Saturday, January 2, 2016

What's The Best Wheel of Time Book?

Ranking the Fourteen Books in the Wheel of Time Series

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(Spoilers for the fourteen Wheel of Time books are below…. you have been warned).

It may be fair to call the Wheel of Time series one long book, but the fact remains that it was published in fourteen different volumes.  Which single volume of the series is best?  That is what this article is about: a ranking of the fourteen books that make up the Wheel of Time (prequel not included).

Although this is an opinion article, ranking the individual books was largely based off of subtracting the flaws from the strengths.

It’s no secret to the people who have started reading this series, that the books themselves are flawed… and in some cases they are very flawed.  Despite issues with character development and dialogue, the Wheel of Time still features one of the best fantasy worlds that’s been created.  For better or worse, the Wheel of Time is here to stay, so here is our ranking of the individual books in the series.


14.  Crossroads of Twilight (Wheel of Time Book Ten)

Crossroads of Twilight is the only book in the Wheel of Time series that I feel pretty confident calling a bad book.  The plot stalls, literally, and the subsequent result is a book with almost 800 pages of nothing.  This is mostly due to the fact that the first 600 pages (softcover) of the book are spent recapping everyone’s reaction to the cleansing of saidin at the end of Winter’s Heart.

Events in this book are cumbersome, like Elayne’s succession, or redundant like Rand sending out messengers to meet with the Seanchan (that is literally the only thing he does in this book). Actually, a lot of events in this book are redundant, with characters doing the exact same thing they were doing in the previous book: Mat is still courting Tuon, Perrin is still searching for Faile, and Egwene is still laying siege to Tar Valon.

The only things that save this bad book from being a complete failure are the humorous interactions between Mat and Tuon, and the extent that Perrin is willing to go to reunite with his wife. Tuon calling Mat Toy is pretty funny. Perrin’s capturing of Shaido Aiel and the subsequent torture that is carried out by him is actually some of the strongest material Perrin has worked with in the series.  I’m specifically thinking of the scene where he cuts a man’s hand off, and then threatens to leave all of the Shaido without hands or feet.


13. The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time Book Eight)

The Path of Daggers was the first book in the Wheel of Time series to make it to number one on the New York Times Bestseller List.  A remarkable accomplishment since so few fantasy books have become bestsellers, especially in 1998 when the feat was accomplished.

The strengths of this book are largely centered around the reemerging Seanchan.  Rand’s battle with them, his discovery of Callandor’s flaws, and the treacherous members of the Black Tower aren’t the strongest Rand story-lines in the series, but they aren’t bad either.  Likewise the sequence with Elayne, Nynaeve, Aviendha, and the Windfinders using the Bowl of Winds and their subsequent escape from the Seanchan is also pretty exciting.

Weaknesses in this book center around new plot developments that have readers feeling apathetic towards them.  Rand’s battle preparations, Perrin’s journey into Ghealdan and meeting Morgase, Elayne’s journey into Andor, and Egwene’s attempts to manipulate the Aes Sedai aren’t necessarily repulsive story arcs, but they are far from exciting.

The book’s ending is also anticlimactic, and for the most part emotionally ineffective.  After a number of books with exciting endings by Robert Jordan, to see this book fizzle out towards the end is disappointing, but it’s not enough to ruin it.  Perhaps the most disappointing part of this story is the absence of Mat Cauthon.


12. Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time Book Thirteen)

Towers of Midnight is the lowest ranked Wheel of Time book on this list that was written by Brandon Sanderson.  Overall Towers of Midnight is really good, but this book is conceptually hampered by the resurrection of Moiraine Damodred.  Moiraine, like Gandalf, was better left dead.  Her return in this book and immediate marriage to Thom Merrilin is just stupid.

Why is it stupid?

