Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Knife of Dreams - Chapters 26-27

In this section, a jumble of viewpoints leads up to Rand getting injured.
Following Egwene’s lengthy chapter, the next viewpoints are short, and are divided oddly amongst the chapters. Here are the viewpoints, the number of pages in each, and the chapter they fall in.
Chapter 25: Tarna 6, Mat 12
Chapter 26: Tuon 12, Perrin 15, Faile 3
Chapter 27 : Rand 15, Mat 9
It is an odd partition to have Tuon’s viewpoint sharing a chapter with Perrin, when the viewpoint immediately preceding it was Mat’s, who is in the same locale as Tuon. Why not have shorter chapters with no shared viewpoints? Why throw a Mat section at the end of a Rand section, when there is no logical link between Rand’s and Mat’s actions? Tarna’s viewpoint was filled with trepidation, Mat’s also, but less so. Mat is more in control of events once he meets up with his army again. Tuon’s section is back to mild confusion and study of the situation. Perrin is nothing but preparation for conflict, and worry for how it may pan out. Faile is down to a desperate gamble. The range of emotions these characters feel is similar to what Rand has gone through in preparing to meet the Seanchan. Trepidation, study, preparation, and a gamble at the end. But it’s not just Rand; each of these characters also went through something similar in their predicaments. The viewpoints are divided this way to avoid repeating each character going through similar emotions, which could make for arduous reading. The emotions and concerns expressed in each of the sections stands for the others as well. And in the end, each of the characters will make their gamble, knowing that there is a knife-thin margin between victory and defeat, which relates back to the rhyme at the opening of the book. All of these plotlines are linked thematically.  
The Tuon section reveals that surprisingly, she knows as little of Mat as he does of her. Even as a willing prisoner, Tuon plots how to undermine the enemies of her Empire, considering ways in which she can make life difficult for him or his army. Tuon’s inner thoughts have been kept from readers to maintain the mystery around her, so that they are unsure of where Mat stands with her. As their royal wedding nears, it is finally time to reveal some, but not all, of what her goals are, and how she thinks of Mat. This is an excellent opportunity to switch from his viewpoint to hers, since the author’s objective is now to keep some mystery around Mat’s brilliant plan to escape Altara.
Perrin’s plans are much less secret. Readers have been told about the Forkroot, and how Perrin will sneak some men inside the city to help Faile escape, which are the major tricky parts, the rest simply being placement of the troops. Perrin is able to put aside worries about Whitecloaks nearby, more Shaido septs reinforcing his enemies, and a ripple in the Pattern that feels as though he will be undone. That ripple represents how he may become undone by the secrets Faile may be keeping, but his singular focus lets him dismiss it, as he would dismiss anything Faile had done amongst the Shaido. He has an objective, and he will not let moral obstacles prevent him from reuniting with Faile any more than physical ones.
Perrin’s thought on Berelain are so forthright, I can’t help but feel his perspective is wrong: “Light, how could anyone believe there was anything between him and her? She was as beautiful as ever, true, yet the scent that had minded him of a hunting cat was so long gone from her smell that he barely remembered it. The bedrock of her scent was patience and resolve, now. She had come to accept that he loved Faile and only Faile, and she seemed as determined to see Faile freed as he was.” Berelain doesn’t give up, and Perrin’s smells are unerring, so Perrin has either misinterpreted what the smell means or is not being entirely truthful. It’s quite a leap to start suspecting that a bluntly honest character such as Perrin is hiding something that he can’t even address in his inner thoughts, something that contradicts the text told from his perspective. Consider this possibility: Perrin was ready to make a deal with the Dark One to get Faile back, and may have needed Berelain’s help so bad, he gives in to her as the price. Having paid her price, he tries to pretend nothing happened, to which she replied: “Very well Perrin, if that’s the way you want it.” Whether it is true or not, the author has carefully crafted the discussion between these two the morning he woke in her tent, so that a hidden meaning can be gleaned. Enough to raise suspicion, not enough to prove anything. Other clues point to a hidden meaning in the above passage as well: how exposed must she be for him to know the bedrock of her scent?  Why would she no longer smell like a hunting cat, unless she had already caught her prey? Could his forgetting that smell represent him hardly remembering what they did together? Obviously, there is never a Berelain point of view because that would reveal what is meant to never be revealed. Writing with double meaning, or to imply a double meaning, takes a particular attention and skill.
For her part, Faile is involved in rebuffing Rolan’s suggestions that they play kissing games. She plays coy with him, unwilling to lose a potential escape route. Faile hopes that the Aes Sedai Galina proves true, or she may have to take up Rolan’s offer. Readers know Galina is lying, and this represents Faile’s only truthful option being taken away. Faile recognizes that her only slim hope of not having to hide anything from Perrin lies with this woman, who is frantic and unpredictable. Giving the Oath Rod to Galina represents Faile trying to tell the truth about Rolan. The results would be unpredictable, possibly wild, with no guarantees despite Faile trying to force one out of her. The next post will further delve into the symbolism of Galina.
Rand confronts Semirhage, and loses a hand and his eyesight for it. With two other characters having somewhat successful interactions with Seanchan, there is still some expectation for Rand to come out of this well, despite Suroth’s involvement. There is some mild confusion about timing, as readers may be led to believe this scene takes place after Tuon’s return to Ebou Dar, so that Rand can meet her. The confusion is quickly resolved by the revelation that Semirhage was disguised as Tuon. Semirhage represents pain, based on her reputation, but Rand refuses to acknowledge any pain, whether from his old wounds or the loss of his hand. He is effectively cutting himself off from feeling anything, the wounds to his soul somehow eclipsing the grave physical wounds he has taken.
This uncaring sentiment is echoed when Mat refuses to give aid to the Seanchan soldiers he has cut down with his new tactics. Tuon approves: “A lion can have no mercy.”
Writing Lessons:
Unreliable narrators may require you to write true things with double meanings, not deal with certain things, or write outright lies.

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