Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan: Week 7

If you haven't read the book, or the whole series, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week the links to the other posts can be found at the bottom of this post.

This week we read through to the end of Chapter 44.

1. As usual, things have changed quite rapidly and Nynaeve now knows the location of the rebel Aes Sedai and has gained a personal ‘army’ of Shienarans. Do we really believe that Galad intends to let the girls leave without telling his superiors in the Whitecloaks? What reception do you expect them to receive when they reach Salidar?

I have great difficulty in believing that Galad can lie to his superiors, even by omission, but he seems to be holding his oaths to Morgase above those to the Whitecloaks. However, I would not be surprised if he reported what happened to his commanding officer soon after the girls leave the city, which could turn out to be a major problem. I am very concerned that the Whitecloaks seem to know where the rebel Aes Sedai are gathered, so they would have a good idea where to start looking for them. On the whole, I think I would avoid Galad like the plague if I were Nynaeve.

We saw that the Salidar Aes Sedai are trying to carry on as if nothing has changed, so they will automatically treat the girls as the Accepted that they are. They will probably dismiss Nynaeve’s account of besting Moghedien as a self-serving lie and try to squash the girls back into their ‘place’. However, the girls’ successes do speak for themselves and they have proven their strength with the One Power to be greater than almost any of the Sisters present at Salidar. We know that strength in the Power is used to create the ‘pecking order’ within the ranks of the Aes Sedai, so perhaps the girls will be treated with a little more respect and raised to the shawl. I get the feeling that Siuan will argue for the later, but I am not sure how many other Sisters will be able to accept this change in their world order. 

2. It seems that both Rand and the Cairhien are using innovative technology to break the siege. However, my biggest worry is that only the Aiel can distinguish between the Shaido and the other clans. Any suggestions for how to avoid the loyal Aiel falling to ‘friendly fire’ from the non-Aiel taking part in the battle?

I have to assume that Rand knows the battle orders and so he knows where ‘his’ Aiel should be moving. However, once they converge on the Shaido it will be impossible to tell them apart. I had hoped that someone would have mentioned this issue and made a plan to avoid problems, but it did not happen. It would have taken something as simple as a colored armband or something . . .

3. We are seeing open animosity between the Cairhien and Tairens. Do you think that this is typical of the hostility between neighbors, or is it more to do with the social status of the two groups? Do you think that Rand will ever be able to unite the various societies and social groupings to create a single force for the Last Battle?

The Tairens seem to be very dismissive of the Cairhien, but I am not sure why they feel this way. I would hope that the majority of the army members are actually more like the Cairhien that we see here: well organized and more interested in accomplishing military targets than gaining personal glory. If Rand can convince the common men that he is truly the Dragon Reborn and their only hope of salvation in the Last Battle, then he might just succeed in uniting the nations. It does seem unlikely though.

4. Poor Mat! It would seem that the Pattern still wants him to stay near to Rand. Do you think that he should simply give up trying and come to terms with his role as Rand’s military advisor? Also, how cross do you think Melindhra will be that he tried to sneak away?

It seems that Mat has a significant role to play and that anything he does will inevitably lead him back to Rand, at least at the moment. I am quite sure that he would save himself a whole load of angst if he could just accept his fate and make the best of the situation. However, that would make the story a little less interesting, as well as going against his character, so I doubt that we will see it happen.

I think we have all agreed that we do not trust Melindhra, so I cannot imagine her being very happy that he tried to leave her behind. She obviously sees him as an important figure because of his closeness to Rand, which makes her position as his lover quite useful. I also feel as though she is not the kind of girl that men leave so Mat will have to deal with a very, very angry lady with sharp spears when she catches up with him. It should be entertaining!

5. Holy exploding hilltops, Batman! With just three channelers joining the battle we see a lot of mayhem and carnage. How effective do you think they are at defeating the Shaido? Is anyone else getting more than a little tired of Rand’s sexist attitude towards protecting women?

