It has been two years and three months since I read The Shadow Rising, the fourth book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. And yet somehow I thought that perhaps now would be a good time to read the fifth, The Fires of Heaven. Ha. Well, let’s just see how that went…
Plot summary for The Fires of Heaven: 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.
This only very loosely a review of The Fires of Heaven, and there are no spoilers. It’s more of a general rambling about The Wheel of Time series, really.
For those that aren’t aware, The Wheel of Time series is notorious for being lengthy, thorough, dry, full-on fantasy. It has a massive following (and for good reason) and a currently being made TV adaptation, but there’s no getting around the fact that it can be a bit of a struggle. There are fourteen books in this series (the last three were written by Brandon Sanderson, after Robert Jordan passed away) and they tend to fall around the 900 page mark. They could, arguably, be much shorter as each one tends to involve a lot of discussion, a lot of walking and a lot of backstory. They are heavy – both due to the sheer amount of discussion and also because you could literally use each one as a doorstop.
With that said, I really wasn’t sold on the idea of jumping back into this series after more than two years away. I’d read the first four books almost consecutively (reviews of the first book, The Eye of the World, and the second, The Great Hunt) after a Summer away from work, so really immersed myself in the world. Then I went back to work and needed something lighter whilst I got my head back into legal drafting… and never went back. After a while it seemed like too much effort… and here we are, two years and three months later.
It actually wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d been expecting, you know. I spent the first few pages googling pretty much everybody whose name flitted past (and there are a lot of characters), but after that it just sort of… clicked. I hadn’t noticed this before, but I think Robert Jordan is actually very good at subtly reminding you of previous books, without needing to revert to an outright recap or an information dump. It’s really subtly done, but I didn’t struggle at all after that. Keep in mind, we’re talking about four previous books of a combined page count of just under 4,000 that I read 27 months ago… and I just flew back into it. I’m honestly impressed.
I also found that I cared slightly more about the plot than I was doing by the end of my four chunky book stint. Perhaps I burned out on Wheel of Time. 4,000 pages is clearly just too much Wheel of Time in one go! I still maintain, and will always maintain, that there is no way it needs to be fourteen books long. It just doesn’t. Less walking, less discussion and less backstory would go a long way towards making the Wheel of Time series an awful lot more accessible. Still, it has to be said that my interest did last the whole way through this book, all 900 pages. Maybe it’s the break I gave myself or maybe it’s finally starting to pick up – either way, whilst I wouldn’t say it flew by, I also didn’t mind that I was still reading it either.
The one thing that did not change for me, however – I still loathe all the characters. The only difference is who I hate slightly more than the others. In The Fires of Heaven, we switched from Nynaeve to Egwene. I really, genuinely, literally hope that she dies, although I doubt it. She’ll be Queen of the World Egwene before that happens. It’s a slightly moot point anyway – literally woman in this series is shrill, possessive, naggy and judgemental, and every man is sulky, childish and whiny. It don’t suppose it really matters who is technically owning the top spot – they’re all awful.
I do intend to keep reading this series. It’s very, very immersive and the detail provided within the world is nothing short of incredible. I understand where its superb reputation comes from, despite the flaws with this series. Perhaps I might give myself more of a break between books, however!
Read my review of the first book in the Wheel of Time series, The Eye of the World, here.