Highlights from Crossroads of Twilight

My highlighted sections (and a few associated thoughts) from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, book 10 – Crossroads Of Twilight. I have pruned these comments quite hard, taking only a few picked from the bunch.

One important aspect of being a writer in my opinion is the skill of observation. (Which is quite funny, because at times I can be very un-observant). It’s looking at an object or person and noticing details. For example: not just that Sally was angry, but how that affected her face and body in minute detail. How it changed the words she used and the way she said them. (And how that could be related to other things or animals etc for similes). It is then those details which help to paint a vivid word-picture, or an interesting and insightful phrase. I can only presume, Jordan must have been watching at least one rain storm as he wrote these lines:

  • the only thing truly certain was that none of that mattered a spit in a rainstorm. (Page 25)
  • Rain fell by buckets, (Page 92)
  • driving the rain like stones from slings (Page 93)

As I’ve said numerous times, I like wisdom written down in a story:

  • how the horror of yesterday became merely the uneasiness of today, once you grew accustomed. (Page 61)
  • Loyalty to the Crystal Throne is precious above the breath of life, followed closely by knowing when to keep silent. The more who speak of a thing, the more will learn of it who should not.’ (Page 142)
  • Cowardice was the sort of rumor that stuck like greasy mud; you never could wash it off completely. (Page 258)
  • Hard times uncovered hard talents in the most surprising people. (Page 325
  • Truth almost always did come out in the end, but by the end, truth was often so wrapped around with rumors and speculation and absolute lies that most people never did believe it. (Page 393)

The differences between men and women provide endless fodder:

  • In his experience, if a woman did not want to hear something, she could ignore it till you yourself started to doubt you had spoken. (Page 89)
  • A woman started hissing at him like a kettle, a man with any brains found a way to cool her down fast. (Page 125)

I’m not sure if ‘humorous’ is quite the right word, but this was an interesting device I saw used a couple of times. First, the set up: relate someone or something

[She was like] A motherly farmwife amused by the antics of others in the village. Even some sisters were foolish enough to dismiss her that easily. (Page 394)

And then a few sentences later pay it off, by introducing a twist to the descriptor:

‘And why would we want to allow that?’ Anaiya said finally, in a dangerous voice. ‘We didn’t come all this way to talk to Elaida.’ She was a farmwife with a cleaver hidden behind her back and a mind to use it, now. (Page 395)

And three more lines I liked, for good measure:

  • The steps that led to the throne were as delicate as any court dance, and if the dance sometimes came to resemble a tavern brawl, you still had to make your steps with grace and precision in order to gain your goal. (Page 271)
  • They were generally accounted a thieving, unlettered lot who only bathed by accident, when they had to wade a stream. (Page 396)
  • She was not afraid. She was a skin stuffed to bursting with terror. (Page 495)

And something I started to do part way through book 10 was to highlight interesting words. Being a bit of a logophile, I like interesting words. (Yes, I once highlighted great words in a dictionary). Definitions are from Wordnik.

  • pomander – A mixture of aromatic substances enclosed in a bag or box as a protection against odor or infection, formerly worn on one’s person but now usually placed in a dresser drawer or closet.
  • ruction – A riotous disturbance; a noisy quarrel.
  • voluble – Marked by a ready flow of speech; fluent.
  • nimbus -A radiant light that appears usually in the form of a circle or halo about or over the head in the representation of a god, demigod, saint, or sacred person such as a king or an emperor.
  • lading – The act of loading.
  • inured -To habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged subjection; accustom: “Though the food became no more palatable, he soon became sufficiently inured to it” ( John Barth).
  • sibilant – Of, characterized by, or producing a hissing sound
  • languorous – lacking energy, spirit, liveliness or vitality
  • vulpine – Of, resembling, or characteristic of a fox.
  • avarice – Immoderate desire for wealth; cupidity.

Unfortunately, my love of words doesn’t help me beat my wife at Scrabble. I still get utterly decimated.

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Highlights from Winter’s Heart

My highlights and thoughts on book 9 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Winter’s Heart.

This post is longer than normal, because I want to share with you a passage which I found particularly good.

For several books Jordan has talked about the Aiel, a culture with complex family relationships most unlike our Western ones. In this passage, Elayne undergoes the ceremony to become first-sister to Aviendha. (The closest parallel for Westerners would be two friends who completely and without limit adopt one another as though blood-relations).

(For background, the ceremony uses the female-half of Jordan’s magic system, saidar, and they talk about the Aiel custom of ji’e’toh, “honor and obligation” which is essentially their shame-resolution system within the culture).

The quote starts with Monaelle, a Wise One speaking after Elayne and Aviendha are brought into a private room filled with Wise Ones.

