Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Towers Of Midnight Prologue: Scene 3

By Linda

This post discusses the third POV of the Prologue of Towers of Midnight, available at and selected ebook retailers.

My commentary is hidden under the link because it contains spoilers.

Click here to expand the rest of this post


In this scene we see two Forsaken in action, and what an interesting pair they are. Both delight in sensation but only one is able to control herself and others:

Of course, Graendal enjoyed pleasures herself, but she made certain that people thought she was far more self-indulgent than she was. If you knew what people expected you to be, you could use those expectations.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Graendal always seems to have a foil. In the earlier books it was Sammael, now it’s Aran’gar. Both foils have died; Sammael’s death bringing Graendal down a notch. This time she will come down more than a notch, especially if the Dark One or Moridin learns the full extent of Graendal’s culpability.

I thought that Graendal was portrayed as rather ditzy in The Gathering Storm, but in this POV she is smarter again. She manipulated Aran’gar and eluded Rand’s trap, even if just barely. However she does a lot of explaining for the fans, especially about the True Power. (There’s now sufficient info on the True Power for a blog article, I think.) For instance:

Working with the True Power was similar, yet not identical, to working with the One Power. A weave of the True Power would often function in a slightly different way, or have an unanticipated side effect. And there were some weaves that could only be crafted by the True Power.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

The following commentary is a bit more in character, since it shows her lack of reverence:

The Great Lord’s essence forced the Pattern, straining it and leaving it scarred.
Even something the Creator had designed to be eternal could be unraveled using the Dark One’s energies. It bespoke an eternal truth--something as close to being sacred as Graendal was willing to accept. Whatever the Creator could build, the Dark One could destroy.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and is consistent with her sceptical and amoral comments in previous books. Graendal doesn’t regard anything sacred except her own skin and the Dark One’s destructive power.

I was amused that Graendal, often nicknamed Granny in the forums, actually did some “borrowing” of an animal’s mind, just like Terry Pratchett’s character Granny Weatherwax, a highly skilled “borrower” who is as manipulative as Graendal and as tough as Cadsuane in her own way.

Graendal also tells us that it is possible to “read” Compulsion:

If Nynaeve al’Maera had the skill needed to read Compulsions, that was dangerous.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

She is mistaken: Nynaeve doesn’t have this skill yet. It would be interesting to know if Graendal has it, or any other of the Forsaken.

When she had second thoughts about how to use Ramshalan, Graendal was able to remove her Compulsion weaves without much damage. Since removing Compulsion is akin to Healing, according to Rand, Graendal must have some Talent for Healing.

Demandred said that the True Power is dangerous and should be used only at great need, so Graendal exerted herself to keep Aran’gar at her side. This was before Ramshalan showed up and revealed Rand knew Graendal’s location.

Once Graendal felt exposed, her first instinct was to flee and establish herself elsewhere – as those who know her well, such as Aran’gar and Sammael, deduced she would do. So she’s not as unpredictable as she’d like to be.

Graenda’s “ally”, Aran’gar, personifies lust. She desires both females and males and is aroused with a light touch of the Dark One’s power. It’s amusing that she found Graendal boring when Graendal has such a reputation for debauchery. And Graendal’s tickle with the True Power impelled Aran’gar to have sex with Delana in front of Graendal.

Aran’gar was punished for losing control of Egwene and being exposed by Romanda. Since Graendal says Aran’gar still bears this punishment, it likely had a physical component, but Aran’gar isn’t as crushed by it as Mesaana was. If Graendal didn’t tell us we wouldn’t have known.

With so little self-control, Aran’gar was never going to be a successful saboteur. She was trapped and used by Graendal very neatly:

“Graendal?” Aran’gar said, voice panicked. “What are you--”

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Aran’gar seems a born victim here.

Graendal wanted Aran'gar to serve her:

Words like those were a challenge. Aran’gar would serve her.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and she did serve Graendal, just not in the way Graendal expected - as a warning of what not to do

Aran’gar had fled from her place among Aes Sedai, foolishly allowing herself to be sensed channeling. She still bore punishment for her failure. If Graendal left now--discarding a chance to twist al’Thor about himself--would she be similarly punished?

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

and as a cover for Graendal’s escape. So the risk of using the True Power did pay off for Graendal. It was a moment of great need even though Graendal didn’t know it at the time.

Graendal was fairly well informed about Rand - she knew he has Lews Therin's memories, for instance - but her information wasn’t sufficiently detailed or current, otherwise she would know how dark Rand had become; so dark that he would harm a woman. At this time Rand was lashing out with the Choedan Kal and not planning carefully or considering consequences. He was behaving completely differently to what Graendal expected.

As a safety guard Graendal had Ramshalan Compelled with both saidin and saidar. She got Aran’gar and Delana to insert unexpected memories in case Nynaeve (or Rand with Lews Therin’s knowledge?) could read Compulsion. This was not needed; it was not what Rand was aiming at at all.

Aran’gar’s efforts were particularly unnecessary since Rand didn’t bother to check Ramshalam himself and Nynaeve couldn’t sense saidin. Rand assumed there would be a woman’s touch in Ramshalan’s mind, which he wouldn’t sense. The result was that Aran’gar had to die in the balefire.

These errors of judgement and knowledge cost Graendal:

“You,” she growled. “You have become far more dangerous than I assumed.” Hundreds of beautiful men and women, the finest she’d gathered, gone. Her stronghold, dozens of items of Power, her greatest ally among the Chosen. Gone.
This was a disaster.
No, she thought. I live. She’d anticipated him, if only by a few moments. Now he would think she was dead.
She was suddenly the safest she’d been since escaping the Dark One’s prison. Except, of course, that she’d just caused the death of one of the Chosen. The Great Lord would not be pleased.
She limped away from the ridge, already planning her next move. This would have to be handled very, very carefully.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

Does she manage this carefully enough? Can she persuade Moridin or the Dark One that she was not to blame and escape the repercussions? If anyone can, Graendal will, as her quick thinking, and the way she collected herself after panicking and fleeing with barely the clothes on her back, showed. She’s got some work ahead of her though: she might be safe from Rand for a while, but not from the Dark One. Graendal has to re-establish herself again in more ways than one.

I greatly enjoyed the action and the ironies in this POV.

Oh, and balescream – great word!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Towers Of Midnight Prologue: Scene 2

By Linda

This post discusses the second POV of the Prologue of Towers of Midnight, available at and selected ebook retailers.

My commentary, hidden under the link, contains spoilers.

Click here to expand the rest of this post


Perrin's POV is a dream that’s neither wolf-dream nor ordinary dream but a blend of both. The blurring of his own dreams and Tel’aran’rhiod shows he needs to be taught to sort them out, just as he has to sort out and separate the wolf and the man. Another way of looking at it is that Perrin’s need to be educated about Tel’aran’rhiod – and his fear of it? – is so important now that it is in his dreams. Perrin’s confused and the reader is uncertain too.

Since Perrin undergoes considerable character development in this book (as Sanderson indicated to me at JordanCon), it is right that his POV is in the Prologue. The POV is about Perrin making and Perrin dreaming and I believe there will be physical as well as metaphorical manifestations of both in his subthread.

Making feels right to Perrin and so does the violence of that making – the hammering. At the moment, Perrin’s dreaming and making are turning out “wrong”. Perrin needs to understand the pieces of himself and his situation and to forge himself better.

When he makes something without knowledge of himself, it turns out wrong. He is not successful in working iron because he hasn’t worked things out in his head; nor can he successfully work things out while smithing. Working while resentful and confused is literally not constructive.

It’s all about balance – and it’s a difficult one to achieve. Perrin has two sides to himself: the craftsman/artisan and the shamanic wild man and both are important. He still wants to reject part of himself but then he would be half the person he could be. Rejecting being a wolf would be completely against the Pattern, as Hopper’s reaction shows, but if Perrin ignores his need to create – physical as well as metaphorical things - he will lose his humanity. Hopper might laugh at making but making is human.

Perrin pulls the Aram figurine out of the barrel first. Aram mirrored his problems. As Elyas said, Aram gave up the Way of the Leaf and his family for two reasons – Perrin and sword - which is too narrow a life for a man. Aram turned into a wolfhound, not a wolf, but otherwise his situation is very like Perrin’s – a peaceable man whose family was butchered. When Aram left his group to join Perrin he should have been given more support through such a drastic change once the Emond’s Field battle was over, but Perrin was focussed on his own concerns. Perrin is too narrow, too, in his concentration on Faile. If he is not careful he will be as obsessed as Aram was. He’s already too single-minded and loses himself in the task at hand. Perrin relived Malden in his dream because he has been thinking about Aram so much.

