After The Shadow Rising, I was worried that the next book would be a significant step down. And… it was. But it’s still a solid entry for the most part!
Having proven himself as He Who Comes With the Dawn, Rand takes the next step in his plan: to take the Aiel out of the Waste to unite the world, whether they’re willing or not. Meanwhile, Nynaeve and Elaine begin their journey back to the White Tower, but news of the division amongst the Aes Sedai change their course. With the Forsaken seemingly around every corner and madness creeping in on Rand’s mind, will our heroes be able to escape the growing influence of the Dark One?
This is an odd book. Lots of progress happens at the beginning and end. But everything in the middle ranges from tedious to unsatisfying. Although there are a few moments here and there that keep it from being completely unbearable.
Everything in-between the good stuff can be pretty rough, though. Some of these scenes are genuinely painful to read, they’re so tedious. My least favorite is the performance with Elaine. I’m sorry, but I don’t give a flying fuck about her walking a tightrope over and over! You only needed a paragraph or two, not a page or two!
But those scenes are made bearable (mostly) by the great character work in this entry. Well… mostly great.
Nynaeve is pretty much the main character of this book. To be honest, I’ve never been much a fan of her up to this point. Her cocky always-right and always-better-than-you attitude got on my nerves. Which is why it was so satisfying to hear her eating a slice of humble pie! Seeing terror grow in her heart for her to overcome it using her wits instead of pure angry power is really satisfying!
Rand also has some really good stuff in this book. We see him grow colder, more brutal. Better yet, we get to see the consequences of his white-knight attitude; his refusal to hurt women or put them in danger comes back to bite him super hard. It’s the only gender-war stuff in these books that is actually well-done and doesn’t make my eyes roll.
If I tried to go over every character, we’d be here forever. So we’re gonna do a quick lightning round.
Egwene sucks in this book, she is getting hella cocky and it grinds my gears. Mat is pretty great; his arc is fantastic in this book and he has one of the best scenes near the end as he starts to rise in the military. Elaine has some decent drama with her brother becoming a White Cloak, although I’m not fond of her flirting with Thom. Min has officially become my least favorite character; she’ll have compelling drama, then she’ll randomly complain about having fallen in love with Rand for no reason. Lan is sad and that makes me sad.
As for Perrin… he ain’t here. Which is a huge bummer! After his plotline in The Shadow Rising, Perrin had become my favorite character! For him to just up and vanish for the entire book is a downer.
One of my biggest problems with the book is with Moraine. Her arc in this book is cool; seeing her finally relinquish control to Rand humanizes her in a great way. That said, her fate at the end of the book rings emotionally hollow for me. The foreshadowing is as subtle as a brick to the face and the scene itself felt anticlimactic. Instead of being, “Oh no, how could this happen?!”, it’s more like, “Oh. That happened. That’s sad, I guess.”
That’s not the only one like that, either. One of the primary antagonists of the book is built-up for a long time. You’d expect a climactic duel between him and Rand, right? Well, no. The bad guy is killed between pages by Mat, who has never even exchanged a word with him. A super unsatisfying end to an antagonist.
It feels like the book should have ended with that dude’s defeat. But there are still a few chapters to go. The events that transpire feel a bit rushed in their coming; they got some buildup, but not nearly as much as the rest of the book. Luckily, the final few chapters are easily the best ones in the book! We’ve got a badass magical duel and a reunion between two characters that haven’t spoken in several books!
Overall, I found The Fires of Heaven to be a decent entry in The Wheel of Time. It was one of the more tedious reads, but it culminated in a pretty satisfying climax. I was determined to take a break after reading it. But once I had finished it, I found myself eager to keep going and read the next entry.
Although I’ll take a break from that to read New Spring. Gotta be ready for the show!