by Robert Jordan
I probably finished this one about a month and a half ago, but I’ve been working on a blog at work, and whenever I tried to start this post I felt a pang of guilt about the jobby job stuff that I hadn’t finished. Then I got caught up with The West Wing, then with the Nationals, and going away every weekend, so reading/blogging just kind of disappeared from my routine. That’s kind of my bad.
Anyway, all that’s done with, for now, so let’s get back to books.
The Shadow Rising picks up where The Dragon Reborn left off. Everyone’s chilling in the Stone of Tear, Rand is the Dragon Reborn, there’s a bunch of Aiel all over the place- seemingly a good situation all around. The crew hangs out in the castle until Rand decides to go do his own thing with the Aiel, at which point everyone splits up. Lots of stuff happens. It’s cool.
Good points: There’s lots of action. Whichever group of characters the narrator and reader are following, stuff is almost guaranteed to be going down, with rare exception. There’s maybe half a dozen major action scenes, if I’m remembering correctly, and they’re all unique in every way. For example, without giving too much away, one scene might involve a character kicking the ever-loving shit out of everyone with magic, one might involve a huge battle involving hundreds of combatants on each side, and one might basically consist of a duel between two important characters. Like I said, stuff happens.
Another cool thing about this one is that the story gets vastly deeper and more complicated. The first couple of books basically pit good guys against bad guys. (That might be an oversimplification: the hero’s temptation to abandon the noble path almost always defines the hero’s narrative, even if we generally assume that our heroes will remain good. Plus, Jordan always remembered to throw a few ‘wild card’ characters in there as well, just to make things interesting.) Shadow definitely cranks up the complexity, to the point where entire institutions become untrustworthy, and characters that you just knew were untrustworthy start pulling their weight. Of course, there’s still the occasional dude who shows up, just waiting to be called out for being a bad guy, who basically gets away with it till the end. Yea, I’m talking about you, character-whose-name-I-won’t-mention.
But that’s definitely the exception. On the whole, I’d say real character growth is one of the strong points of this novel. While our heroes have been growing since book one, I really noticed and enjoyed watching that change happen here. Mat, especially, continues to mature from a whiny kid into a kind-of-awesome-but-still-pretty-whiny kid.
Lastly- and if it seems that I liked this book, I did- I liked the way Jordan was able to handle having so many narrative strands going on at the same time, and having separate groups of characters interacting with the world as it was collapsing and changing around them. I know, I know, the characters had been split up before, but in the second book, the characters all split up with express purposes, and didn’t stray much from those purposes. In the third, all the characters end up hurtling back towards Tear for the climax, which looked, to this reader, to be a very much planned close to that three-book segment of the series. The fourth book spits the characters back out of Tear, and manages to keep all of their storylines interesting, even those that I’d previously found boring.
Bad points: Just one thing here, really. This isn’t the only book in the series to have this problem so far, but there are some dream/magic sequences that I consider overly indulgent. Obviously, this is fantasy, so I don’t think these sequences are unexpected. At times it just seemed a bit much, especially when it just felt like random shit happening for no apparent reason.
I guess I’d also say it seemed a little long, but, as I’ve been saying for every book in the series, I don’t know where the cuts could be made. Considering how much I liked the book, it seems a bit hypocritical to turn around and say it was too long. Let’s just say it took me many Metro rides to get through.
Overall, I’d say it’s the best book in the series- so far.