Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Shadow Rising Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time Book Four
Pages: 1,006

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(Spoilers below for the previous three Wheel of Time books).

The Shadow Rising is the longest book in the Wheel of Time series, by word count.  It is also the first book, that plot wise, starts to feel differently from the previous three books in the Wheel of Time series.  Jordan manages to change the plot and spread the narration of the story out to many different characters again, like he did in The Great Hunt.

Unlike The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising doesn’t primarily focus on Rand trying to find a new magical object.  Instead his journey to master saidin, and his effort to prevent himself from going insane takes over as the central conflict, which is a lot more interesting than searching for magical devices.

While the heroes move in separate directions again, new and more ominous signs of evil begin to emerge and each of the separate plot threads must rise to meet these new challenges.  The Shadow Rising uses Jordan’s storytelling formula from the previous book, but the plot structure and ending are different.  Changes are made and the story benefits greatly in what has been one of the strongest books in the Wheel of Time thus far.

The Shadow Rising begins shortly after Rand has taken Callandor at Tear.  It’s not long before the Two Rivers heroes begin to go their separate ways on separate adventures.  The plot thread is divided into three different primary directions instead of the usual two.  In addition to this a minor plot thread also begins to set up some new plot issues for further books.  These plot threads are:
  • Perrin and Faile’s journey after they leave Rand
  • Nynaeve and Elayne’s journey to find another magical object that is presumably more powerful than Callandor
  • Rand, Mat, Egwene, and Moiraine’s journey to continue battling the forces of the Dark One
  • Min’s return to Tar Valon (minor plot thread)
The Shadow Rising answers a lot of lingering questions from the previous books such as who is the third women who will romantically share Rand, who were Rand’s biological parents, what is going to happen to the Rand and Egwene relationship, and how is Rand going to learn saidin? Most of these questions are answered in the early going of the story, allowing new questions to be formed.

In a series that is largely focused on good vs. evil, readers should be able to tell what each characters end game or goal in the series is going to be.  Most characters in The Wheel of Time are trying to stop the Dark One or they are trying to raise him back into power.  What’s refreshing is that there are two major characters who’s end game has not really been determined, and they are Lanfear and Fain.

Although both of these characters are, or were, associated with the Dark One in some way, their current goals are less than straight forward.  It can easily be said that both wish to rule the world themselves as both characters show a strong desire for power.  However, especially with Lanfear, the potential for these characters to change has been integrated into the story.  Although they appear evil now, this may not be the case in the future or both the good or bad guys may have to work with Fain and Lanfear in a way that compromises everyone’s goals.

Rand as a character has changed significantly since The Dragon Reborn.  He has accepted who he is, and the horrible prophecy he is supposed to fulfill.  Rand is becoming more and more like the classic vision of a great heroic leader.  Jordan starts to show Rand’s ability to scheme and plot, too.  Rand’s plotting and political playing is ironic since it relates his new change of character closely to the Aes Sedai of the White Tower, who plan on using him to meet their own goals.

Compared to the previous books, a lot more time is spent on prophecy in The Shadow Rising.  Rand and Mat each have multiple prophecy related sequences in the book and these prophecies reveal a lot of interesting information about the history of the world they are living in.  The Dream World’s development is heavily emphasized in this book, too, which along with the prophecies helps create a truly larger than life experience for the reader and the characters.

The Shadow Rising is really about the preparation by both good and evil sides for the final battle that will determine the fate of the world.  What makes this book one of the stronger books in the series is its focus on dreams and prophecy, which adds a lot more to the story in terms of emotion and plot potential.  Perhaps the most appreciated of Jordan’s writing decisions in this book is that it breaks from the previous plot structure of having all of the heroes starting together, going off in different directions, and finally converging together to face the same enemy at the end.

Score: 9.3

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