Monday, 31 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 36-38

In this section, Perrin, Egwene and Gawyn conclude their greatest battles.
Egwene brings together Aiel, Sea Folk and Aes Sedai, the first of several groups who must find common ground before the Last Battle. She finally reveals her vision for their future cooperation, and by making a few concessions, she successfully gains their approval.   
Aes Sedai shouldn’t make laws that they can’t enforce – or they will appear to be either idiots or tyrants.
The battle follows a format that switches from character to character, which is useful given the tight quarters and different locales. Egwene- Perrin – Gawyn – Egwene –Perrin – Gawyn - Perrin –Egwene - Perrin – Gawyn – Mesaana – Perrin – Egwene – Perrin – Egwene - Perrin – Graendal. Mesaana’s appearance introduces the excitement of an impending trap, and its placement immediately after Gawyn succumbs to his wounds gives that threat an emotional boost.
Perrin and Slayer use Tel’aran’rhiod in a variety of inventive ways during their battle. As discussed previously, I anticipate a significant portion of the Last Battle to take place in Tel’aran’rhiod, so this back and forth parrying using the realm’s properties gives the reader a deeper understanding of what is and isn’t possible.
After speaking with his sister, Gawyn realizes he doesn’t need recognition, he needs to make the world better, which he can do by stepping aside and becoming Egwene’s warder and also be free to love her. He realizes Egwene is trying to set her trap that night, and rushes to her side, conveniently entering Tar Valon just before Perrin cuts off access to it by bringing the dreamspike there. The timing of Gawyn’s return is somewhat based on his realization that Egwene is in danger, and reminds readers that he is impulsive, but close calls like this always risk raising the suspicions of readers that it happened this way because the author needed it to, not because of the characters themselves. Perrin’s appearance in Tar Valon fits this bill even more so.
Other tactics in Tel’aran’rhiod are shown by Egwene and the Aes Sedai. Egwene is trapped by the dreamspike, but so is Mesaana. Mesaana’s authoritative knowledge reveals the dreamspike’s powers. Egwene and Nynaeve develop tactics to search and destroy Black Ajah. Bair has awesome camouflage. When Perrin and Egwene chastise each other, Perrin gives Egwene a clue about force of will when he deflects some balefire.
Perrin thinks he can destroy the dreamspike in lava, though he should be able to simply shroud it in lava as various Forsaken tried to do to Rand on several occasions. Less probable manifestations in Tel’aran’rhiod seem to be more susceptible to being undone, so it may not have worked as well as the nightmare did. The sudden appearance of the nightmare behind Slayer is once again too convenient, though Perrin’s anguish at seeing Hopper killed may have attracted it, or even caused it.
Gawyn enters Egwene’s chambers to find two Bloodknives. The addition of a third figure adds to the intensity and is a simple and effective way to make the situation direr. The author doesn’t have to reveal the entirety of the threat right away, revealing it gradually creates more intensity. Gawyn evens the odds by purposefully disadvantaging himself by extinguishing the lights.
Egwene acts predictably, falls into Mesaana’s trap. An a’dam on her neck, she calms herself, hearing words deep within her, deeper than her terror or fear, words which anchor her identity to the foundation of the White Tower itself. The verbal sparring goes heavily in Egwene’s favour, as every argument Mesaana uses is undermined by Egwene’s tenacious self-knowledge. As Egwene imagines herself as immovable as a mountain, Mesaana’s comparatively insignificant will crumples, shredding the Forsaken’s mind.  AWESOME! I expect Rand’s battle in A Memory of Light to resemble this. An earlier example of using Tel’aran’rhiod to alter someone’s identity made this slightly more understandable to readers, but was not necessary, given the rich and detailed explanation during Egwene and Mesaana’s conflict.
Egwene wakes and bonds Gawyn, a reward for each of them overcoming their deepest personal fears. Perrin wakes and moves his people to safety.
Graendal has one last tool near Perrin, but who?
Writing Lessons:
Beware of convenient events, which can raise the reader’s disbelief.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 33-35

In this section, Perrin, Egwene, and Gawyn begin their greatest battles.
Egwene plans to lure Mesaana into attacking her in Tel’aran’rhiod and springing her own trap.
Perrin practices defeating nightmares, learning the skills he’ll use in his later battle with Slayer.
Gawyn and Elayne talk about Gawyn’s conflicted choices and his jealousy of Rand. He resents that Rand has acquired all the things that have been promised to him since birth, and finds him undeserving of it. Encountering a sul’dam captive in the Palace, Gawyn learns that the assassins stalking the White Tower are Seanchan Bloodknives, a foe which Egwene does not know about and has not prepared for. When he receives a terse letter from Egwene, he cuts off his nose to spite his face, sending her a letter instead of coming as she asks and as he originally intended to. Some people just can’t stand being told what to do.
Trials are often the climax of a story, and do not always succeed in sustaining the reader’s interest. The use of Perrin’s trial as a delaying tactic in a larger plot allows it to be condensed into one chapter, showing how the law fits into the larger world of The Wheel of Time, then getting back to the more familiar elements of the world.  
Perrin realizes the trial is part of a larger trap, but nothing else he says or does augments the excitement and anticipation as much as his blunt plan:
“We ride to this trial,” Perrin said. “And do whatever we can to keep from going to battle with the Whitecloaks. Then tonight, I see if I can stop the thing that is preventing the gateways. We can’t just ride far enough away to escape it; the thing can be moved. I saw it in two places. I’ll have to destroy it somehow.  After that, we escape.”
Perrin’s trial alternates between testimony and Perrin’s memories, giving the reader, but not the judge, both sides of the story. Perrin’s memories serve to remind the reader of these long ago events which give his testimony more weight in the reader’s mind, although it all sounds like it must be crazy talk when he testifies about wolves and the Horn of Valere.
Why don’t Bornhald and Byar just lie if they are under some Compulsion? Byar’s scent and Perrin’s earlier reasoning about the trap implies Graendal has been at Byar’s mind, so why not just compel him to implicate Perrin more directly if the trial turns in Perrin’s favour? The answer must be that Graendal’s subtle methods and desire to avoid detection require less intrusive Compulsion.
Morgase rules that Perrin is guilty of killing the two Children of the Light but lets Galad decide on the sentence. Galad’s decision will dictate the identity of the Children of the Light, and effectively allows them to choose who they will be and what they will represent, defining their own reality.
Egwene and Perrin both go to sleep with clear objectives in mind. Battles are imminent.
Perrin encounters Slayer first. Perrin feels a small tremble in the ground, which somehow foretells that Slayer has fired an arrow at him. There are enough special abilities and well-defined rules to give characters the insight they need to escape dangers. It is irritating when it stems from some peculiar feeling of no discernible origin. Mat’s dice and Nynaeve’s storm sense are ill-explained, yet oft-used so that readers forget how contrived they are. Readers accept them because they offer no usable information to the characters to help them escape danger.
Perrin’s practice pays off, and his affirmation that he is a wolf and this is his place helps his mental projections take on more force, as well as providing inspirational tension-building for the reader. The wolves are able to combat Slayer and draw him away while one of them sneaks away to find the dreamspike.
The dreamspike affects the waking world despite existing only in Tel’aran’rhiod. There has been some criticism about this ter’angreal’s abilities, but I find it provides a vital clue for the Last Battle, showing that this realm of willpower over reality can in fact affect the waking world. Tel’aran’rhiod was pivotal in early books, then vanished so readers would stop thinking about it, before reintroducing it in time for the Last Battle.  It fits the theme presented above with Galad, repeated several times over in recent books, which is that people shape their own reality.
Writing Lessons:
Don’t let your characters have unexplained or contrived ‘funny feelings’ that save their skins.

