The Fires of Heaven (WoT #5)

The Fires of Heaven (Wheel of Time, #5)The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Fires of Heaven is a good quality installment in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, however it doesn’t rise to the level the first four books of the series. The narrative changes from the Aiel Waste headed west and in Tarabon headed east with several locations in-between seen from the perspectives of various characters. But of all the characters, it was Rand al’Thor and Nynaeve al’Meara who dominated the majority of the book.

One of the good things about this book is that all the point-of-view characters help give great context of the world Jordan created, visiting many of the nations that have until this book only been names but given no in-person description. Another is the excellent described battle scenes that happen throughout the book, especially around Rand including the final fight of the book. And finally seeing the reactions to the coup in Tar Valon and the breaking of the White Tower.

Unlike the other four books, there are minor things that seemed to bring down the quality of this book. The first was the pace of Rand’s POVs in which most of battles take place, the largest battle almost has the sense of being the climax of the book only for seeming to set up to the final battle. Then there was Nynaeve’s narration, which at many times late in the book are a bit wearing especially as she comments on her traveling companions. And finally one of the primary characters is missing in this book and it’s noticeable.

Overall the good vastly outweighs the bad, however the “bad” is more evident than the previous four books but not enough to not recommend.

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The Legend of Bouvines: War, Religion, and Culture in the Middle Ages

The Legend of Bouvines: War, Religion and Culture in the Middle AgesThe Legend of Bouvines: War, Religion and Culture in the Middle Ages by Georges Duby

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I bought Georges Duby’s The Legend of Bouvines to learn about the impact this battle had on the history of France. Duby’s does excellent work in bring out knowledge from the sources concerning the battle and giving an as accurate detail of the battle that he could. Duby’s also gives an account of the battle in the social and cultural, not just political, context that helps give the reader a full sense of how to view the battle.

However, while all those things are positives for the book, the major negative was how Duby’s structured his book from beginning to end. Duby’s chooses to begin his book with the actual battle itself with political background interlaced throughout the account. Then after the battle he starts shaping the social and cultural worlds in which the historical players came from then referring back to sections of the battle a particular point can be shown in action. It wasn’t until the end of the book which Duby’s then discussed the “Legend” of this battle to conclude his book.

While all the information that Duby’s research and prose brought forward was excellent, it lost a lot of it’s impact with how he decided to give structure to his text. Whether it is because the time at which this book was published (1973) or the historiographical conventions of the French, I do not know, but many days to found myself losing concentration on the text. I can only recommend this book to more academically inclined historians.

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Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English

Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the EnglishEmpress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English by Marjorie Chibnall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had heard of The Anarchy before reading this book, and I knew the cliffnotes version of the battle between Stephen and Matilda for the English Crown. ¬†However it wasn’t until I read The Empress Matilda that I got a fuller view of the conflict and the woman who was central to the conflict.

Marjorie Chibnall used impressive research to write an easy to read biography of the mother of the Plantagenet dynasty, who for a time was also the crowned Empress(-consort) of the Holy Roman Empire. ¬†Chibnall’s attempted to give the reader a full view of Matilda and her actions, though soon speculation is offered due to the lack of sources surrounding a particular event Chibnall does does offer evidence based on previously presented sources.

Overall this is an good biography and I recommend it.

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