Perrin is conscious that there is a difference between the hammer and the axe. Hopper points out that so far Perrin has used the hammer and the axe in the same way – to kill. So the difference is only potential at this stage, not actual.

Perrin thinks of “my hammer” but “the axe.” He avoids acknowledging he owned the axe, yet he was given the axe before the hammer.

Perrin’s thoughts on fighting the Aiel:

He didn’t regret their deaths. Sometimes, a man needed to fight, and that was that. Death was terrible, but that didn’t stop it from being necessary. In fact, it had been wonderful to clash with the Aiel. He’d felt like a wolf on the hunt.
When Perrin fought, he came close to becoming someone else. And that was dangerous.

- Towers of Midnight Prologue

show he’s still himself when he fights –and a man. Nor does he consider or seem to care that some of those Aiel he killed had helped Faile and co. He was glad to do it. In contrast, wolves kill for food.

The splitting of himself in the dream over the subject of battle is right; Perrin does have these two halves of himself that he needs to reconcile (see Perrin essay).

Perrin worked only a few pieces of metal, but pulls far more from the barrel:

When he finished, hundreds of figurines stood on the floor, facing him. Watching. Each steel figure was lit with a tiny fire inside, as if waiting to feel the forger’s hammer.
But figurines like this wouldn’t be forged, they’d be cast.

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

It shows that whether he likes it or not the smallest of his actions – especially the creating ones - has huge consequences in the Pattern and affects so many lives. The metaphor of the dream is that Perrin is to forge his people into an army by forging himself into a true leader and into a whole person. In his case the figures do have to be forged.

Perrin must make but he has to make himself first. The creative process will go a lot better when he does.

A dark influence enters his dream:

The shards [of Aram] all became little hands, climbing toward Perrin, reaching for him.
Perrin gasped, leaping to his feet. He heard laughter in the distance, ringing through the air, shaking the building.
Hopper jumped, slamming into him. And then. . .

- Towers of Midnight, Prologue

Aram was persuaded to kill Perrin by Masema, who was deluded by the Shadow. The dream hints of a confrontation with the Shadow that Perrin is not ready for yet. This is why Hopper booted him out of the dream.

The laughter reminded me of the Dark One’s laughter in Mat’s dreams in Knife of Dreams, Dragons’ Eggs as he plans the development of gunpowder weapons. I don’t think the Dark One will strike at Perrin directly, but that a minion of the Dark One – Moridin or Slayer, say, or even both – will attack Perrin. Perhaps this blending of the Wolf dream and his own dreams is a prophetic dream such as Egwene has, or a way of reading Tel’aran’riod (see Talents article). Previously Perrin had brief visions in windows in Tel’aran’rhiod.

Perrin, the Dragon’s bannerman, has the makings of a huge army. As he forges himself into a leader, he will attract more followers, perhaps even the Whitecloaks he is about to encounter, to increase his forces further, thus making himself worthy of the Bannerman title bestowed upon him at Falme by Artur Hawkwing. Perrin has unfinished business with the Whitecloaks since they were the first people he killed with his axe. At the moment he is an outlaw – in the Middle Ages described as a wolf’s head – as far as they are concerned. So the wolf’s head banner is doubly apt.

Overall I liked the way the scene introduced Perrin’s themes for Towers of Midnight: to sort himself out, strengthen his army, create an important item and fight off the Shadow in the dream.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Towers Of Midnight Prologue: Scene 1

By Linda

This post discusses the first POV of the Prologue of Towers of Midnight, available at and selected ebook retailers.

It’s awkward reading and discussing a sole chapter of a book. The reader can’t continue on to obtain answers. There’s the risk too that they will form premature theories or judgements that they will be reluctant to reconsider when the rest of the book is read.

Distinctions, the Towers of Midnight Prologue, moves quickly and seems short, but it is about a twentieth of the book’s word count, about the same as that of The Gathering Storm. The Prologues of the first five books were much shorter. Those of Winter’s Heart, Crossroads of Twilight and Knife of Dreams were a greater proportion of their books. Sanderson is deliberately hearkening back to the earlier books with their frequent changes of POV that deliver faster pacing.

There are 6 POVs in the Towers of Midnight prologue; some are more psychological in orientation, some have plenty of exciting action and some provide quite a bit of scope for theories. One of these POVs is of a major character whose storyline continues in the book. This has occurred before: in the Lord of Chaos prologue Nynaeve and Elayne (and Faile, too if it comes to that) each had POVS, despite featuring largely in the main body of the book. Elaida and Alviarin both had POVs in the A Crown of Swords prologue yet they played an important part in that book and likewise Egwene in Knife of Dreams Prologue.

To ‘prove’ his credentials as a Southern writer, Jordan intended to have dead mules in the last book. That book was divided in three and the mules are encountered in the Towers of Midnight Prologue.

The rest of my commentary, hidden under the link, contains spoilers.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

The extract from Loial’s book (which hopefully Loial lives to complete) offers an intriguing glimpse of a group who have been invisible since Knife of Dreams. The Stedding are less affected by the Dark One’s unravelling of the Pattern, since the Ogier dead are outside the Stedding and not apparently within it. I’m sure the feeling of being watched by the dead is scaring the Ogier into running. It’s a great way to spread despair.

So, Loial is a post script to the Stump. We’ve seen the young given actual power in other groups, but the Ogier aren’t even giving their young any notice. And Loial wonders why his mother stood up for him. Interesting.

A few reasons why Covril had a change of heart might be:

  • motherly love and/or family ambition. For either reason she gave him his 15 minutes of fame because She didn’t believe he’d make any difference to the decision.
  • A third possibility is that she thought his argument, or presentation of it, would only make her own look better. She heard his extempore speech before in Knife of Dreams and said it was‘not bad’, which was somewhat patronising. The risk, of course, as the last paragraph hints is that he delivers a better version, with some factors that he did not know before, such as the presence on the mainland of Seanchan Ogier.
  • Lastly, was Covril ordered to obtain this concession for Loial? Or persuaded to do so by someone without her political clout? The Shadow could do this to sow further chaos and dissension. Covril might be a Darkfriend or be influenced by a Darkfriend.

Loial doesn’t seem to think of motherly love, which is interesting. Why? Because his mother is too much a politician? Or some darker reason? So many questions.

By the Trees and Stillness is what Ogier vow and pray. As we have seen before, Loial is braver than the thinks. It’s a battle of words, but still a battle, and, Verin’s claim to Rand that battles achieve little notwithstanding, could change history.


And then we get Lan’s first POV in the main series of the books; twenty years later in time than his last POV. Some of his issues are still the same. Like Perrin and Rand, he dreads leading men to their deaths. For Lan, his battle with the Blight, and thus the Dark One, has always been personal. The Shadow stole his kingdom, his nation, his family and his childhood. Mind you, Lan denies being a monarch just as much as Perrin and Mat reject being leaders/nobles. Yet Lan was born to that role.

Lan and Rand are emotionally very similar in their negativity, their expectation of imminent death and their fear of how it will affect their beloved/s and their anger at Aes Sedai.

The series is coming full circle in time, hearkening back to The Eye of the World and to New Spring. The Malkieri epitomise this, so it’s right that Lan’s POV starts this book.

Bulen has almost no memories of his parents, just his father’s prediction – which is an unspoken oath – and his hadori. No gift, or ring or sword as Lan has. Lan has his vow too, and it has emotionally crippled him. Bulen strengthened his father’s promise or belief into a true oath. Such honour reminded Lan how to truly meet an oath. He was resenting Aes Sedai but behaving like one until he rose above being petty.

The point of Lan’s POV was to show us that he's still haunted by the past.How could he not be? So is Bulen, as I think Lan recognised in the end. It was that that made Lan relent. I don’t think anything else would have.

Lan’s goal is Tarwin’s Gap where, as was mentioned in The Eye of the World the Shienaran Ingathering of the Lances and mustering of Borderlanders to repel Shadowspawn at Tarwin’s Gap begins each Spring. The Borderlander rulers believe they have left behind enough soldiers to fight almost anything unless the Trolloc Wars come again...

