Saidin raged inside Rand, and he loosed it all. Not to Heal.

"Rahvin!" he screamed, and balefire flew from his hands, molten light thicker than a man, driven by all the Power he could draw.


After finishing Book Four I've been working from home a lot more, which means less reading on the bus. But better late than never, here's the review!

Book Five. The Fires of Heaven. Or, as I like to call it, The One Where Everyone Walks Around A Lot. Because that's all that really happens for the first half of the book. Rand et. al. walk from the Waste to Cairhein. Nynaeve and Elayne walk from Tanchico to Salidar. Min et. al. walk from Tar Valon to Salidar. At first, it doesn't seem so bad. The majority of the first three books was just characters going from Point A to Point B. They worked fine, because Jordan made sure of two things: that there was tension along the journey, and that there was a meaningful destination. These things are missing from the first half of the book. Rand et. al. have some random encounters as they leave the Waste, but other than that the Rand chapters are pretty much devoid of conflict of any sort. It takes until they get into Cairhein and they start wading through corpses left by Couladin that they realize "Oh yeah, the plot." Nynaeve and Elayne I'll get to later. Min and Siuan and the rest have the least amount of tension (big bad Gareth Bryne's gonna getcha!), but to his credit Jordan doesn't draw this minor storyline out. We get to see Siuan's total fall from grace, which is interesting. I don't recall her being all that pivotal to the plot later on, though.

The Nynaeve & Elayne arc is very lacking in tension, at least at first. The whole point is "get back safely to Salidar". That's it. Their quest had its conclusion in Book Four, Book Five is just them returning from it. Booooring. And the worst thing is that the arc could have been given a lot more tension. Nynaeve picked up her own personal nemesis in the last book. A centuries old villain from three millenia ago. One of the thirteen big villains of the series. And she's tracking Nynaeve both in reality and through her dreams. This should be exciting. How do you screw this up?

By having the central focus of the arc being the power struggle between Nynaeve and Elayne. Like the bickering between Perrin and Faile last book, the blame for the constant arguing can be split evenly between both characters. It's like they alternate taking unreasonable positions, just so they can continue being at each other's throats for most of the book. These two need someone to shake them and remind them that they're on the same team. Eventually that happens, but far too late.

There's also the power struggle between Nynaeve and Egwene. This is basically a good thing: Egwene's character is developing, she's realizing Nynaeve's flaws and she's asserting her independence. Fine. But there's one small scene that takes place in the setting's dream realm that I must mention. I'd say it's the second worst moment of the series. Egwene is berating Nynaeve for being careless in the dream realm, and to prove her point about nightmares being real here, she conjures up rapists who begin assaulting Nynaeve.


Okay, so this is obviously mirroring an object lesson that Amys gave Egwene earlier. But (a) it was a generic nightmare monster that leaped at Egwene's throat before she woke up, not a group of men that began ripping off her clothes, (b) Aiel are supposed to be batshit insane to begin with and ridiculously strict taskmasters, and (c) Amys wasn't Egwene's closest and most trusted childhood friend. And the worst part? This betrayal of trust never comes up again. Other parts of the chapter are relevant to Nynaeve later on ("Golly gee, I've never had to lie to Egwene before"), but this particular moment isn't ("I don't remember teaching my closest friend and protege that rape is an acceptable object lesson."). You'll hear a lot of people complaining about the events of Book Seven (I'll get to that, don't worry), but I never hear anyone talk about this little scene in this book.

It's really unfortunate, because a lot does end up happening in the Nynaeve & Elayne arc. We discover forkroot, see the protagonists accidentally start a war, get the menagerie sequence which works fine as comic relief, see periodic fights with Moggy, see Birgitte "untimely ripped", and so on. There's a lot to work with, though most of the actually exciting stuff happens after the halfway point of the book. But all this good stuff is overshadowed by the inter-party bickering. Again, a real shame these characters are wasted.

The last arc doesn't get interesting until Rand's army enters Cairhien. We get the big battle against the Shaido, with Sammy occasionally sniping. This sequence was interesting: we rarely get to see the fighting. Instead, it focuses on the characters' reactions during the lulls in the battle. Brings out the differences between the various characters, especially Rand and Mat. One thing I'm noticing with this series is that it builds up one antagonist, only to bait and switch partway through. I think playing with the reader's expectations is mostly a good thing. You've got Sammy being a perpetual thorn in Rand's side, and yet it's Rahvin's defeat that forms the climax of this book. Couladin is hyped to be Rand's personal nemesis, yet Rand idea of dueling him is repeatedly pointed out to be stupid, and it's Mat who ends up killing him. And instead of the Shaido threat disappearing once Couladin is dispatched, they remain a guerrilla force until much later on. Nothing is ever easy.

Basically everything after the battle is fast paced and exciting, and there's too many events for me to talk about them all here. We get Moiraine's sacrifice that also kills Lanfear. And she's definitely dead; walking through a doorway is pretty lethal. I don't think she'll be coming back or anything like that. Nope.

Seriously, though, without the benefit of hindsight, it's very easy to miss the little clues that she'll be coming back. Like Verin's blink-and-you-miss-it lies in Book Two, this is one of the better kept surprises in the series.

One curious thing I noticed on this reread: the protagonists basically fit the mold of other high fantasy characters. But the thirteen Forsaken don't really fit the mold of high fantasy antagonists. They aren't the Big Bad, nor are they just high level grunts. More than anything else, they resemble supervillains from comic books. They don't form a cohesive union, rather, they're more like a series's Rogues Gallery. And it works: all turned to evil due to some obsession, and now that they're stuck in a completely different society, there's nothing to distract them from their individual driving motives.

The climax works really well in this book. Nynaeve outwitting Moggy and capturing her is probably her best moment in the series, and she gets just as much credit for bringing down Rahvin as Rand does. We get a fair bit of balefire in this book; again, the side effects of balefire always seem to be good so far. But really, balefire is the nuclear equivalent in the series. And I'm not talking "radiation fallout" nuclear, I'm talking "hypothetically setting the atmosphere on fire" nuclear.

After spending the book helping Rand level up, Asmodean bites the dust. Who murders him is considered one of the great mysteries of the series, but I think the murderer's identity is pretty obvious once you think about it.


Man, there is so much more I could talk about, but it's late and I'm tired. I feel I'm doing injustice to the series by spending most of my time complaining about what's bad rather than pointing out what's good, but I'm finding it's easier to complain. With complaining, you can talk about why it sucks; when it's good, it's hard to write more than "this was good". Ah well.

Once again, the book is great once it picks up steam, but it takes so long to do so that I'm going to give it an overall negative review. It's not horrible (aside from the above mentioned dream rapists scene), but it's not as consistently good as the previous four books.


  • Achievements for Team Light: Destruction of the bulk of Shaido forces, liberation of Cairhein, liberation of Caemlyn, formation of Salidar.
  • Forsaken count: Two killed, one erased, total of five dead (for now), two erased.
  • Seals count: One destroyed (previously intact), total of four destroyed, two intact.