Review of THE FIRES OF HEAVEN by Robert Jordan (re-read)

To this point, I’ve enjoyed my re-read of THE WHEEL OF TIME, but I struggled at times to wade through this one. The length — nearing 1,000 pages in the mass-market paperback edition — wasn’t so much the problem as the character Nynaeve.

To this point in the series I’ve been mostly positive about Jordan’s use of women. There’s no disguising the fact that WHEEL OF TIME is heavily inspired by LORD OF THE RINGS, and seeing Jordan correct one of Tolkien’s weaknesses — the role of women in his stories — seemed like a solid step. And while some of the male protagonists seemed passive, merely reacting to the world around them rather than making proactive choices, Nynaeve, Egwene and Elayne at times drove the plot, making decisions and bringing the fight to the bad guys.

But in this book, Jordan relies more heavily on Nynaeve’s point of view, and that sucks much of the fun from the story. To this point, Nynaeve has mostly been a side character. Surly and grouchy, almost always criticizing the other characters, she has always been portrayed as a good person who’s a bit overbearing and rough around the edges. But spending as much time inside Nynaeve’s head as we do in this book, I came away with almost the opposite impression. She hates almost all of her “friends.”

Elayne is a slut because of the clothes she wears, even though Nynaeve is often wearing something similar.

Anyone who disagrees with her is a fool.

All men are morons, except for Lan.

Thom is an old fool.

Juilin Sandar wears a silly conical hat (Nynaeve seems obsessed with this damn hat. In every Nynaeve POV chapter, the first thing she ever says about Juilin is that his hat is silly, yellow and conical. She is literally unable to mention Juilin’s name without commenting on how much she hates this hat).

It’s exhausting to be around someone this negative, and Nynaeve’s POV dominates this book, making her constant negativity impossible to ignore. In the end, it drains this book of much of its fun. Even some of the plot developments late in the book are overshadowed by Nynaeve’s personality, and that’s too bad because Jordan moves the story forward and takes it to some interesting places. I just wish Nynaeve didn’t have to be in any of those places.

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