Monday, 26 November 2012

The Gathering Storm - Chapters 43-45

In this section, Rand’s reunion with Hurin is menacing, while Egwene’s reunification of the Tower proceeds much better.
Rand’s attempts to sever all emotional ties hardly finds an obstacle when he meets with Hurin, a follower from long ago. Back then Rand offered Hurin leadership, courage, and hope. Today he threatens Hurin, questions his very identity, and dismisses all of his petty concerns. What could have been a gesture of friendship is interpreted as an attempt to influence Rand, with disastrous consequences. Nynaeve is hardly able to sway Rand’s mood when he begins weaving lightning to send crashing into the Borderlanders’ camp.
When he does relent, it is partly out of a sense that he owes Nynaeve a debt for caring when he can no longer afford to. Similarly to Far Madding, when he reached out for Cadsuane’s help before getting in trouble, Rand reaches out to his conscience, Nynaeve, and gives her a scrap of information, telling her where Perrin is. The other part of his motivation is that he hopes to save time by having Nynaeve reel Perrin back to his side.
Nynaeve brings Perrin’s location to Cadsuane, but it isn’t Perrin she is after, but someone whose relationship with Rand goes back even further than Hurin or Perrin.
It is pointed out that Min’s Viewings are clues as to what the Pattern intends for later, but if the Dark One wins, those plans will be for naught, since the Pattern itself would have been destroyed.  
Egwene goes through some introspection, which is always a danger for authors. Too much self-awareness, or too little, and readers can be knocked out of the story. Egwene’s lasts for almost three pages, and is extremely self-aware, teetering on slipping into the author’s voice instead of her own.
Egwene is bitter over her failure to persuade Siuan not to come to her rescue. She blames her secrecy for allowing Siuan to reach conclusions she would not have, had she known more details of Egwene’s plan. Egwene resolves to share her thoughts more freely in the future, while knowing that there will be some secrets her position demands be kept close. To illustrate her new mindset, the chapter concludes with her revelation to the Sitters of the Black Ajah amongst them. This purging of their ranks could not happen if Egwene didn’t have some reason and means to openly share the contents of Verin’s research with her highest-ranking and most-trusted followers.
Further illustrating the previous lack of communication between Egwene and her closest followers, Egwene must explain to Gawyn that his discomfort was the price she demanded of him. The idea that loved ones must be free and empowered to take their own risks in life has surfaced repeatedly throughout The Wheel of Time, and the truest example of this is the relationship between Warder and Aes Sedai.
Siuan and Bryne’s storyline comes to an end. Siuan has fulfilled her Viewing, as has Bryne, and they are at last united in love and the Warder bond. With Egwene installed on the Amyrlin Seat neither Siuan nor Bryne has anything further to accomplish in relation to the story. It would be nice if they could retire after the Last Battle, but it’s just as plausible that they will get singled out as casualties in the fighting.
The Ajah heads in the White Tower are revealed to have been behind the Young Sitters in both Halls. The Young Sitters didn’t obey as well as expected, and some of the more experienced Sitters turn out to have been serving the Black Ajah, explaining their odd voting record. It’s an anticlimactic resolution to a plotline that had been thrust to the forefront at least twice. The Ajah heads settle on Egwene as their preference for the next Amyrlin, putting the need of the Tower and the world ahead of their own at last, since their earlier efforts conveniently aligned their own interests with the perceived needs of the Tower and the world.  
Egwene’s exposition of Sheriam is handled with quick, curt dialogue. The rapid exchange lures the reader in, allowing them to plow through the text before having time to think, which is exactly the effect that the exchange has on Sheriam. There is hardly even any descriptive text, just curt questions and answers:
“Egwene?” Sheriam asked uncomfortably “I was just –“
Egwene stepped forward. “Are you Black Ajah, Sheriam?”
“What? Of course not!”
“Do you consort with the Forsaken?”
“No!” Sheriam said, glancing to the sides.
“Do you serve the Dark One?”
“Have you been released from your oaths?”
“Do you have red hair?”
“Of course not, I never –“ She froze.
In this scene, Sheriam is a stand-in for all the Black Ajah, her familiar, kindly, and oft seen face representing the closeness which many of the Aes Sedai will have had with their evil sisters. Were they able to tell all as they marched to the headsman, as Verin was able to? Once they believed their death was imminent, were they able to reveal the Dark One’s secrets? Did they even try to?  Sheriam at least revealed she had been stealing dream ter’angreal, another strong indication that the Dark One doesn’t want the heroes poking around in this realm, although it could still simply be Forsaken jealousy. Did Mesaana arrange for many other ter’angreal to be stolen from the Tower?  Why were she and other Forsaken so worried about getting caught stealing ter’angreal when Egwene was able to waltz in to the storerooms twice? It seems likely there was simply nothing worth stealing, or worth having the Aes Sedai notice was missing, which implies cowardice on the Forsaken’s part, a strong motivator. The sa’angreal Egwene used must nonetheless have been tempting.
Egwene’s purge of the Black Ajah amongst the rebels is not representative of Rand’s handling of the darkness within him. She does however acknowledge the existence of the Black Ajah privately, which is an important step for Rand to take. Only then is she able to excise it, yet Aes Sedai will still behave as Aes Sedai do, even if they do not serve the Shadow. The capacity for evil always remains, and if Egwene has only lightly touched on this truth, Rand will have to deal with it more directly before he can win the Last Battle.
Egwene accepts the Tower’s surrender, and their appeal to her to take the Amyrlin Seat. It’s nowhere near as gripping or powerful as the scene where the Black Ajah amongst the rebels are purged, and feels like a necessary epilogue to Egwene’s plotline, and there’s yet more Egwene to come.
Writing Lessons:
Control the pace of dialogue to keep the reader focused on something, or to keep them from focusing on something.

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