“You will both do as you are instructed. If you waver or question, your dedication is not strong enough. I will send you away, and that will be the end of it, forever. I will ask questions, and you will answer truthfully. If you refuse to answer, you will be sent away. If any here think you lie, you will be sent away. You may leave at any time on your own, of course. Which also will end this for all time. There are no second chances here. Now. What is the best you know of the woman you want for a first-sister?”
Elayne half-expected the question. This was one of the things she had been told to think about. Choosing one virtue among many had not been easy, yet she had her answer ready. When she spoke, flows of saidar suddenly wove together between her and Aviendha, and no sound came from her tongue, or Aviendha’s. Without thought, a part of her mind tucked away the weaves; even now, trying to learn was as much a part of her as the color of her eyes. The weaves vanished as her lips closed. “Aviendha is so confident, so proud. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks she should do, or be; she is who she wants to be,” Elayne heard her own voice say, while Aviendha’s words suddenly were audible at the same time. “Even when Elayne is so afraid that her mouth dries, her spirit will not bend. She is braver than anyone I have ever known.”
Elayne stared at her friend. Aviendha thought she was brave? Light, she was no coward, but brave? Strangely, Aviendha was staring at her in disbelief.
“Courage is a well,” Viendre said at Elayne’s ear, “deep in some, shallow in others. Deep or shallow, wells go dry eventually, even if they fill again later. You will face what you cannot face. Your spine will turn to jelly, and your vaunted courage will leave you weeping in the dust. The day will come.” She sounded as though she wanted to be there to see it come. Elayne gave a curt nod. She knew all about her spine turning to jelly; she fought it every day, it seemed.
Tamela was speaking to Aviendha, in a voice almost as satisfied as Viendre’s. “Ji’e’toh binds you like bands of steel. For ji, you make yourself exactly what is expected of you, to the last hair. For toh, if necessary you will abase yourself and crawl on your belly. Because you care to your bones what everyone thinks of you.”
Elayne nearly gasped. That was harsh, and unfair. She knew something of ji’e’toh, but Aviendha was not like that. Yet Aviendha was nodding, much as she herself had. An impatient acceptance of what she already knew.
“Fine traits to love in a first-sister,” Monaelle said, lifting her shawl down to her elbows, “but what do you find worst in her?”
Elayne shifted on her chilling knees, licked her lips before speaking. She had dreaded this. It was not just Monaelle’s warning. Aviendha had said they must speak the truth. Must, or what was sisterhood worth? Again the weaves held their words captive until they were done.
“Aviendha . . .” Elayne’s voice said suddenly, hesitantly. “She . . . she thinks violence is always the answer. At times, she won’t think beyond her belt knife. At times, she’s like a boy who won’t grow up!”
“Elayne knows that . . .” Aviendha’s voice began, then gulped and went on in a rush. “She knows she is beautiful, knows the power it gives her over men. She exposes half her bosom sometimes, in the open air, and she smiles to make men do what she wants.”
Elayne gaped. Aviendha thought that of her? It made her sound a lightskirt! Aviendha frowned back and half-opened her mouth, but Tamela pressed her shoulders again and began to speak.
“You think men do not stare at your face in approval?” There was an edge in the Wise One’s voice; strong was the best anyone would ever say of her face. “Do they not look at your breasts in the sweat tent? Admire your hips? You are beautiful, and you know it. Deny it, and deny yourself! You have taken pleasure in men’s looks, and smiled at them. Will you never smile at a man to give your arguments more weight, or touch his arm to distract him from the weakness of your arguments? You will, and you will be no less for it.”
Red flooded Aviendha’s cheeks, but Elayne was having to listen to Viendre. And fight blushes of her own. “There is violence in you. Deny it, and deny yourself. Have you never raged and struck out? Have you never drawn blood? Have you never wished to? Without considering another way? Without any thought at all? While you breathe, that will be part of you.” Elayne thought of Taim, and other times, and her face felt like a furnace.
This time, there was more than one response.
“Your arms will grow weak,” Tamela was telling Aviendha. “Your legs will lose their swiftness. A youth will be able to take the knife from your hand. How will skill or ferocity avail you then? Heart and mind are the true weapons. But did you learn to use the spear in a day, when you were a Maiden? If you do not hone mind and heart now, you will grow old and children will befuddle your wits. Clan chiefs will sit you in a corner to play cat’s cradle, and when you speak, all will hear only the wind. Take heed while you can.”
“Beauty flees,” Viendre went on, to Elayne. “Years will make your breasts sag, your flesh grow slack, your skin grow leathery. Men who smiled to see your face will speak to you as if you were just another man. Your husband may see you always as the first time his eyes caught you, but no other man will dream of you. Will you no longer be you? Your body is only clothing. Your flesh will wither, but you are your heart and mind, and they do not change except to grow stronger.”
Elayne shook her head. Not in denial. Not really. She had never thought on aging, though. Especially not since going to the Tower. The years lay lightly even on very old Aes Sedai. But what if she lived as long as the Kinswomen? That would mean giving up being Aes Sedai, of course, but what if she did? The Kin took a very long time to grow wrinkles, but grow them they did. What was Aviendha thinking? She knelt there looking . . . sullen.
“What is the most childish thing you know of the woman you want for a first-sister?” Monaelle said.
This was easier, not so fraught. Elayne even smiled as she spoke. Aviendha grinned back, sullenness gone. Again the weaves took their words and released them together, voices with laughter in them.
“Aviendha won’t let me teach her to swim. I’ve tried. She isn’t afraid of anything, except getting into more water than a bathtub.”
“Elayne gobbles sweets with both hands like a child who’s escaped her mother’s eye. If she keeps on, she will be fat as a pig before she grows old.”
Elayne jerked. Gobbles? Gobbles? A taste, now and then, was all she took. Just now and then. Fat? Why was Aviendha glaring at her? Refusing to step into water more than knee-deep was childish.
Monaelle covered a slight cough with one hand, but Elayne thought she was hiding a smile. Some of the standing Wise Ones laughed outright. At Aviendha’s silliness? Or her . . . gobbling?
Monaelle resumed dignity, adjusting her skirts spread out on the floor, but there was still a touch of mirth in her voice. “What is your greatest jealousy of the woman you want for a first-sister?”
Perhaps Elayne would have hedged her answer despite the requirement for truth. Truth had jumped up as soon as she was told to think on this, but she had found something smaller, less embarrassing for them both, that would have passed muster. Perhaps. But there was that about her smiling at men and exposing her bosom. Maybe she did smile, but Aviendha walked in front of red-faced servingmen without a stitch on and seemed not even to see them! So she gobbled candy, did she? She was going to get fat? She spoke the bitter truth while the weaves took her words and Aviendha’s mouth moved in grim silence, until at last what they had said was loosed.
“Aviendha has lain in the arms of the man I love. I never have; I may never, and I could weep over it!”
“Elayne has the love of Rand al’Th . . . of Rand. My heart is dust for wanting him to love me, but I do not know if he ever will.”
Elayne peered into Aviendha’s unreadable face. She was jealous of her over Rand? When the man avoided Elayne Trakand as if she had scabies? She had no time for more thought.
“Strike her as hard as you can with your open hand,” Tamela told Aviendha, removing her own hands from Aviendha’s shoulders.
Viendre squeezed Elayne’s lightly. “Do not defend yourself.” They had not been told anything of this! Surely, Aviendha would not—
Blinking, Elayne pushed herself up from the icy floor tiles. Gingerly she felt her cheek, and winced. She was going to wear a palm print the rest of the day. The woman did not have to hit her that hard.
Everyone waited until she was kneeling again, and then Viendre leaned closer. “Strike her as hard as you can with your open hand.”
Well, she was not going to knock Aviendha on her ear. She was not going to—
Her full-armed slap sent Aviendha sprawling, sliding on her chest across the tiles almost to Monaelle. Elayne’s palm stung almost as much as her cheek.
Aviendha half pushed herself up, gave her head a shake, then scrambled back to her position. And Tamela said, “Strike her with the other hand.”
This time, Elayne slid all the way to Amys’ knees on the frozen tiles, her head ringing, both cheeks burning. And when she regained her own knees in front of Aviendha, when Viendre told her to strike, she put her whole body into the slap, so much that she nearly fell over atop Aviendha as the other woman went down.
“You may go now,” Monaelle said.
Elayne’s eyes jerked toward the Wise One. Aviendha, halfway back to her knees, went stiff as stone.
“If you wish to,” Monaelle continued. “Men usually do, at this point if not sooner. Many women do, too. But if you still love one another enough to go on, then embrace.”
Elayne flung herself at Aviendha, and was met with a rush that nearly knocked her over backward. They clung together. Elayne felt tears trickling from her eyes, and realized Aviendha was crying as well. “I’m sorry,” Elayne whispered fervently. “I’m sorry, Aviendha.”
“Forgive me,” Aviendha whispered back. “Forgive me.”
Monaelle was standing over them, now. “You will know anger at one another again, you will speak harsh words, but you will always remember that you have already struck her. And for no better reason than you were told to. Let those blows pass for all you might wish to give. You have toh toward one another, toh you cannot repay and will not try to, for every woman is always in her first-sister’s debt. You will be born again.”

