Thursday, 31 May 2012

A Crown of Swords - Chapters 4-8

In this section, the heroes are back in command, for now
Colavaere has her lands and titles stripped from her as punishment for usurping the throne of Cairhien. She exemplifies the follower who gets ahead of herself, betraying her Lord for power.
Perrin has his own betrayal to deal with, as he reconciles with Faile over Berelain’s unwanted attentions and his slip of the tongue in the throne room. Unlike previous books where the theme was about rifts between men and women which would have dragged out any reconciliation, or where the theme was about deceit and trickery which is when the unnecessary argument between the two began, this time the theme is about the trust in people closest to you. Perrin comments on Faile’s disregard for her own safety and intent to do things her own way, as a wife should. Faile comments on her fears that the Aes Sedai had somehow turned Perrin. Sometimes certain events seem to have been set aside waiting for the book with the correct theme to come along before dealing with it. Other times the plot just rolls along and the author presents the plot elements in a way that fit the theme of that book, without delaying or forcing the plot’s progress.
Colavaere’s removal allows the author to draw attention to Rand’s scheme to invest Elayne in the thrones of Cairhien and Andor. Handing these nations to Elayne whole is important to Rand, and is a symbol of how he hopes to preserve the world itself through the struggles of the Last Battle. To pull this off, Rand must put faith in his trusted followers, who are few enough that he can name them. Rand repeatedly distinguishes between the followers he can trust, and those he can’t.
When the Wise Ones send word ahead to Melaine in Andor about Rand’s kidnapping and rescue, she shares it with Bael, Dorindha, and Davram and Deira Bashere. Rand has to quash his anger at the freedom his followers allow themselves. This group is split in two over the Aes Sedai captives. Rand is left to puzzle over how other Aes Sedai will be treated when he encounters them.
The Aes Sedai in question are led by Egwene, who must snatch what authority she can from the three competing factions among the rebels. She can barely control her official advisor, and she completely loses control of her captive Forsaken. Symbolizing how little control she has, in the first sentence even her folding chair can’t be trusted to stay erected. The discussion veers into spies in the camp, both for Elaida, sent to Elaida, and the most feared covert spies of all: the Black Ajah.
This is one of the first instances where the author has shown the same scene twice. This version is not exactly a flashback, but more of a fleshed out version of the short page-long scene from Lord of Chaos. Why do it this way?
In Lord of Chaos, Moghedien’s escape is meant to be a punchline and a disruptive plot element. It didn’t have to be long or detailed, it just needed to shock the reader into realizing that the villains have not been set back at all and are advancing their own goals. In this wordier section, the groundwork is being laid for Egwene’s storyline. But establishing the status quo among the rebels doesn’t require showing the same scene over again, or even continuing from that moment; it could even have been a meeting with Sheriam a week or a month later. What the scene does offer is establishing when the events happen to Egwene, in relation to when Rand’s events take place. This is of some interest to the reader, but not quite necessary, and could again have been handled with a ‘one week ago Moghedien escaped’ sort of line. The scene offers an immediate reason for Egwene to reason out which Forsaken yet live, noting that Ishamael was dead , ‘or so it seemed’, and also to wonder about the Aes Sedai look of agelessness, which will become relevant in the later Ebou Dar scenes.
Writing Lessons:
Have a good reason to show a scene twice, or from two different perspectives.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A Crown of Swords - Chapters 1-4

In this section Perrin reveals how everyone feels.
Perrin’s ability to tell mood from a person’s scent allows a much more intimate understanding of the characters he meets than you would normally get from the typical third-person limited point of view. Without this ability, he and the reader would only have the usual visual and auditory clues to rely on. From any character’s point of view, there is always the chance that they are wrong, that they are an unreliable narrator like Mat or Nynaeve. Perrin’s ability is unerringly accurate. He lacks the context to understand many of the scents or emotions he is detecting, but he is never wrong about them.
Perrin can tell when Lews Therin is the more active of the two minds in Rand’s body. He knows how eager Aram is to kill. He can tell that a meek gai’shain is seething inside. He can tell when a man shifts from boasting to fear. He knows when the unflappable Aes Sedai are wary, or puzzled, or infuriated. In short, Perrin knows what you are thinking on the inside, which makes a Perrin point of view act as if told by an omniscient narrator.
So, Perrin makes a good choice of point of view character in situations where the author wants to introduce and establish the goals of a large number of characters, such as at the beginning of this book. Perrin is able to reveal the hidden moods of Tairens, Cairhienin, Aiel, individual Maidens, Mazrim Taim, the Asha’man, the Wise Ones, the captured Aes Sedai, the Two Rivers men, Alanna, Min, Loial, Dashiva.
In keeping with the proposed theme of subordinates choosing their path in this book, Perrin’s ability is also useful in establishing the relationship between the various leaders and their subordinates: Rand and Mazrim Taim, Mazrim Taim and the Asha’man, Bera and Kiruna and the other Aes Sedai, Sorilea and the other Wise Ones, Nandera and Sulin, and more. In almost all cases, the subordinates balk at what they have to do.
Aram seems like he’d do what Perrin told him not to the second his back was turned. The Two Rivers men never obey certain orders. Alanna is willfully stubborn to Bera and Kiruna in matters regarding her warder.  Mazrim Taim undermines Rand’s other followers implying only he can be trusted. The Aes Sedai try to set themselves above Rand even after they swore fealty to him. Feraighin struggles to tell Sorilea exactly everything she asked for, but fails to tell her something which she should have realized Sorilea would want to know.
All of this leads into the major obvious threat, which is that Rand’s followers in Cairhien are beginning to abandon him because they believe he has sworn fealty to the Aes Sedai.
A more insidious threat which also falls into the theme is that Perrin is ready to let the Pattern burn to save Faile. He will defy any order or action that puts Faile in danger. Surprisingly, of all the followers who may rebel against their leader, Perrin is not the one the reader would have expected.
Writing lessons:
To surprise the reader, give examples of behaviour the character disagrees with, then show what they care about enough that they would behave in just that way.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A Crown of Swords - Prologue

