Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Fires of Heaven - Chapters 18-21

In this section, the big villains establish their dominance while Rand tries to establish his own.
Moghedien takes charge of the Black Ajah, tracking them down in Amadicia. Whichever of the Forsaken had sent them on their original quest is now likely dead, since they were sent from the Stone of Tear just before it fell to Rand. Moghedien is a little more hands-on, and insists on giving lessons in obedience to each of the Black Sisters. There is closure from the last book. The reader now knows that the villains will be more organized and more focused on seeking revenge against Nynaeve. The whereabouts of several characters are now known, which serves to change the menace from a vague ambient one to a specific more dangerous one. Insight into the mind of the villains is given. Aside from Padan Fain, there have been precious few points of view from villainous perspectives.  
Often a point of view will cause the reader to have some sympathy and understanding for the character in question. To avoid this in this situation, the author very quickly displays some unsavoury personality traits of Liandrin’s: she is elitist and power-hungry. When Liandrin receives her lesson at Moghedien’s hands, the reader’s response will be that Liandrin is receiving just treatment of the sort that she would dole out. In contrast, Moghedien appears almost kindly and respectable due to her treatment of the servants in Tanchico, and her willingness to do things herself instead of relying on servants. The immediate danger from the cruelty of the Black Ajah remains, and is put to good use by being directed against Nynaeve as per Moghedien’s wishes.  
Many of the villains, Liandrin, Seanchan, Ba’alzamon, hold strongly to the idea that there is a hierarchy of worthiness, and that they are atop it and others must be made to keep their place in the lower echelons. The Heroes tend to be humbler with where they rank themselves and how strongly people should conform or if a hierarchy even applies. Of course, Rand is now stuck at the top of the Aiel hierarchy. Even though he sought out that position, so far he tries to conduct himself with compassion and interest towards those who follow him and the victims of his enemies, the Shaido.
Morgase manages to escape the clutches of Rahvin, who has made his dominion over Andor complete. He is manipulating the White Tower’s agent, has booted out the old guard and brought in people more reliably self-interested, and turned public opinion to the point where the idea of having a king instead of Morgase isn’t so offensive. Rahvin’s only failure is Morgase’s escape. The simplicity and ease with which the Forsaken can take control of a Nation is a stark contrast to Rand’s reluctant leadership over the Aiel. Had Couladin’s power grab been successful, Asmodean would have had dominion over the Aiel in much the same way that Rahvin and Moghedien dominate their subjects.
Morgase manages to momentarily snap out of her stupor when told of the red eagle banner flying over the Two Rivers. A ta’veren effect? All of her allies but Lini could have been snared in a Web of the Pattern as well from having met Rand and Mat. Lamgwin, Tallanvor, Gill, and the educator Breane Taborwin.
Gaebril’s toadies do not prove as memorable as the circus folk when they were introduced. For one, each of them carries two names: their given name and their house name, which greatly increases demands on the reader. Second, they do not have an immediate role to play: they will feature briefly in the next book, then be absent until Elayne’s attempt to secure the throne. Therefore, there is less need to attach tags to them, and the tags are less distinctive. They are all sycophants, and their current good standing and their mockery of Morgase is all the reader needs to know. These Lords and Ladies were introduced to make a point about how Rahvin runs the kingdom, not for Morgase or anyone to interact with.
If earlier clues were too subtle, Rand’s repeated dreams of Aviendha make it clear that her difficulties stem from her romantic attraction to Rand. I have previously said that if a point is important to make, it should be hammered home, and this qualifies since it has taken up a lot of page space. The reader is meant to think about it because the problem is always presented as one without a solution. In fact, the problem itself is never fully described, the reader only knows that Aviendha finds it difficult being near Rand so much.
Despite the visions from the glass columns, the sight of the dock on the mountainside is the first direct proof offered of the scale of the Breaking. Other ruins seen in the series indicate failure of cities to survive, not wholescale destruction of cities by flipping up a portion of the planet’s crust. When Rand brings the Aiel across the Dragonwall, he’ll be unleashing the most destructive force in a thousand years. The ruins of Shorelle also hint at what Rand might be capable of when he goes mad.
Writing Lessons:
Add symbolism to the cool details you show, to make them more personal and relevant to the reader and the characters.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Fires of Heaven - Chapters 13-17

In this section, new allies give refuge from old acquaintances, and Egwene surpasses Nynaeve.
The lengthy focus on Elayne and Nynaeve means the book is following a format more like The Dragon Reborn than the quick switches of The Shadow Rising. So far, it has been to the detriment of the story. Short bits with Siuan, or Bryne, or Min, or Moiraine have not increased the pace, particularly when those bits share a common element with the two main storylines: length treks across the land.
Nynaeve’s strong fa├žade is developing cracks. Elayne gains the upper hand in several conversations. Thom and Juilin are right when they should be wrong. Egwene knows more than she does. Nynaeve tries very hard to convince herself that she is doing no wrong even as her mistakes pile up around her. After a few chapters of shrill annoyance, she finally lies outright to Egwene and is made to apologize. Watching Nynaeve get put in her place is a relief and pleasant outcome. Never before has anyone so clearly had the upper hand over her. Now that she has been forced to recognize her shortcomings, and realizes that while everyone else moves forward, she is falling behind, she will have to find some way to pick herself back up.
Egwene’s quiet serenity is a good juxtaposition with Nynaeve’s bad attitude. Having Wise Ones and Moiraine and Nynaeve herself all recognize that she is gaining maturity is itself a pleasant change from her playing Mistress Snip in The Dragon Reborn. Moiraine’s realization that to control, you must first surrender has been borne out by Egwene’s performance. She can hope it will bear fruit for her as well, now that she can surrender to Rand’s plan to move beyond the Dragonwall.
Birgitte has been helping Nynaeve and Elayne regularly. Her knowledge of Moghedien and the Forsaken lets her play the role of knowledgeable mentor.
The utility of Tel’aran’rhiod is shown as it is learned that Elaida is Amyrlin, and they can read all her personal messages. The strange characteristics of Tel’aran’rhiod are prominently displayed, including time elasticity with regards to Birgitte, the abode of the Heroes, how to control the environment, controlling your appearance, nightmares, and the lack of weaves in the real world being mirrored in Tel’aran’rhiod (despite Elayne’s caution around Callandor). Birgitte can even sense ripples from Dreamers walking about her realm.
Galad has joined the Children of the Light, and coincidentally meets up with Elayne in Sienda. Not too big of a coincidence since Niall recalled all the Whitecloaks to… capture both banks of the River Eldar. Not long ago Niall was going to take Almoth Plain and clamp Tarabon in a vise. He had Geofram Bornhald and Eamon Valda in Andor in the last year, and sent Dain there as well to search the Two Rivers. He meddled in some border dispute between Sammael’s Illian and its neighbours. And now he is withdrawing into his own borders except for some excursions to take the border towns across the river? His ambitions have been curtailed, unless it’s Fain-fed paranoia making him want to keep his forces close.
Galad’s presence prods Elayne to make a hasty escape. He is the first heroic character, a potential ally, to switch over to an enemy of Rand’s. Aside from the shock of seeing a friend side with the villains, it provides a personal reason for Elayne and Nynaeve to avoid Whitecloaks. Random Whitecloak arrows give a sense of menace, but Galad’s interference is more dangerous to them if less lethal.
Luca’s menagerie and traveling circus will make the travels less monotonous than the wagon. With a Seanchan animal trainer introduced, a familiar Illuminator, and a host of other named characters, the plan to escape into Ghealdan is expected to work.
When introducing so many characters, it simplifies understanding to define them with tags and by their relationships to each other.
Petra: Strong and wide.
Clarine: Trains dogs, married to Petra.
Latelle: Trains bears, sneers, jealous of Elayne and Nynaeve
Aludra: Illuminator, lost her job because of Rand, helped Mat.
Chavanas: Acrobats, interested in Elayne and Nynaeve, distant nationalities: Saldaea, Sea Folk
Bari and Kin: Jugglers, brothers, worried about Thom
Cerandin: trains elephants, submits to Elayne
Luca: ringleader, greedy, proud, pursuing Elayne
Despite very quick appearances, there is enough revealed to make the reader anticipate some of the later interactions, mostly with respect to who will be angry at the newcomers, and who will become romantically involved.
Writing Lessons:
When introducing new characters, defining their relationships is as important as their appearance or occupation.

