sedai who swore fealty to him. Mazrim Taim and most of the Asha’man return to the Black Tower, leaving four Dedicated, four soldiers and one full Asha’man, Corlan Dashiva, as an ‘honour guard’ for Rand. Rand and his troops Travel back to Cairhien where they learn what has transpired in their absence: Lady Colavaere Saighan has been crowned Queen of Cairhien and has taken the Sun Throne with the support of dozens of the lesser and middling Houses. The other major Houses have either fled the city, are waiting to see if Rand returns or not, or are still in turmoil after the assassination of Lord Maringil. Lord Toram Riatin and Lady Caraline Damodred, along with their rebel forces, have emerged from the foothills of the Spine of the World and set up camp only a few hours’ ride south of the city. They have been joined by the High Lord Darlin Sisnera of Tear. Riatin and Damodred have proclaimed that Colavaere is an usurper to the Sun Throne and both their claims are stronger. There are also indications that as many as ten Tower Aes Sedai are still in the city, living in the palace of the Lady Arilyn Dhulaine, a known Tar Valon sympathiser. Perrin is worried because Faile is still in the Sun Palace, whilst Rand is more concerned about Berelain and the Aiel clan chiefs, who are doing everything from threatening to attack Tar Valon to gathering their forces for a withdrawal back into the Waste.
Rand and a large group enter the Sun Palace and confront Colavaere, who seems smug that now she is Queen. Rand warns her that what can be done can also be undone. Colavaere calls upon Annoura Larisen, Aes Sedai of the Grey Ajah and advisor to Berelain, to aid her, but Annoura refuses. Instead, Faile denounces her list of crimes. At Rand’s command Lord Taborwin arrests Colavaere as a traitor to Cairhien and the Light. He calls for her execution but Rand mitigates that to banishment to a farm in the shadow of the Spine of the World. Annoura also reveals that two of Berelain’s thief-catchers have secured the assassins who murdered Lord Maringil and High Lord Meilan and they have confirmed that Colavaere ordered their deaths.
Rand Travels to Lord Bashere’s camp outside Caemlyn and is updated on events there. The army in Tear is now more than enough to defeat Sammael’s forces and take the Doirlon hillforts, but they are waiting for the last Aiel to arrive from Cairhien. Meanwhile, nine Aes Sedai are staying in Caemlyn whilst others are coming and going, including Red Ajah. Rand wonders if they mean to attack the Black Tower. He also learns that two middling Andoran lords have claimed the Lion Throne but have been put down by the Lady Dyelin of House Taravin for treason against Daughter-Heir Elayne Trakand. Dyelin has been proclaimed regent in Caemlyn until Elayne returns. Rand is satisfied by this move and hears reports about the Aes Sedai force moving into south-western Murandy, which he thinks may be the Band of the Red Hand escorting Elayne to Caemlyn. He leaves one of the Asha’man, Fedwin Morr, with Bashere to ferry reports to him whenever required. He will leave another two with the High Lords Weiramon of Tear and Lord Semaradrid Maravin of Cairhien, commanding the army in Tear. He gives the order for the army to move westwards onto the Plains of Maredo in force and halve the distance between the Tairen and Illianer borders. However, they will under no circumstances attack the Doirlon Hills until Rand himself arrives.
The rebel Aes Sedai are continuing to move north and eastwards towards Tar Valon, but the dry weather of summer continues to prevail, though it is now well past midwinter and into the New Year of 1000 NE. Forced to stop for a rest and resupply south-west of Lugard in Murandy, Egwene manages to at last assert her authority over Sheriam and learns some things the Hall of the Tower and Sheriam’s little council have been keeping from her, including that no less than ten rebel Aes Sedai are undercover in Tar Valon, informing any Aes Sedai who will listen (none of the Red Ajah, naturally) about Logain and the role the Red Ajah played in setting him up as a false Dragon. Egwene suddenly feels a stabbing pain as a man who can channel the One Power touches Moghedien’s a’dam and she finds the woman missing. She tells Siuan and Leane and commands them to keep watch. Logain has also escaped...though actually Egwene secretly freed him, afraid that the Hall of the Tower would vote to gentle him again, thus alienating Rand forever. Nicola Treehill, one of the refugees from Samara, has turned out to be a very promising Aes Sedai, having displayed the Talents of Foretelling and ‘seeing’ ta’veren. Nicola chafes at the restrictions placed on her training and asks Egwene to speed it up, hinting that perhaps the Aes Sedai will find out that Nynaeve and Elayne were posing as full Aes Sedai before returning to Salidar. A furious Egwene castigates her, but is worried about the threat of blackmail.
