Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Dragon Reborn - Chapters 44-48

In this section, Perrin evades great danger, Mat sets out to rescue the Black Ajah hunters, and an argument has Egwene and Nynaeve at loggerheads.
Perrin mentions that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, tying Faile to his side even tighter. Were it not for Moiraine’s urgent need to flee and save their own skins, Nieda and Faile might have been disposed of to keep that secret. Darkhounds cannot be outrun, so Moiraine uses balefire to undo them before their abilities are revealed. It is important that Moiraine use balefire now, so that its later use won’t seem contrived. She says balefire hasn’t been used in two thousand years, which is a millennium after the voluntary cease-balefire called in the War of Power. Was it last used against the Shadowspawn that overran Manetheren?
Moiraine also determined that the Gray Men trying to kill Perrin were not sent by Sammael, so responsibility falls back to Be’lal or Ba’alzamon. Ba’alzamon is the one who knows who all Rand’s allies are and wants to distance them from his side. Mat is just as much of a problem, so the assassins pursuing him are determined, if not up to the challenge.
Mat finds all the same cues as the others regarding the presence of a Forsaken, but lacks the means to figure it out. He makes up for it by luckily stumbling upon a plot to kill Elayne, rather than let her fall into Be’lal’s hands. Egwene’s dreams also tell that the Forsaken are all focused on their own plots, some pushing Rand, some trying to stop him, some consolidating power. Gaebril is one of those ignoring Rand for now, but his path to power is made easier with Elayne’s death, and complicated if she is held by another Forsaken. Somehow, Mat’s acting ability never works on his friends, yet Gaebril swallows Mat’s tale, publicly. Just to be safe, he would have put Mat to the question, but Morgase’s intervention delays it long enough for Mat to make a trademark run for the hills before anyone realizes he’s gone.
In Egwene’s dream, Mat is dicing with the Dark One, not simply Ba’alzamon, but the wager he makes is with Gaebril, the alias adopted by Rahvin. The dream must therefore be about Mat’s evasion of the assassins, implying they were sent by Ba’alzamon, or refer to a larger scale game he is unwittingly playing against Ba’alzamon.
Morgase is supposed to be one of the greatest players of the Game of Houses, yet now, and later, the Compulsion she has suffered at Rahvin’s hands will quash her confidence or her talent, or both.
Most of the interactions between characters so far in the series have centered on themes of trust. Who can be trusted, and how much. There have been frequent mentor relationships between the experienced characters and the newlings. Now Egwene’s building frustration with Nynaeve’s dominance is driving a wedge between the Black Ajah hunters. To complete her story arc, she will have to escape from under Nynaeve’s guidance and set her own path.
Elayne, caught in the middle, has been intelligent enough to solve several puzzles, compassionate towards both her friends, favored the best suggestions put forth by either of the girls, and kept her composure through it all since the hunt began. Egwene’s snippiness finally irritates her enough that she slaps Egwene across the face. Her reasonable explanation, since she always has one, is that Egwene’s selfish actions may expose them to unwanted risks.
The story can be developed by character as well as by plot. Each of the three women has distinctive traits that must be adhered to. Nynaeve is courageous, quick to anger, and a bully. She has needed to be completely independent her entire life. Elayne has had the advantages of an incredibly full education, is accustomed to having her decisions heeded, and has never had to strive for anything but her mother’s happiness. Egwene has had a warm upbringing, but is tired of living in the shadow of others, which is the source of her great determination. By finding the natural ways in which these traits are incompatible, story possibilities are opened up. The Wheel of Time’s attention to this sort of interaction, particularly with regard to its female characters, helped it stand out from other fantasy novels, which have the sad reputation of being very boy-oriented.
Writing lessons:
 It’s not all plot! Look for ways to play each character’s traits off each other.

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