Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Path of Daggers - Chapters 25-27

In this section, Rand has been momentarily humbled, and a variety of bit players advance plots elsewhere in the world.

Elaida is trying to rule by decree as Rand just did in his War with the Seanchan. She too is finding it difficult to achieve absolute control over her followers. Whatever success she has in getting them to obey without question is reversed when Alviarin imposes her own decrees in Elaida’s name. Elaida’s decrees are so unimportant we don’t even get to see what they are, Alviarin simply tosses them out. The point is that their contents are irrelevant, all that matters is that they please the master. Alviarin faces the same dilemma with her limited ability to act beyond exactly what Mesaana commands her to do.

Messana, and therefore Alviarin also, wants to learn what Ajah heads are up to, and it is reasonable to expect some of the Sitters may be in on the secret, so the Black Sitter Talene prods a group of other Sitters to find out what Seaine and Pevara are up to in the basement of the Tower. Her plan backfires and she finds herself in the clutches of the expanded group of Black Ajah Hunters.

The revelation of this previously unsuspected Black Ajah attempts to convince the reader that hidden secrets are being exposed. We now know several of the highest-ranking Black Ajah and where they are hidden: Sheriam, Alviarin, Talene, Delana, Galina. A reader might rightfully assume that other Black Ajah remain hidden but are unlikely to be a threat to the heroes until they receive orders from one of these superiors.

The means by which the author created sympathy for the Black Ajah Hunters is common. Seaine herself is not standard hero material, nor is Pevara. But their quest is a heroic one, and that rubs off on them. When three new Sitters join the group by accidentally finding them and figuring out why they have closeted themselves with the Oath Rod, none of their personalities matter. Yukiri, Saerin, and Doesine have simple tags given to them, but they are forgettable. All that matters is that they take up the quest too, and all the reader’s sympathies encompass them as well. The only one of the group who stands out is Pevara, the ‘Good’ Red Ajah whose family was slaughtered by Darkfriends, such that both her and the reader’s desire for justice are also shared with the rest of the group. This technique may work with secondary characters such as this group, but would be much harder to pull off with your main heroes. Then again maybe not, there are plenty of stories with forgettable heroes who undertook memorable quests, where only one or two character traits matter.

More secrets are exposed as we learn that the Rebels’ ferrets in the Tower are discovered, and are also forcefully joined to the hunt for Black Ajah. We also learn that Logain made it to the Black Tower, when we see his group of Asha’man quickly disarm Toveine’s raiding party. There was no need to drag out this scene since its outcome had been ordained. Toveine’s failure is no surprise, since her approach to the Black Tower was no surprise either. The surprise comes from the fact the Aes Sedai are not merely captured, but also bonded to their captors.

Rand’s humbling experience against the Seanchan has him letting go of his anger over the Bargain his Aes Sedai made with the Sea Folk. He is also able to set aside his pride and need for control long enough to ask Cadsuane to be his advisor. His new humbler behaviour is instantly rewarded with pertinent advice about Callandor. This is similar to the scenes in Ebou Dar when Nynaeve put aside her attitude about Mat and almost immediately learned to control saidar and marry the man of her dreams. Juxtaposing the good behaviour with the reward links the two in the reader’s mind, and allows the lesson to become the expected outcome for other situations that arise. Cadsuane has managed to place herself near Rand to correct his attitude before the Last Battle. The imagery is like that presented by Moridin’s game of sha’rah. The Light holds the Fisher for now, but there is great danger if Cadsuane fails to make Rand feel something other than contempt towards his followers.

I found a few excellent sentences coloured with Robert Jordan’s unmistakable mark. Why use a word when a sentence will do? Each of these showed up in a familiar type of internal monologue, the kind where your mind wanders off-topic for a moment. The use of imagery instead of adjectives leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

No, she thought wryly, you’re not fluff-brained. Fluff has its wits about it compared to you!

If no longer exactly dewy-eyed, they were still young enough to leave their razors dry as many days as wet.

When a man decided to be stubborn, he would sit bare in a nettle patch and deny to your face that they made his bottom sting!

Writing Lessons:

Imagery is memorable. Use imagery to present concepts you want the reader to remember.

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