Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Eye of the World - Chapters 35-39

In this section, the heroes score some victories, and things are finally looking up!

The reader can't help but feel relief when the boys finally reach Caemlyn. The Queen's Blessing provides more than just shelter and refuge, the innkeeper and Ogier allow Rand to finally trust someone again. Rand needed some way to bolster himself, as Mat has become a fun-sucking paranoid. The paranoia has helped them get this far by avoiding pursuers through caution. Could they have made it this far without Mat's mistrust? It can't get them much further, as Mat has confined himself to his bed. Mat's bleak outlook helps drive Rand to confide in the Ogier. Mat’s grim readiness to quit serves as a means to show Rand's ability to be patient and caring, and to reaffirm his determination not to give in. I can't help but feel this ability is key to the Last Battle. With the burden of his plight shared, Rand seems to find enough emotional support to gather his strength and maintain hope that Moiraine is still coming, and has the others safe with her.

Adding to the reader's feeling that things are looking up, we learn that Thom may not be dead after all, and are led to believe that Andor's Queen Morgase is a good ruler, and that Caemlyn will provide refuge from the dangers they’ve encountered on the road. The Ogier provides some comic relief, which has been in short supply since Baerlon. We certainly haven’t had so much of it in such a short time.

The rescue of Perrin and Egwene provides more uplifting action. Instead of a grim race to survive a Trolloc attack, we see some deserving comeuppance laid upon on the Whitecloaks. Justice, and a happy reunion make for a pleasant counterpoint to the grimness of the long flight across Andor.  

When we are first told about Queen Morgase, all expectations are that she is good, and may even be a source of aid, even indirectly though her fairness towards her subjects. Later, we learn that her links to Aes Sedai are undermining her rule, and she’s been unfair to Thom, choosing the side of the Aes Sedai over her rumoured lover. Which of these expectations is the reader most likely to believe? Is she a good ruler with some bad influences, or is she an Aes Sedai apologist with some good attributes? I think first impressions will usually stick with the reader, and being presented as a wonderful Queen before revealing her potential entanglements will significantly affect the reader’s feelings towards her.
Similarly, presenting Elaida as a source of discord in the city heavily influences perceptions of her, even if you haven’t read New Spring yet. She could hand Rand the solution to all his problems on a silver platter, and the reader would still have misgivings about her.
Another oblique reference from New Spring, Rand has read the ancient book Essays of Willim of Maneches, which Moiraine has also studied in New Spring (though spelled slightly differently). Moiraine has a formal education, Rand’s is self-made. For a country bumpkin, Rand has made good use of the limited tools at his disposal, and as result, he may be better equipped for some of the tasks ahead of him that others would consider above his station. The idea that merit and ability, not station of birth, should be the determinants in who is empowered to take action or to make decisions will come back frequently.
In Caemlyn, Ba’alzamon is down to his most subtle and weak servants, mere rats, as the last tools at his disposal to find the boys. He must be angry.
The Ways are introduced briefly, as a matter of making Loial’s later reference to them more believable. He’s talked about his knowledge of them twice already. When he hands the group a solution to their later problem, it’ll be easier to accept.
Did Moiraine use the One Power as a weapon when rescuing Egwene and Perrin? Even if Lan was in danger, wouldn’t she have to believe she needed to act to save his life in order to start saturating the area with lightning strikes? Is it even possible for her to believe there’s a situation he can’t handle? Imagine an Aes Sedai who chooses buffoons as warders so she can send them into danger and be free to protect them with the One Power! By the bond, she can even force them into menacing situations and then blast his opponents! I suppose the restriction on using the One Power as a weapon wouldn’t prevent her frying the horses with lightning. If you extended the Oath to every living thing, you’d soon be boxed in. Could she stretch it enough to include Egwene as a sister and be free to toast the Whitecloaks? Can she intend to miss the Whitecloaks with lightning but just be a really bad aim? There is some question over whether she hit a few tents or not.
With the relieving of a lot of the tension, some new threatening ideas are proposed. Ta’veren have fewer choices than most men, but the Pattern allows free will to dictate the course of your life unless it needs to use you otherwise. For the ta’veren, it seems like their choices are largely dictated, and the more ta’veren you are, the less freedom you have. Even though events conspire to lead the Dragon to the Last Battle, in the end he will have to choose to save the world. We’ll get back to this at the end of this novel.
Rand is surprised that Loial ‘believes’ in the Pattern. I had previously discussed in the Big White Book the oddity that the entire population takes reincarnation, the Dark One, and the Pattern as truth, despite a complete lack of evidence and apprehension at the best sources (Ba’alzamon and Aes Sedai) that could support these ideas. At the least, I’d expect competing ideas to have emerged, but the best we get is that you can join the Dark One if you don’t find the Pattern compelling enough. This discussion with Loial seems to imply that there are Pattern atheists who regard the whole thing as superstition.
Despite overcoming some obstacles, we are reminded by the beggar and the False Dragon that there are other obstacles yet to overcome. Is Ba’alzamon linked to the False Dragon? We’re being shown that he’s the most dangerous person yet encountered, he’d make a formidable opponent by book’s end. Rand is going to Tar Valon, and so is Logain. I can almost see how the rest of the book is going to go down: anticipation rising! We’ll wait to see how it gets dashed.
Most surprising to me is that Nynaeve has an ability which is similar to Foretelling, if not Foretelling itself. Foretelling has always been expressed as speaking of future events, and the manner of it differs from woman to woman. You don’t know why you know, and you don’t know how you know, but you know and you give it voice. Nynaeve’s ability is often referred to as Listening to the Wind, because she gives eerily accurate predictions of the future, usually weather related, though we’ll later see her talk of storms that are not weather related. In this instance (end of chapter 37), Nynaeve knows that if they leave riding double, they will be caught and killed. She compares it to Listening to the Wind, and is disturbed by the certainty of her foreknowledge. Aside from speaking aloud, this is exactly what a Foretelling is. I’ll remember to examine her later ‘feelings’ and see if they could be called Foretellings.
Writing Lessons:
First impressions stick. What first impression are your characters giving? Is it the one you want?

No comments:

Post a Comment