The Fires of Heaven - Chapters 7-12

In this section, Nynaeve butts heads with everyone, and makes a big mistake
Several times Egwene says she will work at something until she finds it out. Readers learn little except that Egwene is more determined than she is successful. Egwene comes across as the kind of student who submits extra work for credit.
Moiraine has a rare point of view that reveals little. There is confirmation that she has seen visions of the future through the ter’angreal in Rhuidean, allusion to her ultimate plan for Lan, and near certainty about her urgent need to guide Rand before it is too late. She also takes particular care to attach the redstone ter’angreal just so in the back of a wagon. Those must be fairly specific glimpses of the paths her life could take.
Nynaeve is reintroduced and portrayed as bull-headedly wrong about so many things. A Whitecloak encounter emphasizes the danger they are in, but is just an example to set the mood. The real Whitecloak menace lies ahead. Nynaeve falls for a simple trap, drinking from a cup she should not have to try put the woman dosing her at ease. Forkroot is potent enough that it should have been widespread as a poisoner’s tool, even without its ability to block channeling.
Vague threats make the reader wonder about hidden dangers, but the pigeon messaging in Mardecin is so vague it undoes any impact. A pigeon goes to the White Tower, to the main threat that the young women know of. A second pigeon sent by the same double-dealing woman goes west, towards Tanchico? Tremalking? Moghedien? And then yet another pigeon, telling what the first two messages were, is sent in a third direction. Amador? Salidar? Darkfriends? Does it matter at this point? The reader is left with the impression that everyone in every faction with any interest in any of the plots knows exactly where Elayne and Nynaeve are.
Nynaeve and Elayne have one of the Seven Seals on the Dark One’s prison. That makes six accounted for; three broken, three fragile.
Romance is still in the air. Three older man – younger women relationships are discussed: Lan and Nynaeve, Gareth and Siuan, Thom and Elayne. Elayne’s infatuation with Thom seems to stem from Elayne’s attempt to emulate her mother. Some readers get creeped out by Elayne’s behaviour, but she is just one character, the other young women are far more proper. To make room for Aviendha’s romance with Rand, Elayne needs to be preoccupied with someone else at the time, even if it amounts to nothing.
In the various encounters, we are now getting our first sense of just how much Aes Sedai dabble in people’s lives. Most people never see an Aes Sedai, and rulers may have Aes Sedai advisors. But it is now apparent that many people undertake jobs for Aes Sedai, either spying or other tasks. It doesn’t seem a very far cry from how Darkfriends operate.
Bryne needs a new pipe, his old one represents fealty to the Queen of Andor. The woman he is pursuing has a quest. Maybe she will give him a new pipe?
Many portions of these chapters focus on some detailed descriptions of daily activities. These are the kinds of paragraphs that raise the ire of many readers. Instead of a short description of making camp for the night, several long-winded paragraphs tell more than readers want to know. Unlike earlier passages in The Dragon Reborn with Perrin, where the actions revealed character, these sections are thinner or less obvious with in-depth characterization. This paragraph is one of many about the camp, and only on typing this up could I identify its purpose. It conveys Nynaeve’s organizational and observational skills, and how she is a busybody keeping idle hands at work.
Once Nynaeve had enjoyed a slow, cooling wash of face and hands, she set about making the camp ready, and put Juilin to breaking dead branches from the trees for a fire. By the time Thom returned with two wicker hampers slung across the gelding’s back, her and Elayne’s blankets were laid out under the wagon and the two men’s under the branches of one of the twenty-foot willows, a good supply of firewood had been stacked, the teakettle stood cooling beside the ashes of a fire in a circle cleared of leaves, and the thick pottery cups had been washed. Juilin was grumbling to himself as he caught water in the tiny stream to refill the water barrels. From the snatches Nynaeve heard, she was glad he kept most of it to an inaudible mutter. From her perch on one of the wagon shafts, Elayne hardly tried to hide her interested attempt to make out what he was saying. Both she and Nynaeve had put on clean dresses on the other side of the wagon, switching colors as it happened.
Nynaeve’s personality makes it hard to remember her recent accomplishments.
Writing Lessons:
Vagueness can create confusion and disinterest. If you are vague about important details, have a good reason to do so.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Fires of Heaven - Chapters 2-6