In this section, secondary characters with minimal involvement in the book set the tone and theme
Why have a prologue in a novel? In the early books, the prologues served to show the villain and establish the stakes, since there was no convenient place to do this from the perspective of the heroes. They also showed events that took place earlier than the story’s beginning, so that the effects of those events could initiate the story proper. In the most recent books, the prologues expanded in scope, catching the reader up on a multitude of details and establishing some of the thematic elements.
In A Crown of Swords, there are six perspectives: five villains, and one who hasn’t committed yet. Each of the sections takes place in the day since Rand escaped from his captivity at the end of Lord of Chaos. The ones in Tar Valon and Amadicia did not need to be set on that day, but Sevanna’s and Gawyn’s did. The best reason to set those events on the same day, and cram them into the same prologue, is simply to lessen the number of interludes in the main story. As in earlier books, the author uses the technique of showing several scenarios which are linked thematically.
Elaida is portrayed as a stubborn, entitled and myopic woman with no people skills, but she does have power, both from being Amyrlin and from the Talent of Foretelling.  She finds her Keeper of the Chronicles Alviarin to be difficult and insubordinate. Alviarin is biding her time, waiting for the orders that will place her second only to the Forsaken. She is competent, intelligent, and ruthless. With Alviarin and Mesaana pulling strings, and their new ability to weave Gateways, Elaida has little hope of getting her way.
Pedron Niall is portrayed as cautious, thorough and subtle, with a nearly perfect record of victory. Niall has finally discovered the Seanchan threat near his doorstep, but he is struck down before he can do anything about them. The mastermind behind the assassination is Valda, a competent, strong, and ruthless man.  
Sevanna is portrayed as overbearing, greedy, and selfish. Although she corralled her Wise Ones into battle against all custom, they and the Shaido warriors turn and flee before the Asha’man. Sevanna is angered by their weakness but is already making plans to capture Rand. She still has a cube given to her by Sammael, an apparent reversal of her and the author’s decision to throw it away at the end of Lord of Chaos.
Gawyn is an underling who has gotten underfoot enough to trouble Elaida. He has avoided attempts to put him in harm’s way and now has some decisions to make. His situation is meant to be contrasted with the other underlings in the prologue. Will he strike down those he serves as Valda did? Let himself be led around like the Shaido Wise Ones? Serve obediently as Alviarin does? His rationalization that he doesn’t have to help Rand just because he promised not to hurt him places him in balance between good and evil. He represents the everyman, having to choose a course of action that will topple whoever he stands against.
We’ll see how much insubordination and pivotal choices turn up as thematic elements in the rest of A Crown of Swords.
Writing Lessons:
Place scenes outside of the main action together in a chapter to lessen the drag on the main storyline.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Lord of Chaos - Summary

100th post! I am averaging two posts every three days. Slower than hoped, but satisfactory.
Other books in the series have dabbled in humour, while Lord of Chaos makes it a central theme, with a focus on who gets the last laugh, usually through trickery. In a pair of sequences bookending the novel, the principal villain Demandred has never been known to smile, but finally tells a story that has the Dark One himself laughing.  
Between those bookends, a multitude of other characters scheme and plot to get the upper hand. There are layers of subterfuge, beginning with Rand’s use of the world’s largest army to distract Sammael from the true attack. This is one of two major plots in the book, but this one remains unresolved, as though it was a distraction itself, a piece of patter meant to lure the reader one way so the punch line of the second plot line can surprise them to the fullest.
The second major plotline is the competition between the two Aes Sedai embassies to see who will recruit Rand to their cause. The setup implies he will choose one or the other, but the resolution is something else entirely, where both end up serving Rand instead.
Both of these plots, and myriad smaller ones, involve deceit and trickery, but are not presented as a question of the trickery surprising the reader. Often the trickery is exposed, but determining who benefits is the question, given that there are several reversals of fortune. The ultimate example is that in the end Rand’s victory has been the goal the Dark One sought, against all logic.
The injustice done to Rand is such that his victory provides immense satisfaction, so much so that the reader hardly notices that other plotlines involving other heroic characters or the battle with Sammael have been left unresolved. Since the following book, A Crown of Swords, ties these up, the two novels might be viewed as halves of a whole.  
Writing Lessons:
Reader satisfaction comes from emotional reaction, not from the resolution of the plot itself.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Lord of Chaos - Chapters 53-55

In this section, the Heroes take desperate actions to free Rand
There are a series of reversals in the concluding chapters of this book: The Tower Aes Sedai turn the tables on Rand. The Shaido turn the tables on the Aes Sedai. And finally Rand’s allies turn the tables on them both. A constant theme has been the idea of chaotic, surprising events, often revealed in the form of humour or jokes. A second theme particular to this book is misunderstanding due to lack of context. Even when the reader knows what is going on, the characters don’t. The overarching way this is presented is through the Dark One’s orders to Demandred. Only the first part of the order is known, and the manner in which Demandred accomplishes his mission remains a mystery at the conclusion. This is a joke that only they two get, and the punchline is yet to be understood by Rand and his allies.
There were two very important cues that led to the inception of the theory that Mazrim Taim is Demandred. The first is a physical and behavioural resemblance: neither of the two ever smiles or finds anything funny. The second is related to timing: Demandred’s success immediately follows Taim’s moment of glory during Rand’s rescue. Together, these provoke a powerful reaction in the reader. However, the theme is deception and tricks. Any resemblance between the two characters may seem like the trick they are pulling is hiding Demandred in plain sight, but even that itself could be the deception intentionally played on the reader. In light of the theme, I have to recant my advocacy of the theory that Taim is Demandred. This book is filled with so many punchlines, I now feel quite certain this one is at the reader’s expense. The book was published just as internet chat groups took off, and on the heels of sudden intense fan interest in Asmodean’s murder, and I am now left with the sense that in reaction to this strange new phenomenon, the author placed a very deliberate red herring. A big fat joke to end the book, as befits the theme.
(Despite this, “RJ is wrong... Taim is Demandred!”, remains a hilarious statement befitting the madness that is Theoryland. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about emotional attachment to a position, it is that it withstands all reason and evidence, as true in life as it is on Theoryland. The author of that other reread blog on took the statement (or one just like it) at face value, so bonus points to me for successfully yanking her chain: She fell for it!)
That still doesn’t answer what Demandred succeeded so well at that the Dark One’s laughter filled his head. Getting Rand to trust Taim? Unlikely since Rand never sets foot anywhere near him again. Getting Rand to mistrust Aes Sedai? He was already there. Getting the Aes Sedai to bend the knee? Maybe. The Lord of Chaos is akin to the King of Fools, a figurehead that everyone must obey, no matter how ridiculous the orders. Obedience is one of the characteristics of the evil societies in the series. There have been consistent thematic elements which have the Heroes representing free will, and the Dark One representing obedience. Forcing Rand to take on the role of the one who receives obedience from others is an attempt to crush him under the burdens of leadership and to give him an emotional stake in controlling the actions of others.
What was Demandred’s involvement in this success? If he wasn’t Taim, was he controlling Taim? Someone is. If Demandred used balefire up until now, readers didn’t see it. The Asha’man could unleash balefire at some later point, and have proven to be a force that Rand can’t control or even risk approaching. They have no equivalent in the world, unless it is the damane who could be equally battle-trained. Even if Taim isn’t Demandred, setting up Rand’s own force of male channelers to betray his purposes at some later point still fits best with the theme and with later events. This is likely what the Dark One was so pleased about.
Lews Therin’s progress from mad rants, to running from Rand’s calls to leave him alone, to reacting to what Rand sees and says, to finally carrying on a discussion with Rand is masterfully handled. Each step leads inexorably to the next one. The moment when they agree to work together is when Rand embraces the madness, agreeing to cooperate with a mad voice in his head, which again fits with the theme. Lews Therin agreeing in turn to work with whoever Rand is, assuming Rand is real, is a brilliant twist that makes the reader see Lews Therin as an equal of sorts, since he has all the same questions as Rand. Having the voice in his head or listening to it doesn’t make Rand that crazy. Trusting the voice can’t help but induce spine tingles. That is crazy.
The epilogue is a stream of almost one-liner surprise twists, the most effective of which are the gholam and Moghedien’s release. Out of nowhere, the Gholam kills a minor character. The only possible conclusion the reader can reach is that Herid Fel had something to say that the Forsaken didn’t want Rand to hear. The Gholam belongs to Sammael, so this murder is also an added pressure to take Rand’s attention from Illian and focus him to the north, where Sammael has also been prodding the Shaido. Moghedien’s disappearance is instantly exciting because her captivity has paralleled Rand’s experience in the chest, and we just saw Rand’s cold fury as he dealt with his captors.
For once, Perrin showed no hesitation or shame about his wolf abilities. He simply acted. In the context of this book, such concerns would have been misplaced since it would be difficult to present this in a way that shows deception, trickery, or chaos. Instead, it’s just handled straightforwardly, which also helps keep the tense pace of the final confrontation.
Writing Lessons:
A lack of context risks confusing the reader. Be certain that the payoff is worth the risk.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Lord of Chaos - Chapters 49-52