So there are a fair few soldiers still manning the forts and the like. Should Lan move them towards the Gap? He'd be better off taking some men who aren't usually soldiers and leaving the soldiers to their forts. The Gap won’t be the only focus of the Shadow this time. I bet there is battle in several places along the Borderlands already. Rand didn't move Ituralde to Saldaea for nothing.

Overall, a really good POV.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #3: Gaul

By Linda

Like Talmanes, who I discussed last week, Gaul is a skilled warrior who also happens to be a thinking man:

“The world is changing,” Gaul said quietly. “Rhuarc, and Jheran, my own clan chief - the Wise Ones, too - they tried to hide it, but they were uneasy when they sent us across the Dragonwall searching for He Who Comes With the Dawn. I think perhaps the change will not be what we have always believed. I do not know how it will be different, but it will be. The Creator put us in the Three-fold Land to shape us as well as to punish our sin, but for what have we been shaped?*” He shook his head suddenly, ruefully. “Colinda, the Wise One of Hot Springs Hold, tells me I think too much for a Stone Dog, and Bair, the eldest Wise One of the Shaarad, threatens to send me to Rhuidean when Jheram dies whether I want to go or not. Beside all of that, Perrin, what does the color of a man’s eyes matter?”

- The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei

and a good reader of people:

“There is more, Brandelwyn al’Vere,” Gaul said. “Your face says so.”
“There is,” Bran agreed.

- The Shadow Rising, Homecoming

Min told Perrin that Gaul, the Aielman in a cage in her viewing, would be an important figure in Perrin’s life. There are a few ways he has made a contribution.

Firstly, after Perrin told Gaul where Rand, He Who Comes With the Dawn was, he probably passed this information on to other Aiel who were on the search:

“You’re a long way from home, Gaul. Why are you here?”
“We search,” Gaul said slowly. “We look for He Who Comes With the Dawn.”
Perrin had heard that name before, under circumstances that made him sure who it meant. Light, it always comes back to Rand. I am tied to him like a mean horse for shoeing. “You are looking in the wrong direction, Gaul. I’m looking for him, too, and he is on his way to Tear.”
“Tear?” The Aiel sounded surprised. “Why . . . ? But it must be. Prophecy says when the Stone of Tear falls, we will leave the Three-fold Land at last.” That was the Aiel name for the Waste. “It says we will be changed, and find again what was ours, and was lost.…
Tear; I will remember it.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Different Dance

(Another group figured this out after encountering Nynaeve, Egwene and Elayne in Cairhien.) By this action the Aiel took the Stone as Rand took Callandor, fulfilling an important prophecy.

One way in which Gaul has been important for Perrin personally is the example he sets Perrin. Perrin was amazed at Gaul’s fighting prowess but at the same time reluctantly had to recognise that he isn’t so bad himself:

When he finally stood, panting and nearly stunned, looking at a dozen white-cloaked men lying on the paving blocks of the square, the moon appeared not to have moved at all. Some of the men groaned; others lay silent and still. Gaul stood among them, still veiled, still empty-handed. Most of the men down were his work. Perrin wished they all were, and felt ashamed. The smell of blood and death was sharp and bitter.
“You do not dance the spears badly, Perrin Aybara.”

- The Dragon Reborn, A Different Dance

Of all his abilities, it is that of killing, even when necessary, which Perrin has most loathed. Gaul also shows Perrin how to accept fate and continue on calmly,

“Gaul?” The Aiel raised his head. “It may be worse in the Two Rivers than I thought.”
“Things often are,” Gaul replied quietly. “It is the way of life.” The Aielman calmly put his head down for sleep.

- The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei

rather than try to duck it, or waste energy railing against it.

Gaul’s relationship with Bain and Chiad mirrors that of Perrin’s with Faile and Berelain. Perrin even met Faile the night he freed Gaul. Each man is stuck with two women, one they love and one they don’t, and can’t seem to get the one they want all to themselves. This is all the more amusing because Bain and Chiad only joined Faile and Perrin because they were intrigued by their relationship:

“Bain says they wish to see more of your lands, but I think it is the argument between you and Faile which fascinates them. They like her, and when they heard of this journey, they decided to go with her instead of you.”
“Well, as long as they keep her out of trouble.” He was surprised when Gaul threw back his head and laughed. It made him scratch his beard worriedly.

- The Shadow Rising, Into the Ways

Yet the two Maidens were soon caught up in their own triangle with Gaul. At first Perrin and Gaul both sat on the outer in the Two Rivers, wishing they could show the women they didn’t long for their company:

“Do you know any funny stories?”
“Funny stories? I cannot think of one, offhand.” Gaul’s eyes half-turned to the other fire, and the laughter. “I would if I could. The sun, remember?”
Perrin laughed noisily and made his voice loud enough to carry. “I do. Women!” The hilarity in the other camp faded for a moment before rising again. That should show them. Other people could laugh. Perrin stared glumly into the fire. His wounds ached.

- The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei

Gaul even compared Faile to a Maiden of the Spear:

“Early, then.” Gaul hesitated. “You will not drive her off. That one is almost Far Dareis Mai, and if a Maiden loves you, you cannot escape her however hard you run.”

- The Shadow Rising, Homecoming

and Berelain, Perrin’s stalker, can defend herself too, even if she doesn’t fight with actual weapons.

Like Faile, Chiad was unwilling to love at first and sometimes goes too far with her teasing games:

"Tam al'Thor and Abell Cauthon move well for wetlanders, but these Whitecloaks are too stiff to see everything that moves in the dark, I think. I think they expect their enemies to come in numbers, and where they can be seen."
Chiad turned amused gray eyes on the Aielman. "Do you mean to move like wind then, Stone Dog? It will be diverting to see a Stone Dog try to move lightly. When my spear-sister and I have rescued the prisoners, perhaps we will go back for you, if you are too old to find your own way." Bain touched her arm, and she looked at the flame-haired woman in surprise. After a moment, she flushed slightly under her tan.

- The Shadow Rising, A New Weave in the Pattern

Bain thought Gaul had made a good point and this was not the place for mockery. It only made Chiad look frivolous.

After the Battle of Emond’s Field Gaul and Chiad held hands, a very public demonstration of love on Aiel terms, and this mirrors the marriage ceremony of Perrin and Faile a couple of chapters before, during which they held hands.

In the Two Rivers Chiad threatened to make Gaul gai’shain if he didn’t let her tend his wounds (The Shadow Rising, The Price of a Departure) but ironically Chiad and Bain ended up gai’shain to him:

"Gaul searched the entire Shaido camp to find me, and reports say he defeated twelve algai'd'siswai with his spear. Perhaps I shall have to make a bridal wreath for him after all, once this is all through."
Faile smiled.
Chiad smiled back. "He did not expect that one of the men he killed would turn out to be the one to whom ain was gai'shain. I do not think Gaul is happy to have both of us serving him."
"Foolish man," Bain—the taller of the two—said. "Very like him to not watch where he jabbed his spear. He couldn't kill the right man without accidentally slaying a few others." Both women chuckled.

- The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash

They tease Gaul as much as ever:

"Perhaps Gaul would like his back rubbed again, or water fetched for him. He grows so angry when we ask, but gai'shain gain honor only through service. What else are we to do?"
The women laughed again,

- The Gathering Storm, Embers and Ash

Faile used to toy with Perrin but her captivity seems to have cured her of this. On the whole, Perrin’s relationship is more resolved than Gaul’s. Both men still have the unwanted ‘other’ around though. As part of the aftermath of Malden, it is up to Faile to deal with Berelain. Bain and Chiad are bound as sisters and share a man with each other. The only resolutions to the situation might be for Gaul to come to love Bain too, or for Bain to be killed during the Last Battle.

Faile laid down a bridal wreath to Perrin – insisted on a wedding before she would leave the Emond’s Field battle zone. Chiad told Gaul she won’t make a bridal wreath:

Gaul wanted Chiad to marry him, but by Aiel custom, she had to ask him, and though according to Faile she was willing to become his lover, she would not give up the spear and marry. He seemed as affronted as a Two Rivers girl would have been in the same circumstance. Bain seemed to be part of it too, somehow; Perrin did not understand how. Faile professed not to know, if a bit too quickly, and Gaul grew sullen when asked.

