In this section, The Black Ajah Hunt gets underway, and Mat makes a deal that will get him out of Tar Valon.
The information given about the Black Ajah has a pattern that consists of having no pattern at all. The mystery doesn’t last long before Elayne solves it, but it is one of the first times Robert Jordan has introduced a solvable mystery to the story, and told the reader about it. Later examples will have solutions presented several books after the mystery is introduced.
The main mystery drawing attention is the continuing back and forth debate over who may be Black Ajah, and who is not. Nynaeve’s insistence on caution and mistrust until they are sure wins out. As mentioned in the previous post, even the discovery of a second dead Gray Man in Sheriam’s bed, an obvious warning about the price of failure, did not persuade the majority of readers that Sheriam is Black Ajah. The emotional attachment established by her kind behavior is too strong to overcome even with this added evidence. Elayne says it best: “And Sheriam? It’s impossible.”
Else Grinwell leads the girls to some planted evidence, and remembering the cue picked up from The Great Hunt, any flash of white that quickly vanishes is a banner proclaiming Lanfear’s presence. That must have been her in the oddly twisting corridors above the library in the last section also!
I am surprised at the simple descriptions of using Saidar. They say it is wonderful, it feels like being filled with life, they imagine rosebuds and riverbanks, but where are the lessons to surrender to it? It must only come when they compare notes with Rand. Maybe it wasn’t relevant enough to introduce until it’s time to worry about Rand’s inability to learn in the next book. It is also a critical component of Nynaeve’s weakness, so not mentioning the ‘surrendering’ aspect helps that plotline unfold over a longer period of time.
Elements of horror creep in, with Egwene reflecting that “We could scream our lungs out down here, and no one would hear a whimper.” Lanfear is going to a lot of trouble to send the women on their quest to Tear when she and her cohorts could surround them and do away with them on several occasions. Again, it’s that self-preservation instinct that kicks in. A circle of thirteen that can shield you is just as worrisome to a Forsaken as to anyone else. Time is not of the essence, Lanfear can plot to get them somewhere remote away from the Tower, and finish them off or use them.
Lanfear’s primary objective was to remove the Dreaming ter’angreal from the White Tower. Lanfear knows that Egwene has somehow acquired a dreamring. Keeping the monopoly over the World of Dreams maintains the secrecy of the Shadow’s communications network, removes one means for the Pattern to leave clues for the heroes, prevents movements through tel’aran’rhiod, and blocks the main approach to the Bore. As I proposed in the previous post, the actual Bore could have been drilled in tel’aran’rhiod, given Lanfear’s familiarity with this realm, and would explain why the World of Dreams figures so prominently.
Silvie is a strange character, waiting for Egwene to come, which is plausible for anyone who can navigate tel’aran’rhiod. She seems familiar with the Forsaken and their plots, mocking them openly. She asserts she can change her face, which anyone should be able to do in tel’aran’rhiod. The country bumpkin accent is the only thing that doesn’t fit Lanfear. She’s secretive enough to not want Egwene to see her true face again, but this is the first real sign of acting ability she’s displayed. Talking about Callandor is consistent with luring Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne into the trap that has been laid.
Mat’s chapter once again provides humour after several somber-mooded chapters. Mat’s quest appears inconsequential so far, so there is opportunity to use his chapters as spacers in the more important quest undertaken by the Black Ajah Hunters.
Telling the story chronologically often does not meet the objectives of brevity and staying interesting. In Chapter 25, Egwene thinks back on a number of events in a chronologically jumbled order that makes sense thematically. This is an excellent example of how to condense the story to its essential elements and avoid boring the reader. It takes exactly two pages, and puts the focus on the information, not the series of actions. I list the relevant parts below, indented to show where ideas are nested within each other.
They are reading the list of names
The first time they read the list, they argued
Last night, she had hardly had any sleep, but she had dreamed
She dreamt about Seanchan, and home…
They are still reading names
She dreamt about Rand, who is ta’veren
Months ago, she asked Anaiya about ta’veren in Dreams
She dreamt about other ta’veren, Mat and Perrin
At his healing, Mat spoke the Old Tongue
After breakfast this morning, they had gone to Mat’s room
Nynaeve interrupts the reading of names – end of flashbacks.
There may be other, better ways to write some sections than chronologically.Writing Lessons: