Book Review: The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan

The Shadow Rising
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time
Author info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Jordan

This is book #4 of the legendary Wheel of Time series. See my reviews for the first book, the second book and the third book.

Warning: Spoilers for the previous books, since it’s inevitable when reviewing series, especially a long one like The Wheel of Time.

It took me forever to start, since SPFBO and some new releases came along. I have missed whe WoT world until I finally got to reading The Shadow Rising.

The beginning chapters are dynamite, featuring the girls and Mat’s gambling with fireworks. Things get pretty interesting. I found some of the early parts featuring Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne a bit too slow, but it picked up in no time. The Shadow Rising features the most stunning part I have seen in the series so far: The history of Aiel through Rand’s perspective. That is one of the coolest things I’ve read in fantasy.

Now let me say a few things about the characters. Character development didn’t fall short of my expectations. I was hella annoyed with Faile in The Dragon Reborn and found her repulsive, but she actually grew into a super cool figure. Kind of reminded me of Mike Fletcher’s unlikeable characters you love in the next book (the books are Beyond Redemption and The Mirror’s Truth for the unitiated.)

Pining romance is one of my pet peeves in fantasy and it annoyed me in a few places, but it was hell of a lot less than the previous volumes, especially the Game of Houses stuff. I gotta say I missed the political intrigue, there was some political intrigue in this book but not nearly enough. The other badass scenes more than made up for it, though, so no complaints there.

I loved Elayne’s and Faile’s character development above all else. The amazing detail of new places, cultures and especially the Aiel parts were great. There are some crazy twists that left me with my jaw hanging open. Robert Jordan’s storytelling is ever so impressive. Tanchico was far grittier than any other city in the previous books, not just the setting but the politics and the relations between different groups.
The Shadow Rising is quite a bit darker and just as intense, and I have a feelings things will get darker still.

I can’t wait to read book 5!

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Book Review: The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

The Dragon Reborn
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time
Author info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Jordan

This is book #3 of the legendary Wheel of Time series. See my reviews for the first book and the second book.

Warning: Spoilers for the previous books, since it’s inevitable when reviewing series, especially a long one like The Wheel of Time.

I enjoyed reading this book a great deal, I must say it was quite interesting to read a whole book with non-Rand POV’s and getting to know some of the supporting characters better. I didn’t care much for Perrin in the beginning, but he grew on me since he had some great POV chapters showing his internal conflict quite well.

The pacing is excellent, a lot of things are going on, different teams of characters set out on different journeys and deal with serious threats.

The star of the book was Mat without question. He has been a great burden on everyone in the previous book, paralyzed with the curse of the dagger and pretty much out of the game. Once the Aes Sedai cured him of that horrible curse, he started to kick serious arse. His gambling runs and inn-hopping with Thom were some of the most entertaining parts of the book. Mat is awesome and he grabbed the spot for my favorite character in this series so far.

A new character called Faile aka Zarine is introduced in this book and dear Gods she is irritating as hell. She wins the second place for the most annoying female fantasy characters after Denna from the Kingkiller Chronicle, though I’ve been told she cleans up her act and becomes nice in later books. We shall see.

Hopper, Perrin’s wolf familiar is another favorite of mine. He sort of reminds me of Nighteyes from Farseer books, but unlike vigorous and youthful Nighteyes, Hopper is a wise elder wolf type.

We get to know the mysterious Aiel people and their awesome warrior culture. Aiel girls were cool as hell and I loved their witty lines. A Goodreads reviewer wrote Aiel sound like a fantasy version of the Fremen in Dune, and not very original, but it has been many years since I’ve seen the Dune movies and I’ve never read the books, they seemed quite original and awesome to me. They actually sound a bit like the Tuareg tribes in our world.

Tear setting was excellent, so different from the other cities -which were also different form each other- with its unique power structure and strange culture. The details of the cities and the different cultures never fails to immerse me in the world and the story.

Only two things bothered me so far about the Wheel of Time series: 1) Nynaeve’s constant braid tugging (the girl will go bald if she keeps that up!) 2) Bad guys’ names being Hebrew demon names (Sammael, Bel’al=Belial) and the Dark One’s name being the same as the Islamic name for Satan (Shaitan), his alias Ba’alzamon sounding too much like the Hebrew demon Beelzebub -it is kind of annoying. I imagine it shouldn’t bother the readers who are not familiar with Middle Eastern demonology.

Verdict: I loved it. Excellent prose, characters, pacing, action, worldbuilding. I can’t wait to dive into book 4!

Book Review: The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time
Author info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Jordan

This is book #2 of the legendary Wheel of Time series and I enjoyed it even more than book #1. See my review for the first book here.

The plot thickens and Robert Jordan’s amazing worldbuilding starts unfolding for real in this volume. I was happy to finally see some character development with Rand and hear his voice more. Rand felt like a looking glass character in the first book, but in The Great Hunt Rand really starts to shine. His refusal to accept being the Dragon Reborn and inner struggles was quite intriguing to read.

