Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Gathering Storm - Chapters 40-42

In this intense section, Egwene saves the White Tower, while Rand doesn’t save Arad Doman
Two more intense scenes take place. Egwene’s defense of the White Tower is action-packed, but more importantly is filled with intense emotion. It is the emotions felt by Egwene, Adelorna, and the reader which give the scene such intensity.  Similarly, but almost a polar opposite, Rand’s scene is filled with a very different intense emotion, one which comes from a complete lack of action and Rand’s cold frustration about it.
Through 70 pages set in and near the White Tower, Egwene rises from the despairing depths described in her cell, to regain her place as a Novice. Novice quarters seem opulent compared to where she was, and might have constituted a victory, but her meteoric rise continues. She leads a group of Novices, which lets her channel more of the One Power, which lets her acquire a sa’angreal, which lets her save Aes Sedai, even the head of the Green Ajah, which leads to her standing at the forefront of the Tower’s defense.
Her quick ascendance is not simply a matter of having it handed to her. She was released from her cell because Elaida decided Egwene was the wrong recipient of her ire. Elaida acknowledged that Egwene was undeserving of her imprisonment. Verin’s diary was given out of respect for what Egwene had accomplished so far. The Novices turned to her because no one else looked out for them, and Egwene did, giving them courage, direction, and entrusting them with secret knowledge. Each step upward is a logical outcome of Egwene’s behaviour, not her abilities, making her victory one of character, not plot. Every sufferance she has endured pays its dividends now, and they accumulate rapidly, until she is wielding more power than anyone in the Tower ever has.
Once Egwene is backed by a circle, the Seanchan cannot shield her since the a’dam prevents them from forming circles strong enough. Each and every damane literally needs someone looking over their shoulder to control their behaviour. This mechanism is a blatant metaphor for the ability of a group of people standing united overcoming difficult obstacles, and the inability of strictly controlled people to stand against a united group. Robert Jordan first knew what messages he intended to convey in his story, and then developed the mechanics of using the One Power to directly represent them. It’s a clever and powerful way to make sure your story doesn’t go off track with some unintended metaphor or message.
Throughout the Battle, Egwene must overcome her dire fear of being retaken by sul’dam and made to serve. The progression of emotions Egwene feels is impressed on the reader with language which uses strong emotion bearing words. Her initial fear and panic is replaced by hope, then certitude, then righteous fury:
And she couldn’t channel enough Power to light a candle, let alone fight back.
Soldiers and sul’dam. With those leashes. Egwene shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself. The cool, seamless metal. The nausea, the degradation, the panic, despair, and – shamefully – guilt at not serving her mistress to the best of her abilities. She remembered the haunted look of an Aes Sedai as she was broken. Most of all, she remembered her own terror. The terror of realizing that she would be just like the others, eventually. Just another slave, happy to serve.
She wouldn’t let them leash her again. She had to run! She had to hide, flee, escape… No! She pushed herself upright. No, she would not flee. She was Amyrlin.
“Come,” she said, striding forward, holding to her tiny bit of the Power like a drowning woman clinging to a rescue rope.
She smiled at the thrill of it. She could feel Nicola, sense her fear, her emotions bubbling over. Egwene had been part of enough circles to know how to separate herself from Nicola, but Egwene remembered the first time, how she had felt swept into something far larger than herself.
She held it reverently for a moment, then reached and pulled the One Power through it. An awesome, almost overpowering, torrent of power flooded through her.
The White Tower would not fall while she was Amyrlin! Not without a fight to rival the Last Battle itself.
Adelorna is head of the Green Ajah, and to represent that only Egwene can save the Tower, the logical person to show in a state of unreadiness is Adelorna. Had more space been available, the author might have shown a progression of more and more powerful Aes Sedai being collared, or fleeing, ending with Adelorna.
She teetered on the exposed ledge, looking out upon a sky filled with terrible monsters and lines of fire. She stumbled back with a cry, turning away from the hole.