In this section, the Aiel and wetlanders get to know one another
Rand meets the clan chiefs, and the topic on their mind is whether the chiefs will follow Rand. It is decided that they will, given time, except for Couladin and the Shaido. This is the first time the idea is strongly put forth that Rand will break bonds and ties, and it applies both in his favour to get the Aiel to leave the Waste, and against him in that the Shaido will follow Couladin even though he is not a chief. Individual warriors leave their clans to take the side that reflects their views. The Shaido numbers should swell with so many throwing down spears. As with Elaida, Rand now has a group of advisors in the clan chiefs, and simple tags are applied to distinguish them from each other.
Moiraine knows she may not be with Rand for long, and is more eager than ever to convince Rand she means him no harm. Moiraine sees Aiel armies forcing the Nations to stand against Rand, while he sees them as necessary to avoid the machinations of people like Moiraine. Discussions between Moiraine and Wise Ones echo this concern.
This is also the first time the context of ji’e’toh is explained, and the role of gai’shain in the Aiel culture. Before, detailed explanations were not necessary, and all we saw were a bit of the workings of Far Dareis Mai as applied to Rand’s accidental pursuit of Aviendha. Now that Rand is officially recognized as being one of the Aiel, many of his interactions depend on proper understanding of Aiel culture, so the inner workings must be explained, often through examples. The time to do this is before the action unfolds, and any of those rules play a role in the plot.
Rand’s strange romance with Aviendha continues. He is jealous of whoever gave her a necklace, wondering who gave it to her. He takes comfort in the way she treats him as himself and acts as herself in his presence, which is also a characteristic of the relationship he has with Min and Elayne. Aviendha tells him she hates him, she happily receives flowers but presses them on Egwene, and then has herself beaten for lying twice. Her behaviour is odd enough that a reader may just shrug at the whole thing, but the more time any character spends thinking about any other reveals the possibility of romance. All this attention on their relationship means it should play a role in this book.
Why didn't anyone connect the Car'a'carn to the Dragon reborn earlier? In the wetlands, no one knew what a Dragon was, in the Waste; no one told outsiders what their link to the Dragon was. The Wise Ones and Clan Chiefs must have been able to guess that the Dragon Reborn was also the Car’a’carn and simply didn’t care to share that information.
Mat is pursued by Melindhra, a Shaido maiden who has come over to join her society amongst Rand’s followers. There is no reason to associate this with the two earlier mentions of tying a string to those close to Rand. Aside from her interest in Mat, there is nothing suspicious about Melindhra, and there are plenty of other women who have expressed interest in Mat. The later Darkhound attack on Mat provides cover for Melindhra, since any association with the idea of targeting Rand’s friends is placed on the Darkhounds, not her.
Mat’s injury from the Darkhounds gives the opportunity to learn details about how balefire works for the first time, as well as details about how his medallion works.
Egwene and Aviendha also have a friendship that gets fleshed out, along with their student-teacher relationship with the Wise Ones. The major point of showing developments among the Wise Ones is to give examples of how ji’e’toh and other cultural baggage affect Aiel life. Discussion of Melaine’s interest in Bael and the sister-wife relationship is given so that there is precedent for Rand’s relationship with three women at once.
Lanfear’s interest in Rand’s love life is another way of indicating how important the romantic relationships will be in this book. Lanfear also manages to point Rand and Rahvin at each other by pointing out Rand’s Tairen armies in Cairhien are impinging on Rahvin’s interests in crowning Morgase. All the seemingly unconnected events and characters are now linked.   
Rand is forced to act as the jailor/captor, and this can’t help but affect him. He takes strong precautions with Asmodean, never trusting him out of sight for long, even if it means Asmodean learns his plans and must be in his presence as much as possible. How many of the strange things Rand says are a by-product of his discussions with Asmodean, and how many are true memories of past lives? The reader is meant to have some doubts as to where all Rand’s sudden knowledge is coming from. Since there is precedent set by Rand being able to figure out weaves instinctively, pulling other memories up from hidden depths doesn’t seem too far out of place. The idea that Rand might remember any of his past life was first put forth by Lanfear. Rand is now a little less trustworthy as narrator, to suggest to the reader that the madness makes Rand less reliable. Some examples:
Don't mention wagons again, little sister
They’ll accept my peace, or I’ll be buried in the Can Breat.
Ilyena never flashed her temper at me when she was angry with herself.
You were always ambitious Mierin.
Writing Lessons:
Use an obvious connection to an idea to hide a second less obvious connection to the same idea.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Fires of Heaven - Prologue to Chapter 1

In this section, lengthy prologues explain the current situation.
In the White Tower, a host of Aes Sedai are introduced. The point is to show that the Tower is made up of factions, and a crowd of new faces and names are necessary to convey this idea. A few are made to stand out, Shemerin and Joline particularly, the first Yellow, and a new Green. The most important thing is that Elaida and Alviarin are contending for power. Later Moiraine will describe how Siuan should now be approaching leaders of nations to unite them behind Rand, but the reality is that the Tower is unstable, and that anything might come out of Rand showing up there, most of it detrimental to him. There is a sense that Elaida is worse than Alviarin, simply because we know how bad she is while Alviarin is portrayed as cool and logical, and she must have been misled by Elaida.
Padan fain is in the Tower, doing to Elaida what he did to Pedron Niall. He tells her to tie a thread to one Rand trusts. It is now certain that whatever slim potential help Elaida might have been, she is now bad, bad, bad.  
Carrying over from last book, we are reminded Mazrim Taim is on the loose. Since the entire Black Ajah was in Tanchico, it is easy to overlook the supposed plot to control Mazrim Taim. Other happenings in the world are easily conveyed by the meeting of Elaida’s entourage. These briefings are used frequently to pack in information that is not worth showing to the reader directly.
This is the first time a point of view is given for a Forsaken. This makes it possible to give personalities to the Forsaken, since they won't usually be talkative in front of heroes. It is also the only way to reveal the villainous plot, unless the eavesdropping (Mat), dreams (Perrin or Egwene) or interrogation (Amico and Joiya) methods are used again. Typically, overusing any one method is picked up by the reader, except for direct revelation by the villain’s point of view, which can be done frequently. There is also now less reason to keep the Forsaken mysterious, since Rand has access to one and the air of mystery will quickly be undone.
Lanfear contrives to stay near Rand and keep some 'allies' away. Rahvin considers that knowing Lanfear’s activities is better than not knowing. Important information about the differences between men and women linking, or strength in the Power, are given by a true authority in the matter. This information would be somewhat untrustworthy coming from Asmodean, who may have ulterior motives. Internal thoughts about it from an authority outside the captor-jailor relationship are a better way to make the reader believe what is being said. Similarly, Rahvin confirms how the protection from the taint works. He describes the Dark One as a ‘greater power than the Light, or even the Creator’. He differentiates between the two. The ‘Light’ therefore represents the One Power, so earlier passages about Rand wielding a ‘sword of the Light’, or other references to the capitalized word ‘Light’ can now be put in a correct context.
The prologue and Chapter 1 act like continuation from The Shadow Rising’s 4th storyline. The focus on Min is a shift from other books, where she has played a peripheral role. Putting her front and center in Chapter 1 means she is a central character. The switch in viewpoint from Elaida to Siuan’s group is logical; it completes the White Tower characters updates. Bryne is portrayed as a cowboy leading a posse, a significant change from his days in Caemlyn. Under the pseudonym Jackson O’Reilly, Robert Jordan wrote his first book, a Western titled Cheyenne Raiders. Bryne reflects on whether the Nations will stand for or against Rand, a concern that Moiraine will echo.  
From Bryne, the logical people to look in on next are in Caemlyn. Alteima and Morgase have viewpoints, such that by page 55, not one of the original Two Rivers characters has been shown. Readers may now be anxious to get back to the central characters they know. All of the characters in this chapter are in Andor.  An expectation that they will meet up is being created.
Alteima's role is largely to provide Rahvin with information in a convincing way. Rahvin could get it elsewise, but information from someone with firsthand knowledge is more convincing. Alteima's role is also to heighten danger to Morgase. Morgase has already been described as stubborn enough to try get out of the Compulsion, and she is portrayed as being of two minds about many things. Morgase is well liked by Thom, Gareth, Elayne, Galad, and Gawyn, and may even be part of Elaida's foretelling about the Royal line of Andor (Rand is still the more likely though). She is therefore instantly identifiable as a good guy, and reader sentiment is with her.
Rahvin is interested in Rand's allies and friends. This is the second mention of tying strings to his friends. Unlike Elaida, Rahvin is a master manipulator, and uses everyone.
The very 2nd paragraph of Chapter 1, where a wind blows from Braem Wood can be contrasted with the situation of the refugees from the White Tower.  This is not simply telling readers about the geography, it tells how Min and her group are alone, exhausted, without relief, in danger of being exposed.
South and west it blew, dry, beneath a sun of molten gold. There had been no rain for long weeks in the land below, and the late-summer heat grew day by day. Brown leaves come early dotted some trees, and naked stones baked where small streams had run. In an open place where grass had vanished and only thin, weathered bush held the soil with its roots, the wind began uncovering long-buried stones. They were weathered and worn, and no human eye would have recognized them for the remains of a city remembered in story yet otherwise forgotten.
Wow, that is a great paragraph.
Writing Lessons:
Make sure the benefits of revealing the villain’s point of view outweigh the downsides.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Summary