Within the ceremony they answer 3 questions

  • What is the best trait of the other woman? The Wise Ones acknowledge the virtue of the quality, before pointing its limitations, tearing down any sense of pride. The good quality at some stage will falter.
    (Aviendha is independent … but she is prideful)
    (Elayne has courage … her courage will fail her at some stage)
  • What is the worst trait of the other woman? The Wise Ones reply by identifying that same trait in the accuser, and highlighting the frailty of the trait.
    (Aviendha is quick to use her knife … her physical strength will fade)
    (Elayne uses her beauty … which will pass with years)
  • What is the most childish thing the other woman does?
    (Aviendha is afraid of large bodies of water)
    (Elayne gobbles lollies).
  • What is your greatest jealousy of the woman you want for a first-sister?
    (Aviendha is jealous that Rand loves Elayne)
    (Elayne is jealous that Aviendha has slept with Rand)

The women then strike each other before being told “always remember that you have already struck her. And for no better reason than you were told to. Let those blows pass for all you might wish to give.”

I like this passage because I think it is perceptive. It humbles the individual and lets them know the best and worst that their (future) sister thinks of them. All pretense gone they start their new relationship with complete honesty.

Other quotes I liked:

Funny:

  • “Me?” Gill wheezed once he could talk. “You want me to tell her? She’ll crack my pate if I mention a thing like that! I think the woman was born in Far Madding in a thunderstorm. She probably told the thunder to be quiet. It probably did.” (Page 152)
  • When a woman adjusted her clothes for no reason, it was like a man tightening the straps of his armor and checking his saddle girth; she meant to drive home a charge, and you would be cut down like a dog if you ran. (Page 496)
  • “And on you, my Lord,” their stocky officer replied, ambling forward, and Mat recognized him, Surlivan Sarat, a good fellow, always ready with a quip and possessing a fine eye for horses. Shaking his head, Surlivan tapped the side of his pointed helmet with the thin, gilded rod of his office. “Have you been in another fight, my Lord? She will go up like a waterspout, when she sees you.” Squaring his shoulders, and trying not to lean so obviously on his staff, Mat bristled. Ready with a quip? Come to think on it, the sun-dark man had a tongue like a rasp. And his eye for horses was not all that fine, either. “Will there be any questions if my friend here beds down with my men?” Mat asked roughly. (Page 364)

Perceptive:

  • Brave words made scant covering for bare skin. (Page 104)
  • Whoever the woman was, she might get the thief-catcher beheaded yet, but that sort of fever had to burn itself out before a man could think straight. Women did strange things to a man’s head. (Page 381)
  • Great captains earned their reputation not just for laying brilliant plans, but for still being able to find victory after those plans began to fall apart. (Page 584)
  • Alone of the prisoners they were unbound—except by custom stronger than chains. (Page 107)
  • “You can never know everything,” Lan said quietly, “and part of what you know is always wrong. Perhaps even the most important part. A portion of wisdom lies in knowing that. A portion of courage lies in going on anyway.” (page 619)

Tantalising clues:

  • Aviendha would have Rand’s babies, too. Four of them at once! Something was odd about that, though. The babies would be healthy, but still something odd. (Page 296)
  • Verin slipped the small vial back into her pouch unopened. It was good to be sure of Cadsuane at last. (Page 509)

Emotive:

  • Mat knew he should eat, too, but he felt as though he had swallowed a stone, and it did not leave room for food. ( Page 591)
  • One by one he summoned up the names on that long list, patiently forging his soul in the fires of pain. (Page 643)
  • “I really did find what I needed here.” If a sword had memory, it might be grateful to the forge fire, but never fond of it. (Page 650)
  • “I myself would not believe him dead unless I sat three days with the corpse.” (Page 210)

Highlights from ‘The Path Of Daggers’

My favourite quotes from The Path Of Daggers: Book 8 of the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.

  • “Be certain to hold your tongue, Verin Mathwin, or you will use it to howl.”  (Page 21)
  • The Fisher was always worked as a man, a bandage blinding his eyes and one hand pressed to his side, a few drops of blood dripping through his fingers.  (Page 34)
  • she could tell you to your face that you were a blind idiot, yet let anyone else say it, and she would defend you until she went hoarse. (Page 72)

And this one is a good moral for work, or sometimes, writing too/l

  • You hammered the iron that lay on your anvil instead of daydreaming about working silver. (Page 160)

 

  • Faile was smiling, pride shining through the sweat on her face. Her look washed away some of Perrin’s revulsion. He would walk barefoot through fire for that look. (Page 176)
  • …he could not pick one from another, yet these women smelled like wolves studying a tethered goat. (Page 223)
  • If need demanded, she would use them both for mulch, and others too, but she did not intend to lose either because they grew careless. (Page 286)
  • Despite the men following, he felt alone. Despite the Power, he felt empty. (Page 305)
  • But she still carried compassion in her eyes as she herded them out. (Page 321)
  • Exhaustion made as thick a blanket over the camp as the snow. (Page 331)
  • The only one not in fine array, he looked as he always did, plain and slightly battered. A rock that had weathered storms and would outlast more to come. (Page 375)
  • “If all we’ve heard is true, then at best, allowing you to pass through Andor unhindered may seem like giving aid, or even alliance, in the eyes of the White Tower. Failure to oppose you might mean learning what the grape learns in the winepress.” (Page 383)

