Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Memory of Light - Chapter 37 - Part 2

In this section, the heroes suffer setbacks and losses.

Deep in the Blasted Lands, on the approach to Shayol Ghul, Faile discovers the village supplying the Shadow’s armies.

Perrin awakens to find hours have passed and he is still weak from his ordeal. The rationing of healing for even heroes of his stature indicates how poorly the battle is going. Perrin insists Faile is alive even though her caravan vanished in a bubble of evil. As well he might, for the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills, and the Horn must be at the Last Battle. Since nothing guarantees she is still the one carrying it, the scene still plays nicely as a point of faith, as opposed to counting on divine providence.

Androl and Pevara flirt as they make plans to find Taim. They sit on a hillside looking down on fields where nothing grows, surrounded by dead trees. Androl feels that mirth and love have a place even in the face of such desolation, perhaps it is even the best place to have them so they can build something up.

Rhuarc stalks the valley of Thakan’dar, killing Trollocs and red veils until Hessalam finds him. He looked up and someone beautiful stepped through the storm to inspect him. She had wonderful eyes, though the two were offset from one another. He’d never before realized how horribly balanced everyone else’s eyes were. Thinking of it nauseated him. And all other women had too much hair on their heads. This creature, with thinning hair, was far more marvelous.

The first thoughts are portrayed neutrally as though they could be Rhuarc’s or a narrator’s. The second sentence shows a slight resistance, as Rhuarc is still able to describe the offset eyes in a neutral, slightly pejorative manner. By the third sentence, Rhuarc is well and truly her creature, comparing her to all other women, with not even a thought of his wives, even to dismiss them. His memory of them is completely overwhelmed by his immediate need to please Hessalam. Rhuarc’s conversion jabs the reader with the speed and totality of his change of allegiance, undercutting the positive emotions displayed in the earlier sections with Perrin, Androl and Pevara.

Mirroring this example of good things turning suddenly bad, Rand weaves a world where all is well, and finds it overtaken by the Dark One very quickly. THESE PEOPLE ARE MINE NOW. I WILL TAKE THEM. The Dark One goads Rand with uncharacteristic explanations to point out the flaws in his creation, and attacks Rand when he wavers slightly. IT IS NOT ENOUGH, AND WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH. YOUR DREAM IS FLAWED. YOUR DREAM IS A LIE. I AM THE ONLY HONESTY YOUR WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN.

Whatever hope came from Rand’s triumphant dismissal of the Dark One’s reality is now seriously undermined. It is good that this pivotal confrontation not end too easily or quickly, and with the Dark One taking the upper hand, things once gain look bleak for Rand. At least readers expect a second round of battle. It is another stroke of genius to have this confrontation rely on character and imagination instead of ability with the One Power. Outside of the Pattern, weaving reality into being, Rand is more powerful than he ever was as a mere channeler.

Silviana offers to take Egwene’s bond so that she doesn’t suffer from his death during the Last Battle. Egwene defends keeping the bond, a link of love and trust that she fought hard to create. She believes the importance of her role will be enough to see her through his loss, but she nonetheless hurries to try rescue him.

Birgitte describes Gaidal in a way that makes her loss poignant, and relates directly to what happens when a loved one or warder is lost. Discussion of the deep personal nature of the loss adds a lot of emotional intensity to the story.  Readers have seen several supporting characters killed or destroyed, and forcing the reader to contemplate what those losses mean to the main characters heightens the tension over which of them may perish. The reader is being primed to feel the losses as deeply and personally as the characters will.

Galad receives orders and Mat’s medallion. He is to kill as many channelers as possible. Bryne arrives searching out Gawyn.

Mat is excited about playing in the highest stakes game ever. Having previously stated that both Mat and Demandred are master generals and master gamblers, the effect is reinforced with their mutual admiration for each other’s talents. This saves the author much trouble in actually conceiving of brilliant battlefield tactics, as the impression of skill can be conveyed far more convincingly than the skill itself.

Logain is given permission to seek out Taim. Mat looks for a good reason to fake a rift between himself and Tuon. He is not convinced Tuon’s safety is a good enough reason to pick a fight, yet his luck intervenes and a band of Gray Men and Sharan channelers makes Tuon’s point admirably. Having given away his medallion, the stakes are suddenly higher for Mat.

Min saves Tuon with the help of Siuan who dies in the effort. Siuan’s almost last words under pressure reveal her character, one reminiscent of the people of Manetheren: “Whatever you think you did, the viewing has not been accomplished yet, It’s still there.”