In this section, heroes and villains make their move!
Egwene can’t let Logain die after all the help he has been, as well as for the damage it will do to the rebels’ honor and reputation. Siuan spikes the guards’ tea, and frees him. While the three rebel factions still try to spur Egwene one way or another, she is taking matters into her own hands as much as she can. She also has a dedicated pair of followers in Siuan and Leane.
Within the factions, some of the Aes Sedai keep secrets even from their allies. Delana does whatever Aran’gar counsels her to do. Myrelle decides to keep her new Warder a secret from her own allies, with the exception of Nisao, who she hopes will provide help in keeping Lan from dying.
Elayne, Nynaeve, Birgitte and Aviendha begin their search for the Bowl of the Winds, and do so in secret, wearing disguises that allow them to slip by the keen eyes of Vanin, Thom, and Juilin. Mat searches for them as futilely as they try to locate the building with the Bowl.
Berelain spends much of her time trying to corner Perrin for no better reason than to prove a point to Faile. This despite what such behaviour has earned her at Rhuarc’s hands in the past. Whatever progress she had made in proper behaviour is thrown to the wind as she is caught in Perrin’s ta’veren swirl. What the Pattern has in store for her, Faile, and Perrin, is not clear even knowing what the next books entail.
Merana’s rebel delegation makes a show of power to Rand, which he is able to narrowly overcome. Yet with other Aes Sedai trickling into the city, he quickly decides to hightail it to Cairhien, away from the threat of a circle of thirteen. Merana realizes the arrival of more Aes Sedai is coincidental and unfortunate, but is powerless to stop the embassy form crumbling around her. The new arrivals use their ranking with the Power to overthrow what little authority she had left after Verin deftly snatched control from her. Desperately, she begs to be allowed to join those traveling to Cairhien. That Aes Sedai have given up their long-established traditions of ranking is a shocking disappointment to her.
In Cairhien, Rand receives Coiren and two other Aes Sedai, so as to keep the two embassies on equal footing. He is convinced that when she arrives in Cairhien and discovers this, Merana will capitulate and throw the rebels support behind him, and he is right that such would have been her intent.
The trap comes as an inevitable surprise. To distract the reader, a number of subplots are presented in rapid-fire succession, each carrying some emotional weight. The trick to pulling off a successful practical joke is to get the victim’s emotional response going before they have time to think things through. Here in a single page the reader is presented with cackling Lews Therin, Rand in opposition to the Wise Ones wishes, embarrassment over people knowing Min pinches his bottom, Sulin’s toh, Min and Sorilea’s failure to keep a simple promise, and Alanna’s approach. When the Aes Sedai enter, Rand is alone, though it would not have mattered. He immediately begins gloating over how he has fooled them into thinking he is interested only in the wealth they bring him as gifts. He is filled with contempt, and the reader would be hard pressed not to agree since they have just been subjected to a full page of Rand’s apparent victories and righteousness.
When the trap springs, a battle to free Rand is expected. It quickly becomes apparent that the Aes Sedai have thought things through, and they present a plausible story to the Maidens. Rand has Traveled away, and the meeting between them has turned sour. They show no haste, no hint of trying to conceal what they are doing. Presumably they had responses ready to deliver to anyone who asked why they were holding so much of the One Power in the palace, likely saying they felt the need to be ready in case Rand could not contain his anger with them.
The setup throughout the book becomes apparent. The Aes Sedai have been channeling so much at Arilyn’s palace so that the channeling they undertake when Rand is their captive will not be noticeable. Indeed, Sorilea has already become so accustomed to it that she dismisses it. Rand’s own behaviour of slipping away to do one thing or another without the appropriate number of guards now works against him. His people are desensitized to his comings and goings, and carry on fully expecting him to return eventually.
The last important piece of setup comes from Egwene thinking about the customs of keeping a man shielded. This was touched on much earlier in the story as well, and it will serve to explain the resolution of Rand’s capture in the final section of the book.
Writing Lessons:
Evoke surprise by engaging the reader’s emotions before they can analyze what is happening

