Title: The Shadow Rising
Author: Robert Jordan
Written & Published: 1992
The Shadow Rising is the fourth instalment from the Wheel of Time, and it marks an important structural change in the series. Until this point, every book has included a clear story arc. Book 2, The Great Hunt, focused on the Horn of Valere. Book 3, The Dragon Reborn, focused on revealing the Dragon Reborn. The Shadow Rising takes a turn in which it introduces the cliff hanger. Even the title steps away from the previous convention, moving away from a specific detail of the world to a generalisation.
Unlike the first book of the series, there are now too many characters to dedicate sufficient space to all of them. The increasing number means that significant world events are now happening away from the central trio, and the narration follows these external twists and turns. This changes the feel of the story, because in many ways it is no longer about the main characters. Where the first book was tight and controlled, this book sprawls into a full and rich universe. If you love expansive storytelling, you’ll be much more excited than with earlier books. If you love tight narratives, this book marks the beginning of the end.
Despite the narrative shifts, the underlying story remains relatively cohesive. Most diversions away from the central narrative stem from chronological necessity, and lay the foundations for later books. This is not such a problem now that the series has been completed, but for slow readers there is a chance that significant events could be forgotten before their ramifications are reached.
The most infuriating detail with this novel was the artwork. Each chapter began with the symbol of the character who influenced the narrative in a particular way. Combining chapter titles with chapter artwork effectively destroyed any chance at surprise that the author created. Instead of relaxing into the story and waiting for it to unfold, I found myself growing impatient that I had worked out what was happening several chapters before the narrative gave the necessary clues.
While the first stirrings of narrative problems for the whole series are beginning to emerge in this book, it is still an enjoyable read. Therefore, I give it 3 of 5 pages.