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 29-32

In this section, the Heroes perfect their abilities.
In the early books of the series, the heroes discovered new and unusual abilities, which they subsequently used and improved upon over the rest of the series, and now they have reached a point where they are perfecting those abilities.
Perrin is being trained to use the Wolf Dream and resist its many pitfalls. Rand can singlehandedly destroy vast armies of Shadowspawn and the sight of him wielding the One Power caused Darkfriends to go mad, which isn’t a specific ability, but seems associated with his recent change of heart. Rand is also visible to Perrin in Tel’aran’rhiod, which should not be possible for a waking being. If this isn’t a vision of the window-type he used long ago, or a Dream prophecy of the kind that Egwene regularly has, then it implies that Rand is somehow in both worlds at once. This is plausible, given that Rand’s ability to change the health of the apple orchard seemed to alter reality in much the same way that one can alter reality in Tel’aran’rhiod. The True Power works in a similar fashion, allowing the user to reshape the Pattern in small ways.
My earlier theory titled The Bore is in Tel’aran’rhiod touched on this, one of its conclusions being that the Last Battle would focus on a battle of wills in Tel’aran’rhiod, with the outcome shaping reality. I further expect Tel’aran’rhiod and the waking world will become more entwined, and the ability to shape reality by thought will be made available to more people, fulfilling some of the metaphorical examples where characters have accepted or resisted their fates, shaping their own realities.   
Rand tired himself out destroying the Shadowspawn army, and tells his followers that future fighting is up to them, he will be facing the Dark One himself. This has a nifty effect on the reader. There is awe that Rand can singlehandedly do what he did, followed by concern that Rand’s battle will be even greater, while the generals will be facing a foe which can overpower them.  The scale and scope of the Last Battle are thus made known, to gleeful anticipation.
The order in which events are presented here is organized to maximize uncertainty, with Berelain and Faile worried about the outcome of Perrin’s trial, with Faile feeling betrayed by Morgase who she considers the highest ranking noble anywhere, with Galad being told that doing what is just and lawful isn’t always right, with weapons rising up to attack their owners, with Tam leaving Perrin’s side, which finally resolves the timeline lag in Perrin’s locale even as it continues to confuse readers, and finally with Elayne and Birgitte feeling queasy over the change which Aludra’s cannons will bring to the world.
All that leads up to Rand on Dragonmount, which Perrin sees as a cloud of evil seeping out of Rand, which he overcomes. The reader already knows what happens next in Rand’s timeline, but the next few chapters give truth to the wolves’ call that the decision has been made, and the Last Battle is coming.
Immediately upon that call to battle, Mat dispenses with the Gholam, then Rand easily slaughters the Shadowspawn hordes in Maradon.
I am missing something about the importance of the cannons. Birgitte’s reaction is overblown, even knowing about the various Dreams and Viewings about their invention. How can cannons change the world so much, when channelers should as easily be able to defend against cannon fire as a streak of lightning or rolling wave of earth and fire? It must simply be that the ability to kill as easily as a channeler will now be in every man’s hands, another metaphor for the ability to assert one’s reality, to resist the place one is given by the existing hierarchy.
Rand’s battle in Maradon is short and to the point, effectively demonstrating that mere Shadowspawn no longer threaten him in any way. The author uses strong visual imagery to portray Rand’s victory, with short summary phrases punctuating the battle, telling the reader what is happening from a more authoritative omniscient narrator’s voice, even though it is Ituralde’s viewpoint. Here’s a closer look:
Rand apologizes, salutes Ituralde’s troops, applauds their efforts, acknowledges their losses, and decides that the Dark One wants to break men’s spirits by forcing them to abandon the city. He refuses to allow that to happen, echoing Ituralde’s earlier recriminations about fleeing the city.
Outside the city, Rand raises a hand towards the Shadowspawn, And they started to die.
This sentence summarizes the entire battle. A few detailed events are described, then,
Light and Power exploded from the Dragon Reborn. He was like an entire army of channelers. Thousands of Shadowspawn died.
The first two sentences aren’t entirely within Ituralde’s ability to know. He could feasibly imagine Light and Power exploding from Rand, or what an army of channelers could do based on his experience with a few channelers. A few detailed events are described, then,
I’ve never seen so many weaves at once. I can’t track them all. He’s a storm. A storm of Light and streams of Power!
Using the Asha’man’s ability to describe what he is seeing is far more convincing than when Ituralde did the same moments earlier. His closing statement veers towards the omniscient narrator again. A few detailed events are described, then,
The man himself seemed to be glowing…Al’Thor seemed brighter than them all.
With the destruction and hyperbole running thick, the word seemed is inappropriate, yet is used twice. At this point, committing to the observation of his radiance is appropriate. This is the sort of weasel words that caused me to stumble over Sanderson’s early Wheel of Time chapters, although I later attributed them to Siuan’s point of view. Using them makes descriptions weaker although they sometimes add a sense of mystery or wonder. For example, throughout this blog, I consciously tried to avoid them, and simply call things as I see them, without hedging my bets with careful wording. A few detailed events are described, then
It was a masterwork. A terrible, destructive, wonderful, masterwork.
Ituralde is no craftsman, no collector of fine art, nothing more than a general and soldier so far as we know. What would he consider a masterwork? A complete rout of enemy forces? Is masterwork the most appropriate word he could have used? Once again, the narrator briefly slides in. A few detailed events are described, then
Al’Thor closed his hand into a fist, and it all ended.
The author likes these dramatic short sentences.
Writing Lessons:
Be conscious of slipping out of your narrative voice, even briefly, for it changes the context and feel of the story.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 26-28

