It's time to play the Fires of Heaven DRINKING GAME! Here's how you can play as you read along:
- Take 1 mouthful if a woman worries about the necklineIt's time to play the Fires of Heaven DRINKING GAME! Here's how you can play as you read along:
- Take 1 mouthful if a woman worries about the neckline of her dress. - Take 1 mouthful if a woman threatens to strike a man for something petty. - Take 1 mouthful if a braid is tugged, or loose hair is complained about. - Take 1 mouthful if the words "scour his bones to ash" are used. - Take 1 mouthful if an Aes Sedai is said to "stare" either "calmly" or "coldly". - Take 1 shot if an important event is all but skipped over. - Take 1 shot if a plot twist renders several hundred pages of writing completely irrelevant. - Finish your glass if the One Power is used where the user doesn't know how they've used it.
I have been short of obsessed with the Wheel of Time series since picking up the Eye of the World this January, and I have followed it faithfully believing that all of my questions will be answered, all the sub-plots will come together, and the world will be saved. The Fires of Heaven is a misstep leaving me wondering if Robert Jordan knew what the hell he was doing the entire time.
To make a long story (I mean a loooooooooong story) short, Rand crosses the Aiel Waste and fights Couladin at Cairhein, and Nyaneve and Elayne travel to Salidar to meet with a gathering of Aes Sedai. And that is all that happens in 900 pages, until the last 60 where EVERYBODY BLOODY DIES in Robert Jordan's tradition of confusing the hell out of readers with a sudden climax of events.
I've been patient through all of the meandering, even in The Fires of Heaven, because I believed it was all building up to some enormously satisfying entanglement of plot, but after seeing 90% of the buildup squandered in what I presume is a plot twist (but looks much more like an easy way out in hindsight), I'm beginning to grow frustrated with Jordan's annoying habits.
Jordan's annoying habits include: slowly leading a plot in one direction, then suddenly jerking it down, which is more of a cheap way out of the mess he's made for his characters than anything else. For example, we have 2-3 books to this point building up the evil menaces of Lanfear and Rahvin, which lead the reader to believe these characters, evil bastards flirting with venomous behaviour, will corner our protagonists into moral dilemmas that will require more than the One Power to escape from. Instead of taking the opportunity to make them hateful in the long run however, Jordan feels some sort of pressure to deliver the action, and kills them off easily with the One Power before they've come to fruition.
Speaking of wasted characters, I want to pause here to mourn for Couladin, Pevin, and Asmodean. You would think that in a series busting at the seams with characters to remember, Jordan would at least do us the favour of putting those characters to use. Instead, he makes us memorize hundreds of names and descriptions only to wash his hands of them before they've played up to their full potential. Asmodean in particular I consider a great loss; there is much that could have been done with his knowledge, his humour, and above all else, the fact that we never knew where he stood.
Also irritating is that while we have several hundred pages dedicated to whether a dress should or shouldn't show cleavage, the ultimate culmination of events since the Waste is lazily shrugged off. What is potentially the most interesting chapter of the entire book, where the battle at Cairhien is played out and Couladin defeated, amounts to:
"As they turned to face the swarm of enemies, he knew it was going to get rough...
...And then he woke up and all was well in the land."
Even the attempt at recounting the experiences through the characters was disappointing and half-assed, Rand's account consisting of "Well I was there, and then I wasn't, and then we won", and Mat's not much better: "Well I was there, and then he was there, and everyone was fighting, and I tried to scramble away, but then I killed him". It seems where actual planning and thoughtful writing are required, Jordan's a frugal bastard.
If he can come up with a way to use the One Power or Tel'aran'rhiod unnecessarily to further the plot however, he's all over that shit. These two aspects of the story seem like enormous crutches that Jordan is relying on to solve or create problems, and he's made the power of them both so unlimited that I no longer feel dread, concern, or suspense when a major problem presents itself. These are both easy and abused solutions to the dilemmas our characters face, and I imagine that if I stopped to think about it (which I have deliberately not done), I would come up with a minimum of a dozen plot holes these two powers present.
Which leads us to the most offensive chapter of The Fires of Heaven yet: The totally uncalled for romantic development between Rand and Aviendha. I have no objection to the match that was made, but the way it was written was just sloppy. The two characters argue for months, then out of the blue (through a suspiciously deus ex application of the One Power, as mentioned in the last paragraph), they find themselves humping in a blizzard more or less by accident, as if the enormous derailment of character were somehow excused by the fact that it was a spontaneous result of a rescue attempt, after which Rand offers to marry her in a moment completely absent of emotion ("Whoops, sorry about that, looks like we have to get married now"). I just can't accept that he, thus far portrayed as a complete gentleman would piss on propriety, or that she, who lives and dies by the customs and honour of her people would betray an oath spoken to her near-sister. The entire chapter was an exercise in ridiculousness, and Jordan never should have dabbled any more in romance than he has in previous novels.
This book featured a notable absence of Perrin, which I'm fine with. Sorry Perrin. You're one less reluctant hero to have agonizing again and again over your destiny. Suck it up and accept it and I'll forgive you.
All in all, The Fires of Heaven was comparatively a massive disappointment that has dispelled the illusion that Jordan knew exactly where his plot was going and how to get there from the first. It's a book that could've been hundreds of pages shorter, with massive potential for greater developments than it ever made, and I wholly understand why the series lost so many readers at this point. For the first time, I'm beginning to doubt whether all my questions do have answers (Among HUNDREDS of others: Who did Moiraine think she would marry? How did she know of Asmodean? What did she see in Tear's red doorframe? How was she able to manipulate Rand by submitting to him? GUESS WE'LL NEVER FUCKING KNOW), and that doubt more than anything else is what is crippling my patience and interest in the series....more