Adelorna screamed in denial, pushing at the shield. The third woman calmly knelt and snapped a silver collar on Adelorna’s neck.
Adelorna turned hesitantly. A woman in white stood atop the rubble a short distance away, a massive halo of power surrounding her, her arm outstretched toward toward the fleeing soldiers, her eyes intense. The woman stood like vengeance itself, the power of saidar like a storm around her.
“What if they’re carrying captives?” Adelorna asked, watching one of the beasts fall amid Egwene’s flames. “Then those captives are better dead,” Egwene said, turning to her. “Trust me, I know this.”
Those eyes were so calm, so in control.
“If I left, it wouldn’t have been fleeing you, Adelorna, it would have been abandoning you. I am the Amyrlin Seat. My place is here.”
Saerin leads the Tower’s defense, poorly in her estimation. As a figure of authority, she too has to be shown falling second to Egwene in order to complete her ascension to the pinnacle of power. Her calm demeanor is eventually shaken by understanding that Egwene is beating back the Seanchan.
“I told them we were organizing a formal command center here. Most seemed to think that was a good idea, though many were too tired, too shocked or too dazed to respond with much else besides a nod.”
“A pity,” Saerin said. “They like to call themselves the Battle Ajah, after all. Well that leaves me to organize the fighting.”
What she didn’t mention was how embarrassed she was. The Aes Sedai had spent centuries guiding kings and influencing wars, but now – with their sanctuary assaulted – they had proven woefully inadequate in defending it.
“This is a disaster!” an angry voice shouted.
“The novices’ quarters?” Saerin said. That seemed even more ridiculous. “How in the world…” She trailed off, eyes widening slightly. “Egwene.”
At last we see Egwene in full vengeful radiance, having laid claim to her position through strength of character, overcoming her fears, and sheer force of will.
Each faceless Seanchan that Egwene struck down seemed to be Renna in her mind’s eye.
The attack below was breaking off, the entire raid focusing on Egwene.
Egwene was part of the fires that burned in the Tower, bloodying the sky with their flames, painting the air with their smoke. She almost seemed not a being of flesh, but one of pure Power, sending judgment to those who had dared bring war on the Tower itself. Blasts of lightning stormed from the sky, the clouds churning above. Fire sprouted from her hands.
Siuan leads Egwene’s rescue, fulfilling Min’s Viewing. She and Bryne both wrongfully assume that some inconsistency exists because Bryne could not have fulfilled the Viewing unless he had come along, but it is obvious that death would have awaited him at some imminent later moment without Siuan in the revel camp to protect him.
Completing Egwene’s ascension, her rival Elaida is captured, vacating the Amyrlin Seat and leaving only Egwene standing. Elaida’s bullying and stern rule have irked readers and characters alike since the earliest parts of the series. It may be as Egwene later declares that no one deserves collaring by the Seanchan, but Elaida certainly comes closest. Readers can’t help but feel that events have worked out for the best with her unhappy captivity and a new name that sounds suspiciously like Suffer.
Ironically, for things to work out for the best in the long run, Elaida will have to be inspired by Egwene to keep Traveling out of the Seanchan’s hands. She just may have the requisite stubbornness, and could redeem herself by following in Egwene’s footsteps.
Rand’s cold detachment is made evident with words that have no emotional weight to them, even in situations where the circumstances are heavily emotional. This is epitomized with “It is not my problem, Rand thought, not looking at the people. I did everything I could.” His mood and the futility of his efforts are mirrored by the spoilage of food, as every last grain in Arad Doman is fouled. “What Arad Doman needs, nobody can give.”
Futility is also prominent in Lews Therin’s concern that the names of women in Graendal’s fortress will never be known, and the list of women killed by him and Rand will remain incomplete. His concern is so trivial, so preposterous, but Rand can’t see that his own intentions for Arad Doman and the world were equally far-fetched.
Writing Lessons:
Use emotion to create intensity.

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