The Shadow Rising

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 tiresome 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 Shayol Ghul and the 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 onto 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 just 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. Moraine 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 can 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 may be at this 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.

The Dragon Reborn

The Dragon Reborn is book three in the Wheel of Time series. There are many things I liked in this book and several things I didn’t. I’m sure many things I discuss below will come to fruition or find resolution at a later point in the series, but today I am just giving my reaction/opinion of the story so far. Be forewarned, this post will contain spoilers. If you are currently reading the series for the first time, tread lightly. If you have already read the series, feel free to have a few laughs at the comments I’m sure will be amusing as you are privy to the information I have yet to read.

Before we begin, I am loving this series. There are several things I may critique/comment on here but don’t think any of them are jabs at the story or Robert Jordan, because I am having a great time.

Now, let’s begin with the beginning, or shall we say the prologue. This book opens up with the Children of the Light. I think these guys are dumb. Most readers probably agree with me. They have been riding around causing trouble in the name of the Light like some fanatical cult and it just irks me. The opening leads us to believe their leader, Pedron Niall, is planning some interesting maneuvers that will allow this group to gain a ton of power. Then we never really see these guys again the rest of the book except when the girls humiliate Dain Bornhald by abusing their power and pissing off Verin. Which, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about Dain having lost his dad in the previous book. I hate these guys. Especially Byar, but I think Byar and Perrin will have to face off later on and Perrin will totally wreck this guy, and I look forward to that confrontation. As for the rest of the Children, they are pretty much Darkfriends as far as I’m concerned.

Speaking of Perrin, let’s go ahead and move on to him. Perrin is one of my favorite characters so far. He is my kind of guy. Physically powerful but a thinker who tries to read a situation before acting and he doesn’t like to hurt others (except the Whitecloaks he destroys while saving the Aiel from the cage). He tries to do what is right. But I wish he would stop trying to hide from what he is and accept his abilities to communicate with wolves. I’m not sure why he fights it so hard. He knows Elyas can control it without turning feral, but he did see the villager who did lose himself to this ability so I understand his concern. He doesn’t even try to learn any amount of control except how to shut it off. I know he will come to terms eventually, but I’m impatient. Maybe Faile will help this arc progress.

This book introduces Zadine/Faile who becomes (rather quickly) important to Perrin. They become a little too close a little too easily for my opinion. I don’t care if Min (who also disappears completely after the early chapters) predicted the caged Aiel, the falcon, the hawk, a Tuatha’an with a sword, and an encounter with Lanfear at some point. In this book we only get the caged Aiel and the falcon in the form of Faile. We do not get the Tuatha’an with a sword, the hawk (which I assume may be another woman, interesting), and the encounter with Lanfear unless we count the dream encounter. I do like how Hopper is his dream guide though. Anyway, as for Faile and Perrin, I feel like we didn’t get much of an introduction to her as a character and I’m a bit underwhelmed with her at the moment. She is a hunter for the horn but she becomes privy to the fact that the horn has been found and that Mat has blown the horn, thus securing her tie to the group and effectively ridding her of her initial goals. I guess I’ll just have to wait until we get to know her more. I have started book four and it seems like she and Perrin are already married though. I feel like I missed something.

Moving on. This book is different from the first two in that it doesn’t follow Rand at all. It is all about Perrin, Matt, and Egwene with Nynaeve and Elayne. Out of the nearly 800 pages I think Rand was in like 15 of them. This is fine and it’s great to get more of these other characters, but I hoped to get a little more from what I consider our main character especially after what happened at the end of book two.

I did like how Mat gets his own storyline. I mean, he practically becomes a sideline object after he takes the dagger in book one. Even when he blows the Horn of Valere he doesn’t really contribute much. The heroes he calls didn’t even talk to him (did they?). After he is healed, we get a reintroduction to him as a character which I thought was fun and engaging even though his luck seems to be way too convenient and he is a little bit of a dick. I’m sure his luck will play out interestingly moving forward. Egwene does see him playing dice with Ba’alzamon in her dreamworld intuition thing.

I’ll save Shai’tan for later and move on with Egwene. She and Elayne become Accepted pretty quickly despite their transgressions. I do think the ritual to become Accepted is great. We get to see so many things that can reveal potential plots/glimpses into the alternate realities. That is if they are actually real. We also get an intimate insight into each character we see go through it as they must face their fears. It just seems they are raised to Accepted without them having been trained properly. Is the Aes Sedai simply merit based? I thought it was a highly disciplined organization. There is so much that goes on within the Aes Sedai network too. Liandran (this bitch) and the Black Ajah make all relations tense in the tower and we can’t trust anyone. I never liked Elaida, but we are led to believe she might be Black Ajah, but then toward the end it seems like she isn’t and really just cares about Elayne. I don’t know about this story arc, but I’m ready to find out more. I hope Liandran gets the collar if you know what I mean.

