In this section, a minor character observes the action in Far Madding.
Continuing the recent trend of giving new characters the point of view, Shalon, a Sea Folk Windfinder has two chapters told from her perspective. The author chose not to give either of these chapters to Rand, Min, Verin, Cadsuane, Nynaeve, Lan, Alivia, Corele, Merise, Daigian, Damer, Eben, Jahar, Beldeine, Elza, Harine, Moad, Alanna, Tomas, Kumira, Ihvon, Erian, Sarene or Nesune. That is four of the original heroes from the Eye of the World, three major allies found since, and many other secondary characters that were passed over. What advantages are gained with Shalon, or disadvantages avoided by not using the others?
The intent of these chapters is to establish the status quo in Far Madding, including explaining how the Guardian works. When explanations need to be given, authors often use an unknowledgeable character’s presence as a reason to elaborate the explanation, sometimes giving an info-dump. Out of the list above, only the Sea Folk and Asha’man qualify. To best capture the Guardian’s effect, a channeler is preferred, eliminating Harine and her Swordmaster. Not wanting to portray another male channeler yet who could give insight into the madness, only Shalon is left from the group traveling with Cadsuane. An upside is that it offers a way to explain more about Sea Folk culture, one of the major cultures we have learned little about from anyone with firsthand knowledge from living in it. This adds a little to that alien feeling from earlier chapters.
Entering Far Madding is described as like losing the sun, which is better prose than the last time Rand entered a stedding. Yet it is not simply the ability to channel that is lost. The loss of the True Source represents the loss of the Light. Shalon has been feeling disoriented and confused from her blackmail, her shame, the risk to her marriage and rank, and to her identity, until her sister offers her unexpected comfort. With her sister’s potential acceptance, Shalon is almost ready to risk confessing. This is a clue as to what Rand should do, and what risks he faces. It is really not obvious at all that Shalon’s personal crisis is setting the stage and the expectations for what happens to Rand later.
Rand and Cadsuane continue playing at not needing each other when they both desperately need each other. After talking with Alanna, Rand realizes he is ready to trust some of the Aes Sedai with some tasks, particularly Cadsuane if he can convince her. For her part, Cadsuane recognizes that Rand’s determination to act alone, with no help, is a danger to himself and to the world. But she waits for him to make the offer, for she fears that being too eager will put his back up.
Verin continues to half-reveal her secrets. She was exiled from Far Madding, which implies bad behaviour. She comes close to poisoning Cadsuane. She is a two-faced and not very nice person. It is quite a balancing act revealing just enough background or motivation for her actions to keep the reader guessing as to her loyalties. It makes fertile ground for all manner of ridiculous theories.
Examine the pros and cons of each potential point of view character before choosing one.