936 of 960 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb
The Gathering Storm is the twelfth volume in The Wheel of Time series and the first released since Robert Jordan's unfortunate death in 2007. Jordan spent his final months amassing and dictating a significant amount of notes, outlines and chapter summaries for another writer to use to finish the series. Previously, Jordan had indicated he'd wipe his hard drive to stop...
Published on October 28, 2009 by A. Whitehead
158 of 182 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ranks in the upper second tier of the series' books, fast pace,
That the twelfth book in a series is entitled the "gathering" storm probably points to a fundamental problem with the series. I mean, we're eleven books (long, long books by the way) down and the storm is only just "gathering"? And anyone who has stuck this far in the Wheel of Time (which I'm assuming is pretty much everyone reading this because otherwise why the heck are...
Published on October 27, 2009 by B. Capossere
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I breathe a sigh of relief,
Imagine you have a favorite band, and for one reason or another - accident, death, Yoko Ono - they break up. There will be no more music from them.
But it is decided that, regardless of what fate wants for the band, their music is too well-loved and too important to be allowed to stop. So a new band is formed, and they spend years poring over the original music. They get every recording, every bootleg, every interview about how and why these musical giants did what they did. They collect the original instruments and reproduce how the songs were recorded. They do everything in their power to understand that music as best they can. And then they start to make new music.
When you hear it, you can tell that it's not the original group - maybe there's a lyrical choice that the old band wouldn't have used, or perhaps a certain favoring of chords that's different - but if you sit back and relax, and let yourself just enjoy the music, you can almost believe that it's your favorite band, come back together to make new and wonderful music again.
That's kind of what it was like to read this book.
In his introduction, Sanderson says that he's not trying to replace Robert Jordan - he's not going to try and copy Jordan's style or techniques. "Instead, I've adapted my style to be appropriate to the Wheel of Time. My main goal was to stay true to the souls of the characters." This is certainly evident as you read the book - there are techniques that Sanderson uses that Jordan never did - especially in terms of narrative style, dialogue and thematic unity.
Sanderson is a generation younger than Robert Jordan, and this difference in age is reflected in the style of the book. While he certainly does his best to make it look as much like its predecessors as possible, for Sanderson to simply try to ape Jordan's style would have been a disaster. The narration seems to have a lot more rhetorical commentary than in previous books - the introductory paragraphs of chapter one are a good example, where the narration itself is commenting on the fallen state of Tar Valon, asking "Where was the White Tower, the law?" This technique of the narrative asking questions of the characters is peppered throughout the book.
The narration seems a little tighter, more concise than Jordan's style, which was long criticized for being somewhat superfluous in its verbosity. Again, this is probably a reflection of the generational difference between writers - Jordan probably grew up reading Tolkien, and Sanderson grew up reading Jordan. Each generation seeks to take the good from the previous one, while simultaneously trying to improve upon it. So by and large, the storytelling itself feels more contemporary than other books.
This is also true for the dialogue. There are more rapid-fire exchanges than usual, a sure sign of a younger author, and most of the time this works very well - he actually uses it in a few places to drop significant revelations about characters, so it seems he's aware of what the quick back-and-forth can do. Each character has retained his or her original voice - with the possible exception of Mat Cauthon.
It became pretty clear as I read this book that Mat must be Sanderson's favorite character, because he gets all the best lines. One thing that Jordan never did (and I don't think he really cared to try) was make me laugh. On the other hand, nearly every chapter with Mat in it elicited at the very least an audible chuckle if not an outright laugh. Of all the characters in the book, Mat's dialogue has become the most unique and, at the same time, the most contemporary, including, but not limited to, verbing a noun:
[Verin] reached into a pocket of her dress, pulling out several pieces of paper. One was the picture of Mat. "You didn't ask where I got this."
You're Aes Sedai," Mat said, shrugging. "I figured you... you know, saidared it."
"Saidared it?" she asked flatly.
He shrugged.Now for some readers, I have no doubt that this will be an intolerable change in a character's voice. They're going to go into paroxysms of rage that their favorite character has been turned into a Buffy guest star. And that's a valid criticism, I suppose. I loved the change. Mat has always been the most rogueish of the characters, dicing and drinking and flirting, and you would expect that kind of person to be of a sharper form of wit. Sanderson's decided to let Mat meet that potential, and I applaud him for it.
