“The Fires of Heaven” by Robert Jordan

Original cover of The Fires of Heaven

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One more Wheel of Time book read and nine more to go. My reading relationship with this series has become bitter-sweet: I love the story but sometimes hate the execution (more on that later).

Quick summary:

This installment of the series places us in the Aiel Waste with Rand, Mat, Egwene, Moiraine, and Lan; and in the southern countries, where Elayne and Nynaeve are located with Thom and Juilin in tow. Sometimes we pop in on Min, Siuan, and Leane as they race across the land in search of a safe haven after their escape from the White Tower; or we visit Morgase in Camelyn to observe as she unwittingly abdicates her throne to a Forsaken.

Min, Siuan, Leane, and Logain

After a prologue in which we see Elaida Sedai, current Amrylin Seat, succumb to her ego and control issues and watch the Forsakens plot to take down Rand, the story begins with Min, Siuan, and Leane on the run with Logain. They had escaped from the White Tower—right under Elaida’s nose— after Siuan and Leane had been stilled. Now that the Power is gone, Siuan and Leane grab at the promise of revenge to prevent themselves from going mad and losing their will to live due to the Powers’ absence. They promise the same for Logain.

However, when the story opens, they are in hot water. Logain stole a horse and some coins and managed to burn down a farmer’s barn in the process. He took off but the women were caught. They were about to be punished by the townspeople when Gareth Bryne, lord of the land and former right hand of Queen Morgase, happened by on his way to his estate. He halted the townspeople, assured the farmer that the expenses of his loss will be covered, and took Min, Siuan, and Leane in his service as house servants. However, while on the way to Bryne’s estate, Logain helped the women escape. With Siuan’s knowledge of the Blue Ajah’s eyes and ears network, they make it to Salidar, where the rebel Aes Sedais are camped. All the while Logain withdraws into himself, slowly losing the will to live as the loss of the Power takes over.

Morgase

We then jump to Camelyn, where Morgase is being controlled by Lord Gaebril, the Forsaken Rahvin. He seems to have placed her under some sort of compulsion, turning her into his puppet and taking complete control of her throne: He has replaced the men in Morgase’s army with his own and has used Morgase to rid Camelyn of anyone loyal to her.

Slowly Morgase wakens from Gaebril’s spell and realizes that she needs to escape Camelyn, arm herself somehow, and retake her throne. Conveniently a helpful, old forgotten nurse pops up. Lini, who cared for both Morgase and Elayne, was the only person Morgase could turn to for help. Lini contacted Tallanvor, a man in Gaebril’s army who’s loyal to Morgase, to quickly hatch a plan and help them escape Camelyn. They head for Amadicia to seek help.

Elayne, Nynaeve, Thom, and Juilin

When we first see Elayne and her crew, they are slowly travelling from Tanchico to Tar Valon to deliver the cuendillars they found. But after being taken captive by a village healer, they realize that the White Tower has broken and Siuan is no longer the Amrylin. They don disguises since both the Black Ajah and the White Tower seek to capture them and at first head for Tear. But while in Amadicia they run into Galad, who had joined the White Cloaks.

Suspecting that Galad would do the right thing and turn them over to the White Cloaks general, Elayne convinces Nynaeve to quickly leave and they join a travelling circus to avoid detection. After a visit to Elaida’s office via Tel’aran’rhiod, they learn of the rebel Aes Sedai group in Salidar and head there. Along the way, Elayne bonds the fabled Birgitte as her warder after Birgitte is thrown from Tel’aran’rhiod into the waking world by the Forsaken Moghedien. The heroes wait in Tel’aran’rhiod until they’re spun back into the Pattern but since she has been torn out, it’s hard to say what will become of Birgitte. For now she adopts the name Maerion, which seems to be one of her former lives. Nynaeve was battling Moghedien when Birgitte was torn out and feels responsible for Birgitte’s plight.

They find the Shienaran soldiers when the travelling circus stops at a town in Ghealdan. There they learn that Masema has proclaimed himself the Prophet of the Dragon and has gained a large following. He has also caused several riots across the land in the name of the Dragon. Many of the Shienarans believe Masema is crazy so they chose to follow Nynaeve and her crew. While in Ghealdan, the girls again run into Galad. With the help of Galad and the Shienaran warriors along with Thom and Juilin, Nynaeve, Elayne, and Birgitte leave the town by boat to head for Salidar soon after a riot breaks out.

Egwene, Mat, Rand, Moiraine, and Lan

Rand, Egwene, and Mat are still in the Aiel Waste with Moiraine and Lan when the story begins. Rand is making plans for crossing the Spine and chasing after and confronting Couladin, Egwene is continuing her lessons with the Wise Ones, Mat is trying to pull away from Rand’s ta’veren influence, Moiraine is trying to convince Rand to do things her way, and Lan is there for whoever needs him.

After leaving the Waste, combating and defeating Couladin, they all split. Rand has begun to listen to Moiraine’s advice, more so because she doesn’t force him and because she allows him to make his own decisions. His relationship with Aviendha is also less strained after they spent a romantic night in a snow storm in Seachan country. After the battle with Couladin, Rand tries to set Cairhein aright (it was attacked by Couladin). He then leaves to confront Gaebril (Rahvin) in Camelyn. Aviendha, Mat, and Asmodean accompany him there.