I’ve written before about the over-abundance of Siuan’s fishing analogies. This paragraph then stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb:

  • Siuan snorted. “I don’t mind sailing the Fingers of the Dragon in the dark if I must,” she muttered half under her breath. “We discussed that; we weighed the dangers, and anyway, there doesn’t seem to be a gull’s last dinner for choice. But you have to set a fire on deck just to make things interesting. Netting lionfish isn’t enough for you. You have to stuff a prickleback down your dress, too. You aren’t content trying to wade a school of silverpike—” (Page 390)

An excellent description of being surrounded by enemies:
(a sigil is a banner which shows the allegiance of the soldiers who follow it).

  • Half the sigils I saw out there belong to men who’d bite their tongues if they saw a fellow behind you with a knife, and most of the rest to men who’d try to hold your attention. If they hadn’t paid the knife man in the first place.” (Page 453)
  • When you die, people begin to forget, who you were and what you did, or tried to do. Everybody dies eventually, and everybody is forgotten, eventually, but there’s no bloody point dying before your time comes.” (Page 463)
  • A raken appeared in the east ahead, skimming low over the treetops, twisting and turning to follow the curves of the land like a man running his hand down a woman’s back. (Page 479)
  • “Do you think to abandon your men?” Jadranka snarled. “We rally them and attack, you—!” He cut off, gurgling, as Karede’s swordpoint went neatly into his throat. There were times fools could be tolerated, and times not. (Page 482)
  • Sword in hand, Bashere barely reined in before leaping from his saddle. (Page 489)
  • Semaradrid looked like a man who had eaten an entire bowl of bad plums; (Page 504)
  • when I first had the suspicion you might be suckling at your mother’s breast. Just before I decided to go back into retirement. Babes are messy things, and I could not see how to find you before you stopped dripping at one end or the other.” (Page 587)
  • Trust was a knife, and the hilt was as sharp as the blade. (Page 620)

Highlights from A Crown of Swords

This is approximately the seventh in my series of posts where I share the highlights I made in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. This post covers book 7, A Crown Of Swords. Given the lengths of the books, this selection is ‘the best’ highlights; otherwise there’d be several thousand words worth of quotes. As it is, this post is longer than intended…

Serious Matters: Dealt with First

It seems odd to start my ‘highlights’ post by talking about something which I found genuinely disturbing. But it needs to be discussed. Matt Cauthon, who frequently seduce any willing woman, finds himself aggressively pursued by Queen Tylin. No, I’m going to call a spade a spade: she rapes him. I’ll post the encounter here in full and then discuss it.

It was too much. The woman hounded him, tried to starve him; now she locked them in together like . . . like he did not know what. Lambkin! Those bloody dice were bouncing around in his skull. Besides, he had important business to see to. The dice had never had anything to do with finding something, but . . . He reached her in two long strides, seized her arm, and began fumbling in her belt for the keys. “I don’t have bloody time for—” His breath froze as the sharp point of her dagger beneath his chin shut his mouth and drove him right up onto his toes. “Remove your hand,” she said coldly. He managed to look down his nose at her face. She was not smiling now. He let go of her arm carefully. She did not lessen the pressure of her blade, though. She shook her head. “Tsk, tsk. I do try to make allowances for you being an outlander, gosling, but since you wish to play roughly . . . Hands at your sides. Move.” The knifepoint gave a direction. He shuffled backward on tiptoe rather than have his neck sliced. “What are you going to do?” he mumbled through his teeth. A stretched neck put a strain in his voice. A stretched neck among other things. “Well?” He could try grabbing her wrist; he was quick with his hands. “What are you going to do?” Quick enough, with the knife already at his throat? That was the question. That, and the one he asked her. If she intended to kill him, a shove of her wrist right there would drive the dagger straight up into his brain. “Will you answer me!” That was not panic in his voice. He was not in a panic. “Majesty? Tylin?” Well, maybe he was in a bit of a panic, to use her name. You could call any woman in Ebou Dar “duckling” or “pudding” all day, and she would smile, but use her name before she said you could, and you found a hotter reception than you would for goosing a strange woman on the street anywhere else. A few kisses exchanged were never enough for permission, either. Tylin did not answer, only kept him tiptoeing backward, until suddenly his shoulders bumped against something that stopped him. With that flaming dagger never easing a hair, he could not move his head, but eyes that had been focused on her face darted. They were in the bedchamber, a flower-carved red bedpost hard between his shoulder blades. Why would she bring him . . .? His face was suddenly as crimson as the bedpost. No. She could not mean to . . . It was not decent! It was not possible! “You can’t do this to me,” he mumbled at her, and if his voice was a touch breathy and shrill, he surely had cause. “Watch and learn, my kitten,” Tylin said, and drew her marriage knife. Afterward, a considerable time later, he irritably pulled the sheet up to his chest. A silk sheet; Nalesean had been right. The Queen of Altara hummed happily beside the bed, arms twisted behind her to do up the buttons of her dress. All he had on was the foxhead medallion on its cord – much good that had done – and the black scarf tied around his neck. A ribbon on her present, the bloody woman called it. He rolled over and snatched his silver-mounted pipe and tabac pouch from the small table on the other side from her. Golden tongs and a hot coal in a golden bowl of sand provided the means for lighting. Folding his arms, he puffed away as fiercely as he frowned. “You should not flounce, duckling, and you shouldn’t pout.” She yanked her dagger from where it was driven into a bedpost beside her marriage knife, examining the point before sheathing it. “What is the matter? You know you enjoyed yourself as much as I did, and I . . .” She laughed suddenly, and oh so richly, resheathing the marriage knife as well. “If that is part of what being ta’veren means, you must be very popular.” Mat flushed like fire. (page 515-517)

It is such a tricky situation. Matt does complain about it, clearly uncomfortable. It is culturally appropriate in the city of Ebou Dar for women to do the pursuing. Matt doesn’t entirely hate the situation or Tylin. But he does feel so uncomfortable that he seeks his friends out for help…

“You listen to me! That woman won’t take no for an answer; I say no, and she laughs at me. She’s starved me, bullied me, chased me down like a stag! She has more hands than any six women I ever met. She threatened to have the serving women undress me if I didn’t let her—” (Page 653)

I suspect the scene was written in a failed attempt to be funny. The gag was probably supposed to be the chaser becomes the chased. Only it isn’t funny. If you swap the genders and have a man forcing a woman into bed at knife-point it’s rape. It doesn’t matter what the individual’s sexual past has been.