- Lord of Chaos, A Bitter Thought

Gaul confirms this and explains more:

"Chiad told me she would not lay a bridal wreath at my feet; she actually told me." The Aielman sounded scandalized. "She said she would take me for a lover, her and Bain, but no more." Another time that would have shocked Perrin, though he had heard it before; Aiel were incredibly ... free ... about such things. “As if I am not good enough for a husband." Gaul snorted angrily. "I do not like Bain, but I would marry her to make Chiad happy. If Chiad will not make a bridal wreath, she should stop trying to entice me. If I cannot catch her interest well enough for her to marry me, she should let me go...She avoids me, but every time I see her, she pauses long enough to make sure I have seen her. I do not know how you wetlanders do it, but with us, that is one of the ways a woman uses. When you least expect her, she is in your eyes, then gone. I did not even know she was with the Maidens until this morning."
"You mean she's here?" Perrin whispered. That icicle was back, now a blade, hollowing him out. "And Bain? Here, too?"
Gaul shrugged. "One is seldom far from the other. But it is Chiad's interest I want, not Bain's."

- A Crown of Swords, Hill of the Golden Dawn

This is the reverse of Perrin and Faile. Chiad won’t marry Gaul but can’t bring herself to reject him either. Gaul doesn’t really appreciate why. If Chiad marries him, either she breaks with Bain or Bain gives up the spear too. Yet Gaul doesn’t love Bain, so that’s too great a sacrifice for her. Bain’s death in battle is also a way for the quandary to be resolved.

Now that Chiad and Bain are Gaul’s gai’shain, he is more hopeful that they will marry. Chiad seems to be considering it too. Bain hasn’t indicated what she wishes to do.

Perrin thought he shouldn’t marry Faile, but couldn’t drive her away for her own good or conclusively reject Berelain either.

One of Perrin’s issues is leadership and Gaul mirrors this too in a much lesser way. Gaul is a future contender for clan chief and the Maidens acknowledge his potential as well as their acceptance of his love and his suit for their spear sister by allowing him to lead them in the search for the captives:

There was something else odd about their departure, he realized as the last Maiden went by. They were letting Gaul lead. Normally, any of them would have stuck a spear in him before allowing that. Why...? Maybe...Chiad and Bain would have been with Faile. Gaul did not care one way of the other about Bain, but Chiad was a different matter. The Maidens certainly had not been encouraging Gaul's hope that Chiad would give up the spear to marry him—anything but!—yet maybe that was it.

- Winter’s Heart, Taken

Both men are desperate to find and liberate their beloved:

"I have to find her first, Perrin Aybara." There was something in the Aiel's voice, something in his scent, that Perrin could only call heartache. He understood the sorrow of thinking the woman you loved might be lost to you forever.

- Knife of Dreams, Outside the Gates

Back in A Crown of Swords, Hill of the Golden Dawn, Perrin’s declaration that he would let the whole world burn if it kept Faile safe dismayed Gaul:

"Burn the Pattern," Perrin growled. "It can all burn, if it keeps her safe." Loial's ears went rigid with shock, and even Gaul looked taken aback.

Since Aiel are sticklers for obligation and responsibility, Gaul might still disapprove of the sentiment, but after Chiad was made captive I imagine he at least understood.

* I agree with Gaul. I think that there are more changes to come for the Aiel. Much more drastic ones.

(For those interested, I have written an essay on the themes and parallels I see in each of Perrin and Faile).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Part #12 of Costume of the Wheel of Time

By Linda

The costume of Far Madding was added to the WOT Costume article today. For Far Madding it's mostly about the hair, I guess, though the long sleeveless robes of the Counsels, a fashion of the late 15th century, are also unique.

Regarding the rest of the week's posts, I will post Minor Characters #3, which is of another fighting man, on Wednesday, and then, hopefully, work and deadlines permitting, the first of at least two posts on the Towers of Midnight Prologue on Friday. EDIT: Actually it will be Saturday at the earliest. Real Life has me very busy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #2: Tarna

By Linda

The Wheel of Time turns, and now it is three years since Robert Jordan died. This post is dedicated to him as an illustration of the care he took with minor characters.

Talmanes, discussed on Monday, is a wholly positive character. Today’s character, Tarna, is rather more ambivalent.

We first see her in Salidar, where she has been sent by Elaida to intimidate, as well as gauge the strength of, the rebellion. She was very well informed about what was going on there: that Sheriam’s six were running the show at that stage and that Siuan, Leane and Logain were present. Judging by her reaction to Beonin’s arrival at the Tower in Knife of Dreams, she did not know that Beonin was Elaida’s mole. Elaida probably didn’t tell Tarna about Beonin, since she thinks of Beonin as “her secret” (A Crown of Swords, Prologue), but Beonin may have passed information to Tarna without revealing her role as a saboteur of the rebellion by ‘letting slip’ things. There were also non-Aes Sedai Tower supporters in the camp as we saw in Lord of Chaos, Questions and Answers who could report directly or indirectly to Tarna.

From what Elayne says:

“I heard when Tarna was told she'd be received by the Hall of the Tower, she laughed. And not as if she was amused.”

- Lord of Chaos, The Storm Gathers

Tarna did not know beforehand that the rebels had elected a Hall. It had probably occurred too recently for word to have been sent out. Siuan got the rebel Hall established just in time to stabilise the rebellion.

Tarna recounted

“I anticipated no great difficulty in Salidar. No great success, either, but what I found...”

- Crossroads of Twilight, One Answer

so she found more than she expected.

Nynaeve and Elayne well and truly played their part in giving the rebels heart with their discoveries and information. Strategically, Tarna tried to undermine the rebellion by convincing one or both of them to accompany her to the Tower. She only had a short time to do so – just the one visit – which is why Tarna was so heavy-handed and used one tactic after another: intimidation, sympathy:

Her face thawed, and she even smiled. "You look uneasy. Do not be. I will not bite you."

- Lord of Chaos, Under the Dust


“You can never be made Aes Sedai here. The Oath Rod is in the Tower. The testing can only be done in the Tower."

- Lord of Chaos, Under the Dust

and reason:

A touch of intensity entered Tarna's voice. "Think, child. This lot will return to the fold once it dawns on them fully what they do, but every day could be vital...The best thing for him is for you to return with me and give your knowledge of him to the Amyrlin now, instead of in weeks or months.”

- Lord of Chaos, Under the Dust

She is no actress though and her extremely cold eyes showed her true feelings for the situation, but more of this anon. Curiously, she let slip to Nynaeve the identity of the Red Ajah head, highly secret information:

"Galina Casban beat my block out of me herself. She knew my Ajah long before I did, and took a personal interest in me. She always does in those she thinks will choose Red." She shook her head, laughing, eyes like frozen knives.

- Lord of Chaos, Under the Dust

Not that Nynaeve noticed; she was too busy being afraid, and was never one to take regard Tower politics or procedure anyway. Nynaeve didn’t even follow up on her thought that Elaida might have followers in Salidar.

In return, Nynaeve lied to Tarna about how to handle Rand to sabotage Elaida’s contact with Rand and get rid of Tarna. It did stop Tarna, but was she fooled by Nynaeve?

For a long moment Tarna merely looked at her. A very long moment, under that frigid stare.

- Lord of Chaos, Under the Dust

It is when we read Tarna’s reports on Salidar that Tarna’s ambivalence comes to the fore: she appears to have lied. Elaida quotes to Alviarin the report Tarna sent:

"At least a hundred [representing a third of the rebels] are on the point of breaking already." She trusted Tarna to some extent, a Red with no room in her head for nonsense, and she said the rebels were ready to jump at shadows. Quietly desperate sheep looking for a shepherd, she said.

- A Crown of Swords, Prologue

immediately after leaving Salidar, when she still had a pigeon handler. The last sentence in particular is hard even for Elaida to misinterpret. (Ironically a shepherd - Egwene – soon arrives to guide the sheep.) Yet Tarna told Pevara that she paid off the pigeon handler so she could rush back to the Tower to warn that the rebellion is a great threat. So it wasn’t a matter of her opinion changing during her journey; the two opinions were concurrent and contradictory - unless Tarna’s report was a fake substituted by the Black Ajah. Alviarin immediately runs Tarna down by saying:

“Tarna has always been sure she could make people do what it was clear they would not."