Oh, and how the hell does Lanfear just walk around the White Tower with nobody noticing? Seriously. She practically yells to everyone she runs into that she hates Aes Sedai and for sure isn’t one. That doesn’t throw any red flags? Can she just hide her use of the One Power from every single Aes Sedai it the tower and walk around freely? No one questions her being there if she isn’t Aes Sedai? She even turns into Else at some point? I have no idea what to think about her and she is barely in this book after barely being in the last one in which she first appears. I think all we really learn about her in this one is that she can control the dreamworld somehow and she thinks she is better than Ba’alzamon.

Lets talk about the Forsaken real quick since Lanfear is supposedly one of the strongest. Have they all escaped? Are they all already in positions of power across the land? When and how did this happen? We learn of several in this book. One controls Illian. One controlled Tear (did he die?). One, presumably, has turned our strong queen Morgase into a weak little infant. How does she go from threatening the White Tower to the mind slave of some random dude. Also, I’m looking forward to the Morgase and Thom reunion. If it doesn’t happen I’ll be disappointed. I find it strange they are now everywhere and pretty much controlling each city in their own version of the Great Game. I know the Forsaken are supposedly super powerful, but the speed of their ascent in the various regions of the world is striking. Did I miss any Forsaken that showed up in this book? I don’t remember.

Anyway, what’s next? Lets move on to the Dark Lord since we don’t see Padan Fain in this book. I’m sure he will pop up later. We get another showdown between Rand and Ba’alzamon again at the climax of this book. I swear, if I find out that Rand needs to find five more Horcruxes before he can kill the Dark Lord for real, I’ll be pissed. I know this series came out first, but I couldn’t help but notice that he has fought the big baddie twice…..and a half if we count the first book. Each time he believes he actually killed him. I hope this trend ends here.

Rand has Callandor and we for sure know the Aiel are the People of the Dragon and will be showing up a lot more now. I’m okay with it since I like them as characters. They remind me a little of the Fremen from Dune though I know they are much different. I did feel like the confrontation at the end was a little anticlimactic. The Forsaken in the Stone of Tear gets roasted by Moraine fairly easily just prior to Ba’alzamon randomly showing up in the shadows. Then Ba’alzamon runs like a wuss which seems unlike the character he is supposed to be. I think part of the reason it seems anticlimactic is that we see so little of Rand throughout the book and then we go right back to him like the long absence wasn’t even a thing. I also thought it was funny that the name of the book is technically Rand’s title and he isn’t even a major character in this one. 

Okay. I think that is all I have to say about this book. I’ll continue to post about my read-through of this series as I complete each book. It may be awhile before I post about the next few since the next three books are the longest in the series. I have been getting a lot of reading in though so maybe it will only be a few weeks before I post about book four.

I knew this series had a huge fan base and I’m glad to have met several after my post about book two. I hope to meet many more as I read along, but I am also cautious about not having anything spoiled for me. However, if you are a fan, welcome and I’m glad to meet you. I welcome all discussions but try to keep it contained within the first three books for my own sake. At least until I discuss book four. Other than that, comment away. There is nothing more fun than discussing a book with fellow fans.

The Great Hunt

I know I said I wouldn’t write book recommendations for each of the Wheel of Time books since there is 14 of them and, let’s be honest, you only need the first book recommended in a series to get started and determine for yourself if you will finish it. That said, this post is not technically a recommendation. I thought it would be fun to track my journey through this enormous series. So, here comes my thoughts on The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan. I will keep this post spoiler free (which proved harder than I thought) for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but I am absolutely open to having a discussion in the comments with any spoilers. I would greatly appreciate it if you do not include spoilers from later books so nothing is ruined for me before I get to it.

I finished this book about two weeks ago (and about two weeks after I finished the first book). I flew through it. I found myself absorbed in the story and wanting to read it with any free time I had, which is a sign of a good book. I have to say I am greatly enjoying this series. Right now I’m about 2/3 through the third book and will probably finish it before this time next week. Of course, there were things I liked and didn’t like as there are for nearly every story. So let’s begin.

One thing I didn’t like that is completely excusable is the lack of resolution for some story arcs. Obviously there is plenty of story left to resolve some of the arcs that begin in this book (or began at the end of the first book), so I can live with a few unknowns at the end of this one. Though unless there is going to be a long play, there was one specific character that I was expecting to see a resolution with, and I have no idea where Mr. Merchant Darkfriend is currently (hopefully that doesn’t give anything away). Honestly, I would have been okay with just a short description but I’m sure he will pop up later on.

This book begins the trend (I’m assuming it will continue to be one from where I am currently) of using prophecies. These prophecies, some to be potentially accurate and others probably not, are used to heighten expectations and let the entire population of this imaginary land be somewhat in-the-know of what we as readers are experiencing. Prophecies are a great literary tool and I think Jordan uses them well.