My favorite book in The Wheel of Time is The Shadow Rising; in fact it is my favorite book ever. A great many fans also point to this book as the highest point of the series. Why is it considered one of the best?
The book follows three narratives, each one an independent short novel on its own, interwoven for pacing, but not for their effect on each other. There is no confusion over dates or which event came first; all the reader needs to know is simply which group of heroes they are following for the next chapter. Sometimes information in one storyline is relevant to another and helps the reader interpret events. Sometimes more than one viewpoint is used in a location, such as Nynaeve and Elayne, or Rand and Mat. In all, eight main heroes have viewpoints, but five of them carry the bulk of the story. So, the structure is simple. Jump from one group to the next, don’t confuse the reader.
The cast of characters is just enough to feel crowded, but not so much that the reader loses track of them all. In Tanchico, there are Nynaeve, Thom, Elayne, Juilin, Bayle, Egeanin, Rendra, the Seeker, Bethamin, Carridin, the Black Ajah, Amathera, the King, and Moghedien. A dozen or so easily distinguishable characters.  In the Two Rivers there are more: Perrin, Faile, Loial, Gaul, Bain, Chiad, Slayer, Luc, Byar, Bornhald, Fain, Tam, Bran, Abell, Haral, Alsbet, Marin, Daise, Verin, Alanna, the Warders, and a host of local men and women. With a cast of twenty or so, the young men of the Companions tend to blur into one another unless they have very distinguishing characteristics, but none play so significant a role that a distinction is necessary. The reader is unlikely to be confused. In the Aiel Waste we find Rand, Mat, Egwene, Moiraine, Aviendha, Lan, Amys, Bair, Melaine, Seana, Rhuarc, Adelin, Couladin, Kadere, Natael, Isendre, Keille, and a variety of Aiel. As with the Two Rivers folk, the Wise Ones and Aiel tend to blend together unless something distinguishes them. Mild confusion about the Wise Ones does not prevent being able to follow the story. The number of characters and the roles they play are justified and well suited to the length of text accorded to each of the three storylines.
The heroes themselves develop and grow. In earlier books, they were at the mercy of events, now they attempt to drive events. Each of them makes missteps, some costly. Each of them overcomes more challenging obstacles than ever, and they do it on their own with minimal interference from others. It is their own wits, intelligence, perseverance, planning, leadership and courage that let them win. Their identity is not being dictated by prophecy or plot; the heroes are forging new identities for themselves. Nynaeve beats a Forsaken! Elayne finds she is a better ruler than Amathera! Perrin defeats Slayer! Rand captures a Forsaken!
Two of the storylines have deeply personal stakes for the heroes. Perrin’s defense of the Two Rivers is harrowing and provides most of the traditional action. Rand’s discovery of the Aiel secret history and their vain sacrifices is heart-wrenching and is the best writing in the series. His decision to use them, even at the cost of destroying them with this knowledge, will set him down a solitary path. With this military force at his disposal, he needn’t worry about trusting Moiraine again. He has achieved freedom of one kind, but is now bound to the Aiel.
A multitude of magical and fantastic locations are shown. The realms of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn. Rhuidean. The Age of Legends. The Tower of Ghenjei. Tel’aran’rhiod and the Heroes of the Horn. The Aiel Waste. The Ways.
In the background, when no one was paying attention, the White Tower splits, and the world’s chance of surviving just got lessened.  Even as the heroes claim victories by fending off foes, others lurk in waiting or will return. Lanfear, Moghedien and the other Forsaken. The Black Ajah. Padan Fain and his pet Myrddraal. The Children of the Light. Elaida. Couladin.
The broadened world put on display in The Shadow Rising is cause for liking the story, but it is the controlled balance of the story that makes it work so wonderfully. The expansion of the cast of main characters and of the secondary and minor characters is restrained enough to prevent confusion, but big enough to give a feeling of unfettered exploration to the reader. The personal nature of the threats and the victories provide an emotional impact that is difficult to match. Everything is at once epic in scope and intensely personal in importance. Keeping the storylines self-contained in this book provides closure of a kind that later books lack. In short, there is little that was mishandled, and in most respects The Shadow Rising surpassed expectations created by the previous books.
Four word summary: The heroes gain allies.
Writing Lessons:
 Use the minimum number of characters necessary to achieve your goals.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 55-58

In this section, the heroes soundly overcome all obstacles.
Following her face to face victory over Moghedien, Nynaeve reunites with her friends, and they make their escape. They are taken aback by the violence they have unleashed with the riots, and it seems certain the Panarch’s Palace will be looted, and the Black Ajah sent packing. The villains may still be on the loose, but Nynaeve snuck in under their noses, tweaked them, and escaped with the goods. Elayne trounced Temaile, and freed her captive who has the means to make Tanchico strong again. Elayne plans to make a good ruler out of her. Of all the rulers in the land, none will have had to spend as much time amongst the commoners as Elayne. Elayne will never suffer from a lack of empathy with her subjects, as Amathera does.
Nynaeve and Elayne have won a strong victory using their wits, intelligence, and bravery.
Perrin and the Emond’s Fielders are in dire straits. They have made final preparations should the worst happen, which it seems bound to. Showing these desperate preparations to give the children a chance to survive is more effective than simply describing the massive forces arrayed against the village. The grimness of their expectations despite all their efforts sets them in the reader’s mind as well. To achieve the deep level of concern, there has to be no possible way out, no hope presented, no better outcome than death. When the attack begins, and events unfold exactly as expected, with Trollocs pushing the men back between the houses, the order given to the Companions to go to the children’s aid, the reader makes the association with the rest of the expected result: that they will all die. When things first go differently than the expectation, it happens in a worse way, with the Whitecloaks breaking their promise, with the women stepping in to hold the line, dedicating every last person to an effort that cannot be won, that will result in complete eradication. It is only then that the slim chance of survival is presented, as men from the other villages assault the Trollocs from behind. The slim chance grows to hope, represented by Faile. And finally, victory.
The scenario repeats in quicker fashion with the Children of the Light. An expectation has been created that Perrin will be taken by them, the forces against Perrin look overwhelming, and then he defies them. Defiance immediately is taken up by the villagers, and now they have the upper hand. First evil was defeated, and then suspicion was rejected. The Two Rivers folk have taken a stance and forged a new identity for themselves, one that is embodied by their Lord Perrin.
Perrin has won a decisive victory against two forces using his steadfastness, reason, and leadership.
Rand can’t afford to have Aiel fight each other, he wants them all on his side.  He expects to show up at Alcair Dal, reveal his Dragons and win them over. The Shaido march forces him to advance his plans, but he still thinks it could work out until Couladin reveals his markings. Left with no choice if he wants to become Car’a’carn, he chooses to reveal the Aiel’s darkest secret. The chiefs know Couladin for a fraud, and they now know what kind of man Rand is.  
Asmodean was behind the Draghkar attack, and Couladin’s Dragons, both meant to delay Rand while he learned what was in Rhuidean. Coward that he is, he never entered it in case there were dangers he didn’t know of.  Had he simply walked in the night after Rand left Chaendaer, he could have claimed his prize. Instead he bumbled around asking questions and made futile attempts to enter Rhuidean in Tel’aran’rhiod.
Rand figures out how to Skim. The Skimming space has certain properties of Tel’aran’rhiod. The steps in The Eye of the World when Rand left Tarwin’s Gap was Skimming, even though those steps were first visible without the doorway to the Skimming space.
Rand’s is able to cut off Asmodean from the Dark One using an angreal to get a tiny bit more Power. Angreal are well defined objects at this point, and even though it is a magic object that lets Rand achieve victory, it is easy to accept since the rules governing its use are well understood.
Rand beat Asmodean with a simple clever trick, and faced down Lanfear with certitude and courage.
All of the major storylines end with resounding victory for the heroes, achieved by their own fortitude, villains left to creep away, and a host of new allies and possibilities for the future.  
Writing Lessons:
Craft stepwise expectations, then unveil events step by step that will lead readers to conclusions you want them to reach.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 51-54