- A Crown of Swords, Prologue

because she wants Elaida to believe the opposite – that the rebellion is strong. (Tarna’s actions in the Tower belie Alviarin’s comment.) The readers is left with the impression that the Black Ajah are not responsible for Tarna’s letter, but this may be more sowing of chaos.

Which leads to the question: is Tarna Black?

On the plus side, she appears to dislike Katerine (fellow Red and a Black) intensely as we saw in Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue, when Reds usually show solidarity, if not warmth to each other. She also suggested that notice be taken of Egwene’s warnings of the Seanchan threat:

"If Egwene can do this, Mother, perhaps she really is a Dreamer," Tarna said. "The warning she gave Silviana—
"Is useless, Tarna. The Seanchan are still deep in Altara and barely touching Illian."

- Knife of Dreams, The Dark One’s Touch

showing concern for Tower, when Blacks have usually underplayed the danger the Seanchan pose. Moreover she personally checked the Tower’s wards against rats (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida) and reported that the ones on the walls against ravens and crows needed re-doing. In contrast, Alviarin smirked at the evidence of failing wards when she returned to the Tower in Crossroads of Twilight, A Mark.

On the minus side is Tarna’s coldness – enough to make Nynaeve’s skin crawl – which could be an indication of a malign character. And there is the possibility that Tarna lied in her report on Salidar. Also against her is the fact that Elaida trusted her:

But Elaida had a great deal of trust in the woman, and of late that was a rare commodity.

- Knife of Dreams, The Dark One’s Touch

and Elaida is a notoriously bad judge of trustworthiness as Pevara points out (Crossroads of Twilight, One Answer). But it is possible to be untrustworthy without having joined the Shadow.

Tarna was forced to become Keeper and indicated this by keeping her rooms in the Red Ajah quarters (Crossroads of Twilight, One Answer). She suggested Elaida flaunt her Ajah less (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida), yet she was doing the same. Elaida attracts Keepers who would rather have another job, in contrast with Egwene whose Keeper accepted whole-heartedly.

While Keeper, Tarna went behind Elaida’s back, especially on the issue of Asha’man, and she revealed to Beonin the state of Tower disunity:

"Some of the Ajahs oppose the Mother almost as strongly as those sisters beyond the river," Tarna said.
Elaida shot a dark look at her Keeper, but that cool visage absorbed it without changing a hair.

- Knife of Dreams, The Dark One’s Touch

Tarna found being Elaida’s Keeper a thankless task since she had to work hard to make Elaida see reason even on obvious and essential tasks, such as dismantling the harbour chain towers to remove the cuendillar chain (Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida). For less pressing or more emotive matters she gave up and just didn’t bother raising the subject:

Tarna had been shouted at more than enough. She had learned to avoid subjects that only resulted in shouting. Advice and suggestions unoffered were no more useless than advice and suggestions untaken, and Elaida almost never took either.

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

She does appear to have tried to work for the Tower’s benefit as Keeper even to the extent of disobeying Elaida.

Tarna’s suggestion that Reds should Bond Asha’man startled even Pevara, but as Pevara said, it doesn’t prove anything either way about whether Tarna is a Darkfriend. Of all Reds, Tarna was the one most likely to make it since she is strongly attracted to men (without having to choose ones she can control as Toveine does). She treats them with consideration, acknowledging the arrival of Gawyn and Rajah with a nod and allaying Gawyn’s fears for his sister by informing him of her whereabouts and the likely extent of her punishment (Crossroads of Twilight, Prologue) even though Gawyn was abrupt with her.

The unspoken aim of Bonding Asha’man is to Compel them to obedience (and reduce their channelling and recruiting as well as roaming about). What Tarna and Pevara don’t know is that the Bond can’t be used that way on male channellers who are stronger than their Aes Sedai (as on the whole, they will be) or perhaps any male channellers at all. Toveine’s news sent from Cairhien makes Tarna think the need for Bonding Asha’man is more urgent, but Pevara is not so sure:

“This came from one of our agents in Cairhien, but it was sent by Toveine Gazal.”...
Her stony face did not change even after she finished and let the paper roll back into a tube in her hand.
“This changes nothing,” she said flatly. Coldly. “It only makes what I suggest more urgent.”
“On the contrary,” Pevara sighed. “That changes everything. It changes the whole world.”

- Crossroads of Twilight, One Answer

While men Healing stilling might be seen as momentous, it is probably Aes Sedai being Bonded by Asha’man – turnabout, as Cadsuane said - that makes the difference. Or perhaps both. The men are disturbingly their equals now.

Tarna suggested that Red sisters Bond Asha’man without having considered which Reds should do so:

Besides, not having to watch over her shoulder allowed her to think on Pevara's troubling question, one she had not considered before suggesting the bonding of Asha'man. Who in the Red actually could be trusted with the task?

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

and even more curiously could only think of one woman and she was ineligible:

After almost two weeks, her list of those she could be certain of still contained only a single name, and that one was impossible for the task.

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

Presumably Tarna means someone other than herself and Pevara, but who? And why are they impossible for this?

Has Tarna deliberately betrayed those Reds she took with her to the Black Tower? The expedition to the Black Tower is likely to go down as one of WOT history’s Bad Ideas, yet I don't think she is a Black sister.

I think that Tarna’s coldness and her actions are motivated by one thing: her devotion to, and fear for, the Tower. Even a seemingly unlikely prophecy like Egwene’s warning dream should be heeded in her view.

Her icy demeanour in Salidar was due to her dislike of the situation there, her disgust at a rebellion, and her alarm at how organised they were. What she saw there made her “fear for the Tower,” not Elaida, or the Reds, or herself, and she found that things were little better in the Tower when she returned. An Aes Sedai who reveres the Tower to the extent of not being distracted by politics wouldn’t approve of Elaida’s divisive decrees or want to be her Keeper. This also explains why she told Beonin that Elaida’s support in the Tower has waned.

Tarna tried to avoid possible confrontation from hostile sisters not because she feared for her physical safety but to prevent a Keeper being attacked:

Her Keeper's stole allowed her to enter any Ajah's quarters, yet she avoided all except the Red save when duty called...She thought matters had not gone so far that anyone would actually attack the Keeper, yet she took no chances. Retrieving the situation was going to be a long, hard struggle, whatever Elaida thought, and an assault on the Keeper might make it irretrievable.

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

Her jumpiness when she was a novice could be a reflection of her insight into the dangerous and unsettled conditions in the Tower right after the end of the Aiel war.

Finally, Tarna’s suggestion that Reds Bond Asha’man was born of desperation and perhaps a recognition that the Tower is fiddling while the world burns.

Note: comments are temporarily locked for a couple of weeks

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Part #11 of Costume of the Wheel of Time

By Linda

The costume of Cairhien was added to the WOT Costume article today. Cairhien women wear fashions strongly influenced by the court dress in 18th century Europe, especially France, but in darker colours and with much more modest necklines. The hats of Cairhienin men are in the style of 16th century Europe.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Analysis of Minor Characters #1: Talmanes

By Linda

Since the Towers of Midnight Prologue is soon to be published, I thought I’d write some posts about a few of the Wheel of Time minor characters and resume the read-through with a chapter-by-chapter analysis of The Gathering Storm next year. First up is Talmanes, Mat’s devoted deputy and one of the sympathetically drawn nobles.

Cairhienin culture comprises French and Japanese influences, but on the whole the Cairhienin national character hearkens to the inscrutable Japanese rather than the expressive French. Talmanes is Cairhienin plus, having great reserve, intensity and political sensitivity. During the meeting of the Aes Sedai with the Andorans and Murandians, he promptly saw Egwene’s control of the rebel Sitters:

"Egwene is still the Amyrlin," the other man said calmly, straightening his cloak. Another red hand, larger, marked that. "You were wrong about her, Mat. She really is the Amyrlin Seat, and she has those Aes Sedai by the scruff of the neck. Though some of them might not know it yet. "

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

and the political repercussions of her announcements:

At her approach, he made a respectful leg, but there was a wry touch to his voice when he said, "You changed a border today." He gathered his cloak against the icy breeze. "It has always been... fluid... between Andor and Murandy, no matter what maps say, but Andor has never come south in such numbers before. Except for the Aiel War, and the Whitecloak War, anyway, but they were only passing through, then. Once they have been here a month, new maps will show a new line. Look at the Murandians scramble, fawning over Pelivar and his companions as much as they do the sisters. They are hoping to make new friends for the new day."