Monday, 21 May 2012

Lord of Chaos - Chapters 44-48

In this section, a catalytic event heralds impending disaster.
Demira, an Aes Sedai with the rebel embassy in Caemlyn, is ambushed by a handful of Aiel in the alleyways of the city. The sudden violence inflicted on her in the last paragraph contrasts sharply with the two pages she spent idly wondering about her library books, and with the nearly two hundred pages of non-violent storytelling that preceded it. It is enough of a shock to leave a queasy feeling in the reader’s mind, an unsettling sense that things have taken a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse.  
In short order, the ramifications are felt. Verin has taken over the rebel embassy by virtue of her rank among Aes Sedai and Merana’s new deference to her. Demira has concocted a plan to let Rand know their displeasure. And the reader knows that the rebels have just blown their chance to get on the same side as Rand.
Obviously Rand didn’t send the Aiel, so who was it? Demira noticed the Aiel following her, which implies they weren’t real Aiel. The cadin’sor might not match the city as well, but Demira is not particularly observant. They used the term ‘witches’, implying they are Whitecloaks. And Padan Fain has been sitting around Caemlyn looking for some new way to prick Rand. While the Forsaken may have as much to gain as Fain, the mode of attack and the people carrying it out match his followers.
Mat does his best to tweak the Aes Sedai’s noses in Salidar by hanging a banner which is actually their ancient symbol. He dances with almost every important character among the rebels: Halima is the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life, yet Mat remembers seeing Lanfear. When Halima realizes her attempt to lay hands on Mat Cauthon has been foiled, she quickly backs off; the ter’angreal keeps the Forsaken from doing anything to him. Siuan rejects him, Leane kisses him, Myrelle offers to bond him. He plays into Egwene’s hands with the orders he leaves for the Band, and honors her publicly when no other Aes Sedai will. When the Gateway is too short, Mat has to tell his men to dismount right after telling them to mount.
Adeleas and Vandene channel against Mat continually to test the limits of his ter’angreal. Elayne tries to assert her Queenliness over her subject. Nynaeve can’t stand being near him. And Mat’s sourness shows in his judgmental and funny commentary on everything around him. Notice how the humourous sentences are structured to keep the punchline for the end.
… a cloudy liquid the lanky woman insisted was made from plums, but which tasted as if it would remove rust.
… a scruffy two stories of white-plastered bricks in a scruffy village of white-plastered bricks and flies called So Tehar.
… a woman with hips that looked as though a man’s fingers might break from giving them a pinch.
In Ebou Dar, men walked small around women, and forced a smile at what they would kill another man for. Elayne would love it. So would Nynaeve.
Mat feels the dice in his head again, and selecting an inn at random makes them stop. His own description is that he feels this sensation when his luck is running strong in the gambling. It was always there when there was a battle in the offing. And it seemed to come where there was a vital decision to make, the sort where the wrong choice might get his throat cut.
Elayne and Nynaeve act towards Queen Tylin in the way that Mat does with everyone. They speak truthfully and plainly, having interpreted a phrase from the Queen slightly incorrectly. They may be inexperienced, or rebelling against expected Aes Sedai behaviour after being put in their place by Adeleas and Vandene, but their approach will find favour with Tylin.
Jaichim Carridin is in the palace as well, and is turning into a regular opponent of Elayne and Nynaeve.
Perrin finally makes his appearance in Caemlyn, just in time to meet his in-laws. They are portrayed in such a way that Perrin’s preference to face Trollocs is reasonable. Their appearance is prefaced by a seemingly unnecessary point of view from a young Saldaean soldier named Vilnar. He describes his potential father-in-law’s expectation, his readiness to face Trollocs contrasted with his reluctance to face Aes Sedai, and his preference to face both together than to be the one who brings Faile to her mother. It’s only a page, and does a middling job of introducing Deira as a fearsome woman, a job that could have been done from Faile’s point of view, or Perrin’s for that matter. Perrin also gives Rand another chance to reminisce about their carefree youth.
Writing lessons:
Structure your humourous sentences to deliver the punchline at the end

