Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Knife of Dreams - Chapters 20-21

In this section Lan resumes his quest, and Rand checks in on old allies.
Lan’s quest in the Blight has been paused since the end of The Eye of the World. In truth he set aside his suicidal need to avenge his homeland when he agreed to be bonded by Moiraine in order to fight the Shadow in a more constructive fashion. Twenty years of chasing down obscure leads in two-street villages and cities must have seemed so opposite to how he intended to live. But a Malkieri’s word is his bond, and he held to his task for two decades, finally rescuing a handful of Emond’s Fielders from the Shadow, leading them to the Blight, where he finally got another taste of the destiny that awaited him, a man vs. Blight showdown to the death.  Lan’s quest mirrored Rand’s own in The Eye of the World, and the tales of Malkier and Manetheren formed Rand into the man he needed to be to defeat Ba’alzamon. As I have postulated before, while Lan’s mentorship enhanced Rand’s manhood and battle prowess, he also led Rand astray, forming an idea in Rand’s mind that he alone could face the Dark One, and that he must do it alone, with as little help as possible. Rand still isn’t completely over that attitude, and neither is Lan.
Since leaving the Eye of the World, Lan has given cursory advice to the boys, but has had no character to speak of. Moiraine passed his bond as though he were a tool, not a man. Moiraine’s death compelled him to seek out Myrelle, who was able to save him from death by despair. Sent to Ebou Dar to help Nynaeve, he represented no more than her just reward for finally breaking her block by surrendering. He has been part of the décor, acting out his role, but had little say in anything, including the choice of where he goes. Lan recognizes that he is of little use when a hundred thousand Trollocs tear across the fields. He can’t advise Rand, he can’t fight Rand’s enemies. Rand has outgrown his need for Lan.
So, Lan grumbles that someone should be doing something in the Borderlands to prepare for the Last Battle. Nynaeve says that is his duty, while hers lies with protecting Rand from Alivia. She unselfishly grants him his long-standing wish to march into the Blight, to fight the Shadow. But, she selfishly dumps him as far from his ultimate destination as she can, to give him a chance to gather allies. Free from all past restrictions, Lan is his own man for the first time since New Spring, twenty years earlier. His quest parallels Rand’s, and there is a good chance that events surrounding Lan in A Memory of Light will be written to show what doesn’t work, to raise tension, to give examples foreshadowing Rand’s potential fate.
Verin’s letter sets a precedent for Lan’s departure. The rationale that she can serve Rand better elsewhere could easily have come from Lan, and saves a lengthier explanation on his part. The idea that followers can pick up and leave has been established, so it is natural that any other followers who can serve better elsewhere will also go, and readers will immediately understand why without having to explain it all over again. Placing these two departures in the same chapter highlights the utility of this technique.
Rand has seriously started talking about the Last Battle, making last-ditch attempts to reach terms with the Seanchan so he can focus on his ultimate task. The hundred-thousand strong hordes of Trollocs he fought at Algarin’s manor heralds the Last Battle. Aside from a handful of Saldaean soldiers, Rand’s meager forces took no losses in a battle greater than any seen in centuries. They were dispatched as though a mere nuisance. The scale of conflict has been magnified, yet it was treated as a minor skirmish, like the regular Shadowspawn attacks that used to peck at Rand in the Aiel Waste. Treating an epic event in a decidedly un-epic fashion leaves plenty of room to ramp up the emotion for the real Last Battle.
Rand saw obstreperous drunks being thrown out of inns and taverns in the early morning, in Tear. Obstreperous means noisy, boisterous and unruly. The word itself feels unruly, reflecting its meaning. Authors must feel happy to use a word so poetically.
Rand’s ta’veren aura ends the rebellion in Tear within an hour of his arrival. The various rebellions in the kingdoms he rules have served the purpose of showing that people always try to wriggle out of complete obedience, even though Rand attempts to have it from his followers. Guards who protect an empty room because Rand wasn’t precise that it was Callandor they were guarding, not the room itself, demonstrate the flaws in Rand’s ideal servants. Weiramon once again shows that if Rand tries to do everything himself, he won’t get anything done for want of continually having to place everyone back where he wants them.  Those examples are done now, the focus is moving to Arad Doman, a chaotic place where no law exists, where Rand will try to stamp out lawlessness with an enormous influx of manpower. The battle with Lews Therin over Rand’s mind and body, the willful attitudes Rand is displaying, the chaos in Arad Doman, and the imminent Last Battle all mirror and represent each other to some extent. As in the early books, Robert Jordan is back to having the locale serve the character’s story.
Writing Lessons:
Treat events with the emotional intensity you want the story to have at that point, not because they happen to be pivotal or grandiose.

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