- The Path of Daggers, A Peculiar Calling

Egwene was so focussed on her manipulations of the Hall that she did not notice the Andoran-Murandian politics (and Siuan appears not to have discussed them with Egwene either) until Talmanes pointed them out to her. However, she earned his respect with her understanding of his agreement with Roedran, her acceptance of her part in any possible war in Murandy and her refusal to allow that war (The Path of Daggers, A Peculiar Calling).

Talmanes’ understanding and judgement are very superior, but he is not arrogant. His armour is unornamented and functional and he doesn’t wear stripes of nobility but is content with Mat’s red hand symbol:

Short and wiry, with the front of his head shaved and powdered, the Cairhienin had the right to wear stripes of color across his chest in considerable number, but a small red hand sewn to the breast of his dark coat was its only decoration unless you counted the long red scarf tied around his left arm [marking him as on red arm duty].

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

Mat says Talmanes:

wasn't the type of nobleman who minded rubbing shoulders with those of lower station. He'd visited his share of seedy taverns in his time, even if he had taken to complaining about Mat's choices.

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

In Hinderstap Talmanes took note of what the common folk thought:

"Something feels wrong about these folk, Mat." Talmanes spoke very softly, glancing over his shoulder. "While you've been playing, I've been talking to them. They don't care about the world. The Dragon Reborn, the Seanchan, nothing. Not a care."
"So?" Mat said. "They're simple folk."
"Simple folk should worry even more " Talmanes said. "They're trapped here between gathering armies. But these just shrug when I talk, then drink some more. It's as if they're...they're too focused on their revelry. As if it's all that matters to them."

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

Talmanes is an accomplished courtier; he has taste (Mat remarked on his wine palate) and excellent manners:

"Talmanes Delovinde," the man said, minding manners. "You want to talk to Thom? Well, I see no harm in it. I will take you to him." Karede heeled Aldazar after Delovinde. The man had made no mention of the obvious, that he and the others could not be allowed to leave and carry word of this army's location. He had some manners.

- Knife of Dreams, Under an Oak

even to his enemies.

He tactfully reassured both Tuon:

Talmanes made one of those odd bows, with one foot forward, and the other three mirrored him. "My Lady," Talmanes said, "Vanin told me of your circumstances, and the promises Lord Mat made. I just want to tell you, he keeps his word."

- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

and Mat:

"Mat, you are not always the most refined of men, I'll admit. Sometimes your humor is indeed a bit ripe and your tone on the brusque side. But you are rarely downright rude, nor intentionally insulting. You really are on edge, aren't you?"
Mat said nothing, just pulled the brim of his hat down again.
"I'm sure that she will be fine, Mat," Talmanes said, tone gentler. "She is royalty. They know how to take care of themselves. And she's got those soldiers watching after her. Not to mention Ogier. Ogier warriors! Who would think of such a thing? She'll be all right."

- The Gathering Storm, On a Broken Road

to allay their anxieties, after pointing out to Mat that he should not let his anxieties influence his manners. Now that Mat is a nobleman, Talmanes is trying to polish Mat to fit his new station:

"All right, then," Talmanes said. "But you realize that I'm going to make certain that you and I go to a proper tavern once we reach Four Kings. I'll have you educated yet, Mat. You're a prince now. You'll need—"

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

This is the reason why Talmanes has begun complaining about Mat’s choice of taverns.

Talmanes’ sigil is a black fox, which shows he is a fitting second to Mat the fox (see Animal Symbolism essay). Like Mat, he was leading forces even though much older men were present (The Fires of Heaven, This Place, This Day). Talmanes is a genuine military man and not someone who has become one for the sake of appearances or ambition. He wears his hair shaved and powdered soldier fashion. Tuon noticed how his eyes lit up when telling Mat of the new crossbow crank:

A touch of excitement entered his voice now. Even restrained men tended to warmth over weapons. "Three turns of the crank," his hands moved in a quick circle, demonstrating, "and the bowstring is latched. With a little training, a man can get off seven or eight quarrels in a minute. With a heavy crossbow."

- Knife of Dreams, As If the World Were Fog

And Talmanes himself said he liked battle:

"I like some fights," Talmanes said. "On the battlefield or a nice bar fight. This ...this is insane."

- The Gathering Storm, Night in Hinderstap

Talmanes was the first to follow Mat. In fact, he pushed Mat into leading men into battle that first day:

“But I will lead one half, if you lead the other.”

- The Fires of Heaven, This Place, This Day

Mat wondered why Talmanes never asked who he was. That is because Talmanes, ever observant and politically astute, already knew. At first Talmanes listened to Mat because he was a close friend of the Dragon Reborn, who was trying to save Cairhien, and had a huge army of Aiel besides, but by the end of the day when Mat, king of battles or war and the dead, had kept them not only alive, but victorious over their enemies, Talmanes was a devoted follower:

“Talmanes gives praises when there are two moons, yet I heard him say aloud that he would follow wherever you led.”

- The Fires of Heaven, The Lesser Sadness

Nothing succeeds like success, as the saying goes, and Mat’s success and luck certainly drew him support:

"Not so," Mat protested. True, when his luck was in, it was perfect, but it ran in cycles, especially with things that had as much order as a deck of cards. "Blood and ashes! You won fifty crowns from me last week."...
"How many hundred behind does that leave me?" Talmanes asked dryly. "I want a chance to win some back." If he ever did start winning against Mat with any consistency, he would start worrying too. Like most of the Band, he took Mat's luck as a talisman.

- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance

Talmanes’ reverence for Mat’s luck is typical of attitudes in earlier times, when people didn’t argue with fate and exalted anyone who seemed to be a favourite of Fortune. They didn’t want to get on Fortune’s bad side by criticising her choice. She might turn on them. Mat is literally Fortune’s favourite, being married to her. (Conversely, people had no compunction in adding to the woes of anyone who was having a hard time with fate or fortune.)

Talmanes doesn’t change so much as the reader, through Mat and Egwene, gets to know and understand him better. From early on he had a dry sense of humour and was prone to using it on Mat:

Daerid and Nalesean were laughing right out, now, and even Talmanes was chuckling, though they tried to pretend it was about something else…Talmanes was humming "A Frog on the Ice." So he was skidding about with his feet in the air, was he?

- Lord of Chaos, A Different Dance

And of course it’s easier to dish it out than to take it, but Talmanes manages.

"But that? Talmanes, I'd believe you were Aes Sedai first. You aren't, are you?"
Daerid doubled over the pommel of his saddle laughing, and Nalesean nearly fell off his horse. Talmanes stiffened at first, but finally he grinned. He almost chuckled. The man did not have much sense of humor, but he did have some. His seriousness reasserted itself quickly, though.

- Lord of Chaos, Heading South

In The Gathering Storm he teased Mat more often:

"A Warder, is it?" Talmanes said, flipping through his stack of papers. "I'll have to practice scowling."
Mat regarded him with a flat expression. "You're not taking this seriously."
"What did you ask? Is there someone who is taking this seriously?" Burn that twinkle. Had Mat really ever thought this man was slow to laugh? He just did it on the inside. That was the most infuriating way.

- The Gathering Storm, Legends

perhaps because Mat is of his rank now. Mat’s ennobling at the end of Knife of Dreams made a difference with him.

There is more to Talmanes’ reluctance to publicly reveal what he is thinking and feeling than Cairhienin fear that rivals might take advantage, as Mat hints:

He never laughed and seldom smiled, but he had his reasons.

- Knife of Dreams, Attending Elaida

Talmanes is haunted, probably by what he witnessed during the siege of Cairhien:

Talmanes' boots crunched closer. "I have some brandy here, Mat. I think you should take it. It is very good for dreams, Mat. You do not remember them... Mat? I do not believe you are asleep, Mat. I saw your face. It is better once you kill the dreams. Believe me, I know."

- Lord of Chaos, Heading South

and in battles since.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

World Con 2010 Day 5

By Linda

In the How New Technologies Bring New Narrative Techniques session, the panellists (Chris Lawson, Grant Watson, Peter Watts, Ben Chandler) pointed out that the biggest change ever in storytelling was the writing down of narrative. After all, widespread distribution of novels could not exist until the printing press was invented. The aim of prose is to get reader to imagine and respond and part of joy of reading is the personal imagining of the story (which visual narratives can’t do). The introduction of a new narrative medium doesn’t destroy the old, but the old medium may change its role. With technology Story is more accessible to everyone. (They really should have qualified this to: everyone who can afford it). I was surprised to learn that the Epic of Gilgamesh has foreshadowing in it – so it’s a technique as old as Story itself.