Siuan stood frozen for a moment. “Cauthon is in danger.”


“I don’t care, girl!” Nearby, the ground trembled with the force of the One Power. The damane were fighting back. “If Cauthon falls, this battle is lost! I don’t care if we both die from this. We must help. Move!”

Egwene tries desperately to reach Gawyn in time.

Demandred considers how to defeat Mat, and opts to drag things out, so as to avoid committing himself to a potential trap and to maintain full control of the battle and his eventual confrontation with Rand. Demandred’s girlfriend Shendla is devious, capable, powerful, but not enough to change his heart. “I would cast it all away,” he said, looking into her eyes. “Everything for a chance at Lews Therin.” Demandred considers whether he could change, given the new feelings budding with him. This is the third Forsaken given an option of redemption in this book. Surely, readers think, the author wouldn’t show three such situations unless at least one of them will take it? The very fact that three options were presented implies that an option will be chosen, creating an expectation for the author to fulfill or surprise readers with. Precious insight into the twisted mind of this opponent creates interest and excitement. Will Demandred get his wish to confront Rand? Will he find out Rand isn’t coming and crush Mat? Many tantalizing possibilities are made available with a short jaunt into Demandred’s thoughts.

The M’Hael is admonished by Demandred and is assigned a specific task of confronting the Aes Sedai.



 “Lies,” Rand said.


Juilin fights and keeps on fighting. His uncertainty about what to do other than keep resisting mirrors Rand’s predicament.

Androl and Pevara in disguise are able to learn Taim’s whereabouts from Demandred. This scene would have lacked some credibility without having seen Demandred just before, so that readers are already familiar with his whereabouts and state of mind. Demandred’s ability to detect Gawyn wreathed in shadows doesn’t extend to an inverted Mask of Mirrors. Demandred is too preoccupied to notice if whipping Androl’s cheek breaks reveals the disguise. Androl points out that even Trollocs battle in shifts, a reality shown earlier with Lan, yet unexpected here as the battle rages. If Mat’s armies are doing the same, it hasn’t been shown because it would detract from the perception that every last person is needed. It is more difficult to portray dire need when a third of your army is sleeping and another third is in reserve. The fact that the Trollocs can afford to do this demonstrates how badly the good guys are outnumbered.

Galad has a number of plans which he signals to his men by holding up a number of fingers. Memorizing a handful of plans may not be too difficult, but do men remember them under the pressure of battle? It seems risky given that they would have had under an hour to develop the plans.    

Galad finds Gawyn as he dies and learns Rand is his brother. Gawyn’s extraordinary survival so far is explained by his Warder bond, another fantastic invention that gives the author a lot of leeway to make events play out as needed. Galad is motivated by his brother’s loss, and maybe by his newfound brother’s existence, to seek out and destroy Demandred. He is a better swordsman than Gawyn was, and has a medallion to negate Demandred’s channeling, and he’s taken down several channelers easily, and his desire for vengeance seems so right that his victory feels fairly certain.

Egwene feels the crippling loss of her Warder. A short amount of text is dedicated to this, for the good reason that every character in sequence is building up emotions of worry, frustration, fatigue, and loss. Each character’s point of view not only describes their own situation, but builds up to or builds on the points of view presented before and after. The rhythm of the Last Battle and Rand’s conflict play off each other emotionally more than they do temporally. Egwene’s realization of her naiveté plays very well with Rand’s imminent next round against the Dark One.

Writing lessons:

Set or maintain the emotions you want from one point of view to the next, using them as parts of a whole, not only to advance plot.

Monday, 28 October 2013

A Memory of Light - Chapter 37 - Part 1

In this section, the Last Battle begins!

Lan offers the first point of view in this epic nearly 200 page chapter, the significance of which won’t be understood until the chapter ends. New Spring made Lan the central character of the series by starting with his point of view as the first window onto this world. With Rand as the central character through the main body of the series, it has long been assumed the Last Battle was all about him facing the Dark One. It is not at all obvious to readers that the Last Battle applies to Lan as well.

Elayne fights Draghkar and gets healed by a damane. Then Mat explains his strategy to her, by telling her he can’t tell her the plan. Uno escapes the destruction of the Dragons by Demandred. Logain prioritizes Rand’s orders over anyone else’s: Find the Seals. Gawyn is losing steam, but feels better when he puts the bloodknife rings back on. Tam and Galad fight Trollocs. Egwene splits up Siuan and Bryne, sending one to watch the command tent, the other to fetch Gawyn.

