Note: this is the last day for the MISTBORN hardcover sale. The books will go up to $25 sometime tomorrow, without warning, when my brother gets around to changing the store.
I know these posts are getting mirrored around to a lot of different websites, so I thought I'd mention a couple of things. First off, you should understand how I use my blog. While I sometimes go into depth on topics, writing long essays (I call them EULOgies, after my net nickname EUOL), most of the time my blog is used simply for a "Here's what I'm doing right now." Often, I'll post a few paragraphs about the copyedit I'm working on or the book I'm writing. Nothing ever in-depth.
I'm not a true blogger, as I've discussed often on this blog. I don't read up on what is happening in the Blogosphere and offer criticism and debate. My blog is more of a news feed than a true blog. A way for my readers to keep an eye on what I'm doing.
These WHEEL OF TIME posts are intended for that purpose. Less analysis of the books, more of a way of saying "Hey, I've finished this book and am moving on to the next, if you're interested." I intentionally shy away from any deep analysis since, well, I'd rather not get pulled into any in-depth debates at this point. These are just off the cuff reactions intended to indicate where I am and what I've been feeling.
That said, here are a few reactions to THE SHADOW RISING.
This book is long--huge, actually. I'm curious to know if it's the longest of Mr. Jordan's books by wordcount. (Does anyone have a list of the wordcounts of all the books?) However, it didn't feel long to me, since we have so many characters to watch and follow. I've heard some people complain about the number of characters in the WoT books, but this is what makes the series work so well, in my opinion. You can justify a 400,000 word novel if you're letting us follow so many different viewpoints and storylines.
The best part of this book for me, hands down, were the scenes where Rand gets to experience the history of the Aiel and the Traveling People. This actually illustrates what I was trying to say in the previous paragraph, but didn't quite get around to. These books work because no matter who's viewpoint you are in, Mr. Jordan is able to make them feel alive and real, and is able to make their motivations rational. (If, sometimes, evil.) These scenes in the past are a great example. We've never met these people, and yet they were as interesting to read for me as the main characters.
I think this is the jump readers need to make to really enjoy this series. They can't get so attached to Rand, Mat, Egwene, and Perrin that they aren't willing to experience the powerful characterizations of other people in the world. Those who can't make this jump tend to complain about the series loosing focus. Those who do make the jump get a story with more complexity and depth than you find in some of the other fantasy series, which stick to the more traditional plot structures and characterizations.
My second favorite parts of this book come with Perrin and Faile. Faile is often cited as one of people's least favorite characters, but again, I think this comes from not understanding what is going on. She's annoying at the beginning--she really is. She's childish and petulant. That's great: it means she has room to grow. And I think she does. This book starts off with her and Perrin having, in my opinion, a very immature relationship. By the end they've grown together and both have matured. Perrin by learning to be a leader, Faile by learning to work with him rather than just trying to hard to get him to let her be in charge. I think that's an important lesson that a young noblewoman like her needed to learn.