Lord of Chaos - Chapters 38-43

In this section, Mat’s appearance in Salidar sets events in motion.
Now that Rand has discovered Salidar, he has sent Mat to bring Elayne back to Caemlyn. Elayne has other ideas. The dance that ensues is comedic both for Mat’s misjudging of the situation and for his inability to accomplish his mission without jumping through several hoops first.
First, Mat somewhat correctly guesses that Aviendha and Elayne will confront each other over Rand. He misjudges who will have the upper hand, since he doesn’t realize ji’e’toh will prevent Aviendha from lifting a finger against Elayne, but will instead have her offering to die at Elayne’s hand to make up for her ‘mistake’.  Mat is so concerned about Elayne that he happily leaves Aviendha in difficult situations to keep her away from Elayne. Aviendha’s discomfort is all the funnier because it was unnecessary, even as it provides Mat with gleeful satisfaction that he’s doing well.
Next, Mat correctly guesses that there is no good reason why Egwene should have been made Amyrlin. He thinks only a poor blind fool would take a position all but certain to lead to the headsman, and Egwene has more sense than that! Yet for all his admonitions about the trouble they’ll be in for impersonating the Amyrlin, he shows no qualms about sitting in her chair and tossing her cushions on the floor! Just what was he expecting to say if the Amyrlin he expected walked in?
After much argument about who is right and who is in danger, Mat is able to foil Egwene’s prodding thanks to his ter’angreal. As wrong as he is about the details, he cannot be forced, budged or reasoned with until he gets his way. Once Egwene reasons that he’s made a promise, she is able to make him dance to her tune, and gets him to commit to a trip to Ebou Dar before Elayne heads north with him. If she does.
Egwene declares that Mat’s Dragonsworn will taint the rebels by association. They need to distance themselves from them. They also need to be concerned about the next surprise Rand might drop on them with Traveling: Asha’man. The fears and concerns are convincing, but Egwene still needs to present them in a way that will be accepted by the three factions vying for control of the rebels.
The ability to Travel opened up many story and plot possibilities, and several are quickly closed with the strategic consideration that the ability must not be given to Elaida’s Aes Sedai. By taking away all the possibilities where a rebel might be captured by one of Elaida’s people, the advantage of Traveling is reduced to very limited occasions, such as the trip to Ebou Dar. In essence, the rebels have a tool that can be used once by surprise.  
Thom tells Mat the story of the woman who needed rescuing, but didn’t in the end. He advises helping them do what they want instead of what he wants. Trying to force people to behave in a particular way is a characteristic of the villainous cultures: Children of the Light, Shadar Logoth, Seanchan, Tairen High Lords, and Forsaken. Thom’s appeal should work on Mat, since he is constantly complaining about being badgered to do one thing or another by someone who thinks they know better.
Once Elayne and Aviendha decide they can share Rand, they speak of Min, which naturally leads into Min’s chapter. For all that some readers find the three women’s acceptance of the situation unreasonable, men and women can have informal arrangements of the sort, the stereotypical ones being the sailor with a woman in every port, or the traveling salesman. For whatever reason, people are frequently capable of accepting they only get to share part of a person’s life and know that others are doing exactly the same thing with the same person. This discussion about Rand’s love life comes right after Thom’s appeal to Mat. The point is the same, and one the three women have embraced: Let Rand and the other women do what they want, do not try to impose your will on the others.
Min’s approach to seducing Rand is to pretend she’s not trying to seduce him while blatantly acting in just that way. She challenges Rand to admit he finds her attractive and will not relent in her behaviour until he does. Whatever he chooses to do, Rand is stuck either canoodling with Min, or admitting he’d like to do more. In this story, women always have the power over romance and sex, and any man who takes a more direct approach is a villain. Egwene notes even Mat somehow only pursues those women who want to be pursued.
Min instantly befriends Melaine, averting much trouble. Once she is treated as a Wise One, she is allowed to come and go as she pleases, passing through ranks of bodyguards unmolested. Giving Min the ability to move about unhindered avoids having to explain how she got past the guards every time she comes for a visit. A small investment in this scene avoids plot holes later on, and also raises Min’s ranking to be on somewhat even footing with the other women.
Taim reacts badly to Rand naming him the second Asha’man. The readers made the obvious connection with the tale of Demandred, who was always second to Lews Therin. Demandred hasn’t been seen since spying on Elayne in Tel’aran’rhiod, but Lews Therin mentioned him in possible relation to Shadar Logoth. If this scene didn’t put the idea in their head yet, they will still have it by the end of the book. But we’ll save discussing the theory that Taim is Demandred for the final post on this book.
In a scene mirroring the earlier one where Elaida’s Aes Sedai secretly met with the nobility of Cairhien, the rebel delegation is doing the same with the exiled nobles of Andor. Min’s listing of the delegation is forgettable, and Seonid and Masuri are stereotypical Green and Brown Ajah. Out of the delegation, only Merana matters, along with her position in relation to Verin and Alanna, who have managed to distinguish themselves in the reader’s mind due to their past actions.
Writing Lessons:
Look for plot holes by examining whether your characters are doing things that a minor character could never get away with.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Lord of Chaos - Chapters 32-37

In this section, the Rebels cement their position by making Egwene their figurehead.
Egwene makes a failed attempt to board the Sea Folk ship. Her bruised ego leads her to antagonize the Sea Folk until she realizes what she has done is foolish. That event gives her an opportunity to consider how keenly she understands ji’e’toh now.  She worries, and then accepts that she will now have to pay the consequences for her past actions. She promises the Aes Sedai to come to Salidar quickly, and despite regrets about leaving the Aiel, she does not hesitate. The corporal punishment she endures is symbolic of the cost to be paid for deceit. The bigger the lie and the longer it is told, the greater the cost. There is incentive to keep your misdeeds small. Egwene had to make this mistake and pay the price so that her later feats in the White Tower as a novice will seem believable. Already small references begin to creep in about her refusal to surrender.
In a simple and partly coincidental plot twist, Rand learns the location of Salidar from that meeting. Eavesdropping is a frequent and useful mechanism to give your characters new knowledge that advances the plot. This time, eavesdropping as a plot device does not feel blatant and out of place, as it did in The Dragon Reborn when Mat overheard Gaebril in Caemlyn’s Royal Palace. Oddly, it is the fact that the location in question is difficult to access combined with Rand’s unique abilities to get there that makes it feel plausible. Two improbabilities combine to make a plausibility. It also helps that a precedent was set when Demandred observed Elayne in Tel’aran’rhiod in Chapter 7.
Mat observes a truth about dealing with the Snakes and Foxes, taken from a board game: you can’t win if you follow the rules. This will turn out to be true both in regards to the rhyme, and also with the rules governing time and space themselves.
Mat is asked to fetch Elayne back to Andor, since Rand hopes to lessen his burdens by passing a couple of nations off to her. It doesn’t work since Elayne contrives to be sent off to Ebou Dar to look for a stash of ter’angreal including one that can correct the weather.
Egwene’s method of travel, in the flesh through Tel’aran’rhiod, was used for evil, is evil, and will cause her to lose part of herself according to the Wise Ones. As inferred by the theory posted yesterday, there has to be some way that this action meets those criteria, even if it hasn’t been made obvious by Rand’s use of it or by Egwene’s use of it this time.
Egwene weaves flows of spirit to create a place where the interior of her tent is so similar to its reflection in Tel’aran’rhiod that there was no difference right there. One was the other. This should be place that is both Tel’aran’rhiod and waking world, a place both malleable and permanent.
Despite being there in the flesh, changes made to herself do not stay when she re-enters the waking world. Changing things in the waking world by altering their reflection in Tel’aran’rhiod should not be impossible when they are one and the same.
Siuan’s plan has come to fruition, she has a new Amyrlin to control, a group of rebels who believes the lies told by Logain and wants to pull Elaida down, and a spot near the center of the action as she runs the eyes and ears. Egwene quickly crushes Siuan’s ideas of manipulation, and sensing a kindred spirit, Siuan pledges to help her become Amyrlin in truth as well as name. Egwene had already started by making small decisions on her own which are questioned by her three factions of advisors. Promoting Elayne and Nynaeve to full sisters places them near the top ranks of Aes Sedai, though it is mitigated by them never having held the Oath Rod or being tested.
Egwene promises to be harsher than Moghedien’s previous captors. She very quickly establishes the rules Moghedien must follow with severe penalties for lying. Again, Egwene’s hardness would seem out of character had we not just seen her embrace the harsher side of Aiel life. Now it simply feels like she is being a Wise One to the Aes Sedai around her, and through sheer force of will and the help of her handful of allies, she is getting the results she expects.
The discovery of Traveling by Egwene opens up many story and plot advancing possibilities, but also introduces the complications of overreliance on it. Rand has only been using it himself in this book, and it is about to get him in big trouble.
Writing Lessons:
Make improbable coincidences more believable by setting up the linkages between them before revealing the coincidence.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Lord of Chaos - Chapters 28-31

