Review Revisited: Robert Jordan – The Fires of Heaven
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Originally Read: 24 December 2004
Re-read Started: 11 May 2015
Re-read Finished: 08 June 2015
Where did it come from? The library (audio); used bookstore (my paper copy).
Why do I have it? Wheel of Time! I mean, c’mon.
The Last Battle is
coming, so the best thing is
to join the circus.
Summary: Now that Rand has been to Rhuidean and proclaimed himself the Car’a’carn as well as the Dragon Reborn, he is beginning to fulfill the prophecies – including the one that says that he will break the Aiel. Many Aiel that learned their true history are succumbing to the bleakness, and joining the Shaido, one of the clans that refuse to accept Rand as the Car’a’carn. Rand worries about uniting the Aiel behind him in time for the last battle, but he is also worried about more personal secrets – such as the loyalty of Asmodean, one of the Forsaken, who is bound to teach Rand how to control the male half of the one power before he goes mad. He has other advisors as well: Moiraine, who seems to feel the need to reach Rand what she knows more urgently than ever before, and Aviendha, who is tasked with teaching Rand Aiel customs, much to her own discomfiture. Egwene continues her learning with the Aiel Wise Ones, and Mat continues to try to escape the pull of Rand and ta’veren.
Meanwhile, the split in the White Tower has left Elaida as Amyrlin; Min, Leane, Siuan, and Logaine on the run; and the “rebel” sisters who refuse to accept the coup setting up a White-Tower-in-Exile in a small town in Altara called Salidar. Nynaeve and Elaine, fleeing from the Black Ajah in Tanchico, join a traveling circus to avoid notice, not only by agents of the Black Ajah, but also by Whitecloaks, the Forsaken, and agents of the White Tower – for Elayne’s mother, Queen Morgause, is pressing Elaida for her daughter’s safe return, when she is not wrapped up by her new romantic interest, Lord Gaebril, who is more than he seems on the surface.
Review: I remember this book as being one of my favorites (maybe in close runner-up to The Shadow Rising), but in trying to summarize it, it seems like this book is a lot of people traveling to other places in order for the real action to begin. Not that this book doesn’t have plenty of action – Aviendha’s (accidental) discovery of gateways and flight to Seanchan lands, Mat’s first (accidental) turn as a battle leader in the fight with the Shaido, Moiraine and Lanfear’s fight on the docks in Cairhien, Nynaeve’s fight with Moghidien in Tel’aran’rhiod, Rand and Rahvin in the Royal Palace in Andor. But most of that happens towards the end of the book, so most of the rest of it feels like a very extended road trip. (or rather, several road trips.) There’s a lot of things that are set up in this book that become hugely important later – Salidar, the (re-)introduction of Gareth Bryne, the discovery of gateways, the consequences of Moiraine’s fight with Lanfear, the escape of Morgause, the dice in Mat’s head, the first meeting with the Prophet, etc. There’s also a number of smaller scenes that I’d largely forgotten about since the last time I read the series – Nynaeve & Elayne’s kidnapping, for one – that are actually very vivid and tense.
However, despite the fact that in summary it feels like a long time of waiting followed by a rush of action, that’s not at all what my experience listening to it was. I was involved in the story throughout, and I rarely felt like it bogged down, even when there wasn’t a ton of forward momentum in any of the story lines. The one problematic thing that I did notice is that this is when Jordan’s gender relations start to acquire the blunt “men think women are silly and frivolous; women think men are careless idiots; neither gender can understand the other” cast that plague the rest of the books. This is largely down to the amount of time spent with Nynaeve’s point of view; the device of “Nynaeve derides other people for being/doing [X] while obliviously doing [X] herself” gets tired very quickly, and it’s used almost as much as her tugging on her braid and sniffing. Other characters do it too, which is why I got so annoyed with it, but Nynaeve’s the worst offender, which is why my notes-to-self about this review simply say “Shut up, Nynaeve.”
Overall, though, The Fires of Heaven is still this series on the upswing, and if it’s not the best installment, it does contain a LOT of good stuff, and while it’s easy to find something to complain about in a book of this size, the fact remains that it tells a good story with compelling characters, and is still engrossing enough to keep me involved for almost a day and a half’s worth of audiobook time. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: This is the series that made me a lifelong fantasy fan, so of course I think it should be read by anyone who likes the genre. Don’t start anywhere but the beginning, though.
Other Reviews: Adventures in Reading, The Labyrinth Library, Val’s Random Comments, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan absently fingered the long, seven-striped stole about her shoulders, the stole of the Amyrlin Seat, as she sat behind her wide writing table.
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