“With his coming are the dread fires born again. The hills burn, and the land turns sere. The tides of men run out, and the hours dwindle. The wall is pierced, and the veil of parting raised. Storms rumble beyond the horizon, and the fires of heaven purge the earth. There is no salvation without destruction, no hope this side of death.”-Robert Jordan, the Fires of Heaven
The Fires of Heaven is book 5 of the best selling fantasy series, the Wheel of Time. It was published in 1993 and contains 345,946 words. So, not quite as hefty as The Shadow Rising, but hefty enough.
The Fires of Heaven, similar to The Eye of the World, is a book which has grown on me as I’ve progressed further through the series. Not that I thought it was a bad book, not at all, but whenever I used to look at Wheel of Time rankings, The Fires of Heaven often appeared near the top of the list; something which I didn’t necessarily agree with at the time. It was much more of a slow burn book than any of the previous entries, featuring a great deal of character and relationship development.
Annoyingly, it was around the time I was reading this book that I had a bit of a mental block for my imagination; that was a personal thing that resulted in me lowering my enjoyment rating ever so slightly. The actual quality in itself is top-tier (mostly) and I can fully understand now why it ranks as #1 for so many.
We begin the book with Siuan. Travelling to the rebel Aes Sedai, we have recently stilled Siuan and Leane, not-so-recently stilled Logain, and good old Min. Logain is a character who fascinates me, so everything with him was great.
My favourite bits with Siuan weather in Lugard, where she pretended to be a serving maid in a rather . . . dodgy tavern and when they arrive in Salidar, where Siuan and Leane try to establish any sort of influence in consideration of their new places. Siuan’s determination not to give up even after being stilled is truly admirable.
Also, there’s definitely something beginning to brew between Siuan and Gareth Bryne, if you catch my silverpike.
“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”-Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven
First off out of our major plotlines we have Nynaeve and Elayne’s arc. If you aren’t a fan of either characters or their plot lines I can fully understand why your rating of The Fires of Heaven would be much lower. Some parts . . . dragged a bit. Plus, their side of the story covered over a third of the book. It’s not a small book either.
Basically, the oak=the reader who hated Nynaeve and Elayne’s arc, the wind=the arc itself, and the wind=the reader who enjoyed the arc. Simple as that.
Personally, I was on a middle ground. I didn’t look forward to the chapters, neither did I hate them; in fact there were some positively great parts to it. The main thing I found a bit of a drag was when they joined the Menagerie. What was its name again? Valan Luca’s Travelling Show of Magnificent Displays and Marvellous wonders?
A right mixed bunch, aren’t they. A strongman (a short man with arms like tree trunks), an Illuminator (she just keeps popping up), a Seanchan elephant trainer of all things, and many other wild and colourful people, all lead by a half-mad lord with a cloak more gaudy than a gleeman’s.
It wasn’t without merits, though. Nynaeve certainly became more at ease wearing revealing dresses and Elayne learnt to
acrobat fool people with the One Power.
Also, I wasn’t a massive fan of Nynaeve OR Elayne at this point (my opinions regarding at least one have changed as I’ve progressed through the series), also resulting in a lesser interest in their journey.
Saying that, there were many awesome moments. I liked the bit where Ronde Macura drugs Elayne and Nynaeve. Not bad drugs, kids. Just plain old forkroot. All it does is dampen a channelers ability to channel. And knocks the person unconscious . . .
Then Thom and Juilin swoop in to the rescue. Juilin threatening Ronde with cooking oil and salt was one of the funniest things I’ve read, yet also one of the most spine-tingling. A weird combo.
“‘Some rope to tie her”, he said, grinning a grin so villainous that Elayne almost tried to step away from him, ‘some rags to gag her until she is ready to talk, some cooking oil and salt. . . .’ His chuckle curdled Elayne’s blood. ‘She will talk.’”
One question though. Why do they treat Thom and Juilin so bad? Those guys are sick.
I loved Nynaeve’s meeting with Masema. Off his head, that guy, and I love it. You can feel his passion. And his madness. Then Nynaeve meets Galad, one character I don’t feel we’ve got enough of. Such an interesting all-round guy.
I also really enjoyed all of Nynaeve and Elayne’s interactions with Birgitte. Birgitte shoots Moghedian, then gets ejected from Tel’aran’rhiod, and is Bonded as Warder to Elayne in a desperate attempt to preserve her life.