In this section, characters good and evil accomplish some goals
Rand reads two letters from the Sea Folk, and brushes them off. This will later allow Elayne to interact with them without having been preceded by Rand, which would have undermined her negotiations with them.
Rand continues to interact with the voice in his head. Lews Therin believes Rand is the voice in his head, which is a powerful means of establishing the voice is real (or the illusion of it).
Sulin’s example explains ji’e’toh a little more. No one can set your punishment or tell you how to meet your obligation; it can only be set and ended by the one undertaking it. Wise Ones do not dispense punishments by force, but by suggestion. If you can’t figure it out yourself, they will set you something awful, but they can’t make you do it except in the way it affects your social standing. This is why they have so much trouble with Shaido Wise Ones, who always push the bounds of acting reasonably. A person’s honour and standing is always in their own hands.
Taim luckily shows up to thwart a Gray Man, the throwaway assassins the Forsaken use to remind Rand they are halfheartedly trying to kill him. Even Rand can see this smacks of a set-up, and it will later be a ‘clue’ pointing to Demandred impersonating Taim. I was an eager proponent of this theory, even joking that obviously Robert Jordan is wrong, Taim IS Demandred. A discussion of this theory is best suited for the end of the book, when Demandred makes his final appearance. In keeping with the theme of trickery and double-dealing, Taim discusses Forsaken in disguise with Rand. But what is the deceit and what is the truth? The author is effectively creating mistrust with Taim’s timely intervention and Lews Therin’s homicidal desire to snuff Taim.
Padan Fain makes a surprise appearance, a reminder that events can get even more complicated quickly. Fain has some creepy interaction with his minions, and some powerful tricks up his sleeve. They could have been called abilities, powers, or a number of other things, but the author chose ‘tricks’, again fitting the theme. We are reminded that Elaida and Niall have been brushed by Fain, and are inherently mistrustful of Rand now. The implication is that whatever we’ve seen Niall plotting, and Valda’s dismay over it, is all a downstream effect of Fain pulling his strings. The implication is that Elaida’s embassy has similar bad intentions towards Rand. Even if the reader already had a strong feeling about this, Fain’s involvement, even from a distance, cranks up the tension over what they will do.
Nynaeve and Elayne are reluctant captors, telling Marigan to say she fell down stairs after Birgitte beats her. They worry they too will act as Birgitte has; they feel such anger and distaste towards Moghedien. It can’t help that they feel convinced Moghedien deserves such treatment. It doesn’t look far from the day when they’ll want to hurt Moghedien.
Nynaeve is not responding to any of her own treatments at the hands of Aes Sedai, which are worse that what Moghedien is receiving, the Birgitte incident aside. Dunking, beating, sleep deprivation and more are what she has been subjected to in an effort to make her channel without seizing the source as a man does. Nynaeve does not surrender, not even to saidar, she must be in control. But she makes her first step towards surrender when she wholeheartedly apologizes to Elayne or her behaviour. She takes her first step towards letting go, and within minutes she has performed a miracle. The idea of the heroes giving up control to win, while the villains ruthlessly try to control everything runs through the whole series. The Way of the Leaf and Aiel fatalism both involve accepting events, while Mordeth, Seanchan and Whitecloaks all seek to control other people. Control vs. acceptance. This mirrors Rand’s later epiphany atop Dragonmount.
Nynaeve heals Logain with a bridge of Fire and Spirit, restoring his power and will to live. Fire and spirit are words that represent desire to live; no wonder it wasn’t done with Earth and Air.
Many Aes Sedai are introduced, some of which will be prominent in later Rebel plotlines including the eighteen Sitters. Their roles are not yet relevant. The causal naming of every sister who passes by has the effect of making the rebel encampment feel like a community.
The effects of healing stilling are immediately revealed: Siuan can still lie, but her title is gone. Also gone is her standing, now that she is among the weakest Aes Sedai. A lot of stock has been put in the amount of the One Power that several heroes can use, yet by the end of Towers of Midnight, we’ll see the tables turned and some of the most powerful will have become the least. For now, Siuan considers it worth the risk of exposing the secret in order to gain foremost position among the Aes Sedai, by title since she can’t by simple Power level. She can’t get either, and is reduced to renewing friendships she tossed aside for the simple favour of accompanying Sheriam to meet Egwene.
Siuan’s old friend Delana is Black Ajah, and is keeping her own Forsaken hidden from the rebels. Aran’gar has made her appearance, and her interest is in guiding the hall. This implies that subtle manipulation from the shadows is the Dark One’s plan. And there are now a Forsaken with each of the Aes Sedai factions.
Valda has misgivings, Niall has a feeling he is compelled to follow, Paitr is hung, and Morgase capitulates. Plotting in the shadows can make for boring reading unless something happens to advance the plot as well. Here, Valda plots with Asunawa, but the event is Morgase signing the treaty, which can have far-reaching consequences.
Let’s analyze the paragraph where Nynaeve is worried about staying in Salidar and surprisingly heals Logain:
Worry about Myrelle keeping back a message from Egwene è the emptiness is small, then vast, as though this small worry could swallow them all, implying danger.
If she could talk to Egwene, she’d have help èwhat about the cut she found in Siuan, real but faint, echoing the feeling that there is a slim hope. Yes, maybe…
She just needs to talk to Egwene, and she will convince Elayne to leave, since Elayne respects her so much è She found the key, something cut, an impression that is the same as in Siuan.  
If I could find her, we would join up, and be together èif she bridges the cut…
The two problems play off each other, and as Nynaeve finds the solution to one in her mind, in parallel she solves the second.
Writing Lessons:
Associate obstacles to each other to make them symbolize each other.

Monday, 14 May 2012

New Theory - The Bore is in Tel'aran'rhiod

A small part of the reason my posting is sporadic of late is that I’ve been working on a theory. I’ll send it to Theoryland shortly, but as loyal readers of this blog, you get the first look. I think this is a winner!

