Monday, 27 August 2012

Winter's Heart - Chapters 33-35

In this section, Rand recovers from a horrible blunder, and his allies prevail in an epic battle.
Rand is on shaky ground as he leaves to assassinate the Asha’man. Ignoring his recent understanding that killing the Asha’man changes nothing in the long run, he rushes off to play at killing, leaving the duty of keeping him on a moral trajectory to his friends. Min implores him to see the danger to himself, while Alivia thinks killing is a game, thinking of it as cavalierly as Rand does. Nynaeve is the last one to have a say in Rand’s actions, her access to the One Power is the only means by which Rand can gain entry to the villains’ apartment.
Nynaeve belatedly realizes what she has involved herself in. She didn’t think before; she thought of it as an adventure, confronting Darkfriends, renegade Asha’man. But Rand and her husband are going in to execute the men, to kill them before they know someone is in the room with them. Nynaeve left the Two Rivers to protect the boys from the wicked world and the ways of Aes Sedai, and at the last she utterly fails to act as Rand’s conscience. Kill them in their sleep, if you can, she says, giving her blessing to their actions.
As is the author’s habit, the actions which immediately follow Nynaeve’s capitulation are a metaphor for Rand’s moral situation: Something unseen wrapped snugly around Rand’s chest beneath his arms, and slowly he rose into the air, floating higher until he drifted over the edge of the overhanging eave. The invisible harness vanished, and his boots dropped to the sloping roof, sliding a little on the damp gray slates. Crouching, he moved back on all fours.
There is almost no foreshadowing of Fain’s appearance, which can frustrate a reader. At this point Jordan assumes readers are familiar with characters from several books back and haven’t started with this one. It’s a fair assumption, yet the sudden appearance of a returning character can confuse as easily as excite the reader.
Fain represents the evil of Aridhol, a nation that fought the Shadow using the Shadow’s own tactics, eventually destroying itself and tainting every pebble of the capital. Fain’s appearance at this juncture is highly symbolic. No sooner has Rand’s conscience abandoned him than Fain appears, dancing out of reach, goading Rand down the wrong path; the path Mordeth followed. The scene is prophetic, showing Rand’s eventual fate with a twin of sorts who has already succumbed.
Rand instinctively reacts to the illusion, striking Fain and driving him away. Lan is hurt. Rand cracks a joke and Lan does not laugh. He only laughs for Nynaeve, a reminder of her role as conscience and soul for both Rand and Lan.
Cadsuane, representing the Light itself, whisks to the scene and berates Nynaeve. If the guards have them, it is because of you. What can Cadsuane do? First, she has heard Rand’s plea to help her, delivered by Verin. Cadsuane and the Light follow strict rules, and keep their promises.
Rand’s prison is a metaphor for the one constructed by himself and Nynaeve. He dwells in darkness, confined in a tight space, a result of his arrogance and abandonment of morals. He remains trapped there until Cadsuane frees him, the fortunate result of his momentary hesitation the day before. Once in that prison, only the Light can free him. Once freed, he can even cleanse the taint. Many of the metaphors and symbolism in the series are subtle, and this feels like a hammer blow in comparison.
The battle at Shadar Logoth is somewhat unconventional. Readers know every single participant in the battle, and have a clear understanding of the battleground, handily described before battle begins. This allows the author to shift viewpoints continually, covering the entire battle hardly ever coming back to any one character.
Elza’s perspective gives the stakes and paints a picture of strong desperation.
Barmellin and Timna show that the battle has far-reaching consequences, greater than even the battle’s participants know.
Cyndane demonstrates sudden motion, conveying surprise, perhaps enough to catch the heroes off guard. She also confirms she is Lanfear reincarnated.
Cadsuane shows how effortlessly the first attack of lightning strikes has been repelled, and counterattacks with devastating force. Holding the opponents at bay is not the problem, Rand and Nynaeve’s stamina is.
Rand’s perspective casts doubt on the effort to cleanse saidin. He has made no progress.
Demandred finds his skulking ineffective, and must flee before a string of barrages erupts the forest into flame. He encounters some opponents face to face and underestimates them. He also offers the third clue of the book that he truly is not Mazrim Taim. Sigh.
Cyndane has figured out how to avoid the sheets of flame that are launched in her direction. This represents the turning point in the battle, the first time the villains are making progress.
Osan’gar reveals he is Dashiva, and mirrors Cyndane’s tactic. The villains are closing in.
Verin underestimates Graendal, and is in a fight for her life.
Eben has been walking and little else, demonstrating that the heroes can’t see the villains approaching. Aran’gar deceives them long enough to get in close.
Cyndane faces Alivia, who is stronger but lacking other advantages. This scene represents the heroes fighting back against these closer incursions, and maybe being on even footing. Maybe.
Moghedien sees a black dome and decides to sit back and let events unfold.
Rand struggles to control the flow of Power. He is succeeding, but can he hold on? His struggle is presented here, just as the other battles have been joined and have uncertain outcome.
Cadsuane’s perspective tells us that Rand’s effort to cleanse the taint is working, and that the villains have vanished for now. She takes advantage of the opportunity to heal Nynaeve, leaving an opening for Osan’gar.
Osan’gar spies the heroes sitting idly and prepares a fatal strike.
Elza is revealed to be Black Ajah, but the compulsion Verin laid lets her rationalize killing Dashiva. This represents the defeat of the villains.
Moghedien sees the black dome vanish. A vacuum is created into which she is pulled. Readers should know she is dead. When there is a threat to a character’s identity, they must overcome it or be destroyed. Moghedien’s character changed forever when she thinks that if she survived this, she would never feel fear again. She is metaphorically dead anyway, so the lack of a body shouldn’t be troubling, and it should be clear that she won’t be resurrected either. If she was, she wouldn’t be Moghedien any more.
Cadsuane surveys the battlefield and tallies the cost of victory.
The battle was filled with revelations, with several secret identities exposed, almost as though their lies could not hold up to the Light represented by the continent-smashing levels of the One Power being used. Stripping away the taint also stripped away their secrets, for the reader at least. Each small focused scene of the battle represented the battle as a whole.
Writing Lessons:
In conflicts, make each scene represent the emotional progression you want the reader to feel as the battle unfolds.

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