Monday, 2 April 2012

The Fires of Heaven - Chapters 22-27

In this section, Rand and Siuan each find looming obstacles ahead.
Rand’s camp is attacked by Trollocs, in almost the exact same way as in the last book. This attack was designed by Sammael or someone seeking to implicate him, but was designed to fail. Odds favour that it is meant to draw Rand after him in Illian, as part of the plan hatched between himself, Rahvin, Greendale and Lanfear. The battle provides a bit of traditional action, as opposed to the recent subtler forms of action from Forkroot, discovery by Whitecloaks, or Black Ajah interactions.
Rand also has to commit to his altruistic motives. While he knew for certain that he meant to use the Aiel to peacefully unify the Nations, others did not. They are supposed to save the people they find, not kill them, which is obviously disappointing to a warrior culture. The Aiel who are ready for this radical change are with Rand, those who cannot change from their marauding clan warfare ways go to the Shaido. Despite his best efforts, the Shaido are keeping pace a week ahead of him, burning and pillaging, killing and enslaving.
As with other characters who try to guide Rand, Sorilea starts with the assumption that he must be hard to lead men. Rand is still learning how to be a leader, but he will begin to take such advice all too seriously.
Mat has boundaries given for his new memories: from before the Trolloc Wars to the War of the Hundred Years, a fifteen hundred-year period. Whatever interest this may have for the reader, there has been precious little discussion of centuries-past events in the main text. The Glossary is an important resource for such things, but an author has to weigh the cost of keeping this information outside of the main story. A glossary or other resource saves an info-dump, but now risks the reader flipping away from what they are reading to learn more from the glossary, taking them out of the story and requiring them to get back into it.
Min’s love for Rand provides only a tenuous link to the other storyline, and the main point of using her perspective is to delay the revelation of Siuan’s plan until the last possible moment. Siuan intends to create allies for Rand by influencing the rebel council to choose a new Amyrlin that she can manipulate directly. She has her Amyrlin chosen out already, but that is not yet revealed. Enough of the plan has been revealed that the reader will be interested in what comes next, so details such as that are held in reserve. Siuan implies that she and Logain will be able to lie to convince the rebels that Red Ajah conspired to have Logain proclaim him the Dragon Reborn. Even if Siuan’s plot is exposed, provided word leaks out about Elaida’s supposed role, it will be enough to discredit her and have her pulled down.  
Robert Jordan is reputed to write realistic battle scenes, so I’ll analyze one with Mat and see what I can make of it.
A critical element is to situate the action. The birdcalls tell Mat that the enemy is coming from north and south at the same time. The geography of the camp doesn’t matter so much as the fact that Mat is as far away from Rand as he could be, implying that no help from channelers is forthcoming, and Mat’s tent will be one of the first to be attacked. This is easily understood by the reader.
A short description of the preparation and equipment allows readers to picture the warrior and demonstrate a sense of urgency: Mat has his black spear and takes the time to put on his medallion because he is cautious of Forsaken.  Melindhra went naked into battle.
Before describing the outside scene, a Trolloc attacks Mat. A few words describe unpreparedness: he had no time, before he was completely out, brushed his hair, and threw himself. The paragraph ends with a word describing preparedness: with the spear ready. In three sentences, he has conveyed that although caught off guard, Mat has overcome the situation and is in control.
The enemy Trolloc is described in fearsome detail. It snarls, lunges, howls. Mat spins, knocks, thrusts. Its armor parts, it folds, cries. Mat pulls, dodges. The verbs describing Mat’s actions are packed with visual imagery and motion, telling readers that he is more agile and nimble than his opponents.
The immediate threat gone, the surrounding scene is described, situating Mat. Aiel are winning against Darkfriends and Trollocs.
Mat’s personal stake in the battle is revealed: He wants no part of battles; he wants to gamble and chase women. He blames Rand for his situation.
A third Trolloc, fearsomely described again, is casually dispatched. A Myrddraal faces him, having just killed two Aiel at once. The hierarchy of fighters has been established. Darkfriends are weak. Trollocs are a bit weaker than Aiel. Mat kills a Trolloc at a time with ease. A Myrddraal kills two Aiel at a time with ease. Mat is now faced with a foe that is his match or better.
The Myrddraal’s fear inducing gaze is described, and even Aiel acknowledge its effects. Mat roars and charges towards it.
The Myrddraal’s dark-forged sword deals festering wounds that can kill. Moiraine might be able to heal it, if she were near. Mat launches an all-out offensive.
Defending against it gives the Myrddraal the advantage, so Mat attacks with an intensity to keep the Myrddraal from having a chance to nick him with its blade. Any other random Shadowspawn could stab Mat from behind. Mat’s strategy is succinctly described, so that the reader knows the purpose behind the actions. The order in which it is shown is first to tell what action Mat is taking, and while the reader is surprised and excited at the prospect of the fight, the purpose fills the reader with understanding and a sense that Mat has the upper hand and is in control of the battle.
The battle is a draw, Mat can’t hit it, but it can’t stop defending either. Mat struck. Its hand flew away. Mat sliced, did not stop, thrust, cut, again. Mat steps away. It thrashes, flails, spills its blood. Mat’s verbs are controlled deliberate actions; the Myrddraal’s verbs are uncontrolled, desperate, reactive.
This battle description was structured to give the reader a certain impression of Mat, and to build up towards the battle with the Myrddraal.
Writing Lessons:
Describe where the action is happening as well as the action itself. The location is not simply the geography but is relative to other important things such as allies, healing, objective, or object.

1 comment:

  1. I liked this one - I'll admit to being guilty of skimming the battle sequences sometimes, so this helps to re-focus my attentions. Good post!