Being a WHEEL OF TIME beginner gives me certain advantages, and disadvantages, but mostly I always feel that I am so VERY behind. Due to the simple fact that I put these books off for so long and ignored Chris’s pleas that I read them (See my post reviewing the first 3 books over at my old site here), I am significantly behind the times. So without further adieu, I have finished the 4th and 5th books and I’d like to get reviews down for them while they are fresh. Now when I say review, that’s with an obvious grain of salt as these books have been out for a fair amount of time now and fans are no stranger to the intricacies of them...so perhaps I ought to term these not reviews, but my own thoughts about what is already cannon.
First up, THE SHADOW RISING.
At the beginning of the book everyone is still at the Stone of Tear. Rand has taken hold of Callandor and proves himself to be part of the prophecy.
Trollocs and Myrdraal attack the Stone and Rand kills them all with a cascade of One Power lightning setting off the chain of events that follow. The group splits again. Rand, Mat, Egwene, Moiraine, Lan and the Aiel set off for the Waste in search of something. Perrin, Loial and Faile head off for the boys home, Two Rivers and Emonds Field as they hear of Whitecloaks killing folk and Perrin needs to help. Min heads to the White Tower to deliver messages to The Amyrlin seat from Moiraine. Elayne and Nynaeve who are joined by Thom Merrylin head off to Tanchico on the southwest coast searching for Black Ajah.
What’s interesting about this book was that the beginning was exciting, and then when everyone slips off to their various destinations the pace drops down and this was the first time in this series that I felt the text bogs itself down. That’s not to say it’s interminable, but it’s certainly noticeable. That said, the only really dragging parts were Rand’s dealing with the Aiel on the political “Is he truly He Who Comes With The Dawn” bits. I mean Rhuidean on the whole is one of the most spectacular parts of the book, and that includes Rand’s plotline there, and Mat’s as well as Moiraine’s threads. It’s after that when the whole idea of Couladin rivalling the Car’A’Carn (chief of chiefs moniker) and all the time spent at Cold Rocks Hold that to me was BOOOORING. The other plodding part has to be Elayne, Nynaeve, and Thom’s experiences in Tanchico, which up until Moghedien really shows up is also decidedly slow.
The good stuff though abounds in this book. Mat’s revelations and discoveries through the doorway ter'angreal in Rhuidean blew me away, his subsequent possession of the ashandarei and the Fox Medallion, not to mention his price to pay for them were some of the best scenes in the series so far. Rand’s revelations and visions within the crystal garden are telling and very cool to discover the true history of the violent Aiel peoples lies in a peaceful past. Perrin’s plot thread at home in the Two Rivers, while good, at times found themselves plodding along to inevitable conclusions I’d already reached, but that said it was still awesome to see Tam Al’Thor and Abell Cauthon wanting to fight the good fight again, and Perrin leading. Also Perrin’s discovery of what happened to his family are really heartrending and there was indeed a lot of emotion to be had there. I don’t mind that he marries Faile....but she’s still a character I can’t stand. I mean, she’s worse than Nynaeve....and that’s saying something methinks. Min’s plotline and Suian’s stilling and loss of the command of the White Tower was pretty shocking and I can still kind of feel the emotions there. Good stuff all round.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed this volume a lot. There were slow bits, but more good stuff than bad really. My complaints on this one come in on the light side actually, the more I think on it. A fun addition to the series and a few tidbits setting up where it will go.
That brings us to THE FIRES OF HEAVEN. Which I just finished tonight after a bit of marathon “I have to finish” style reading. This book was a toughie. I started it back after I finished TSR in about mid May with plans to keep on rolling right through the series, but after starting it and having it pick up where it left off the story petered off again and got slowish...again having to do with The Waste and politicking, history and behaviour of the Aiel, and Siuane, Min and Leanne playing farm maids to Bryne and then escaping (kinda ho-hum really)...and other books started to come out. I put the book down (bookmark still firmly in place) and went on to read other things. The to-read pile slowly got picked away at over the summer and early fall and after a number of false starts on books I didn’t like...I came back to the WOT series and gave FIRES the chance it heartily deserved.
Things got off to a new, fresh and exciting start with Siuane, Min, Leanne and Logaine finding the bastion of Aes Sedai who escaped the Tower after the coup, lead by Sheriam (amongst others clearly), and Bryne eventually shows up and claims his rights on Siuane as an oathbreaker, but not before the Aes Sedai present can swindle him into leading their army against the now-red-ajah-run White Tower. Then Rand and Co. have crossed the Dragonspine looking for dissident Aiel, Couladin who is raiding cities and villages all the way to Cairhein, which he means to take by force. Rand plans and executes an attack on Couladin and his Shaido Aiel and he, joined by Avienda and Egwene uses the One Power to attack masses of Shaido with lightining, only to have his command tower knocked out by Sammael from afar. Matt plans to leave but gets sucked back into things and ends up leading an assault on Couladin’s forces and kills the leader himself, severing his head. Finally, after hearing a rumour of Morgase’s death at the hands of Gaebril, a man who is actually the Forsaken Rahvin in disguise, Rand vows vengeance, but Moiraine with knowledge she gained in the last book at Rhuidean has other ideas which lead to the exciting climax.
And here I was, again thinking to myself, why did I put this book down. It has such exciting things happening! Well, I think after 5 books I have discovered the crux of the matter. Jordan’s series is longwinded. It’s AWESOME, BRILLIANT and KICKASS...but longwinded. So, I get these slow bits thrown in that test my patience and resolve, but for every one or two slow chapters, Jordan throws like five or six crazy-ass awesome chapters at me like bullets. It’s hard to not like this guys books. I’m always sitting there ho-humming another boring chapter about Nynaeve bemoaning a low-cut dress she has to wear, when the next chapter all of the sudden ramps up the awesome and I get something about The Seanchan continent, and Rand getting all cozy with Avienda in a Saidin-made igloo, or Matt fighting for his life against a crazy bedmate. It’s like he knows the chapter before was a bit tedious so he rewards you with some good stuff. Sigh. It’s a frustrating relationship, but everytime I finish one of these bad boys I want to have the next one on my bedside table ready to rock.
Which brings me to...I’ve got LORD Of CHAOS and I am starting it tonight. So far this series has had a few slow moments, but nothing I won’t overlook to find out where it all goes. Happily so in fact.
Note: I think the THE FIRES OF HEAVEN eBook cover pictured above is one of my faves of the new covers...but it has SO much more significance for me now that I finished that volume...and the artist could NOT have made a better choice for a subject. Just perfect!