It’s important to note in the world-building of WOT, it isn’t rape. Matt never describes it as such himself. It’s in a grey area that has and can be argued over. However the problem is in modern times it equates to rape in the reader’s mind. At least in this reader’s mind.

Not everyone will agree that it was rape, citing plausible arguments. That’s OK. From a writer’s perspective is it a good thing that a significant portion of your readers will be uncomfortable about the scene? (When that isn’t the goal of the scene). I would say not. I found it incredibly jarring when I realised that’s what it was. I was shocked and disturbed.

Now I’ve read other books with rape or similar uncomfortable material. (I think of Rage by Wilbur Smith in which I couldn’t warm to any of the characters due to their despicable and abhorrent natures). Part of the reason why it disturbed me so much was because I wasn’t expecting it – it doesn’t fit the rest of the WOT books. Some author’s have made their careers by making readers squirm, but Jordan wasn’t one of them.

I don’t think Jordan is bad because of the scene; it was a poor choice with unintended ramifications. Who, among us though, hasn’t had a joke which has backfired horribly? It’s just that Jordan’s mis-fired joke was written down and mass-marketed. A good warning.

Onto Better Things

Now onto the good highlights.

“The White Tower will be whole again, except for remnants cast out and scorned, whole and stronger than ever. Rand al’Thor will face the Amyrlin Seat and know her anger. The Black Tower will be rent in blood and fire, and sisters will walk its grounds. This I Foretell.” (Page 16)

What I particularly like about this is it’s a prophecy of the future that is guaranteed to come true. Only, the interpretation that the character puts upon the Foretelling is a different outcome to what will happen in reality. I knew this because it’s not my first time reading the book, but for a new reader it would throw them off-track. A clever manoeuver.

More on the differences between men and women:

  • Standing on the ground, she somehow made it seem that she was looking down at him. Not an Aes Sedai trick, that; he had seen Faile do it. He suspected most women knew how. (Page 71)
  • Only a fool thinks a lion or a woman can truly be tamed. (Page 354)
  • “Women keep promises in their own way,” (Page 646)
  • Usually when a woman was in the wrong, she could find so many things to blame on the nearest man that he wound up thinking maybe he really was at fault. (Page 652)

And some real-life humor, a dig at us authors:

Loial strode up, bubbling with energy despite his obvious weariness. “Rand, they say they’re ready to go, but you promised to talk to me while it’s fresh.” Abruptly his ears twitched with embarrassment, and that booming voice became plaintive. “I am sorry; I know it can’t be enjoyable. But I must know. For the book. For the Ages.” Laughing, Rand got to his feet and tugged at the Ogier’s open coat. “For the Ages? Do writers all talk like that? Don’t worry, Loial. It will still be fresh when I tell you. I won’t forget.” (Page 87)

Other good quotes:

  • The wind shook the banner hard and was gone quickly, as if glad to be away. (Page 50)
  • Defeating Aes Sedai was not easy; making them admit defeat lay on the far side of impossible. (Page 57)
  • Perhaps they would only still them. From the little he had picked up, stilling an Aes Sedai amounted to a killing that just took a few years for the corpse to lie down. (Page 59)
  • “You think I can’t teach them as well as you?” Rand’s voice was soft, the whisper of a blade sliding in its sheath. (Page 82)
  • In Cairhien, maybe in most lands, ordinary folk could be crushed unnoticed where the mighty walked. (Page 116)
  • He floated in the Void, surrounded by emptiness beyond knowing, and saidin filled him, trying to grind him to dust beneath steel-shattering cold and heat where stone would flash to flame, carrying the Dark One’s taint on its flow, forcing corruption into his bones. Into his soul, he feared sometimes. It did not make him feel so sick to his stomach as it once had. He feared that even more. And larded through that torrent of fire, ice and filth – life. That was the best word. Saidin tried to destroy him. Saidin filled him to overflowing with vitality. It threatened to bury him, and it enticed him. The war for survival, the struggle to avoid being consumed, magnified the joy of pure life. So sweet even with the foulness. What would it be like, clean? Beyond imagining. He wanted to draw more, draw all there was. (Page 144)
  • It was always better to know than to be ignorant, but sometimes ignorance was much more comfortable. (Page 269)
  • A yellow-haired woman in red belt and plunging neckline made a faint sound as her eyes rolled up in her head and she slid bonelessly from her red chair. (Page 552)
  • “Yes, but there is the matter of the Bargain.” That word was plainly capitalized in Harine’s tone. (Page 597)
  • Mat crashed into the killer’s back, and they all three hit the floor together. He had no compunctions against stabbing a man in the back when it was necessary, especially a man who could tear somebody’s throat out. (Page 666)
  • Insults to Thom’s flute or his harp were insults to himself. (Page 684)
  • Rand blinked, and snatched one hand from the crown to suck on a pricked finger. Almost buried among the laurel leaves of the crown were the sharp points of swords. …  Gingerly he set the circle of laurel leaves on his head. Half those swords pointed up, half down. No head would wear this crown casually or easily. (Page 739)

Highlights from ‘Lord of Chaos’

Here are some of my highlights from book 6 of the Wheel of Time series, Lord of Chaos. After having so many quotes for the last book I had to split the post in two, I’ve really chosen only the best-of-the-best this time.

I want to make a special note of this recap on who the primary protagonist is.

