This series is making me feel like an incredibly slow reader, and I have to remind myself that they’re just very long, relatively dense books. I meant to read 20 books this year, and was ahead of schedule before I started rereading Wheel of Time. No doubt, when it’s all said and done, it’ll even out.
I’m a little less than halfway done with The Fires of Heaven at the moment, and let me tell you: one of the things I admire most about Robert Jordan is that he has a sense of space and time. Take it from someone who knows: making a small world is easy, because it’s less to fill in. Same goes with having a sense of the past. Robert Jordan simply does not care. It’s taking a long time for Nynaeve and Elayne to get out of a single country by wagon. Jordan tells it well, and the obstacles they face don’t feel contrived. Then again, having such a big world may also explain why it’s taking him fourteen books to tell the entire narrative.
Something I haven’t really had a chance to talk about in awhile is Rand’s character arc. It was a little bumpy, at first. I think it’s harder than people think to turn a country farmer into a believable powerhouse of a figure, especially when you’re dancing around the possibility of your character going mad. I think it was book 2 where Rand was given barely any point of view chapters, probably because it was difficult to really get inside his mind to make him go where he needed. Better just to say that he went, and leave it at that. Now, although Rand clearly doesn’t know everything, he’s impressively good at taking command, and he’s not dancing on anyone’s strings.
Rand’s not the only character to get an overhaul on his arc. I know from my first read-through that Egwene is going places, and now that she came out from under Nynaeve’s shadow, she’s no longer really the frightened girl playing with things she doesn’t understand. It seems to me that Egwene exploring Tel’aran’rhiod is different from her trying to wield the saidar for the first time on her own. She has a better sense of the importance of caution when it comes to the dream world, whereas when she first began to learn how to weave flows, she was eager to try, no matter the danger.
Nynaeve is yet another. I’ve been browsing the Wheel of Time reddit forums while waiting for news about the TV series, and was surprised at how many people loved her character. Her romance with Lan is the classic fall-in-love-over-the-course-of-a-few-days trope. Most of the romances aren’t much better, with Min and Elayne both obsessed with Rand despite barely spending any time with him, and Faile and Perrin getting married as quickly as they did (it’s cute, yes, but I’m just saying, it’s unrealistic).
Anyway, my point is, that’s one of the major parts of her character. The other that one of her sole drives was protecting the Emond Fielders. Her relationship with Lan stands, of course, but I appreciate that her character has started to untangle itself from the boys who are now well out of her reach. I’m beginning to get it, is all I’m saying. Nynaeve is strong, but she’s not a powerhouse character like Egwene and Rand are. She doesn’t really have the air of authority in the rest of the world that she’d had in Emond’s Field. But she’s showing a continued interest as a healer, and I know that interest will take her places.
One character who is notably absent from The Fires of Heaven is Perrin. And I checked. I don’t think I’m going to be seeing him for the rest of the book. I think he’s just living the life now that the conflict with the trollocs is over, but some sort of neat-little-bow ending might’ve been nice to at least hold us over until the ta’veren strings haul him back into the narrative.
I will say that one other thing I think is missing from the Wheel of Time narrative as a whole is some sort of explanation on where trollocs, Myrdraal, draghkar, and the like come from. They’re like orcs from Lord of the Rings: an endless sea of mindless evil to kill. The movie, at least, showed Sarumon making more; it’s been too long since I read the books to know if such a scene was put in the books, though. Anyway, my point is, is it possible for them to run out of trollocs for the main characters to kill? Or can they be made on-demand? We already get point of view scenes from certain darkfriends and even the Forsaken, not to mention an endless sea of details on things a little less important to the plot. It makes a girl curious, that’s all.