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.

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