I’m well behind in my reread of this series, considering the last book came out about a month ago and I’m only on part four of 13!
The Shadow Rising is high on the list of my favorites of the many WOT books. It’s before the sadface Rand period where he starts to sound like a broken record and it’s the true starting point for the development of the Aiel (my personal favorite culture in the books). The Dragon Reborn ends with Rand taking Calandor, and the Aiel busting into the Stone of Tear along with lots of other things. It wouldn’t be a Wheel of Time book without 20 storylines converging in one place.
The first three books in the series, Eye of the World, The Great Hunt and the Dragon Reborn feel like stepping stones to get us to the point where Rand, and by extension the other two ta’veren, have accepted their destinies and actually start doing Important Things on purpose, instead of stumbling into doing them on accident. The Shadow Rising starts off a new path, one in which Rand has accepted that he is the Dragon and is now working towards the goal of uniting the world to fight the last battle against the Dark One. Mat gains the means to become an important force in the world, this book is really the start of his transformation into the character he becomes later on. Perrin goes back to the Two Rivers to fight Whitecloaks and Trollocs and while he does develop stronger leadership skills the development of his character is minimal.
The Rand storyline in this book is very well done, we get to see things from his perspective through some momentous changes. There are hints of the madness to come as well as seeing the development of his keen eye for manipulating those around him to do what he needs done. There is still a sense of hesitancy though, which helps convey the fact that these skills are still being learned and not just imparted to him magically. There are missteps and that feels natural for him.
Mat goes through two different red stone doors and we got our first glimpses of the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn. Magical, possibly evil creatures who make crooked deals with people from the ‘real’ world. He learns cryptic information about his future that sets him hunting throughout the rest of the series and forces growth on him no matter how badly he doesn’t want it. Sadly once we see what happens to him when he goes through the doorways there isn’t much more told from his perspective except as a window to see what Rand’s actions look like from the outside. He tags along with Rand and vacillates between wanting to leave and feeling tied to Rand by being a ta’veren.
Perrin spends most of his time in the Two Rivers having leadership dropped in his lap and trying to find a way to make Faile leave so she will be safe. I have to be honest, Perrin is my least favorite character at this point. He does not change much throughout the next several books and that is frustrating as a reader. All of the other characters change drastically from who they were at the beginning of the series to this point and then even more before the end. Whereas Perrin is still the same, his defining factor is that he is incredibly strong and that he is a wolf brother. That will be the case in this book and in the next several.
Nyneave and Elaine are heading off to Tanchico, a dangerous city on the verge of open war. They hope to find the Black Ajah and get to something, they aren’t sure what, that the darkfriends are hunting. They run into some very dangerous people and unexpected friends along the way. Nyneave is still suffering from braid pulling tendency, which I am hoping will come to an end very soon. She becomes a much more likeable and enjoyable character once she gets that stick out of her ass. Elayne is making strides towards being a regular character and although she spends a lot of time worrying about if Rand loves her or not, it’s done in a realistic way. What girl in love doesn’t spend a lot of her time mooning about? Their trip is one of those story events that feels very pointless, until you find out what exactly they are hunting for which doesn’t happen for several books. It’s a fun enough adventure that it keeps the pages turning however.
Meanwhile, while all of this portentous action is taking place in the rest of the world, the White Tower is experiencing turmoil that will rock it to the very foundations. Min is maintaining her pretty, empty headed girl cover there, at least until she has to run for her life. The first time I read the Shadow Rising this part was a huge shock. It was at that point I realized that nothing was sacred in this world, the Dragon really was going to break everything and we as readers were going to experience it right along with the characters. I loved the chance that Jordan took by going this route and although it wasn’t nearly as exciting to reread, it was fascinating to see if I could catch any hints of it coming.
The Shadow Rising has the most words, but I don’t feel that it suffers from the pacing issues that plague a few of the books. There is a lot of action and enough time is spent with each narrator that things get somewhere but not so much that it starts to drag on and you are ready to hear from someone else. It left me wanting more and I’m excited to get to the next book in the series.