The Fires of Heaven Read Along Part VII

JordanFiresOfHeavenBannerWelcome back once again to our little WoT nerdgasm. A lot of stuff happened in this week’s reading (Chapters 40-44) and so much of it was very exciting. Sue from Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers is our host this week, so make sure to head over to her blog for intelligent conversation.

Spoilers lay in wait for the unwary and those who fail to read signage.

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?

Nynaeve really did have quite the turn of events, didn’t she? Now she not only has the Prophet looking for a boat, but also Galad. Of course, the personal army of heavily armed experienced warriors makes it possible to travel safely by land if need be. In this case, yes, I believe Galad will hold to his oath, and I say that because of his personal code and also Elayne’s belief he will too – and she should be a good judge as she knows how rigid he can be.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nynaeve and Elayne receive the same kind of reception in Salidar as the stilled Amrylin did. Though Elayne may be grilled over binding Birgitte as a Warder. But I can also see Birgitte convincing the aes sedai to be polite about their questions, so perhaps we are in for a real treat as readers. I wouldn’t mind seeing Birgitte take on a verbal combat with some uppity aes sedai.

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?

Ah, yes, this is where the true value of some kind of uniform is particularly of use. Alas, I don’t think anyone is going to talk the Aiel on either, or any, side into wearing uniforms, even if Rand or Moiraine could conjure up enough in a short amount of time. Arm bands or certain types of feathers as distinguishers might be useful – but again, the same obstacles. Agreed upon battle cries, if one could hear clearly over great distances, would be another option – but this again requires the Aiel cooperation.

Now if Rand or even Moiraine could ‘paint’ the Aiel, on either side, with a sign visible only to Rand’s side, this might be the way to go. But this is wishful thinking and I wouldn’t expect such loose & easy play with the world’s magic rules to happen with Robert Jordan’s writing.

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?

I think the Cairhienen-Tairens conflict is a good example of the battle for supremacy. Dorks. OK, maybe I shouldn’t be too harsh on them because we’re at this battle because the Aiel couldn’t be united in the face of a major world event. If the Aiel can’t pull it together as a people, I guess we shouldn’t expect other cultures/nations to do so at first either.

Yes, I think Rand will eventually unite all the folks for the Last Battle, but I don’t think too much unification will happen in this book – perhaps we will see more unity with the Aiel if Couladin is no longer in play.

When nice, she is Bell Pepper. But mostly she is evil, so she is Pepper Corn.
When nice, she is Bell Pepper. But mostly she is evil, so she is Pepper Corn.

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?

I quite enjoy Mat’s constant attempts to leave, so I hope he doesn’t give up. Plot-wise, since he is driven by his ta’veren attraction to ta’veren, I don’t think he will ever get away unless the Wheel wills it. I hope he will settle down a little to give Rand military advice and participate in battles, and continue his inner battles and failed attempts to flee in between.

As for Melindhra. Hmm… Well, if she is still around (hasn’t left or been killed) then I expect her to give Rand some hell. Even if she didn’t mind, she might feel the need to keep up appearances and will at least give him a verbal tongue lashing. If she is a Dark Friend and snuck off on some Dark Friend errand, then Mat might feel a little odd, perhaps even used, once he realizes he has been intimate with a Dark Friend. If she is dead, Mat would probably unexpectedly feel some remorse, and perhaps guilt over being a chum for leaving with at least a polite fairwell.

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?

With three channelers, I honestly expected the battle to be over nearly before it began, with perhaps a small hardcore force around Couladin left to be mopped up by cavalry. Instead, it seemed rather chaotic and unimaginative. The lightning strikes were showy, but even Mat’s horse was getting use to it. I think this was an excellent opportunity for the three of them to experiment with the more chaotic and destructive side of channeling, but alas, they stuck with lightning.

Let’s talk about Rand. On one hand, he is being honest with himself and his limitations when it comes to harming vagina-enhanced beings, even if they are evil and doing nefarious deeds. On the other hand, it is pretty insulting to half the human race, not to mention giving the bad guys an unfair advantage so long as they keep sending XX chromosome people in his way.

In some ways, this series is a bit sexist. Rand and his harem, as humorous as it is sometimes, is sometimes like taking a walk in the PG13 version of a young male’s wet dream. Then we have the constant reminders that the sexes are separate and different – culturally, in powers, in responsibilities, through the various squabbles. Add to that the Aiel men being granted more than one wife (provided the women agree to it) and Rand’s hesitancy to harm women and we have a lovely background of sexism. This could all be cleared up with a bit of equality – like giving a female lead, say Moiraine or Morgase or Elayne, multiple husbands, and perhaps Nynaeve will have a change of heart and will find it impossible to hurt men, etc.

But, as one of the WoT Quad wisely pointed out a few weeks back, this is all part of the Wheel of Time world – suck it up. And for this section I could because there is plenty of good stuff going on. Also, I would like to point out that I have been culturally conditioned to ignore such sexism; unless I am actively thinking about it or the sexism directly affects me, I am not picking up on it (sad state of affairs, I know).

