Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 19-23

In this section, plans and secrets are revealed, and the Heroes try to take charge of their destinies.
Rand hatches a plan to acquire his own army by entering Rhuidean and winning the hearts of the Aiel. Through shrewd deductions, he determines he can travel from Tear to Rhuidean in a day using Portal Stones. He holds onto this secret means of travel until the last possible moment. The author does the same, showing Rand think repeatedly to himself that he can hold out just a little longer before telling. This small mystery is solved, but a few more are introduced: Rand’s father, not mother, was Aiel, contradicting what has been insinuated previously; who are the Jenn Aiel?; what will they find in Rhuidean?
Rand also made plans for Tear, trying to elevate the peasantry out of their grinding poverty, trying to shape the nation into something in line with his ideals. With Thom’s help he has disposed of several threats to his rule from the nobility. He is trying to treat the Tairens as his flock, sparing a care for even the High Lords he is threatening to execute. This behaviour is contrary to Moiraine’s, who puts achieving her goals and winning the Last Battle ahead of everything else. Over time, Rand will embrace Moiraine’s ideals, becoming cold and driven, even as his allies try to reintroduce the concepts of mercy and love to him. Moiraine and Lan may have had the important task of finding Rand, but their influence on his behavior has overall been negative and sets him down a path of self-destruction.
Moiraine’s thoughts regarding Rand involve frequent use of the puppet on a string metaphor.  She ties strings, she deliberately seeks to control and manipulate him just as Thom feared. The author could have chosen a number of metaphors to express this Aes Sedai need for control, but he deliberately chose the one which Ba’alzamon had used, which has appeared in certain dreams, which has very negative connotations. The goal is to make the reader see Moiraine as plainly untrustworthy, as someone that Rand cannot confide in, so as to increase the sense of desperation he feels. Even noting how Lan, who is a very likeable character, is contemplating leaving Moiraine’s side, adds to the feeling that there is something wrong with Moiraine, and justifiable in stymieing her plans. Every one of Rand or Mat’s insolent grins at her also undermines her standing. There is never just one technique used to affect reader’s perceptions, there are several, subtly working together.
It seems one of Moiraine’s questions to the Aelfinn involved the list of Red Ajah she promises to Thom, for the expedient purpose of getting him out of the way, unless the story of the rogue gentling was well known among the Aes Sedai.
The Portal Stones and discussion of tel’aran’rhiod remind me to examine the geography of the universe. Each mirror world is represented by a horizontal line, other worlds which are even harder to reach, such as the Aelfinn world or worlds that might be reached with an Ogier Book of Translation, are represented by vertical lines crossing the horizontal lines. These are the warp and woof of Verin’s Pattern. And accessible from all of them is the World of Dreams. Some places do not have accessible reflections in tel’aran’rhiod, such as stedding and Rhuidean. What a strange weave to cut off access from tel’aran’rhiod! Useful however, to close the unguarded back door into every fortress. The World of Dreams must also have reflections of the Mirror Worlds and the ‘vertical’ worlds as well! Is the strange realm of spires and ramps that Rand evaded Forsaken in simply a tel’aran’rhiod reflection of the Ways? The property of laying across mirror worlds is that a number of different outcomes of the past or future can be observed. This may explain the Aelfinn ability to give true answers, or a Dreamer’s ability to gain insight about the future. Mirror Worlds are faded if the decisions leading to them are improbable. A probability density function can be used to interpret the ‘realness’ of Mirror Worlds and see what has happened or may happen. Is this why the Wise Ones speak about future events in an odds-based vocabulary? Parts of Tel’aran’rhiod itself shift in relation to the probability that an object is in a given location or not. The more likely it keeps a fixed location in the real world, the more stability its reflection has in tel’aran’rhiod. One should be able to travel to reflections of the other worlds, somehow. What keeps our heroes anchored in the reflection of their own World? Simple probability, or lack of awareness that other reflections exist? Do the Mirror People also have souls? Can they somehow also be represented at the Last Battle, the battle for all creation? I can’t help but feel they will be there.
Egwene’s lessons haven’t even started yet, but we’ve learned much about what can be done in tel’aran’rhiod, if not how. The Wise Ones are being set up as mentor characters, supplanting Moiraine and Lan.
A technique used frequently in this book, probably due to the number of characters being juggled, is that important events concerning a character may be told from a different character’s point of view. Some examples were Aviendha being sent to Rhuidean as seen by Egwene, Rand’s gathering of the High Lords as seen by Moiraine, Lan and Nynaeve’s romance as seen by Elayne. The advantage is that it requires fewer switches back and forth between character points of view. A disadvantage is that a long-awaited or compelling scene lacks a direct report of the emotions felt by the character, it is only seen from the outside looking in. An author could selectively time these scenes and the way they are presented to affect the tempo of the book. Not showing a scene from the concerned character’s perspective also allows the reader to imagine and imprint their own ideas about what is going through the character’s head, creating mystery or tension. There could be several reasons to select or avoid a given character’s point of view.  
The Aiel and Sea Folk have larger cultural differences with the Heroes than any previously encountered people. In earlier books, Robert Jordan would have one culture lead into the other, or have them play off each other. Here, both cultures endure certain hardships particular to their home, have prophecies foretelling massive change to their way of life, have lived in seclusion from the centre of the continent, hiding their channelers. They are meant to express the same idea, that every person in every place in the world has as take in the events unfolding.  
Next time: My favorite chapters ever!
Writing Lessons:
Use an old idea in a new place to associate the reaction to the old idea to the new place.


  1. I think the "other point of view of defining moments of a character" is also that it is much harder to make the reader feel like the person when you are describing the emotions directly. My head can usually feel (empathy) what a person is feeling by seeing the "outside", but not when it is described directly, as then this emotions become "analysed". This is especially so when the emotion is intense and probably erratic, like Lan and Nynaeve’s romance scene in the beginning of the series. So I think it is also a shortcut for the author ("let the readers imagination do the work instead of me writing it down until it feels real").

    Another reason is probably, that it tells a lot of the character who does the thinking and evaluation of the other character. So you get two-in-one: characterization of one character and the emotions/... of the other.

  2. Thanks for the comment!

    I think you are bang on with your comment. Up until this book, the author didn't use the technique as much, maybe because the intense emotional moments were more plot driven than personal, which favoured an in-person view point. Many more opportunities have been created, are maybe even necessitated, by the expansion to a full cast instead of remaining Rand-centric. In Nynaeve's and Lan's romance, the Nynaeve viewpoint in A Crown of Swords is the climax of the relationship. Waiting for that moment to finally see it from her point of view adds to the building tension of the plotline, and increases the reader's satisfaction when it is finally resolved. Thanks for reading!