The Shadow Rising is book four of the Wheel of Time. It is the second longest in the series at roughly one thousand pages. Needless to say, it took me a bit longer to get through this one than the previous three individually. Before I go further, I do want to reiterate that below are my thoughts on this book and there will be spoilers, so if you have yet to get through this installment or have not yet started the series and wish to avoid said spoilers, turn back now. I will be talking about all the things I liked, didn’t like, and the one scene that really caught me by surprise. Seriously, you have been warned.
There is a lot to talk about so please forgive me if I jump around.
This book started off a bit slower than the others as the first several hundred pages take place in the aftermath of book three. We sit around with our characters in the Stone of Tear for awhile before they ultimately split up into groups and the adventures continue. Despite the lull in the beginning, it was still entertaining and once it gets going it gets going. I found myself somewhat eager to follow one story-line despite the switch to another but I was patient and read each page in order. One thing I did notice in the beginning was the characters seemed to have matured greatly since the previous book. I know that sounds weird since the story doesn’t progress outside of the pages and our characters haven’t done much since the last pages of book three, but each of the ta’veren seem to have matured into their roles and become aware of their abilities or obligations to the fate of the world despite still resisting it at times and not fully understanding what these obligations are. I liked this. Even though they have only been away from the Two Rivers for a year. It seems their adventures have been happening quite quickly, but fast-travel does help with that I guess.
Now, where to jump in? Let’s start with those who continue to be my favorite characters. Perrin and Loial. When I wrote about The Dragon Reborn, I had already begun this book and mentioned how Perrin and Faile were already fighting like a married couple despite meeting in the later chapters in book three. Well surprise, surprise, surprise. Going back to the quick-paced adventures, I am curious to know how long they have known each other by the time they literally tie the knot Two Rivers style. I have grown to like Faile despite her temper and her stubbornness. She tricks Loial in order to stay with Perrin (don’t mess with my boy Loial), but I’ve come to like her simply because she is resourceful, strong-willed, stubborn to a fault, knows what she wants, and truly loves our man Perrin who in turn loves her. I was even satisfied with their rushed marriage on the eve of battle. We learn a bit more about Faile which we may have already expected. She is a lady from Saldaea. Cousin to the queen in fact. We’ve had hints all along that she wasn’t merely a merchant’s daughter. I look forward to learning more about her.
Going back to Min’s viewing of Perrin from the beginning of book three, we get another development. The Tuatha’an with a sword. I was not expecting it to be Aram or anyone from the first troop we met in book one. However, I think I am liking the development of this character. I hated Aram at first. I thought he was an ignorant-through-innocence, youthful tool, but now I feel for him. He is no longer innocent, and he has taken up the sword to protect what he cares about. He has forsaken the Way of the Leaf and therefore been abandoned by his remaining family, but he has a purpose now. And that, I think, is a good thing. We have yet to get the hawk (supposedly a woman) and the encounter with Lanfear (unless the latter was counted in the dream in book three but they don’t interact so I am unsure).
We get some fast-travel with Perrin and company going through the Ways with Loial as the guide. Faile and her two Aiel friends, Chiad and Bain, go with Loial while Perrin and Gaul get the shaft. Not a great start, but things turn out well by the end. Hey, even Gaul and Chiad kind of become an item if I remember correctly. We don’t get a lot of Loial in this book unfortunately except that he sneaks away to block off the Ways in the Mountains of Mist for good after they discover their initial attempt did not stop the Trollocs from getting into the area. That, and how he fights like a boss despite being a pacifist at heart.
I didn’t like Lord Luc at all. I thought he was actually just an arrogant hunter of the horn, but I was surprised to find out that he was actually Slayer. He killed Trollocs and Fades but I guess he killed everything else too. But what was his purpose for being there? Who is he really? What is the Tower of Ghenjei? Is it located only in Tel’aran’rhiod where the heroes of ages exist between reincarnations? So many questions and so much more story to read through.
Perrin’s gathering of the Two Rivers folk and fight to defend the area from Trollocs was probably my favorite events in this installment. Many returning characters and the defense of the newly formed/bolstered town was fantastic. I still hate the Children of the Light and Byar and Bornhald are as hateful as ever toward Perrin. I understand they are misguided/misinformed, but I tire of the zealotry of this exhausting organization. They are just dicks. I mean, they don’t even fight in the battle against the Trollocs. Why? Because they think it is a ruse by Perrin as a darkfriend? Hell no. Get out. They should all be designated darkfriends by their own definition for not fighting Trollocs. For letting the women go fight in their stead. The personal bias that follows this crappy group is really getting on my nerves. Especially when Bornhald covered the fact that Padan Fain, now named Ordeith, killed Perrin’s family. Whitecloaks suck and there will need to be a lot of character arc to make me like any of them, but I have an inkling I may get one.
