I was mercilessly charmed by this book, just as I was the movie.
For those who have seen the Studio Ghibli film, let it be know...more(A Spoiler-free Review!)
I was mercilessly charmed by this book, just as I was the movie.
For those who have seen the Studio Ghibli film, let it be known that while both book and film share an unmistakable resemblance to one another and employ the same characters, their problems, and certain adventures, everything has been reorganized and refocused enough between each story that, reading the book or watching the movie, you feel you are hearing fresh tale.
The largest difference (which subsequently influences all else) between each version is that the film was more concerned about the story of Howl, Sophie and Calcifer against a political war-time backdrop; whereas the book is wound up in a mess between Sophie and Howl's (and Calcifer's) personal problems, namely, that they are all cursed/spelled. The consequences have yielded very different antagonists, but ultimately the personal developments of each character reach the same, fruitful outcome. Book or movie, I find the results very satisfying in each.
The nice thing about the book, which the movie provided far less of, was the fleshing of Sophie's background and why she is the person we see when we are first introduced to her. Her family (and sisters) are far more integral to the plot, and her relationships with them have also influenced her understanding of herself.
Howl and Calcifer are also endlessly amusing, their theatrics more frequent and common than in the film. I always found myself smiling whenever either was throwing some sort of fit or complaining. Howl is a very whimsical sort of fellow, and it is very amusing to see his odd behavior, and the reflect upon it's meaning, once the book has concluded.
Without shying away from personal issues of its main characters, the story is nonetheless a fun, fuzzy fantasy and adventure that is good for the heart. It definitely makes my list of favorite books. (less)
Sine the first book I was annoyed that the leading female character, R'shiel, lacked much agency and did little through her own decision and action to...moreSine the first book I was annoyed that the leading female character, R'shiel, lacked much agency and did little through her own decision and action to drive the plot. The story seemed more about Tarja and Brak, who are certainly interesting and likable, but still a disappointment for someone who picked up the story for female characters. This continued through much of this book, until about 85% in, when finally she became a character that took charge.
To my utter delight, however, Fallon introduces a new female character Adrina, who has probably become one of my favorite characters (male or female) in fantasy. She is somehow the perfectly engineered balance of of obnoxious but clever, bitchy but justified, flawed but inspiring. Her interaction with every character in book, from her family to Cratyn to Tarja and Damin, and even briefly R'shiel makes the whole story all the more colorful and exciting, and brings out the highlights in other people. There was not a single moment with her that left me bored.
This book had many developments that pleased me to know end, and not precisely because of the developments themselves, but rather how they come about. My girl-power heart was soaring in the final chapters. (view spoiler)[I was absolutely ecstatic that it was Adrina who smacked R'shiel from her stupor, Adrina who inspired R'shiel to defy Xaphista, and Adrina and R'shiel who save themselves and all their warrior-gentlemen friends and lovers from Karien captivity. Even before that, Adrina drives almost every major development, and foils and aids everyone through sheer wit and daring. (hide spoiler)]
Also, I would read any material involving Damin Wolfblade and Adrina that exists. It has been a while since I have scene the antagonistic attraction play out so well or so humorously.
In summation, this book is not one to disappoint.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
One of the most entertaining and humorous books I ever read, and a spin on all the classic supernatural forces I WISH I would see more often in storie...moreOne of the most entertaining and humorous books I ever read, and a spin on all the classic supernatural forces I WISH I would see more often in stories working with Christian lore. Gaiman and Pratchett together make a fierce combination of ideas and commentary about humans, Judgement Day, and the universe that has you both laughing and thinking critically all at once. Also, Aziraphale and Crowley are positively endearing. (less)
If I rated every book according to my feelings about how the author treats female characters, I would essentially hate 75% of the books out there. My...moreIf I rated every book according to my feelings about how the author treats female characters, I would essentially hate 75% of the books out there. My rating for this book mostly concerns the adventures that occur, not how the vast majority of the women behave. Some have said that very little happens in this book: but for me, what DOES happen is extremely pivotal, and it was one of the most emotionally moving stories as well (for me, anyway). I am also a person who enjoys it when authors take time to follow the smaller things in the lives of their characters, rather than simply throwing them into huge adventure after adventure; Jordan wrote this "downtime" well, and I was entertained throughout.
This book is one of my favorites because it is an important turning point for the series and the characters, as they all begin to step fully onto the paths set before them, and the way their lives are changing. A lot of the frustrations I had with the women in this book--Nynaeve, Elayne, Siuan, Egwene--were actually not so bad, because I considered this a part of their growing pains--the problem is that I remembered it only gets worse from here, which I treat as Jordan's mistake.
