"This is madness!" Rhuarc strode up beside Rand, staring out at the still silent gathering.

"Madness?" Couladin looked back at Sevanna, who nodded. "This! Is! Alcair Dal!" And he kicked Rhuarc over the edge.

Right on the heels of my review of The Dragon Reborn, here is my review of Book Four, The Shadow Rising.

The series starts a major change beginning with this book. With the previous three books, every event would be moving towards one central climax (Rush to the Eye! Find the Horn! Get the Sword!). While the multitude of different POVs started with Book Two, the first three books still had every main character in the same place for the final climaxes. Now, the party splits up, and each group has its own plot thread and climax. Is this method effective? I thought it was, for this book at least. A common complaint is that latter books try to juggle too many storylines, but for now the technique works fine.

Another major difference is the theme. As I mentioned in my previous post, a major theme of the first three books was Rand's acceptance of himself. Now, a major theme is Rand establishing his independence and dominance. In this book he's distancing himself from Moiraine, the Gandalf figure, and leaves the treacherous Tairians for the Aiel instead. By Book Six, he's conquered two more nations, escaped from the Aes Sedai's kidnapping attempt, and set up his own society of magic users in opposition to them. Of course, it's not so simple a division as that, since other characters have their own arcs as well, but you get the idea. The big difference is that while Rand was reactive in the first three books, he starts being proactive in the later books. It's what separates him from most other characters in the series, and from many other fantasy works. Usually, fantasy literature has the convention that evil is proactive, and good only reactive, and this series breaks that convention.

The book starts off in Tear, and the pace is relatively slow, at least compared to the pace the rest of the book has. This reread, I've noticed that each character has a different style of leadership, and Rand's is horrible, at least in this stage of the series. We get our introduction to the "bubbles of evil" in this book. But aside from the first ones (which are nice because they are thematically tied to the characters invovled), they don't really feel all that threatening and scary, at least until Book Eleven and beyond when things really get weird.

This books has the Supergirls split up, with Nynaeve and Elayne going to Tanicho, and Egwene going to the Waste. But before they leave Tear, we get the oh so critical scene where Egwene tells Rand she no longer loves him, and Elayne announces her undying love of him. It has all the romance and spontenaity of the Changing of the Guard. I have problems with most of the romance subplots in the series, but probably the most with Rand and Elayne (Perrin and Faile just deserve each other). Before this moment, the only screen time they shared was for about ten minutes in Book One. Now she sweeps in, catches him on the rebound, spends about a week with him snogging in the halls, and then leaves for the next several books. And the next time we see the two together... I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I really want to stress that I don't mind flaws in a character. The whole "naive princess" angle is fine on Elayne. But the "love at first sight" angle is just stupid.

As for Nynaeve, this is the first book where I noticed her being crabby and domineering for the sake of being crabby and domineering, rather than her being so as a response to something. It's not fun reading the way some of the other flawed characters are fun reading; for instance, a chapter from oblivious Mat's POV is better than a chapter from grumpy Nynaeve's POV. But to be fair, she isn't nearly as insufferable as I remember her being. She does receive more characterization that I remember from my last read. So yeah, I think I've been unfairly predisposed towards her. Some facets of her character are poorly conceived and written, but overall she's okay. Maybe she gets worse later on, but I'll cut her some slack for now.

We get introduced to a sympathetic Seanchan character in the Nynaeve and Elayne arc, which fleshes out the culture nicely. Most cultures in the series are introduced as very one-dimensional at the beginning, and it's only when the characters become more than outsiders looking in do we get to see new depths and reevaluate our position. The Seanchan are an interesting society because of the conflicts within them. On the one hand, they eventually succeed in bringing peace and order in the western countries when the protagonists have failed. On the other hand, they do so by being ruthlessly efficient fascists who enslave magic users and treat them like animals.

We also get introduced to Moggy in the same arc. The realization that the major villains of the series are still human is done rather well. She also ends up being a reoccuring nemesis for Nynaeve, which is also nice.