Of necessity the early video games had simple narratives. It is the demands of the users/players which improve story media. Most games are designed around the levels and the story retro-fitted. I know my son doesn’t think the World of Warcraft (an MMO game) story worth reading. (He’s now engrossed in For the Win which I brought back from WorldCon, by the way.)The story is the first thing cut if the money starts to run out. There is limited choice/control of narrative or outcomes for players in most games. Actors are now being hired to do the voices or narratives to sell games.

The panel talked about the World of Warcraft plague and how its development and effects were studied by academics: narrative as scientific exploration.

I was top of the reserve list for the second Kaffeeklatsch with George R R Martin and almost got to participate because someone was late. So close!! Outside the Kaffeeklatsch and signing hall some Star Wars characters were fundraising.

PRK, Luckers and myself comprised the Robert Jordan panel and we discussed the reason behind the Wheel of Time’s popularity and what makes it stand out from the fantasy crowd, and also how Sanderson’s volume/s compare to Jordan’s own novels, and whether we are seeing a fitting conclusion.

Our explanation of why WOT is great is that the books can be read on so many levels, from a rollicking story with riveting fight scene to a complex plot with layers of symbolism and myth adding depth. The magic system is really good. The major characters are appealing and arouse passionate reactions in readers and the minor characters are rounded, and live their own lives, often undergoing development (eg Teslyn). The theme of incomplete knowledge, not just for the characters, but the reader too, leads to mysteries and theories.

Most authors bury their sources deeply, but RJ’s premise of cycles, with history turning to myth and myth to legend, our world history forming their myth and their history our myth, means his sources are only partially buried and that there are a plethora of allusions and sources. RJ puts a twist on them though to keep them fresh. This appeals to the reader with an analytical, dissecting type mind (like me) and challenges them to dig them up.

The series is remarkable in that RJ tried to show the Light struggling and stymied for a few books as the Shadow gains the upper hand. Few authors would dare do this even if it is realistic or artistically correct. PRK thought that RJ was also trying to show everything in his world and played with it too much in the middle books. The audience was equally divided over whether they liked the very complex books or the first three books best.

Sanderson had a huge job to pick up someone else’s world and characters, especially one so complex. He has managed to marry his style to RJ’s and captured most characters – nearly all - very well. The character development is good and he thankfully kept the symbolism intact. Three large books (as in each over 300K words) in three years are, or will be, a phenomenal achievement. But then, RJ's creation of the world, the characters, and the story in the first place was even more so.

At the end of our panel we showed Jason Denzel’s Towers of Midnight trailer, which was well-received, earning spontaneous applause, and made the audience long for the book’s release.

That was the last session for me and one of the last at AussieCon4. I then sat and talked with Luckers for a while and left for the airport with more luggage than I arrived. World Con 2010 was a lot of fun and passed all too quickly.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

World Con 2010 Day 4

By Linda

Day 4 started with Cory Doctorow reading his Prologue of Pirate Cinema about a teenager’s illegal downloading resulting in the family internet connection being cut off. The boy’s frivolous obsessions withering, his rising panic and the family’s reactions were really well done. The protagonist had his first realisation of the (unpleasant) consequences of his actions for other people in his life – the true beginnings of adulthood. The story was inspired by the ‘three strikes’ copyright laws, three accusations of copyright infringement, with proof not necessary. The affected person/s can appeal. Cory said he never believed these laws would pass. The laws apply to internet connections, not individuals, and therefore minors can be ‘guilty’. Cory himself publishes under Creative Commons. His publishers are OK about that.

After the reading Cory signed my copy of For the Win. He was not aware of how much later the book was published in Australia than in the US and he said he would discuss it with his publisher.

Luckers of Dragonmount attended the concurrent Editing the Novel session and reported to me that a panellist was mistaken about the length of Towers of Midnight (which is 328,000 words, a lot less than The Shadow Rising at 393,000) and drew the wrong conclusion that the book would have to be split in two for the paperback.

In the middle of the day I attended Shaun Tan’s book signing and got two books signed: The Red Tree, a picture book about depression which my younger son studied for Year 12 English, and Tales From Outer Suburbia. Shaun Tan wasn't just signing the books he was doing little personalised drawings. For every book he signed. Truly awesome.

In the How to Review session, John Clute said that the choice reviewers make of which books to review is in itself an act of literary criticism. Dirk Flinthart said that in the electronic world the online reviewer is a most important figure. The panellists were largely agreed that reviewers should filter out the worst books. John Clute said it was a kindness to the author. Self-published books were looked on dubiously as likely to be damaged by not being read critically before printing. A review must show the good and bad points of a book even if the reviewer has to really search for them.

John Berlyne’s basic aim when reviewing is to describe whether a book is worth the money to buy it rather than its importance in the sff field or its place in sff canon. He thinks the ‘best’ reviewers aren’t authors and have no wish to be one. Dirk Flinthart thinks that writers can move from writing mode to reviewing mode.

Comedy Writing in the Shadow of Adams and Pratchett with James Shields, Duncan Lay, Tee Morris as panellists was an interesting session. Pratchett’s books are not just satires; they have great warmth as well. Duncan Lay thinks that few authors could combine that sense of comic timing with heart. Humour works well in fantasy though. It contrasts with darkness and books need light and shade. Tee Morris said: don’t let the greats intimidate you, let them inspire you. Duncan Lay said that characters are the essence of comedy and make the most successful comedy. Sometimes one-liners work, but they are chancier. If you get the characters right, then you can play with them. [I agree with this. The humour in one-liners or wordplay in say, The Gathering Storm doesn’t remain as funny over subsequent re-reads as the character based humour does.] Duncan Lay warned that comedy goes stale quickly and an author needs to reinvent their comedy all the time and must recognise when creativity and freshness is not there and stop writing. The panel concluded with the point that Adams and Pratchett wrote in the shadow of PG Wodehouse (an excellent author incidentally) and the Goons.

Juliet Marillier, Richard Harland, Leanne Hall, Carol Ryles (chair) were the panellists for the Writing Your First Novel session. Richard Harland and Juliet Marillier were late starters. Juliet Marillier wrote without thinking of being published or knowing about publishing and thought this was a good thing. She wrote slowly because a lot was going on in her life. She said luckily her first try was successful because she would not have persisted, or had the confidence to, if she was rejected.

Richard Harland advised not to get obsessed in the setting of the world or some aspect of it as he did. He kept losing the impetus of his story and kept making mistakes but never gave up. He also advised not to put everything in your novel – again a mistake he made. Experienced writers can see problems coming up.

Leanne Hall wrote a lot of short stories by which she learnt her craft, got known and built up a body of work. She has organised her life so she has time to write – she chose to work part time. Her advice is to love your idea and the process of writing.

Carol Ryles started by writing a journal as craft practice, and then short stories. Novels need synopses, plans to clarify the writer’s idea, but you don’t have to stick to them. She concentrated on character and plot in her first draft and then had to start again and add a setting.

Feedback is essential. Some of the panellists didn’t want close beta readers, but wanted an editor to do it. Other writers who you respect are even better. Family are problematic as feedback. Juliet Marillier edits as she goes, and doesn’t do full separate drafts. Early feedback may destroy the flow of the work.

The Where Do Elves Come From? panel consisted of Duncan Lay, Dave Freer, Jeanette Auer, Rose-Marie Lillian and myself. We discussed the otherness of elves and whether they are part of the human psyche. Elves represent a part of ourselves we don’t want to recognised and are someone to blame for bad things happening, or an explanation for events. Changelings, for instance, are a way of explaining the consequences of inbreeding when you don’t know about genetics.

