rating: 4 of 5 stars
So this is the first one of my reviews that I’ve downgraded. I originally rated Fires of Heaven five stars, based on memory alone. Now it’s four, and if it weren’t for an awesome finale, it would have been lucky to have three. What did I think about it? I think the book took a tremendous turn from the epic fantasy roots of the first three in the series–a turn that started in book four, but which didn’t really become apparent until this novel. Jordan went from writing an excellent save the world fantasy to writing an explore the world and its characters while you save it fantasy. And I’m not really a big fan of some of the exploration scenes–at least not now.
Perhaps if I were reading this for the first time again, it would be different, but as it was, I was really bored by the the endless circus and Prophet scenes with Nynaeve and Elayne. They worked at first–especially with Birgitte coming into play–but then about halfway through, they turned into much more of a "get Nynaeve and Elayne to Salidar–slowly" vehicle. Nynaeve can’t remember the name of the town? And she’s too scared to go back to the Dream World to search for it more? That just got to be too contrived for me, an excuse to explore a town on the verge of rioting. Add to that the endless harping of the three women in that section . . . I sighed every time they popped up, which was often.
And which is too bad, because the Rand stuff is great. The fight for Cairhien, Moiraine vs. Lanfear, the climactic battle vs. Rahvin–all very cool, very well done, exciting stuff. Some of the best action of the series. And Mat starts to really come into his own at last.
Still, as much as I enjoyed those pieces of the book (they were enough to get the entirety a whole extra star in my rating), I’m getting my first sniff of Trouble Ahead. No Perrin at all for the entire novel? Okay, I can understand that more or less. Not much was happening with him. But I think where the frustrations of fans came into play lie in the fact that Jordan started one type of series, and the series morphed into another beast along the way. The pieces of the original series (the action/epic fantasy series) are still there, but they’ve had a slew of character studies, scene descriptions and world building spliced into them, which is cool if that’s what you’re going for–but it isn’t what the series originally promised.
We’ll see what the later books hold in store for me. Maybe I’m needlessly worried. I hope so. Stay tuned to find out.