The Bore is in Tel’aran’rhiod
The importance of Tel’aran’rhiod to the story is such that I believe it is pivotal to the Last Battle. I have concluded that the Bore which Rand must seal is in Tel’aran’rhiod.
The Bore is not in the real world
Demandred stands in the Pit of Doom and thinks: Physically, this place was no closer to the Bore than any other in the world, but here there was a thinness in the Pattern that allowed it to be sensed. 
The Bore is equally distant from every place in the world.
Where else the Bore could be
Verin explains the structure of the Pattern to Egwene: Let these [parallel lines] represent worlds that might exist if different choices had been made, if major turning points in the Pattern had gone another way: The Worlds reached by the Portal Stones. Some in the Age of Legends apparently believe that there were still other worlds – even harder to reach than the worlds of the Portal Stones, if that can be believed – lying like this [cross-hatching the first set of lines]. In all of these worlds, whatever their other variations, a few things are constant. One is that the Dark One is imprisoned in all of them.
In all of them? How can that be? Are you saying there is a Father of Lies for each world?
No, child. There is one Creator, who exists everywhere at once for all of these worlds. In the same way, there is only one Dark One, who also exists in all of these worlds at once. If he is freed from the prison the Creator made in one world, he is freed on all. So long as he is kept prisoner in one, he remains imprisoned on all.
The point is that there is a third constant besides the Creator and the Dark One. There is a world that lies within all these others, inside all of them at the same time. Or perhaps surrounding them. Writers in the Age of Legends called it Tel’aran’rhiod.
There is a simple way to remove the supposed paradox from Verin’s explanation. Place the Bore in the world that surrounds all the others; in Tel’aran’rhiod. One Dark One, in one Bore, for one Tel’aran’rhiod, in one Pattern.
This placement also explains how the Dark One can win in various Mirror worlds yet still be imprisoned. He is taking them down, one by one, until there is only Rand’s world left. No paradox!
I drew a map! (hyperlink included in case of image posting problems)
How the Bore was drilled in Tel’aran’rhiod
In the Age of Legends, two researchers, Mierin Eronaile and Beidomon, found a new source of Power that was not split like the One Power, but could be used by either sex. They drilled a hole in the Pattern to be able to touch this Power, and released the Dark One. Mierin later chose the name Lanfear. She claimed dominion over Tel’aran’rhiod because she was the pre-eminent Tel’aran’rhiod researcher of her time. The fact that it was Lanfear who drilled the Bore infers its connection to Tel’aran’rhiod.
In Tel’aran’rhiod, things can be done through sheer force of will. Things such as finding an elusive power source, and boring a hole to a place outside the Pattern. The Bore was drilled using the properties of Tel’aran’rhiod itself.
How to seal the Bore
Lews Therin was able to seal the Bore by precisely placing seven seals over it. Each seal had a real-world focal point made of cuendillar. The seals were not completely effective because they were only powered by the will of men; no women helped.
Cuendillar is unbreakable. But it could be broken in Tel’aran’rhiod, with enough will. Altering the nature of cuendillar is impossible without some reality-altering power. If the true seals are placed in Tel’aran’rhiod, over the Bore, and are subject to its rules, then any degradation in them caused by the Dark One’s force of will (or humanity’s lack of it) can affect the seals in the real world, causing unbreakable cuendillar to weaken and become brittle. The very name cuendillar, or heartstone, implies that its ability to resist damage comes from the heart, or from force of will.
Herid Fel gives Rand two pieces of advice to explain how to make effective seals. First, belief and order give strength. Have to clear rubble before you can build, meaning Lews Therin’s seals must be removed. Second, the Dark One’s prison must be whole again, not simply sealed. The One Power cannot do this alone, it must be done with force of will in Tel’aran’rhiod, and made permanent. It is known that this will take place at Shayol Ghul itself.
Shayol Ghul, the epicenter of the Dark One’s presence in the waking world, is a place where unreal weather exists and caverns can change shape; where reality is malleable in the Dark One’s hands. The unnatural Blight radiates outward from it. Just as if this place had the features of Tel’aran’rhiod and was an extension of it. The closer to Shayol Ghul, the more it is like Tel’aran’rhiod, and the more the immediate environment is under the Dark One’s command. Things can be done there that cannot be done anywhere else. Things could happen there that could happen nowhere else. Shayol Ghul has these properties and has a thinness in the Pattern because it is a place where a permanent similarity between the real world and its reflection in Tel’aran’rhiod was created, making a place where it is possible to simply step from one to the other. It is a place that has the malleability of Tel’aran’rhiod, and the permanence of the waking world. Tel’aran’rhiod spills over into the real world from this spot, altering reality outwardly as the Dark One desires, increasing the size of the Blight, for example, or giving Shayol Ghul and the Pit of Doom their unique properties.
From this spot where they overlap, this threshold between worlds where they are one and the same, the reality of the waking world can be shaped, and perhaps the Bore in Tel’aran’rhiod itself can be permanently sealed. Here, it is possible to will the Bore not to exist at all, as it was before, if done with sufficient willpower.
The nature of the Dark One’s powers
With the Bore in Tel’aran’rhiod, it makes sense to consider if the Dark One’s powers can be explained by comparing them with what can be done in Tel’aran’rhiod. The Dark One alters reality, which is also a property of Tel’aran’rhiod.
Rand saw the drilling of the Bore in the glass columns of Rhuidean, and the destruction of the Sharom floating above the blue and silver domes of the Collam Daan, a prestigious research facility.
The drilling of this Bore had several symptoms. First, the ground and air rippled. A similar effect happens in Knife of Dreams from a bubble of evil, and again from the balescream in The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. These are events where reality is being altered. Second, the Sharom burst apart in gouts of black fire. It broke apart like an egg and began to drift down, falling, an obsidian inferno. Third, darkness spread across the sky, swallowing the sun in unnatural light, as if the light of those flames was blackness. Unnatural events can be created in Tel’aran’rhiod or by the Dark One. The only known way to alter the reality of an environment is when it is done in Tel’aran’rhiod.
Bubbles of evil stemming from the Dark One can alter the reality of random places in the world, just as nightmares do in Tel’aran’rhiod. The effects of a bubble of evil would not be odd in Tel’aran’rhiod. All examples of bubbles of evil can be explained by the Dark One doing what is considered to be impossible; using Tel’aran’rhiod to affect the waking world.
Using the True Power granted by the Dark One allows one to create weaves with the same effects as those of the One Power, but which are undetectable. All True Power effects could be attributed to being able to use Tel’aran’rhiod properties, for example, to tear a hole in the Pattern for Traveling or creating balefire.
The Dark One’s luck, if it truly exists, can be explained by altering reality. Mat’s luck would come second in a contest where the results are not dependent on random chance but on the force of will of the participant.
Upon her release from the vacuole, Moghedien believes Moridin’s base of operations is near by Shayol Ghul, since the only other possibility she sees is that it lays in Tel’aran’rhiod. The strange ‘castle’ in which Moridin convenes the Forsaken has certain properties that are like Tel’aran’rhiod: They could as soon make shocklances or sho-wings as view-walls outside of this place, so close to Shayol Ghul. It was far from anywhere, in any way that most humans would understand.
When the Forsaken flee to escape Rand or trap him, even those with no apparent facility in Tel’aran’rhiod choose to go there. It is a place of ultimate safety for these cowards. They always take minimal risks, so when faced with destruction, they seek shelter in a place close by their lord and master, where his power and ability to aid them is strongest: Tel’aran’rhiod.
Transmigration of dead souls, who wait in Tel’aran’rhiod until their rebirth, is that much simpler to explain if the layer of the Pattern closest to the Dark One is Tel’aran’rhiod.
Entering Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh is evil, but it is never explained why. The risk stems from the danger of being unmade or altered, such as Moghedien does to turn Birgitte into a child. The evil stems from getting used to having reality bend to your will, from beginning to believe that your desire is sufficient reason for a thing to exist in the way you imagine it.

