Friday, October 19, 2012
The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
The Fires of Heaven is actually a pretty good entry in The Wheel of Time sequence, but the story has well and truly gotten away from it's author by now.
Three stories take up the bulk of the action, with the occasional interlude from the White Tower, now controlled by the Black Ajah, and the Andoran halls of power.
The three main stories concern Rand, and with him are Mat, Egwene, Aviendha, Moiraine and Lan. That of former Amyrlin Seat; Suian Sanche, her friend Leane and the prophetess Min. The third story follows Elayne, Nynaeve, Thom Merrilin and the thief catcher Juilin.
Wait...there's someone missing. What about Perrin, Faile and Loial? The electronic copy of The Fires Of Heaven that I read was 866 pages, including the ever expanding glossary, and there was no Perrin. The former blacksmith's apprentice was barely mentioned. He was back in the story when I bailed on the series, so he must have returned. To write over 800 pages and hardly even reference one of your main characters is a pretty impressive achievement. I'm sure Perrin had some fans (I'm not one of them), and they must have been pretty hacked off when he was largely forgotten about in this book.
It's an illustration just how out of control The Wheel of Time was becoming and an indication that Robert Jordan had pretty much lost his way. The story of Suian and Co being hunted, powerless fugitives was interesting and had some excitement, although Min did turn into a bit of doormat the longer the story went, and of course we never found out what it is about Rand that fascinates her so much.
The Elayne and Nynaeve story was a delight for nearly all of it's length. Have I mentioned how much I love Nynaeve, braid tugging and all. I don't really know why they're wandering around the wilds of Randland. I think Suian sent them off on some fools errand to track down Black Ajah, but I actually don't care, because they're so entertaining. They join a circus! It's really cool. It is blighted a little by Elayne's control freak tendencies surfacing. Rand has the power of a god, why does she think she can bind him to her as a Warder? She seems to regard him as some sort of adolescent crush. I just wonder if Rand's powers are some sort of aphrodisiac, because there isn't any other reason for the women who fall for him to do so.
Unfortunately for my reading pleasure Jordan focussed on the third story most. Mat gets pretty awesome later in the book, but Rand remains as drippy as always. I can kind of understand him a bit. All Rand ever wanted to do was inherit Tam's farm, marry Egwene, have a bunch of kids and live and die an anonymous Two Rivers farmer. Instead he's got a power that may drive him mad, he's battling godlike beings, fighting off demons and has been adopted as the leader of a homicidal bunch of tribesmen. Plus he has all these women throwing themselves at him, and he really only wants Min, who he thinks believes he's a wool headed farmer. The problem with that is that it took me a paragraph to explain that, in The Wheel of Time, Jordan has taken 1,000's of pages to say the same thing. The other thing is that the Aiel storyline moves at a glacial pace, because it delves into the intricacies of Aiel life, which is about as interesting as watching grass grow. It may work in a source book for the series, but as the bulk of a narrative it's tedious.
Rand's story aside, I did like the book, I just wish Elayne, Nynaeve, Thom and Juilin had stayed with the circus. They could have gotten an entire other series out of that storyline alone.