Because, Moiraine’s return brings little to the outcome of the final book of the series.  In other words, it’s pointless. What does she do in A Memory of Light that couldn’t have been done by someone else? Not only that, after being imprisoned for an extended period of time, she decides that she is going to marry Thom. This is a romance that has almost no justification and is very unrealistic. The only arguable reason for this marriage is when Moiraine casually mentioned earlier in the series that she knew the face of her husband…. and that’s a very weak argument.  This resurrection was terrible. Moiraine’s return damages her character and Thom’s.  It was one of the biggest mistakes made in the entire series.

The strengths of the Towers of Midnight involve the sequence in the Tower of Ghenjei where Moiraine is rescued, which is actually really fun to read.  Mat’s battle with the Gholam, his reuniting with Elayne, and his creation of the dragons are also high points in the book.  Rand and Egwene’s confrontation about breaking the seals in Tar Valon was very fulfilling and a long awaited moment in the series.

Egwene and Perrin’s respective battles against Mesaana and Slayer in Tel’aran’rhiod were also awesome.  Aviendha’s return to Rhuidean and the future she see’s was a very emotional and depressing set of chapters.  Needless to say, the doom of the Aiel seems inevitable. The epilogue is also a great lead in to A Memory of Light. Towers of Midnight would be higher on this list, were it not for Moiraine’s resurrection and her subsequent marriage.


11. A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time Book Seven)

In my opinion, this is where the Wheel of Time started to take a dive in overall storytelling quality.  A Crown of Swords isn’t necessarily a bad book, it just doesn’t live up to the events of the first six books.  This is largely due to the fact that Rand’s storyline, and the focused effort of the quest to stop the Dark One takes the back seat to various other secondary characters and side quests.

Rand takes Illian in this book, but despite all the build up for his fight against Sammael, it feels very rushed.  What could have been an epic battle against two great strategic minds, turns into an anticlimactic ending for what was supposed to be one of the more formidable Forsaken.

The other major weak point of this book is the marriage of Lan and Nynaeve.  This marriage is literally thrust upon readers, despite the lengthy courtship.  The end result of this marriage is a lose-lose situation for both involved.  Nynaeve and Lan had both spent the previous six books establishing themselves as two of the most bad-ass characters in this book.  When they finally get married Nynaeve turns into an overbearing prudish bitch, and Lan turns into a cowed submissive tool. Wisely, Jordan and Sanderson cool the focus on this relationship in future books… but it’s appearance here was depressing to say the least.

The quest for the Bowl of Winds, which is the plot that arguably dominates this book is a fairly pointless side quest.  However, that doesn’t stop it from being the most entertaining part of this book.  It’s a kind of paradox: a pointless quest that is made entertaining by hilarious character interactions.  Nynaeve, Elayne, and Mat… this trio is ridiculous. Mat’s hatred for wealth against Elayne’s noble upbringing coupled with Nynaeve’s strict temperament against Mat’s laid back lifestyle makes for all sorts of odd, awkward, and absurd conversations.  If A Crown of Swords is the best anything in this series, than it’s the best at humor.


10. Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time Book Eleven)

If A Crown of Swords is the book that started the downward spiral in the Wheel of Time story, than Knife of Dreams is the book that began to largely resurrect the series… at least the books were mostly better after this installment. Knife of Dreams largely cleans up the mess made by Crossroads of Twilight, and brings the series back to focusing on the Last Battle.

The weakest points of this book largely center around Elayne and the succession.  Her conflict with the Black Ajah in this book is pointless and brings nothing to her story, other than it makes her look like a stupid and ineffective ruler.  It’s only fitting that immediately after her conflict with the Black Ajah and looking like an unfit ruler that she finally succeeds in taking the throne.  The only good thing about that is the long story arc known as the succession is finally over.

The strengths of Knife of Dreams center around everyone else that isn’t Elayne. The growing relationship and eventual marriage between Mat and Tuon is handled well. Perrin’s battle with the Shaido Aiel and reuniting with Faile is a relief.  The scene where Perrin murders her Aiel camp friend and Aram’s betrayal are two notable high points in the book.  Additionally, readers get to see Semirhage for the first time, and true to her reputation for causing pain she causes Rand to loose his hand.