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?

I don’t think this was the big marshaled, linked in force we saw the Forsaken planning. Sammael, or the other Forsaken, were testing Rand. I am not too sure this was Sammael anyway. Rand has that on his mind, but the Forsaken want him to be thinking it is Sammael to lure him into a trap. I wonder if Asmodean figured this out at the end of Chapter 44. Asmodean did go pretty white at seeing Rand – though if Rand dies (and he was bleeding profusely), I think Asmodean wouldn’t be around too long after. So, he might have been scared bloodless by that fact. Perhaps that is why he was feeding a trickle o the power to Rand when he passed out.

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 too found the battle confusing. I was quite enjoying the descriptions until I lost track of what was going on. While I don’t particularly like all the nebulous writing, I think it does give one a sense of the confusion of such a big battle in such a terrain. Since we ended Chapter 44 at the end of the battle, I am hoping that Chapter 45 (or 46 if 45 is about Nynaeve & Elayne) will at least give us an after-the-fact account.

Remember that big battle at the end of Book 2 with folks battling the Seanchan and Rand fighting in the sky? Yeah, that was pretty nebulous too. And there was no play-by-play accounting afterwards. I really hope Robert Jordan gives us some kind of summary of the battle instead of leaving us like that. If I have an after-the-fact summary of some sort, I am usually good with confusion in the battle description.

Other Tidbits:

Nynaeve’s stellar performance in Birgitte’s arrow show was quite amusing. Still, I understand her anxiety, having, some years ago, had a tie-down unexpectedly break free and whip past my head close enough to fan my cheek and stir my hair. Yes, I could look quite different and no longer symmetrical today if I had been over half an inch.

Ah, Nynaeve! Her comment to Uno and his buddy about their language and how they will find out the hard way why the men of Two Rivers keep civil tongues had me laughing out loud.

Mat’s comment about wanting to hang out with some women who’s brothers don’t have knife scars was great. Haha! I guess he got tired of hanging out with women who have their own knife scars and wants something softer.

Applause to Rand for using the moment to send Lan to chat Mat up and see what battle expertise, if any, Mat had remembered from past lives. Rand is looking at the long haul and starting to make use of whatever edge he can to try to save the world. Hopefully Mat will join him in that effort more willingly next time.

5 thoughts on “The Fires of Heaven Read Along Part VII”

  1. Even though there aren’t any women with multiple husbands, I’ve often thought that there are other ways Jordan tried to balance things. Like the fact that it’s the men, not the women, who went mad. And the fact that, before Rand anyway, the society of the One Power was entirely matriarchal. Whether you think this makes up for other sexisms in the series is entirely a matter of opinion, but I think that may have been his intent.

    I think it’s funny that you have a Nynaeve and Mat funny quote here. I’ve often said that these two are male/female versions of one another. Yeah, Mat is looser than Nynaeve and participates in more “disreputable” activities, but in terms of personality, it’s amazing how similar they are, which is perhaps why they can’t stand one another. They’re both biased against the opposite gender, self-centered, don’t thing they themselves are ever in the wrong, and are totally in their own little worlds. So funny!

    I really liked the part with Lan and Mat, too. Very interesting. Such a great way to display Mat’s new found battle talents. 😀

    1. Good thoughts about the gender issues. I will keep them in mind as we read the series.

      Yes! Nynaeve and Mat are very similar, but I didn’t see it until you mentioned it. So true!

      I can’t think of a better test than the ‘Lan Test’ in this particular case. Hooray for Rand for thinking of it.

  2. 2. I like your idea of a magically identifier for the ‘good’ Aiel, it would certainly make things a lot easier for the non-Aiel soldiers.

    4. I suppose we should all be impressed by Mat’s determination to keep trying to become independent – he is certainly stubborn and persistent! 😀 I doubt that Melindhra will be dead because that would be far too convenient.

    5. I agree with you that I was sort of underwhelmed by the effect of the channelers on the outcome of the battle – but we could put that down to their inexperience I suppose.

    6. I know what you mean about the whole WoT universe being inherently sexist and I am trying to get over it, honestly . . . it just bugs me, that’s all! BTW I love the idea of Nynave becoming some sort of pacifist – like that is ever going to happen!! 😀

    I think I am developing a little bit of a crush on Uno – he is so rough around the edges, but with a heart of @#$%^&* gold! 😀

    1. Yeah, having a dead Melindrha would be too convenient.

      You’re right, they are all somewhat inexperienced and definitely haven’t worked together before, so maybe that is why they didn’t accomplish as much as say, Moiraine would have.

      I too try to avert my eyes from the sexism because I know so many folks love this series and I don’t want to be a constant downer for them (my man is among the fans).

      I can see why you have a crush on Uno.

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