By and large, though, the characters mostly sound like themselves. In some cases, more so, if that makes any sense. Rand, for example, is a lot more thoughtful than we've seen him before. For a long time, Rand was really a difficult character to get into. We were not often presented with those moments of sympathy that allow you to imagine yourself in that character's skin, and perhaps that was a conscious choice of Jordan's. Sanderson's done a good job at letting us see what being the Dragon Reborn has done to Rand since he left Emond's Field, and the path to disaster that he's on. Rand has decided to become hard, as hard as he has to be so that he can live until the Last Battle, and we finally get a good look at why he thinks this is necessary. What's more, we fear for him - there was one moment near the end of the book where, reading what Rand was about to do, I found myself saying, out loud, "No. No! Nonononono!" You'll know it when you see it.
One other aspect of the work that Sanderson has focused on is thematic unity. Different characters experience similar situations that serve to reflect a certain theme of the work. Egwene's trials, refusing to submit to the will of Elaida, are reflected in Aviendha's increasingly ridiculous "punishments" by the Wise Ones, and bolstered by the appearance of Shemerin, an Aes Sedai who was, against all tradition, demoted to Accepted. They all serve to support the theme that you are who you say you are, and once you submit to another's opinion of you, you lose. Egwene already knows it, Aviendha has to learn it, and Shemerin learned it too late.
The difference between being hard and being strong is another theme, this time balanced between Rand and Egwene. Rand, who has to unify the world under him before he fights the Dark One, has chosen to become hard. Not just steel-hard or rock-hard, but cuendillar-hard (a substance from the Age of Legends that is unbreakable by any known means). It is only by crushing his emotions, severing himself from others, and by doing whatever has to be done - up to and including mass murder - that he believes he can prepare for the inevitable confrontation.
Egwene, on the other hand, has to unify the White Tower before it's too late. To do so, she must endure immense physical and emotional punishment at the hands of the very people she's trying to save. She knows she's right, of course, and the refusal of others to take her seriously would make it easy for her to just give up on the White Tower Aes Sedai. Leave them to their inevitable doom and build a new society of Aes Sedai loyal to her. But she doesn't do that. She endures the pain, she controls her anger and her impulses, and constantly reminds herself why she is doing what she's doing. In the end, this makes Egwene stronger, whereas Rand nearly shatters.
Overall, I was very happy with this book. Like many Wheel of Time fans, Jordan's death worried me greatly. I worried that the whole story would just never be finished, that Rand would never find peace, the Tower would never be united, that Perrin would never have a quiet place just to be himself or that Mat would never be able to live a life with the responsibilities that he chooses. When Sanderson was announced as the author who would finish the series, I worried again, having never read his work. Would he be able to handle the task of finishing this series? Would he be able to pull together all the plot threads that were flying around and bring us to the conclusion that Jordan had known from the start? Would I, in other words, be utterly heartbroken?
I am very happy to say that I'm not worried anymore.
Sanderson has done an excellent job with this book, and I look forward to the final two.
"We can't go back, Mat. The Wheel has turned, for better or worse. And it will keep turning, as lights die and forests dim, storms call and skies break. Turn it will. The Wheel is not hope, and the Wheel does not care, the Wheel simply is. But so long as it turns, folk may hope, folk may care. For with light that fades, another will eventually grow, and each storm that rages must eventually die. As long as the Wheel turns. As long is it turns...."
- Thom Merrilin, The Gathering Storm
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Simply,
I will do for you what many others did not. I will sum this book up succinctly:
It made me love the whole series again.
It filled holes. It moved just quickly enough. It had a sense of purpose. It made me read and re-read.
I don't care whose voice told this story, it was very simply magnificent.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the best in the series,
I had my doubts. I doubted that Brandon Sanderson could write the characters convincingly. I doubted that the series itself could reclaim its earlier promise. I thought Book 11 was a step in the right direction, but I believed that it may have been too little, too late. I doubted that all of the plots and sub-plots could be dealt with.
However, this book has assuaged my doubts. The pacing was on par with "The Great Hunt," and made this a continuously engaging read. To my view, Sanderson got nearly all of the characters right (more on that later). Many important plot threads have reached their culmination. It was thoroughly satisfying.
