Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Path of Daggers - Chapters 13-15

In this section, the stakes for Rand are raised and Egwene has a problem she turns into an opportunity

The weather tells us Rand’s mood is poor, especially in light of what Cadsuane and Sorilea agreed moments earlier. Rand acts with all the worst behaviours of the nobility he has displaced. The nobles may not trust each other, but Rand trusts none of them. He starts off polite and firm, but quickly degrades and contemptuously tells the dregs of Sammael’s army to surrender or be killed. Furious at their continued opposition and doubt, he considers a number of other obstacles he is facing, and latches onto the rumour of an Aes Sedai amongst the Shaido as proof the White Tower would never give him peace. His experiences with Galina’s Aes Sedai have left him deeply mistrustful and paranoid about the Tower.

The introduction of several new nobles is pulled off effectively by tagging each by their nationality, sex, and rank. Gregorin is the head of the Council of Nine, Marcolin is captain of their armies. Weiramon leads the cavalry for Tear, Tolmeran is his rival, Rosana is new. Three other names are written off as soon to be dead, no need to distinguish between them. Semaradrid is a soldier from Cairhien. For a large group of mostly new characters thrown at the reader, it is remarkably easy to distinguish them.

The Asha’man were bit players in the last book, but we now see a number of them interact, just as the nobles did a chapter earlier. Again, each is given a tag of age or nationality or ability to distinguish them, which works well. Each is also well associated with the task he was assigned. The Asha’man have a discussion about numbers of male channelers, and the inevitable madness that will consume them all. Rand accidentally reveals to them his desire to cleanse saidin, and the Asha’man are enthralled.

Our attention is once more drawn to Herid Fel’s message about sealing the Dark One’s prison.

Lews Therin’s voice has been absent since before Rand took Illian. Having spent some time over the last three books making Lew Therin’s presence normal to the reader, its absence is disconcerting. He welcomes the return of the voice which of course makes readers uncomfortable. Not only is Rand in the wrong mood to achieve victory, he is plainly more likely to believe the voice in his head than anyone trying to get through to him. The voice returns because Rand has entrusted Narishma with a task that requires trust, which brings forth his mad desire to kill the Asha’man who return to the Black Tower. Rand has little choice but to stay away from the Black Tower, he can’t trust himself not to get into a fight with Mazrim Taim, whose attitude is belligerent, but he still appears to be doing what he is supposed to be doing. Readers are well on their way to adopting Lews Therin’s ideas regarding Taim, indicating that the author has very successfully made the mad voice seem reasonable, which is just what our mad hero would think.

This book is oddly straightforward, and feels like there are fewer layers of meaning in various passages. Is this related to the proposed theme of Darkfriends lurking amongst allies? Jordan is portraying people and events very directly to achieve a sensation of normalcy, that there is nothing lurking just out of sight. Revealing known Darkfriends like Aran'gar after telling readers about Moridin’s secret agents would be useful in getting the reader to drop their guard for when the hidden Darkfriends make their move later on. He tells the reader what to look for, and then shows the reader what they are looking for so they don’t search any further. This technique works even better by establishing a few cases in which the reader has been told what to look for, and then found it, establishing trust in the author’s directions.

In earlier sections it was established that no Darkfriends had infiltrated the Kin, or the Black Ajah would have known their secret. Perrin has people with secrets in his camp, but there is a remarkable lack of Darkfriends so far. In Rand’s section we suspect someone must be a Darkfriend. With Egwene, the main skulker we know about is Aran’gar, disguised as Halima, who has gotten close to both Egwene and Delana, a Sitter who is also Black Ajah.

Egwene learns of an army ahead of hers, so she arranges for parley, and tries to keep it from the Hall of the Sitters for as long as possible. This is the first step in her plan to assert her control. It’s a subtle plan, which we are told nothing of yet, and she expected to have to implement it once they reached Andor, but this is slightly ahead of her schedule. We’ll talk plenty about Egwene in the next post.

Writing Lessons:

Use misdirection to set your reader’s expectations the way you want them.

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