Despite his having been raised in the Two Rivers by Tam al’Thor and, until her death when he was five, Tam’s wife, Kari, Rand’s true mother had been a Maiden of Spear who died giving birth to him on the slopes of Dragonmount. Not an Aiel, though his father had been, but still a Maiden. Now Aiel customs stronger than law had touched him. No, not touched; enveloped. No Maiden could marry and still carry the spear and unless she gave up the spear any child she bore was given to another woman by the Wise Ones, in such a way that the Maiden never knew who that woman was. Any child born of a Maiden was believed to be lucky, both in itself and to raise, though none but the woman who raised the child and her husband ever knew it was not her own. Yet beyond that, the Aiel Prophecy of Rhuidean said that the Car’a’carn would be such a one, raised by wetlanders. To the Maidens, Rand was all those children come back, the first child of a Maiden ever to be known to everyone. (Page 119)

This passage is good, because it provides a concrete and plausible explanation of why the Maiden’s are so loyal to Rand. It is not only because he declared ‘they carry my honour’ but also because he is a symbol of the children they have given away. Loyalties, thus explained, would be far stronger than to any individual under normal circumstances.

I’d love to know if Jordan had this in mind all along, or if he realised he could knit it together further down the track. In any case, it’s brilliant.

He had abandoned them to this. If he had gone, there might not have been such a long list of the dead, so many names that he knew. But if he had gone, he would not have the Aiel behind him. Cairhien would not be his, as much as it was, and Rahvin would likely be sending a united Andor against him and the Two Rivers. There was a price to be paid for any decision he made. There was a price for who he was. Other people paid it. He had to keep reminding himself that it was a far smaller price than they would pay without him. (Page 283)

Hear the emotional turmoil for Rand. The necessities of events (the plot) are in conflict with what he would choose to do in relationships. The grinding together of tensions of plot and character.

A salient truth:

How people see you first is what they hold hardest in their minds. It is the way of the world. You can step down from a throne, and even if you behave like a farmer in a pigsty, some part in each of them will remember that you did descend from a throne. But if they see only a young man first, a country man, they will resent him stepping up to his throne later, whatever his right, whatever his power. (Page 391)

An intricacy of the sweeping plot explained, how history and past are woven together into a tapestry of the now and into the future.

Everything folded back into itself, in endless circles. Tigraine went to the Waste in secret, which made Laman Damodred cut down Avendoraldera, a gift of the Aiel, to make a throne, an act which brought the Aiel across the Spine of the World to kill him—that had been their only goal, though the nations called it the Aiel War—and with the Aiel came a Maiden named Shaiel, who died giving birth. So many lives changed, lives ended, so she could give birth to him at the proper time and place and die doing it. (Page 397)

A strong line:

“Take this message back to Sammael,” he said coldly. “Every death he has caused since waking, I lay at his feet and call due. Every murder he has ever done or caused, I lay at his feet and call due. […] But I will see justice done now. Tell him, no truce with the Forsaken. No truce with the Shadow.” (Page 400)

I loved the imagery used in this paragraph. To me it just resonated and I could see it playing out in my mind’s eye.

“I sent them [guards] away as you insisted,” Sulin said disgustedly. “Give me a slow count of one hundred.”
“Ten.”
“Fifty.” Rand nodded, and her fingers flashed. Jalani darted away inside, and Sulin’s hands flickered again. Three gai’shain women dropped their armloads of maps looking startled—Aiel never looked that surprised—gathered long white robes and vanished back into the Palace in different directions, but quickly as they moved, Sulin was ahead of them. As Rand reached twenty, Aiel began bounding into the courtyard, hurtling though windows, leaping down from balconies. He almost lost the count. Every one was veiled, and only some Maidens. They stared about in confusion when they found only Rand and three Ogier, who blinked at them curiously. Some lowered their veils. The palace servants huddled together. (Page 467)

The lovable rogue, Mat Cauthon:

  • Mat slipped back and left them to it. The general who leads in the front of battle is a fool. That came from one of those old memories, a quote from somebody whose name was not part of the memory. A man could get killed in there. That was pure Mat Cauthon. (Page 490)
  • “By the look of you, Nynaeve, I could almost think you were angry, but I know you have such a sweet disposition people ask you to dabble your fingers in their tea.” (Page 592)
  • He had four rules concerning action and information. Never make a plan without knowing as much as you can of the enemy. Never be afraid to change your plans when you receive new information. Never believe you know everything. And never wait to know everything. The man who waited to know everything was still sitting in his tent when the enemy burned it over his head. (Page 630)

Here is a highlight I made for the wrong reasons. Read it first and then I’ll explain why.

Then there were the Cairhienin, outside the ring of Aiel. Colavaere, strikingly handsome in her middle years, dark hair an elaborate tower of curls, and horizontal slashes coloring her gown from high gold-embroidered collar to below her knees, more slashes than anyone else present. Solid, square-faced Dobraine, the front of his mostly gray hair shaved soldier-fashion and his coat worn from the straps of a breastplate. Maringil, straight as a blade, white hair touching his shoulders; he had not shaved his forehead, and his dark silk coat, striped like Dobraine’s, nearly to his knees, was fit for a ball. Two dozen or more clustered behind, mostly younger men and women, few wearing horizontal stripes even as low as the waist. “Grace favor the Lord Dragon,” they murmured, bowing hand to heart or curtsying, and, “Grace honors us with the Lord Dragon’s presence.” The Tairens had their contingent as well, High Lords and Ladies without lesser nobles, in peaked velvet hats and silk coats with puffy, satin-striped sleeves, in bright gowns with broad lace ruffs and close-fitting caps of pearls or gems, making their respects with “The Light illumine the Light Dragon.” Meilan stood foremost, of course, lean and hard and expressionless, with his gray pointed beard. Close beside him, Fionnda’s stern expression and iron eyes somehow did not diminish her beauty, while willowy Anaiyella’s simpers lessened hers. There were certainly no smiles of any sort on the faces of Maraconn, a blue-eyed rarity among Tairens, or bald Gueyam, or Aracome, who looked twice as slender alongside Gueyam’s solid width if just as steely. They—and Meilan—had been thick with Hearne and Simaan. (Page 440)

Did you get through it? I’m not sure I did. Way too much detail on the clothes of people who aren’t important. Whilst some of these characters do make a re-appearance – and so possibly become more important – I think this passage is an example of waffling.