The majority of the book is centered on Rand and Egwene, and the characters that are involved with their plot threads. These characters were portrayed by Mr. Sanderson in perfect accordance with Mr. Jordan's characerizations. Egwene's story is hopeful and inspiring. Truthfully, I had a mild dislike for Egwene until "Knife of Dreams," but, between that book and the end of this, she has become among my favorites. Rand's story arc is grim and gripping mixed with horrifying; it was beautiful. Furthermore, the battles were well written and intense.
On the downside, the portrayal of Matt didn't quite feel right in the first chapter in which he is featured. However, the portrayal of Matt improves with each of his featured chapters, and Mr. Sanderson did seem to have a gotten the characterization and pitch correct before Matt's last chapter in this book. Also, with so much of the book revolving around Rand and Egwene, it seems that many events relating to them are only mentioned in passing, and that events in Rand and Egwene's sotrylines are now a week or two ahead of Matt and Perrin.
Back to the good, many, many events that have long been anticipated occur. It seems that the days when only one or two major plot events happen per book are long gone, and there were at least a dozen "crowning moments of awesome," to steal a term from tvtropes.
Basically, if you've read this series, then this is the book you've been waiting for. Even if you have only read up to book 6 and couldn't make it through the later ones, just get a summary of books 7-10, then read book 11 and this one. This volume certainly lives up to promise of the early books.
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Addition, But With Several Issues,
Going into "The Gathering Storm," I had one question in common with every other reader: would new "co"-author Brandon Sanderson be a passable replacement for Robert Jordan. Jordan passed away over a year ago, and with his death came a united shriek of woe from millions of his fans world-wide. How could the master have died without answering the questions that have kept us reading this series for almost 20 years and 10,000 pages?! It all seemed so unfair and tragic that we would be left at the brink of the Last Battle, with no conclusion to a story filled with characters we love and (a lot of the time) hate?
Then came the news; Jordan's wife would be hiring Sanderson, a young author of a little-known but well-received fantasy series, to complete the final novel in Jordan's stead. (Incidentally, the wife has stated the Jordan wanted this to happen. I don't believe that for a second. I have read multiple interview with Jordan and he made it very clear that if he died, the series was the die with him.) The book is combination of Jordan's chapters, sections based on Jordan's extensive notes and plans, and other parts that are pure Sanderson filling in the blanks, freestyle.
Here's the good news: Sanderson has drastically reduced the one hitch in Jordan's story-telling that drove everyone insane: the impossibly awful, man-hating female points of view. All readers of WoT know that Jordan's female characters are almost carbon copies of one another, each with a loathing for men and their bumbling stupidity. With the possible exception of Min, every woman in the story (point of view characters, ancillary Wise Women, Sea Folk, Aes Sedai) spent a great deal of their dialogue and inner thoughts simply hating men. I know many a reader who has given up on the series just because of the terrible women! Blessedly, Sanderson has reduced the sheer amount of words dedicated to this numbing misanthropy. The women are still often irked at men, but we're not bludgeoned over the head with it.
Unfortunately, Sanderson's stylistic changes aren't all as successful. He makes very obvious attempts to inject some laughs into a series which may be the least-humorous collection of words in modern literature. The only problem is that he's not that funny. The Mat chapters in particular were trying way too hard to be amusing, but instead it just comes out as tedious and - worse still - completely out of sync with the rest of the writing in the book and the series.
The worst example was Mat refers to someone as "a homicidal maniac." That type of modern language just leaps off the page as non-Jordanesque. It was so jarring that I had to put the book down for a bit.
Overall, Sanderson's writing is passable, but pretty immature. Mostly it just stands out against Jordan's superior prose from the earlier books. For example, here's a segement of internal dialogue from Gawyn: "But Egwene! There had to be something he could do!" Now, honestly, is that good writing? It's far to peppy, too adolescent sounding, compared to the super-serious way the characters usually think and act. For stark contrast, see the Prologue chapter from the point of view of a Borderlands farmer. Night and day.
