Continuing my log of this epic fantasy series! Check back on this page as I update with my reviews of each book in the series.

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#4 The Shadow Rising

Published: 1993

Read: 29th March 2022

The Shadow Rising felt like the fruition of previous efforts, and continues Jordan’s trend of each book being better than its successor in the Wheel of Time series. Despite the overall story actually finishing up as a set-up for future events, I was moved by both the scope and successful payoff within this book’s events.

No prologue this time 😯 but a heavy Chapter 1 regardless, setting up a lot of plot points across three factions (Tar Valon, Whitecloaks and Seanchan) for this novel and further ones. The opening chapters are spent in Tear, where Rand has claimed the legendary Ter’angreal sword Callandor and fortress with the assistance of loyal Aiel. The man he defeated at the conclusion of The Dragon Reborn was Forsaken member Ishamael and not The Dark One, and whilst the Dark One is still locked away, his taint slips through the Pattern and attacks our three ta’averen Rand, Mat and Perrin. On top of this, the other Forsaken plot against the three young heroes, and the Black Ajah continue to be a tantalising target for the Accepted ranked Aes Sedai Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve following their escape.

How many more points like that had there been, where a single decision one way or another affected the weave of the Pattern for thousands of years? A thousand times a thousand tiny branching points, a thousand times that many, all twitching the Pattern into a different design. He himself was a walking branching point, and maybe Mat and Perrin, too. What they did or did not do would send ripples ahead, through the Ages.

Thus our ensemble cast splits, with four plotlines running throughout The Shadow Rising.

  • Pressured by both fearful and greedy Tairen Lords and haunted by the Prophecies of the Dragon, Rand sets his own path by using a portal stone to travel to the Aiel Waste, seeking an army that will follow him loyally. Egwene, Moraine, Lan and Mat follow him, encountering a dizzying number of clans and learning the shocking true history of the people.
  • Perrin however hears rumours of Whitecloak trouble in The Two Rivers relating to a man with Golden Eyes. He asks Loial to travel back to his home through the Ways, yet his efforts in trying to keep his new partner Faile safe have mixed results.
  • Whilst Egwene has much to learn about dreamwalking from the Aiel Wise Ones, Elayne and Nynaeve head West to the seedy town of Tanchico in pursuit of the Black Ajah. They are accompanied by Thom and Juilin at the behest of their respective partners (newly-found Rand for Elayne, stone-faced Lan for Nynaeve), and we learn fascinating information about the Sea People’s culture in particular.
  • Finally, Min returns to the White Tower as Lady Elmindra, having puzzling yet tense viewings of both Warders and Sisters under the watchful eyes of Siuan Sanche.
Most men want to believe in something larger than themselves, something wider than their own fields. That is why there are nations, Perrin, and peoples.

With plots like that, epic truly feels like the appropriate word for this world-spanning journey. Like in The Dragon Reborn, Jordan gives each perspective a significant amount of time before switching, and I found myself equally engaged in all four (the first three take up most of the page count). I loved getting Rand’s perspective again, if only because in this book I felt myself understanding him and his burden for the first time. His struggle felt personally relatable, and Jordan’s worldbuilding on the other side of the Dragonwall was excellent. Additionally, Rand and the Forsaken are playing games within games within games, leading to a jaw-dropping conclusion. On the other hand, Perrin’s storyline unexpectedly had me emotional. A little because of his return home (there was a head-spinning amount of characters named and developed/ dropped in a very short time), but mostly due to his character interactions and more sombre personal voice. There were also some great battle descriptions here.

"That mountain can grow awfully heavy sometimes. When do you find a chance to put it down a while?"
"When you die."

On the journey to Tanchico, Elayne provides a mature and regal worldview as Nynaeve handles significantly more responsibility. What ties The Shadow Rising together is everything’s relation to the Dragon, with each plot having their own repercussions on characters elsewhere. Every character’s actions impact the plot heavily, making them feel like active agents rather than swept up bystanders in this tale.

My only qualms relate to the vertiginous amount of characters across factions introduced, and Jordan’s surprisingly out-dated writing on women. The latter in particular rankled me. The series was published in the early 90s and portrays powerful women, but somehow these powerful women end up in scanty clothes or nothing at all. Jordan also seems to be pushing Rand’s relationship into one where women share him, and I don’t know how to feel about that at all in a modern fantasy story.

These concerns aside (I really do have to put them aside to continue reading the rest of the good stuff), there was a lot to like in book five of the Wheel of Time series. I am going to jump straight into book six and keep this momentum going before I hit the dreaded “slog” of the series.

Currently reading #5 The Fires of Heaven.

Read here for part 1: Reviews of Books 1 to 3

Read here for part 2: Why the TV show disappointed me

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