Thursday, 27 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Chapters 29-32

In this section, the Heroes perfect their abilities.
In the early books of the series, the heroes discovered new and unusual abilities, which they subsequently used and improved upon over the rest of the series, and now they have reached a point where they are perfecting those abilities.
Perrin is being trained to use the Wolf Dream and resist its many pitfalls. Rand can singlehandedly destroy vast armies of Shadowspawn and the sight of him wielding the One Power caused Darkfriends to go mad, which isn’t a specific ability, but seems associated with his recent change of heart. Rand is also visible to Perrin in Tel’aran’rhiod, which should not be possible for a waking being. If this isn’t a vision of the window-type he used long ago, or a Dream prophecy of the kind that Egwene regularly has, then it implies that Rand is somehow in both worlds at once. This is plausible, given that Rand’s ability to change the health of the apple orchard seemed to alter reality in much the same way that one can alter reality in Tel’aran’rhiod. The True Power works in a similar fashion, allowing the user to reshape the Pattern in small ways.
My earlier theory titled The Bore is in Tel’aran’rhiod touched on this, one of its conclusions being that the Last Battle would focus on a battle of wills in Tel’aran’rhiod, with the outcome shaping reality. I further expect Tel’aran’rhiod and the waking world will become more entwined, and the ability to shape reality by thought will be made available to more people, fulfilling some of the metaphorical examples where characters have accepted or resisted their fates, shaping their own realities.   
Rand tired himself out destroying the Shadowspawn army, and tells his followers that future fighting is up to them, he will be facing the Dark One himself. This has a nifty effect on the reader. There is awe that Rand can singlehandedly do what he did, followed by concern that Rand’s battle will be even greater, while the generals will be facing a foe which can overpower them.  The scale and scope of the Last Battle are thus made known, to gleeful anticipation.
The order in which events are presented here is organized to maximize uncertainty, with Berelain and Faile worried about the outcome of Perrin’s trial, with Faile feeling betrayed by Morgase who she considers the highest ranking noble anywhere, with Galad being told that doing what is just and lawful isn’t always right, with weapons rising up to attack their owners, with Tam leaving Perrin’s side, which finally resolves the timeline lag in Perrin’s locale even as it continues to confuse readers, and finally with Elayne and Birgitte feeling queasy over the change which Aludra’s cannons will bring to the world.
All that leads up to Rand on Dragonmount, which Perrin sees as a cloud of evil seeping out of Rand, which he overcomes. The reader already knows what happens next in Rand’s timeline, but the next few chapters give truth to the wolves’ call that the decision has been made, and the Last Battle is coming.
Immediately upon that call to battle, Mat dispenses with the Gholam, then Rand easily slaughters the Shadowspawn hordes in Maradon.
I am missing something about the importance of the cannons. Birgitte’s reaction is overblown, even knowing about the various Dreams and Viewings about their invention. How can cannons change the world so much, when channelers should as easily be able to defend against cannon fire as a streak of lightning or rolling wave of earth and fire? It must simply be that the ability to kill as easily as a channeler will now be in every man’s hands, another metaphor for the ability to assert one’s reality, to resist the place one is given by the existing hierarchy.
Rand’s battle in Maradon is short and to the point, effectively demonstrating that mere Shadowspawn no longer threaten him in any way. The author uses strong visual imagery to portray Rand’s victory, with short summary phrases punctuating the battle, telling the reader what is happening from a more authoritative omniscient narrator’s voice, even though it is Ituralde’s viewpoint. Here’s a closer look:
Rand apologizes, salutes Ituralde’s troops, applauds their efforts, acknowledges their losses, and decides that the Dark One wants to break men’s spirits by forcing them to abandon the city. He refuses to allow that to happen, echoing Ituralde’s earlier recriminations about fleeing the city.
Outside the city, Rand raises a hand towards the Shadowspawn, And they started to die.
This sentence summarizes the entire battle. A few detailed events are described, then,
Light and Power exploded from the Dragon Reborn. He was like an entire army of channelers. Thousands of Shadowspawn died.
The first two sentences aren’t entirely within Ituralde’s ability to know. He could feasibly imagine Light and Power exploding from Rand, or what an army of channelers could do based on his experience with a few channelers. A few detailed events are described, then,
I’ve never seen so many weaves at once. I can’t track them all. He’s a storm. A storm of Light and streams of Power!
Using the Asha’man’s ability to describe what he is seeing is far more convincing than when Ituralde did the same moments earlier. His closing statement veers towards the omniscient narrator again. A few detailed events are described, then,
The man himself seemed to be glowing…Al’Thor seemed brighter than them all.
With the destruction and hyperbole running thick, the word seemed is inappropriate, yet is used twice. At this point, committing to the observation of his radiance is appropriate. This is the sort of weasel words that caused me to stumble over Sanderson’s early Wheel of Time chapters, although I later attributed them to Siuan’s point of view. Using them makes descriptions weaker although they sometimes add a sense of mystery or wonder. For example, throughout this blog, I consciously tried to avoid them, and simply call things as I see them, without hedging my bets with careful wording. A few detailed events are described, then
It was a masterwork. A terrible, destructive, wonderful, masterwork.
Ituralde is no craftsman, no collector of fine art, nothing more than a general and soldier so far as we know. What would he consider a masterwork? A complete rout of enemy forces? Is masterwork the most appropriate word he could have used? Once again, the narrator briefly slides in. A few detailed events are described, then
Al’Thor closed his hand into a fist, and it all ended.
The author likes these dramatic short sentences.
Writing Lessons:
Be conscious of slipping out of your narrative voice, even briefly, for it changes the context and feel of the story.

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