One thing that is only slightly excusable is the Seanchan. I was intrigued by them and they obviously created some questions, which so far many are unanswered but still interesting (I hope I get the answers thought it may be awhile). They of course created conflict and allowed for some great character development. They also were an interesting commentary on slavery and psychology. I’m not going to write a literary analysis of this, but I’m sure I could if I was so inclined. Human history is littered with societies that included slavery, but this is a different take on it since many things apply to only Jordan’s world.

I’ve become a big fan of Loial. Maybe because I also love books, but also because he is odd man out. He is too hasty for an Ogier and is considered young at the age of 90, yet he now travels with those who he considers hasty and naive in many ways. The Ogier as a people often remind me of the Ents in Lord of the Rings with their relationship with nature and their view concerning the actions of those who live shorter lives.

Also, what is up with Selene? I felt like every time she is mentioned I was reminded that men go simple-minded in front of gorgeous women (which is not entirely true) and that good-looking people are highly influential (which pop culture today proves to be true unfortunately). I know she is dangerous and I found myself at times shaking my head at how some characters interact with her.

Let’s not even talk about Ingtar. I like that guy and choose to continue doing so.

The introduction to fast-travel in the first book via the Ways was interesting, plausible, and enjoyable. Then we get another means of fast-travel that opens up an infinite world of possibilities and I’m unsure of how it will impact the remainder of the story. Especially since the theme of dreams is further explored. Either way, I got a Skyrim vibe from this form of travel. I hope it doesn’t get overused as I continue through the story because it could easily become an overly convenient way of getting characters around.

Well, that’s all I have for this book. I’m afraid things are already starting to merge in regards to what happens in each book. I’ll post about The Dragon Reborn shortly after I finish it so the events are little more fresh. I may very well include spoilers moving forward so I can discuss things freely, but I’ll give a heads up either way. The last thing I want to do is ruin anything for anyone.

As always, I’m happy to discuss this book with you so leave a comment.

Happy Reading.

The Eye of the World

Today I am recommending The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. This book is the first of 14 in the Wheel of Time series and was originally released in January of 1990 (preceding Game of Thrones by about six years). This epic fantasy series was and continues to be extremely popular. I’ve met several people who raved about it and even one person who has a tattoo covering the middle of his back. My grandmother bought me this first book of the series and it has sat on my shelf, on my “to-read” list, for over ten years. She has always encouraged my love of reading. Then a friend of mine started the series recently and loved it and convinced me to bump this book up to the top of my list so he would have someone to talk to about the series as we both progressed through it. So here I am, beginning possibly the largest series I’ll ever read.

Jordan began writing the first book in 1984 and the series was planned to span six books. It ended up being 14 books with a prequel novel and two companion books. The Wheel of Time series is an impressive 4.4 million words with this first book running just over 300,000, which is the average length for each book in the series (an average novel is roughly 85,000). Below is a breakdown of the series by length.

Image borrowed from Barnes & Noble Statistical Analysis of the Wheel of Time

This is a massive series which, if I’m honest, was the reason it has stayed in my “to-read” pile for so long. I knew I would eventually get around to reading it, but I’m glad I started it now because books are always better enjoyed with friends. In this case, we are both reading through it for the first time so it isn’t a “you should read this because I already have and it’s great and you need to think it’s great too” kind of deal.

I do want to note that I do no plan to write a recommendation for each book in this series (though it would increase the number of book recommendations I post this year). I plan to write this initial recommendation and one final post when I finish the series. I am recommending this series now because I have finished the first book and enjoyed it.

I thought there was a slow area about 2/3 of the way in, but that isn’t bad considering the length of this book, and the ending made up for it and then some. This book is well-written and I never found myself bored (even during the part I thought slow). There is much description but not enough I think to turn many people away. Jordan does name a few of the horses (I have a friend who draws the line at the naming of horses in books of fantasy, weird I know) but nearly everything has a purpose and isn’t simply superfluous world-building. The characters are well-rounded and easily discernible. There is plenty of mystery as you ease your way into this world Jordan has created but he provides everything you need at a good pace and doesn’t leave you hanging unnecessarily. This is a rich world and I am excited to continue my journey into it as I progress through the series.

I will not be providing a summary here because I wish to keep this recommendation spoiler free and I would prefer not to provide a summary of the overarching story versus what is contained in the first book alone. All I will say is that if you like epic fantasy, such as The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Name of the Wind, The Riftwar Saga, etc., then you will enjoy this book and series. If you can convince a friend to join you in this journey, then you may find it even more enjoyable and I recommend doing so. If you can’t, then you will have fun all the same. Just know that you are jumping into a story that will surely make an impression. If you don’t like the first book, then I recommend not completing the series. If you do like the first book, then be prepared to consider this series an essential collection in your library (just as many of us consider Harry Potter).

I understand any hesitation in starting a series this large but know that millions of people have already made this pilgrimage and returned enriched. I look forward to finishing my own read-through as I reach the last novel. I hope you may one day make the journey yourself. If you do, let’s talk about it.

Happy Reading.