Monday, 1 October 2012

Knife of Dreams - Chapters 2-4

In this section, the villains get a leg up on the heroes.
Keeping with the theme identified in the prologue, more characters are facing the consequences of an earlier choice.
Beonin saw an opportunity for gain by returning to Elaida. She is convinced the rebels are finished and wastes no time securing a spot on the lifeboat. It was never clear that anyone on the Rebels’ original ruling council was secretly affiliated with Elaida, so her actions come as quite a shock. Importantly, her point of view focuses on her as the star of her own story, with Rand as a faraway incidental player. Sometimes authors succeed wildly at this and a character rises to become a favourite. This doesn’t quite happen here, but the unexpected actions combined with a distinct point of view unlikely to ever be confused with anyone else’s solidifies the readers’ understanding of this ambitious, distasteful, smart, and good woman.
Beonin gives a clue that may lead to unmasking Aran’gar, but as previously mentioned, she needn’t have worried about being exposed by Kairen or Anaiya through their friendship with Cabriana. Had she just murdered a random Aes Sedai instead of either of them, her goals would have been achieved at little risk of the trail leading back to her.
There have been many examples to date of the Dark One’s touch affecting the world and the White Tower. Beonin sees the dead walking, and ate some weevils in her bread. Elaida will hear of rats in the White Tower. Occurrences of the dead walking have been forced into the story as truly random events, like the bubbles of evil, while failing wards and pest-laden food can fit in seamlessly with the narrative.
From out of nowhere, we learn the former King of Illian is a captive of Elaida’s. His appearance here seems primarily aimed at demonstrating Elaida’s puissance and management style. The first report she dealt with was for garbage clean-up: “I want to hear that a start was made today. Today!” The second was for sewers: “she scrawled I WANT THESE CLEARED BY TOMORROW.” The third and most important report about rats in the Tower gets a mild “have someone check the wards.”
Beonin may have been able to end the rebellion until Sitters from other Ajahs began showing up. Her failure is forgotten in light of the secret knowledge she brings to Elaida. Egwene is a Dreamer, and the rebels have dream ter’angreal. They can weave disguises, hide their ability to channel, invert weaves, Heal with an improved weave, make cuendillar, and Travel. Egwene’s discoveries and abilities are the main reason her life was spared, but it is Beonin who pays the ‘bribe’ by teaching these weaves to Elaida. The rebel ferrets are exposed, establishing links between each of the storylines set in the White Tower. An effective way to create anticipation and excitement is with a web of possibilities, such that the reader doesn’t know which plot will interfere or aid any other plot. Too few plots makes the resolution more predictable.
The Forsaken learn someone is impersonating Sammael. There is some question as to whether he may be alive. Only two Forsaken have died by balefire so far, which means that there could be eleven left standing. There were eleven chairs waiting for the Forsaken when they arrived, but devious Graendal got to choose the setting. Did she purposefully choose the number of chairs as well to confuse the Forsaken or hide that she has been impersonating Sammael? Only eight of the Forsaken showed up for the meeting, Asmodean, Sammael and Osan’gar being the missing ones, and readers know those three have all died. But when the Dark One resurrects a minion, he also gives them a new name, so even an author quote saying that Sammael is dead may not mean as much as it seems. Hiding the simple detail of a Forsaken’s whereabouts has proven to be one of the mysteries that has engaged fans the most. These larger than life villains create excitement whenever they are on the page simply by being who they are: mysterious, powerful, with hidden motives and ruthless plots against one another. Aran’gar admits she has been impersonating another Forsaken, but which one and when she did so remain a mystery.
Lanfear and Ishamael had been the only Forsaken to take an interest in Mat and Perrin in the early books; they were beneath the attention of all the others. Now Moridin orders their deaths, and Semirhage recognizes one of them, giving a clue as to her whereabouts.
The images of Mat and Perrin conjured by Moridin in Tel’aran’rhiod move stiffly and have expressions that never alter, which is typical of such creations. This confirms that the room they are in is in fact in Tel’aran’rhiod or some aspect of it, but it also calls into question some of the theories about creating images of a specific person using Tel’aran’rhiod. A nightmare may be able to express emotion, and a created horse will act like a horse, but can a person created express emotion and speak? Not according to this scene.
Perrin meets the Seanchan, makes a display of power, and then offers to give up his claim to Manetheren in exchange for their help in rescuing Faile. When Berelain gets testy, he calms her and reveals his plan to dose the Shaido wise Ones with Forkroot. He produces a letter from Suroth that will let him carry off every bit of Forkroot the Seanchan have. The Seanchan banner-general is continually surprised by what Perrin is able to do.  A deal is made.
An odd occurrence takes place just after Perrin offers up the claim to Manetheren. A foul wind blows through, raising clouds of grit. It may be a bubble of evil, or it may be the same wind as in Chapter 1, allowing the reader to understand these events take place the same day as Egwene’s capture. It could be one of those signs of the Pattern breaking down, like the dead people sightings. More outlandishly, it could be the Wild Hunt, coursing through at high speed, taking word of Perrin’s location back to Semirhage. Whatever it is, it clumsily represents Perrin’s distaste at making a deal with the Seanchan. Throwing in odd events like this with no explanation and no reason, then having the characters decide to ignore it altogether leaves the reader wondering why the author even bothered adding it. Just another bubble of evil, same as the last.
Writing Lessons:
Multiple plots make the reader uncertain how they will interact or how events will resolve, creating anticipation and excitement.

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