The strongest point in this book though has to be the redeeming of Egwene’s character.  Egwene had spent the previous ten Wheel of Time books coming across as self-righteous and stuck up.  In Knife of Dreams these character traits begin to be subdued.  Egwene’s plan to bring down the White Tower from within, while enduring torturous punishment changed my opinion of her character and forced me to respect her intelligence and her resolve (two of her character traits that were very questionable up to that point).  Egwene needed to be viewed as an equal to Nynaeve and Elayne, and Knife of Dreams finally begins to make readers believe she is.


9. Winter’s Heart (The Wheel of Time Book Nine)

Winter’s Heart was almost a kind of break from the lacking middle section of the Wheel of Time.  A number of long awaited moments do occur in this particular book: such as Elayne and Aviendha becoming first sisters, Rand’s confrontation with his three lovers, the first formal introduction to the Daughter of the Nine Moons, and the cleansing of saidin.

The weakest points of Winter’s Heart center around Elayne after she confronts Rand with Min and Aviendha.  The succession for the Lion Throne is a largely dull affair, which Jordan feels he needs to spice up with the occasional assassination attempt.  Another weak point is Perrin’s new undertaking to rescue Faile.  Perrin gets real dramatic here, and it doesn’t really play to the way his character was previously established in the series.

The final weak point is Rand’s journey into Far Madding to hunt down some of the rogue Asha’man who attempted to kill him in the previous book.  Rand seems to give this quest up, not only for this book, but literally for the rest of the series as he never goes out of his way to hunt down rogue Asha’man again nor does he ever deal with Taim.  This begs the question, why even put it in this story then?

On the other end of the spectrum, Mat’s escape from Ebou Dar is handled real well.  When he finally realizes Tuon is the Daughter of the Nine Moons his impromptu capture of her seems exactly like the type of thing Mat would do.  His rescuing of some captured Aes Sedai helps stabilize his reputation as an instigator of trouble, and really emphasizes Mat’s character as being someone who is trying to do the right thing.

Without a doubt the greatest moment of this book is Rand and Nynaeve’s cleansing of saidin.  In the time span from the ending of book six to the ending of book eleven, this is the single greatest event that occurs in the series.  The cleansing which takes place at Shadar Logoth uses so much saidin and saidar that it can be felt by all of the channeling characters in the story. The Forsaken come to Shadar Logoth and battle it out with Cadsuane and the other Aes Sedai and Asha’man that are assigned to protect Rand and Nynaeve.  The battle that takes place here isn’t finally topped until the Last Battle in the final book, it truly is epic, and it’s a moment that elevates Winter’s Heart above the rest of the books that make up the middle section of the series.


8. The Dragon Reborn (The Wheel of Time Book Three)

The Dragon Reborn may be the most structurally unique book in the Wheel of Time.  With the exception of one chapter narrated by Nynaeve and another by Rand, every chapter in this book is narrated by either Egwene, Mat, or Perrin.

The focus of the book is on Rand finally accepting the fact that he’s the Dragon Reborn.  It’s also the first book that begins to show significant increasing signs of his madness.  The focus on a few characters was actually a good idea.  Unfortunately Rand is not a narrator during a crucial time of development for his character, and in many ways, his not being included as a narrator is a missed opportunity to help Rand develop with the readers.  This missed opportunity is one of the largest weaknesses of this book.

The other weakness is the fact that The Dragon Reborn could have easily been combined with The Great Hunt.  This is the third Wheel of Time book in a row where all of the characters start out on separate quests and then come together at the end after fulfilling their assignment for the book.  By the time readers realize that the Dragon Reborn is going to be largely the same as the previous two books, the effect of that realization diminishes the story.

The strengths of this book are the emergence of Mat Cauthon as a narrator.  This is the book where readers largely meet the real Mat for the first time, instead of the dagger corrupted Mat of the previous books.  It’s also the first book where he starts hearing the dice in his head, and the whole situation with his luck begins.  Mat, his luck, and the dice are one of the most unique aspects to any fantasy book that I’ve found, and it’s beginnings in this book are a special moment for fans of his character.