In this section, lengthy setups payoff!
Perrin makes a show of force to gain a second opportunity to talk with Galad and stave off a battle. Both men want to make sure they haven’t misjudged the other, even though they admit to themselves they are unlikely to change their minds. Galad’s reversal is shown in a more present tense than many past scenes on the series, and is tenser for it. Galad considers Perrin’s display of the One Power, argues with his subordinates, then in one short paragraph the scene skips ahead to his meeting with Perrin. Often, to limit the sudden surges ahead in time, Robert Jordan would begin the scene with the characters reflecting on how they came to this moment, with soft flashbacks or explanations. This scene carries more immediacy and tension since readers don’t know whether Perrin’s gambit will work, but it also makes it feel more plot driven than character driven, despite that Galad’s reaction would be the same no matter how the scene is presented.
Galad meets Perrin’s entourage. And though Alliandre is a queen, and Berelain shares a mutual attraction with him, he can’t trust any of them enough to judge Perrin in a trial. Discovering Morgase among Perrin’s people changes that, and he accepts Morgase as judge. At last, the convoluted series of events leading Morgase here is understood. Morgase often served as the best choice of character in her location to show the reader what was happening, given her links to the heroes. All of that helped disguise that the goal was to bring her here, to serve as Perrin’s judge, to allow him to complete his personal journey and discover whether he is exonerated or as guilty as he sometimes feels.
Traveling doesn’t work, which readers and Perrin are beginning to relate to the purple barrier in Tel’aran’rhiod. Hopper knows the barrier is man-made, and finding Slayer pursuing wolves on the other side of it implies he understands its workings well enough to exploit it, if he isn’t the one who created it in the first place. This time, using his recent training, Perrin is able to achieve a victory of sorts by denying Slayer his prize. Perrin escapes to Dragonmount where wolves have begun to gather.
Egwene is writing letters to world leaders, seeking help in dissuading Rand from breaking the seals. When she catches the Hall attempting to circumvent her authority, she allows the Hall to take over the War if she gets to deal with world leaders, as she was just shown doing.  The proposal to give Egwene this sole jurisdiction comes from Lelaine, which makes it instantly suspicious and undesirable to readers, given her past behaviour. There is only one indication that this might be what Egwene wants, which is her thought before intruding on the Hall that they are still reacting to what she did months ago, and don’t see what she’s doing next. Egwene, as Amyrlin, now has sole discretion about how to deal with Rand, who is King of Illian. This is the big payoff to Egwene’s rise to power, the fact that when Rand tries to rally the world to his cause, it will be his childhood friend and love interest who will either stand with him or against him.
Egwene also starts a rumour that she is meeting in Tel’aran’rhiod, hoping to draw Mesaana out.
In Maradon, Ituralde gets blasted from the top of the wall, giving proof to one Ashaman’s detection of male channelers among the Trolloc army. It was rather foolish to allow an Asha’man to make a visible signal from where they were standing. The wall itself collapses, and the city’s defenses have been breached. As with many insurmountable attacks in history, from Malkier to Manetheren, Ituralde will hold the city as long as he can, waiting for help to arrive. His instincts say flee, but he is staying on faith and a promise. Readers wait for the payoff: will Rand repeat mistakes of the past, or arrive in time to save Ituralde? Ituralde himself is fulfilling the promise to help his neighbours that has figured so frequently in the downfall of the nations of men.
Writing Lessons:
Flashbacks or inner thoughts showing very recent events change the tempo and feel of the story. Use them to provide the mood and feelings you want, not to maintain chronology.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 23-25

In this section, the Heroes make a stand.
Elayne takes on the Black Ajah in the cells. Disguised as a Forsaken, her trickery fails and only her combined preparation and some good luck save her from disaster. She finally learns that her overconfidence in Min’s Viewings does not mean that bad things won’t happen to her. She learns of a plot to invade Caemlyn, but so far as readers know, all the known ways for Shadowspawn to enter the city are guarded. The Black seemed convinced the invasion would succeed, and revealed that a particular date for it has been set. Knowing of no other special day coming up, readers may guess that the invasion will be timed to distract Rand.
Any other nation could have been invaded, but Andor has been the center of the civilized world since the beginning of the series. It doesn’t have a queen, it has The Queen. It is the oldest nation, and the one held in highest regard. Its white walls and national colours match Rand’s long-standing red and gold motif. And ever since Elayne vied for the crown, it has symbolized the Light itself, and now she also represents the Light in some instances. The same is true of Egwene as Amyrlin Seat, and several other characters who have achieved some rank.
Egwene reminds Gawyn yet again that he needs to trust her judgment. Gawyn says no one can meet her standards. The situation forces both of them to weigh the importance of their love versus their station in life. Searching for answers to the dilemma, Gawyn returns to Andor.
Lan gets some supplies and even more followers.
A typical description in The Wheel of Time tells the reader as much about the situation as the setting. In this paragraph, the stream, trees, and needles add nothing to the plot or actions, but they add a lot to the context and the feelings imparted upon the reader.
The aged Nazar looked up from his saddlebags, leather hadori holding down his powdery white hair. A small stream gurgled near their camp in the middle of a forest of highland pines. Those pines shouldn’t have borne half so many brown needles.
The hadori representing duty holds down the hair which represents Nazar’s old age and possible infirmities. The sentence as a whole tells readers that duty not only motivates the old baker Nazar to overcome personal obstacles, but is strong enough to hold down any misgivings or frailty.  The gurgling stream sounds enthusiastic, even though it is miniscule compared to the forest of impressive trees, which represent Lan’s other followers. The brown needles they bear tell readers these men not as ready for war as they should be for Malkieri. While these are identifiably trees (or soldiers), they lack proper health, and are not as fit as they should be.
Elayne is the latest character reminding readers that the Last Battle is coming soon. Even blunt hints add to the mounting interest in this event.
Mat talks to Elayne about the Gholam, and then the scene cuts away to another character. This brief introduction of a topic is designed to wrench the reader’s interest where the author dictates. The author then teases the reader by immediately dropping the subject. This is the shortest such instance, but Mat’s earlier introspection about the gholam acted in the same fashion, forcing the reader to wonder how Mat will prevail. The author is playing this like a mystery, waiting until the last possible moment to reveal Mat’s strategy.
Facing a siege, Ituralde decides to stay in Maradon and buy time for Rand to arrive with reinforcements. The mystery in this case is whether Rand will arrive in time. The author is coy with this as well, showing Rand dallying elsewhere while men die in the Borderlands.
Perrin learns his character, not some unwritten rules of Tel’aran’rhiod, is the cause of Hopper’s worry about him being there too strongly. Perrin’s single-mindedness is a danger to himself in a realm where force of will and imagination can shape reality. Beyond the obvious hazard of leaping before he looks, there are hints that battle in Tel’aran’rhiod is about thinking at a higher level than your opponent. Slayer effectively does this to Perrin, changing the rules to move from physical combat to making Perrin combat his environment.
Perrin’s training is the first detailed use of strategy in Tel’aran’rhiod, despite the fact that many important battle shave taken place there. I am once again left with the strong perception that the author wanted to show readers the importance of Tel’aran’rhiod to the story and its themes early on, then distracted attention from it by simply not showing it over several books. Now that the Last Battle is imminent, it is time to not only bring it back, but to explain the ground rules authoritatively so that readers can follow the battles in A Memory of Light.
Rand returns to Bandar Eban, and reveals that through a ta’veren twist, the only bad food in all the stores was in the bags that had been opened when he was in a foul mood. Now that he has found balance, he confidently predicts the rest of the food is edible. As in Tel’aran’rhiod, thought and mood affect the reality of the situation.
Writing Lessons:
Use your descriptions to also tell readers about something else in the story.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 21-22

