The Shadow Rising: Starts to slow down

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Robert Jordan Wheel of Time The Shadow RisingThe Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

In The Shadow Rising, things start to slow down. In fact, it often feel like the reading of the story must take longer than it took for the events to actually occur.

Part of the problem is that Mr Jordan tells us nearly everything except when the characters make a bowel movement. Also, he regularly launches into pre-set spiels in which he re-describes something or someone who we’ve encountered numerous times before or re-explains something we’ve been told dozens of times (e.g., Loial sounds like a bumblebee, Perrin likes to think things through, wet bowstrings are bad, trollocs eat anything as long as it’s meat, Aes Sedai never lie but… ). Every time a Tinker shows up, you may as well skip the next two paragraphs because they invariably describe first the “eye-jarring” wagons and then the even gaudier clothes. The format is nearly the same each time. This is especially noticeable when reading the novels one after the other, of course.

A similar problem is that although Mr Jordan’s world is large, diverse, and interesting, there is not much realistic diversity within a culture or group. Every Aes Sedai of the red ajah hates men, all the greens love men, the whites are arrogant without exception, the browns love books and don’t notice the ink on their noses. All Domani women are seductive, and people from Tear use fishing metaphors. It gets to the point of ridiculousness when, even though they’ve nearly been destroyed by enemies, Tinkers are still cringing at the swords of the people protecting them. And the Aiel, who use spears and knives and are the fiercest fighters on the planet look disapprovingly at another culture’s choice of weapon (the sword) and transportation (the horse). Oh, come on — get over it.

Another device that’s getting annoying is the technique of giving the reader (and other characters) information by having a character say something out loud that they didn’t realize they’d said. Or stop in the middle of a sentence that they realize they shouldn’t be saying. Or stupidly have an important and potentially damning conversation in front of someone who they just met.

In addition, some of the writing is overdone. We occasionally hear of measureless steps, heartbeats that take centuries, moments that last forever, infinite slowness, bottomless drops, razor edges of something or other.

Okay, that’s a lot of complaining, but that’s what happens when you read these books contiguously. You start to notice this stuff and it grates on the nerves. But, even so, the slowly advancing plot is still unpredictable and compelling and the characters are mostly enjoyable. The best parts of The Shadow Rising actually focus on the secondary characters of Siuan Sanche and Egeanin. I truly enjoyed their stories and look forward to hearing what happens to them.

So, even with all my gripes, The Shadow Rising is still keeping me entertained.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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