Sunday, 14 October 2012

Knife of Dreams - Chapters 22-23

In this section, secondary characters make the story their own.
One thing that stands out in The Wheel of Time is that no matter that the central conflict is centered around Rand, every character believes the story is about themselves. We get two examples of this, with Harine and Romanda getting full chapters from their point of view.
We last saw Harine up close entering Far Madding, in a point of view from her sister Shalon. At that time, Shalon’s own conflict seemed to end, as she found the acceptance of her sister. Now Harine is looking for the resolution to her own story. Despite Min’s Viewing, Harine has not become the Mistress of the Ships, and Harine is certain the Viewing is simply off in its timing, rather than wrong. When Elayne is putting so much faith in Min’s Viewing, this situation serves to undercut the reader’s confidence in Viewings and prophecies, and induce them to think of ways in which the Viewing may have been misinterpreted. Just like the words and Aes Sedai speaks, the Viewings are supposed to be true, but what is left unsaid may have an entirely different meaning.  
Harine and the other women of the First Twelve are gathering to meet with an envoy from the Dragon Reborn: Logain. As with most of the shorebound, Logain fails to understand the dignity and respect due to the Mistress of the Ships, since he cannot interpret the medallions representing her rank, and he simply wouldn’t care if he did know, since his orders from Rand take precedence over all else. Logain’s words reflect Rand’s hardening stance on all matters; “Mourn if you must, but mourn on the march for Tarmon Gai’don.”
Logain’s attitude towards the ritual suicide of a culture of pacifists is coarse and heartless. Like Rand, he is aimed at his task alone, and all other considerations are distractions to be swatted away. The Amayar took their lives in reaction to the cleansing of saidin, as foretold by their prophecies. As discussed in posts on Winter’s Heart, the cleansing represented forgiveness for Rand’s murders of several men. The deaths of the Amayar represent a price paid for that forgiveness, a price beyond the time Rand spent incarcerated. Although not causally related to the cleansing, giving up their lives is a symbolic action foreshadowing the Last Battle when Rand will do the same to save the world. If Rand was supposed to learn anything from the news, it is lost on him, as shown by Logain’s reaction.
Harine is accepted back as Rand’s ambassador from the Sea Folk, a decision the Mistress of the Ships has no choice but to accept. Rand has thus delivered Harine a second chance to atone for her past mistakes in making a poor bargain. To do so, she will have to endure Rand’s harsher attitude, as well as Cadsuane’s expectations. We should expect A Memory of Light to present a situation in which Harine can conclude her story, and complete a task that redeems her, and it will likely involve telling Rand more about the Amayar.
Romanda is perturbed by all the futility and failure she sees, and chooses to lose herself in pleasant tales of romance and adventure. This guilty pleasure stands out starkly against her personality, which is very pragmatic and prideful. She not only abides by custom, it is a central tenet of her beliefs. All of the new things Egwene or Nynaeve has come up with are frowned upon, and her reluctance to see possibility instead of actuality left her unable to see that Egwene was more than a novice until it was too late for her. Even as the Last Battle approaches, she sees change as an obstacle to be overturned and adherence to the old ways as the path to victory. A victory she will be central figure in, if Elaida and Egwene can be thrown out.
Nisao reveals her secret hunt for the assassin amongst the rebels, having come up against an obstacle that she cannot overcome. Egwene’s orders to carry out the search and to keep it secret now conflict with each other, and Nisao can decide which one takes precedence and act upon it. Since Lelaine already figured out that a search was underway, revealing as much to Romanda is easily rationalized.
An encounter with Sharina and the Mistress of Novices has Romanda recognize that some of the changes being effected are very practical and useful, which makes undoing them all the more unlikely, which in turn grates on her sense of how things are supposed to be. She started the chapter firmly against all things new, and now she has twice had to grudgingly admit that some of the changes constitute progress.
The third encounter that pierces her mindset is the arrival of Merise and her Asha’man warder. Here is something that definitely should not be, although if it must exist, the relationship correctly involves an Aes Sedai with a subjugated male. The Asha’man Narishma tells the Hall that someone tried to pierce the warding against eavesdropping using saidar, at which point Delana abruptly leaves. Narishma offers the Dragon Reborn’s Asha’man to be bonded, which the Hall hastily accepts. Further questioning reveals Asha’man have already bonded nearly fifty Aes Sedai, which puts all other ugly realities out of Romanda’s head; this is an abomination! Equality is intolerable, even if the bonded Aes Sedai are Elaida’s followers. The exact count gives Narishma another opportunity to talk about Hopwil’s death at the hands of a woman who could extraordinarily use saidin.
It is highly doubtful Romanda’s unchanging view of the world could have made the leap of logic to link Narishma’s tale with Nisao’s hidden assassin, without being repeatedly hammered with events that defy her structured world view. Her insight that Delana must be arrested would have been even more believable if she had left the Hall after another sister demonstrated that she could detect saidin, instead of just before this new weave was tested. As it is, Delana made her own early leap of logic, simply worrying that an Asha’man in the camp might unveil Halima.
Siuan might have been a logical character to have used for this chapter instead of Romanda, since she is Blue Ajah, and should have known something of the dead sisters and Cabriana. She also is within the group of loyal Egwene followers, and might have made a better first stop for Nisao than Romanda. However, Siuan could not have been in the Hall, so one of the Sitters had to have the point of view instead. Once Siuan was disqualified, the author had to find the character best suited to be told all of the relevant pieces of information and who also had access to the locations where each would be revealed. Once Romanda was selected, the events had to be structured to affect her such that she could reach the desired conclusions. Having now conceived of the inconceivable, Romanda is ready to accept Egwene as Amyrlin.
Writing Lessons:
Treat every character as though they are the hero of their own story within your story.

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