In this section, the chronology gets confusing.
When Perrin’s scouts report back, readers get their first strong inkling that Perrin’s storyline is chronologically out of synch with the other ones. The reader requires some thought to sort it out. Mat’s letter established the timing of his storyline, and his meeting with Elayne establishes her chronology as well, though oddly she hasn’t commented on Rand’s mood or location sufficiently to say whether events take place before or after the final scene of The Gathering Storm. Egwene’s and Rand’s scenes are obviously placed after The Gathering Storm.
The confusing order of events has been pointed out as one of the major flaws of Towers of Midnight, even though other books had events take place in different locales without strong indications of when they occur relative to each other, primarily because they did not affect each other. Rand’s epiphany was a turning point and could have been a focus of suspense, but in this book the suspense centers on Perrin and Mat and other players, and discovering whether they survived their own perils while Rand was turning inward and ignoring them.
Confusion could have been reduced by establishing earlier in the story some stronger links to other pivotal moments in other plotlines. Alternatively, a two line preface explaining the chronology to readers would have instantly resolved confusion, but could have been seen as a radical departure from the customary format.
Aiel Wise Ones dismiss the idea of an alliance with the Seanchan, despite the fact that Rand has been working towards that very goal. Morgase learns, finally, that the Forsaken Rahvin was behind her behaviour during her final months as queen. Balwer tells Perrin he is content with his current station in life.
Ituralde’s forces panic and run before the Trolloc onslaught. A Saldaean soldier named Yoeli leads a charge to save Ituralde’s men and bring them inside the city despite orders not to. Once again, people work together, trusting to their own judgment over that of a being placed above them.
As a counterpoint, Gawyn can’t simply do what Egwene wishes, he must follow his own judgment on how to behave. This leads him to stop an assassination attempt on her which was in reality a trap designed to apprehend Mesaana. While he stopped the Seanchan Bloodknives, he inadvertently alerted Mesaana to the trap.
In Caemlyn, Mat plans his entry to the Tower of Ghenjei, and seeks out Birgitte for advice. She tells him a harrowing tale of her own demise in a world where time and space made no sense. Mat’s vulnerability is increased, since in addition to having no foxhead medallion to protect him from the gholam, even his luck offers scant hope of surviving the journey into the Tower of Ghenjei. Unrelated, though adding to the sense of impending doom, Elayne is in trouble, providing the first real cliffhanger ending to a chapter.
Mat encounters some street toughs and battles them in a seemingly pointless scene. Let’s look more closely:
Brooding as he walks the streets, the eerie solitude feels like an opportunity for the gholam to strike. He randomly stumbles upon a robbery, and three toughs leap out to mug him. Mat is relieved to see people instead of something worse.
Mat uses his staff instead of his sword, confounding his first attacker. Mat drops him with one swing and he falls into a second cutpurse, whom Mat quickly knocks out. The third man’s hesitation gives Mat the chance to leap towards him, knock him senseless, then toss a knife into the leader’s throat. This is pure action, but has little meaning, which is why it takes place so quickly.
Mat rambles some nonsense at the man he saved from the muggers, then that man recognizes Mat. Mat disarms him with his scarf, then launches two daggers into the man’s eyes, metaphorically becoming unseen by his opponent. Mat finds a paper with his own face on it, a reminder that Darkfriends and the Forsaken are looking for him. Unmentioned is the fact that wild rumours about him are circulating throughout the city, drawing unwanted attention.
Aside from acting as a reminder of the dangers Mat faces, this short battle offers little beyond a display of Mat’s prowess. Any intimidation created by the reminder about the Forsaken is undone by the astonishing quickness he dispatches his foes with. In this instance, physical action is confused with meaningful action, and the casual way in which Mat kills is contrary to other plotlines in which violence is intently avoided.

Writing Lessons:
Action can’t exist for action’s sake, it should be meaningful to the character or the story.

