With all the hype surrounding the Amazon Prime TV show based on this book, I figured I've give it a re-read. It's been about 15 years or so since I first read it. I remember this series being one of my favorites - and it still remains so to this day.
Robert Jordan is, of course, very well known in the fantasy world. You can't talk about The Wheel of Time without getting very strong opinions on both sides: those who love it with a passion, or those who absolutely hate it. I never truly understood the latter. Considering the richness of this world, the in-depth characters, and the classic plot of good vs. evil, what's not to love?
The story follows a shepherd named Rand al'Thor. He's grown up in the small town of the Two Rivers with his father Tam, and his mother is deceased. They've lived in relative isolation. Rand has barely gone any farther than the closest city, and he and his two best friends, Mat and Perrin, had often dreamed of having adventures and leaving the Two Rivers. Rand had been all but promised in marriage to Egwene, the mayor's daughter, and although he wished for adventures, he was mostly content with his life.
All this changed when a stranger arrives in the Two Rivers. There are whispers of "Aes Sedai" - a woman who can wield the One Power. Aes Sedai are greatly feared, and there or more rumors than actual truth to the myths surrounding these powerful women. They reside in the White Tower, and are led by a woman called the Amyrlin Seat. Aes Sedai are heavily involved in the politics of this world, and it is said that even a King will jump when the Amyrlin says to jump.
It becomes apparent that this stranger really is an Aes Sedai named Moiraine, and she is accompanied by her Warder, Lan. One night, the Two Rivers is attacked by beasts called Trollocs. Rand, Mat, and Perrin are soon on the run with Moraine and Lan to escape the dreaded Fades who are after them. They are shocked to learn that the Dark One thinks one of the boys is the next Dragon Reborn. The Dragon is a man who can access the True Source and wield the One Power. It is said that the Dragon will fight and defeat the Dark One at the end of the world, and thus save mankind from being overtaken by shadow.
What really stands out in this fascinating tale is the in-depth characters that Jordan has created. Each have their own motivations, their own desires, and the weaving of this story with its characters is nearly flawless. Now, there are some gripes I have - there is one character in particular, Nynaeve, who gets on my nerves at times. There are repeated instances of her pulling her braid (like, all the time). There are some plot devices used that seemed a bit too convenient. But as a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed this book the second time around. It was interesting to catch things I missed in the first reading, making it a different and more enriching experience.
I highly recommend those who plan on watching the show to read this book first. There is no way the show can fully dive into the complexities of these characters. This book is a classic and must read for any fantasy lover.
4/5 stars, and I can't wait for the Amazon series!
The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan delievers exceptional character development, looming metanarrative stakes, and a thrilling final third.