When you think about it, a lot gets accomplished in the Tanicho arc. The heroines flush out the Black Ajah, help restore order to an entire country, dispose of an artifact that could enslave the central character of the series, recover one of the seven main MacGuffins of the series, and discover that they can go toe to toe with one of the most powerful figures in legend and still win. And yet, I could barely remember the arc going into the book. After rereading it, I think I know why: everything accomplished by the heroines is undone almost right away. The Black Ajah get away, Tanicho is eventually invaded by the Seanchan, the male a'dam is handed over to the Seanchan instead of thrown away, the seal is damaged in Shipping and Handling, and Moggy gets away. Now that I think about it, a lot of the quests that Nynaeve and Elayne accomplish only have temporary results. A shame, really.

The other main side arc in this book is the Perrin and Faile one, and boy does this one get off on a rocky start. And before anyone says that Faile's the one responsible for their inane bickering, I want to point out that Perrin is just as much an immature jerk as she is. It take the butchering of Perrin's entire extended family for these two to shut up.

Aside from that, the whole Two Rivers arc was very good. There are a lot of parallels to the Scouring of the Shire, but I think the whole "return home" trope works better here than it does in LotR. In LotR, it comes at the very end, and is more of an Aesop than an actual part of the story. In this series, the arc actually reintroduces the 'hobbits' back into the action, and they play a big role in events later on. Also, it really helps develop character: Rand is willing to turn his back on the people he grew up with, even in their time of need, whereas Perrin is incapable of doing so.

We also see Padan Fain again, and are introduced to Slayer, but both these characters stick to the shadows for most the series, so we don't see much of them.

The main arc has the rest of the characters head off to the Waste. We see the Aiel society get fleshed out. It's all very Dune-esque, perhaps an intentional homage? We see Egwene start her training with the Aiel, and her character gets developed some more. I found her an interesting contrast to most other characters in the series: instead of "saving the world" being her main purpose, she's very driven by selfish ambition and a thirst for knowledge at this point of the series. After our initial introduction to the Aiel, Rand and Mat head off for Rhuidean. Moiraine and Rand's Love Interest #2 go as well, but of course, women do things slightly differently.

Number of rituals where women get naked: 2

The chapters where Rand and Mat are in Rhuidean are my favourite of the book, and probably my favourite of the entire series. Rand gets to see the entire progression of Aiel history backwards through his ancestors' eyes. It's exposition done right; instead of a giant fact dump, we get a collection of highly personal short stories that reveal a lot. At the same time, we see Mat "cross the veil" and bargain with Unseelie-esque beings, and he acquires the abilities and items that help define him for the rest of the series. I think this is where Robert Jordan was at his strongest: inventing detailed cultures and high fantasy locations.

GM: Okay, so have you two levelled up after your solo quests? Excellent. The two of you meet up in the centre square of Rhuidean.

Randall: Holy crap, look at the items you picked up! How come I didn't get anything like that?

GM: You got that sword last session, quit complaining.

Randall: So what ability did you choose for this level?

Matthew: Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes. It's pretty sweet.

Randall: Oh yeah. I wanted to get that one too, but the GM made me pick up Leadership first.

Matthew: Nice tats, though.

I'd have to say this one's my favourite of the series, though Book Two comes close. Other books have some great moments in them (Books Six, Nine, and Twelve have some of my favourite scenes), but overall I think Book Four does it best.


  • Achievements for Team Light: Defense of the Two Rivers and Tarabon, capture of a male Forsaken, retrieval of the two most powerful artifacts known, control over all but one of the Aiel clans.
  • Forsaken count: None, total of three dead (for now), one erased.
  • Seals count: Two intact. Total of three destroyed, three intact.

One final note: this book's about a thousand pages long. The afternoon I finished it, I had to do some babysitting. Once my nephews and niece were in bed, I started rereading Of Mice and Men. And finished it right then and there. Felt really weird.