As I said earlier, I am very worried about the friendly fire aspect of this battle, so I am not sure how successful they have been. Also, we know that the Aiel are a very determined people, so I am not sure that they would be affected by these tactics, which are meant to terrorize them and make them turn and run. I am fairly certain that Couladin himself is fairly cowardly, but that does not mean that the Shaido, as a whole, will be broken by a few explosions and random earthquakes. I can see them being more freaked out by a prolonged downpour, but I would be almost disappointed if they were this easy to defeat.

Good grief, Rand! Enough already with the protecting of the girlies! The Maidens have chosen to be warriors and so should be treated just the same as the male soldiers in his army. Otherwise he is robbing them of their ability to chose how to live their lives: not that they are willing to let him do that, but I still find it irritating. I have sympathy with anyone who wants to protect civilians, but warrior women have chosen their own path. As we see here, his ‘protection’ does not work anyway, so he should just give them the respect that they deserve.

6. Sammael seems to have decided to act, and yet his attacks have been rather ineffective. Do you think that he was simply testing Rand’s strength, or did he really intend to kill or capture him?

Unless we have not actually read up to the end of the full battle, it seems that Sammael’s actions did not really do anything productive. We know that the four Forsaken had a plan to Link up and capture Rand, so either this did not work or they were planning it for a different time and place. I can easily see their alliance collapsing when it comes to them really trusting each other in the Linking, but we will need to wait and see if we are told what happened.

7. Finally, this battle seemed rather confusing to me and it was difficult to follow what exactly was happening. How did you feel about this aspect of the narrative? Would you have preferred a clearer account or not?

I am in two minds about this question. Although I enjoy the way that we are shown the confusion of a large battle from an individual’s perspective, I would have liked a little more idea of what was happening. I assume that we will get this detail in the aftermath of the action, when everyone gathers together to exchange notes. I can appreciate that real battles have that feeling, but I had always imagined that at least one person would have an overall view of what was happening so that reinforcements could be sent in where needed.

Most exasperating of all is not knowing Couladin’s fate. I do hope that Mat nailed him or tied him up for a good, old-fashioned, public hanging, but we shall see . . .


  1. I think you are right that Nynaeve & Elayne will bring news and intel to Salidar that will most likely be dismissed, at least by most. I expect that the Stilled will listen.

    I am also looking forward to seeing what Melindrha will do to Mat in the forthcoming chapters. He was looking forward to dallying with some lasses whose brothers didn't have knife scars. Now it looks like he is stuck with ladies who have their own knife scars. Ha!

    Yep, if ladies of any culture/nation have chosen the warrior life, let them lead that life and treat them equally to penis-endowed soldiers. Rand, if you can save the world, you can do this.

    I too am hoping we have a bit of a wrap up to the battle, an exchanging of notes & perhaps fists as praise and blame are passed around. Fingers crossed.

    1. I can imagine Mat gaining a few extra scars of his own once Melindhra catche sup to him! :D

  2. Hey! A bit late today, was caught in a dinner party.

    1. As for Galad, it seems like swearing on Morgase was a really big deal, so if that's what Elayne believes, it's probably good enough. Although it strikes me that almost everything we know about Galad comes from Elayne, and I know Robert Jordan loved playing with the unreliable narrator. We might have to revise our idea of him later on.

    I guess returning to Salidar won't be all that they expect, but the rebels will definitely consider it an advantage to have the heir of Andor in hand. Especially now that Morgase is missing.

    2. Actually, in a later battle with the Shaido (well let's be honest, they were defeated but not destroyed), they do use arm bands. I seem to remember the Aiel being a bit nonplussed at this. So it's a valid point for sure.

    3. I think it's more that the Cairhienin consider the Tairens as invaders (or the next thing to it). They don't actually share a border, and they're only neighbours in the sense that the land inbetween isn't claimed by anyone.

    On uniting them… well, I'm sure he will be able to make them play ball at one point. I don't think they will ever stop thinking of themselves as citizens of nations, however.

