Well, it took me a while, by my standards, but I finally finished “The Shadow Rising.” And boy, was that book looong. At least, it certainly felt that way. Or at least, it felt that way at parts. I don’t recall feeling this way when reading the comparably lengthy books in the “Stormlight Archive” series earlier this year. This book did take a while to get started, around 300 pages before the various parties took off from Tear. But when I think back on my readthrough, I think it has everything to do with the Aiel. Or at least, the wastes.
Rand’s storyline, while undoubtedly the more important of the three branching storylines, was also, unfortunately, the least interesting, at least as far as my tastes are concerned. Don’t get me wrong, the history of the Aiel being told backwards in crazy trippy visions was one of the book’s big highlights, but the rest of it was kind of dull and predictable. I really hope that in the next book Rand is quickly done with the wastes, I don’t know how much more I can hear about how hot and dry and barren it is, or take the lectures on those kooky Aiel customs (or the main party’s continued surprised reactions on how different those customs are from their own). The long trek through the wastes was broken up only the occasional (short) Trolloc encounter and interactions with the Obviously Evil Peddlers, LLC.
On the other hand, the other two storylines were quite interesting. The Battle for Emond’s Field was legitimately one of the most intense battles I can ever remember reading, stakes raised by the personal connection Perrin has with each and every person defending the village. Elayne and Nyneave competing with a clusterfuck of Black Ajah, a Forsaken, the Whitecloaks, and the clusterfuck that is Tanchinco varied between amusing and intriguing, trying to piece together the common thread between all these factions. Also spiced with a little “Seanchan questioning her culture” fun times.
Perrin remains my favorite character. I was afraid he would lose that spot at the beginning of this book, when he’s even mopier than usual, and then ready to give himself up for death. It is unfortunate that it required the death of his family to become the character I always wanted him to be, but become it he does, a kind of badass (if involuntary) leader who does what it takes, even using his wolf powers without griping. One day he will accept the “Lord Perrin” title and all will be right with the world.
Mat’s new knowledge of Manetheren military tactics is both funny and also leaves me wanting to seeing General Mat, leader of men. If anything, he’d be even more opposed to a leadership role than Perrin, but such is the life of Ta’veren that he will likely have no choice.
Some shake-ups in the Rand Fanclub. Egwene resigns her #1 membership on the grounds that both her and Rand have seen that there are other people out there outside their little village and have spent a significant amount of time making googly eyes at them. Berelain considers membership, but then decides against it when she realized that The Dragon Reborn can actually be pretty fucking terrifying. Elayne actually makes some moves, all of which confuse Rand. Aviendha becomes a secret member, hiding it due to her loyalty to Elayne (I assume), which confuses Rand. And throughout all of this Rand finds himself missing Min, which might speak to his preference. Course, if Min’s prophecies are right, he’s going for a harem ending anyway (and thanks to the Aiel’s tradition of polygamy, apparently one he can do without breaking traditions).
‘The Shadow Rising’ was actually a very fitting name for this book, as perhaps as important as the stories themselves are the backdrops of the world as it slowly goes to shit. Half the countries are either in such bad wars that their populaces are suffering bad, and those that aren’t are currently being ruled by a Forsaken. This is going to require some…work…to sort out.
I was very disappointed with Gawyn. I get that he didn’t owe any particular loyalty to Siuan Sanche (perhaps he even resented her a bit for her closemouthedness regarding his sister) but really, turning against your former teachers? Rallying your fellow students against the rescue attempt while the Tower is assaulted by a foreign force? Then he doesn’t even stick with his decision, after effectively ensuring the Sanche remained a prisoner, he then lets Min escape with her. I wonder if it is telling that Galad, the one whom Elayne continues to insist is terrible because he is driven by duty more than anything else, was not seen anywhere in the fighting or the aftermath. Makes me wonder what he was doing in that whole mess, considering Gawyn filled the role I would have expected from him.
I am very interested to see where Logain’s story goes. He seemed like a throwaway character in the earlier books, a warning of what happened to false dragons, but Jordan kept referencing him and having him make brief appearances as if he didn’t want us to forget about him. Now he’s with Min’s party, and she has seen glory in his future. Jordan sure loves his long, slow plot threads.
Bayle Domon has the coincidence powers of a ta’varen. It was nice to see a resolution to his storyline in Falme, which was cut short by shenanigans.
Are there any Whitecloaks who are actually good aligned? For a group that follows the Light and exists to stomp out evil, most of them are pretty evil-leaning.
This is the first of the books where all the branching storylines don’t come together for one big conclusion. Instead, it’s more like three completely separate stories, barely connected by the dreamer’s ability to talk to one another. Don’t know whether this was for good or for ill.
Rand is heading for madness train, doing things like laughing at nothing. I wonder how much of that is from the taint and how much of that is just from the pressure of literally having the fate of the world resting on you. You don’t need to be a channeler to be broken by the weight of like a hundred prophecies. He hasn’t even learned yet that in addition to being the Dragon Reborn and He Who Comes With the Dawn he is also something called the Caramoor. More pressure.
I was asked to comment on Perrin and Faile’s relationship here. They….definitely had a rough go of it there, when Perrin was in emo mode and ready to die and Faile decided she was not cool with being left behind. Mutual stubbornness almost destroyed them, till they made up and shared their secrets with one another. Then they got married. Shit, that was a jump for two people who can’t have known each other for more than a few months. To be fair, they both thought it very likely they were going to die soon, which is as good a reason for a quickie marriage as any. Guess we’ll see over the next few books if a marriage rushed into based on the fear of imminent death is lasting. I’m still sticking with them having the most realistic relationship of those portrayed so far.
The parts with the snake and fox people were … confusing. Just when I thought Jordan was content just explaining all the weird rules of the worlds he had already established he throws these …things …into the mix, as we don’t really get any explanation as to what they are or what the heck happened in there. Also, what were Rand and Moriane’s three questions? Inquiring minds want to know!
Really, the Battle for Emond’s Field was great. I’m hoping that this is sign of more big battles like that to come.
The next book is the awesomely named “The Fires of Heaven” which is almost as long as this one was, so it will probably also take me a good two weeks to finish. I will probably think of something fun to post next week in the meantime.