I honestly didn’t care for Egwene in the beginning, but she grew on me later on. My new fav character was introduced here: The Amyrlin Seat, leader of the Aes Sedai in Tar Valon. She is quite a remarkable character. She came from a fishing village background and the way she makes fishing related analogies about everything is brilliant. Robert Jordan is a genius about weaving characters with such fine details. Also I’m always on the lookout for female characters that aren’t pretty princesses or warrior vixens, so I’m quite happy to see an awesome motherly character with a sharp wit.

Lan got on my nerves a bit in The Eye of the World but here he shines with his cool charm.

The Shienarans have a very different and interesting culture, again Robert Jordan’s superb talent for creating believable and richly detailed cultures keeps impressing the hell out of me. Their attitudes and worldview is quite interesting, nothing like the mainland Andor folks.

Children of the Light continue to be a horrible nuisance, I hate them even more than the Darkfriends. They remind me of the Westboro Baptist Church. They are even more irritating than them.

The Great Game of the Houses in Cairhien puts the Game of Thrones court intrigue to shame, though it gets a bit too colorful in places, but those chapters were my favorites nonetheless. Rand’s attitude is brilliant, too.

I was happy to see Min again, she had a very small part in book 1 but she intrigued the hell out of me, the way Robert Jordan brought her back tot he story was superb.

Girls will kick arse, I am hell bent on keeping my reviews spoiler-free but I found the scenes where they pulled serious badassery quite pleasing to read. These are the kinds of female characters I want to read about, they can take care of business and kick arse when needed. After the weakling messed up females of Asoiaf, Robert Jordan’s girls are such a delight to read. I’m a fan!

My search for a crush-worthy male character continues, I think I will settle for Ba’alzamon for the time being, he comes the closest.

Book Review: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The Eye of The World
Genre: Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time
Author info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Jordan

Everyone, including my editor, roommate and my first beta reader has been bugging me to read the Wheel of Time for the longest time. The sheer size of the series made me push it to the back of the TBR stack cause I had other review commitments and ARC’s, but I finally got into it now. This is the first book of this magnificent series and I must say I read it until I fell asleep at night, it’s very hard to put it down.

First of all, it’s a damn good read and a 3 am in the morning page turner with top notch worldbuilding and intriguing characters, even after reading all that modern fantasy by Mark Lawrence, R. Scott Bakker, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss etc. That alone should say something.

Some folk told me the first book has a bit too much Tolkien influence and similarities to the LOTR plot lines, but I found that hardly noticable. There are a few parallels but the rich details, diverse cultures and cities, awesome original fantasy elements and the finely woven plot threads make the LOTR influence fade away quickly.

Supporting characters are incredibly well done and I liked them a lot. Another thing I must mention is the female characters. Nynaeve and Moiraine are some of the best I’ve read in fantasy so far. Their battle of wills was damn entertaining to read. Jordan’s female characters are brilliant, they have important roles and they aren’t there to look pretty and stand as the important male characters’ love interests. Also I love how they can be powerful and badass and yet still be feminine. They aren’t fighting men with breasts or immature girls pining over some dude half the time, they can take care of themselves and the others.

The main hero Rand felt like a looking glass character throughout the first book until the last few chapters. Now that I’m 3/4 through the second book, I must say Rand is one of the most impressive slow character development cases I have seen to date. One thing I have heard a lot about the Wheel of Time is the brilliant delayed gratification and how it pays off huge to stay patient and keep reading. I have already seen what they mean, and slow character development is realistic as hell.

The bard character Thom Merrilin was my favorite along with Moiraine, Lan and Nynaeve. He is a grumpy old man but funny as hell, and saves the day in quite a few places. I love it how it’s the greybeard bard saving the hero’s neck, and not the big muscular warrior wielding the sword. One of the many great details in this amazing book.

The intricate political plots were well done and I think the Game of Houses/Great Game concept might have influenced the game of Thrones, but it is a bit more colorful and exaggerated in places, yet quite entertaining to read. I have a feeling the political intrigue will get even more complex and epic as the story unfolds.

Another thing I really like about this book is how Robert Jordan establishes such a strong and detailed lore and feeds it to the reader without doing boring infodumps. One thing I can’t stand in books is the outdated wall of text style infodumps, I take pains to avoid it in my own writing. Robert Jordan did such an impressive job of it, all the lore and world info unfolds thread by thread, we get to see it through the characters’ eyes as we go along, not hit by gods-awful walls of text distracting from the story. I think every aspiring fantasy writer needs to read Patrick Rothfuss and Robert Jordan to learn how to convey lore and worldbuilding without slapping the readers with the horrendous infodumps.

Plot twists you don’t see coming and the brilliant foreshadowing is another thing that impressed me about this book, like I said even after reading all that modern fantasy and realistic grimdark books, The Eye of The World still managed to drop my jaw.

My only criticism is the name of the bad guy (sort of a fallen god) is the Islamic name of Satan and his main alias is too similar to a Solomonic demon’s name. With all the original elements and names in the book, that was a bit of a disappointment, albeit a minor one.

Long story short: You are missing out a LOT if you haven’t read this book (and the rest of the series!) I highly recommend it. In fact don’t call yourself a fantasy reader if you haven’t read Robert Jordan.