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I'm reading (listening) to A Memory of Light, and in Chapter 20...

...an army of "Sharans" appears out of nowhere.

I have absolutely no recollection of this country or people. Clearly, I missed or forgot something from a previous book.

In what chapter was Shara introduced, and/or what chapter would provide some good background on the people? To be clear, I don't want to know what Shara is, I'd like a reference to the original material.

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    Graendal mentions them a couple of times, and had the Sharan rulers as pets in Lord of Chaos. They're also mentioned directly or indirectly several other times, so not sure when they were first introduced. – muru Jul 22 '18 at 6:51
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There isn't any

There's no comprehensive background given anywhere on Shara or the Sharans. Throughout the series, there are little throw-away lines to make sure the reader remember them, but those are too numerous to put in an answer, I think. It's things like:

  • an offhand comment that Jain Farstrider may have gone there
  • a mention that the Aiel sell people like animals to them
  • a comment that all people know about it is that's where silk comes from
  • iirc, one of the characters (Noal or Thom) says they might not even be called Shara, and lists a bunch of alternative names
  • a mention that outsiders who trade for silk are stuck in enclaves offshore and never see inside.
  • a description (shown false, kinda, in the appearance you're talking about) that the rulers are mated pairs of male and female channelers who served seven years and are executed at the end of their term.
  • the brief mention in Lord of Chaos by Graendal mentioned in your comments

So, basically, super mysterious, rumor kind of stuff.

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There is a whole chapter on Shara in The World of the Wheel of Time (Ch 16), which was published after A Crown of Swords. The book purports to be an in-universe reference work written by a well-informed historian of Rand al'Thor's time, and is occasionally subject to the kinds of biases and inferential guesswork that might affect any historian's work.

Parts of the chapter have been summarised on fan websites.

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