Search the most comprehensive database of interviews and book signings from Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and the rest of Team Jordan.
2012-04-30: I had the great pleasure of speaking with Harriet McDougal Rigney about her life. She's an amazing talent and person and it will take you less than an hour to agree.
2012-04-24: Some thoughts I had during JordanCon4 and the upcoming conclusion of "The Wheel of Time."
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This chapter includes two very important events. The first is the establishment of Hrathen and Sarene's relationship. The 'dramatic eye-lock' is, admittedly, over-used in fiction. However, I found it appropriate here, since I later have Hrathen remark on Sarene. I wanted to establish that the two had an understanding, and I needed to introduce an overplot for Sarene. Hrathen got his thirty-day timebomb in chapter three, and Raoden not only has his exile, but the problems with the gangs established in the last chapter. So far, Sarene only had her suspicion regarding Raoden's death, which really isn't enough to carry her sections of the novel.
One of the plotting elements I had to establish in this book was the fact that a single man—in this case, Hrathen—can have a serious and profound effect on the future of an entire people. If I didn't establish this, then Sarene's sections would lack a sense of drama, since Hrathen himself wouldn't seem like much of a threat. You'll have to judge for yourself if I actually manage to do this or not.
The second important part of this chapter, obviously, is the introduction of Kiin's family. Sarene's personality makes her less independent than Raoden or Hrathen. It isn't that she lacks determination, or even stubbornness. However, her plots, plans, and personality all require other people—she needs politics, allies, and enemies. Ashe provides a wonderful way for her to talk through her problems. However, I felt that she needed someone within the court of Arelon with which to work and plan. As the book progresses, you'll notice that Sarene's chapters include far more side characters than Hrathen or Raoden's chapters. In fact, I'll bet she has more than the other two combined. This is just another manifestation of her communal personality—she excels in situations where she can coordinate groups, and she needs a lot of different people to interact with to make her personality really come out.
I have gotten a little grief from readers regarding Kiin's family. Some think that the family as a whole feels too 'modern.' It is an anachronism that, to an extent, I'll admit. One of the quirks about the fantasy genre is how it generally prefers to deal with ancient governments, technologies, and societies without actually making its characters conform to more ancient personality patterns. In other words, most fantasy main characters are people who, if dusted off a bit and given a short history lesson, could fit-in quite well in the modern world.
I'll be honest. I prefer the genre this way. I don't read fantasy because I want a history lesson, though learning things is always nice. I read for characters—and I want to like the characters I get to know. I like putting characters in situations and exploring how they would deal with extreme circumstances. I just don't think this kind of plotting would be as strong, or as interesting, if the characters weren't innately identifiable to a modern readership.
My in-world explanation for this is simple. Just because our world placed a certain kind of cultural development alongside a certain level of technological development doesn't mean that it always has to be that way. In many of my worlds, culture has out-stripped technology. This does have some rational basis; I write worlds that involve very distinct—and often very prevalent—magic systems. Because of the benefit of these magics, many of my societies haven't been forced to rely as much on technology. There is more leisure time, more time for scholarship, and—as a result—the societies are more developed.
That said, Kiin's family is a bit extreme, even for me. However, the honest truth is that I wrote them the way I like them. They work, for some reason, to me. They stand out just a little bit, but I'd like to think that it's their brilliance and forward-thinking—rather than a mistake in narrative—that makes them seem so much like a modern family.
Oh, and I'm not exactly certain why the Three Virgins were surprised. However, this line from Kiin always cracks me up. I think of three virgins, think of them very surprised, and. . .yeah. Anyway, I'm sure they got more than they expected.
Kiin doesn't take orders, here. Another interesting little character trait, but it shouldn't be too surprising. Kiin's personality all along has indicated how little he regards the titles and authority of other men.