Tacticians’ comments, such as Bryne’s and Galad’s, explain to readers what the troop movements mean in terms of the overall strategy. By darting from one person to the next, the author allows the battle to progress at a steady pace, telling the reader more from the varied points of view than any one character could know. Similarly, interest is heightened when more than one character wonders what is happening on the heights, driving the reader’s interest as well.

Pevara and Androl take advantage of their unique bonds to use one as bait while the other kills anyone tempted to strike. Their telepathy provides a unique advantage for this tactic, allowing the quickest possible reaction time. They are hit by lightning, lose control, and merge in a new way where they are fully bonded. Now they have fewer limits or rules on their use of the power, as each is able to channel while within a circle, and is able to use the other’s Talents.

This new channeling ability appears to come out of nowhere, yet it closely mirrors other developments earlier in the series where character development drives plot. Pevara has just finished overcoming her last Red Ajah prejudices against Androl, seeing him as a potential husband or lover. This change of character, and her acknowledgement and acceptance of it, are what leads to the new link between them later on that same page. These two are complete opposites, yet in finding common ground in their admiration and respect and growing love for each other, they have smashed down any barriers that restrained them from working together more fully than any two people ever have.

 Mat orders Galad to stay at the ruins. He learns that Demandred has a spy in his tent. He gives a bit of insight to Elayne, and now must prepare to manipulate Tuon.

At the ruins, Galad realizes Mat does know what he is doing. New orders confuse him as he gathers 12 men and goes to the ford to meet with Elayne.

The Dark One scours Rand with his power, but Rand’s self-assurance allows him to resist. Rand seems to abandon his plan to destroy the Dark One, or even defeat him, since he can just barely hold on to his identity. As always, it is self-knowledge that empowers Rand against his adversaries.

“That is all you have?” Rand growled.


“You made me strong,” Rand said, voice ragged. “Each time you or your minions tried to destroy me, your failure was like the blacksmith’s hammer beating against metal. This attempt…” Rand took a deep breath. “This attempt of yours is nothing. I will not break.”


“For what?”


The Dark One’s overbearing smugness, his blunt assurances that all is over, his condescending gloating over knowledge that he has gives readers the terrible feeling that he is in fact going to win. There is no doubt, no gambit, no challenge, the Dark One’s victory is inevitable, his power absolute.  Villains don’t get any more confident than this.




“IT HAS NOT YET BEGUN!” Rand screamed.

Use of the weaving metaphor established early in the series works to great effect, and is a natural fit. When the Dark One weaves reality to create Dark Emond’s Field, readers understand the stakes are higher than ever imagined, that everything they know can be remade. Dark Emond’s Field is designed to goad Rand into emotional instinctive action, putting himself in danger. Rand shatters the false reality, and promises to show the Dark One what is going to happen, giving readers hope and optimism, just in time for Gawyn to enter the fray.

Riding the emotional high off of Rand’s challenge to the Dark One, readers have every expectation that Gawyn will at least wound or disable Demandred, evening the odds. Gawyn faces Demandred armed with powerful magic and skill and still loses handily. Demandred is unnaturally skilled at sword fighting, and uses a burst of strength to drive his sword through Gawyn’s armor, while his eyes were closed. Hope turns to horror, because no matter how a reader feels about Gawyn, it is insinuated that Demandred can’t be stopped by anyone less than a powerful channeler who can also swordfight. In other words, Rand. And since he isn’t bound to show up any time soon, the other heroes are in a real spot of trouble.

Writing Lessons:

To lessen info-dumping, spread insight you are giving the reader across several different characters’ perspectives.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Memory of Light - Chapters 33-36

In this section, the heroes show determination in the face of the worst odds yet.

Perrin battles Slayer in Tel’aran’rhiod, showcasing a variety of tactics granting either of them a momentary edge. Perrin has no trouble running through the sky, but is so used to swimming that he can’t maintain his focus when underwater. Exhaustion impedes his ability to manipulate the World of Dreams, and Slayer finally hits him with an arrow.

Lanfear finds Perrin, and scorns him, easily switching her favour to the victor of the battle. Alone in Tel’aran’rhiod, with no energy, Perrin realizes his hammer is warm, giving him enough clarity of mind to wake up from the Wolf Dream. He lands where he expects Faile to be, at the Field of Merrilor, where the Last Battle is upon them.