The two main points of view are from the two main protagonists of the story: Egwene and Rand. We do get some resolution on some plot-lines that have dragging out for the 5 books, thank the Light. There are a couple of chapters each for Mat, Perrin, Nynaeve, Cadsuane, and various Forsaken. The Mat chapters in particular are awful, in particular the visit to a town with a strang secret. I'll let you read it, but I think you'll be asking the same question I was: "What the heck was the point of that?"
It's also clear that several key plotlines were simply left for the next books (there are two more planned). Mazrim Taim, Logain, Padan Fain, Slayer/Isam, Aran'gar, Osan'gar, Cyndane and Lan are ignored completely, as is the great "Who killed Asmodean?" question.
There is also a huge amount of print dedicated to a topic that absolutely mesmerizes every character in the book: making Rand laugh. As a reader, I have never understood why this is such a huge issue in the story; why do they care that he be so jolly about fighting the Dark One? However, Sanderson does a good job of staying faithful to that plot-line, although the climax is a little confusing.
Overall, the book is a worthy addition to the shelf-bending Wheel of Time series. There is a fair amount of action (thought there could have been more) and some of the key plot lines are either resolved or moved significantly forward. Sanderson has some glaring missteps, but overall I feel that his heart is the right place, and his 80% reduction in women-b*tching-about-men policy covers almost all of his short-comings as a novelist.
I will surely shell out more money to read the final two books.
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rand gets a personality! And now I have to wait for the next installment... :(,
After years of loyally sticking by the Wheel of Time in the face of eyestrain, endless Aes Sedai plots, and ridicule from family and friends... and a fair amount of speculation about whether anyone could finish it to Jordan's standards... I'm thrilled. I stayed up most of the night reading it and it was 100% worth my miserable sleepy workday today! Since so many have already reviewed the book, I'll just add some specific comments, hopefully vague enough, but be warned that if you haven't read it you might consider them SPOILERS. I figure if you're reading reviews you take your chances, but you were warned. ;)
Rand gets an internal voice! So much of Rand in the past few books has been "I'm steel, I'm steel, mmm Min is hot, SHUTUPSHUTUPLEWSTHERIN." Not to give too much away, but Sanderson fiiiiiinally gives Rand something to say and actually depicts the immense emotional trauma, basically PTSD, that Rand has experienced and is suffering the repercussions of, makes it genuinely heart-wrenching and logical, and helps the frankly idiotic and almost inexcusable behavior we've seen from Rand make a lot more sense. Rand prior to this book was in no emotional state to even begin to approach Tarmon Gaidon, and here he is finally making some progress. For this alone I'm incredibly grateful. You also see more of WHY Cadsuane & co. are driving Rand soooo crazy and why Moiraine's epiphany way back in Book 5 (I think) was so important. While overall I feel like Sanderson was guilty of a bit too much "tell," with Rand at least we finally get a really good "show." We also get some actual clues about what went wrong with sealing the Dark One away the first time around... very intriguing.
Tuon also gets a more complex internal voice! She thinks so differently from the other characters, and while I find her outlook alien and frustrating to read just from a plot perspective, I thought Sanderson did an excellent job staying in character from Jordan's version and adding some new detail. One thing that comes home is how young she is, both in terms of actual years and in life experience compared to characters of a similar age like Egwene.
Speaking of Egwene, she's amazing. She's always been my favorite character, so it's no wonder I loved this book, because it's almost all her story. The Egwene characterization is nearly perfect and the White Tower mess is FINALLY, FINALLY dealt with. After book after book of endless plotting, it was such a relief to me when Egwene literally sends heads rolling.
Gawyn. I kind of loathe Gawyn and his incredibly stupid/blind attitude and moves in the past few books, and I was so grateful to Sanderson for staying true to Egwene's character and being clear that Gawyn has some major growing up/getting his head straight to do compared to her. Can't wait to see how Sanderson deals with Galad.
Siuan. Just character, plot resolution, and a fair amount of comeuppance, all handled very nicely here. She does something really stupid in this book, and she's not let off the hook for it, which I appreciated immensely. In general, Sanderson holds a lot of characters accountable for their dumb or immature actions in this or previous novels, and again it's just such a relief after Jordan's endless "Big Mis" plots (as we call it in romance)-- where the characters just don't TALK to each other and that provides 90% of the drama.