New characters and concepts are introduced and they are very helpful in propelling the story.  Aviendha is introduced to readers after she is first saved by Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene, and Faile also meets Perrin for the first time.  The introduction to these popular characters are a special moment for a lot of readers.  The most significant addition to the story is the first in depth exploration of Tel’aran’rhiod: the dream world with real life consequences.  Perhaps the greatest fantasy concept created in the Wheel of Time, Tel’aran’rhiod is a place that allows for discussions over great distance to occur, and it is a place for allowing events to play out that aren’t bound to the normal rules of magic and physics previously established by the book.  In Tel’aran’rhiod all of the rules can be broken.


7. The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time Book Twelve)

This may be the single darkest book in the series.   Hope never seems more dead for Rand and the White Tower through most of The Gathering Storm, and that’s what makes this book great and its ending so triumphant.

Rand’s actions are so cold-blooded and detached in this book, he genuinely has readers wondering if he will ever be able to redeem himself.  Rand’s appalling actions range from intimidating Nynaeve and having an egotistical blow up at Tuon to abandoning the city of Arad Doman to starvation and destroying Graendal’s fortress (with thousands of innocents in it) with balefire.

Additionally, I don’t think there is a more appalling and horrifying scene in this entire series than when Rand is collared by Semirhage and forced to choke his lover Min to death.  Min is saved by Rand’s discovery of the True Power, but after they both survive the ordeal, Rand reaches a new low in his personal development.

Rand’s encounter with his father for the first time since Eye of the World delivers a powerful moment that matched up to its long awaited expectations.  His final internal battle with Lews Therin was a great way to end the book and resolve Rand’s personal conflict that had essentially began at the beginning of the series.

Egwene also has an epic set of story-lines in this book, too.  Her confrontation with Elaida in front of the sitters is very tense and set up perfectly.  The battle with the Seanchan, her crippling of the Black Ajah, and her unifying of the White Tower elevates Egwene’s character beyond the status of a hero and up to the status of a legend.  Her determination and her will to endure finally has Egwene’s actions backing up her self-righteous attitude.  Jordan/Sanderson made it easy to not like Egwene in previous books, but it’s hard not to like her after The Gathering Storm.


6. Lord of Chaos (The Wheel of Time Book Six)

Lord of Chaos is usually recognized by fans of the Wheel of Time (and myself) as the last great book before the series started to go downhill.  The book’s primary weaknesses are the barely explained attraction between Egwene and Gawyn and their developing romance, and virtually all of the chapters with Siuan and Leane in them.  Lord of Chaos overcomes these weaknesses with a number of major events and discoveries that occur in it.

Lord of Chaos’s many milestone moments include:  Egwene’s raising to the Amyrlin seat and her discovery of making gateways, Elayne’s discovery in making a’dam collars, Nynaeve’s curing of stilling, and Rand’s creation of the Black Tower.

Mat’s journey into Altara to bring back Elayne and his subsequent confrontation with Egwene as the new Amyrlin is one of the funniest scenes in the series.  His ignorance about the relationship between Aviendha and Elayne is made increasingly funny by his various repetitions of this statement:
“That’s Aviendha. Don’t look at her cross-wise or she’ll try to cut your throat and probably slit her own by mistake.”

It is in my opinion that Lord of Chaos has the second greatest ending to any of the individual books in the Wheel of Time.  Rand’s capture by Elaida’s Aes Sedai is masterfully done.  His torture afterwards, the daring rescue led by Perrin, and the massacre of the Shaido at the hands of Taim and the Black Tower are more than enough to create a satisfying ending.

But Jordan takes that one extra step after the battle’s conclusion and has Rand force the nine Aes Sedai that helped set him free, kneel and swear fealty to him.  Watching the most powerful institution in this world submit to Rand signifies the beginning of a huge transition in power from the White Tower to the Dragon Reborn.  Simply put, it was bittersweet, a horribly beautiful moment.


