Mar 14 2012 2:00pm

Wheel of Time Musings: The Shadow Rising

Many of the lifelong fans of the Wheel of Time, myself included, point to this novel as their favorite of the series.

I think that baffles some readers, the ones to whom the Wheel of Time just doesn’t speak. (That’s perfectly all right, by the way. Not every book is going to appeal to every reader.)

Books one and two, and to an extent three, follow a more traditional fantasy quest narrative. (Book two following it the most exactly, in a lot of ways.) Book four deviates. The climactic moments are staggered very differently from a standard quest story, and here shortcuts in travel start to appear, turning the series away from the quest/travelogue archetype and into a more expansive, political intrigue and character relationships narrative.

Is this the best-written Wheel of Time book? I’m not sure, honestly. As far as tightly focused narratives go, book two is probably the best. As far as character depth and emotion goes, I usually prefer books six or seven.

I think we latch on to book four, as fans, because this is where the series first changes dramatically and, in a way, comes into its own. I’ve noticed three major turning points in the Wheel of Time. (My own pinch-hitting not included.) This is the first. This is where the books stop being “Here’s a problem; this book will deal with it” stories and start being “Here is an expansive world, with a thousand things going on, and we’re going to follow the characters as they try to make sense of it.”

I love this book. From the trip into Rhuidean, to Rand’s reveals, to Asmodean. Rand really seizes his destiny for the first time here, rather than being shoved around. Egwene comes into her own, in my opinion, as a real major character.

And, of course, there’s Mat.

Often when longtime fans read the series over again, they’re surprised by how little Mat is in the first two books. He starts doing cool things in book three, but it’s really in this volume that his personality solidifies.


Keep track of Brandon’s musings on the Wheel of Time in the Memory of Light index.

His thoughts on:

Brandon Sanderson is the author of Elantris, The Mistborn Trilogy, and, with Robert Jordan, the New York Times bestselling The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and the forthcoming A Memory of Light, the final volumes to the epic Wheel of Time.

1. AndrewB
Thank you Brandon for your thoughts on this book. I am one of those unusal life-long WoT fans that did not like this book. The primary reason that I did not like this book was Faile's characters. She is one of my least favorite characters in the series (I only start to enjoy her character after her capitivty in Malden ends and she starts to grow up).

I admit that RJ did a very good job of writing her character as a spoiled brat. However, it is because of this, that i do not enjoy this book.

To each their own, I guess.

Thanks for reading my musings,
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
2. Lisamarie
This was my favorite book too - my German teacher started lending me the WoT books while I was a junior in high school (I've been out of grad school for about four years if that gives you any idea of how long ago that was!)

But I remember the Rhuidean scenes standing out so much - this was the book I raced through and got me hooked. My sister was in the hospital due to a dog bite that got infected (she's fine), and I remember being in the hospital reading that book and learning about the Aiel's true origins. Kind of a weird memory/association!
Matthew Hunter
3. matthew1215
tSR was a big change in a lot of ways. I got the first three books as a unit and read them in a weekend. (To be honest, I read them ON SATURDAY, straight through, and went to get tSR as soon as the bookstore opened Sunday). The fact that there was a fourth book at all was significant; Jordan had run through the standard fantasy trilogy format with the first three books and wrapped things up in a credible way with tDR. He could have said, ok, Rand has the magic sword, he kills a forsaken minion or two, and the kills what (he thinks is) the Dark One, end of series, right?

Wrong. tSR is the book that drags you over to the map and says "We ain't seen even a third of that yet." It changes the structure. It deepens the characters. It raises the stakes. It looks at Rand, who has been through his journey and self-discovery and his first Moment of Awesome... then taps him on the shoulder and says it's not enough to become the hero, the hero has a job to do, better get to it.

You could say tSR marked the point that the Wheel of Time diverged from adolescent rite-of-passage to a truly mature story.
4. Kainos
I agree with the crowd that sees this book as the best or tied with Lord of Chaos as the best in the series. To me this is when "the Three" started to assert their personalities and wills on the world putting aside being pawns. Matt became my favorite character in this book and skill remains so. I have been reading since 1992. Twenty years of WoT.
Russ Gray
5. nimdok
I loved this one. It is a major shift, but it managed to stay interesting.

