Review of THE SHADOW RISING by Robert Jordan (a re-read)

This was the book in which Perrin became the star of the series for me.

In THE SHADOW RISING, Perrin gets the most compelling story of the three primary plots, returning to the Two Rivers to save his family and friends from Trollocs and Children of the Light. On the surface, it’s a plotline reminiscent of “Scouring of the Shire” at the end of RETURN OF THE KING, but with some key differences.

Whereas the “Scouring of the Shire” occurs at the very end of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, marking the end of the hobbits’ development, this plotline is but a step in Perrin’s growth as a character. Jordan does a good job of showing how much Perrin cares for the people of the Two Rivers, and those personal stakes make Perrin’s storyline the most gripping of the three. I’m not sure I’m thrilled with the way Perrin’s relationship with Faile develops — Jordan really relies on the reader believing there’s a thin line between love and hate — but her behavior late in the book makes her a good match for Perrin. It’s just jarring that her behavior at the beginning of the book makes her seem manipulative and obnoxious.

Rand’s storyline isn’t bad once it gets started, as we get an in-depth look at the Aiel culture within their own lands. There isn’t a tremendous amount of plot moving forward, but the Aiel culture is interesting, and Rand’s position as the man coming to claim leadership of their people without knowing anything of their culture presents a lot of opportunities for future storylines/complications for Rand.

Again, the women’s storyline is strong as Nynaeve and Elayne travel to Tanchico, a city in turmoil, in search of the Black Ajah. Whereas Rand’s storyline seems to move slowly, the women seem far more proactive, hunting their enemies and making things happen.

Of course, it would have been nice if Jordan had been willing to make things happen in the first 250 pages. So far, the great weakness in this series, for me at least, has been the slow starts to these books. THE SHADOW RISING marked probably the worst, as it was more than one-quarter complete before we saw each character’s arc truly take shape. Jordan wastes a lot of time reminding us where everyone ended the last book, and each character gets a chapter or two to express their dissatisfaction with their current situation. Even knowing it would get better once Jordan got warmed up, it was a struggle to get through. Fortunately, Jordan has a tendency to get stronger as the book goes along, and he did so again here — I was gripped throughout the final three-quarters of the book and am eager to re-read the next book in the series — THE FIRES OF HEAVEN.