I started reading the series The Wheel of Time back in January, and have finished the first ten novels. Unfortunately, I read the first five without writing any reviews, and I have not looked forward to going back to write them because the series tends to blend together quite a bit. However, I did learn my lesson, and wrote reviews for books 6-9 as soon as I finished them that are just waiting to be posted.
At the beginning of The Shadow Rising, all the main characters are together at the Stone of Tear. Rand has conquered Tear, and has proven to much of the world that he is the Dragon Reborn. Of course, there will always be naysayers, especially those further away from the action who believe it was an Aes Sedai plot, but Rand is on his way to unite the world for the final battle. As the novel progresses, the protagonists go off on different missions and quests, though in some cases this leads them on a common path for very different reasons. For example, as hesitant as Mat still is about Rand's ability to channel, he feels the need to go to Rhuidean, and accompanies Rand and his party. I didn't realize this when I started reading this, but this actually marks the last time that the entire group of main characters is in the same spot (excluding Min who was sent to Siuan at the White Tower during the last novel). In the six books since this one, some of the characters' paths have crossed and converged in different ways, but they have not been together as a group since then (despite everyone's increased abilities).
Rand goes to Aiel Waste to further prove some of the Dragon Prophecies true. Additionally, the Aiel believe that he is their prophesied Chief of Chiefs, and he wants to rally their support. Moraine, of course, chooses to go with him as she attempts to teach and guide him. Mat is drawn to Rhuidean in the Aiel Waste for reasons of his own after being given answers to three questions in ter'angreal at the Stone of Tear. Egwene accompanies them to meet the Aiel Wise Ones who she stumbled upon in the dream world to learn more about her talent, and the young Aiel woman Aviendha goes as well at the call of the Wise Ones because she must give up her spear to become one of their apprentices and learn to use the Power. Aviendha, Mat, Moraine and Rand all enter Rhuidean, an ancient Aiel city where leaders are tested to discover answers, and test for their future/prove their position. During this visit, Jordan reveals the true history of the Aiel which was interesting.
Nynaeve and Elayne continue on their quest for the Black Ajah and head westward after Elayne and Rand part who have spent the first part of the novel making out in corners. It wasn't a bad plot line; Nynaeve faces one of the Forsaken, Moghedien, but the two characters were incredibly annoying. Lots of braid pulling, sniffing, crossing of arms beneath breasts, bitching about low cut necklines while also coveting the material. Jordan cannot write women. Well, in his defense, his male characters aren't really that much more realistic. Meanwhile, Min has arrived at the Tower and is assisting Siuan by using her ability to read people's fate.
The best plot line by far was Perrin in the Two Rivers. After hearing gossip about the area, he decides to go home. Faile forces him to let her join him. On the one hand, Faile was rather annoying and badly written but I also am rather annoyed with how much the men see the women as the weaker sex. While I wasn't exactly excited to have her come along, I also was irritated with Perrin trying to protect her and make up her mind for her so I was ambivalent about her forcing herself along. Faile actually becomes a much better character in the Two Rivers when she is helping Perrin rally his friends and neighbors to defend themselves against Trollocs instead of relying on the White Cloaks.
At this point, there was still a lot of interesting plot development, but Jordan's characters are very whiny and are completely stuck in ideas of gender roles, and very culturally insensitive and judgmental. I'm mostly reading the novels because I want to see what's going to happen, not because I necessarily care about the characters. Even the ones I do like tend to do things that I would consider out of character or completely uncalled for, but since they aren't the main characters (by this I mean the top six of Mat, Rand, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne), it doesn't always happen as often. After reading this novel, Perrin was definitely cemented as my favorite character so imagine my surprise when that changes only two books later.