Sunday, 21 October 2012

Knife of Dreams - Chapters 31-34

In this section, Elayne turns a sour experience into crushing victory!
A professional purse snatcher does what no one else has been able to so far, following Mellar to the Lady Shiaine’s home. Giddy at the prospect of capturing a circle of Darkfriends, two Black Ajah, and giving the boot to Mellar, Elayne hastily assembles the Aes Sedai and Warders to raid the manor before they disperse. Mellar’s treachery is strongly downplayed; his arrest is but a footnote.
Elayne cleverly gets the two Aes Sedai she is unsure of in linked pairs, so they cannot channel to disrupt her plan. The raid goes perfectly, until the unforeseen arrival of four other Black Ajah, seemingly still bent on capturing Elayne as Moghedien ordered so long ago. Shiaine is grateful for the rescue, but is quickly put in her place; these women have their own agenda which has nothing to do with Moridin’s or Shiaine’s. This is not the first time that one evil plot has been undone by another concurrent evil plot, where the villains do not share information or objectives.
Careane is unveiled as Black Ajah, and is stabbed by Vandene. Careane’s treachery is strongly downplayed; her death is also but a footnote, since the immediate menace is the six Black Ajah who will have no trouble killing the remaining Warders and carrying Elayne off. Fortunately, none of them know Traveling. Maintaining control over who can Travel is important for several plotlines, and devising ways to keep it secret from the general population of channelers and Mat’s group, while simultaneously allowing other heroes to make liberal use of it must have required intricate planning on the author’s part. Be careful of the tools you give your heroes, because they may make life too easy for them.
Birgitte responds correctly to Elayne’s capture and the death of the Warders. She goes for the only help capable of stopping channelers: other channelers. Birgitte appeals to the Sea Folk’s sense of self-interest, and the Black Ajah are captured and Elayne freed. In minutes, they had destroyed several hundred soldiers, providing yet another example of the escalation of the battles and their outcomes. Obviously, the Last Battle will involve large numbers of channelers, and the value of soldiers will be much less than in traditional warfare.
Birgitte had been forced to give away a number of soldiers to Dyelin to defend the city gates, which made a big difference in the city’s defense, but little difference in Elayne’s rescue which depended on the One Power. With the city under attack from one of Elayne’s rivals for the throne, she Travels into position and catches them between the city walls and her army. It is enough to win, yet the thin margin of victory could have gone the other way several times.
Elsewhere, Karede divines Mat’s plan, and moves to intercept him, setting up another tense conflict where small chance-driven events may make the difference between victory and defeat.
Robert Jordan has a particular way with his sentence structure, often crafting lengthy sentences filled with descriptions, information, the character’s personal views, symbolism, and inference. Since I’m nearing the end of the books he wrote himself, it’s long past time to study these more closely.
Just  two of the mirrored stand-lamps were lit, six flames filling the sitting room with a dim light and the scent of lilies – so much of the lamp oil had gone bad that it was always perfumed, now – but a crackling fire on the hearth was beginning to take away some of the early hour’s coolness.
In this sentence, the room’s temperature, odour, and lighting are described, establishing a mood. There are links to other ideas and plotlines: the Dark One’s touch, Elayne working at early hours of the morning, insufficient supplies to meet needs. Elayne’s situation is symbolized, she can hardly shed light on the solution to her problems, but another source will give her what she needs. So many things conveyed with just one sentence.
Gliding to one of the carved sideboards, she wrinkled her nose at the silver pitcher holding goat’s milk and poured herself a cup of dark wine before taking a chair across from Elayne.
In this sentence, the first part might have been dropped but leave the entire meaning intact. Instead of breaking the sentence into smaller parts, Jordan links them together as a complete sequence of related events. He does it again with the next sentence:
Deni made a move as if to try dragging her out, but Elayne shook her head.
In this case, an action is begun, another is contemplated, and then both are negated. Three actions in one short sentence.
The gag, a dirty piece of rag with a vile, oily taste, tied so tightly that it dug into the corners of her mouth, had been meant to keep her from shouting for help at the gates.
This is not simply a description of her gag, but has added links to explain her captor’s attitude (tightness of gag), and the reason why she has a gag in her mouth, which will lead to an explanation of Elayne’s own strategy.
At last, however, even the most diehard began shedding weapons and armor, and if not every voice cried for quarter, the roar was still thunderous.
Here, large scale events are summarized with a quick series of events. The words ‘at last’ convey Elayne’s hopes as well as the finality of the situation. Using words like ‘roar’, ‘thunderous’, and ‘every’ conveys the large scale of their surrender. Describing the actions of many through the actions of few, either by making them representative, or extraordinary, allows the entire scene to be condensed.
Writing Lessons:
Give longer descriptive passages more weight and interest by linking the ideas and actions within them.

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