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 18-20

In this section, characters learn they must set aside their differences and work towards common goals.
Perrin begins his training in Tel’aran’rhiod. His interaction with wolves is one of the more interesting facets of his character, and to be portrayed convincingly, the wolves’ language and culture has to be distinct and recognizable. For the most part, their vocabulary is monosyllabic, implying only cursory language skills, which are supplemented with detailed scents and impressions which they can send to each other.
The longest words Hopper uses are: follow, understand, sparrow, cannot, slumber, always, remember, unnatural, honey, memory, remain, again, quickly, ready, especially, strongly, holding , carrying, running, practice, wrongness.  Of these words, most have simple meanings that are easy for readers to attribute to a clever animal’s mind. The ones which don’t are especially, holding, and unnatural. Especially is suitable for a language that can distinguish levels of gradation, not the precise terms generally used by wolves elsewhere. Holding is something men do, and in other contexts the wolves have called the objects Perrin holds his claws, as though they were part of him. Unnatural is applied to Perrin, yet the purplish wall of the dreamspike is termed wrongness, and the difference is lost on the reader. Wrongness is the more wolfish of the two, in keeping with the majority of the examples in other wolf dialogue, but it’s odd that Hopper would call Perrin’s presence unnatural if men have historically walked the Wolf Dream.
Overall, the few words wolves use which are mildly inappropriate can only be identified as such because of the consistency in tone, sentence structure, and vocabulary in the rest of their speech.
Ituralde is defending Maradon from a Trolloc horde, yet they won’t come to his aid. He holds his position, waiting for Rand to send help as was promised.
Faile confronts Berelain about the rumours, and she denies anything inappropriate happened. Wouldn’t she consider it appropriate if Perrin set aside his wife for her? In any case, Faile makes Berelain realize that Faile will challenge her to a death match unless she can find a way to dispel the rumours. Berelain concocts a plan that requires Faile and Berelain to behave as though they were friends, with no animosity between them, one of many examples of characters setting aside differences to work towards common goals.
Mat is badly failing to keep a low profile, thanks to rumours in Caemlyn which he cannot hope to quash. He meets with Elayne, and they discuss the manufacture of his dragons. The negotiation scene is heavy on dialogue. Mat says the opposite of almost every point he had made to himself before the talk began, consistently upending expectations. The negotiation ends with both Mat and Elayne satisfied at the outcome. Each of them will benefit from their arrangement, keeping a portion of the dragons, which are primarily to be used in the Last Battle. Defending against lightning strikes with the One Power is simple, so these cannonballs should be stopped as easily, unless they are deployed against Trollocs.
Mat had to sweeten the offer by giving up his sole protection against the gholam stalking him. Writers can be backed into a corner when their heroes become too powerful, and readers can see through contrived attempts to bring them back to a more normal power level. Mat giving up his medallion works effectively, because the immediate threat to Mat is obvious, and he is trading a short-term risk for a long-term gain, which is an entirely believable course of action. The reader’s emotional reaction to the threat and outrage that Mat has to give up his only defense will likely override any analysis which recognizes this deliberate effort to place Mat in a situation which he can’t easily escape.
Nynaeve takes her test to be confirmed an Aes Sedai, to be given and judged by several of the highest ranking Aes Sedai. Throughout the test, she consistently ignores the precepts placed in her mind to save the inhabitants of the test realms. She later says that without context, she can’t know why the rules have to be followed so strictly, so it is right that she flout them to act as she thinks an Aes Sedai should. There is a fierce debate about whether she should follow strictures or be trusted with forbidden weaves, or the ability to decide what the greater good is. She is raised by a narrow margin, yet by undergoing the test, she has decided she already knows what she must do, and the shawl of an Aes Sedai is a worthwhile goal, but not her ultimate goal. For this realization, she is able to claim the prize she most desires, Lan’s bond. As with the Ebou Dar scene in which they were married, Nynaeve is instantly rewarded for her personal growth.
Writing Lessons:
Portray other cultures with a consistent use of language specific to that culture.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 15-17

In this section, possible future plots are laid, both good and dreadful.
Nynaeve heals madness, a feat considered impossible by three millennia of Aes Sedai, who simply took the easy path of gentling men rather than study them. Once the easy path was institutionalized, deviating from it was not well looked upon. As has been done in earlier books, before Nynaeve does her Healing, it is established that she first Delves a person, telling her what is wrong with them.
Nynaeve healed gentling and stilling by building a bridge across a gap in the afflicted person. She can heal Compulsion by weaving its reverse pattern. She helped cleanse saidin by funneling the immensity of the taint through a filter. She heals madness by meticulously pulling one barb at a time and healing the spot where it penetrated the brain. Could stopping the Dark One and sealing the Bore again be done similarly to any of these, or as a combination of all four?
A bubble of evil once again represents the situation at hand. Everyone in a several block radius of a neighbourhood in Tear has been turned into a fine powder. When Nynaeve and Naeff pile it up, and she adds fire, the spark sets it all off in a fiery flash. A mad Asha’man acts similarly, having his very essence ground away, until something sets him off, and he is caught in irrationally mad behaviour, destroying everything around him.
Nynaeve feels insignificant in the face of such monumental forces of evil, but she realizes it is important to feel the little victories, for futility is what the Dark One wants her to feel. This is in line with Rand’s realization that it is not the big epic things that matter most, it is the immediate, local things that matter in the long run, that when repeated in the thousands across the land, create the fabric that the Dark One seeks to unravel.
Nynaeve is invited to Shayol Ghul, to accompany Rand at the Last Battle. Rand had decided this prior to seeing Nynaeve and learning of her feat, yet it is presented as a natural consequence of Nynaeve’s ongoing dedication to her community. Rand hands out compliments and takes criticism gracefully. He has taken on a role similar to his father, and is seen as such by Nynaeve, further cementing the fact that he has fully matured and is ready for the Last Battle.
Egwene learns the Oath Rod can be beaten, and rather easily at that. The weave allowing sounds to be heard differently is simply a means of doing what most Aes Sedai do anyway, which is to twist the truth. Egwene has the Aes Sedai researching Mesaana’s character traits, looking for clues to understand her and eventually defeat her. Egwene’s intense personal focus on Mesaana builds up interest in their eventual confrontation. That focus stems from the comparison of Mesaana being the Shadow’s Amyrlin, a direct and personal comparison to Egwene. The realization that she is the target, and the decision to use herself as bait adds to the personal nature of their conflict. Without these elements, there would be nothing but plot driving this storyline forward.
Perrin and Faile celebrate an anniversary, coming mostly clean with secrets they held back previously. As cathartic as it is talking about captivity and running with wolves, they both avoid the topic of infidelity. Perrin guesses why Faile won’t talk about Rolan, but now ascribes it to fondness, nothing more. Faile won’t let Perrin talk about Berelain, reserving the duty of dealing with her and the rumours for herself. On the surface, no cheating took place for either of them, but I still have nagging doubts that this is a case of willingly unreliable narrators, convincing themselves and each other of the truth they want to believe.
Perrin has a weakness: Faile, and he is told that he must accept that weakness, since it is a part of him that he cannot change, and makes him who he is.
Perrin contrasts his unforgiving attitude towards Rolan with the Whitecloaks’ attitude towards him. Empathy is something readers should identify with, since it is hoped they feel empathy towards the main characters. Showing empathetic characters who can see from someone else’s point of view makes them likeable, while unempathetic characters may feel readers with dislike, disgust, horror, or dread.
Mat’s followers are parting from his company, and will almost certainly be seen with Egwene next. I just noticed Olver shares a name with the author. Did he include a young version of himself in the story?
Elayne continues to believe Min’s Viewing makes her safe, then considers doing the very thing Rand warned Nynaeve not to: approach the Black Tower. No matter which order these two elements are presented in, the end result is dread.
Writing Lessons:
Show empathy to make characters likeable, and do not show it to make readers uncertain or negative towards the characters.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 10-14