In this section, the heroes are taking charge of the situation.
In past books, the inexperience of the heroes was evident in the before last section. Always the odds were stacked against them and only a desperate effort to reach out and use the magic object (Eye of the World, Horn of Valere, Callandor) allowed them to win. Events happened to the Heroes but they were not something that could be controlled, only endured and overcome. In The Shadow Rising, all three stories have a new element, in that the heroes are actively planning and carrying out those plans to overcome the obstacles. Rand was last seen chuckling over his suspicions and hopeful that his plan to recruit the Aiel would work. Nynaeve and Elayne work out a plan to not only enter the Panarch’s Palace but to start riots to cover their escape. Perrin may be outnumbered, but he’s getting Faile out of danger, and managed to get Slayer out of the way by thinking. Nynaeve already showed this kind of maturity and foresight, but for the others it is a welcome development. They may make mistakes, but those are a result of taking action.
It’s not exactly clear why the Black Ajah haven’t been able to find the object they are looking for. The Seal on the Dark One’s prison was hidden by Moghedien, but the black bracelets were in plain sight. How did they know they could find something in Tanchico, and why didn’t they have a description of it? They correctly reasoned that it is a ter’angreal, and they were able to guess that it should be in the exhibition room or the Panarch’s collection, so why not just scoop up anything that might be a ter’angreal? I suppose they were waiting on Eldrith to finish her research to make sure they got the right item, since they wouldn’t want to look like fools when they presented their prize. Still, their information about where to look and what the ter’angreal does is very specific, while its shape and description are not. One of the Forsaken must have found a fragment of information that was incomplete enough that field work was needed to figure it out, if it was even possible. Forsaken don’t get their hands dirty, except Moghedien, so the task is delegated to the Black Ajah.
Birgitte can’t figure out why she is talking to Nynaeve or Perrin. It is simple: The Pattern needs to give some highly knowledgeable insight to the Heroes, which requires releasing a Hero of the Horn from the precepts, and possibly changing the very identity they’ve had for countless reincarnations. Throwing Birgitte under the wagon wheels, as it were. It might have been all part of the Pattern, but it also feels like desperation.
Birgitte gives some insight about Tel’aran’rhiod. Existing in Tel’aran’rhiod as a dead Hero makes her more vulnerable, because she is all there. The admonition against being in Tel’aran’rhiod too strongly makes a little more sense. Your very being can be affected if you are in Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh. Others can do more than change your clothing or your braids, they can change you. Entering as Egwene and the Wise Ones do, with a firm footing in the waking world, reduces that vulnerability. The only major confrontation at the end of this book in Tel’aran’rhiod is Perrin confronting Slayer, Nynaeve only observes. This is a switch from earlier books, but Tel’aran’rhiod still plays an important part.
Moghedien doesn’t know how Nynaeve found the bracelets. Does she not know about using Need in Tel’aran’rhiod? Are Wise Ones the only ones who have figured this out? Isn’t Moghedien the best at using Tel’aran’rhiod? Is she just assuming Nynaeve can’t enter the World of Dreams? Are Darkfriends somehow unable to use Need? Since a number of the Forsaken have been entering Rand’s dreams, they must be able to use some of Tel’aran’rhiod’s properties to learn about Rand and their enemies.
Nynaeve is as powerful as Moghedien, but this equality might only apply to their strength with Spirit. Moghedien could be much more powerful in other of the Five Powers, or in overall strength.
Nynaeve and Elayne must have been delusional if they thought no one would be hurt by the riots they instigate. Elayne rationalizes it beautifully, as a ruler might, by inferring that the citizens of Tanchico are aiding in the battle against the Dark One, whether they know it or not, whether they want to or not. A ruler’s whims come first; Elayne’s whims are presented as necessary for the sake of the world. It’s as slippery slope, Elayne.
Perrin came to the Two Rivers to die. Despite his best efforts, that will still happen, and where he couldn’t get Faile out of harm’s way before, now he does, by agreeing to marry her. In many ways, the initial situation from the beginning of his quest has not changed, except for being killed by Trollocs instead of Whitecloaks.
I used Perrin’s wedding vows at my own wedding. Not obsessed with the series at all.
Slayer’s identity isn’t stated directly, but the mystery is nicely closed up with a comparison that even if they have the same inhuman smell, Slayer looks like Lan, Luc looks like Rand. There is not much more that could be said without revealing how they became a combined person, and that mystery is meant to be resolved in the future, not now. Based on Birgitte’s information and the fact that Slayer operates in Tel’aran’rhiod, one way these two people may have been combined into one is if it was done in Tel’aran’rhiod, where what you imagine becomes reality.
Writing Lessons:
Don’t let events simply happen to your characters; have them take actions, make decisions, do things.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 47-50

