Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Crossroads of Twilight - Summary

Crossroads of Twilight is widely regarded as the least favorite book in the Wheel of Time because “NOTHING HAPPENS!” There are several reasons for this view.
It is the only book where the situation at the end is little different from the end of the previous book. Perrin is still seeking to free his wife. Elayne is still trying to gain the throne of Andor. Rand is still resting from his efforts. Egwene’s army is still mired outside Tar Valon. Mat is still traveling with the circus folk and wooing Tuon. Black Ajah hunters are still hunting the Black Ajah.
Typically, when the story is divided across several locales, the author has come back to the locale three times, with some progress being made each time that set of characters is revisited. Over half of the locales are shown only once in this book and even those shown twice don’t substantially change anything plotwise. These short scenes limit what the author can do to progress the plots.
So pacing is affected by the limited time devoted to each locale, and a lack of events to change the status quo. Something must happen though, right?
The book is very strong thematically, as each character has time for introspection and faces a very difficult or momentous choice. The choice is first framed with respect to the cleansing of saidin, which is the most important event to take place in the series so far. The author wanted the cleansing to have an epic scope, which required every character to take note of it, no matter where they were in the world. Often books will have a brief epilogue, revealing some of the reaction to the climatic events of the final chapters. Crossroads of Twilight is such an epilogue, 681 pages long. Cramming in everyone’s reaction bogs down the story and forces it to take place over a short period of time, about a week, which again limits how far events can progress.
The other ta’veren ignore the cleansing, concentrating on the task at hand. Elayne and Aviendha see it as something wonderful. Cadsuane disbelieves it, while other Aes Sedai mistrust it, thinking it the work of the Forsaken, which propels them in surprising directions.
Perrin’s inner turmoil is the most vivid, as he ignores the cleansing to save Faile at any cost, and taking a step too far, then realizes that not limiting what he is willing to do would destroy any chance of his reunion with Faile being a happy one. Other characters must also choose between what they want most and what they are willing to do to achieve it. Each variation brings to mind Shadar Logoth, and the price its citizens paid for their choice. Shadar Logoth is gone now, the last reminder of the price to be paid if you are willing to pay any price.
Crossroads of Twilight was published in 2003, the first book in the series to be written and published after the September 11th attacks. Of all the characters, Perrin’s amputation of an Aiel prisoner is the most symbolic of the public discussion surrounding the appropriate response to the attacks. Perrin’s followers all insist he do what must be done, but he realizes taking the actions they want would destroy who he is. Yet he struggles to find what other courses of action he can take. He throws away his axe, choosing the hammer instead; he chooses forging, not cutting. In contrast, Mat’s choice to kill Renna to save his followers is declared justice and a righteous punishment for traitors. Rand and Egwene decide to try to find common ground with opponents, in order to fight a greater menace. As with plot elements in earlier books, modern American Mythology is blended into the story, with these plot elements applying to both the Vietnam experience and current events. In addressing these themes, a quieter, more introspective story was in order, yet another reason for the markedly slower pace of this book. I feel that wanting to give the story the right balance in this regard may have been a reason for the longer time it took to write.
Much of the trademark metaphorical language that the author uses to make descriptions mean something more is missing or more subtle. This is a deliberate way of fuzzing the reader’s understanding. Few things are blunt and direct, most descriptions, events, or revelations are vague, incomplete or unclear, which fits in tightly with the overall theme of the book.

Writing Lessons:

Make the voice you tell the story in match the theme.

Make something happen by the end!

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