In this section, the past catches up to the heroes.
Perrin learns the taint has been cleansed from saidin. He could have learned this at any time over the last few weeks, but he learns it now, because it reflects his current situation. Cleansing the taint is a metaphor for wiping the slate clean, casting off past sins. It is relevant because Perrin’s sin of killing other men is coming back to haunt him.
Neald is making circles with Wise Ones, and he is the first to explain that he can use saidar to strengthen his weaves of saidin. He feels more complete, as he feels saidar, and can increase the Power and size of his weaves. The sensations are reflected back to the women, who have disparate feelings about what they sense.
Perrin opts to keep Grady away from the Black Tower for rational and practical reasons, but it reminds readers that the Black Tower hasn’t been seen in a long time, since Pevara arrived and an ominous revelation had just taken place.
Galad decides to fight Perrin now so he won’t have to face him at the Last Battle, mirroring Rand’s decision to break the seals.
Elayne’s council expresses vastly different advice regarding her political prisoners. Birgitte is all practicality and hardness, while Dyelin thinks this is the moment when releasing the captives will earn Elayne the most credit. Birgitte is emotion, Dyelin is reason. Elayne decides this is an opportune time to claim Cairhien.
Mat’s letter to Elayne, with its spelling mistakes, is funny. It once again feels out of place with what has come before due to modern touches like the postscripts, but succeeds because it defies expectations. Mat never writes, foiling one expectation and providing a surprise. Postscripts don’t belong in this world, so Mat uses three of them. Mat is a trickster and it is always correct to write him defying expectations. Thom is laffing so hard at me that I want to be done.
Min gives only readers the only insight into Rand’s head since he descended from Dragonmount. Rand’s earlier behaviour with Egwene and Almen Bunt revealed a changed man, but it is Min’s insight that gives part of the reason.
Alanna vanished, leaving no clue where she is going. The likeliest explanation involves no abduction, simply a decision to leave and accomplish something. Rand could have contacted her and set her a task, weaving a Gateway that she could use without others detecting it. The change in Rand’s behaviour is the only impetus she likely received to make her do anything at all.
Cadsuane declares that Alanna, and by extension everyone, is a tool. This is an odd statement for her to make publicly, but is nonetheless consistent with her focus on Rand. Rand asks her to find someone who is missing in the Caralain Grass, someone who has been abducted by well-meaning allies in the White Tower. Assuming she succeeds, Cadsuane can then act as a bridge, or mediator between Rand and Egwene.  
Rand has insight into the Last Battle, how it will be fought, what he needs, and what must be done. He is decisive, apologetic, self-assured.  He knows secrets and has new abilities, such as his ability to pick Darkfriends out of a line-up. Somehow he picked up the fact that Mattin Stepaneos is being held in the White Tower, though that could have been learned through a ta’veren effect when he was in Tar Valon. Rand makes amends with the Aiel, Cadsuane, Nynaeve, Tam, everyone he let down previously. If he realized on Dragonmount that every one wants a second chance, he is getting every second chance possible.
“I’m not a weapon. I never have been,” he says. Cadsuane says that “Of all people, you cannot afford to let the pressure of life drive you.” Rand has understood some of what Cadsuane had to teach, but it is unclear whether this is the entirety of it, since the Asha’man haven’t yet learned their part.
Finally, Rand is forgiven by his father, and reclaims his role as a son. At the same time, Tam’s acceptance allows Rand to be a man, an equal, to his father. Nynaeve said that he needed to grow up, but feared the man he became. That judgment has been reversed.
Egwene meets with the Wise Ones, seeking their help with Rand. The two sides are polarizing quickly, setting up the final confrontation long awaited, when the heroes must confront, then accept those who differ from them in fundamental ways.
Egwene sees a strange reflection in Tel’aran’rhiod, a window that doesn’t exist in the real world. Verin’s words are repeated, and her newfound credibility combined with the fact that this is being repeated for the reader’s benefit strikingly points to its importance:  There is a third constant besides the Creator and the Dark One. There is a world that lies within each of these others, inside all of them at the same time. Or perhaps surrounding them Writers in the Age of Legends called it Tel’aran’rhiod.
Egwene tricks Nynaeve by appealing for advice from her past as a Wisdom, then reversing their roles in the next example she presents. It’s startlingly effective and convincing as a technique to make an inflexible character bend. Nynaeve could hold out for months otherwise.
Writing Lessons:
Repetition infers importance. Use repetition to lead or mislead readers.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 6-9

In this section, Mat, Lan, and Perrin are moved in directions they did not foresee.
Morgase serves tea, her perspective that of an outsider looking in. When Perrin tries to marry her off to Tallanvor, she protests, telling him he has no right to decide what is right for other people. Since she is another of the elder mentor characters, a former queen no less, her philosophy is meant to be correct thematically, and give Perrin yet another clue about how to win his conflicts.
Morgase has links with both Perrin and Galad, which is relevant enough to be of significance later, so this is the first opportunity to re-establish who and what she is, so that any role she plays in the later conflict between them will not confuse or surprise readers.
Lan gets three more followers, and like Perrin learns the futility of trying to tell people what to do. The humourous circumstances surrounding his grim march to the Blight feel natural, since Lan’s intense behaviour can’t help but be ridiculous when it isn’t venerated.
Perrin and Galad scenes are shuffled together in a single chapter, leading towards their confrontation. Cutting down on all but the dialogue was used foremost as a means of giving more intensity to the imminent collision between the two forces, but the reduced descriptive text in the Galad scenes has an additional result:
Galad is convinced of Perrin’s evil by Byar. At first, some description sets the location inside Galad’s tent, and shows Galad’s perspective on things. Once the author moves into dialogue, the descriptive text is trimmed down, yet there are two obviously distinct people conversing. The dialogue continues in the next page-long section with only four pieces of description allowing the reader to distinguish whose perspective it is: Byar said, lowering his voice and Galad said flatly, recalling a particularly embarrassing lesson he’d once been given and A coincidence, or something more? and Byar was obviously thinking along the same lines. In the next section, there are only two pieces of text to say whose perspective it is: Byar leaned in close, sunken eyes alight with zeal and Byar smiled, looking eager. From then on, there is just ‘Galad said’ and ‘Byar said’, if that. All of the inner thought has been moved into the dialogue.
The effect is to make Byar’s and Galad’s thoughts more similar, less distinguishable, such that Galad becomes an extension of Byar’s will, meshing his follower’s thoughts with his own and arriving at a conclusion that is a fusion of the two, without confirming that we are still following Galad’s perspective: “We have no choice. The Light has delivered him into our hands.”
To a lesser extent, the same technique is used between Perrin and Gaul in the scenes shuffled between Galad’s, though Perrin’s voice is more obvious.
Mat has received a letter from Verin, and is held hostage by his promise to do what it says if he opens it. The letter is used as motivation, providing incentive to keep Mat away from his stated goal of saving Moiraine for a time.  
The gholam has returned, kills two of Mat’s oldest followers, and threatens his closest allies. The threat is used as motivation, providing more incentive to keep Mat away from his stated goal of saving Moiraine for a time.  
Teslyn promises future help to Mat. Her role as a former damane will give her a unique voice in the White Tower, and common ground with Egwene.
Writing Lessons:
To show a character being convinced of something, associate them with other elements of the person convincing them.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 3-5

