Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Lord of Chaos - Chapters 19-23

In this section, Rand and Mat are making headway and gaining confidence.
With the help of some Ogier, Rand returns to Shadar Logoth to close a Waygate. Rand clearly lays out why he needs to monitor the Waygates: to prevent Trolloc incursions. He doesn’t yet know why hordes of Trollocs aren’t spilling out of Gateways made with the Power. As pointed out in previous posts, the planning required to set up the many Shadowspawn attacks to date suggest that they are not moving by can be moved by Skimming, which obviously limits the number in each raid. Each raid has been a means of creating excitement, but this book has offered the first real attempts to formulate defensive strategies. Rand is beginning to view the entire world as the battlefield, seeing every person and place as part of the battle. The author deliberately held off on explaining certain elements until he reached the book where that revelation best fit the theme. I am in awe of the patience required to do that.
The introduction of the Ogier is unlike any of their earlier appearances. Where their size is usually the first thing remarked upon, this time it takes three paragraphs until their size is commented upon. First, an entire paragraph describes the courtyard and the Ogier’s dress. Second, their names are introduced. And third, their size and other odd attributes are finally described. Why wait so long before stating their most outstanding characteristic? It is once again a matter of unbalancing the reader, of withholding information until the last possible moment, of implying there are secrets everywhere.
Identifying the Waygates and stedding allows the reintroduction of the idea that humanity is in a slow retreat spanning centuries, as the blight slowly advances and the number of humans dwindles.
Is it a false lead when Rand infers from Lews Therin’s rant that Demandred is in some way associated with Shadar Logoth? The author immediately has Rand conclude that it was a random thought, with no basis in fact. Now the reader must decide whether Rand is the one to be trusted, or whether Lews Therin has the right of it. This is a brilliant way of amplifying the concern over Lews Therin’s voice. Is it madness or is he a trusted ally? Rand has used Lews Therin’s insight before, but we’ve not yet had one point of view pitted against another.
Does Lews Therin really remember killing Ishamael? Did this really happen in the War of Power and Ishamael was resurrected then? Or is he remembering Rand killing Ishamael in the Stone of Tear? Or is he mad and wrong about killing Ishamael at all?
Rand observes that Shadar Logoth not only saved them from several fists of Trollocs, but set each of the ta’veren on their destined paths.  The Pattern provides before the need is known.
Rand’s meeting with the nobility in Cairhien introduces so many nobles and possible factions the reader’s head must spin. One or more are bound to try destabilize Rand’s rule or try get rid of him, but with so many to choose from, it’s hard to pick who. This is one of the author’s common tricks when placing a viper among friends: conceal them with numbers.
Rand also begins lessening his guards in places where he feels safe. This should seem reasonable since all past debates have pointed out that Rand has ample protection and layers of guards who wind up spending their time watching each other. With the feeling of smothering well established, Rand’s two-person escort feels like freedom in comparison.
Aviendha is trapped by ji’e’toh. The short and mild example between her and Liah demonstrates its intricate complexities. The reader must then interpret her toh to others. Killing the woman who slept with Rand (herself) is an obligation she owes Elayne, while killing Rand for cheating is an obligation she also owes Elayne. Light, I hope I have that interpreted right. The implication is that any Aiel, even the ones closest to Rand, are potential time bombs. The Wise Ones keep telling Aviendha to sort this out without telling her how. Eventually she will see a very simple solution that erases both obligations: she will become first-sisters with Elayne and share Rand. The Aiel tradition of having more than one wife is a natural outcome of the strict adherence to ji’e’toh. The alternative is a bunch of jealous Maidens killing each other over men.  For now, Aviendha continues to see everything as a Maiden would; obstacles are there to be killed.
Mat is shaping the Band into a force to beat all others.
Mat finds a Tinker caravan slaughtered to the last person for no apparent reason. The only one to ever suggest killing Tinkers was Padan Fain, because they were useless. Is he nearby? Shortly a few of his grubby Whitecloaks will show up. Could there be any other motivation for killing them? Mat surmises they may have had important information for Rand, such as they did when carrying the tale of the Eye of the World. Based on Rand’s behaviour in later books, we could guess that they wanted to lead Rand to the Way of the Leaf so he would avoid his later nastiness, but it seems unlikely. A Forsaken, likely Sammael, sends some Darkfriend Aiel to kill Mat in his sleep. Is the nearby Tinker slaughter only a coincidence? Could a Forsaken, or the Dark One himself, be worried this remnant of the Aiel of the Age of Legends could tell Rand something of value? Herid Fel will later be killed for the insight he might give Rand, so why not these Tinkers? Out of all these, Fain is the most likely culprit because of his earlier attitude towards them. It also sets up the ill-fated assassination attempt in future chapters.
Mat recruits scouts, and takes on a young messenger named Olver. The list of items Olver hauls out of his sack is reminiscent of the items Mat still had in his possession when he awoke in the White Tower. Mat sees himself in the boy, and cannot help but keep him near, which he realizes is a weakness that an enemy could exploit.
Sammael also gets the upper hand over Graendal, convincing her that he has immunity from Rand’s advancing forces. A subtle part of establishing he is now the dominant one is by revealing the cache of Age of Legends objects he has laid hands on. He has things that Graendal does not, implying that he is in a better position than she is.
Writing Lessons:
Use memorable and unmistakable cues to signal to the reader how current events are related to past events.

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