After about Book 6 or so, I finally gave up on the series, because of all the proliferating plot threads and characters and a story that never seemed to go anywhere. It's true that the first three were pretty conventional "quest" stories, especially Book 2. Maybe my disappointment came from the series not following that format.
6. Tall James
Think I love it because its the point where Rand demonstrates (and Jordan beliveabely writes it) that he really is cunning enough to be the savior of humanity. Prior to this tavern and mary sueness accounted for his success and his a fairly generic hero. Playing the foresaken and capturing Asmodean is done brilliantly with the ending coming out of left field. Tracking down and bale firing Granedal is a similar moment of awesome where you go that really was pretty damn clever..
James Hogan
7. Sonofthunder
Excellent post. Yes, TSR is also one of my favorites. Not sure if it's my favorite, but it's up there. Apart from the afore mentioned adventures in Rhuidean(Rand's trip through the columns...few chapters match those for pure emotional impact), the other plot line that makes me love this book so much is Perrin's journey. I still can't read the chapter with him discovering the fate of his family without my eyes becoming slightly wet. Perrin's whole story here is magnificent. And I do love Faile here(despite that one unfortunate interlude). Great, great book. When I picked up a book at home to bring back to Scotland with me...this was the one I chose.
Chris Long
8. radynski
For me, this is one of the best books largely because of Perrin and Rhuiden. The AHA moment in the columns, going back through Aiel history was just so memorable. And the entire Perrin-in-the-Two-Rivers plot is just pitch perfect. We've been away for a couple books and it was really nice to go back.
9. Lsana
This one is tied with Dragon Reborn for my favorite, for different reasons. I still feel that DR is the best beginning to end, but this one has moments of awesome that outshine anything else in the series. There are places where I feel this book bogs down (the Perrin/Faile relationship, Nynaeve and Elayne's storyline), but where it's good, it's amazing. I could reread the Rhuidean chapters, both Rand's visions and Mat's experience with the foxes, over and over again.
10. Taryntula
It's like Tor and BS are on my wavelength...this musings are posted coinciding exactly with my re-read. Kinda cool, and creepy.
11. Kyo
God bless Asmodean and his lace cuffs. I imagine he is a stylish dude. But yes Mat becomes very awesome from this book on - I think I spent the first 3 books with him being my least fav character. All he needed was a cool hat, a cool spear thing and the memories of all his past-lives :p
12. Zalis
TSR was the book I read most quickly in my experience with the series. I was training to work at a summer camp, and had it in my hands every spare moment I could manage. It was a good start to a good summer. If I remember correctly (it's been a while), it was also when the WoT world began heating up, both figuratively and literally.
13. Count Elmdor
Should that one line not be " own pinch-hitting...?"

On my most recent reread of the series, this one leapt out at me as my favorite, too.
14. strifeborn
This was the best book in the series for me as well. I started while still in the service, and can remember reading it while out in the field. That was many moons ago. He made me remeber why I loved to read as a kid.I remeber it more as the birth of Perrin Golden-Eyes and him showing how great his contribution could really be to this story.
Mike McCaffrey
15. earlgrey
Could you please write "The Travels of Jain Farstrider"?
Francesco Paonessa
16. ErrantKnave
No question, I was hooked by EotW. But I keep coming back to this book as my favourite because of everything that happens. There is SO MUCH packed into this book, and the widening scope made the series that much better.

And then there's Mat. Ah, Mat. I think he won me over when he dusted off Gawyn and Galad in TDR, but his story arc here--twisted doorframe ter'angreal, speaking the Old Tongue to the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn, getting his own ter'angreal--combined with his kind of humor, combined to establish Mat as the most dependably interesting character.
Jeremy Vanneman
17. Jeribai
TSR is by far my favorite book in the series up to this point. It's really the only book that includes Rand, Mat, and Perrin for a significant amount of time each, where they are all three awesome; Rand is no longer trying to figure out what's going on, and begins to own his role as savior of the world; Matt becomes more than the gambling scoundrel (although he will always remain so to some degree); and Perrin takes his strength and calm planning, and saves his entire people. Aside from the main three, we learn much more about the super girls, Moiraine, and uncover the vulnerabilities of the Forsaken. But beyond character development, even the places RJ took us to were new and astounding; to both the Snakes and Foxes in the Tower of Ghenji, again inside the Ways, on a Seafolk ship, Rhuidean (and the Waste), the glass columns, and much deeper inside T'A'R. That's all not to mention how many things break in TSR. The Tower breaks, the dome around Rhuidean breaks, the trollocs break against the stakes around Emond's Field, the Windfinders break their rule of not channeling in front of those from the Tower, Loial breaks a Waygate, and the Aiel break. Really, there's a lot of breaking going on. And by far, this is my favorite book of the series.
Rich Bennett
18. Neuralnet
yep, this is my favorite of the series... it was the first book I had to wait for. I remember being surprised at the time the series wasnt a trilogy (seemed like everything was a trilogy back then LOL)