More great lines:

  • “‘The right medicine always tastes bitter,’” Lini murmured softly. “Most of all for a child who throws a sulky tantrum.” (Page 60)
  • Any man would have to be aware of them, sudden death in their eyes, their hands. (Page 99)
  • A woman’s eyes cut deeper than a knife, another Two Rivers saying. (Page 121)
  • The simple form of it was this: where a spymaster should doubt his own face in the mirror, Omerna believed anything. (Page 255)
  • If you took risks, sometimes the bill came due when you least expected, in the last way you expected. (Page 292)
  • Elayne’s first wincing instinct was to smooth it over somehow, though how was a question she could not begin to answer. As easy to smooth over a mountain range. (Page 384)
  • “Women do not become exhausted,” Haman said, “they only exhaust others. That is a very old saying among us.” (Page 464)
  • Rumor might cross a hundred miles in a day or take a month, and it birthed ten daughters every day. (Page 506)
  • We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect. (Page 666)
  • ‘Fools only listen to themselves (Page 733)
  • “If you pursue two hares, both will escape you,” (Page 789)
  • She always touched him. Not blatantly, just fingers on his hand for a moment, on his arm, his shoulder. Hardly worth noticing. The third day a thought occurred that made the hair on the nape of his neck rise. When you were taming a horse that had never been ridden, you began with light touches, until the animal knew your touch would not hurt, until it stood still for your hand. After that came the saddle cloth, and later the saddle. The bridle was always last. (Page 910)
  • Rand let Sulin hold his coat for him to put on, for the simple reason that he would have had to rip it out of her hands physically to do otherwise. As usual, she tried to shove the garment onto him with no regard to details such as where his arms happened to be. (Page 916)

Highlights from the ‘Fire of Heaven’ (2)

This is my second post about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, book 5 in the series, ‘Fire of Heaven‘. I hadn’t intended on making it a multi-part post but I had too much highlighted to fit into the first post. I still have too much for two-posts, but I have decided it only gets two posts: whatever doesn’t fit, misses out.

(After reading so many books (and so many pages) in such a short timeframe it does all blend into a quagmire. I couldn’t tell you the main plot line of any book – it’s all one continuum in my mind. And I’m currently reading book 7, so forgive me if my thoughts and comments stray across lines. Unintentional spoiler alert).

In book 5 I definitely noticed the different journey of the characters. Matt, Rand, Perrin, Nynaeve and Egwene all started out in the same Two Rivers village. There were slight differences between them: Nynaeve was older and in a position of authority as the Village Wisdom, and Egwene had a tiny bit of status as the Mayor’s daughter. Excluding personality, gender and occupational differences they essentially shared the same world-view.

Now, after all going on separate journey’s, they are all radically different. This gives me one (or is it two?) insights on how to treat and understand characters:

  • a different journey produces different results
  • if you want different results, you must send characters on different journeys

It’s cause and effect from both angles. A characters growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum. No two characters should go through the same event and come out exactly the same. Personality and individual resilience should at least create some differences, but for radical change I’d recommend radical diverging paths to make it believable. Egwene is destined for greatness – in her own way – and so her path leads her to be a Wise One’s apprentice among the Aiel. This radical diversion forces her to grow up much more rapidly, and have a different worldview from those she grew up with.

The same is true for Rand, forced by circumstance and prophecy to become a ruthless leader for the sake of the future. There just isn’t enough time before the Last Battle and everything he must do. Nestled amongst the writing is a class on plotting, I suspect tongue-in-cheek by Jordan, as described by Rand:

He could trace the steps that led to them, each necessary as it seemed at the time and seeming an end in itself, yet each leading inevitably to the next. (Page 663)

Which is exactly how plotting should be: surprising, yet inevitable developments. And the protagonist should not be master of their own domain. They must struggle – internally and externally, with deadly foe, lover and compromises in which no answer is perfect. They must be forced to choose, pushed and pulled like the wind and rocked by the waves. (And I’ve slipped back into Siuan’s fishing references). The protagonist who is in control is either a mistaken, or weakly written.

It would be easier if this was a story, he thought. In stories, there were only so many surprises before the hero knew everything he needed; he himself never seemed to know a quarter of everything. (Page 671)

There were always limits and rules, and he did not know them here. (Page 865)

Also present in this book is a great deal of emotional turmoil for the characters. Rand’s self-loathing over the fact that women were dying for him and worry that Elayne would believe the rumours that he killed her mother.

A Maiden or a Stone Dog, a spear is a spear. Only, thinking it could not make it so. I will be hard! He would let the Maidens dance the spears where they wished. He would. And he knew he would search out the name of every one who died, that every name would be another knife-cut on his soul. I will be hard. The Light help me, I will. The Light help me. (Page 843)

There are many different kinds of emotional strain that a character can face – visible threats from enemies, but also angst over love, friends and family. There are internal fears of failure or faults of success. A good story milks all of the human emotions in their varied forms.

And to finish up, some more noteworthy lines:

The hill valley twisted and forked as he angled north, but he had a good sense of direction. For instance, he knew exactly which way lay south and safety, and it was not the way he was heading. (Page 633)

Only a battle lost is sadder than a battle won. (Page 655)

The topknotted men, not much less ragged than those they fought, worked their two-handed swords methodically, craftsmen at their craft, and the onslaught went no further than their thin line. … Yet if they held the mob, it was Galad who broke them. He faced their charge as though awaiting the next dance at a ball, arms folded and unconcerned, not even bothering to bare his blade until they were almost on top of him. Then he did dance, all his grace turned in an instant to fluid death. He did not stand against them; he carved a path into their heart, a clear swathe as wide as his sword’s reach. Sometimes five or six men closed in around him with swords and axes and table-legs for clubs, but only for the brief time it took them to die. In the end, all their rage, all their thirst for blood, could not face him. It was from him that the first ran, flinging away weapons, and when the rest fled, they divided around him. As they vanished back the way they had come, he stood twenty paces from anyone else, alone among the dead and the groans of the dying. (Page 723, 724)

 

Highlights from ‘The Shadow Rising’

Hi! After an incredibly busy week (in which no writing was done), here are my thoughts on the highlight-able parts in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, book 4: The Rising Shadow. This time I’ve done it a little differently and sorted the quotes by category.

(If you’re interested you can also see my highlights from book 2 The Great Hunt and book 3 The Dragon Reborn).

