In this section, the threat to the characters is revealed in the form of Trollocs. The jarring suddenness of the attack, happening as the heroes prepare a quiet domestic dinner also tells us about the enemy’s opportunistic and vicious mindset. The attack on the farmhouse gives readers an idea of a victim’s expected treatment at the hands of the enemy. The Trollocs demonstrate a brutal desire to end human life, and wanton destruction of anything that might help humans sustain it. What they can’t break or burn, they render unusable, smearing it with their own filth if that is all they have at hand. Burning a village is still a bit of an abstraction, but Rand discovering how quickly and efficiently the Trollocs have made a ruin of the farmhouse is a more potent way to make the reader understand what the enemy does, and evoke an emotional response.
It’s easy to lose track of this when later dealings with Forsaken give more human motivations to the Dark One. The Trollocs and Myrddraal should be more representative of the Dark One’s objective: the end of all life.
The introduction of the supposedly mythical Trollocs allows the characters to consider the idea of other mythical beings actually existing, such as Aiel, Green Man, and Ogier. Introducing a new concept can be tricky, you don’t want to bore readers with heavy exposition, but you need them to be familiar enough with it when it finally comes up later in the story. Contrasting the future idea with the current idea allows not only the opportunity to give the desired information, but to present it in a manner that is logical to the characters, and therefore more credible to the reader.
Two threats to Rand’s identity are revealed. Tam may not be his father, and the Trollocs may be seeking him out personally. Imagine what the story would feel like without either of these: just like our teenage D&D campaigns: Walk-fight-walk-fight-walk-fight.
Can you find the paragraph that is not told from Rand’s point of view? His back is turned, so it’s obviously not him seeing the expressions and gestures.
An important theme is brought front and center: Trust. The Two Rivers folk have a strong and intimate fellowship with each other, even with their least likeable neighbours, the Coplins. Strangers don’t benefit from the same trust, and none less than Moiraine, the Aes Sedai in their midst. Rand, Thom, and Bran can’t say whether she can be trusted, but Rand decides trusting in her is better than letting his father die. This may be the last time he can make such a decision without external forces trying to affect his judgment of who he can trust. Lack of communication is often pointed out as a common theme running through the books, but the reason for that lack is first and foremost a lack of trust between the characters. I expect A Memory of Light to delve into how humanity must trust in itself, and each other, if they are to overcome the Dark One. In Haral Luhhan’s words: “the Light will take care of us all. And if the Light doesn’t, well, we’ll just take care of ourselves. Remember, we’re Two Rivers folk.” The challenge is getting the whole world to act like Two Rivers folk!
Even when the story is epic, look for ways to make it personal to your characters, and more importantly, your readers.