Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Readthrough of Time: The Fires of Heaven

The Readthrough of Time continues this week with The Fires of Heaven, the fourth volume in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. As with the previous books thus far, not a traditional review, blah blah yadda yadda.

So you'll recall how displeased I was with The Shadow Rising on a whole. The good news? The Fires of Heaven is significantly better on a whole than the previous volume, and is probably my favorite since The Great Hunt.

There are reasons for this. The book spends the lion's share of its time on Rand or the Aes Sedai, which is (at least for me) the core of the book. We get an idea as to Rand's leadership, we get character development a-plenty. With at least 670 hardcover pages, you'd hope so, I guess? The final third of the book was great, as well. Some great battles, some excellent moments with the characters we know - I can't complain in that regard.

The problem, though, is really the common theme throughout the Wheel of Time for me. While I didn't necessarily mind reading them (and it's worth noting that I probably would mind if I didn't have multiple motives to read this series), the first 400 pages or so were almost entirely expendable. Very little happened that couldn't have been condensed and placed elsewhere. The books feel like bulk for the sake of bulk, and it's just unfortunate.

I think back to other epics that I've read over the years. While Wheel of Time is better on a whole, I can think of only one book that was ultimately unnecessary in the Sword of Truth saga. It's not as if Jordan was getting serialized and paid by the word. I'm five books in, and I feel like there's only been enough raw content for maybe three books at this point - and I have six to go. And then the Sanderson ones.

It's pretty frustrating, as Jordan was clearly a talented writer and there's a good story in here. It's just tiring to see how utterly buried the good story is underneath the excess.


  1. I have bad news for you Jordan is not a talented writer and you will find this out for yourself if you continue with the series.

    A well written novel takes the shape of a quest; a linearly horizontal progression through narrative time, Jordan explodes that linearity in a bewildering near-dimensionless knot or tangle of non-progression, utterly stupid! That’s why in literature/English courses he is constantly used as an example of what not to do.

    Also his use of grammar is childish in the extreme.

    ‘She managed to be pretty if not beautiful despite a nose that was overbold at best’—at best? How would it have been if it had been the worst?

    ‘Gaunt cheeks and a narrow nose hid the ageless quality of the red sister’s features’: so ‘cheeks’ and ‘nose’ don’t count as features?

    Her eyebrows climbed as she directed her gaze back to them, eyes black as her white-winged hair, a demanding stare of impatience so loud she night as well have shouted.

    Her eyes are black, they’re white, her eyebrows are escaping, her gaze is audible. This, this is all terribly written. I don’t just mean the style, although the style is awful. I mean the whole kit-and-kaboodle: the overall structure, and the narrative, the pacing and focalisation, the characterisation, the dialogue, the tone. All of it. The writing is bad from the get-go.

  2. You're in for some long pages ahead; more minor story lines and lots of day-to-day details that don't contribute significantly to the overall story. However, I can assure you it will be worth it. By the time you get to Sanderson's books everything begins to tie together and the majority of the books feel more like the last 100 pages of the books you're on now. Hang in there!