5. The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time Book One)

The book that started it all.  The Eye of the World introduces readers to Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Lan, and Moiraine.  The Magnificent Seven if you will, unless you feel like adding Loial and Thom to that group… then they could be called the Fellowship of the…Eye?

Either way events in The Eye of the World play out very similarly to the plot of Lord of the Rings.  The Two Rivers channels The Shire, Baerlon resembles Bree, Caemlyn appears as a hybrid of Rivendell and Lorien, while the Blight bear similarities to Mordor.  The quest to the Eye of the World is similar to Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring of Power.  Certain characters even bear similarities to Tolkien’s: Moiraine = Gandalf, Padan Fain = Gollum, Lan = Aragorn, and Rand = Frodo.

Despite the similarities, books after The Eye of the World begin to pull away from Tolkien, and the Wheel of Time starts to become something all on its own.

Most of the main characters are likeable (in this book), especially Lan and Moiraine, who combine grace and dignity with raw power and wisdom.  Their appearance on the cover of this book is iconic.  Moiraine on her horse Aldieb and Lan on Mandarb leading their Two Rivers companions away from their simple lives, and on to their great destinies is moving and nostalgic.

The strength of this book is largely centered around the magic system that Jordan created, and the powerful Aes Sedai that wield it.  The intentions of the Aes Sedai, and particularly Moiraine, drive a lot of the tension in the book, as the characters often fear being drawn into an Aes Sedai plot or conspiracy.   That is of course except for Egwene who wants to join them.

The ending to the book, although expected, is very powerful.  Moiraine’s private declaration that Rand is the Dragon Reborn is a beautiful moment.  It’s the only bit of narration she gets in the entire story, but that makes the moment that much more special.


4. The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time Book Two)

The Great Hunt is probably the least flawed book in the entire Wheel of Time series, and structurally speaking, it is probably the strongest because of this.  The Great Hunt would have benefited from being combined with the Dragon Reborn.  Like Eye of the World and the Dragon Reborn, the heroes all split up to go on separate quests, and then come together again to fight evil at the end of the book.  The ending to the Great Hunt, like the ending to The Eye of the World, is predictable but fantastic.  Despite the predictability, it is my favorite ending to any of the individual books in the series as it forces Rand to chose his fate.

Rand’s hunt for the Horn of Valere with Perrin and Mat is kind of pointless, even though the chase sequences are very entertaining.  The whole book is spent on recovering a horn they had previously obtained at the end of the last book.  The point being Jordan didn’t need to add in a hunt for an item they already had,  if they managed to make this book about retrieving Callandor than The Great Hunt/The Dragon Reborn could have been a more efficient story.

The purpose of most second books in a series is to complicate the plots that were already in motion, and this is where The Great Hunt truly excels.  Padan Fain works real well in this book as a man who is evil but is operating out of the jurisdiction of the Dark One.  What he does to Myrddraal in this book makes him an imposing force to be reckoned with, and his obsession with the dagger and the horn sells readers on his complete and utter insanity.

This book also introduces readers to Lanfear, the Wheel of Time’s wildcard character.  She is one of the Forsaken, and one of the Dark One’s closest supporters, but she is in love with Lews Therin.  Jordan teases her loyalty to the Dark One and Rand throughout the series, and The Great Hunt is the beginning of this character’s ambiguous position.

The greatest new threats in this book are the internal and external threats to Wheel of Time’s most powerful institution: The White Tower.  The newly introduced internal threat for the White Tower is the Black Ajah, which is secretly undermining the White Tower’s plans.  These evil Aes Sedai add a sense of a paranoia to the characters in the White Tower who previously thought they were safe, and they prove to be a great set of antagonists for Elayne, Nynaeve, and Egwene.