Ebou Dar, the nominal capital city of Altara.
In Ebou Dar Nynaeve, Elayne, Birgitte and Aviendha decide to enlist help in searching for the ter’angreal bowl from the Sea Folk, recalling their meeting with a Sea Folk Windfinder on their way to Tanchico (The Shadow Rising). They travel to a Sea Folk raker, the Windrunner, in the Ebou Dari harbour. Much to their surprise, the ship is carrying a very important passenger: Nesta din Reas Two Moons, Mistress to the Ships for the Atha’an Miere. They seek help from Dorile din Eiran Long Feather, the Windfinder, and the other Windfinders who can channel the One Power. They discuss the bowl and Dorile din Eiran Long Feather guesses it is the Bowl of Winds, a Sea Folk artefact of great power lost two thousand years ago. The Mistress of the Ships agrees to let the Windfinders take part in the hunt in exchange for certain compromises from the Aes Sedai, which Nynaeve and Elayne are forced to agree with.
In the city Mat spots a familiar face: Shiaine, a Darkfriend who once tried to kill him and Rand on the way to Caemlyn (The Eye of the World). He follows her and sees her take refuge in the Whitecloak embassy with Lord Inquisitor Jaichim Carridin. An old man with a hooked nose tells Mat this and Mat realises this man had been standing near Shiaine in the crowd, but the old man suddenly vanishes when Mat looks for him. Inside the palace, Carridin is unconcerned about Shiaine seeing Cauthon here. All that matters is the search. Then Sammael himself appears, ordering them to carry on the search no matter the cost. Mat goes to the Tarasin Palace to find Nynaeve and Elayne and warn them of Shiaine and Carridin colluding together, but is unable to find them. Instead Queen Tylin Quintara of House Mitsobar allows him to leave letters for them. She also introduces him to her son, Beslan, and has him show Mat around the city. Back at his inn Mat is attacked by two assassins and kills them both. Meanwhile, three members from Liandrin’s group of Black Ajah are here in the city: Falion, Ispan and Temaile. They are torturing Wise Women in the hope of finding the secret cache of angreal, but have no luck so far. They have discovered that the vast majority of Wise Women in Ebou Dar are wilders, able to channel the One Power, but haven’t discerned why they have gathered here. Meanwhile, a certain old man keeps an eye on the comings and goings into the Whitecloak embassy with interest...
In Cairhien Rand convinces the Aiel chiefs he is still in command of himself and not dancing to Aes Sedai strings. He then learns that Berelain has nearly been killed by an assassin after visiting the Sea Folk raker in the harbour. He orders her to take more care in future; she and Faile betrayed Colavaere and some in the city will not forget that. Rand is shocked when an Aes Sedai brazenly walks into his presence: Cadsuane Melaidhrin of the Green Ajah. ‘His’ Aes Sedai are shocked, since Cadsuane supposedly died years ago, a few years after the Aiel War. The oldest Aes Sedai alive and the strongest before Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve were found, Cadsuane retired long before the Aiel War and only re-emerged in the White Tower’s darkest hour. She turned down the Amyrlin Seat several times and has a better record for capturing men who can channel the One Power than any four Reds put together. Min has a viewing that Cadsuane will not hurt Rand or the Asha’man, but can help them and teach them something important. Rand puts up with Cadsuane’s bluntness for that. Cadsuane then asks Rand, casually, if he has heard any voices in his head talking to him, perhaps telling him things he thought he didn’t know? Rand is shocked and the voice of Lews Therin immediately vanishes from his mind. Cadsuane gathers Kiruna, Bera, Merana and as many of the other rebel Aes Sedai and starts grilling them as to what exactly is going on here.
