In this section, multiple plots are laid out clearly, and reader’s expectations are set.
Perhaps recognizing the previous book’s weak ending, the author immediately sets up several storylines with expectations to be met before the book ends.
In the White Tower, the Black Ajah Hunters get Talene to re-swear the Three Oaths. Talene is a tool that can be used now, but the Hunters decide to proceed with caution, bringing in the ten rebel ferrets to swear obedience first. That will bring their number to sixteen. Seaine also has her first doubts about what task Elaida actually assigned her. We expect this quest to net a second Black sister soon.
Elayne’s section reveals a little about Egwene, which is all we’ll see of the Amyrlin in this book. A simple primer about Elayne’s major competitors for the throne means we should see some of them interfering before the book is over. A number of reasonable contrivances explain why Elayne won’t be receiving any outside help. No allies are available, and in any case would unintentionally cost Elayne the throne because they are foreigners. The Sea Folk remain stuck in Caemlyn by their own mistrust that Elayne will break the Bargain. This character-driven obstacle is more powerful than a physical one could be. Renaile will not leave until she gets what was agreed to, which will keep her at Elayne’s side for a long time.
The confrontation between Taim and Elayne ends with him acquiescing to her requests to visit the Black Tower under supervision. When she later carries out her first visit and Toveine sees her, we then expect some interaction between the two.
After Taim, a Wise One enters, the third uninvited interruption in the last twenty minutes. Dyelin provides a comment which is likely echoing the reader’s thoughts, and is therefore meant to restore the plausibility of the scene: “Blood and ashes!” Dyelin muttered. “ Is the whole world just going to walk in here?” She uses exaggeration to make the current situation seem normal in comparison. Humour is another tactic which causes the reader to overlook the obvious by pointing out the abnormal situation. A reader who knows that the author has recognized their complaint will be satisfied and move on with the story feeling the problem has been resolved.
The first-sister ceremony provides a glimpse of a healthy relationship by Aiel standards. It amounts to knowledge, faith, and forgiveness of the first-sister. Elayne has already shown this behaviour is the basis for her romance with Rand, so now this example will allow Aviendha to learn how to love him as well, and maybe they will teach and remind Rand how to behave.
Toveine is crafty, and seems to have a secret plan to pull down Elaida, even as she agrees to publicly give leadership of the Black Tower prisoners to another sister. Readers expect this plan to bear some fruit by the end of the book. Logain’s unwanted presence at the Black Tower and the faction he is heading create interest in seeing matters advance or get resolved. The Asha’man voice concerns that Rand doesn’t care about them, that Taim is giving preferred treatment to certain Asha’man, and that Taim’s cronies have turned bad. The implication is that Taim is creating a private army and Logain will be the main obstacle he has to overcome.
Rand has decided he can’t wait to move forward with his plan to make his Asha’man into reliable tools again. As soon as he can lure his would-be assassins to him and dispatch them, he plans to cleanse saidin. This sets the reader’s expectations. There had better be an attempt to cleanse saidin before the book is done! He even describes how it will go down: everyone within a thousand miles will feel him channeling, and come to put an end to it, so he needs to whittle down the number of detractors he will face before he starts cleansing. That and get over the sickness that has begun to affect him whenever he channels.
Each of these points of view has created expectations that readers will want resolved.
Set expectations purposefully, or your readers will set them for you.
Use humour and exaggeration and acknowledgement to have readers overlook the contrived scenarios you devise.