Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Dragon Reborn - Chapters 53-56

In this section, the Heroes overcome the forces arrayed against them, and Rand confirms he is the Dragon Reborn.
Faile falls into a trap, and since Moiraine assigned responsibility for her to Perrin, he makes use of the ability to enter the Wolf Dream to save her. Compared with Perrin’s careful smithing, his behavior here is frantic, leaping before he looks, urging Hopper to stop explaining and get on with leading him to Faile. These are the impetuous actions of man thinking with his heart, not his head.
Egwene takes control of her captivity, also using her access to the World of Dreams to save herself and her friends. Like Perrin, she is ignorant of the rules governing the World of Dreams, but fortunately her opponents are even less knowledgeable. Egwene is able to channel in tel’aran’rhiod despite being shielded in the waking world. The True Source can be touched anywhere but a stedding. Some part of her, maybe the most important part of her, is free of the confines of a physical body, and in the World of Dreams exists as a conceptualization of herself. The shield is around her body, and is not replicated in tel’aran’rhiod. Is the same true of all weaves? Does it matter whether they are tied off weaves or being held by someone? Later we’ll see how warded boxes are no protection in tel’aran’rhiod, so the answer must be that no weaves in the waking world are replicated in the World of Dreams. That also explains how Be’lal and Rand can wield Callandor in dreams.
Egwene finds Joiya first, and shields her. She scares Joiya by inferring that the shield may extend to her waking body. What affects you in tel’aran’rhiod affects your body in the waking world too, though to a lesser degree. Rand and Perrin’s wounds upon waking have often been less than what they appeared to have been subjected to in their dreams. Readers are finally getting the long awaited explanation of the World of Dreams. There is no better way to explain than by showing examples of the rules in action.
Egwene finds Amico next, who is drifting in and out of sleep as she toys with her dream ter’angreal. Egwene shields her also, but when she finds resistance, she sharpens her weave and rams it in place, stilling Amico. What affects you in tel’aran’rhiod affects you in the waking world, yet somehow Amico’s weaves hold even as she is stilled. Since Amico was not yet fully in tel’aran’rhiod, she can’t access it any further with the True Source cut off, but also can’t have the stilling take effect until she wakes. The ter’angreal has effectively trapped her between worlds. Nynaeve’s punch ends both the channeling and the dream. The ability to still someone instead of shield them may never been a real possibility in battle given how closely matched most Aes Sedai are in the One Power. The only example shown was years earlier when Moiraine battled Merean in New Spring. In tel’aran’rhiod, the willpower making the action is more important than the strength in the One Power, and Egwene forced the shield in place with all her might.
Mat manages to make friends on the rooftops and battle his way through the stone, taking out the High Lord Darlin with battle skill, not luck. He finds and frees the young women, gets insulted for his trouble, but may have saved them from any retribution by the remaining eleven Black Ajah before they fled the Stone.
Rand finally makes his appearance. Despite being absent most of the book, his short talk with Perrin, the updates through the dreams, and what is learned about the prophecy surrounding Callandor and the Stone of Tear all serve to make the stakes important to the reader. In a sentence or two, Rand’s conflict is made clear; his reluctance to learn the truth opposes his need to get Callandor before someone else does. Moiraine balefires Be’lal out of existence, and is herself knocked out by Ba’alzamon, who has decided to kill Rand after all. The only way to survive is to take Callandor.
Like both Perrin and Egwene, Rand must enter the World of Dreams. Ba’alzamon uses tel’aran’rhiod against Rand in a dozen ways. It is unlikely that Rand instinctively knows which weaves to use to survive each trap, or to split Ba’alzamon’s stream of balefire. He just uses Callandor to hold more of the One Power, and in doing so is filled with confidence, which lends him the power to manipulate tel’aran’rhiod. Each of Rand’s feats is more plausible as a consequence of him exerting his will over his surroundings, outmatching Ba’alzamon’s will, undoing what traps his opponent has set. Rand should have had less success using the One Power in this manner in the waking world. But, there is the precedent of his intuitive use of weaves when he used the Eye of the World.
The book’s ending would be difficult for Rand to carry alone. The other character’s plotlines all conclude with some satisfactory action, but it is not clear whether they have overcome their internal difficulties. Is Egwene burying the hatchet with Nynaeve when she asks her to sing to her as she did when she was a child? Perrin set out to find Rand, but dropped that quest in favour of his falcon and the Wolf Dream. Mat just wanted to get away from it all, and wound up defeating some minor villains, but resolved little else. The haphazard way in which each of their plotlines ends leaves the way wide open for Rand to provide the conclusive victory. Be’lal and the Forsaken were late arrivals on the scene in this book, but understanding the scope of their power made Be’lal’s confrontation with Rand a worthy challenge. Ba’alzamon danced around the edges throughout the book, but was never clearly made the main villain, given that neither Egwene nor Perrin had much to do with him. Only the carryover from the other books made it work well.
Another element that worked well was the continually shorter duration of each character’s point of view throughout the novel, culminating in rapid jumps from character to character within single chapters. The same quick switching was in the Great Hunt, but was mostly present because the other points of view were required to understand the events unfolding.  
Writing Lessons:
Give your characters satisfactory resolutions to their story arcs or risk the wrath of the reader.

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