Tel’aran’rhiod did not feature prominently as the setting for the final confrontation of the first 5 books, or in the most recent books, and in various other significant places throughout the series, only to be ignored in the Last Battle. All of the characteristics of Tel’aran’rhiod have been patiently held back so as not to give away the means by which Rand will defeat the Dark One. The Last Battle will not simply involve using powers and abilities, but can only be won by Rand choosing an identity and embracing it with all his will, in a place where thought becomes reality. When he stands at Shayol Ghul on the precipice between worlds, his sheer force of will, bolstered by humanity’s collective will, can repair the Dark One’s prison such that you would never know it had ever been drilled.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Lord of Chaos - Chapters 24-27

In this section, Egwene maneuvers through some tricky situations.
Egwene’s biggest concern is getting brought back to the Tower by unfriendly Aes Sedai. While the Embassy certainly has reason to apprehend her as per Elaida’s orders, the lies she has been telling or letting others believe risk increasing the severity of her treatment once in their hands. So, she has some fancy footwork to do.
She convinces the Aiel Wise Ones not to let on that she is there. She convinces Gawyn not to report her. She almost has to ask Rand for protection. With her objective firmly in mind, she is hardly deterred by any of the actions she is forced to take to accomplish her goal. This single-mindedness is the character trait that will make her more powerful than other Dreamers in Tel’aran’rhiod, where force of will gives power. Her goal has shifted slightly from earlier. She no longer wants Rand to meet the Aes Sedai in Salidar because she is worried about his mental state. It would be sufficient to mess up his relations with the Tower Aes Sedai.
Egwene has thoroughly embraced the ethics and conventions of the Aiel, shaming random people in the street when their behaviour is found wanting, not understanding why she finds servants so irritating. Aiel society is built upon personal honour, which is gained through one’s own actions. Deferring to others only happens when they have more honour, which might be a consequence of having more sense than others. Berelain gained much standing with the Aiel for acknowledging her past errors and correcting her behaviour. She may be the only other character than Egwene to receive and adopt some form of ji’e’toh in their personal code of ethics. I’ll look for signs she retains any of it once she meets up with Perrin again.
The introduction of several Aes Sedai in Elaida’s Embassy, Nesune, Coiren, Galina, Sarene, Katerine, and Erian, is quite a bit for readers to wrap their heads around. Katerine and Galina have already been tagged as both Red Ajah and Black Ajah, either of which would be an effective tag to remember them by. Aside from their own Ajahs, there are no memorable tags for the other Aes Sedai. Even after they meet Rand, they feel interchangeable. The author tried to overcome this by having Egwene discuss them with the Wise Ones beforehand, but it did not work effectively since Egwene’s descriptions had no tags which could be easily fitted to their respective Aes Sedai when they visited Rand. Having read the passages twice, and with foreknowledge of which ones will show up later and in what capacity is the only thing which kept them distinct in my mind. While this could still be intentional in keeping with the theme of confusion and uncertainty, their importance in the story makes me think this is more of a failure than deliberate.
Egwene and Gawyn have a bit of a silly teen romance. Having spent some time together in the Tower as friends of sorts, Egwene has decided that she is in love with him as much as he is in love with her. They make vows not to betray one another, and not to help each other within the limits they can. Yet from Egwene’s perspective it makes sense. Egwene has disdain for canoodling before marriage and she is very conservative in her views on proper relationships. It stands to reason that once she finds someone, she will throw herself into the relationship with abandon, fully expecting it to end in a lifetime of matrimony and Bonding with the One Power. Having set aside her pre-planned marriage to Rand, this is the first time she is in love, and she acts with all the rashness and naiveté of a teen in love.
Egwene stumbles on the constant and powerful use of the One Power by the Aes Sedai. This is the first time the ability to detect channeling has been used in a strategic manner. In the past the ability to be found because you could channel has been a weakness to be worked around, but the Tower Aes Sedai turn it into strength. This is the case for many abilities and weaves in the series. First the ability or weave is introduced, then it is used several times, and once familiar with its properties, it is used in a new fashion to give an advantage. Robert Jordan’s patience in this regard is astounding, but it almost always pays off by giving a sense of wonder and discovery to the reader.
The Sea Folk have sought out Rand, in two cities no less. A plot for another day, since there have already been Taim and the Ogier showing up unannounced; a third such visit might start pushing it.
Egwene describes how she would Travel using Tel’aran’rhiod. She would create a similarity between the real world and its reflection in Tel’aran’rhiod, which should make it possible to simply step from one to the other. This sounds like what Rand has done in the past, we’ll see if it is when Egwene tries it.
Further causing Rand to let down his guard, a weak attack by Fain’s Whitecloaks fails, and Rand’s guards don’t do much that he could not have handled himself, just as Bashere predicted. His Aiel guards warn him that a weak ambush is sometimes just a setup for a later strong ambush. His guards are correct, as this is precisely the tactic the Embassy will use. But in the next scene, Rand next learns he is not related to Elayne, and is relieved. This relief has nothing to do with ambushes, yet its placement at that point in the story will have the effect of inducing confidence and relaxation. It’s all good. Whatever we were worried about just before doesn’t matter now, does it? The discussion of connecting lines to Ishara could have been placed virtually anywhere in the story, yet it is used to great effectiveness to get both Rand and the reader’s guard down.

Writing Lessons:
Place scenes in an order that creates the desired effect on the reader’s emotions.