I think this is the book where the series really starts to expand its scope to become the massive series that it ends up being. For starters, I don’t believe there is a single chapter in the book that is entirely from Rand’s viewpoint. Looking back on the entire series, that’s not that big of a deal since the later books often have very large sections without chapters from Rand’s viewpoint. But with the first two books being almost completely from Rand’s viewpoint, not seeing him at all for most of the book is a big surprise.
I’ve also noticed a huge similarity with the ending of the first three books. All three of them end with Rand fighting Ba’alzamon and with at least one character thinking that everything is over. But there are differences with the rest of this book compared to the first two. This book far more than the others shows that there are problems in the rest of the world that don’t involve what the main characters were directly doing. After a very short stay in Illian, we learn that Sammael has put himself in power there. Lanfear openly declares herself to Moiraine (who is still guiding the party as she is the most knowledgeable and experienced with the world), and we see that there are potential problems in other areas of the world as well, most notably with Gaebril in Caemlyn, who will surely cause problems later. There are also other hints throughout the book of the Forsaken acting up and causing other problems, but they are very subtle and not something you’d notice on the first read through of the series.
This book also introduces a bunch of characters who end up being a lot of fun throughout the series. We meet a bunch of Aiel, including Gaul, Bain, and Chiad, who end up playing much larger roles throughout the series, as well as Faile and Juilin Sandar who are very fun characters in the series. Sandar is the central character of one of my favorite scenes in the entire series, I’ll have to make sure that I talk about it when it comes up (I don’t think it’s any more than 2 or 3 books down the line). I also have to mention that for years I read Juilin’s name as Julian, which is a slight side effect of my reading fairly quickly.
I believe I mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again now. In these books Jordan does an excellent job of letting time pass without having to show everything that happens. With the first three books of the series, we’ve covered about 2 years worth of time chronologically, and it’s shown very well in how the characters develop in the books. One thing that I’ve heard some complaints about with these books is that characters seem to develop deep relationships almost overnight. The best example thus far in the series is Perrin and Faile. By the end of the book, Perrin is risking his life going through tel’aran’rhiod trying to save her life. It covers the relatively short span of a couple of chapters for us reading it, but for the characters it covers several weeks if not months of time. Jordan was amazingly patient in letting his series develop, and it works out very well as the books keep going.
So now we make our way towards the fourth book, The Shadow Rising, where a lot more fun stuff starts to happen.