In this section, the penultimate confrontation is set up
Rand visits the White Tower, and sets a date for the beginning of the Last Battle. Establishing a firm time and date for an important action to be carried out has some benefits and drawbacks. It solidifies readers’ expectations more forcefully than simply laying out the order of future events. The obvious way to introduce tension is to throw off the date with some external pressure. In this case, Egwene’s reservations act as that pressure. By cementing her opposition to breaking the seals, there is an expectation that her opposition is the main pressure, and other possible ways of derailing the meeting between her and Rand in a month will not take place. Possible examples could have been Rand failing to show up, or the seals going missing, or some distraction such as the Black Tower throwing the schedule off. By making clear Egwene’s opposition to Rand’s plan, readers are more likely to believe that the plan will be carried out exactly as described. There’s some evidence this technique was successful based on the focus on the meeting at Merrilor in the numerous theories bounced around Theoryland in the last year.
From here on, Rand’s perspectives stop showing up, and we only see other characters’ perspective of Rand, which effectively keeps the details of his plan mysterious.  
Egwene’s dreams are prophetic, and the one touching on the book’s title, Towers of Midnight, is obviously describing the Forsaken. Thirteen towers stand, several crumble, one begins to fall, then rises higher than the others, the Nae’blis. In the end, six stand, representing Demandred, Graendal, Moridin, Cyndane, Moghedien, and Mesaana.
The Pattern is being reworked even further, with entire villages now being cut from their location and pasted elsewhere. Is this symbolic of Rand’s personalities and past lives being integrated into one? It will certainly pose some difficulties for battle and travel later, when existing maps are no longer useful and there is no certainty about the path forward.
Perrin and Galad continue to share chapters, and a link between the plotlines is established when Byar tells Galad about Perrin’s past actions involving the Children of the Light. Byar’s biased view of Perrin acts as an effective dread inducing element, which the reader hopes will be overcome by Galad’s unswerving desire to do the right thing. Galad is a mirror image to Mordeth, each uncaring of the cost to others when they take actions to prevent their own moral discomfort.
Perrin agrees to learn how to navigate the wolf dream properly. His motivations are nebulous, resting on his discomfort with Faile since her rescue, his need to learn the tools at his disposal, his avoidance of the darker sides of his personality. These fuzzy rationales are easily overlooked by readers because of relief that they will finally learn more about this interesting ability. Let’s just get on with the wolfing already!
Egwene has become too powerful, and has a position where none question her authority, so she has a new weakness introduced in the form of her love for Gawyn. Actions she takes to pursue romance can undermine her authority, and actions to maintain her authority could cost her a romantic relationship. Take away Gawyn, and Egwene becomes a purely political entity. Using Gawyn to keep Egwene rooted in normal relationships is a good concept, particularly as it centers on them feeling out how to interact with each other given the imbalance in their rank.
Graendal reads the Dark Prophecies, and is amazed, as are readers. There is an entire book of Foretellings which only the villains have access to. Moridin also has a collection of ter’angreal which he has disregards for the most part since he has the True Power as a crutch. I could never help imagining a storyline in A Memory of Light where the heroes raid Moridin’s base. A direct confrontation between a handful of heroes and a handful of Forsaken is very appealing.
A ter’angreal, the dreamspike, is introduced. Graendal is given one, and another is already in use. Out of all the items Moridin has collected, and Graendal’s elation at being loaned this one, readers ought to be salivating at the prospect of finding out what it does. The advertised confrontation between Perrin and Graendal appears dire, since she has the element of surprise and he cannot muster enough channelers to confront her directly. Good thing she is so cautious.
Writing Lessons:
Make an event more anticipated by creating expectations of the consequences to that event.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Prologue to Chapter 2

