Book: The Gathering Storm
Rating: A+ (110 / 100)
After years of waiting and worrying, fans will be relieved to discover that they will not be cheated out of a fitting end to the greatest fantasy epic of our generation. Sanderson has risen to the challenge of filling Robert Jordan’s shoes and produced one of the best books yet released in the Wheel of Times series.
Pros: Quicker pacing. Serious progress towards an ultimate conclusion. Manages to give most major characters face time. Some satisfying justice is finally doled out.
Cons: The mindf*** of wondering whether or not what you’re reading is as good as it would have been if Jordan had finished it himself. The almost painful desire to read the next book once you’ve finished this one.
In Brief: Egwene struggles to reunite the White Tower. Rand works towards uniting his armies and strives to harden himself for the last battle even as the women around him struggle to return him to they way he was before his imprisonment at the hands of the Red Ajah. Meanwhile, Mat and Perrin march their respective forces through the increasingly chaotic countryside.
Official: Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, looms. And mankind is not ready.
The final volume of the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, was partially written by Robert Jordan before his untimely passing in 2007. Brandon Sanderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn books, was chosen by Jordan’s editor—his wife, Harriet McDougal—to complete the final book. The scope and size of the volume was such that it could not be contained in a single book, and so Tor proudly presents The Gathering Storm as the first of three novels that will make up A Memory of Light. This short sequence will complete the struggle against the Shadow, bringing to a close a journey begun almost twenty years ago and marking the conclusion of the Wheel of Time, the preeminent fantasy epic of our era.
In this epic novel, Robert Jordan’s international bestselling series begins its dramatic conclusion. Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, struggles to unite a fractured network of kingdoms and alliances in preparation for the Last Battle. As he attempts to halt the Seanchan encroachment northward—wishing he could form at least a temporary truce with the invaders—his allies watch in terror the shadow that seems to be growing within the heart of the Dragon Reborn himself.
Egwene al’Vere, the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai, is a captive of the White Tower and subject to the whims of their tyrannical leader. As days tick toward the Seanchan attack she knows is imminent, Egwene works to hold together the disparate factions of Aes Sedai while providing leadership in the face of increasing uncertainty and despair. Her fight will provethe mettle of the Aes Sedai, and her conflict will decide the future of the White Tower—and possibly the world itself.
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
The Gathering Storm is the twelfth volume in The Wheel of Time series and the first to be released since Robert Jordan’s tragic death in 2007. The series has spanned two decades, 9,724 pages, and countless hours of our lives. Over the course of that time, the characters in this series have taken on a life of their own, becoming more like close friends than storybook characters for many fans. As a result, the last four years have been agony. Waiting for a conclusion. Worrying that more books would never come. Wondering if anyone could ever meet the expectation Jordan has cultivated.
Fortunately, The Gathering Storm has turned out to be a masterpiece of the genre and well worth the wait. Brandon Sanderson has performed a minor miracle in painstakingly following Jordan’s footsteps to almost seamlessly expand upon the previous eleven books of the series.
In his introduction to the book, Sanderson writes that the differences between his own writing style and Jordan’s will be comparable to a different director taking over the production of a movie, using all the same actors. He warns readers, “I have not tried to imitate Mr. Jordan’s style. I’ve adapted my style to be appropriate to the Wheel of Time.” Yet, the rest of volume is a testament to his ability to mimic Jordan’s style. Though there many points where it’s clear that Jordan would have handled a situation differently, those subtle differences are never disruptive, and there’s no feeling of details gone missing. Siuan Sanche’s frequent fish metaphors, Jordan’s penchant for describing women’s dresses, Lews Therin’s ramblings, women’s pride, and men’s confusion at women’s behaviors – they’re all there, each in their familiar place. Sanderson’s voice is so intertwined with Jordan’s work that it’s difficult to see where one man’s voice stops and the other’s picks up.
In fact, the only notable sign of the changing of the guard is a rather gratifying increase in the pacing of the series’ story arc. Sanderson concentrates on advancing the series’s plot rather than world building. Maybe he does so because he doesn’t feel the world isn’t his to build, or maybe he just had his hands full keeping Jordan’s outline from exploding into four books rather than the three he’s already been forced to divide it into. Either way, unlike Knife of Dreams, which felt a great deal like treading water, The Gathering Storm sees significant progress made towards bringing the many storylines of the series to a head. And to most fans, that progress is going to come as a welcomed relief from nine thousand pages of following six disparate and ever-broadening storylines.
The Gathering Storm is the most action-packed entry in the series since The Great Hunt. Things happen, and they happen fast. The book largely focuses on Rand and Egwene, though Mat and Perrin both make length appearances (including one incident that distinctly resembles a zombie rampage). The main thread of the book follows Rand’s deteriorating mental state and the concern of those around him as he attempts to bring order to Arad Doman. The second thread follows Egwene’s imprisonment in the White Tower and her efforts to reunite the factions of Aes Sedai. Among the book’s high points are a struggle between Rand and one of the Forsaken, a shocking (though previously fan-speculated) revelation about three-quarters of the way through the book, and what may be the best ending in the series to date.
The best part of this book, though, is the promise of even better things to come in the two upcoming volumes of the series. Sanderson has handled his role in this series so deftly, there’s no doubt that this series is going to have the most spectacular ending seen in the genre since The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
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