Wheel of Time Reread #4: The Shadow Rising

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

200px-WoT04_TheShadowRisingThese books just keep on getting better!

Finally, everyone isn’t just trying to make their way to the same place so that Rand can battle Ishmael (and think he’s killed the Dark One himself) – each character gets to have an adventure of their own! Except for Mat, anyway, who spends the majority of the book trying to get away and go where he wants to.

There’s a pretty extended setup in Tear, where each character’s story arc gets set up. Egwene, Mat and Rand are headed to Rhuidean, but for very different reasons – Egwene to learn Dreaming from the Aiel, Rand to proclaim himself He Who Comes With The Dawn, and Mat because the Eelfinn told him to. Perrin and Faile head to the Two Rivers to protect it from Whitecloaks, accompanied by Loial and some Aiel. Nynaeve and Elayne head to Tanchico to continue on their Black Ajah hunt, accompanied by a bullied Thom. Meanwhile, Min reaches the White Tower and accidentally precipitates a split.

This is kind of the Trolloc attack book – both Rand and Perrin’s parties get attacked by Shadowspawn at least four separate times. It got a tiny bit repetitive, but Perrin’s Two Rivers heroics were some of the best parts of the book.

More romances get set up – Rand/Elayne (with some nifty handling by Egwene), and Rand/Aviendha (along with Rand realising that he likes Min “as much as he likes Elayne”). I’m not sure if it was clear to me at this point during my initial read that Rand ends up with all three, or if I thought it was just annoying “who do I pick” angst. It’s certainly not clear to Rand. The Moiraine/Thom romance also gets set up – I’ve always wondered what brought those two together, but now I understand. Moiraine is Cairhienin and Thom is really skilled at daes dae’mar, so she’s super impressed with his manipulative abilities. I only dimly remembered Thom’s manipulations, but it’s definitely good to see someone that’s not Aes Sedai pulling strings. And Nynaeve and Lan finally make out!

Perrin and Faile’s relationship continued to be annoying in the beginning, but Faile mellows out over the course of the book and by the end, they’re married and feel like they really belong together. The whole Berelain thing was also annoying… I don’t remember how Berelain ends up traveling with Perrin and Faile, but I don’t think it would’ve been as much of a problem if Faile hadn’t overreacted and tried to knife her…

Also – Birgitte! Asmodean! Moghedien! Yay! And Sevanna and Luc/Isam – ugh! And more plot thread foreshadowing – Galad drinking with Whitecloaks, Rand “remembering” that Lanfear loved power, Rand trying to revive someone from the dead after using Callandor, Alanna eyeing Perrin after losing a Warder, the Black Ajah being after the male a’dam

Nynaeve and Elayne being separated from Egwene was a good thing – the viewpoint usually defaulted to Egwene when they were all together, so we got to know them better. I loved that Nynaeve got her own climactic battle with a Forsaken, especially when she realises that she is at least as strong as Moghedien in the midst of it. Finally, she understands her potential. Elayne is still a bit bland, but Jordan does a great job of differentiating how her upbringing and background shaped her – she’s definitely spoiled/naive, but has her heart in the right place and is never obnoxious. I was glad that Egeanin showed up too, I love Egeanin and she does a great job of humanising the Seanchan.

Speaking of Forsaken, I didn’t realise how much of a obsessed stalker creep Lanfear was – when I read the books the first time, she seemed magnificently evil… now she just seems pathetic. I totally didn’t pick up on the peddlers being Lanfear and Asmodean either, or Asmodean’s intent to go to Rhuidean. I also didn’t pick up from my first reading that Rand cuts Asmodean off from the True Power – now I understand why Asmodean helps Rand. I liked that the theme of “someone needs to teach Rand!” was carried all the way from Tear, where Egwene and Elayne try to help to Rand finally finding a “trustworthy” teacher in Asmodean.

The Aes Sedai are further revealed to be less and less powerful – Moiraine is increasingly stressed by her inability to influence Rand (but is naturally secretive and mysterious, so Rand doesn’t even trust her when she’s right), Siuan is still so obsessed with trying to make plans for Rand that she doesn’t see dissension in her own ranks. Even Elayne notices this when she realises that both Aiel Wise Ones and Sea Folk Windfinders can channel and hold honoured places in their society, but Aes Sedai swear unbreakable oaths but are still mistrusted everywhere.

I didn’t realise that Gawyn ends up being such a jerk – rallying the trainee Warders to go kill real Warders in support of Elaida? Wow. Especially when he spends the first half of the book teasing Min. I can’t believe he ends up Egwene’s Warder. (Also, Egwene is still pretty annoying in this book. I know she gets awesome eventually, but in this book she’s just Hermione – eager to learn, but with no graces).

Other things that were awesome – the two chapters where Rand goes through the columns at Rhuidean and learns about Aiel history and the fall of the Age of Legends (and we learn that the previous age had airplanes and cars) and the origins of Tinkers, Maidens, a lot of Aiel customs. Loial is also awesome – I am not sure how he manages to be so adorable without bursting.

There’s still a bunch of stuff that probably could make it into this post, but I’ll stop. One last thought – if the Ogier and the original Aiel (that turned into Tinkers) sang the same songs to make things grow and Loial is a treesinger – why haven’t the Tinkers found the song from the Ogier?

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