Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Crown of Swords - Chapters 21-24

In this section, working together, the heroes get closer to what they seek
Working together is how you get things done, but it can make for boring stories. Stories demand some form of conflict between characters. When characters finally recognize their divergent needs, but also find the common ground that will propel them forward, it makes for rewarding reading.
Mat is a rogue that no decent woman can tolerate. Elayne and Nynaeve are two decent women who can’t tolerate Mat’s behaviour. Mat needs to escort Elayne to Caemlyn safely and is willing to help the women do whatever they must so they can get on the road northwards. Elayne and Nynaeve need to find the Bowl of the Winds, but want to do it on their own, and have evaded Mat’s help so far. They have made no progress, and don’t foresee making progress locating the Bowl of the Winds any time soon.  Since neither of them can give up their goal, the only way for both to succeed is to cooperate. Mat has already made concessions in traveling to Ebou Dar on their mission, the action comes when Elayne and Nynaeve must bend their stiff necks to ask for the help they have dismissed.
It is more entertaining, and rewarding, when progress is made by the character because of their personality than when it comes from finding a random clue, or object that allows that progress. Elayne and Nynaeve both have to admit past errors, accept responsibility, and deal with consequences of their past actions before they can get any further in their search. Their reluctance to do so allows for some remarkably funny interactions. The process of doing so engages and pleases the reader from a variety of angles: The women are growing and learning, Nynaeve is edging closer to being able to surrendering control, Elayne is atoning for her pride and learning to accept Aviendha and her ways into her close relationship with Rand, Mat is gaining control of his situation, though he is really just trading control with the two women for loss of control with his men and Tylin. The entire process of sending Brigitte to speak with Mat, his demands, the drinking, the apologies and the restraint as they face each other down, the agreement, and the price to be paid by all participants, is quite simply one of the funniest and rewarding scenes in the story so far.
The cooperation is symbolized by the revelation of secrets, such as Birgitte’s origin and the One Power disguises, and the beginning of a new mystery regarding Setalle Anan and the Kin.
The mystery comes out of nowhere, having only faintly been touched on in an earlier scene with the Black Ajah. No sooner do the women step out of Mat’s room than they are swept up by his ta’veren thread-pulling, represented by Setalle Anan who takes them to some women who can help.
Setalle and the Kin have many strange and interesting characteristics, mostly related to knowledge they should not have come by easily. A large part of the mystery revolves around age of channelers, which has been a topic briefly discussed a number of times in this book. The number of channelers in the Kin is of interest, as is Berowin’s specially honed ability to shield anyone, acquired after long years of practice that even an Aes Sedai doesn’t get. Setalle appears to know an Aes Sedai from seventy years ago, one who looks remarkably like a woman in the Kin. The Kin’s questions are particularly focused on things that novices would know. And upsetting everything else about rank, strength in the Power has little to do with rank amongst the Kin. There are enough clues in there to for readers to stew over and probably get close to guessing the correct answer. But the intent isn’t to let the reader stew for long.
The Black Ajah make an attempt to kidnap Elayne and Nynaeve, similar to what happened to them in Tanchico. It isn’t said straight out that the Black Ajah were behind it, and there could have been several others with motive, but it is the fact that it comes right after the Kin learn of the murder of one of their number that cements it. The Kinswoman was murdered by the Black Ajah in an earlier chapter, so once the reader is reminded of that by discovery of the murder, the murderers should be at the forefront of the reader’s mind when the attempted kidnapping takes place. Juxtaposing elements in this way is overtly used often in film and comics, and it has turned up in a subtle fashion many times in Robert Jordan’s writing.
Writing Lessons:
Juxtapose sections of text that contain the same plot element or character to either subtly point to it, or to blatantly segue from one to the other.

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