Characters Rand is becoming more confident and coming into his own as he works to bring nations to his side. He is also realizing his weakness--his reluctance to hurt women, even when the lives of others are at stake.
Mat is beginning to realize his own path towards the Last Battle, and though he readily complains at every juncture, he is otherwise more readily giving over to his responsibilities as they become clearer and clearer.
Perrin's transformation came largely in The Shadow Rising; I wasn't particularly upset to see him missing from this book, and I look forward to seeing him return in Lord of Chaos, particularly now that Davram Bashere is in the picture.
Moiraine... Moiraine becomes increasingly likable as both she and the reader come to figure out what her goals are, and what is most important to her. She is a woman of many flaws, but she is also one of the most dedicated and heroic characters in the series.
Egwene is learning the skills of leadership, and she is learning that she doesn't have to put up with the bullying of others who have spent most of their lives harassing her. This book is the major turning point in relationship with Nynaeve.
Elayne is also coming into her own, having to finally utilize the lessons and skills she learned growing up in the palace in Caemlyn. More and more, she is understanding what it is to be her own boss, and a queen, and like Egwene her relationship with Nynaeve is changing-- only where Egwene begins to see herself as a superior, Elayne views herself as an equal.
Nynaeve: a lot of people have vented about Nynaeve in this book, but I was mostly okay with her development (mostly being the key word). Nynaeve is having to come to terms with her increasing lack of control over the people she is trying to protect, as well as her changing relationship with others as the the path to Aes Sedai has completely messed with her comfort zone. In this light, much of her behavior and frustration was understandable. She did have several moments of heroic win towards the end of the series, and I particularly enjoyed the progression of her relationship with Galad.
Siuan's temper and behavior I don't find particularly surprising or displeasing. She has not lost her cleverness, and she is dealing with being stilled remarkably well considering. I enjoyed the way she and Nynaeve's relationship seemed to change, with Nynaeve learning to challenge her and the both of them coming out of that remarkable well. They are rather similar temperaments.
The Problematic Part Egwene This is definitely, as others have said, the book where suddenly all the women become irrational bullies and hypocrites, especially Egwene, though she has less chances to demonstrate it. Egwene has always had a problem sympathizing with others--usually she just pities--but as of The Fires of Heaven, she becomes downright unlikable. I am glad she is learning leadership and maturing, but it is unfortunate that it comes at the further expense of her behavior and attitude towards others. She is becoming an elitist ass, and the amount sympathy she gives to others is entirely related to how much she respects them. In this book, it is really only Aviendha that she shows any natural concern for, even if Egwene misunderstands the problem. Her treatment of Rand is the most appalling, but then it has always been. The problem with Egwene (that the other "heroes" don't seem to suffer from as much) is that she genuinely sees herself as better than everyone else, unless they have something to teach her.
Nynaeve In spite of what was said above, I do think Jordan took some of her development too far. To be quite honest, I actually think she devolved more the evolved in this book. There were some necessary questions of character that she had to deal with, such as lashing out at others even when she knows she is in the wrong. And to her credit, at least Nynaeve knows she is wrong and is doing her best to admit it on occasion by apologizing to others. The problem, however, is that she is becoming more temperamental and irrational than she ever was in previous books. She always had a temper, but she was never particularly stupid, especially when it really mattered, and she did well taking charge of things, especially in The Great Hunt. She has been my favorite character to now, but unfortunately it seems Jordan decided to start breaking her in order to make Elayne and Egwene look better.
The Sexism at Large It's unfortunate the Jordan chose to begin writing his women this way. The sexism has always been rampant in this series, but the reason it never bothered me too much was because it mostly read as an in-world problem rather than an issue with the writer/writing itself. That is to say, given the conditions of the world, it was mostly believable. Furthermore, sexist attitudes were shared equally between the men and the women, and in spite of everything, men and women were heroes and agents in their adventures and successes in fighting the Shadow. One of the things I have loved up to now was the deep friendship between Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve, and Min and Aviendha by extension. As I have once heard it said, the characters may themselves live in a world riddled with sexism, but they need not be portrayed in a sexist fashion. The fact that all the women are suddenly devolving (with the exception of perhaps Min and Birgitte) into such critics who cannot think of men without "stupid" together in the same sentence is destroying this balance. Sometimes I think the only thing distinguishing them from the Reds is their sexual preferences.