Please note: This article contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time, particularly The Shadow Rising.
The Shadow Rising, Chapter 15-42
After a slow start, the book picks up here. It doesn’t have the frantic pace of the Great Hunt, but a lot happens. The scenes where Rand learns the history of the Aiel are some of my favorite in the series; which explain many of the cultural behaviors, such as not touching a sword, veiling before killing, and the way they avoid the Tua’athon. Though as the majority of the Aiel don’t know these things, we don’t learn what they think the reasons are. Perrin taking charge in the Two Rivers are his most interesting scenes to date.
We see considerable character development for many of the characters. Rand has accepted that he is the Dragon Reborn, and shows little hesitancy in going to Rhuidean to be the Aiel chief of chiefs. He is pretty isolated here – he seems to trust Mat, but no one else. He has also started to think more of Min and how, unlike other women, she does not make him feel stupid. Mat gains hints as to his future, but doesn’t know what to do with this. He also gets the holes in his memory filled, largely with battles, but also with dances and other memories of men long dead. He is now fluent in the Old Tongue, and has learned from those memories how to fight with his new spear weapon.
Of the boys, Perrin has perhaps the most growth. Initially planning to go to the Two Rivers to hand himself over to be hanged, he tries to manipulate Faile, which does not go well. Of all the leads, Perrin is least suited to manipulating people. He learns his family has been killed, so abandons the idea of sacrificing himself; instead dedicating himself to saving the village from the Trollocs and to a lesser extent the Whitecloaks. He succeeds in persuading people to abandon their farms and seek refuge in the villages, his ta’veren nature at work, though he is not comfortable admitting it. He also leads his first skirmish with Trollocs, which comes out badly – they are clearly betrayed here. The Two Rivers folk have begun to look to him – chanting “Goldeneyes” for example, but it is not complete – Wil reacts angrily to Perrin’s suggestion that he might prefer to go home and relax rather than hunt Trollocs. He is also much less willing to follow the led of Aes Sedai – even challenging Verin and Alanna directly, to the horror of Loial and Faile.
Egwene goes to the Waste, as she wants to learn, but immediately starts lying to the Wise Ones and thinking of ways to get round her rules. She also seems to have changed her loyalties – getting mad at Rand for the way Aviendha treats him, rather than at her; or when she thinks it is childish that Rand tells Moiraine to ask before Healing him. In general, she seems to take a few steps back from her growth while a damane, and is frequently immature, though not as impulsive as she was immediately on escaping the Seanchan. Elayne and Nynaeve go off on their own, but we see little growth from them. We get to know Aviendha, who goes from dislike of Rand because she thinks he mistreated Elayne, to hatred of him because of something she learned in Rhuidean – though not the Aiel past as he assumes.
In terms of Worldbuilding, the biggest aspect of these chapters is that we see the History of the Aiel, and glimpses of the Breaking and Age of legends. For me, the revelation that the ancestors followed the Way of the Leaf as unexpected, but it was hinted back as early as the meeting with the Green Man in book one; and made sense of what we knew of their refusal to touch a sword – even if it would mean death. We also learn a little of the Warrior Societies and the relationship between clans; plus learn that Wise Ones can channel and have their own system for training, separate from that of the Aes Sedai. We also get our first glimpses of Seafolk culture, including that they also have women who can channel, that they hide from the Aes Sedai. They believe Rand is their Coramoor and that they will serve him, but seem to misunderstand the relationship between him and the Aes Sedai
Of the plotlines that run through the series, Rand fully accepting he is the Dragon Reborn moves that plot; and the Padan Fain and Whitecloak sub plots are fully intermingled. With Dain Bornhald’s hatred of Perrin leading him to ignore Fain’s murder of Perrin’s family and his suspicions that Fain may have killed Whitecloaks. The Aiel subplot gathers pace, with Rand coming out of Rhuidean at dawn, but not being accepted by Couladin and his Shaido. And the Black Ajah subplot also advances a little, with them in Tanchico, looking for something that could control Rand; and realizing there is dissention amongst the Forsaken. We don’t have many examples in these chapters of people refusing to adapt to new information, or acting on incorrect information; and generally, the characters are aware of their ignorance and make accommodations for their uncertainty. Aviendha and her attitude with Rand is a striking exception.
By the end of this section, Rand, along with Mat, Egwene and Moiraine, is on the way to Alcair Dal to announce he is the Cara’carn. They are accompanied by peddlers, who Rand suspects and have been attacked by Trollocs. Min is in Tar Valon; and Elayne and Nynaeve are hunting the Black Ajah in Tanchico, where they have encountered Bayle Domon again, and are likely to run into Egeanin.
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