Though Mat often tries to escape Rand’s ta’veren influence, he’s always pulled back somehow, probably by his own ta’veren-ness. He tried to leave before the battle with Couladin began but instead found himself in the thick of it. Egwene meanwhile becomes stronger in the Power and in her navigation of Tel’aran’rhiod. She and Aviendha grow closer and they both help Rand in battle by wielding the Power to aid their side.

Conclusion (with spoilers)

While in Cairhein, Egwene is attacked by a jealous Lanfear who thinks she is bedding Rand. To protect Rand, Moiraine charges Lanfear while wielding the Power and pushes her through the twisted portal-like ter’angreal. The women disappear and the ter’angreal shatters since they were both channeling while entering it. Lan’s warder bond is transferred and he leaves to seek his new Aes Sedai.

Mat, Asmodean, and Aviendha, along with numerous Aiel warriors, accompany Rand to Camelyn. They are quickly killed by Rahvin. Enraged, Rand goes after Rahvin and kills him with balefire in Tel’aran’rhiod, where he meets Nynaeve has linked Moghedien with an a’dam. The balefire reverses Rahvin’s actions and Mat, Asmodean, Aviendha, and several warriors are revived.

My thoughts:

Fires of Heaven ebook

E-book cover art. I guess this is when Moiraine grabs the angreal from Lanfear.

Too damn long. But I enjoyed this installment more than the last. For a good bit of the book I was hooked and would try my best to spend as little time as possible away from it. But shortly beyond the middle, after Birgitte was kicked out of Tel’aran’rhiod, the length of the story began to wear on me again, mostly because I thought some of the passages were superfluous. Another reason is the internal chatter of the characters. I can’t put up with it for long, especially when it’s from Nynaeve, Elayne, or Egwene’s POV (Egwene wasn’t too bad this time around probably because we didn’t read from her POV much). It’s a wonder that anything gets done in Jordan’s fantasy world since the men and women seem not to understand each other. They are polar opposites and each regards the opposite sex as a Martian, no matter what culture or country the character is from.

I wondered why this is so especially when an Aes Sedai is included in a scene or I read from one of the channeling women’s POV. I wondered if the Power has anything to do the male-female relationships. I mean, sure, in the real world men and women do misunderstand each other at times and might think the methods of the opposing sex are frivolous but Jordan takes it to another level in his books. His characters seem not to understand, or often misunderstand, the opposite sex. The men always think the women are trying to control them, and the women always think the men are buffoons who constantly need to be directed. Considering the Power, are the men’s views of all women based on the ability of the few who can channel? And are the women’s views of the men based on the effects from the corruption of saidin—madness? Is the imbalance of the Power why they can’t understand each other? Sometimes the disparity between the sexes is humorous but other times it gets in the way of the story and unnecessarily lengthens a scene.

Despite that, I do enjoy the events that took place in this installment. It seems that the occurrences in this installment are to prep the characters for who they will become. There is much growth: Egwene becomes more diplomatic, Nynaeve less of a hot head, and Mat more calculating in battle. Most improved, I’d say, is Nynaeve. She doesn’t tug her braid as much though she’s tempted to. I think she is slowly beginning to learn to direct her anger and to reason out why certain things make her so upset. My favorite part of the novel, of course, was when Egwene knocked her down a notch while in Tel’aran’rhiod. Nynaeve is an impressive individual but I think her being made a Wisdom from an early age has caused her to grow a big head.

I began to admire Egwene even more in this installment. She knows who she wants to become and works tirelessly toward that goal. Actually, the majority of women in the series are like this but Egwene stands out to me since she pushes on despite advice from others to turn back (seen in book 1). I also like the method of her training: learning from the Aiel’s Wise Ones and observing Moiraine and following suit. I won’t go through all the characters but the events of this book have certainly set them on new paths even more so than the previous installments.

I think the execution of the concept of Rand having numerous lovers will annoy me in later installments. It became a slight irritation in this book. I don’t mind that he has three lovers—Elayne, Min, Aviendha. It’s the Aiel way and hey, you know, do you. I won’t hate. What’s annoying, though, is how he’s treated like property by Aviendha, Elayne, and Egwene. It’s as if Elayne has a prized dog that she has entrusted Egwene and Aviendha to watch over. Granted, that does happen in our world as well, especially to women, but ugh! I don’t like it. Then there’s that scene in which Elayne fantasizes (italics here because it could have been a thought but I read it as fantasizing) about linking Rand as a warder. It’s probably because I read it as a fantasy that I interpreted it as Elayne placing a leash on Rand to maintain her possession….

If you have read the book please share your thoughts on this below. I’m curious to know if other readers thought the same.

There’re lots to think about in this installment especially Rand’s use of the power. Sometimes I wonder if he’ll get addicted to it. And again, I have yet to see if Jordan breaks pattern with the structure of these books. In the previous installments there is always a moment of relative safety in which the characters dawdle before a trolloc attack sets them in motion. This installment too is similar—an attack of Darkhounds gets Rand and his posse moving and later there is a trolloc attack. Also that pesky wind that appears at the beginning of all the novels, carrying the story on its breeze I guess, reared at the beginning of this installment as well. I wonder if the same pattern will occur in the next installment.

The Shadow Rising (book 4)

Lord of Chaos (book 6) ->

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5 thoughts on ““The Fires of Heaven” by Robert Jordan

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