There are creatures similar to elves in all mythologies including pre-Roman and pre-Christian, according to Dave Freer. Tolkien’s elves are unusual in that they are nobler, more skilled, etc than us. The Victorians made elves smaller, even childish. Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno are an example: they even speak baby talk. Most elves are capricious and amoral. Jordan’s elves (the Aelfinn and Eelfinn) certainly are and they are unusual in not even being humanoid. There are many kinds of elves in Europe alone and this probably reflects an origin as nature spirits; each type being associated with specific natural features (rivers, caves, springs, etc) or species of flora (oaks, birches, elder, etc). Orcs are elves’ dark side and in The Lord of the Rings are symbolic of industrialisation. Rose-Marie Lillian pointed out that orcs are not natural; in The Lord of the Rings some are made, others are corrupted elves. There is much blurring of elves and fairies. Their hoarded treasure is usually referred to as fairy treasure for example, not elfin treasure.

There were many good questions and points from the audience. With such a wide topic we couldn’t cover all aspects in one hour. We didn’t really go into the longevity of elves – where it came from and how this can give us a different perspective of ourselves, or why elves are long-lived yet declining, fading.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

World Con 2010 Days 2 and 3

By Linda

World Con Day 2

First up was a half-hour reading session by China Mieville. He read two pieces, starting with chapter 25 of his latest book Kraken. I’m currently reading that book and had luckily read that chapter only the day before. So no spoilers. :) Then he read The Rope is the World, a fascinating short story I had not even heard of before, about space elevators on earth. He imagined them as a comparatively short-lived phenomenon compared to their tremendous expense, that developed their own cultures. Immediately after, he had a book-signing. I got King Rat and Kraken signed and told him that I swore at him when I read the ending of Iron Council even though I accepted it was artistically correct. He seemed delighted. Later in the afternoon I was one of ten people at a Kaffeeklatsch with China and we asked him questions about his books and writing. He is very productive; he is currently writing one book, but mapping out two more and has a firm idea of what the two after that will be about.

The foundlings and orphans panel discussed why foundlings and orphans are a common theme in fiction and what their appeal is. The panellists regarded the theme as almost exclusively for Young Adult fiction. Yet Lord of the Rings isn’t aimed primarily at this age group and neither is The Wheel of Time. (Neither series was mentioned.) They were quite right that there is the risk the theme could be overused. Garion in Eddings’ Belgariad is the example they cited of a blank slate character who was useless at first. Foundlings or orphans must not be a plot device but has to be real part of the story.

Shaun Tan is a brilliant Australian artist who is the guest artist at World Con. He’s written and illustrated books and also done magazine covers. In his keynote speech he said the best illustrations aren’t literal to the story, but arouse interest in the story. They should convey the essence of the story. Neither writing nor drawing has primacy.

He describes his body of work as fine arts crossing over with spec fic, children’s illustration and comics. What he explores is the disconnection between people and place and he starts stories with the landscape not the characters.

I hope to get him to sign The Red Tree and Tales of Outer Suburbia signed Sunday or Monday.

Last session on day 2 was a two hour workshop with geographer and sff author Dr Russell Kirkpatrick. He really knew his stuff and was entertaining as well. I am one of a group of eleven embroiderers who are making embroidered maps for an exhibition we plan to hold in 2012 so this was a very interesting and relevant session for me. He had plenty of useful advice for creating fantasy maps.

Dinner was with four other readers of fantasy: Emma, her friend Linda, Luckers (of Dragonmount) and Josh. Much discussion of WOT ensued. Great fun.

World Con Day 3

I attended two events on Day 3. First was a reading by George R R Martin of the Prologue of A Dance With Dragons. The POV was of a warg/Varamyr Sixskins, survivor of the battle at the Wall. It was excellent. Varamyr was brooding over events since the battle and his current condition and tried to take over another creature. GRRM said the next POV in the book is that of Tyrion (and teased us by saying it wasn't very interesting). The ‘prologue’ to his reading was that he won’t estimate when A Dance With Dragons might be completed.

Thinking in Trilogies was a panel about an issue largely limited to sff: publishing in trilogies. Three Australian authors (Glenda Larke, Trudi Canavan and Fiona McIntosh) and one New Zealander (Russell Kirkpatrick) were on the panel. The panelists all considered that the publishers’ push for trilogies is stronger in Australia than in UK or US. Publishers want the three books published in quick succession, lately only a month apart, partly because readers won’t buy until the third book out. Long series are currently discouraged by publishers. While stand-alones are very difficult for new or fairly new authors to get published, the panel thought that if the book is good enough it will sell. Trudi Canavan also encouraged new authors to look into the possibility of writing a sequel. Russell Kirkpatrick said that there was the incorrect perception that trilogies are lazy, bloated writing and need an edit.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

World Con 2010 Day 1:

By Linda

Events at WorldCon weren’t scheduled until 2 pm, so in the morning I visited Beautiful Silks to get supplies for my next embroidery and got talking to the assistant about my Chinese-style WOT dragon embroideries (here is one; the other is well advanced in the making) and how I’d like to embroider a phoenix as part of the series. In Chinese thought, the dragon, the most yang animal, was the symbol of the Emperor while the phoenix, the most yin animal, was the symbol of the Empress. The headdress of Chinese noblewomen was called the Phoenix crown, but only the Empress’ crown had phoenixes on it. In Western thought, the phoenix lives 500 to 1000 years (sources vary) and at the end of its life builds a nest wherein it is consumed in fire and a new phoenix or phoenix egg is born from the ashes. It is a symbol of rebirth and renewal. RJ didn’t use phoenix symbolism for Tuon – her symbol is the raven and roses. Yet Tuon is trying to restore something of Artur Hawkwing’s empire and she will also one day have to face the question of reviving the Seanchan empire on Seanchan, so the phoenix symbolism would work.

Anyway, after I described the Wheel of Time series a little, the assistant noted down the title and author to read it herself. I did add the disclaimer that it is long, being finished by another author and probably not to be read unless you like fantasy but she wasn’t fazed. I must be a better promoter than I thought!

At WorldCon I was delighted to find Cory Doctorow’s For the Win in the Dealers Room after trying to buy it here for the last 2 or 3 weeks. At last! Now to get it signed...

The first session I attended was an academic one on sff writers using history. The author, Gillian Polack, interviewed over 20 sff writers on how they viewed and used history in their work. Most interestingly, she found that how writers classify their work – alternative history, epic fantasy, historical fantasy, historical fiction, etc – influenced how they used history and how much they changed history for their setting. Story always is more important to them than history.

Next up was a panel of 3 authors looking at the city as a fantasy location and much good stuff was discussed here by all 3. Ellen Kushner was one of the first authors to break out from the Tolkien dominated rural fantasy. Once one moves out of a medieval time setting then cities become increasingly important. She sees the theme of the individual in society to be important in urban fantasy; the quest becoming whether to belong or not. Another theme is healing the wasteland since cities often deplete the surrounding environment. Carol Ryles regarded consistency more important than description. When Trudi Canavan is really stuck for a name she hits the keyboard randomly. Eyes closed, I guess. All three agreed that it is great to continue writing in the same city but in a different time period of its history – so it can be added to, or changes shown.

The last panel for the day was a Lovecraft one – on the Necronomicon. Fascinating stuff. It is a book Lovecraft invented (he said the title meant "an image of the law of the dead") and mentioned a few times in his works, so convincingly that its existence is/was believed by many readers. He never wrote the actual book because he believed it was more terrifying if he left it to the reader’s imaginations and that if he did write it, it would only disappoint. Shades of figs and mice! It is supposed to be a very rare book, with only a few in existence, but has been ‘recreated’ quite a few times by various authors since Lovecraft’s death. Even more amusingly, it’s supposed to send you mad or kill you if you even glimpse a page, yet is requested of libraries quite often! The lure of the forbidden is hard to resist.

I met three WOT fans after the sessions: Emma/Isabel and two Jameses, which was very nice. Emma and one James post on Theoryland. The other James doesn’t post online, but "reads and thinks a little" (his words). I think he might need his medication adjusted. ;) Then it was off to dinner with Emma and two of her friends. They were great fun; lots of discussion and laughter.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Part 10 of Costume in the Wheel of Time

By Linda

It is the turn of the Asha'man uniform to be added to the WOT Costume article. This is timely considering that two conventions are being held this weekend, at which the Asha'man uniform will be a popular choice of costume. Asha'man coats are in the Andoran (which means late 18th century to early 19th century) style but are black, a colour with associations to the Shadow.

The section includes advice on the proper wearing of the Asha'man pins. Some of the Aiel name themselves 'spears of the Dragon,' so I guess the pins show that the Asha'man are the 'swords of the Dragon'.