Speaking of Padan Fain, I had it wrong from the last book. I thought we last saw him with the Seanchan as they sailed back out to sea. I presumed wrong. Or maybe that was where we last saw him but I incorrectly assumed he stayed with the Seanchan when they took off. He is now in the stupid Whitecloaks under a false name that everyone in the Two Rivers sees through but Bornhald chooses to ignore. I have no idea what is happening with this guy. He went from a peddler to a hound of the Dark One to breaking free of the Dark One and committing evil on his own. Now he is claiming to be some ancient being that has lived since before the Trolloc Wars. And now he has the ability to turn Myrddraal to his cause? What is happening?
Okay, moving on before I spend this entire post on just Perrin’s story-line. Let’s go to the shorter story-line of this book: Nynaeve and Elayne. Along with Thom Merrilin and Juilin Sandar. We run into Bayle Domon and meet an old Seanchan foe: Egeanin. Nynaeve fights a Forsaken because she is apparently stronger than someone who could weave the power during the Age of Legends despite minimal training, but let’s just chalk that up to Moghedien being rusty from being imprisoned for thousands of years. They get their hands on a seal of the Dark One and a despair-filled ancient object that could potentially bind/subjugate Rand. They do all this and leave another city in ruins. Okay, technically the Black Ajah led by Liandrin messed up the city that was on the verge, similar to Falme, but it seems destruction follows in Nynaeve’s footsteps. Just an observation.
Before we move on to Rand and company, I want to discuss the chapter(s) that totally took me by surprise. What–The–Hell–happened in Tar Valon? Like holy guacamole, an uprising? I somewhat had suspicions about Elaida potentially being Black Ajah, and we don’t get answers in this book, but this was out of nowhere. I’ll just have to read on to see what is going on here. What took me by surprise the most is not just the mutiny, but the fact that they stilled–stilled!–Siuan Sanche. They kind of have to be Black Ajah to instantly still her, right? And the fighting that took place? Did I read correctly that Gawyn actually helped topple the Amyrlin Seat? He made it onto my “let karma kill this guy soon” list pretty fast. His decisions were made with a little more uncertainty though than the Whitecloaks, who are pretty much just aiding evil through their own hatred at this point, but he should have known better. Does he really help the mutiny simply because he doesn’t get answers about his sister’s whereabouts? Doesn’t seem likely or logical. I don’t recall Galad being in the aftermath however. I may get a chance to like that kid, but he was hanging out with the Whitecloaks so maybe not. Now we get to follow Siuan and Min as they continue to influence the unfolding of events despite altered positions. The mutiny does throw a lot of things into chaos for our characters since the White Tower is technically no longer a powerful ally or base of operations. I guess Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene don’t have to take the Aes Sedai oaths and can absolutely destroy some Shadowspawn/Darkfriends with the One Power later on. I’m looking forward to that.
On to Rand. After setting himself up to become King Arthur by sinking Callandor into the Stone of Tear (despite Artur Hawkwing already embodying that legendary reference), he goes off and fast-travels to the Aiel Waste just outside of Rhuidean. He gets to go inside and we get an awesome discovery that gives us a glimpse at the Age of Legends, explains the history of the Aiel, and shows the creation of the Tuatha’an. A lot of history. A lot of change through the ages as the Aiel gradually become what they are now, which reminds me of a cross between the Freman from Dune and the Gerudo from The Legend of Zelda series if the Gerudo were not all female. Or the Aiel could be considered a more badass version of the Unsullied from Game of Thrones. It doesn’t really matter with the comparisons because they are their own society in their own right. It’s just fun to compare them to other franchises I am familiar with.
Mat also goes into Rhuidean and we get a really cool homage to Norse mythology. Mat Cauthan is becoming Odin, which is only an attempt to make me like Mat. I’m slowly allowing this. Moiraine also gets a turn in the forbidden city but we aren’t privy to her experience yet. Hopefully we get more from her moving forward because she has fallen into the backdrop for a bit. Egwene has also. She is learning from the Wise Ones and will probably master how to access and use the dreamworld. We will see.
Rand cuts Asmodean from the Dark One to gain a teacher. Messing up Lanfear’s plans was just a bonus. I’m ready to seen Rand learn to use the One Power. Now he has the two most powerful (probably) sa’angreal. What will he do with them? Will they sit somewhere like Callandor is sitting in the Stone of Tear until a later time? Like the Horn of Valere? I’m going to guess probably. I will see soon enough. Now that I think about it, the Horn is at risk now that the Tower is compromised. A lot is at risk with the Tower being compromised. So many things could happen. I’m getting into the thick of it and I am enjoying every second. I look forward to getting through the entire series so I can speak freely with those who have made the same journey.
That is all I really care to talk about at the moment, which means it’s a good time to wrap this us. As always, feel free to contact me or comment to discuss this book, but please don’t spoil anything for me or any others who are at the same point in the series. We can always talk about the other books as I get to them. See you next time for The Fires of Heaven.