The Fires of Heaven – Part 4

The last quarter of this book really focuses on three characters: Rand, Nynaeve, and Moiraine.  Rand is obviously going to get a large portion of the screentime since he ends up fighting one of the Forsaken, but the other two also have a lot to do in this section.

I’m going to start by talking about Nynaeve and Moiraine, because despite the fact that they’re thousands of miles apart, they’ve both been going through the same arc in the past 2 books, learning to be submissive and beginning to question just how much they know.  Moiraine does this because she has seen what is going to happen through the ring ter’angreal in Rhuidean, and she realizes that she has to be close to Rand in the upcoming weeks or Lanfear will likely kill him.  So what does the character that has had the strongest will throughout the first four books do to make sure this happens?  She willingly agrees to listen to Rand, going so far as to take an oath of obedience.  This is so much different from the Moiraine that we’ve seen in the rest of the series, throughout the book Egwene wonders what exactly she is doing, but it works out exactly as she knows it will from her viewing in the ter’angreal.

Nynaeve also gets taken down a few pegs in this book, but while Moiraine goes willingly, Nynaeve goes kicking and screaming.  It starts fairly early on with Egwene confronting her while they’re in tel’aron’rhiad and telling her to stop acting childish, which of course she proceeds to do by not going to meet Egwene again and letting Elayne talk to her.  And then of course we have all of the events with Moghedian and Birgitte.  Those really change Nynaeve, but at the same time I think that this is what allows her to grow again later in the series, specifically Birgitte yelling at Nynaeve when she calls herself a coward for being afraid of one of the Forsaken.  That’s one of the better scenes in this book, and one of the more truthful scenes as well.  There’s nothing wrong with being afraid when you have a solid reason to be, the problem is when you let your fear take over everything in your life.

The ending of this book is also one of the definitive breakpoints in the series for two reasons.  The first is because Moiraine dies at the end of the book.  Even though Rand has been exhibiting more control over her throughout the last two books, she was still a large part of the driving force behind the story to this point.  The second is because this is really the first time that Rand goes on the offensive.  While they’ve encountered one of the Forsaken at the end of each of the first five books, this is the first time that they’ve fought because Rand was actively seeking them out, rather than reacting when they come to him.  All in all it ends the same way, with another Forsaken checked off of the to-kill list, but the difference is a big one.

This book also illustrates one of Jordan’s best aspects as a writer, his patience.  Perrin had a wonderful victory at the end of the fourth book, and was set up in place for a lot to go on around him, and he never shows up in this book.  While it can be frustrating to have a major character completely absent from an entire book in a series, it tells us a lot about Jordan that he was able to do that.  It also says a lot about the series as a whole, when one of my favorite characters is completely absent from the book and I don’t miss him because there are so many interesting things going on.

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