The external threat to the White Tower though is what is really the most imposing: The Seanchan.  The Seanchan and the collars they use to turn women who can channel into slaves adds a whole new dimension of darkness to Jordan’s story.  Egwene’s capture and enslavement in this book takes the series down into some dark depths that it rarely explores.  It’s in this book when you realize that the White Tower could very easily be overthrown, and with it the order that is keeping the world from descending into chaos.


3. A Memory of Light (The Wheel of Time Book Fourteen)

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of A Memory of Light isn’t Rand’s battle with the Dark One, or Perrin’s final battle with Slayer, or Mat’s leading the unified armies of the world in the Last Battle; it’s the death and sacrifice of Egwene al’Vere.

Egwene’s discovery of the Flame of Tar Valon weave that reverses the effect of balefire and the way she sacrifices herself, forces everyone who had bad things to say about her self righteous attitude to eat it (myself included).  I’m glad Jordan/Sanderson had the balls to kill off one of their major characters.  It makes the forces of evil in this book look a lot more competent, which is something evil forces have struggled with in this series.

The only points of major weakness in this book centered on the resolving of Shaidar Haran and Padan Fain’s plots and the shortness of the epilogue which didn’t give characters a thorough enough ending for readers that invested over 10,000 pages of reading in them.

A Memory of Light has to be commended for the way it ended this series.  Sanderson really had a challenging task in wrapping up all of Jordan’s plot threads.  Rand’s survival but in the body of Morodin was a well executed ending, and it allowed him to finally live the life he had been talking about living since The Eye of the World.

The strength about the endings (the exception being the shortness) for most of the major characters was the ambiguity of their futures that was left behind.  Will Faile become Queen of Saldea? Will Tuon fall in love with Mat? Will Aviendha, Elayne, and Min reunite with Rand? How did Rand light his pipe despite not being able to channel saidin anymore?

The Last Battle was epic.  A near two hundred page chapter of the Last Battle met all expectations for the much hyped event.  Mat’s commanding messages were hilarious, Demandred was a formidable General and warrior, and as I mentioned at the beginning, poor Egwene.


2. The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of Time Book Four)

The Shadow Rising was the book in the Wheel of Time series that began to break its previously established structural mold.  The previous three books all started with the heroes going on separate adventures and eventually reuniting to defeat a bad guy.  The Shadow Rising starts in much the same way, but it ends with each of the three separate plot threads having to resolve their own conflicts without Rand or Moiraine saving everyone again.

The weakest points of this book are the frequent arguments that occur between Perrin and Faile, which make Perrin look like an idiot, and Faile look like a ungrateful brat.  When Faile and Perrin are alone they’re largely alright, but when they have to speak with one another(and there is a lot of that in this book) than it can get pretty annoying.  The other weak point is Nynaeve and Elayne’s journey into Tanchico.  The Tanchico plot ending is great, but the build up to it is tiring and irritating since they are largely doing a lot of similar things to what they were doing in The Dragon Reborn, and The Great Hunt: hunting Black Ajah.

In many ways The Shadow Rising is the true start of what the Wheel of Time is about: uniting the world with a common cause to defeat a common enemy.  All of the books after this book match it in style and are variances on its structure.  Essentially, readers don’t have a true grasp for the story until they read this book.

The prophecy sequences told to Mat, Rand, and Moiraine in Tear and the Rhuidean are among the best scenes Jordan writes in this series.  They lead to a lot of questions and ambiguities and help to add an air of mystery to a series that had been pretty straight forward up until this point.  Another strong point is Jordan’s world building skills, and his creation of the Aiel culture.  Ji’e’toh is a complex system of honor, and it helps to define the culture.

The most striking aspect of this book is the increasing sense of doom and darkness that begins to finally creep into the story.  With a title like The Shadow Rising, this is expected, and Jordan delivers.  Rand’s character and personality takes a much darker turn in this book, Lanfear steps up her game and further obscures her true intentions, Perrin’s family is brutally murdered as he is forced to defend the Two Rivers from Trollocs and Whitecloaks, and Siuan Sanche is shamefully deposed as Amyrlin.

