Spoilers for books 1-3, and The Shadow Rising ch. 1-10 | More info and previous posts | Please no spoilers for future books/events
In my plan to read The Wheel of Time, and post about my experience, I’m now on book 4, The Shadow Rising. This post covers the first ten chapters.
Glimpses of Things to Come
Surprisingly, there is no prologue this time around. Though the first chapter is a prologue in all but name.
We begin with Min arriving in the White Tower. Actually, we begin with a three page description of how the wind blows, but you get what I mean. She’s in full stealth mode, which I don’t really get – she’s lived here for a few months before, and it feels like a real stretch to hope she won’t be recognized by people. She immediately starts seeing death and pain in all the Sedai’s future. As usual, the lack of any temporal information makes this hard to use – she might well be seeing these people dying in Tarmon Gai’don, which is hardly surprising. But thankfully for a change it’s clear what she’s seeing.
As I expected, Min is soon recognised – by Gawyn. They chat a bit, and she goes to meet the Amyrlin. But before that, I must address the issue of Galad. It’s been bugging me for a while now. How is doing the right thing the wrong thing? Why is everyone so critical of the guy always standing for what he believes is right? And isn’t what everyone does – we do what we feel is right, don’t we? Of course, the guy is not perfect, and too much of anything is not good, but I don’t like everyone looking down on him for it.
Moving on, Min is debriefed by Siuan the Amyrlin Seat. The Amyrlin pretty much dismissed Min’s warning about impending destruction – because, as I said, it is too vague to act upon. They do discuss who will cause it – my guess is a Black Ajah/Seanchan combo. Like when Liandrin got the girls captured. The Amyrlin convinces Min to stay on in disguise as Elmindreda (isn’t that a mouthful), presumably to join the Black Ajah Search Party.
Next up is Elaida, who has also recognised Min. I was pretty sure she is Black Ajah, but now her internal monologue tells us that she’s not actually on the Dark One’s side, just happens to be a very power-hungry, rude sort of person. Her plans – to use the Tower to control the world from behind the scenes – may be a not-nice one, but she’s certainly trying to fight the Shadow in her own twisted way.
And the super stuck up, holier-than-thou Whitecloaks (whose Leader by the way is under the control of a combo of Darkfriend and ancient evil, a.k.a Padan Fain, and who Questioners include Darkfriends) are in the Two Rivers. With Padan Fain, and Bornhald’s son, and Byar. Uh oh. This is so not good. Also, if the timeline is linear, and this is right after the climax of The Dragon Reborn, Rand and friends have little hope of getting to help in time, even if they do find out about it somehow. Stupid Whitecloaks and their chain of command.
Lady Suroth, of the Seanchan, and Darkfriend besides, has taken control of the Sea Folk’s islands, as a base of her return strike. She questions one of the captured Aes Sedai, and then talks about some secret that only four people know. What secret? Are we supposed to know it? If we do, I’m totally drawing a blank. Unless… Is it the fact that sul’dam can only be women who can channel? If that’s the secret, it doesn’t seem quite so dangerous to me.
And so we have the big preview of things to come – attack on the White Tower, the return of the Seanchan, and whatever crazy stuff Fain will get up to in the Two Rivers. This is going to be interesting.
Back in the Stone, Perrin and Faile (damnit I liked Zarine better!) are hanging out. Faile wants to leave, because Forsaken and Shadow and stuff – huh, you’re not quite as eager about getting into adventures and stories as I remember, eh Faile? Anyhow, Perrin will not abandon Rand. Yay for you, Perrin! They’re in the middle of a pretty boring argument, but then things start to get edgy – literally – as Perrin’s axe comes to life and tries to murder them both!
Holy crap, this book is not taking things slow, is it? The scene is pretty creepy, the axe going apeshit trying to kill the both of them. Perrin finally managed to get it under control, no thanks to Faile, who is in typical WoT-girl fashion, angry at Rand because he tried to save her neck. I mean, sure, she’s a warrior and no helpless doe, but she was clearly not strong enough to help Rand, and was only complicating things for him by giving the axe two targets.
To my utter surprise, Perrin thinks – nay, is sure – that Rand is responsible. Come on dude, yes, Rand’s power gets out of control at times, but that’s general chaos and destruction, this was way too specific to have been that.