Faile begins her transit to Merrilor with the Horn of Valere, but a bubble of evil disrupts her departure. She concludes that there is likely a traitor in her midst, which she thinks is Vanin. Aravine is the one who would best be able to divine the nature of Faile’s cargo, though, so my suspicion fell on her. The traitor’s identity is not as important as the suspicion that one exists, and that Faile is without resources in a hostile land while this person bides their time. With a number of nameless travelers killed by such trivial things as mud and plants, the feeling of helplessness and paranoia is well established. Her own attempts to weed out the traitor backfire, and she is forced to flee, afoot, into the Blasted Lands with creatures in pursuit.

The perfect accentuation of this feeling of powerlessness comes with Olver’s perspective. Olver is the only child of note in the entire series, and despite training with his uncles in the band, it is obvious to the reader that Olver is well and truly outmatched by everything. By placing Olver’s perspective here, just before the Last Battle, the author greatly increases the feeling that humanity is overwhelmed by the forces arrayed against it.

At Shayol Ghul, Aviendha learns about male Aiel channelers and is forced to admit what she has discovered to Cadsuane. Aviendha sets the strategy for how to stand against so many, with so much uncertainty: set plans together to counteract any one man having too much influence, in case he is under Compulsion, and “don’t try anything clever. We just hold.”

Hessalam escapes a skirmish with Aviendha, taking a deeply-Compelled Sarene with her. Sarene, a well-developed secondary character who hunted the Black Ajah, is irreversibly converted to the enemy ranks so brutally quickly that it is hard not to feel frustration. This is a warning to readers that anyone can be lost, and it can happen very quickly. A plan is concocted between Aviendha, Sorilea and Cadsuane to eliminate this threat.

Rand stands outside the Pattern and speaks with the Dark One. The author uses imagery established long ago, threads in a Pattern, to describe the otherworld in which Rand exists. The Dark One is dismissive of Moridin now that he has delivered the Dark One’s prize into his grasp. The Dark One makes an analogy, which of course is rooted in deathly imagery: SMALL TOOLS CAN BE EFFECTIVE. THE THINNEST OF KNIVES CAN STOP A HEART.

At the same time, but at a different rate of time, Nynaeve grows impatient and discovers Alanna chained to a wall in the Pit of Doom, slowly bleeding to death. This discovery puts the Dark One’s statement in context, adding a layer of extra meaning. The jolt of dread and excitement would be lessened if Alanna had been discovered before Rand’s first meeting with the Dark One. Now that it is too late for him to do anything about it, and Nynaeve seems powerless to save her, it is the equivalent of readers being shown a drawn weapon raised at Rand which he is oblivious to.

A map is provided for the Last Battle. Maps are one of the best parts of fantasy worlds, and the inclusion of this one to help the reader navigate the upcoming battle is priceless to following the action.

Mat trains his troops. His bluster fits well in a normal context, but he completely fails to acknowledge this is the Last Battle, and the overwhelming fear his fighters must be feeling. Perhaps portraying a commander who expects to live, and his soldiers to live, is the appropriate way to motivate them to hold and not break ranks. It feels far less effective than Elayne’s earlier rallying cry, but still maintains credibility because it is interspersed with solid advice and tactics the soldiers can use.

Delarn’s association with the nameless villagers is a clue to their identity. By having Mat recall the moment he saved Delarn, the author is subtly pointing at the town where Delarn was saved, and where certain events happen every night.

Mat learns the Horn is lost, in a strange conversation where Egwene has reverted to her younger self, and accidentally gives away more than she intended. The amazing author’s trick of ta’veren, though not cited in this case, always provides an easy explanation for falling out of character.

Mat is changing the plan, realizing the Shadow likely knows everything his army has planned. He intends to heap everything in one pile, providing a chance to wipe out humanity’s forces all at once, a target the Shadow is incapable of resisting. The Shadow’s armies arrive early, because somehow all of the commanders have forgotten that Trollocs can march through the night, a mistake that recently nearly undid Elayne’s forces.

The final set-up for the Last Battle is done. The forces of humanity are vastly outnumbered and surrounded. The Horn of Valere and the Seals on the Dark One’s prison are lost. Yet another weakness of Rand’s has been exposed. Perrin is grievously wounded.  Nynaeve, Olver and other characters are nearly powerless. Forsaken appear and leave the battlefield unscathed. Several heroic characters have already been lost or removed from power. If any of the Heroes, anywhere, fail, then the Shadow falls across the world. The excitement level is off the charts.

Writing Lessons:

Use association to place clues: for example, show a person associated with an event, to represent some other aspect of that event you want to reveal only later.