Sunday, 17 March 2013

A Memory of Light - Prologue

Sorry for the lengthy wait, life struck and added to the time I needed to digest A Memory of Light.
In this section, new point of view characters foil readers’ expectations.
Oddly, Bayrd the Andoran soldier is introduced as a new character. It’s odd because there are already a multitude of other characters in which readers are already emotionally invested. Why introduce him at all? In this case, Bayrd’s story ties up a few loose ends, telling what happened to one of Elayne’s enemies and showing that across the world, ordinary men recognize the signs of Tarmon Gai’don and decide to join with whatever army they can find so they can march against the Dark One. Bayrd and his companions stand in for all the other people which the author can’t afford to show. It’s still meager benefit against the risk of displeasing the reader, but the other possible reasons for including are misleading. Weapons failing? Rejecting immoral authority figures? The act of creating as a ward against the Dark One? The lack of other good explanations for this section gives each of these possible other explanations added weight, whether it is intended or not.
Talmanes appears between every other scene in the prologue, leading a desperate defense of Caemlyn. The alternating structure of the prologue increases the sense of urgency over what a straightforward telling would have done. This structure is highly atypical of most Wheel of Time books, which would normally avoid interruptions in the midst of an action sequence, except to show other players within that same action sequence. It is however common in other fantasy stories, serving to delay resolution and increase the reader’s curiosity and emotional involvement. The difficulty here is that Talmanes is a secondary character, and spends a great deal of time searching for cannons, two things which reduce a reader’s engagement. The author wisely first portrayed Talmanes’ actions in saving the citizens of Caemlyn, forging an emotional bond with Talmanes before sending him off to save the new weapons, which so far offer more hope than proof of effectiveness.
Isam offers a peek inside his grim upbringing in the Town, a way station in the shadow of Shayol Ghul itself. The initial description represents Isam’s life: “The building would have been called an inn elsewhere, though Isam had never seen anyone inside except for the dull-eyed women who tended the few drab rooms and prepared tasteless meals. Visits here were never for comfort. He sat on a hard stool at a pine table so worn with age, it had likely grayed long before Isam’s birth. He refrained from touching the surface overly much, lest he come away with more splinters than an Aiel had spears.” Women, food, and simple furniture all fail to live up to the most meager of expectations. What isn’t bland is likely to hurt him. It’s all symbolic of life under the Dark One, and the reader can’t help but feel a twinge of pity for Isam, or hope that there is something of him to be salvaged. These feelings come from the way Isam stands in contrast to his surroundings. Longtime readers know Isam is nasty, but as presented here he becomes rather sympathetic in comparison to the red-veiled Aiel called Samma N’Sei, or the Forsaken who use and discard him. Coming so soon after Lanfear’s appeal for help at the end of the last book, there is reason to wonder whether Isam, or Luc, has any interest in ending his service to the Shadow. Once again, such an assumption will prove to be misleading.
Clues reveal these Samma N’Sei are Aiel men who can channel, but have been captured and turned to serve the Shadow. This secret army of channelers made a surprise appearance at the end of Towers of Midnight, stacking the odds against the heroes, who don’t yet know they exist. Having successfully avoided revealing the existence of these evil channelers throughout the entire series, readers expect a big payoff when they enter the fray. Readers may dread the outcome for their heroes, they may resent their sudden appearance, but they will expect big things from the Samma N’Sei.
Leilwin approaches Nynaeve to offer help, but finds her past mistakes impede her chances of having her offer accepted.
Aviendha returns from Rhuidean, and realizes this is the last possible night for her to be with Rand.
Androl and Pevara act out the same tale that recurs throughout the series; that of deciding whether to trust someone who is very different from yourself. A quick exchange of background stories aims to make the reader care about these men but it is Androl’s drive which creates the greatest interest. The overwhelming sense of danger built up over the last several books outweighs all other considerations though, and now a countdown element is added as Androl’s group suspects their time is dwindling. Allies turn to Taim’s side overnight. Androl is weak, his Talent useless. Yet more than Bayrd or Talmanes, readers want to see him rise up and succeed. Connecting Androl’s personal desires to the Black Tower’s fate, which is already foremost in readers’ minds, allows them to care deeply about him despite his sudden appearance at the end of the series.  
Moghedien learns that Taim has joined the ranks of the Chosen. Her perspective also allows readers to learn about Sindhol, Dreamshards, Demandred’s whereabouts, Graendal’s fate, and other tempting morsels of Moridin’s plan. Disappointingly, Taim and Demandred appear together, at the same time, seeming to drive the final nail in the magnificent theory that Demandred is Taim. But if Kari al’Thor can be a dreamshard fabrication, why not one of these two? HA! I’ll never yield!
Moridin’s last command is chilling, setting the stage for the Last Battle: “The last days are upon us. In these hours, you will earn your final rewards. If you have grudges, put them behind you. If you have plots, bring them to completion. Make your final plays, for this… this is the end.”
Those words rev me up every time I read them! AAAAAAAAA!!!!

Writing Lessons:
Make a character appear sympathetic by showing them in contrast to something worse.

1 comment:

  1. MAN! I'm not even sure I *registered* those words till I re-read them here! Loving the final approach to your re-read, and will keep an eye on future posts!

    Incidentally, I'd love to meet up and make friends! email me!