Speaking of Moghedian, all of the ‘Nynaeve vs Moghedian’ (#2) was great. Nynaeve spying on her in Tel’aran’rhiod, their clash when Birgitte gets thrown out of the dream world, and culminating in her trickery and capture of Moggy once they reach the promised land of Salidar.
In turn, Moghedian’s interactions with her Black Ajah . . . pets were fabulous. The bit where Liandrin attempted to strike while Moghedian was injured, leading to Liandrin wrapped in a Weave so complex it will never unravel and Compelling her to live no matter what future horror’s await her was riveting stuff.
Also, Luca flirting with Nynaeve was priceless. The guy’s smooth, I’ll give him that.
“How long had he been doing what was necessary instead of what was right? In a fair world they would be one and the same.”-Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven
Easily the best parts of The Fires of Heaven were Rand and Mat. Our other ta’veren boy, or should I say man now, Perrin, was not involved at all. I had mixed feelings about that. It was a shame because he had such a good arc in The Shadow Rising, but at the same time, that incredible arc itself was super satisfying so I didn’t particularly feel like I needed more of him in The Fires of Heaven.
The Fires of Heaven sees Rand begin to truly embrace leadership, something he’s obviously struggled with in previous books. It helps that he now has Moiraine and Asmodean to rely on. Ahh, Moiraine and Asmodean. Don’t get me started on those two. Together, they singlehandedly brought up my rating of this book from being an average Wheel of Time book to a fantastic one.
Moiraine has always been one of my favourite characters. The Fires of Heaven cemented her position at the top of that list. She seems to be one of the only women in the Wheel of Time who genuinely care for Rand and don’t let their pride overcome them.
And Asmodean is, well . . . Asmodean. Musical child prodigy, turned to the Shadow because of the promise of immortality, all so that he could reach fame and glory through his music. Okay. Now he serves as Rand’s private mentor in the forgotten arts of Saidin, and as Rand’s . . . personal minstrel?
All of the interactions between Rand (and everyone else) and the two mentioned above were always stupendous scenes. I loved the bit where Rand confronts Asmodean (under the alias Jasin Natael) for almost revealing his true identity around his companions. Basically, anytime the guy is on screen it’s going to be awesome.
Other stand-out moments with Asmodean were him disguising Rand’s gateway when he followed Aviendha, tending the wounded after the battle for Cairhien, helping Rand after he collapses, and joining Rand in the battle against Rahvin.
I also enjoyed the bit where he reminisces with Rand about his hometown (Shorelle) as they pass what looked like crumbling docks on the high passes of the Spine of the World. One of my favourite aspects of the Wheel of Time is it’s history and worldbuilding so I really appreciated all the insight into the faaar past (the Age of Legends and the Breaking) that came from Asmodean.
Then he died.
Or did he??? Duh duh duh.
Another thing I found really interesting was Asmodean’s attitude toward Rand. Come on, the guy is one of the Forsaken, most fearedand highest of the Dark One’s minions, yet I always felt on the bench about him. Was he acting in such a way all as some elaborate ploy, or, perhaps as a chance to covet favour from a new master, or could it possibly be that he regretted his decisions?
I guess we’ll never know.
“’I once saw a man hanging from a cliff. The brink was crumbling under his fingers, and the only thing near enough to grasp was a tuft of grass, a few long blades with roots barely clinging to the rock. The only chance he had of climbing back up on the cliff. So he grabbed it.’ His abrupt chuckle held no mirth. ‘He had to know it would pull free.’”-Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven
Anyway . . . back to Rand.
I loved the chapter when Rand wakes because of a taint in the air, hunts for and slays the Darkhounds with balefire, and his subsequent chat with Moiraine about the . . . repercussions of balefire, resulting in Moiraine swearing an oath of fealty to him. That woman. What a legend. Then he chats with Lanfear, prompting Lews Therin’s voice to take over. Their chats are always gripping.
Lanfear. Of the Forsaken, her and Asmodean (and maybe Ba’alzamon) are easily my favourites of the bunch.
Speaking of Rand’s women, one of my favourite aspects of The Fires of Heaven was the relationship development between Rand and Aviendha.
One man, three women. As Mat so eloquently puts it,
“Both of them?” Mat spluttered. “Light! Two! Oh, burn me! He’s the luckiest man in the world or the biggest fool since creation!”
However much one may agree with Mat on this topic, one must still admire their romantic development in the book. Tippy top stuff. The tension between them throughout the book was palpable, climaxing with the chapter, The Far Snows.