In this section, old and new characters give meaning and emotion to the story.
The prologue has three sections which are truly prologue material, involving Graendal, Fain, and some new Kandori characters. The other three sections involve main characters who figure prominently throughout this book. Lan gains his first follower, while Perrin and Galad share the first of several chapters in which they are inexorably drawn into conflict, though for now they are simply moving towards each other, though even that is not yet clear. Placing their perspectives in the same chapter, or in back-to-back chapters, creates the feeling that their stories are intertwined early on, which will allow later chapters to increase the tension as they draw ever closer to opposing each other.
Graendal survives Rand’s balefire attack by a narrow margin. One flaw I had identified in the balefiring of her palace was that none of the food her servants prepared for the last several hours or days ever made it to her plate, since the servants were balefired too. For all intents and purposes, Graendal was sitting in a forest for some time, imagining that she was in a castle surrounded by her pets. It may be that the balefire simply didn’t undo events very far back.
But once again, balefire has been used, and readers have yet another opportunity to have its properties explained, heavily implying that it will feature in the Last Battle, either as a tool of Demandred’s as suggested when the Dark One asked if he would unleash balefire, or in the hands of the heroes. Balefire’s most important property, revealed long ago, and only recently discovered by Rand, is that the Dark One cannot step outside of time any more than the heroes can. So what can Rand balefire to make use of this property in defeating the Dark One? The obvious answer is that the seals can be balefired. The Dark One’s prison can be broken open using balefire without him knowing that he was free to leave it. Rand can prepare his new seals, and while he balefires the seals, his allies can place the new ones at the instant he does so, cutting off any opportunity for the Dark One to take advantage of the gaping hole in his prison.
Fain enters the Blight, and readers are reminded that he has a role to play. His powers have increased immensely. He represents both the Shadow and intense opposition to the Shadow. He also represents a side of the heroes that they have turned away from, a dedication to a cause at all costs. His final role in A Memory of Light should play off of the heroes’ dedication to their causes, such as Perrin’s protectiveness of Faile, Rand’s desire to win, or Egwene’s pride. There have been two examples of how his evil can counteract the Dark One’s evil, with Rand’s wound and the cleansing of saidin. Fain is a trickster, so the third and final example where he counteracts the Dark One himself is not a foregone outcome.
Rand has had an epiphany of sorts, and where his immediate surroundings used to have all manner of bad things happen, such as spoiling of food or fatal accidents, now his presence makes things grow and provide sustenance. This change reinforces the idea that the spreading bubbles of evil and bad ta’veren effects were a result of his mental state, following the prophetic words that the Dragon is one with the land.  
It stands out as odd when new characters are introduced so late in a story, or when peripheral characters not seen since the first book make a return to the story. In Almen Bunt’s case, Rand is able to return a favour given long ago, and this is a second chance for him to treat people correctly, since he realized everyone should have a second chance during his epiphany atop Dragonmount.
Let’s take a quick look at how a scene of disposable characters, meant to introduce the dire forces massing against the heroes, is presented:
Malenarin expresses frustration, and has never accustomed himself to having the Blight nearby, yet he exhibits a casual ability to overcome difficulty by taking matters into his own hands, all presented with a short scene in which he latches a window to stop a hot breeze.
More detail of the sort of difficulty he must overcome is given in the form of the talents of his recruits, a memento of battles past, and the necessity to trick men into joining the ranks.
Malenarin’s son Keemlin is turning fourteen, and will be presented an heirloom sword. As he surveys the fortress, providing more details on the difficulties its men may face, the author forges a link between Keemlin, the fortress, and the difficulties, by talking about duty and burden, and how Malenarin’s philosophy encompasses them. In only two pages, the reader gains a strong understanding of Malenarin’s motivation, setting, and character.
A problem is introduced, Jargen says that another tower has signaled trouble. The author brings attention to Jargen joining the ranks of soldiers on his fourteenth birthday, further establishing the idea that Keemlin will do the same. Malenarin quickly decides to treat the event as though it represents the most serious possibility. Riders are to be sent south in case the flashes prove ineffective, and Keemlin thankfully happens to be on the list.
Malenarin’s worst fears are realized when the other tower southward does not respond. The hopes of the kingdom now ride with Keemlin. Malenarin orders the fortress made ready for a siege, and is dismayed to find Keemlin before him!
Keemlin explains that he let another younger rider take his place, out of concern for a friend’s family, and for the slight advantage that a few less pounds may have on the horse’s endurance and speed. Malenarin realizes that his son needn’t wait until his birthday to be raised to manhood. He has acted selflessly, and responsibly, choosing the least worst of his available options, even though it means his own death. He is thus able to stand with his fellow soldiers, having adopted behaviour that fits solidly within the philosophy presented earlier.
These few pages introduce new characters whose ideals are explained, challenged and met. The author accomplishes this rapidly by presenting several concepts and then linking them under a common idea, so that it stands in for all the subordinate concepts.
Writing Lessons:
Link ideas under a larger common idea to efficiently represent them all at once.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Gathering Storm - Summary

The Gathering Storm is the most intense book of The Wheel of Time so far, profiling the meteoric rise of Egwene and the chronicle of Rand’s disastrous shunning of emotion and love. As one rises, the other falls. Both live through memorable scenes of triumph even as they follow opposing trajectories.
Rand is subjected to the most personal and traumatic of tortures. He overcomes them by turning his back on the Light and his friends, coming to see everyone as a thing to be used to advance his quest, failing to see them as people at all. In this distant emotional state, he has the power to do anything, but lacks the imperative to do anything at all. He follows the prophecies as though it were a script, playing his part with no care for how he interacts with the other players.
Egwene’s subtle resistance to Elaida’s physical and personal humiliation of her wins allies of ever-increasing rank. Novices, Aes Sedai, and Sitters all come to respect her, culminating in Verin entrusting her with her life’s work. The support she has built allows her to take on power during a Seanchan raid in which she singlehandedly hands the raiders a defeat. Egwene has demonstrated she embodies the best traits of all Ajahs, and reunites the factions of the White Tower under her rule.  
These two heroes stand at counterpoint to each other, Egwene demonstrating how to gain followers, and Rand demonstrating how to lose them. Egwene unites feuding factions while Rand can’t reach simple temporary agreement with the Seanchan nipping at him. Many dueling forces stand between Rand and victory: the Seanchan against the mainland nations, the male channelers against female channelers, Lews Therin against his own soul, Moridin’s nihilistic philosophy against the hopes espoused by Cadsuane and Nynaeve. All of these opposing forces must be reconciled, demanding sacrifice in the form of discomfort, concession, and acceptance.
Since the book is co-authored by Brandon Sanderson, the question of who wrote individual scenes in The Gathering Storm is inevitable. In the early part of the book, the difference in writing style from Robert Jordan’s earlier work is jarring, yet before long, the story takes hold of the reader, and the fate of Rand, Egwene, Verin, and other favourite characters overrides any apparent dissonance. By the time Rand finds himself in Semirhage’s clutches, the pace of the story carries the reader forward.
If Brandon has committed any sin in his handling of the story, it is one he could never overcome: he is not Robert Jordan.
Robert Jordan was facing his own mortality as he wrote this book, and must have found himself uncomfortably in the shoes of several of his characters. In the legend of Manetheren, in Seanchan imperial culture, in the Malkieri vows, in the historical truth shown in the glass columns of Rhuidean, there have been trans-generational commitments; tasks so vast, so important, that each generation must pick up the duty from their forefathers, and carry the burden onward. Best summarized in this passage from The Shadow Rising:
“I mean to save something here, and that something is you.”
“As you say,” he said reluctantly. “We will care for what you have given into our charge until you want them again.”
“Of course. The things we gave you.” She smiled at him and loosened her grip, smoothing his hair once more before folding her hands.
Like Verin in this book, Robert Jordan entrusted his work to loved ones who understood and could finish what he set out to accomplish. The words of the story and the order they appear in are merely things, unimportant compared to the messages they contain, the resolution of the characters’ quests, or the battle against the Shadow which permeates the story. Fighting the Shadow is more than one man can do alone. Rand tried that in this very story, and failed. Working together, the keepers of Robert Jordan’s legacy forged ahead with the story as he wished, knowing the criticisms that would be leveled, cognizant of the difficulties in living up to the level of his work, understanding that hesitation might cost the opportunity to ever complete it.
“So many decisions you must make, for one so young.” She yawned, then grimaced as a pain stabbed her.
Egwene rose, walking to Verin’s side. “Thank you, Verin. Thank you for choosing me to carry this burden.”
My thanks also.
Writing Lessons:
You are a writer. Never quit, never give up.