Please note: This article contains major spoilers for The Wheel of Time.

A lot happens in these chapters!

This month we finished the Dragon Reborn and started the Shadow Rising. Reading this way, a few chapters a week, the change in pacing was stark. The second half of the Dragon Reborn moves along extremely quickly – people decide to do something, and then do it, usually within the same chapter and often within the same page. There is very little of people standing around and discussing things, a stark contrast to how the Shadow Reborn starts, which is basically 12 chapters of people standing round discussing things, with a little action thrown in. Of course, the previous books also start a little slow, but this is different, partially because the kinds of discussion have changed. In the first three, we saw Rand being moved around by other forces, with little opportunity to discuss in depth, but here, he is now a ruler, and we get to see scenes of him meeting with High Lords and other rulers; which is probably important to show, but does slow down the narrative.

In the chapters we read last month, we did get to see a lot of character development, Mat continues to be heroic, even though he denies it; and his transformation into “city boy” is basically complete – he has little interest in returning to the Two Rivers. People are now typically taking him for a lord, though this may just be because he is wealthy, rather than his bearing. Of the three boys, he is the one who most easily adapts to his change in situation, though he does perhaps whine about it more than either Rand or Perrin. 

Perrin meets Faile. He is unsure of her at first, not even being able to decide if she is beautiful, and insisting on calling her Zarine. He does decide she is, and then worries if she could be the beautiful woman Min warned him about, but only really drops Zarine for Faile when he throws himself into Tel’aran’rhiod to save her. I think this probably took him a couple of weeks. He is also beginning to accept he probably won’t ever go back to being a blacksmith, though it is still what he wants from life.  We do see Perrin try his hand at manipulation, when he tells Faile he likes Berelain, in a futile effort to stop he from coming to the Two Rivers.  Not only does this seem needlessly cruel, it fails. The only thing it really achieves is to turn the simmering dislike Faile feels into genuine animosity between Faile and Berelain. After meeting Faile, we already know her fairly well – she seems very limited in her thinking and unable to adapt to the idea not everyone thinks and acts like a Saldaean.

Rand also grows, but not always in a good way. He continues to develop a strong commanding presence, but also begins to get short tempered and impatient. This is not helped by everyone trying to manipulate him.  He is thrown into a leadership position with no experience, and rather than seeing what she can do to help, Egwene joins in.

Egwene realises she doesn’t love Rand and tells him, but is not mature enough to believe him when he says the same thing. She also spends much of the time bickering with Nynaeve, largely because neither of them know how to adapt to their change in status. She also decides to go to the Waste to learn Dreamwalking. The Aiel don’t seem the sort to put up with her foolishness. Then again, neither were the Seanchan and she reverted as soon as she was free of them. All three of the girls have picked up the Aes Sedai attitude of “I’m stronger than you so I can make you do what I say.” Moiraine learns balefire somehow, and describes herself as “more dangerous” than she was before.

In terms of major themes — one of which is people acting on incomplete or even inaccurate knowledge, or refusing to adapt when new information shows them wrong — we actually see Moiraine learn here. She finally accepts that three ta’veren from the same small village might mean something and that Perrin could be important.  A big improvement on “I’ll destroy you if I think you are in my way.”  We also learn the Aiel are the people of the Dragon and so are in the prophecies – despite Moiraine stating they were not mentioned. How many other times are prophecies fulfilled but no one notices because it is not what they were expecting? This happens again when Moiraine tries to force the prophecy of leading the spears to war to match Rand attacking Illian.

As well as learning of prophecy, we also get more of Min’s visions – something is going to happen to the White Tower; plus prophetic dreams and learned that Elaida attached herself to the Andoran royal family because she had a foretelling that the Royal line was key to defeating the Shadow. We also see the Whitecloaks are in the Two Rivers, hunting Perrin, which was something hinted at in Egwene’s dreams

We had considerable progression in various plotlines. Of course, the main plot of the Dragon being Reborn to fight the Dark One takes a leap forward, with Rand accepting his status and taking Callandor. For the Forsaken subplot, after seeing Lanfear free in book 2 and being hit over the head with Ba’alzamon being Ishamael, we do get confirmation of that, and also see him killed. We also see that Be’lal is ruling Tear, Sammael ruling Illian; and though not stated, it is clear another Forsaken ruling Andor.  Other sublplots, such as the Black Ajah, Padan Fain and the Whitecloaks also feature, though there is no great advance in any of these.

We didn’t really find out much about the world we didn’t already know. We meet the Aiel, and do learn a little about them, but in reality not much. We saw characters pass through Illian, and in Tear, so learned a little about the governance of those countries. We were also introduced to bubbles of evil – strange events caused by the Dark One disrupting the pattern. Unlike Ta’veren effects, these are negative, and are not necessarily just unlikely events that happen more frequently (though as I noted before, the ta’veren events we have seen do not  always fall into that class).  

These sections end with Elayne and Nynaeve deciding to go to Tarabon to hunt the Black Ajah. Egwene to go to the Waste to learn Dreamwalking, and Perrin back to the Two Rivers.  Rand hasn’t said anything yet, but it is clear he will be going to the Waste with the Aiel. The only ones who we really don’t know is Mat and Thom.

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