So, call me melodramatic, but I think the Kiin surprise is one of my favorite in the novel. I've been foreshadowing this one from almost the beginning. And while it isn't a major part of the plot, it does suddenly explain a lot about Kiin's character.So, in case you couldn't infer it from the text, Kiin is Eventeo's (Sarene's father) older brother. He should have inherited the throne, but he wasted his youth on pleasure voyages and exploration, visiting foreign ports while his little brother stayed behind and helped rule the kingdom. (Their father was ailing, and often Eventeo would have to hold court for him and attend the other tasks of king.)
Some minor crisis arrived at the same time as their father died, and Eventeo—thinking his brother unworthy of the throne—eased into the role of king and was crowned before Kiin was the wiser. Eventeo dealt with the problems of state, and generally was a good king. When Kiin got back from his latest trip, however, he was furious to find that his crown had been stolen from him. He demanded it back; Eventeo refused, and had Kiin banished.
Kiin was popular with the military men, however, because of the heroic figure he cut. He was the adventuring sailor, while Eventeo was a scholarly bureaucrat. Over the next few years, Kiin managed to gather a naval force from pirates, deserters from Eventeo's armies, and mercenary forces. It was during this time he nearly died to the accident that crushed his throat. He took the name 'Dreok,' after Aon Reo, and sailed against Teod, trying to take the throne by force.
Eventeo won (barely) and Kiin escaped with his life (barely.) He went to Arelon to recoup and plan his next invasion. However, he fell in love with Daora, and slowly began to loose his hard edge. A decade or so later, we have Kiin the chef and home-maker.
I think it's a great backstory because of the questions it leaves. Eventeo did something that might have been right for his country, but something that was legally incorrect. All excuses aside, he usurped the throne. Kiin wouldn't have made a good king—he didn't have practice at administration, and he was a brusque, impetuous young man. However, the throne still should have been his.
Moments like this one—when the secrets, foreshadowing, and hints all click together—are one of my greatest joys in writing. We've got a few more good ones coming up in the book. However, I did go a little overboard in places. We'll talk about that next.
Kiin gets a little over-confident here by letting the two of them go on top. However, he doesn't know how powerful the Dakhor are. He assumes that his roof is unscalable.
In addition, he realizes how difficult a situation he is in. Dilaf has an army—Kiin's fortress house, no matter how well fortified, can't defend against them for long. He needs to do something, and thinks that maybe the negotiations will offer a way. So, he takes the chance.
Lukel isn't as interesting as Galladon, but I still enjoyed giving him a viewpoint. He has the perfect personality to show what I wanted in these chapters. He's not a warrior—like Kinn—or a king—like Raoden. He's just a regular person caught in a nightmare.
I wanted to deal a little bit with prisoner mentality in this scene. People allow terrible things to be done to them in situations like this. Part of it is because they fear what COULD happen more than they fear what IS happening. In this case, hope proves their enemy. The Dakhor stop killing the people and start rounding them up instead. The reason for this is simple—after seeing and hearing such terrible things, the people would run and fight. However, if the Dakhor back off, the people can hope that the worst is over. For this reason, they let themselves get rounded up and gathered in Elantris.
It may seem convenient that the soldiers wait to kill the people, but I think it makes sense. You want to gather everyone in an enclosed place, where they will be trapped, before you begin your slaughter in earnest. That way you can be certain there are no escapees. The only one I fudged here was Kiin. A Dakhor probably should have killed him. However, I've had enough corpses in this book. Randomly killing off Kiin seemed like too much. (Some readers are already in rebellion over the people I've killed—or, rather, will kill shortly. . . .)
Anyway, I get past part of this concern by throwing in the 'purification rites' line. This hints that there is some sort of ritual that needs to be preformed before the people can be killed, and therefore explains why the Dakhor don't just slaughter them immediately. (I still think that control is the greater reason, however.) Another explanation of why the slaughter starts is mentioned by Lukel. Most of the Derethi left in Arelon are regular soldier-monks, not Dakhor. They don't have the same. . .zeal for destruction as Dakhor.