The Shadow Rising was too damn long. Although it is a good read, the length turned me off and soured my enjoyment of the story. This might seem like unnecessary ranting since I’ve completed the first three books in the series, which are all hefty, and read the prequel of the series shortly after completing The Shadow Rising. But for some silly reason I thought (or convinced myself) that by the fourth book Jordan would realize how unnecessary it is to make his books so long for no reason. I should have known better. The length of the series should have been an indicator that Jordan never realized that he was going overboard with length.
Despite that, this installment of the Wheel of Time series was great in that we learn more about this fantasy world as we see it begin to change. We see a bit more of the Aiel and learn their history; we realize how corrupt the White Tower is, or rather, how divided it is; and we see Perrin become the leader he is destined to be. We pick up with everyone (Rand, Perrin, Mat, Moiraine, Lan, Nynaeve, Elayne, Egwene, Faile, Loial, Thom) in Tear. Rand has Callandor and is trying to control his power while staving off Moiraine’s influence, rule Tear, and keep some of the Forsaken at bay. Mat wants to leave Tear but can’t because of Rand’s pull as a ta’veren. Perrin wants to return to Two Rivers to help his people, who are being attacked by White Cloaks and trollocs, but wants to protect Faile as well. So, for the while, they dawdle.
What gets the characters moving is a trolloc attack. Like in the previous three books, it is the attack that gets the characters moving and it is always preceded by a moment of security, or of the characters dawdling, wondering what they should do and then—Surprise!!—the trollocs attack. Totally did not see that coming (rolls eyes). I wonder if all the books are structured this way.
Shortly after the attack, the characters decide on their chores for this installment. The decisions: Perrin returns to the Two Rivers with the annoying Faile in tow. Three of the Aiel join him and Faile as well as Loial, who leads them through the Ways. Since Egwene was carelessly hopping around Tel’aran’rhiod, one of the Wise Ones of the Aiel summoned her for a study abroad program so she joins Moiraine, Mat, Lan, and Rand as they travel to the Aiel Waste, to Rhuidean. Mat tags along because he is compelled to go. Moiraine wants to keep an eye on Rand. And Rand must go to Rhuidean, says the Aiel. After questioning the two members of the Black Ajah that they caught in Tear, Elayne and Nynaeve realize that the rest must be in Tanchico. They decide to go there and are accompanied by Thom (sent by Moiraine to protect them) and Juilin (sent by Rand and Lan). Meanwhile, Min is at the White Tower, posing as a silly, pretty girl while working undercover for the Amyrlin Seat.
We read from various perspectives in this installment and not just the perspectives of those we are familiar with. We hear from two officers in the White Cloaks’ army and the Amrylin Seat as well. There is also a tidbit from Padan Fain who now calls himself Ordeith and a new character pops up, Egeanin, a Seanchan who falls in with Nynaeve and Elayne’s group. While I appreciate these switches, it did not provide the effect I was looking for. The different perspectives allowed me the chance to see what’s going on in various places and what the plans are on both sides—the good and the evil. But while some stood out, most seem to run together. All the females sound alike and all the males sound same. That’s because they all have the same worries: The females worry about how the males perceive them and the males worry about how to prevent the females from bossing them around. It is Jordan’s style to be repetitious when it comes to a character’s thoughts and that makes the characters’ interior dialogues all the more annoying. Much of this installment is composed of interior dialogues, filled with repetitious thoughts, and unnecessary descriptions, most already familiar to the reader. They could have been cut.
Actually, the interior dialogues of Nynaeve, Elayne, and Egwene drove me up the wall. They are the most annoying characters in the series and their perspectives are a pain to read from. I’m tired of their stubbornness and Nynaeve’s pointless anger. I hope that the next time Nynaeve tugs her braid her hair falls out because I see no reason for her to be angry so frequently. With the exception of Min, I more so enjoyed reading from the guys’ perspectives than the girls. I enjoyed Perrin’s parts but disliked his redundant thoughts and Faile’s stubbornness, though I do respect her. Mat is always interesting. And Rand is getting a bit boring now but I am still interested in his story. I’d prefer if another character tells me what Rand does.
Like The Dragon Reborn, this installment could have been shorter. Actually, if Jordan had held back a bit and cut all the excessive fluff, he could have joined this installment to The Dragon Reborn to make one book—The Dragon’s Reborn but the Shadow’s Rising. My interest in the story is still strong so I will continue with the series. I began skipping sentences in this installment and it is highly likely that I will continue to do so in the others if their structure is the same. As annoyed as I am by the length, I am still impatient to find out what happens next.
Despite these misgivings, I do admire Jordan’s work. I find it to be a great high-fantasy series with flecks of Christian imagery and bits of Celtic mythology sprinkled throughout. There might be some influence from other religions and mythologies but since I am not yet familiar with them, they do not stick out to me. The Christian influence is strong with Rand as the savior (Christ) come to save the world through self-sacrifice. This particular sentence especially stood out to me in this installment: “The White Tower shall be broken by his name, and Aes Sedai shall kneel to wash his feet and dry them with their hair.” It made me recalled a story in the Bible when a woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair.
While reading the Celtic section of The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, I couldn’t help thinking of The Wheel of Times series. I realized that Jordan took certain elements straight from the Celts, sometimes changing them a bit to fit his story (similar to what Tolkien did for his LOTR series with Nordic mythology). Names such as Tuatha De Danann, Uther Pendragon (was already familiar with him), Sangreal, and Galahad were unfamiliar to me prior to reading up on Celtic mythology so the connection wasn’t readily apparent while reading WOT. This is a personal frustration of mine. I wish I knew more of everything so I can quickly pick up on the allusions and other elements that authors include in their work and be even more amazed by their talent, resourcefulness, intelligence, and imagination. But while I work at expanding my knowledge, I’ll stick to rereading and revisiting to make these connections.
Quotes from the book:
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”
“…no one fears what is familiar as much as what is strange.”
“To believe a thing is not to make it true.”
- Sounding the Horn: A Review of The Wheel of Time Book Two: The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (reviewsbysteve.wordpress.com)
- To Dance with Jak O’the Shadows (skoce.wordpress.com)
- Go Trickster, Go Gambler Go! (skoce.wordpress.com)
- Review 181: The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time 04) (thelablib.org)
- 5 Wheel of Time Stories I Want to Read Post-A Memory of Light (and 4 Others) (tor.com)