Despite the increased intensity of all of the plot threads, this book is still largely a set up book, that leaves a lot of questions and action sequences for the next book.  Rand unites the Aiel, now what’s he going to do?  What’s Rand going to do about the Shaido Aiel that refuse to recognize him as the Dragon Reborn?  What happened to Moghedien after she escaped Tanchico?  What’s going to happen with Asmodean?  All of these questions largely get answered by the number one choice on this list…


1. The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time Book Five) 

As The Shadow Rising builds a lot of tension, it’s up to The Fires of Heaven to release it, and release it does. The Fires of Heaven sees the longest battle sequences and most major character deaths until A Memory of Light.  Additionally the series sees some major character growth from a lot of the auxiliary characters, especially with Nynaeve, Moiraine, Elayne, and Mat.

Before discussing what’s good about the book, lets look at the grievances.  The first grievance is the inclusion of the traveling story featuring Min, Siuan, Leane, and Logain.  These are four characters you really couldn’t care less about.  Most of these characters are hard to care about because they really aren’t good characters the only thing that’s attractive about them is either their abilities (Min’s viewings) or their former status (Logain as a False Dragon and Siuan as an Amyrlin).  The only other purpose for these characters could be to provide a viewpoint for the rebel Aes Sedai, but Elayne and Nynave eventually provide that… so what’s the point of chronicling the journey of these four characters?

The other major grievance of this book is Elayne and Nynaeve’s performances in a traveling circus.  Do I really need to say more here?  This is ridiculous, it’s not even funny which I’m guessing it was supposed to be.  It’s a good thing Elayne and Nynaeve spend a lot of time in Tel’aran’rhiod in this book, because when they are not in the Dream World, than they are most often forcing readers to suffer through their balancing and archery acts.

The second of these grievances is thoroughly redeemed by the growing abilities and character development of Elayne and Nynaeve.  Nynaeve has solved all of her problems by overpowering her opponents, and the result is she largely comes across as someone with few weaknesses.  In Fires of Heaven we finally get to see Nynaeve at her most vulnerable.    She does a number of dumb things in this book which include stupidly drinking poisoned tea, getting Birgitte sucked out of Tel’aran’rhiod, and not remembering where the rebel Aes Sedai camp is.

It’s only fitting that Nynaeve redeem herself by besting the strongest Forsaken in Tel’aran’rhiod, Moghedien. After defeating Moghedien, Nynaeve collars her and then uses Moghedien to help Rand defeat Rahvin.  Nynaeve does this not by overpowering Moghedien, but by outsmarting her, which helps to redeem her earlier mistakes.

New found respect and appreciation for a lot of the major characters can be found in this book as they go through crucial developments. Elayne garners more respect when she tones down her flirting with Thom Merrilin, saves Birgitte Silverbow from mortally fatal wounds by binding her as a warder, and by discovering how to build ter’angreal.

Moiraine’s “doing what must be done,” philosophy takes hold of her character as she becomes submissive to Rand and subsequently the only person who can communicate with him and give him advice.  Seeing Moiraine surrender her pride is truly sad to behold, but it logically makes sense, and becomes an important aspect to the later books of the series.

Mat also arises as a military genius in this book. His battle against Couladin and the Shaido Aiel firmly cements him as a respectable character in readers minds, when previously he was just viewed as a womanizing gambler that complained too much.

Besides the great strides in character growth and ability, a number of significant plot events and twists help pace and drive this book, making it one of the most exciting books in the series.  Major events include Asmodean’s forced tutelage of Rand, Aviendha and Rand’s developing romantic relationship, Lanfear’s increasing obsession with Rand, the large battles at Cairhien and Caemlyn, the duels with Moghedien and Rahvin, and the death of Moiraine and a number of other significant characters.

This combination of character development, increased pace of story, and significant plot developments make overlooking the flaws of The Fires of Heaven the easiest.  They also make it the best individual book in the Wheel of Time.


What’s Your Favorite Wheel of Time Book?

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