The Shadow Rising – Part 2

So I’m about halfway through the book (Rand and Mat just finished their trip to Rhuidean) and again I’m amazed at how well Jordan had thought out the book to this point.  Everything that we’ve learned about Rand’s past has subtly pointed towards him being of the Aiel, and the past two chapters traced his family line from the present day back to the breaking of the world.  This works to show us the entirety of the Aiel history in a way that is absolutely fascinating, while at the same time showing the effect that it can have on a person who has lived their entire life as an Aiel (Muradin is going through the ter’angreal at the same time, and upon seeing the history of the Aiel tears his eyes out because he can’t take what he is seeing.  In these two chapters Jordan has done an excellent job of tracing the history of a different culture over several generations, as well as showing all of the differences between their culture and the primary culture of Rand and co that we’ve seen through the early parts of the series.

We’ve also gotten into a lot of Mat’s story over the past two books, and I still think that Mat is one of my favorite characters throughout the course of the series.  But I tend to enjoy characters that are a little more lighthearted in a serious story.  I tend to deal with stressful situations using humor a lot, and it’s nice to see characters in a story do the same thing.  I think Mat also has an interesting story because he deals more with the supernatural elements of the world than many other characters.  Yes, I know that many characters are throwing around magic, living for hundreds of years because of that magic, and dealing with creatures straight out of fairytales (the Ogier of course) but when Mat is involved in the story, he’s dealing with things that their world considers to be legend and myth, and it always ends up being a lot of fun.

I mentioned earlier (I think in book 2) how Jordan used a lot of things that didn’t appear at all in the later books, and apparently I’ve forgotten how much he does go back to everything else as it’s needed in the story.  I thought that the portal stones were only used in the second book, but they’ve been involved in several different books, and Rand used one to get everyone to Rhuidean quickly rather than travelling through the Waste to get there.  I also remember looking back at the series and thinking that the Green Man from the first book was only ever mentioned in that book, but they were discussed in this one as well, and even named as the Nym.  There is so much explained in these flashback chapters that works to both explain the history of the world, as well as to foreshadow some of what is going to happen later in this book as well as the rest of the series, such good writing.

All this and I haven’t even mentioned the Sea Folk, who are taking Nynaeve and Elayne to Tanchico.  We’ve seen just a few small parts of their culture, and again Jordan uses the small things to explain just how different they are.  Simply the fact that many of the women work half naked while they’re out at sea shows that they’re very different from the culture we’re used to following.  Jordan was so effective in using those small details – there are maybe 3 or 4 sentences in 3 chapters that mention the women working half naked – that you feel like you’ve read three extra books just describing the other cultures you’re seeing.

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