Sunday, 24 June 2012

A Crown of Swords - Chapters 40-41

In this section, Rand finally completes the task he set himself nearly two books ago.
A Crown of Swords ends with a victorious moment for Rand, and has no epilogue, so a lot of outstanding plotlines must be resolved before he goes into his final battle.
First, the fate of one of the most important missing Aes Sedai is revealed. Galina discovers that whatever rank she held before her capture, she is now the lowest of the low. She is named a despised one, made an example of, taken away from Therava, and most importantly she will use her channeling so that Sevanna can have the same ability as her Wise Ones. The scene has a strong emotional impact in that the reader will fully embrace the justice that has been served to Galina. Yet almost every aspect of the scene could as easily have been shown from Sevanna’s point of view. Breaking it up between the two of them gives a sensation of speed that a ten page Sevanna scene might not have offered. It is also fun to learn a little more of the Black Ajah’s secrets. Revelations offer excitement and speed the reader along.
Once again, the introductory sentence symbolizes the character’s plight: Mountains rose all around Galina Casban, little more than large hills behind but snowcapped peaks ahead and higher peaks beyond those, yet she really saw none of them.
Sammael offers Sevanna piles of ter’angreal, including an Oath Rod. These recently came into his hands, so we understand that he is referring to the ter’angreal from Ebou Dar that the Darkfriends managed to escape with. The fact that this delivery needed to happen before his confrontation with Rand, and after the climatic battle in Ebou Dar explains a lot about the placement of chapters throughout the book. Many events took place in just that order so that the author could move Sevanna westward. Once you understand this, the events leading up to this moment seem contrived despite the earnest attempts to foreshadow them with earlier scenes involving Carridin, Falion and Ispan, and the Shaido. The author was limited in the order in which he needed events to occur, but he had flexibility in setting the timing of some of them, such as when Mat finally locates the cache, or how long Rand stays unconscious after Fain’s attack.
Maeric’s short scene showcases Aiel fatalism: Ah, the world had grown very strange since Rand al’Thor came. He reveals that Sevanna took all the Wise Ones who could channel with her, which is confirmed by Graendal shortly afterwards. Sammael tells her that al’Thor isn’t going after anyone, all he has to do is wait. What he means is that he knows Rand is grievously wounded, and he has the help of an incompetent horselord, who also happens to be a Darkfriend, to tear Rand’s army apart. Sammael is quite pleased with himself for finding a way to defeat a much more powerful force, and his ego demands that he personally involve himself in the destruction of Rand’s army. Luring Sammael out of Illian was Rand’s plan all along. He will have sacrificed some of his followers to achieve victory.
A brief point of view from Shaidar Haran reveals his unique nature and powers, and a weakness of sorts: it is tied to Shadar Logoth and cannot be far away from it for too long. Importantly, it is concerned that Sammael’s actions are outside the plan, implying that the Forsaken are not simply bumbling about hoping to defeat Rand; a plan exists, and it should bring the Dark One victory.
Rand wakes to an argument between his followers. He convinces all but the Asha’man to leave, yet they all know that whatever news Adley has brought is likely to lead Rand to leap into action he may not yet be fit enough to face. Even Dashiva has been frowning at Adley, but that is standard behaviour for Dashiva when he doesn’t know what is going on. He has plenty of opportunity to feel left out as Rand Travels to gather his other armed forces for a raid into Illian.
Rand’s plan works, and he is able to disarm Sammael’s wards throughout Illian. When the plan works it reinforces his belief that Lews Therin is real. Sammael returns, realizes how stuck he is, but lures Rand to a second location he has prepared. Shadar Logoth is not a place where any of his foes would set foot so it is a good place to secretly assemble a force of Shadowspawn. The waiting must cost his numbers terribly every night. Yet he can’t have them just hide out on the other side of the Waygate either or they could be eaten by Machin Shin. No, the poor Trollocs and Myrddraal have to camp near Shadar Logoth every night, torn between fear of Mashadar and fear of Sammael finding them if they leave their post. And every day the ones who came through a few days earlier will die. Did Sammael ever figure this out? Did he only set this location up after hearing of Rand taking to his bed because he is naturally cautious?
Sammael detects Rand channeling and a bolt of lightning nearly sends Rand falling to his death, until a mysterious stranger helps him. It is not exceptionally clear that this is Moridin, but if using the True Power is so rare, then it must be him. It is now obvious that his existence had to be revealed earlier in order for his appearance here to be believable.
Moridin and Rand use balefire at the same time. Moridin only ever used it once before, but he might now be trying to show Rand what a useful tool it is so that Rand keeps using it. The balefire streams touch. What does that mean? Balefire undoes actions of certain people and objects by erasing those people and objects backwards in time, but leaves the actions and memories of those not touched by the balefire intact. Rand and Moridin balefired portions of Mashadar. Those arms of fog never existed so the two men were never in any danger, but surrounding arms of fog would not have filled the gaps left since their dim intelligence would have perceived that that space was taken by the non-existent arms of fog that those men balefired. When one stream of balefire touches the other, the other weave is undone backwards in time. The balefire stream never hit Mashadar, so it should still be there descending! Except that Mashadar remembers being hit by balefire, and has decided to retreat with haste. The balefiring of Mashadar was undone, something that can only be accomplished by balefiring the balefire.
Once the streams cross, Rand believes he has been balefiring Mashadar for the last few seconds. In actuality, he has had his weaves severed for the last several seconds, then feels the accumulated effects of the snapped weaves reeling back into him all at once. His head rings, he sees double. The same happens to Moridin, regardless of the fact that he is using the True Power. You might think a philosopher and channeler would have considered what happens when balefire streams touch, does anything really exist?, but Moridin has no idea. When Rand thinks of the balefire streams crossing, his vision doubles again, and he can see Moridin’s face clearly. This is the first indication of a link between the two of them. The best explanation I can come up with is that when the weaves snapped back into each of them, some of them snapped back into the wrong person. Since Moridin was wielding the True Power, which is a gift of the Dark One, it is this gift which creates the link between them. Of course, no such event took place with Mat or Perrin, yet Rand will soon also be able to see either of them by concentrating on them.
The author wants more balefire effects as examples, so Liah gets balefired too. She was never there and never screamed, but Sammael is certain he heard a woman scream, which distracts him just long enough to be consumed by Mashadar. Fortunately Rand’s balefire did not touch Mashadar, or he might accidentally have brought Sammael back to life! Since he wasn’t touched by balefire, the Dark One could do the resurrection instead, but it’s likely that Sammael’s go-it-alone attitude was too much for the Dark One to put up with.
Rand finally has a nation offering to be led by him, due to his compassion for them when he forced Tear to sell them grain. That is one of the only decisions he ever made as the simple man Rand al’Thor. This is evidence that there is more than one way to gain followers; persuasion is better than force.
 Writing Lessons:
Complex events require lots of explanation or they risk confusing the reader.

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