Review of The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

The Fires of Heaven is book 5 of 14 in The Wheel of Time series. By book 5 the series is firmly in Act 2 of 4. I think Act 2 (books 4-6) is the best collective group of the books in the first 3 acts, but book 5 doesn’t really stand up to books 4 and 6, both of which are commonly mentioned by fans of the series as their favorite. The Fires of Heaven is notable for its heavy focus on Nynaeve and the almost tangential menagerie storyline, its introduction of some major themes and types of action sequences we will see much more of, and for the first time the complete absence of a major character (Perrin). Along with Lord of Chaos, The Fires of Heaven probably has the best climax of any of the books in the series.

Fires of Heaven cover

Any series stretching over 4MM words has an unenviable task of balancing between recapping too much in an effort to remind readers of what they read perhaps years before and recapping too little and leaving everyone lost. The Fires of Heaven is the first book in my re-read (the full 14, at 1 book a month) to annoy me with the amount of recapping and repetitive exposition given.

I was much closer to the age of our younger protagonists (Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Elayne) when I started reading the Wheel of Time. In a mark of how long its finale has been in the making, I am now several years older than Nynaeve. I was a bit concerned when I began re-reading the entire series in anticipation of the release of A Memory of Light that I would now find the younger characters’ immaturity too off-putting. Thankfully, that is not the case (I find Faile’s immaturity grating, but that was always true). What I have found is that I have a newfound appreciation for the older characters. And that is no truer for any character than for Nynaeve. She has gone from one of my least favorite characters to one of my most favorite. I can better appreciate her now, but The Fires of Heaven is still Nynaeve at her worst. In her broader character arc, she is firmly in phase 2 of 3. She has lost the position of authority she held at the beginning of the series, and her younger female companions are beginning to outstrip her, but she has yet to begin really growing as a person.

Art by John Seamas Gallagher

Art by John Seamas Gallagher

The Fires of Heaven heavily features Nynaeve (she is arguably the main character of the book along with Rand), but her storyline, and the menagerie storyline it is a part of, aren’t terribly relevant for the larger series relative to the attention they are given. Certainly, if you find the way Jordan writes women off-putting, you will be a bit exasperated. The women are heavily featured and they are at the Jordan-stereotype worst. The menagerie storyline is also uncharacteristically humor-heavy, which some readers will find jarring. Nynaeve does, however, shows shades of her “Act 3” self at the end—her role in the climax is particularly apropos to her final arc.

The Fires of Heaven introduces some things we’ll be seeing a lot of later on in the series. Jordan focuses for the first time on large-scale battle scenes (Tarwin’s Gap and the battle at the end of The Great Hunt were sort of secondary). There will be many, many more battles as the series rolls on, and Jordan writes about battles and tactics at a broad level very well. Rand continues to grow in power, but we begin to really see the emotional toll his duty is taking on him and his sanity begin to crack. Rand’s mental state will be VERY central to the story going forward.

Fires of Heaven cover 2

The Fires of Heaven has one of the better original covers. For the first time the clothes appear as described, the coloring on the three characters shown is right, and the trollocs are depicted as humanoid rather than human. And the architecture, as always, is beautiful. The title, on the other hand, is one of the worst. It is pulled from a prophecy with only the most esoteric ties to the book 5 storylines and references a concept (heaven) unknown (or at least unmentioned) in a world with reincarnation.

Supergirls ‘It’s a Trap!’ Counter: The Fires of Heaven-1, total-4

Original or new cover? New. (Original 2, New 4)

4/5 Stars.

About H.P.

Blogs on books at Every Day Should Be Tuesday (speculative fiction) and Hillbilly Highways (country noir and nonfiction).
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