Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Towers of Midnight - Prologue to Chapter 2

In this section, old and new characters give meaning and emotion to the story.
The prologue has three sections which are truly prologue material, involving Graendal, Fain, and some new Kandori characters. The other three sections involve main characters who figure prominently throughout this book. Lan gains his first follower, while Perrin and Galad share the first of several chapters in which they are inexorably drawn into conflict, though for now they are simply moving towards each other, though even that is not yet clear. Placing their perspectives in the same chapter, or in back-to-back chapters, creates the feeling that their stories are intertwined early on, which will allow later chapters to increase the tension as they draw ever closer to opposing each other.
Graendal survives Rand’s balefire attack by a narrow margin. One flaw I had identified in the balefiring of her palace was that none of the food her servants prepared for the last several hours or days ever made it to her plate, since the servants were balefired too. For all intents and purposes, Graendal was sitting in a forest for some time, imagining that she was in a castle surrounded by her pets. It may be that the balefire simply didn’t undo events very far back.
But once again, balefire has been used, and readers have yet another opportunity to have its properties explained, heavily implying that it will feature in the Last Battle, either as a tool of Demandred’s as suggested when the Dark One asked if he would unleash balefire, or in the hands of the heroes. Balefire’s most important property, revealed long ago, and only recently discovered by Rand, is that the Dark One cannot step outside of time any more than the heroes can. So what can Rand balefire to make use of this property in defeating the Dark One? The obvious answer is that the seals can be balefired. The Dark One’s prison can be broken open using balefire without him knowing that he was free to leave it. Rand can prepare his new seals, and while he balefires the seals, his allies can place the new ones at the instant he does so, cutting off any opportunity for the Dark One to take advantage of the gaping hole in his prison.
Fain enters the Blight, and readers are reminded that he has a role to play. His powers have increased immensely. He represents both the Shadow and intense opposition to the Shadow. He also represents a side of the heroes that they have turned away from, a dedication to a cause at all costs. His final role in A Memory of Light should play off of the heroes’ dedication to their causes, such as Perrin’s protectiveness of Faile, Rand’s desire to win, or Egwene’s pride. There have been two examples of how his evil can counteract the Dark One’s evil, with Rand’s wound and the cleansing of saidin. Fain is a trickster, so the third and final example where he counteracts the Dark One himself is not a foregone outcome.
Rand has had an epiphany of sorts, and where his immediate surroundings used to have all manner of bad things happen, such as spoiling of food or fatal accidents, now his presence makes things grow and provide sustenance. This change reinforces the idea that the spreading bubbles of evil and bad ta’veren effects were a result of his mental state, following the prophetic words that the Dragon is one with the land.  
It stands out as odd when new characters are introduced so late in a story, or when peripheral characters not seen since the first book make a return to the story. In Almen Bunt’s case, Rand is able to return a favour given long ago, and this is a second chance for him to treat people correctly, since he realized everyone should have a second chance during his epiphany atop Dragonmount.
Let’s take a quick look at how a scene of disposable characters, meant to introduce the dire forces massing against the heroes, is presented:
Malenarin expresses frustration, and has never accustomed himself to having the Blight nearby, yet he exhibits a casual ability to overcome difficulty by taking matters into his own hands, all presented with a short scene in which he latches a window to stop a hot breeze.
More detail of the sort of difficulty he must overcome is given in the form of the talents of his recruits, a memento of battles past, and the necessity to trick men into joining the ranks.
Malenarin’s son Keemlin is turning fourteen, and will be presented an heirloom sword. As he surveys the fortress, providing more details on the difficulties its men may face, the author forges a link between Keemlin, the fortress, and the difficulties, by talking about duty and burden, and how Malenarin’s philosophy encompasses them. In only two pages, the reader gains a strong understanding of Malenarin’s motivation, setting, and character.
A problem is introduced, Jargen says that another tower has signaled trouble. The author brings attention to Jargen joining the ranks of soldiers on his fourteenth birthday, further establishing the idea that Keemlin will do the same. Malenarin quickly decides to treat the event as though it represents the most serious possibility. Riders are to be sent south in case the flashes prove ineffective, and Keemlin thankfully happens to be on the list.
Malenarin’s worst fears are realized when the other tower southward does not respond. The hopes of the kingdom now ride with Keemlin. Malenarin orders the fortress made ready for a siege, and is dismayed to find Keemlin before him!
Keemlin explains that he let another younger rider take his place, out of concern for a friend’s family, and for the slight advantage that a few less pounds may have on the horse’s endurance and speed. Malenarin realizes that his son needn’t wait until his birthday to be raised to manhood. He has acted selflessly, and responsibly, choosing the least worst of his available options, even though it means his own death. He is thus able to stand with his fellow soldiers, having adopted behaviour that fits solidly within the philosophy presented earlier.
These few pages introduce new characters whose ideals are explained, challenged and met. The author accomplishes this rapidly by presenting several concepts and then linking them under a common idea, so that it stands in for all the subordinate concepts.
Writing Lessons:
Link ideas under a larger common idea to efficiently represent them all at once.

No comments:

Post a Comment