Mat is also attacked in a similar manner, ambushed by playing cards coming to life. Other notable points – the are rumors of a war with Illian, and Mat speaks more Old Tongue accidentally. We’d better get an explanation for the latter soon. Mat also blames Rand. Damnit you guys, stop casting blame without knowing anything!
And, of course, it is Rand’s turn now. But first he has to face an even greater danger – the first of Mayene, all decked out to seduce him. The girl is determined if nothing else, but unlike Selene, her charms don’t work on Rand. Their word fencing is interrupted though by Rand’s reflections coming to life and attacking him. Damn, that’s even spookier than Perrin’s murderous axe. Rand proceeds to swordfight them, ignoring the fact that a. He can channel! and b. He has bloody Callandor right there in the room He’s seriously wounded, but survives, and Berelain learns her lesson not to bother the Lord Dragon.
Perrin and Faine arrive to blame Rand about the attacks, see him wounded and Moiraine is summoned. Told you guys, it wasn’t Rand. Moiraine heals Rand and tells us that the attacks were just side effects of the weakening of the Dark One’s prison – these are like bubbles escaping from stuff underwater, and that Rand and co. are likely to be more strongly affected by them, because ta’veren. Also, Rand seems to have really toughened up – he stands up to Moiraine, wounded as he is, and is actively trying to figure stuff out for perhaps the first time in the series, as opposed to reacting to events. He’s even taken to reading the prophecies of the Dragon. I don’t know how much good (or bad) this will do, but I would totally have read them too.
Thom has somehow ended up as some sort of secret agent for Rand, playing games with the nobles and lords. Mat meets him, and basically grumbles a bit, and want to leave Tear, but Thom talks him out of it.
Playing at Interrogation
Egwene and Nynaeve meanwhile are questioning the two captured Black Ajah, one of whom has been stilled. I cannot fathom why the other one has not received the same treatment. They’ve been questioning them, it seems, and there are two stories – one of them says something is being planned around Tanchico, and the other one claims the plan was to free one of the False Dragons who could channel, and have him play a super destructive Rand al’Thor, so as to turn everyone against Rand. I myself believe the first one is the truth, and the latter is just bullshit. Because the second one just sound too neat, too cut and dried. Um, and also because I looked at the list of chapters, and they mention Tanchico. Anyway, I don’t think the girls are any real good at interrogation.
Tensions are running high between Egwene and Nynaeve as usual. I don’t know why – these two should get along well, like they used to. I stand on Nynaeve’s side in this issue though – just because Egwene has learned to channel doesn’t invalidate all the extra years of life experience Nynaeve has.
They are joined by Elayne and Moiraine, who are frustrated that Rand no longer blindly accepts their orders. Moiraine, I like you, but you have to accept the fact that Rand is more than a pawn on your chessboard. Moiraine brings them up to speed on the attacks, and then outlines her plan for Rand. The plan is to attack Illian (which is still under the rule of a bloody Forsaken), which will take down a bad guy, and also make the people of Tear more loyal and amenable to be ruled by Rand, and with the combined strength of two large nations behind him, Rand will be a force to reckon with. No one likes this plan. Not Rand, and not Egwene and the girls.
But Moiraine has a backup plan. A ter’angreal, held in the Stone, that is supposed to be able to give three answers to a person – about the present, past and future. But as any well balanced magical artifact, it has it’s list of terms and conditions, the chief being you can’t ask about the Shadow. And hence the riskiness of this plan.
You know, these ter’angreals are pretty great – for the author. It has been established that there can be one for pretty much anything – the dream one, the one used for Accepted tests, the oath rod etc. And so at this point, Jordan can basically pull out anything out of his hat as needed by the plot, and call it a ter’angreal. Neat. Of course, not really so neat if the reader notices what is going on.
And finally, the girls have some frank discussions about Rand. Egwene is no longer interested in him, and Elayne is – very much so. I’m glad they resolved that matter peacefully.
Playing at Teaching
Egwene and Elayne go to meet Rand the next day with the agenda of trying and helping him with handling saidin. While well intentioned, the plan doesn’t go well. There’s some interesting stuff revealed about the nature of magic itself though, and Egwene is surprised that the legendary Dragon Reborn, who has killed multiple Forsaken, is stronger with the One Power than her. Poor Rand, he really needs someone to teach him, except no one on the good side can do it. And I can’t for the life of me guess how this will be resolved.