I love the fish out of water story with Rand in the Aiel waste. I love the rhuidean scenes and the Aiel hsitory. also, Rand seems to come into his own as a leader here... not just a kid anymore. The other characters really go from being secondary characters to main characters in this book IMHO. And you soon realize that the scope of the world and series is going to be huge.
Kent Aron Vabø
19. sotgnomen
Rand comes into his own.. Mat comes into his own.. Egwene comes into her own.. All true, but to me, this is all Perrin and Faile's book. They both follow the same arc in this one book that they do on a much grander scale in all the rest from here on and out.
Anyone recognise this popular fan litany about Perrin and Faile's part in the series:
Perrin emos on forever about how he's just a blacksmith and does not want or deserve responsibility, and he is confused and frustrated because he does not understand Faile. And yet all throughout are moments of awesome where he just knows what's right and acts on it, and in the end he accepts his part, and everyone loves him and follows him.
Faile is brattish and childish and bullying around Perrin, she is always jealous and does everything to be in the way and be annoying. But more and more towards the end, she matures, trusts Perrin more, and at some point she ends up being the one that saves everyone by being every bit as cool as we know she can be.
Oh, and all the while Perrin slowly confronts his fears about being a wolfbrother, mostly through fighting and eventually beating Slayer.

Of course, sevenish books of all this gives us a hell of a payday, and the scouring of the two rivers is not really on the same scale as crushing the shaido and forging freaking Mjolnir, but here we get the whole good story contained in one book, and that certainly makes this book big damn heroes, aint it just.
j p
20. sps49
This book did have a problem, and Rand did an excellent job of solving it- only to have Couladin and Co. throw a wrench into it. I don't see that very often in literature.
21. Sevanna
Sniff! It teared me up to read Rand finding his way home, through the history lessons at Rhuidean, and then to find - he's not at home at all!
Are you loathsome tonight?
I'm so loathsome I could cry!
The walk through the columns struck me as a particularly subtle form of horror - Aiel are what they are, and everybody knows it, and the rank and file of Aiel know it ... and it's a total and utter lie. It's based on the complete and utter reversal of everything that Aiel originally stood for. There aren't many writers who could manage such a reversal in a way as to make readers suddenly aware that they also care for Aiel.
Anthony Pero
22. anthonypero
What I remember the most about TSR is that the original hardcover had a different type face, margin settings and font size than the first three, and I was massively annoyed by that, lol. The content of the book was excellent, but it was so freaking long, the typesetter had to ruin my set.
23. Neowindu
The Shadow favorite of the series. Mat is given a chance to grow. He's not just the clown of luck. The Lord of Battles. The Prince of Ravens. Gambler. He has Ashandarei and the Foxhead medallion. We get our first insight to the game of Snakes and Foxes.
Rand is Aiel. Awesome. And the history of the Aiel. And we could not forget about Perrin Goldeneys, The Defender and Lord of the Two Rivers.

"Carai an Caldazar! Carai an Ellisande! Al Ellisande!"
24. Daniel A.
When Perrin went home, I could relate with him. Book 4 was the start of my love affair with this series. I liked the series before that, but I didn't love it as I did after that 130 pages of Perrin in the Two Rivers leading his people forward.
25. Dr. D.
I began this series when the first book appeared at the bookstore....something about the cover I suppose. As the series progressed over the years, there were high points, and also moments in the successive books where it felt like Jordan was working against himself. This book was/is a hight point in the series for me, as a point of resolution for Rand as Brandon suggested, perhaps acceptance put into action.

As a Therapist I love moments where characters become aware of themselves...and then we get to see where they take it. The Rhuidean
sequences were extremely well-written and provocative in this way. What makes Brandon's additions to ths prodigious work so good, for me, is his capturing of this deeper psychological ferment that all of us contend with.
26. jmg
I'm currently in my latest re-read (and listening on audio cd) and have just gotten to TSR. The part that stands out the most to me was the trip with the Aiel. We learn so much about them, not just when they get to Rhuidean. Also, Rand and Egwene definitely start to come into their own.