In this section, The Center of All Good Things is riven from within, while Rand considers the snakes in his own midst.
The description of the White Tower in the prologue, as the center of the known universe, and the heart of opposition to the Dark One, pays off here. Rand had an ally in the Amyrlin Seat, the ruler of the Aes Sedai. While Rand has been worried about Siuan and Moiraine’s plots, the reader has been privy to Siuan’s thoughts at least, and knows that their aid should be welcome and useful to Rand. The White Tower and Siuan have been portrayed as difficult allies, but clearly on Rand’s side. Now Siuan has been deposed.
The new Amyrlin Elaida has been portrayed as a bully, difficult, controlling and egotistical, and a member of the Ajah who is most likely to gentle Rand. We’ve heard about the disastrous reigns of two prominent Red Amyrlins, one who betrayed Manetheren, and one who mishandled Artur Hawkwing. Elaida’s ascension is the worst possible outcome so far as Rand is concerned. There have been hints that the Red Ajah may flout the law, such as when Owyn was gentled without trial. Heck, after his escape even Mazrim Taim wasn’t getting a fair trial under Siuan’s rule. If Siuan can do that out of necessity, what can Elaida do out of misguided necessity or misinterpretation of her Foretellings?
The suddenness of the Tower’s fall provides a great shock to the reader. Watching Alviarin and Elaida plot would have removed any surprise and replaced it with dread. Instead, the last we saw was a murdered novice and farmer, with no indication of any immediate threat to Siuan or Min, just skulking in the shadows off-page. There is little advantage in dragging out the description of the schism in a step by step process for the sake of including some action or suspense. Due to Min’s viewings any overt buildup would give away the timing of it coming true and the end result. Readers may identify with Min since the focus has been on her, but they don’t have the same affinity for the other White Tower characters. Any danger which others are put in is of minor consequence, so just as well to gloss over it. Only three characters in the Tower have mattered enough to reveal much about them: Min, Siuan and Gawyn.
Since Siuan is an ally, and a knowledgeable mentor character that is meant to be trusted later, there is a need to make her more sympathetic. This is accomplished in part by taking away her power and authority, by forcefully changing her identity from ruler to peasant. Had the same happened to Elaida, we’d likely raise a cheer, when it happens to Siuan, the reaction is one of disgust and horror. How can they do that a woman? And it is a simple woman that the reader sees, not a ruler. The way Laras talks down to Siuan, the way Aes Sedai, warders, and Elaida herself won’t condescend even to glance in her direction when she is on her knees, the loss of her ageless look, her newfound ability to lie, all of these demonstrate that Siuan is no longer anything more than a woman with determination.
The fighting in the Tower should not have resulted in death, yet not everyone is bound against using violence, and they only form they are prevented from using under most circumstances is the One Power. Regular weapons may still be used, as may warders. Elaida understood that if her plan were to fail, she herself may be in mortal danger, so she made sure to have enough strength on her side to win any confrontation. With armed men stalking the halls, any Aes Sedai might interpret the incursion as menacing her life, that of her sisters, or even being an obvious Darkfriend attack, for who else would dare attack the Tower openly? Each side interprets the situation as only being possible if the opponents are Darkfriends. With such high stakes, there is more opportunity to rationalize and find loopholes in the Three Oaths, resulting in battle, death and murder. Doing everything short of outright naming Siuan a Darkfriend may have been necessary to Elaida’s side simply to motivate and enable their forces. Even if an Aes Sedai kills with the Power in the heat of battle, they need only find a believable rationale or loophole, and no one can call them Black Ajah.
Rand lacks the ability to interpret his dreams, or distinguish between ordinary dreams and foretelling dreams. Lanfear intrudes into the prophetic Waterwood bathing dream and also fails to understand its meaning.  She is also interrupted in her attempt to seduce Rand properly (I remember Thom’s line about an education every man should have once in his life) by Asmodean. This gives Rand the confirmation he wanted about the spies among the caravans. He now knows that Lanfear has brought an ally with her, and the ally is greedy and wants something extra to sweeten the pot for the risk he puts himself in. Does Rand make the connection to the goodies in Rhuidean yet? He suspects Isendre, does he also suspect Kadere instead of Natael?
Waking, Rand belatedly realizes that he is not so clever for keeping the spy he knows about, Aviendha, near him. The Wise Ones allow him to believe it, until Aviendha lets on that the real spying takes place in tel’aran’rhiod. Whether Rand makes a connection or not, the author is deliberately placing this latest insight about spying and decoys right after the exchange between Lanfear and Asmodean. Aside from being a decoy, the Wise Ones may have other motives in keeping Aviendha with Rand, based on insight gained from dreams or Rhuidean. Dreams seems most likely. They certainly have enough foreknowledge of events to avoid entering tel’aran’rhiod the night that Lanfear is there, perhaps because they do not want to let the Shadow know they have this ability. Lanfear or any other Forsaken could certainly act to protect their dominion over the World of Dreams, so discretion is the best course of action. Of course, Lanfear never does kill anyone, so long as she feels confident that her plans are not menaced. And her plans always revolve around making Rand love her.
The Shadowspawn once again provide a break in the relatively uninteresting travel across the desert. This battle is better than the last, with more danger, more substantial threats. Whichever Forsaken is trying to kill Rand hasn’t tried warding the Shadowspawn as Liandrin did when she tried to kill Moiraine. The stakes are raised when the Draghkar eliminate a Dreamwalker. Seana may have been a peripheral character, but the implication of a viable threat is better than what was served up in the Trolloc encounter at Imre Stand.
Writing Lessons:
Remove scenes which don’t serve your purpose or the story.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 42-46

