The bonds and wards that hold the Great Lord of the Dark are slowly failing, but still his fragile prison holds. The Forsaken, immortal servants of the shadow, weave their snares and tighten their grip upon the realms of men, sure in the knowledge that their master will soon break free…
Rand al’ Thor, the Dragon Reborn, knows that he must strike at the Enemy, but his forces are divided by treachery and by ambition. Even the Aes Sedai, ancient guardians of the Light, are riven by civil war. Betrayed by his allies, pursued by his enemies and beset by the madness that comes to the male wielders of the One Power, Rand rides out to meet the foe.
The Fires of Heaven is the fifth book in the series, and I was really excited for it, given all the big revelations and things that happened in The Shadow Rising. And exciting things did happen (almost too much to handle, at times) but the book took its sweet time getting there.
This is a book of extreme highs and lows. The beginning is really slow paced, as pages upon pages are spent in flashbacks and reminders of things that have happened before. Which I guess was needed when people had to wait for years in between books, but hot off the end of the previous one, it all just felt unnecessary to me. I wish the author had just included a “The Story so far…” sort of thing at the start, which I could just skip and get to the actual plot. And this is not limited to the beginning (though it happens far more often then) but continues throughout the book – every time we see some person or artifact, we are reminded again and again about what we already know of them.
And even the story that does happen, is mostly people getting from point A to point B. There is a lot of character development in these pages, and relationship dynamics between people – be it Elayne and Nynaeve, or Rand and Aviendha, are definitely fun to read. One big character who’s missing is Perrin, which is a shame because I really liked him by the end of The Shadow Rising. On the plus side, we get more of Min and Siuan Sanche chapters, and those were pretty great.
But while all these people are going places, the story continues to stand still. This happened in The Shadow Rising too, but this time we get to about halfway through the book before the big stuff starts to happen. Which brings me to my second gripe. There’s a battle between Rand’s Aiel and the Shaido Aiel. The book has been building towards this for hundreds of pages at this point, and I was quite excited to finally see it happen. Except we don’t. Almost all of the action takes place off-screen. And I didn’t like that at all. It just felt like a huge letdown, like coming late to a party and hearing about all the cool stuff that went down, that you didn’t get to see.
Fortunately, all the good stuff more than balanced out these issues I had, so while I didn’t enjoy The Fires of Heaven as much as say, The Shadow Rising, it was still a pretty good read.
Until the climax, that is. At which point the author basically put all the excitement and action that seemed to be missing throughout the book into a few action packed, nail biting, goosebump raising, jaw dropping pages that left me stunned. It was – well, I can’t say too much because spoilers – but let’s just say it blew my mind, and then blew the pieces of my mind again. Whatever his flaws, Robert Jordan really knows how to write epic climaxes.
So, in summary – great writing and character development, slow pace but the action packed ending sort of compensates for that.