By the way, it's great going back and re-reading after each of the last books have come out. RJ did so much foreshadowing that I didn't even appreciate until now. Egwene's dreams have really come into fruition in the last two. Can't wait to see what else comes true in the last book. January can't get here soon enough!
27. Wotman
It just happens that I too have just finished this book (for the 6th time) and my thoughts are that I just love Perrin coming of age and having doubts about what he is doing and his decisions and how the people around him are just naturally following him. I do enjoy the interaction with him and Faile, I know a lot of fans have a hard time with them, but I feel it is so normal (IMO). I think of all the male characters I can relate with Perrin (in this book) concerning my wife too, I have never understood her and I still try to do what I think she wants yet doesn't seem to work out like I think they should, but I just love her to death and I know she feels the same about me.
I do like the natural interaction between Matt and Rand and how Matt is unsure how to take Rand and how Rand is trying to reassure Matt.
I think this is one of the books that almost works as a complete stand alone novel, and the battle at Emonds field is one of the three best (so far) in the whole series.
28. Joel S.
I agree with what many have said - TSR is where the true scope of the series began to show itself, and is far different book from the first three. TSR provides a taste of the scope and pacing of the later books in the series, which have really picked up steam as they untie all of the knots woven.

Unfortunately, in retrospect, TSR is also a warning sign of troubles to come. Although the increase in scope doesn't overly burden the pacing of this book, there is a sharp slowdown in plot movement after this book because of the multiple storylines it opens. Starting with book five, each book has some major development for a couple characters, a few moments of awesome, and a lot of pages of filler for stories that just don't move along for entire books. For example, I'm currently 1/3 of the way through a re-read of TFOH, and nothing of any real importance has happened yet other than people moving around and opening up additional minor story lines that aren't integral to the series. Having hung out until the end, I appreciate the series enough to see that what is happening is setting up a lot of future plot, but it doesn't change the fact that the TFOH itself, like the two or three books after it, is a rather dull slog that turned many people away from the WOT series.

Bottom line - I enjoy TSR, which was my favorite book in the series until the last three (which have tied up many stories and have become progressively faster paced as they become more focused) came out. However, this enjoyment is muted a bit by the knowledge of what is to come.
April Moore
29. aprildmoore
What earlgrey said @15, yep, I'd second that. :-) This is one of my favorite books of the series as well, but I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite.
30. HeeroTX
I love this book for so many reasons, but mainly everything in the Two Rivers. I really liked Perrin & Faile in this book, but beyond that, this is THE book where: Gaul, Bain, Chiad and Verin all became very real to me. And barring something incredible in the final book, Verin Sedai will remain the greatest character in the series to me.
31. pwl
Surprised no mention of Perrin by Sanderson. This book is the single reason why (before ToM) he had any fans at all. He's just concentrated awesome in the whole Two Rivers plotline. For the prior three books (and the next six), he just plods along. Granted, plodding at a slow pace is integral to his characterization -- he's a big guy, and doesn't want to hurt anyone accidentally.
32. lex47
And of course, there's Mat.

A character who, when written by Jordan, was a hero who was also funny in a rakish and organic way.

And a character who, when written by you, is a one-dimensional walking gag machine with all the sensibility and complexity of Shemp from the Three Stooges.

Good work.
33. andrea figg
This is my favorite book of the series. I particularly liked the discovery into and interactions with the Aiel, which involve Egwene, Matt and Rand. Each of them grows a great deal. I'm surprised at how many people listed Perrin and Faile as what they liked best. That part was interesting and well-done to be sure; those two are fine but I find others of the characters more interesting or intriguing. It was good to see how the Two Rivers folk were dealing with the changes in the world, and how they interacted with Aiel as well, such as when Gaul gave Mistress Al'Vere a gift as roofmistress, and so forth.
Charles Gaston
34. parrothead
Yup, ties with LoC for my fave of the series. This one has the best scene (Rhuidean), LoC has the best climax (Dumai's Wells).

Love Rand's storyline, love Perrin and Faile, Min at the Tower lets you know that Some Serious Bad Shit Is Going Down, and the Supergirls...well, I don't dislike their story, it just never sticks out like the others. I like the juxtaposition of Aiel in the Two Rivers with Two Rivers folk in the Waste. While Jordan didn't focus much on romance, I found the Perrin/Faile relationship quite believable. And Berelaine is a skank.
Charles Gaston
35. parrothead
Damn double posts...
36. Diesel
Yeah I was pretty happy to see Mat start to develop more in this book. I remember reading the first time and saying to myself, "Rand and Perrin are heavily involved and get to be important, when is Mat going to be a focal point?" Then, wham there he was in this book.

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