Rand learns of Herid Fel’s death and passes the information on to a stunned Min. United in grief they decide to comfort one another and spend the night together.
The Shaido Aiel gather in Kinslayer’s Dagger, though much reduced given the catastrophic defeat they suffered at Dumai’s Wells. Sevanna is contacted by one of her western contacts, a man called Caddar and apparently an Aes Sedai named Maisia (really Sammael and Graendal in disguise). He offers her ‘travelling boxes’ to remove herself and the Shaido from Rand’s grasp and she agrees. They are watched by a man with a blizzard of black specks in his eyes.
In Ebou Dar Mat recognises Birgitte from Falme (The Great Hunt) and she persuades him not to reveal her secret. She and Mat talk about their adventures and a horrified Birgitte returns to Nynaeve and Elayne, having learned that after Mat and Juilin rescued them from the Stone of Tear they did not give any thanks (The Dragon Reborn). Elayne and Nynaeve realise she is right and apologise to Mat, also agreeing to include him more in the search for the Bowl of Winds. Elayne and Nynaeve leave but are then accosted by the innkeeper, Setalle Anan, who doesn’t believe they are Aes Sedai. She offers to lead them to those who can help them, since they are obviously runaways and they play along. They uncover the existence of the Kin, as the Wise Women call themselves, led by a group called the Knitting Circle, the strongest of whom is Reanne Corly. Reanne disbelieves they are real Aes Sedai and kicks them out.
Moghedien is summoned to the Pit of Doom and told in no uncertain terms that she is useless and only fit for one thing now. Shaidar Haran, the Myrddraal minion of the Dark One, creates a soultrap and places Moghedien in it. Her soultrap is then passed to a man Moghedien has not seen before, a man with blurring specks over his eyes, the result of too much use of the True Power, the Dark One’s corrupted version of the One Power. He says his name is Moridin, Death in the Old Tongue, and he has special orders for her...
In Amador Morgase weeps for the future. She has been questioned by Rhadam Asunawa, and not gently. She fears for what chaos the Children will unleash in Andor without her there to stop it. With no choice, she officially abdicates the throne in favour of Elayne. At least she has peace for a time, as Asunawa, Valda and the bulk of the Children have travelled north to deal with the Prophet of the Dragon. But then, one night, a storm breaks over the Fortress of the Light and the One Power is unleashed; Morgase’s minuscule ability with the Power allows her to sense it being channelled. Flying beasts land on the fortress roof, allowing men to leap off and throw open the gates. Soon the fortress is forced to surrender and Morgase is taken before the invaders’ leader, the High Lady Suroth, commander of the Seanchan Hailene. The Seanchan have returned and now all of Tarabon and south-western Amadicia lie under their rule. Suroth promises Morgase that she will remain free of the a’dam in return for swearing fealty for herself and Andor to the Empress. As a demonstration of the Seanchan’s power, she reveals that one of her slave-dancers was once Amathera, Panarch of Tarabon (The Shadow Rising). She leaves Morgase to consider the question. Morgase, Tallanvor, Lini, Basel Gill, Lamgwin and Breane receive help from an unexpected source: Sebban Balwer. He reveals his status as Pedron Niall’s spymaster and helps them escape the fortress. With little choice they head north for the Ghealdanian border.