    4. Perrin had to leave, and I expect sooner or later Mat will also do so, when the Pattern needs him to do his own thing. When and what will that be?

    5. I think they made a significant impact, for sure. They probably don't know exactly how to best use the OP in battle yet. I'm sure we will see more imaginative things solutions later.

    Rand and women, that's another one of those WoTisms :(.

    Lanfear: This is the true me. Lanfear.
    Rand: I hardly recognized you, since you revealed yourself as an even-more-beautiful most-beautiful woman ever.
    Lanfear: Yes. Normally, as Selene, I travel around hidden as the most beautiful woman ever, but not quite as beautiful as I actually am.
    Rand: Well, no matter how beautiful your most-beautiful-woman-ever disguise is, rest assured that I cannot harm women. Even those who are my mortal enemies.
    Lanfear: Is that some sort of genetic problem?
    Rand: If stupidity is genetic.

    6. I think he was trying to goad Rand into doing something stupid and reckless. And if he weren't surrounded by a score of level-headed women, it might have worked, too. I agree with Susan that this was not the final stroke of the plan they've been cooking up.

    7. When I talked about this earlier on (end of TSR, was it?), this was the battle I had in mind. It's probably the best example of Jordan's limited perspective in a combat scene. It's not for everyone, certainly. I would also have liked to see the battle more clearly, but writing from within the thick of it really makes it feel a lot differently. And, like I said, I believe that's how battles really feel from the «inside».

    You might be happy to learn that Sanderson writes his battle scenes in a very different way.


    Say hello to Mat! Now that he has his hat, medallion, ashandarei, memories and his army, he's achieved his final form, in a sense. Now he has become the Mat that so many fans think is the best character in the series. Finally! Took him long enough…

    1. Good point about Galad and how we basically know him through Elayne's eyes. We may be in for a surprise.

      Haha! I like your Rand-Lanfear dialogue. My man, who loves this series, says that basically the women of WoT are 2-dimensional - they have a front side and a back side.

      Mat has been entertaining all along, but now I think he will also be very interesting.

    2. 1. Very true - and we know that Elayne is not always as level headed as she pretends to be *cough, Thom, cough*. Gawyn has the same opinion of his elder half-brother, but he might also be considered unreliable in this case.

      2. I can only assume that the Aiel have infinitesimally small differences in their appearance that allows them to identify the Shaido at a glance . . . if only they would share that information with everyone else!

      4. I suppose Mat will need to wander off to find the Daughter of the Nine Moons at some point if he is going to marry her . . .

      5. Okay, I will have to deal with Rand's innate stupidity . . . but I don't have to like it! :D

      6. That is what it seemed like to me - more of a testing, or softening up than a full out assault. Of course, Rand is totally drained after the battle, so now would be an excellent time to attack.

      7. I have read some of Sanderson's work that has included battle and he does seem to provide a clearer view of what is going on. Perhaps I felt so dissatisfied with this one because of where we finished reading - I am hoping that a lot is made much clearer in the next chapter or so.

      I hadn't thought about Mat quite like that, perhaps because it has been clear that he would become a general eventually. I would like to see him get away from Rand and become more of his own man even though it will complicate the story lines even more! :D

  3. Yeah, he does make us wait and wait to hear about Couladin, doesn't he? We'll find out pretty soon, though. I think it's funny that everyone's so exasperated with the Rand-protecting-women thing. I agree with Eivind that it's simply a WOT-ism that isn't going anywhere anytime soon but, uh, well have fun with the end of this book. It's going to get exponentially worse and I think some people might be throwing books against walls. Just sayin'. :D

    1. I don't think I'm at the point of wanting to throw the book at the wall, but I am exasperated that it seems to be the only aspect of his character that remains fixed. He has been around enough powerful women now that he should relax a little, but I can't help worrying if it is that hang-over from Lews killing Ilyena. I guess I will simply have to deal with this character trait and just grind my teeth a bit every time it rears its ugly head. :D


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