One such tense moment was when Isendre walked while Aviendha was around. As awkward a moment as I’ve ever read. Also, the bit where Aviendha gives Rand the sword of King Laman to settle her toh and Rand gives her a gift in return. Wool-headed fool.
Anyway, the climax between them, where Rand follows Avi through the gateway and saves her from freezing to death, was one of the best moments in the book.
Not only was the unexpected moment in Seanchan beautiful, but it also helped expand the world in a way I thoroughly enjoyed. From the environment around them to the Raken that passed overhead, you really can feel a novel and richly developed culture.
I still hate them.
Also, Rand got his tasselled spear there; an item that became an icon of the Dragon Reborn.
“I always say, if you must mount the gallows, give a jest to the crowd, a coin to the hangman, and make the drop with a smile on your lips.”-Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven
When I first started reading the Wheel of Time, I used to wonder, “Why do so many people have Mat as their number 1 character?”. After The Dragon Reborn, my opinion really started to change. By The Fires of Heaven, I realised if not number 1, he’s definitely up there with the best of the best.
Mat has his fair share of epic moments in the book. He impresses and becomes . . . involved with a certain Maiden. I never liked Melindhra, I always thought she seemed a bit dodgy. But you know what Mat’s like.
The scene where Rand discovers Mat naked after the Darkhound attack was hilarious, and awkward. Well, the awkwardness was what made it hilarious. Also, I love the annoyance Mats foxhead medallion causes Aes Sedai.
Additionally, the battle of Jangai Pass was cracking. Mat killing a Myrddraal in his underwear? What a beast.
Now that I think of it, that guy doesn’t wear a whole lot in The Fires of Heaven, does he?
“Only a battle lost is sadder than a battle won.”-Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven
Where Mat really shone, however, was in the battle of Cairhien. His military genius surprising Lan and his accidental forming of the Band of the Red Hand were awesome moments. And . . . Mat killed Couladin? Okay.
I would have liked to have seen that on screen, but in a way, the fact he did it off-screen made it even better; more of a casual act, not at all as if he just took down the leader of the Shaido, partial antagonist of the previous book, and elite Aiel warrior no less.
He really does like to ‘dance with Jak o’ the Shadows’, doesn’t he?
Rand’s (long distance) fight with Sammael was alright, but not as good as Mat’s. Lightening here, lightening there, lightening everywhere. Although, it was nice to see him working with Egwene and Aviendha in a circle. Rand’s gradual knowledge of Lew Therin’s memories is a subtle touch I appreciated as well.
Oh, and Mat kills Melindhra, now revealed as a Darkfriend. A big turning point for Mat, that was. A heartbreaking one, too. On a lighter note, Rand feigning madness to put off the advances of Selande was amusing.
One of the most iconic moments of the entire series was the battle at the docks, and Moiraine’s sacrifice. That scene, man. Insane. Such a personal fight. Rand vs Lanfear, then her turning on Aviendha and Egwene, and Moiraine yelling “Yeet!” and rugby tackling Lanfear through the doorway.
Well, it was a tad sadder than I made it sound. First Asmo, now Moiraine? I don’t believe she’s dead, though. Technically, the last we see of her she still lives, and has been sent to another dimension.
Although Lan’s bond got transferred, which doesn’t seem hopeful.
And then . . . Rand hunts and kills Rahvin, thereby reversing the deaths of Mat, Asmodean and Aviendha by using balefire to destroy the Forsaken, resulting in those actions (of killing Mat and the others) becoming null.
Mind-boggling stuff, balefire.
“Never kiss a girl whose brothers have knife scars”-Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven
I don’t know why I felt like finishing with that quote. Usually I include something profound or heartfelt and related to the ending of the book.
Enjoy it regardless. Peak Mat in The Fires of Heaven. Peak Mat.
It also looks like we’re going to be getting a Morgase plotline from now on. I can’t say I’m super pumped.
Overall, The Fires of Heaven was a pretty solid book. Not my favourite, but definitely not the worst. Nynaeve and Elayne’s storyline dragged at times, and it wasn’t exactly filled with world-breaking moments like The Shadow Rising, but the character development of all our major protagonists was superb, as they begin to be moulded into their respective roles within the series.
Although I’m still befuddled at how the title of the book relates to the book itself.
However, the real question is: Who killed Asmodean?
Lord of Chaos, here I come!
Hungry for more gossip at The Fantasy Tavern?
Here’s one of The Fantasy Nobility’s Opinions…
“Lan, Lan, Lan. Biggest heartbreaker in all of Randland.Mike