In this section, Rand encounters an old enemy, and a new love interest.
Introducing a love interest, whether as the main squeeze, as a foil, or as the third in a love triangle, can be tricky. The reader may find it obvious what the author’s intent regarding the love interest is. You should be aware of how you want the reader to perceive the character. To date, only a few random encounters have seriously threatened the Rand-Egwene relationship. The main obstacle the relationship faces is their incompatible destinies. But now, Selene enters the picture, and the author’s intent is clear. Selene offers an adult relationship far from the platonic love that Egwene represents. From the onset, Selene is portrayed as a temptress. Her behavior, added to the Dark Prophecy and the odd scenes with the elusive woman in white, allow the reader to easily deduce her motives and identity. She is playing a stereotype; there is no need for subtlety. She is Bad News.
If Ba’alzamon represented doubt, Lanfear is temptation. Her breathy whispers of power and glory, her impossibly perfect beauty, her willingness, her vague promises, are all designed to bring Rand to the Dark One. She and Ba’alzamon have abducted Rand, removed him from outside influences, and offered him a choice where either option leads to the Dark One.
With all these possible motivations foisted on him by Moiraine, Lanfear, Ingtar, and his friends, Rand’s quest will no longer be to find the Horn, but to find his reason for finding the Horn.
Touching saidin is depicted in a very sexual way, that feeling of being truly alive, of being able to do anything, of always wanting more. This association is a strength of the world’s mythology. People’s feelings about sexuality can be very different, but having feelings about it is a universal human experience. The more universal an experience, the wider an audience can identify with it. Rand’s ability to touch saidin is coincident with his discovery of sexuality in these chapters. The language giving this imagery is not confined to saidin, such as when he pictures Selene naked, or rubs his hand along the Portal Stone column, or when Selene describes her desire to touch the Horn. Enough nouns are replaced by ‘it’ to make many sentences have dual meanings, suggestive and funny. Selene urges him to touch saidin, and to learn to control it. Rand is afraid of what will happen if he uses saidin, is worried about the taint on it. These feelings of uncertainty, fear, and excitement feel like they could happen to any young man who is coming of age, and resonate with readers. If it’s a bit icky to some readers, well, that’s the taint on saidin.
Lanfear really is the total package, combining an Age of Legends equivalent of a Ph. D. in astrophysics with beauty and grace. Only a few of the ancient Aes Sedai studied the Mirror Worlds, and understood how to use their properties as elegantly as Lanfear has done, to move Rand in space-time ahead of Fain’s Trollocs. I wish Loial hadn’t dropped his sungwood quarterstaff before leaving the Mirror World, so that we’d see whether it survived the trip back to this one. Exploring the mechanics of Mirror Worlds is best saved for after we learn more about the World of Dreams.
Perrin’s storyline parallels Rand’s, as he too seeks to avoid the new abilities he has discovered. Perrin’s interview with the Amyrlin seems not to have involved discussion of his abilities, since he believes that no one beyond Egwene and Moiraine knows about it. Verin should soon be able to add herself to that short list with her curiosity and interest in ta’veren.
Robert Jordan had a wonderful way of crafting a sentence. I’ve pulled one in particular out, to see just how and why he has made it twist so wonderfully.
There across his palm was branded a heron.
This way of phrasing it is poetic, drags out the revelation, emphasizes the symbol. A number of possible variations could have been direct, or emphasized the pain, or sparked confusion, or been a lesser part of the paragraph instead of its central idea, or a number of other things. The order of words helps strengthen the idea, and the emphasis put on it.
There was a heron on his palm, branded.
A heron was branded across his palm.
His palm had a heron branded across it.
The brand there across his palm was a heron.
A heron, there, across his palm, branded.
The order of words in a sentence, and of sentences in a paragraph, has an impact on the reader.