Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Crown of Swords - Chapters 37-39

In this section, myriad plotlines in Ebou Dar are resolved in a grand confrontation involving almost everyone.
Mat’s relationship with Queen Tylin becomes known to everyone, which leaves them either amused or offended. Mat’s discomfort allows the scene to play out humourously, with Mat getting more and more embarrassed with every snicker.
A great deal of effort is made to convince the reader that there is no conceivable problem in the Rahad that the women cannot handle. With over half a dozen channelers, many of them wearing Wise One belts that will scare would-be robbers into hiding, Mat’s soldiers are there for show, and to keep a promise made to Mat. After a few reminders, the reader may even begin to wonder why even have the chapter, if all that it involves is Mat getting more and more bored. It is all a set up.
The Black Ajah attack, and once Nynaeve is unshielded, it appears that there is still no point to the soldiers, who do nothing but get flung about by the channelers. However, Mat’s medallion spares him being tossed around, and he is therefore able to go to Elayne’s aid, and the only one who could provide any help against other channelers such as Moghedien, who can be assumed to be the opponent upstairs. Nynaeve’s plea moves Mat, because it is out of character for her, representing her recent inner growth, not poor writing.
Mat faces yet another mystery character: the gholam. It loves killing, and it is soon described as moving quicker than a Myrddraal in order to quickly impress its high skill level on the reader.  It bests Mat in combat even though we know Mat is almost the best there is at combat. Everything the Gholam can do is out of the ordinary. This is the help that Sammael promised Carridin. Luckily Mat discovers the creature’s weakness and is able to save Elayne, but the Darkfriends escape with some of the ter’angreal, which will provide some explanation for Sammael’s ability to whip several ter’angreal out of thin air before the book’s conclusion. Still no indication why Sammael would have used the gholam to kill Herid Fel. By no means a philosopher, Sammael should have had no interest in either keeping Fel’s guidance from reaching Rand’s ears. Instead the likeliest objective was the same as the one he was trying for in Ebou Dar: pick at Rand’s allies in any way possible that will slow down the army coming towards Illian or divert his attention elsewhere.
Mat is the third person to make a bargain with the Sea Folk. This scene would not have worked without the other two precedents establishing the reader’s expectation that budging the Sea Folk will cost the heroes something.  Mat’s unexpected approach is both funny and effective. Nynaeve reluctantly admires his feat while Elayne is impressed with his ability. Whatever mistrust they had for Mat and his ways at the beginning of the book has been resolved, he has their acceptance. He achieved this without specifically setting out to do so, yet it is the means that allowed him to accomplish his goals.
The Seanchan invade Ebou Dar, cutting off Mat’s escape while he searches for Olver. Once he can no longer leave the city, the dice in his head stop. He is now where the Pattern needs him to be. And also under a pile of rubble.
Writing Lessons:
Set the reader’s expectations by describing scenarios they will find plausible, the surprise them by having a different scenario play out.

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