Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Gathering Storm - Chapters 34-36

In this section, Tuon resists and rejects Rand.
The first time I read The Gathering Storm, I found several of Mat’s humourous sections over the top and out of character. This time, they provided the heartiest laughs. Rand’s chapters are too grim to allow humour, so a brief Mat interlude allows a quick respite from the grimness, before launching back into it. All Rand all the time would be a grind to read, but Mat’s sections give the book a tempo such that it feels like two beats down, one beat up, two beats down, one beat up, until Rand hits rock bottom. Here’s a quick look at what makes the humour in each of these sentences effective.
Next he knew, the daisies on the sides of the road would be ganging up to try and eat him. Exaggeration to the point of ridiculousness.
Mat’s overly detailed aliases for the raid on the town of Trustair have several more examples of exaggeration, this time by adding detail upon detail, any one of which would be acceptable, but when combined sound preposterous.
Mat’s seat: Bloody thing must have been designed by insane, cross-eyed Trollocs and built from the bones of the damned. A combination of exaggeration and uncommon details.
You’re Aes Sedai. I figured you… you know, saidared it. Inappropriate use of a word is funny, this one manages to take Aes Sedai down a notch as well through its lack of respect, and ridicule of prominent figures is usually accepted as funny. 
Is Verin lying to Mat? She goes to some length to present a fantastic story of coincidence and fate, yet as it is begun, the following line puts it all in question:  That smile on the corner of her lips? That was the smile of a jackleg who didn’t care that you were on to her con. Now that you understood, you could both enjoy the game, and perhaps together you could dupe someone else. She then establishes the context for her incredible tale: Mat is ta’veren. Mat shrugs it off but their argument ought to make everyone else more convinced it’s true. If it isn’t a true tale, then it must have been to convince Mat that the thing that Verin has for him, a letter with instructions, is so important that he can’t afford to ignore it as he typically might. It would also require that Verin’s ability to find Mat be explained when none of the Forsaken or Darkfriends have been able to. If it isn’t a true tale, then why not have Mat admit to himself that he’s just playing along?  Or is all that captured in his concluding remark as he accepts her letter and her terms: “Why was Verin being so cryptic?”
Thanks to the Mat interlude, readers are a little less pessimistic about Rand’s mood when he meets the Seanchan. That doesn’t last long though, as he is soon trying to use the True Power to bend Tuon’s will and give him the treaty he wants. The fact that Tuon can resist shows her strength of character, but it also shows a weakness to the True Power. If the True Power could force someone to change her mind, they have to be accepting of that change, much as Shemerin was with her demotion. Tuon truly does not want to give in, and despite Rand using the True Power on her, she is able to resist. The True Power cannot make you do anything, control over that comes from within. This fits thematically with many of the other truths of this world, such as Rand’s many encounters with Moridin, the sudden twisting of his ta’veren powers to the nasty side, the way Tel’aran’rhiod works with force of will, and maybe even with the worst of the Dark One’s powers: the ability to turn people to the Shadow using Myrddraal and channelers. It is possible that resisting turning can cause the effort to fail, at which point a captive is killed.  It could be that it is fear of death that gets captives to surrender, and allow the conversion to the Dark. Tuon’s resistance is a mixed blessing, for readers want peace so Rand can focus on the Dark One, yet it is apparent that Rand’s victory in this matter by using the True Power would have a bad outcome. With all those weighty matters grabbing the reader’s attention, it is easy to overlook the seemingly insignificant detail that Rand was simply unable to bend her will using the True Power, which will be a key to victory in A Memory of Light.
The cultural chasms between the Seanchan and the rest of the world are vast, and Tuon says that these lands had forgotten their oaths. Oaths to do what? Await the Return? Obey? It feels like we are missing some element of what the purpose of the Return was, only glimpses of which are revealed by Tuon’s mention of the Essanik Cycle. This set of prophecies is widely believed to be a corrupted version twisted in meaning by Ishamael, but it is also possible that it is nothing of the sort, and that it simply tells how the Seanchan will command the Dragon to fight the Last Battle, and that the oaths are akin to those of the Borderlands or Manetheren, to pledge to fight the Shadow.
Writing Lessons:
Create funny sentences using exaggeration or a series of uncommon details.

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