First Wheel of Time Readthrough, Part 5

I didn’t have a blog post last week cause I was too distracted to come up with a topic.  My brother and I are working on a card game together, which I may or may not talk about in coming weeks; it’s kind of in its infancy faze right now and I’m not sure how far it’s going.  My brother has some pie-in-the-sky Kickstarter dreams but I try to be more realistic, but that’s always been our thing; he reaches for the stars, and I point out that the stars are much further away than they seem.

On to the important stuff now.  I have just finished “The Fires of Heaven,” which has to win the award for most metal name for a fantasy book. Unlike previous books in the series I’m not too sure where the title comes from … there certainly are quite a few guys slinging fire at each other, I suppose.  Is balefire supposed to be the fire of heaven?

The book is almost as long as the previous one, but it certainly felt like less of a drag.  Part of that is probably cause Rand leaves the wastes early on.  Part of it is also likely cause we were reduced down to two main story branches (although the fact that it was Perrin’s story that got cut made me sad).  Rand and the Aiel have a very exciting story.  It was oh so satisfying to see Mat use the knowledge of those ancient generals in his head on the battlefield.  There’s a lot of buildup of Rand chasing the Shaido for their big confrontation; fortunately a lot of it is pretty interesting.  Asmodean was an interesting character as Rand’s tutor, and we see Rand develop a lot during this time.  Elayne and Nynaeve’s story on the other hand … well it had its moments.  I’ve always said that having your characters join a traveling circus is a jumping-the-shark moment, and the two women’s constant bickering got really, really, really (really) grating after a while.  It was almost a relief when they reached the Aes Sedai and were shut up (though the Aes Sedai can also be frustrating).  Their bickering aside, their story was also interesting; Birgitte sudden appearance in the waking world caught me off guard as much as anything so far.  Also, love me some good zealots vs zealots rioting.

We get a few side stories as well, all of which are interesting, Min and the Aes Sedai, Gareth Bryne’s quest for booty, Morgase realizing she was being manipulated and dicking away from the palace, Liandrin and the Black Ajah (the ones who are not in the Tower, anyway).  Situations continue to spiral out of control all over and the main characters can hardly keep up with all of it.  And the readers.  I feel like I should start taking cliffnotes on a printout of the world’s map.

The highlight of the book was obviously its climax, the confrontation with the Forsaken.  Moghedien has now been beaten twice by Nyneave, once by getting something chucked at her head, and the other by getting tricked into an a’dam in the dream world; she’s got to be the joke of the Forsaken by now.  Moraine sacrificed herself to take out Lanfear, and Rahvin got killed so hard that it undid the last 10 minutes of his life or so.  Despite his attempts at aggro-ing Rand into a trap, Sammael somehow escapes the book unscathed.  If he keeps this shit up, though, I doubt that will remain true for long.

Some thoughts:

I wonder if Lanfear is really dead, or if she will stay dead.  She seemed…too important to go out like a punk, and I feel like whatever plans she was carefully laying out didn’t get to see anywhere near fruition. Then again, I also thought Ishmael was likely to make another appearance, and that has yet to happen and the other Forsaken treat him as if he is good and dead, so maybe Lanfear is really gone.

On that note, it does seem Moraine is really dead, as Lan’s bond to her is broken.  In an earlier part of this readthrough I commented that I hoped Moraine did not make it through the series, but now that it happened I am kind of sad.  That’s probably because she humbled herself hard.  She only did that becuase she saw her death coming, of course, but still, Moraine the reasonable adviser was a much more likable character than Moraine the know-it-all.

And on THAT note, I am starting to think the reason Aes Sedai are so universally disliked may be less to do with their power, their history, or their manipulativeness, and more to do with the fact that any person who has ever met them can attest to the fact that they are all total dicks. Seriously.  Are one of three oaths to always be super condescending to everyone below you?  The way they treated Elayne and Nyneave upon their return, considering what they had managed to accomplish, was kind of uncalled for.  I think Verin is the only full Aes Sedai we have seen who manages to string two sentences together to a non-Aes Sedai that isn’t rife with condescension and know-it-all-ness.  Does this world really have no scholars that are not Aes Sedai?  Obviously not, as Rand’s school proves.

Moghedien is one of the women Nyneave and Elayne brought back with them, right?  I think that’s what was implied at the end.  I wonder which one it is, Min viewed chaos on all three.

I watched a lot of anime when I was younger, and I thought I saw every kind of overreaction to someone walking in on you naked that was possible.  But opening up a portal to a winter-continent and nearly freezing to death, that was a new one.  It did lead to Aviendha getting to be the first of Rand’s future sister-wives to sleep with him, so I guess there’s that.

I didn’t know it was possible to get blue-balls from missing an action scene, but Jordan did it.  Twice we saw Mat come up with an awesome battle plan and prepare to put it into action, and then immediately have the scene be cut away just as the battle is joined.  The second time was the confrontation with Couladin.  Who kills a major antagonist like that off-screen!  I was left…very wanting for proper action after the siege on Cairhien.

Rand’s refusal to kill Lanfear even at the cost of his own life was…weird. He’s killed women before, and every time until now he has been confronted with Lanfear his excuse for not attacking her was that he could not harm a woman who was not actively trying to harm him, which makes sense, if naive.  But when she was in full rage mode and trying to kill him, his friends, and his soldiers, there should have been nothing holding him back from balefire-ing her ass.  Instead he hesitates, and Moraine has to sacrifice herself.  I hope Rand has learned a lesson, should he confront another female Forsaken, or one of the Black Ajah.

Holy crap did Masema go crazy.  I mean, that was kind of implied for a while, but he was far more off the deep end than I could have expected. Even if he managed to conquer territory in the name of the Dragon Reborn, given his methods I highly doubt Rand will thank him for it. Where the hell did he even get this whole pseudo-religious code he is forcing everyone to follow?  Rand never preached … really anything during his time with the Shienarans.

Seems even the Aiel are not immune to having Darkfriends, though what Melindhra’s game was I have no idea.  I suppose she was the one who slipped Kadere that note, but I can’t reason out a plan from her.  She didn’t need Mat to get close to Rand, as a Maiden she already had access to him.  Plus she kept trying to convince Mat to get out from under Rand’s shadow.  There wasn’t really a scene of her prying Mat for information about Rand, either, though I suppose she could have.  Was she instructed to keep a close eye on another on Mat himself cause he was ta’veren?  And if so, why did she suddenly try to kill him?  It was all very weird.

Galad shows up and accidentally helps starts a war.  It is not made clear when he went to join the Whitecloaks, whether it was before or after the Eliada’s mutiny, or whether he participated in that battle on one side or the other.  Perhaps he will help lead the Whitecloaks to be better, or perhaps he will only make them more zealous.  It’s a story with a lot of potential I hope we will see more of.

The next book is about as thick, but I cracked it open and found that it actually has a smaller font size, which is kind of a dirty trick.  I may finish it in two weeks like these past two, or it may take me longer depending on my schedule.  I will keep you posted.  I will try to come up with some cool topics in the meantime.

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