The next item on the agenda is a bit more romantic. Egwene and Rand mutually tell each other that the almost-promised marriage is not going to happen. The breakup is handled pretty gracefully by both the parties. And as per their plan, Elayne takes her shot as soon as Egwene leaves. There’s a kiss, and some awkward talk where both parties believe they made a fool of themselves, but actually neither did.
Though I’m not sure how I feel about Egwene and Elayne planning this all. Isn’t love supposed to be more spontaneous, and less tactical? Elyane’s thoughts as she leaves almost sound sinister.
“…four days at most to twine herself so firmly into Rand’s thoughts that he had no room for Berelain.”
God help you, Rand.
Though he does handle the Tairen High Lords pretty well in the meeting that follows. He’s understandably distracted (who wouldn’t, after kissing a pretty princess) but does not take any of the Lords’ bullshit. I like what he’s doing with the country, too – making sensible laws that are more fair to the people, and laying off on the aggression towards Mayene. Berelain’s visit wasn’t a total loss for her, it seems.
Meanwhile, Egwene is accosted by Mat, who is pretty upset at the fact that he’s randomly spouting an ancient tongue that he himself doesn’t understand. And Egwene points him to the door ter’angreal, that is supposed to be able to give answers. I’m pretty curious about what’s up with Mat myself, but I don’t think it’s quite so urgent as to have him dabble with ancient magical artifacts that can be deadly to the user.
Not much happens here
Seriously. The whole chapter is basically people moping around, doing nothing major. Mat gambles, Perrin tries to find a way to send off Faile, Egwene and Nynaeve continue to play at interrogation, Egwene bonds with Aviendha, Elayne romances Rand, and Rand catches up on his ancient prophecies and bullies the high lords into doing what he tells them to. Yawn.
The monotony is finally disrupted by the arrival of Selene/Lanfear, and somehow Rand is still under the impression that she’s a harmless hot chick. Selene quickly puts that right, as she announced that she’s Lanfear the Forsaken, and kicking Rand’s ass when he tries to pick up Callandor.
I honestly am not sure what Lanfear’s game plan is. On the one hand, it seems she sort of loves Rand, but given that she’s a bloody Forsaken, why doesn’t she just pick him up and leave, instead of telling him how it’ll be totally awesome when he joins the Dark Side, and then telling him she wants him to come to her freely, even though it’s pretty clear that Rand will do no such thing. Whatever, I guess if Lanfear did pick him up and leave, the series would be cut short by about ten books.
They’re still chatting like old buddies when a wild Soulless appears. Rand goes ahead and sword fights him, instead of, you know, burning him to a crisp. And if anyone wants to tell me that it was because he doesn’t like to channel, let me point you to Rand’s weapon – a bloody sword of flames!
Rand can’t bring himself to attack – she’s a girl! – honestly, this is just too much. Maybe Rand isn’t really free of her influence yet, though at least he doesn’t behave like the puppet he became back in The Great Hunt.
And then Rand remembers he was supposed to be guarded by Aiel special forces, and rushes out to find
The Stone under Attack
The Stone is being assaulted by a force of Trollocs and Fades, who have somehow managed to get in. For an impregnable fortress that has supposedly stood for centuries and defeated pretty much everyone, it seems strangely pregnable nowadays.
Dramatic fighting ensues, as Rand insists on going mano-a-mano with every single Darkspawn with his (admittedly super cool) firesword (which I always picture as a light saber). But the defenders are totally losing it, faced as they are by monsters they though to be mere myths. He rallies them with this deliciously ironic line :
“Rally to the Stone!” he shouted as he leaped. “The Stone stands!” Those were the battle cries he had heard on the night the Stone had not stood.
He’s also occasionally aided by Lanfear, because love.
Eventually though, Rand realises the sheer inefficiency of his approach, and his fighting style undergoes a paradigm shift, and he conjures some sort of trolloc-seeking indoor lightning storm, courtesy Callandor. Now that’s what I was talking about the whole time. Awesome.
This seems to have been the shock Rand needed to jolt him to action, and he tells Moiraine that tomorrow he will tell her what he’s going to do. And it’s promised to be a big surprise.
I peek ahead out of impatience, but the next chapter seems to start with Egwene’s POV, so we’ll stop here.
Wow, this series keeps getting better. This book so far has higher highs and lower lows – the great beginning and this last chapter nicely compensating for the rather dull portion in the middle where everyone just sort of moped around the Stone, going nowhere doing nothing much.