In this section, Perrin becomes a Lord, and a villainess discovers Elayne and Nynaeve.
In what will become a familiar a scene, Perrin protests his treatment as a Lord and Commander of men. It all happens while he is recovering from a grievous wound, unable to stop it from unfolding. Scenes like this, where the hero is exposed to be vulnerable, are opportunities to remove their influence, and reshuffle the state of affairs if things were beginning to look too easy. Perrin has been in firm control of events up until now, and has managed to avoid making the worst blunders and minimize the damage caused by the mistakes he didn’t avoid. As entertaining as Perrin’s victories have been, his consistent ability to come out on top creates the expectation that he will always come out on top. A major mistake that bloodies him and shows that he can lose, and lose badly, is required in order for the reader to have genuine concern about the outcome of the final confrontation. Enemies test his defenses, more are hidden waiting for their chance to strike. Other enemies are invited inside the protective barriers, some allies may not be trustworthy, and Perrin is still weakened. Now, the reader should be properly concerned.
Similarly, the ‘Aes Sedai’ in Tanchico are moving cautiously, but remain in control of their situation. The numbers arrayed against them demand sure slow steps. Even so, a Forsaken stumbles upon them after Elayne makes a necessary fist of Air to save Egeanin. Moghedien is close enough or powerful enough to sense the channeling, and uses Compulsion when she investigates the disturbance. Even if Elayne and Nynaeve somehow defeat the Black Ajah, Moghedien is waiting to scoop them up, and seems like she can take them all too easily. Their defenses have been penetrated and scorned, and they do not even know it. Now, the reader should be properly concerned.  
The people of Emond’s Field and the Two Rivers are becoming familiar. A simple tag or two is applied to each that no other Two Rivers inhabitant has. A drunk, a liar, a mayor, a proud fletcher, a grump, a first kiss, horse-face, a ladies man, a beanpole, that nose, a bull-voiced teen, a woman big enough to lift Daise Congar, Daise’s scrawny husband, troublemaker, sour-face, a standard-bearer, a braggart. In short bursts, they say or do enough to be remembered by their tags. They interact with each other as much or more than with Perrin, telling far more about them. Perrin then cements their importance by remembering them from before the adventure started. They are no longer just quick pastiches, they are characters who have lived and grown. Perrin sees them as his family now, replacing his murdered kin, and an association is forged between his failure to protect them, and his desire to protect these living characters. The stakes of the next confrontation will be their lives, and Perrin’s associated need to make up for his murdered family.
Robert Jordan sometimes crafts lengthy sentences. Here is an example of one that uncharacteristically uses M-dashes, interjectory marks, to separate ideas instead of the traditional commas and conjunctions:
For a wonder, they bowed clumsily—Dav made an awkward leg, looking a complete fool—and murmured hasty apologies—to her, not him!—and turned to go.
In this case, the sentence structure allows the temporal order to be kept, and also the immediacy of the humour.
A sequence with Elayne and Nynaeve getting ambushed shows paragraph-length interjections. As a setup, Egeanin observes the goons preparing to ambush the young women and races to intervene. There follows a page of the young women blissfully ignorant of the danger, thinking of silk dresses, discussing their plans, concerned only about the pickpockets grasping at their pouches. Then, paragraph by paragraph…
Action: Bulky man strikes, Nynaeve cracks him upside the head.
Action: Second man strikes, Elayne conks him out.
Action: Seven more men surround them.
Action: Elayne and Nynaeve both embrace the True Source.
Interjection: they don’t dare channel.
Interjection: The Black Ajah might sense them. In fact trying to sense the Black Ajah is the reason why they are walking down the street in the first place.
Interjection: If they channel to drub the goons, the crowd would see.
Interjection: Aes Sedai are not popular in Tanchico. The crowd would know there were Aes Sedai and mob them, or carry the tales to the Black Ajah.
Action: No other choice, Elayne and Nynaeve stand back to back to defend themselves.
Action: The goon leader prods the goons to attack.
And the action continues for a page or so.
All of the information in the interjectory paragraphs could have been given up front before the action sequence began. It might even have made sense to the reader why the women were walking the streets alone. But it would have undermined their unpreparedness if there seemed to be a design to what they were doing. Imagine the scene rewritten as a pure action scene, the interjections condensed to a simple: And they dared not channel. Light! The immediacy of the fight would then become the focus. Any tension caused by the pause during which the reader finds out how dire things are might be lost. So in this case, the interjection serves to draw out the scene and increase concern, and also to give the information necessary to understand at a moment where it will increase the reader’s involvement, and not undermine the emotional impact of the scene.
Writing Lessons:
Heighten emotional impact on the reader by using interjections of duration and timing that best suit your purpose.

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 38-41

In this section, dangers loom in Tanchico where the Hunters are hopeful, while the Hunter in the Westwood takes his loss personally.
Following a disastrous Trolloc ambush, Perrin acknowledges what he’s been trying to accomplish: vengeance and justice. The bottled up emotions, clear to the reader but understated in the text until now, are finally released. Faile quickly sets him straight on where guilt for his actions will lead. Her rebuke about proper behaviour for generals leads her to admit her royal lineage. Perrin is also stuck revealing his own secrets. They both come clean with each other, holding nothing back. Perrin and Faile face issues of guilt, responsibility, honesty and come out with a strengthened bond. This is all accomplished in relatively little space, which can be contrasted with Rand’s yet-to-come similar struggle with the same issues, which will be stretched out over a far longer period of time. There might be some message here about strength as a couple versus vulnerability as a loner. Faile and Perrin accept each other as they are, in line with the Way of the Leaf, which is not only non-violence, but acceptance of what comes. Interestingly, the Aiel have kept this part of the Way of the Leaf, in the form of their grim fatalism about death.
The first real insight into the mind of a Black Ajah, Liandrin, illustrates their selfishness and sense of entitlement. The way she lashes out at a maid, one who purportedly shares her affiliation with the Dark One, serves to demonstrate what her dominion over Rand would be like. Six Black Ajah, and however many others are off-screen, and a force of five hundred Whitecloaks greatly outmatch Elayne, Nynaeve, Thom, Juilin and Bayle. The sense of danger is heightened; excitement builds.
The reminder about the Seanchan menace waiting in the wings is much less effective at producing a similar sense of danger and excitement. At best, there is an indication of some divisive elements among the Seanchan, and potential for one side or the other to aid the heroes. Odds favour Egeanin, who is on the verge of contemplating treason. She sent the Lady Leilwin overseas. With all the intrigue in Seanchan, it is doubtful Egeanin’s new name was chosen coincidentally.
There is no indication yet that Bayle recognizes Thom from their flight down the Arinelle but he easily picks Nynaeve out of a crowd. There are no ta’veren in Tanchico, yet the coincidences happen anyway. Perhaps it is sufficient simply to encounter a ta’veren for him to set your path?
Similarly to the young couple, Thom comes clean with Elayne about his affair with her mother. Elayne seems likely to remember the feeling, if not the exact words Thom said, strengthening their trust.
Chapter separation in the Perrin sequence again seems to serve spacing and pacing considerations, but there is no indication chapter breaks were purposefully designed.  Rather, an uninterrupted Perrin sequence was written, and the breaks and placement chosen afterwards to improve the flow.
Slayer is now twice described as looking as Lan’s brother might. Alert readers remember the legend of Isam, and may even pick up on the same inhuman smell coming from Lord Luc. These clues require memory of earlier books events, but a hook was placed that allows easy recollection: Lan. Stories about random people who are deceased from a generation earlier don’t stick in the memory. Make that story about Lan’s lost cousin, and reader interest is piqued. If it were about Bornhald’s lost cousin, it would not work so well. Lan is the last Malkieri, so any relative affects his identity. Slayer also reveals his plan to Perrin, which is made into a reasonable action by the intent that the information will lure Perrin into a trap. A suitable alternative since an inner monologue such as Slayer gives in The Path Of Daggers would give away too much at this point. The clues may be there, but there is no sense solving the mystery for the reader yet.
With the raker’s departure, the Sea Folk have yet to play a significant role, so readers may expect the Coramoor, Elayne, the Sea Folk and the Seanchan to meet up in the future.
Writing Lessons:
Make a detail more memorable by linking to a character or event that already made an emotional impact in the reader’s mind.

