Friday, 2 March 2012

The Shadow Rising - Chapters 1-2

In this section, three major characters are attacked by magical menaces, while several secondary characters skulk in the wings waiting for their chance to strike.
The Shadow Rising is my favorite book ever, but I haven’t read it in a decade or so. Right off the bat, a sense of danger and impending doom is evoked, as Min Views a variety of horrific fates for a random sample of Aes Sedai she crosses. Incredibly effectively, a logical progression shows the reader that the stakes have been raised dramatically since the last book.
First, the city of Tar Valon is described as the greatest city in the world. It is filled with wondrous towers. Greatest of the Towers is the White Tower. The Wheel of Time turns around Tar Valon, and Tar Valon turns around the White Tower. The White Tower is the heart of Aes Sedai power. The Amyrlin Seat rules the city as she rules the Aes Sedai. We are reminded of how small and insignificant everyone is next to Aes Sedai. And then, four pages into the story, Min begins to see portents of future doom. She sees example after example, ending with the Keeper and Amyrlin themselves. She concludes disaster will strike at the White Tower itself. The Amyrlin herself is partly disbelieving, partly too pragmatic to worry about it. Min knows her Viewings always come true. Always. The heart of goodly power in the world is not only threatened, but fated to fall. This scene is a powerful tool in building reader interest, and an excellent starting point for the adventure.
It is followed with a familiar antagonist, Elaida, setting in motion the events that Min has seen. Elaida has made the life of every heroine who passed through the White Tower miserable. Whatever she is involved in, the reader should have misgivings about. Her background reveals enough to conclude that she is likely not Black Ajah. Like Siuan and Moiraine, she is on a secret mission to save the world, following her own Foretelling that the Andoran Royal line plays a key role in staving off disaster for the world. Although there have been two earlier references to Rand’s resemblance to the long-vanished Tigraine, it may not yet be obvious that Rand is the one she should have been interested in. Had Siuan and Moiraine not set off on their own quest, it is likely that the Pattern would have had more Foretellings for Elaida. She is the failsafe, and would have been forced to take up the quest for the Dragon Reborn had the others failed. A Red helping a man who could channel, that would have been interesting. As it is, she is free to act on her own, though perhaps seeing the ta’veren that one time has already set her off on a path that the Pattern requires.
An immediate threat to the Two Rivers and a long-term threat from the Seanchan are introduced as well. The story is spreading in scope.
The three male heroes, Mat, Perrin and Rand, each get attacked by unusual opponents. A bloodthirsty animated axe lets readers learn everything important about Perrin in a few pages. Mat’s card game with the delinquent young lords shows off his personality and abilities. Having a drunken, self-serving, aristocrat spout offensive drivel sets the reader against him, and Mat’s opposition to that lordling invokes instant admiration for Mat, even if the reader knew not a thing more about him. Rand fends off the advances of a beautiful young woman, the first of many attempts to curry favour with the new ruler of Tear. Now that other people are recognizing him as an important person, he is being thrust into situations with which he has no familiarity, and no way of navigating. If only he could go back to being a shepherd. Each of the three young men deals with a tricky social situation in a way that inspires admiration, and fends off danger, demonstrating their competence. They are portrayed as classic heroes.
As with each of the other books, a concise explanation of the world and the important myths in it is provided early. I’ll look at the order and speed in which this information is conveyed. After the relevant paragraph number of Chapter 1, I’ll list the critical mythic element presented, and a short comment on well the introduction of that element works.
2: The Dragon died and will be born again. Directly related to the sight of Dragonmount, a logical and natural way to introduce the Dragon.
4: Aes Sedai are powerful. A logical point to make when talking about their home city.
6: Aes Sedai can help with special or unusual problems. This is given as introduction before describing the most important special problem they deal with.
10: it seemed nearly as awful as the Dark One’s prison at Shayol Ghul. An exaggeration and a clumsy way of introducing the villain.
13: Most men were nervous around Aes Sedai. It was male Aes Sedai who broke the world. An awkward segue way. The two are seemingly unrelated. It is unlikely men actually worry about this unless they can channel, or see the Aes Sedai as secret police who will grab you on suspicion of channeling ability.
13: The Dragon was the worst male Aes Sedai. He will be reborn to fight the Dark One. The Red Ajah hunt male channelers. Once you start talking about male channelers for the first time, it is logical and natural to finish with all the other related information.
14: Some men become Warders. After making a point about mistrust between men and Aes Sedai, it is logical to speak of the exceptions, but it serves to undermine the original point about mistrust as well.
16: Rand got Min into this uncomfortable situation. Thinking about her circumstance and how she got there is natural.
73: There are troubles in the world. False Dragons. In an epic fantasy, someone has to talk about the big events in the world. Gawyn happens to be the first that could be introduced if Min is to succeed in passing unnoticed.
115: The troubles in Almoth Plain caused by the Dragon Reborn are inconsequential. Rand himself is the focus of everything. The link is made between Min’s boy problems and the other mythic elements. When the most powerful person in the world calls Rand the focus of everything in the same paragraph that the other mythic most important person who will ever exist is discussed, the two ideas are merged in a memorable way.
120: First plain statement that Rand is the Dragon Reborn. And the reader already understands what he has to do as the Dragon, and the forces arrayed against him.
Writing Lessons:
Link two ideas together in the reader’s mind through a common element.

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