The Shadow Rising: Book Four of The Wheel of Time
I am currently re-reading The Shadow Rising, which is the fourth book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels. For those that have never read them, here is a spoiler free synopsis. In a previous Age, Lews Therin Telamon (nicknamed The Dragon) and his Hundred Companions sealed the Dark One back in his prison by using the Power (the series’ version of magic, similar to channeling the elements of existence). In revenge, the Dark One tainted the male half of the Power (men draw on the male half, saidin, while women draw on the female half, saidar; the process of channeling is different for each gender), so that eventually all men that channel go crazy and lash out with the Power, destroying everything around them. This is called the Breaking of the World, and happened during the Age of Legends some 3000 years or so before the events of the novels. Not much is known about that time, as whole cities, peoples, and records were lost or destroyed. One of the central tenets in these books is that as the Wheel of Time turns, Ages that once were come to pass again. In these novels, The Dragon is reborn (who it is and how he discovers that he may be the Dragon Reborn is the events in Book I) to save mankind in The Last Battle, but it is said that he will destroy the world to do so.
In The Shadow Rising, what I like most is that some of the historical lore and magical nature of the world really comes to the foreground. Not just through the normal methods in fantasy novels a la ruins and magic, but also through magical dimensions, unexplainable memories from previous lives, and by revealing secrets about the forgotten past, secrets so grave that some people may not be able to handle it. To write a great fantasy novel, you must create a believable world that your characters inhabit, and I love exploring the stories, myths, ruins, and artifacts of those worlds (also, this is why I like role-playing games). I will muddle through an average novel if it has captivating lore. This fascination with backstory and history is also why, of all of Tolkien’s Middle Earth writings, The Silmarillion is my favorite (or at least a very close second).