Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Knife of Dreams - Chapters 8-10

In this section, Mat unites his followers.
In other posts I’ve pointed out how the books are most entertaining when they follow a character for a few chapters, then jump to another locale for a few more chapters, and so on, so that each locale is seen three or more times, and enough time is spent in each locale to advance the story. This section takes us to the fifth consecutive chapter from Mat’s point of view, with one more to come after. That’s a significant chunk of the book, and a sign that either some characters will be cut out, or have abridged sections. Nonetheless, Mat’s uniquely funny voice and a sense of advancement in the relationships among his followers make these chapters entertaining and flow smoothly.
A number of other ongoing plots are advanced: Mat and Aludra make a deal regarding her cannons, Bayle and Egeanin get married, the sul’dam begin to learn how to channel from the Aes Sedai, more of the Prophecies concerning the Last Battle are revealed, and continual references to the Snakes and Foxes keep cropping up.
Tuon educates Mat about the finer points of reading omens. Most omens are related to animals’ behaviour. The Pattern could have a wonderful control mechanism for the Seanchan Empire with the fervent belief in these superstitions. The Empress and High Blood take them very seriously and appear to alter plans based on seemingly random events. I wonder if Robert Jordan was detail-oriented enough to have known some of these omens when he wrote the earlier books and insert them before readers had any context to interpret them. Even he wouldn’t have. Right? Funnily, things that Mat knows to be true, she derides as superstition.
Mat finally gets Tuon to take a horseback ride with him, and while visiting some ruins he makes a startling realization: the Aelfinn and Eelfinn have established a lasting connection to him and may know exactly what he is doing.
Egeanin tells Mat more about Tuon and what she knows of life in the Imperial Family. Mat has slowly been falling for Tuon, despite starting out as him simply trying to learn more about his fated wife. Setalle Anan is also helping him as much as she can, and trying to correct his roguish ways.
All in all, Mat leaps from misadventure to another, slowly getting to know Tuon, slowly gaining the confidence of followers, and slowly letting other followers get out of hand. Amongst these, Joline loses her temper against Tuon, and then finds an a’dam clapped around her neck. Tuon provides a taste of her effective training methods. Then Mat steps into the fray, unlocking the a’dam despite Tuon controlling the Aes Sedai to weave flows of air around Mat. The Aes Sedai and Tuon had already seen the foxhead medallion in action, so this is the second time Mat is able to do what no man should be able to do, earning the respect of everyone involved. It has taken a while, but Mat’s ragtag band is forging links of trust, dependence, and mutual respect.
A bubble of evil or breakdown in the Pattern has an ancient village materialize, then vanish, taking a peddler with it. Once again, this stands out as a little contrived, seeming to serve no direct purpose other than to provide another example of the signs heralding the Last Battle. It does serve an incidental purpose as a motivating factor for Egeanin and Juilin to make peace between them, and vacate the tent, leaving Thom, Noal, Olver and Mat alone.
Thom has been reading a letter over and over, subtly making Mat curious about the letter, hoping he will ask about it, as Moiraine insisted he must before he can show it to him. Mat, oblivious as always, has taken months to finally ask Thom about it, and at last we get confirmation that Moiraine is not dead. Mat agrees to undertake a perilous journey back to the realm of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn to rescue her, with Thom and Noal in tow. This gives some satisfaction that a long-awaited plot will be resolved, but its resolution is yet several books away.
Writing Lessons:
Create suspense and tension by telling what must happen, then dragging out its resolution.

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