In Cairhien Perrin sees Loial departing with an Asha’man, Karldin. At Rand’s request they are to visit all of the stedding and warn them of Shadowspawn using the Ways. They will also lock as many Waygates they can find in remote locations, and have the Ogier Stumps post guards at ones they cannot seal. Loial secretly hopes to be away when his mother and Elder Haman and Erith catch up with him. Perrin confronts Rand over his exact plans for the captive Aes Sedai. They argue and Perrin storms out, vowing to leave Cairhien immediately. He gathers Faile, Gaul, Bain, Chiad and a large number of Maidens, as well as several Wise Ones, and leave for the north of the city. Here, in a clearing, they rendezvous with several Asha’man led by Jur Grady and the Two Rivers bowmen, plus two of the Aes Sedai loyal to Rand, Seonid and Masuri. Grady opens a gateway to Ghealdan, near Jehannah, where Perrin’s force rendezvouses with a detachment of Cairhienin and Mayener troops led by Berelain. The fight with Rand was a sham to make people think Perrin was gone from the palace for good: they are really here to find the Prophet of the Dragon, Masema, and put a stop to his looting of southern Ghealdan and northern Amadicia, by force if necessary.
In Ebou Dar Mat, Beslan and Birgitte are attacked by brigands but drive them off. Mat is increasingly paranoid about returning to the palace: Queen Tylin has set her sights on him and is not going to take no for an answer. Mat almost has a fit when Beslan tells him he approves of his mother’s choice. Meanwhile, Elayne and Nynaeve are reprimanded by Vandene, Adeleas and Merilille Ceandevin, Sareitha and Careane, the official rebel Aes Sedai envoys to Queen Tylin, for exposing the Kin. They explain the history of the group, how they came to Barashta during the Trolloc Wars before its destruction and helped it rebuild as Ebou Dar. Centuries ago Aes Sedai infiltrated the Kin and have used them to locate runaways and send them back to the Tower. Nynaeve and Elayne are incredulous: they didn’t know the secret and cannot be punished for stumbling across it themselves. They finally assert their authority as the Amyrlin Seat’s envoys and get the others to agree to their plan. They prove they are Aes Sedai to the Kin and assemble both the Kin and the Sea Folk Windfinders in the palace. They will need the strongest channellers of all of them to find and use the Bowl of Winds. Elayne receives a note from Jaichim Carridin in which he claims that Morgase is in Amador; Elayne thinks the joke is in very poor taste. When Nynaeve goes to speak to the Windfinders on their ship, she is spotted by Moghedien and nearly killed with balefire, but is rescued by a newly-arrived Lan. They are married within the hour, much to the surprise of all.
Lan rescues Nynaeve after her boat is destroyed by Moghedien.
Covarla Baldene and eleven fellow sisters reaches Tar Valon under Gawyn’s escort, the first of the Tower Aes Sedai who imprisoned Rand to do so. Elaida is absolutely incredulous at news of their defeat and horrified at the report of almost 200 Asha’man. She has sent fifty Aes Sedai to their deaths or worse. After Covarla leaves Alviarin takes charge, threatening to release news of Elaida’s bungling to the Hall of the Tower if she does not do as she is told. She will increase the Tower Guard immediately and begin sowing discord among the Ajahs. Two Green sisters will be rebuked for unauthorised use of angreal whilst simultaneously a Brown, Grey and Yellow will be held up as models of Aes Sedai discipline; the Green will think the others betrayed them. Elaida is shocked but agrees. After Alviarin leaves Elaida goes to Seaine, a Sitter for the White Ajah and possibly the most ruthlessly logical yet Light-supporting sister still in the White Tower. Elaida hints that the Black Ajah is loose in the Tower and asks Seaine to search them out, even if her search leads all the way to the Keeper of the Chronicles herself. Seaine recruits Pevara of the Red Ajah to help her out. Pevara’s family was murdered by Darkfriends, so Seaine is sure she can be trusted. They being searching for their hidden foe.
