Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Path of Daggers - Chapters 20-22

In this section, Elayne and Rand lead multinational groups and prepare for confrontations

Elayne spends an interlude chapter discovering that none of the women traveling with her will behave as expected. The Sea Folk finally declare their end of the bargain complete and begin drilling Merilille for all she can teach. The Kin see this as well as a Black Ajah being treated like a prisoner and begin to conclude that Aes Sedai are not that far above them after all. The people of Andor are not providing the expected support for the Daughter-Heir and Elayne realizes she has her work cut out for her.  When they run into money problems, Aviendha casually pulls out a handful of gemstones, which would seem contrived if she didn’t also subtly remind us how she acquired them from the scabbard she tried to give Rand.  By deflecting attention to their romantic relationship instead of Aviendha’s wealth, the sudden appearance of the jewels is amusing and interesting instead of unbelievable.

Elayne receives a warning to stay away from the rebels while Egwene deflects unwanted questions about how the bowl was used and the poor bargain made with the Sea Folk. This problem provides all the impetus needed to allow Elayne to focus on gaining the throne in the next few books, as well as keeping Nynaeve with other groups instead of amongst the rebels where she was of little value and of insufficient rank to be part of the action among the rebels.

As the battle against the Seanchan ramps up, I remember an earlier post where I discussed the reasons why using the Bowl of the Winds was included in this book, instead of chronologically in A Crown of Swords. It is obvious that in order to build up towards this battle, it is necessary to build up the opponent. By having a dire battle against the Seanchan to open the book, a lot of emotion and interest has been generated which benefits this battle immensely.

A key element of the battle is that Rand is leading men he cares nothing for, and there are some he actually hopes might meet their end. They are no more than tools for him to use. Nobles are too conspiratorial, Asha’man too dangerous, to be anything else. Rand knows the Shadow’s spies watch him closely, another reason to mistrust everyone close to him. A great deal of time is spent introducing the nobility, to humanize them before Rand begins making them pay his butcher’s bill. His logic to risk those who love him the least is darkly sound from his twisted point of view, but dangerous to his long-term goals.

The mood intensifies. We are eager to see the battle, eager to see Rand score a victory against his Seanchan opponents, and cognizant that even if things go poorly Rand is still not losing anyone but those who might have undermined him or betrayed him. To underscore that point, the man he pardoned a few hundred pages ago attempts to assassinate Rand. He not only provides justification for Rand’s actions, his actions imply that he is an agent Moridin was referring to, and the natural assumption a reader will make is that the assassination attempt has failed, that plot is over.

Lews Therin has several witty comments on Rand’s internal monologue, continuing to demonstrate that the voice in his head is more reliable than the people around him. Rand continually worries about when madness will take him or the Asha’man, and how he will be able to know. Rand’s predicament is neatly bundled in a contradictory sentence: “Mistrust of Gedwyn and Rochaid was simple sense, but was he coming down with what Nynaeve called the dreads? A kind of madness, a crippling suspicion of everyone and everything?”

Rand marches into battle, and we switch to a Seanchan point of view. This is an effort to humanize the enemy. Up until now the Seanchan we have met are either deliriously fervent in their loyalty, or are outright Darkfriends, with the exception of Egeanin. We don’t have a strong reaction to Bakuun, Nerith, or Tiras, other than awareness of their competence, which means Rand’s visions of an easy victory may be wrong. The illness affecting the damane adds uncertainty to the upcoming conflict. This should work to Rand’s advantage, but his lack of knowledge about it may also induce him to make mistakes.

Writing lessons:

Use strong personal reasons for your characters to choose where they are going, who they are going with and why they are doing it.   

Humanizing and dehumanizing people affects how readers view events and characters.

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