The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

This is the fourth book in The Wheel of Time series, and also the longest one so far for me (and according to Wikipedia, overall). Unfortunately, I felt that the series started to lose a bit of steam here too – overall, it was still a book that I enjoyed, but it felt like it dragged at times.

One of the things that kind of annoyed me about this book, and which was much less of a problem in the earlier ones, was that Robert Jordan seems to find any excuse he can to have the female characters get naked. There’s no gratuitous descriptions or anything (he’s not George R. R. Martin), but it just starts to feel quite infantile. It happens so often, and the men almost never get naked, so it seems like there’s only one reason he’s doing it… which is disappointing because I originally thought that he was pretty good at writing female characters.

On the other hand, this novel also gives you a little more backstory on the history of the world and the people within it. In particular, it gives a few chapters which details the history of the Aiel. This was genuinely interesting to me, though I also felt that it was much longer than necessary. The actual revelations in these chapters are pretty cool, but they’re also pretty lengthy and don’t feature any of the characters I care about.

One last criticism to get out before I get to the good stuff: the budding romance between Perrin and Faile gets a lot of attention here and, gosh, did it make my eyes roll. So much of “Oh, the reason they are awful to each other is because they love each other!” but why do they love each other when they’re always awful to one another? It’s such a rubbish relationship, and it was very hard to feel anything for them, when they were both always so mean. I’ve read a lot of books over the years, and so have read through a lot of literary romances, and though they are not the absolute worst (Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele), they’re definitely one of the worst. You know the saying “Still a better love story than Twilight?” Well, this isn’t.

Still, now that I’ve gotten all the bad stuff out of the way, there is still a lot to be admired about this book. First of all, I enjoyed getting to see Matt and Rand interact a little more this time, after being apart a lot in the previous books. There’s quite a contrast between the characters, with Rand now fully embracing his role as The Dragon Reborn, and Matt mostly just trying to lead a regular (if sleazy) life – and yet they still care about each other, so that’s cool. Speaking of Matt, he also gets to meet some creepy, alien-like being in a sequence which I imagine gets explained in more detail later on, but either way, I liked it a lot here.

This was also the novel where I really started to like Siuan Sanche, the Amyriln Seat (leader of the Aes Sedai) – while she’s not a direct focus of a lot of chapters, she is involved in some of the most interesting developments in the book. Speaking of Aes Sedai, once again, hats off to Moiraine for being the best character in the series (even if she does have to be naked loads of times, but she does it in a cool, completely un-phased kind of way). Aviendha really comes into her own as a character too (she’s becoming one of my favourites) and outside of his awful romance story, I really liked Perrin’s storyline too.

So as much as this was the weakest book in the series so far, it’s at the point where I am quite invested in the characters and the setting, so it’s easy enough to keep going. Even in a boring chapter, the character carry it for me – but I certainly hope it will get a little better in the next one.

Rating: 6.1/10

Buy it here.

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