In Cairhien Rand finally graces the Sea Folk raker with his presence. Wavemistress Harine din Togara Two Winds acknowledges him as the Coramoor and places the Sea Folk at his disposal, an oath of fealty binding all the way to the Mistress of the Ships. Leaving two of ‘his’ Aes Sedai, Merana and Rafela, to work out the details of the bargain, Rand decides to settle the Cairhienin and Tairen rebels as well before his ta’veren luck runs out. He and Min Travel to near the rebel camp and make contact with Lady Caraline Damodred. Caraline has no personal animosity towards him and in fact would welcome her cousin Elayne on the Sun Throne. She just merely resents Rand’s presence in the kingdom. She agrees to let Rand visit their camp and perhaps talk with Darlin Sisnera of Tear and Toram Riatin as well, posing as her cousin. At the camp Rand is startled to see that the White Lions of Andor - former servants of Rahvin - are here, as well as Cadsuane and several Aes Sedai who travel with her. Toram turns out to be a complete and arrogant fool, though a blademaster, and assumes he will wed Caraline to seal the rift between the two Houses, though she plainly has affections for Darlin. Rand and Toram fight, but are interrupted when a deadly mist erupts, perhaps an extension of some sort of Mashadar, for Padan Fain also appears and wounds Rand with the dagger from Shadar Logoth. Toram Riatin flees, as does Fain and the White Lions, whilst Caraline, Darlin, Min, Cadsuane and the Aes Sedai rush Rand back to the Sun Palace. The Yellow sisters present are unable to Heal him and it seems he might die until an Asha’man, Flinn, Heals him, stunning the Aes Sedai.
Mat, his men, Nynaeve and Elayne go to retrieve the Bowl of Winds from where they have located it (Mat by following a Darkfriend, Elayne by quizzing the Kin), but they are attacked by a shapeshifting man who effortlessly kills Nalesean and wounds Elayne. Mat fights it and it retreats after being burned by his ter’angreal medallion from Rhuidean. Mat identifies the creature as a gholam, one of the most horrifying forms of Shadowspawn ever made. Obviously it has been kept alive in a stasis box since the Breaking and has now been loosed once more. Since the Bowl of Winds - and the Black sister Ispan - is now in their hands, there is no reason to stay. Mat persuades them to flee the city, but then finds Olver missing. He, Thom, Juilin and his remaining men go in search of Olver but Mat hears a commotion at the docks. He arrives in time to see a Seanchan armada pulling into the harbour, with Altaran and Sea Folk ships burning and sinking. He tries to escape, but an eruption of the One Power collapses an inn on top of him...
The Shaido Aiel leave Kinslayer’s Dagger, passing through gateways created by Graendal and Sammael. But Sammael scatters them across the south, from Amadicia and Ghealdan to Tear, to sow confusion among those nations. Sevanna is amused at having captured one of the Tower Aes Sedai, Galina Casban, and sets about tormenting her.
The city of Illian.
Rand awakens, wounded but alive. The first news he receives is not good: High Lord Weiramon has disregarded orders and launched a full-scale assault on the Doirlon hillforts. Sammael is cutting the Tairens and Cairhienin apart, but still they attack. The Aiel hold back, waiting for Rand’s word. Rand is enraged at having to move prematurely but has no choice. He orders the Aiel into battle. He and as many Asha’man as he can take with him open gateways to Illian City itself and unleash the Legion of the Dragon, the army Bashere has fashioned from the men Mazrim Taim has found who want to serve Rand but cannot channel. Bashere and his 9,000 Saldaeans follow. The Asha’man and Rand enter Illian as well and channel, setting off the traps and wards left behind by Sammael. Then Sammael appears and Rand battles him, first in Illian and then through gateways to Shadar Logoth. Sammael gains the upper hand twice, but Rand is saved, first by Moridin, who appears to help him. They use balefire to fend off Mashadar, but their balefire 'streams' touch, creating a jarring sensation for both of them. Moridin then departs. Rand is then helped by Liah, the Aiel Maiden left here during a prior visit (Lord of Chaos). Rand blasts Sammael with balefire and Sammael is forced to leap into the deadly mist of Mashadar to escape. Nothing can live through that. Rand returns to Illian where the city has surrendered to him. The Council of Nine swear fealty to him and proclaim him King of Illian. They give him the Laurel Crown of Illian, which Rand then renames the Crown of Swords.