Monday, 12 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 34-37

In this section, Rand slowly leads his Aiel towards a gathering place, but his enemies have already tracked him down.
A common complaint about this book and its sequel are the lengthy walks through the desert where ‘nothing happens’. Contrasting these chapters with any earlier part of the book, it is a fair complaint. Once Rand has his face to face with the Wise Ones, there is a short sequence where Egwene is put in her place by the Wise Ones, a sequence where the peddlers show up, and the discovery of a vacant settlement at Imre Stand, followed by a Trolloc attack. Something happens; it’s just not as intense as in earlier parts of the book.
Rand’s return from Rhuidean is exciting. The reader doesn’t know what to expect, but they are probably disappointed about the lack of Aiel acceptance, just as Rand is. The subsequent Shaido trouble and Rand’s discussion about Rhuidean and his parentage are engrossing enough to sustain interest.
Learning about the World of Dreams would be interesting, except Egwene doesn’t actually learn anything concrete. In her conversation with Elayne she spits out information the reader already knows. The most important outcome of the discussion is that Egwene will tell Aviendha about Elayne’s letters, which sets up a mildly humourous situation later on. Egwene is dragged to the steam tent where the Wise Ones begin plotting how to guide Rand to best serve their purpose to save as many Aiel as possible. The most important thing learned is that Aviendha is placed near Rand in the hope he will confide in her. Overall, the chapter acts more like a prologue or interlude than to sustain the breakneck pace of earlier sections. That pace may already have been slowed down by the lengthy Perrin sequence lasting six chapters, but it at least kept introducing new elements and interesting plot twists.
The next sequence is the big plot twist where peddlers find Rand and his Aiel in the Waste. The significance is mostly lost on the reader. Rand points out that these are dangerous people and goes out of his way to act as though he isn’t paying attention to them, hoping to lull them into complacency. He lets the charade play out, even though the fact that is a charade isn’t obvious. Rand expects someone to try to find him, and so is suspicious of anything out of the ordinary. Peddlers showing up may be odd, but recent chapters had ruined cities, a world where wishes come true, a daring rescue, a mysterious Slayer, so as far as oddities go, the peddlers seem relatively normal. Readers will identify more with Mat’s perception of events, thinking Rand is a little paranoid, maybe even beginning to go mad, and there is nothing strange about the peddlers. Mat’s point of view serves to establish that Rand may not be a trustworthy narrator any more. Having an outsider make this observation helps create uncertainty about Rand.
Even though Lanfear has been shown changing her appearance, she is the only Forsaken recognizable on sight. Disguised or not, there is no way to tell which, if any, of the Peddlers are villains, and little to distinguish any one from any other. Keille’s hairdo could as easily be a red herring as a clue if appearances can be changed with the One Power. The inability to pick anything out may increase mystery at the cost of disinterest in the answer. If there is no clue to decipher, why bother trying to find one? In this case the reader can’t wait to get to the next section, not to see what happens next, but to avoid the less interesting bits.
The Trolloc attack is bland, even if it designed to throw a little bit of action into the story, which has been absent since Perrin raided the Whitecloak camp. In the last two major Shadowspawn raids, Perrin discovered he hated Neverborn, and Rand discovered he could wipe out Shadowspawn in vast numbers with Callandor. In this skirmish, Mat fends off attackers with his newfound battle prowess. Except Mat had plenty of prowess before he received new memories, so little new is learned. There is another reminder Rand suspects the peddlers, another reminder of the tensions between Rand and the various women in the camp.
Rand thinks he knows where Aviendha stands.  Readers still have little insight into how she feels, except that it may have to do with what she saw in Rhuidean. Odds favour it being a combination of sulkiness over giving up the spears and anger at Rand for breaking the Aiel as foretold. Romance doesn’t seem a factor.
In the Trolloc attack, Mat unknowingly feels channeling against him as his foxhead medallion pulses with cold. Forsaken? Attempted helping or hindering? Another stab at kicking down a leg of the ta’veren tripod? I’ll have to watch and see who is most surprised that he survived. It ought not to have taken long to try throwing a rock at him with the Power, so the channeler is either unstrategic or very cautious.
Rand still hasn’t learned who his mother really is, except she was a well-to-do wetlander, and a man who resembled her was encountered in the Blight. A hint or two have been dropped about Tigraine and Luc’s disappearances in the past, but if the Glossary is not used, there is slim chance for anyone to make the association yet. If you read the Glossary, it is simple to reason out.
Writing Lessons:
Repeating information the reader already knows, or failing to introduce new information quickly enough, can lose their interest quickly.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 29-33

In this section, Perrin takes charge in the Two Rivers.
Perrin has changed since The Dragon Reborn, as demonstrated by his internal descriptions of the people and events around him. Previously, a heavy emphasis on his blacksmithing background was used to show his personality and character. Now, the blacksmithing references are gone, almost completely absent, replaced by a more worldly view, laced with soldiering metaphors. Even before he takes up arms, Perrin is being cast in a different light than in the previous book. For the most part, his perception is more focused, blunt, to the point. Here are a few examples showing his most blacksmith related thoughts, which are few, and a selection of others showing his growth and experience:
A small bowl balanced on the back of a cunningly made lion.
Whitecloaks don’t need much to decide somebody is guilty.
If he’s not a crackbrain, it won’t matter.
It was past time to be doing something.
A huge tree that looked as if it had been cleft down the middle by an axe.
Looking past Marin at him sharp as tacks.
How could he tell a man something like that?
Other times he might as well have been some complicated mechanism she meant to disassemble in order to puzzle out how it worked.
She was in for a surprise, if it came to that.
He had just tried to think of what a Shienaran he knew, a soldier named Uno, would have said.
Perrin immediately and methodically prioritizes his objectives. The ones he can achieve, and the ones with the greatest impact on himself and his loved ones come first. He sets Slayer last, not knowing he is the greatest of the foes to be reckoned with. His mindset is militaristic, not smith-like.
The sequence where Perrin learns of his family’s death has shortened Perrin responses. Every other character in the room is speaking about the various bits of news for several sentences, almost talking over his head, while Perrin’s responses are a few lines. This serves to illustrate his shock and forced detachment from the news of his family’s demise. An alternative might have been to have a heavily internalized Perrin sequence where he goes through the grieving process. Instead, by keeping Perrin somewhat removed and keeping most of his emotional display short or off page, the feeling is maintained that he is all business. There is even a sense of alarm that he is not fully aware of the dangers of the path he is heading down, that his cold resolve is blinding him to the ridiculousness of his objectives. The removal of the blacksmith related language accentuates this.
The language describing the Aes Sedai’s abode relates to the threat they may pose, and their trustworthiness. Anything at all in and around the sickhouse could be described, but the selection of adjectives and nouns the author chose to use begins to paint a picture: undergrowth, old sickhouse, sourgum, forest closed in, oddly, low branches, net of vines and briars snaked, vine-shrouded windows, dim light, cobwebs. No trusted friend could live in such a place.
Surprisingly, Dain Bornhald is cast in a favourable light, although his good behaviour is incidental to his misguided pursuit of Perrin. Padan Fain once again demonstrates how he uses anyone’s desires to his advantage, using it to goad people into advancing his own goals. Padan Fain took advantage of an organization which acts first, thinks later (if at all) to secure a force of fighting men. The Children of the Light’s actions are meant to draw Rand to him, but may also have been intended to protect him from the Shadow’s attempts on his life, which he wisely foresaw. Any attempts by the Forsaken to pursue Fain can be turned to giving further incentive to Rand to return to the Two Rivers to face Fain. All he has to do is survive the Shadow’s assassins.
Fain has turned Trollocs, and now a Myrddraal. If swearing allegiance to the Shadow involves unspeakable rites to bind you, how frightful is a process to turn you away from that allegiance? What will he do with this Myrddraal? Create a double agent?
Writing Lessons:
Show irrationality by removing a part of normal behaviour.