The Shadow Rising: The Next Act Begins

Oh no. Guys. I think I’m into the Wheel of Time now. Like, I don’t think I can back out anymore.

This cover still makes me laugh.

Rand has proved himself the Dragon Reborn by drawing Callindor and claiming Tear. Now, the whole world has their eyes on him. From the recently returned Forsaken to the Aes Sedai and the Children of the Light, everyone waits to see what he’ll do next. Knowing this, he seeks a path that no one will expect. Meanwhile, Mat begins to be pulled towards a new destiny, Perrin returns to the Two Rivers to help with a crisis, Egwene seeks training in the ways of dream walking, Min returns to the White Tower during a time of change and danger, and Nynaeve and Elaine continue their hunt for the Black Ajah. The Wheel of Time is turning, and the fate of the world rests on these young heroes.

There is a lot to talk about here. Of the Wheel of Time books we’ve covered so far, this is easily the longest. It is far longer than The Dragon Reborn! There is so much going on here! It’s like three separate books sandwiched into one!

But they ain’t created equal, I can tell you that for certain.

I really like where Rand’s plot goes in this book. His character has changed dramatically and he’s become tremendously more interesting! He is no longer the generic cliché fantasy protagonist. The dude walks the line of madness, he’s kind of an asshole, he has almost zero control over his god-like powers, and he proves himself to be surprisingly cunning! You never know what he’s going to do next! Is he going to do something amazing? Or is he going to make a terrible mistake?

I am bummed that he ditched Callindor, though. Like, come on! I wanna see the maguffin sword being used! That’s like if King Arthur just threw Excalibur back into the lake!

Although his plotline isn’t my favorite. That would go to Perrin’s plot. Seeing him go back to the Two Rivers and turn the small farming land into a anti-Trollic military force is immensely satisfying and interesting! It all culminates in the Battle of the Two Rivers, my favorite battle in the series so far! It’s an incredible story that I looked forward to eagerly!

That said, it did get off to a weak start. Watching Perrin bicker with his girlfriend for five chapters is not fun.

Nynaeve and Elaine also have their own plotline. This one is fine, but it feels a bit underwritten to me. They’ve got all of six or seven chapters dedicated to their plots, whereas Rand and Perrin have maybe twenty chapters each! It feels more like a side story, even though it has some monumental stuff in it!

They do get more screen time than Min, though. She’s got a whole three chapters dedicated to her! Which… honestly, that’s fine with me. I’m not a huge fan of Min.

Also, there’s a line in this section that genuinely had me raving to my co-workers in a fury. Nynaeve uses magic dreams to find out what the bad guys are looking for. Turns out, it’s a necklace that will somehow let them control Rand. Upon learning this, Elaine asks, “How can a necklace hurt Rand?” And I shouted at the top of my lungs “BITCH, YOUR FRIEND IS WEARING A MAGICAL RING RIGHT NOW!! MAGIC JEWELRY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A THING!” It’s a nitpick, I know, but it was a line that took me straight out of the story and made me wonder if Elaine is as smart as we’re lead to believe she is.

As for Mat and Egwene, they feel underused. In the first half, they have plenty to do, and it’s really interesting! But after the events of Rhuidean, they stop contributing to the plot in any meaningful way. They just hang out while Rand does all of his He Who Comes With the Dawn shit!

Which leads me to my next issue: Avienda. I do not like her as a character. All she does is glare at Rand and go on long rants about how he belongs to Elaine and how sexy Elaine is. It’s a shame, because she is supposed to be the one to teach Rand how to deal with the Aiel, which could have been interesting.

I’m just tired of the constant gender wars in the Wheel of Time series. Unfortunately, that BS ain’t going away anytime soon.

This book also has some really incredible world-building. Not just in the Aiel waste, which is interesting, and several new magical whats-its and new places, but in the history! We finally get to see the Age of Legends, which was actually awesome! You’re telling me this world used to be a sci-fi fantasy?! That sounds amazing!

The Shadow Rising also has what I would call the most satisfying ending to any Wheel of Time book so far. Rand doesn’t confront the Dark One again, like he did in each of the three preceding books. Nor do all the Emond’s Fielders get pulled together again for some contrived reason. Everyone has their own story going on, and each of them come to dramatic and satisfying conclusions.

Overall, I actually really enjoyed The Shadow Rising. I can see why so many people say it’s the best Wheel of Time book. Despite it’s flaws, it is an immensely satisfying fantasy experience.

But it does worry me. This is the best book? But we’ve still got another eleven to go!

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