Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Fires of Heaven Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: The Wheel of Time Book Five
Pages: 989

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(Spoilers for the previous four books in the Wheel of Time are below).

After the conclusion of The Shadow Rising, which threw a stick into Robert Jordan’s wheel (a good stick mind you), expectations for the fifth book were high.  For the first half of The Fires of Heaven, the pace of the story feels like that of the previous book, but then it picks up the pace drastically, racing towards an exciting conclusion.

The Fires of Heaven puts on a great display of what great epic fantasy can be all about: large battles, new magical discoveries, and new threats to the major characters are taken to new heights in Jordan’s series.

Even the absence of Perrin Ayabara and his band of friends does not stop this book from being great. An interesting note: this is the first book in the series not to feature everyone from the Two Rivers.  Although Perrin’s absence is disappointing, especially if Perrin is your favorite character, Jordan manages to see the story through to his strongest ending to any individual book of the series, thus far.

The Fires of Heaven is the first book in the series to begin with the major characters in different places.  New narrators are added and they add new plot threads on top of the others, while others like the Perrin plot thread are removed from this book.
The story primarily follows two large plots (Rand and Nynaeve’s) while interspersing a few other sub-plots within the major plots, and by adding new minor plots in between.  The various plot threads are bullet pointed below:
  • Rand’s return from the Spine of the World with an Aiel army
  • Elayne and Nynaeve’s departure from Tanchico
  • Egwene’s continued study of Tel’aran’rhiod with the Wise One’s (sub-plot)
  • Moghedien’s seeking of Nynaeve (minor plot)
  • Lanfear and the scheming of the other Forsaken to bring down Rand (minor plot)
  • Morgase and her struggles with Gaebril (Rahvin)
  • Min, Siuan, and Leane’s journey to find the Aes Sedai who have fled the White Tower
  • Elaida and her rule as Amyrlin
  • Padan Fain and his return to the White Tower
Perrin, Faile, and Loial are sorely missed in the first half of The Fires of Heaven.  Remarkably Jordan almost has you forgetting about them in the second half of the book, due to the quickened pace and heightened tension with the other plot threads.

Rand’s decision to basically imprison Asmodean, one of the Forsaken, and use him to teach Rand saidin is one of the strongest plots to be introduced to the series so far.  Asmodean brings added to tension to the relationships between Rand and his allies and the relationships between Asmodean and the Forsaken.  With Asmodean teaching Rand, we also get to see a lot of new magical abilities added to the story.

Rand’s relationship with Moiraine is another one of the interesting plot points that continues to develop in this book.  The reversal of their relationship from Moiraine guiding and manipulating Rand, to Rand guiding and manipulating Moiraine is another one of the bigger and more surprising plot elements to be introduced to the story.  Seeing Moiraine get trounced on by Rand and disrespected by him and his growing arrogance practically destroys the image of Moiraine readers knew from The Eye of the World.  Moiraine who looks so elegant on the cover of the first book is reduced to a glorified servant by the time she reaches the fifth book.  It truly is sad to see her become submissive to Rand, but in the context of storytelling, this change of character is one of the most fascinating developments in Jordan’s story.

The splitting of the White Tower and the Aes Sedai also adds more political intrigue to the series. The Aes Sedai are faced with the tough decision of rejoining the White Tower, or helping a newly started group of Aes Sedai that is operating independently of the Tower.  The split brings up a conflict that will have to be addressed by nearly all of the major characters.  Rand will have to decide which group of Aes Sedai, or if any Aes Sedai can be trusted.  Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene will have to decide which group of Aes Sedai they will support if they wish to continue learning how to become Aes Sedai.

Besides these conflicts the other plot threads are also exciting.  Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne don’t do too many great things in the real world in this book, but what they dig up and discover in Tel’aran’rhiod certainly makes up for that.  Readers are also treated to the effects Rhuidean had on Mat, and again that is another welcome development to his character and the story.  Rand continues to evolve as a leader, while still battling what he hopes won’t be inevitable madness.

The biggest new narrator added to the book is Morgase.  As a character, she isn’t all that interesting, but her struggle with ruling Andor and dealing with Rahvin is. After hearing about Lini, Elayne’s wise nanny that keeps being mentioned, is also an excellent minor character that becomes more prevalent to the story.

The Fires of Heaven is a book that magnifies and enlarges a lot of the conflicts seen in previous books.  The battles are larger, and the conflict between good and evil gets a lot more personal.  The true strength of this book really lies in the last couple hundred pages where Jordan delivers one of his strongest endings.

Score: 9.4

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