Genders

  • She thought the Creator must have been tired when it came time to make men; sometimes they hardly seemed human. (Page 12)
  • ‘He was an easy little boy to manage most of the time, if you handled him properly, but when you tried to push him, he was as muley as any in the Two Rivers. Men don’t really change that much, only grow taller. (Page 721)
  • Why do men always do things without asking? Does growing hair on their chests sap their brains?’ (Page 767)

These are not the first gender-based observation I’ve highlighted. Men and women are strange creatures to one another, and it would be incorrect and shallow if there wasn’t some thoughts, actions and emotions of “how strange” the other gender was. It’s a touch of humanity to make the story more real. This is even more so the case with adolescent characters who lack the wisdom and experience of age… Age notwithstanding, men and women should squint at each other strangely from time to time (Are you crazy?). The same is true of anything which would create different worldviews (cultures, religions, even professions to an extent).

Just Great Prose

This was mad panic tied with a frayed rope. (Page 81)

An excellent descriptor: mad panic tied with frayed rope. I sometimes marvel at the regularity by which Robert Jordan is able to come up with such apt expressions. I wonder if he would sit back and examine every third sentence to see if he could turn it into a beautiful piece of prose. Certainly he does it well.

Other note worthy lines:

  • Three thousand years had not dimmed that memory, even if time had altered many of the details. (Page 4)
  • It wanted him dead the way a starving man wanted food. (Page 72)
  • The clan chief of the Taardad Aiel had no visible weapon except the heavy-bladed knife at his waist, but he carried authority and confidence like weapons, quietly, yet as surely as if they were sheathed alongside the knife. (Page 86)
  • Moiraine could not lie, but she could make truth dance a fine jig. (Page 104)
  • Neither expected an easy day, but both wore stony determination like cloaks. (Page 947)

Wisdom

I enjoy having wisdom packed into a book:

  • no good decision was ever made in anger. (Page 119)
  • it was better to guide people than try to hammer them into line. (Page 121)
  • ‘You call this being protected, roofmistress?’ Bain said. ‘If you ask the lion to protect you from wolves, you have only chosen to end in one belly instead of another.’ (Page 482)
  • A general can take care of the living or weep for the dead, but he cannot do both.’ (Page 686)
  • The worst sin a general can commit, worse than blundering, worse than losing, worse than anything, is to desert the men who depend on him.’ (Page 687)

Character Insights

As I’ve also mentioned before Jordan does a wonderful job of describing the world through the characters perspective. The banker does not see the world in the same way as a homeless beggar. They act differently, talk differently and notice different things.

The classic example of this is Siuan Sanche who grew up in a fishing village. Here are quotes from her point of view, or her dialogue.

  • Everything was sailing along according to plan. (Page 773)
  • That was what had her flapping like a fisher-bird whose catch had been stolen (Page 774)
  • There were lionfish out there, and she was swimming in darkness. (Page 775)
  • This was not the first hard corner she had ever been in. A fifteen-year-old girl with nothing but her bait knife, hauled into an alley by four hard-eyed louts with their bellies full of cheap wine – that had been harder to escape than this. (Page 777)
  • ‘It’s time to stop trying to hack a hole in the hull, and start bailing. Even you can still mitigate your offense, Elaida.’ (Page 777)
  • She ground her teeth. Burn my soul, I’ll use this lot for fish bait! (Page 778)
  • I swear, one day I will feed that woman to the silverpike!’ (Page 781)
  • ‘I may no longer wear the stole,’ Siuan replied just as flatly, ‘but I still know how to ready a crew for a storm. (Page 796)
  • Just because I can hook a shark from a boat, I do no offer to wrestle it in the water. (Page 853)

I have read some opinion that Siuan’s fishing analogies are over-used. And as good as they are, I do agree. They are packed together tighter than sardines in a can. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself). They are good, but a little too numerous for my taste.

Similarly for Perrin, the blacksmith:

  • He felt as weak as the worst wrought iron, ready to bend to any pressure. (Page 685)
  • Swing a hammer in haste, and you usually hit your own thumb. (Page 689)
  • Blood trickled down his side; his side burned like a forge-fire. (Page 677)

‘Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain. (Page 397)

‘No.’ The word came thin as a whisper, but strong enough to fill every ear. (Page 408)

A touch of humour:

Master al’Vere put his head into the common room, and came the rest of the way when he saw them sitting apart. ‘There is an Ogier in the kitchen,’ he told Perrin with a bemused look. ‘An Ogier. Drinking tea. The biggest cup looks …’ He held two fingers as though gripping a thimble. ‘Maybe Marin could pretend Aiel walk in here every day, but she nearly fainted when she saw this Loial. I gave her a double tot of brandy, and she tossed it down like water. Nearly coughed herself to death; she doesn’t take more than wine, usually. I think she’d have drunk another, if I’d given it to her.’ (Page 486)

Some irony…

In the stories, when somebody fulfilled a prophecy, everyone cried ‘Behold!’ or some such, and that was that except for dealing with the villains. Real life did not seem to work that way. (Page 566)

And even love…

She wanted to go after Rhuarc and introduce herself to Amys – reintroduce herself – but Rhuarc and Amys were looking into one another’s eyes in a way that excluded intruders. (Page 369)

Jordan, the master story-teller is leading us through the series with prophecy.

  • ‘The stone that never falls will fall to announce his coming. Of the blood, but not raised by the blood, he will come from Rhuidean at dawn, and tie you together with bonds you cannot break. He will take you back, and he will destroy you.’ (Page 408)
  • With you …“He shall spill out the blood of those who call themselves Aiel as water on sand, and he shall break them as dried twigs, yet the remnant of a remnant shall he save, and they shall live.” A hard prophecy, but this has never been a gentle land.’ She met his gaze without flinching. A hard land, and a hard woman. (Page 573)

But that doesn’t mean we know exactly what’s going to happen. There’s still some chance at work, and some red herrings (not a pun, this time):

For a moment she let herself think of the images she had glimpsed, just for a moment, flickering around Gawyn’s head. Gawyn kneeling at Egwene’s feet with his head bowed, and Gawyn breaking Egwene’s neck, first one then the other, as if either could be the future. (Page 798)

And a memory from my own writing. The very first story I can remember writing was in Year 3 and began with the something like, “The branches scratched the window with an eerie crrrr-crrr noise”

He fought wrapped in the cold emotionlessness of the Void, but fear scraped at its boundaries like wind-lashed branches scratching a window in the night. (Page 72)

I hope you’ve enjoyed these highlights as much as I did.