Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Dragon Reborn - Chapters 5-9

In this section, Rand sets out on his own, while Perrin learns more about being a Wolfbrother.
Both Perrin and Rand miss the cues that would have let them alert the camp before Trollocs set upon them. Their youth and inexperience, particularly Rand’s with relation to the One Power, make them vulnerable. By setting off on his own, Rand increases the chances that his shortcomings will play against him, but he is able to instinctively weave balefire despite being untrained and unable to even touch the source every time he tries. Some will argue that he is pulling this lost knowledge from his past lives, I think the Eye of the World could have had some programmed knowledge that has been placed in Rand’s mind. Without the foreknowledge of Lews Therin’s role, it could also be explained as another bit of the Pattern providing what Rand the ta’veren needs when he needs it.
Perrin’s kinship with the wolves saves the group, as their number add to the opposition the Trollocs face, and help Perrin shrug off the fear-gaze of the Myrddraal as he shouts the thrilling battle cry ‘Neverborn!’  Trollocs linked to the Myrddraal die. There must be some significant advantage to linking them like this which outweighs their instant death if the Myrddraal falls. I suspect it has to do with orderly marching and stealth which runs contrary to the Trollocs’ bestial nature.
Perhaps it was the influence of meeting the Tuatha’an early in the adventure that made Perrin even more averse to hurting people than he already was. In every Perrin scene involving violence he feels uncomfortable, even repulsed, by it. Like Rand, he reluctantly does what his perceived duty demands of him. Just before this battle Ba’alzamon encourages him to give up the axe, to be a blacksmith, to symbolically stop fighting the Shadow and choose a different destiny. The tactic is not much different than the one used to try turn Rand, it is designed to make Perrin doubt the value of his actions. It also implies that Perrin, like Rand, has the power to make that choice, and that the choice itself is important. The selection of a simple object like the axe to use as a symbol works particularly well. Every time Perrin uses the axe, there is an opportunity to examine his inner turmoil or refer to it. The use to which the axe is put allows it to be associated with more powerful mythical forces, like destruction and death, forces which may be beyond Perrin’s ability to escape and which make Ba’alzamon’s offer more enticing.
Masema may be going crazy, but how would you be able to tell? A few words from Perrin set his path for future conflict. The Pattern will help him become the Prophet, supposedly to aid Rand, but control of that thread in the Pattern will be taken by the Shadow. The Pattern weaves threads in ways to get Rand to win the Last Battle, while the forces of evil, touched by the Dark One, can mess those threads up so that the Pattern must find alternate means of accomplishing the same goal.
Min’s role is to be the Pattern’s ultimate failsafe. If the Pattern cannot move Rand or others to where they must be, Min’s visions can provide guidance on what must be done. In her viewings she can see the current plan, and new viewings can suddenly appear if the Pattern needs to make adjustments on the fly. Min acts as a translator between Rand and the Pattern. Of all Rand’s allies, she is the most valuable since she can help him learn how to compensate for the loss of any other. Do the other two women in Rand’s three have equally decipherable roles?
Snippets of the Prophecies of the Dragon are revealed, providing anticipation that can be built across several books, or the whole series. Moiraine states that taking Callandor is neither the first or last prophecy to be fulfilled, a clear indication that this book’s quest is only one part of a longer journey. This would be discouraging if it had been stated during the slower moving parts, revealed here in the aftermath of a battle, the reader presses on. Short chapters help move the story along so that readers don’t notice all the heroes do is walk and talk. The pace is also increased by the string of revelations delivered quickly and steadily. Encountering a Wolfbrother, digging for answers from Moiraine, and meeting Hopper in the World of Dreams all keep the reader’s interest. Doing and discovering move the story along. Catching fish with Moiraine may have been funny and necessary to show how difficult dealing with Moiraine will be, but it can’t carry the story more than a handful of pages.
The future plotline with Perrin and the Children of the Light is established more firmly by telling how they are actively looking for a yellow-eyed Darkfriend with his name. Two reminders have been provided, no more are needed before the Children show up to interfere with Perrin.
Cairhien, collapsing under the weight of its own politics, did not provide clear examples of what ta’veren can do. The weddings of Jarra do so more effectively, providing an unexpected source of comedy. Every ta’veren effect can be played for horror, drama, laughs, or any other purpose. Once again, this plot device gives a lot of room for the author to play with mood, pacing, action, and coincidence. One reason to ‘waste’ it on a village full of weddings is to camouflage its use to advance the plot. If only every third ta’veren effect is significant to the story, the other occurrences can be used to establish precedent and make the reader less likely to see contrivance when it is used for its true purpose.
A second trip to the World of Dreams for Perrin, Rand being driven to seek out Callandor by his dreams, and the past books’ use of the World of Dreams establish that Dreams are significant in this book, and in the whole series. By now, better explanations of the World of Dreams are due. There may be good reasons why such explanations have not yet been given, such as creating worry over Perrin’s dreams, but if they play a significant role, a lack of explanation will make events feel contrived.
Writing Lessons:
Simple logical symbols are more effective and understood by more readers.   

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