Bubbles of Evil. These are getting *really* creepy. I also very much enjoyed the prologue, because it's finally starting to feel like people get it that the Last Battle is upon them.
Mat. As others pointed out, the most clumsily written character, his chapters are missing a lot of secondary character development (um, what even happened to Olver?), and there was a lot of space spent on essentially a (very creepy) ghost story that will *hopefully* relate to the larger plot somehow... but right now I just don't see it. And we lost the really interesting internal stuff going on with him and Tuon-- just a lot of cliche ranting about marriage here-- and Mat's "memories" didn't ring true the way they did with Jordan's version. At one point I actually rolled my eyes at one because the name was so silly... not hitting the right note.
Perrin. Again, just sort of clumsily written. He came off as whiny, confused, and this is hard to describe, but not very "wolfy." I haven't liked where Perrin is going the past few books (Rand angst-land, basically) and Sanderson did him no favors here. For once, I actually liked Faile much better. Sigh...
Aviendha. I would say overall, Sanderson actually handles female characters more naturally and more respectfully than Jordan did, with less sniffing and hmphing and general coy absurdity. Aviendha, alas, could have used a little coyness- she was wooden and utterly uninteresting. She regressed from someone who was becoming increasingly complex to an obsessive internal monologue on toh. Booooring.
Nynaeve. Not awful, but just a letdown from her shining moment rallying Malkier. She is sad about Lan, worried about Rand, loathes Cadsuane, doubts herself, etc., etc. We are back to the same place with her. Min was also a little off in terms of voice and didn't have much to do or say.
Graendal. Um, why even bother? The plotline around her is basically filler. I feel like a confrontation with a Forsaken deserved a little more... confrontation. Especially Graendal, who was really built up as a worthy opponent. I did think that the way Rand handled her made perfect sense and finally shows an appropriate level of caution, but I was disappointed that there was essentially no attack or challenge from her.
The little touches... long passages of landscape description, history, stories, prophecies, poems... just gone. Sad, but I think this is what made Jordan Jordan. As talented as Sanderson is, there's nothing like the real thing. It might even come off as fake if he tried, so I'm willing to live without.
Robert Jordan, you're sadly missed. But endless thanks to Mr. Sanderson for taking up the torch, I'm so excited to see what's next for the WoT! This is a solid, solid 4.5 stars.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A breath of fresh air, despite the loss of the original.,
I will admit that I am saddened by the loss of Robert Jordan.
But in a way, I almost wish that he might have considered - even without crediting them - bringing someone like Brandon Sanderson on board the Wheel of Time writing process earlier.
To be blunt, things get done in this book. It is entertaining. It is, I daresay, fun to read, in the way the 'Eye of the World' or 'The Great Hunt' were. I've never read Jordan for complex characterization or complex thought about people and the world. If you read the Wheel of Time for these things, shame on you for expecting philosophy from entertainment. Because that is what this is, entertainment. And I think, in the morass of books 7-10, Jordan lost sight of this. So many characters, so many plots, so wide (if not always deep) of a setting, it called for a dictionary of its own, and got it, and I can't imagine it was easy to navigate. Would Nynaeve of Book 11 behave in X fashion? What happened to her in the past 10 books? What happened to her friends and family? Jordan's notes must have been immense, as he clearly kept track of it all. Unfortunately, this led to a situation such as 'Crossroads of Twilight', where a whole book became nothing more than filler, necessary filler, moving pieces into place for later books, but really...a whole book??
Sanderson streamlines, he takes sandpaper to the plots, and grinds away or ignores extraneous details. He ignores outright some of the thousand and one minor characters that added detail to the previous books. His dialog is fast and often devoid of the 'little touches'. But guess what, plots get resolved, events move forward, and it finally feels like its the end of the world, and everybody's getting ready for it. No more dithering in the middle of nowhere, no more Aes Sedai wondering which color their hair should be today and how that might affect Aes Sedai X's impression of her Ajah or her chances of becoming a Sitter.
Everybody isn't going to like this book. But I think a lot of people who had given up on the Wheel of Time can start coming back now, with the very real promise that this story that many began reading in their youth, and are thus dedicated to, will at last be resolved with a proper grand finale. I have no doubt now that the next two books will finish out in fireworks and glamour, and bring a fitting end to a solid series. It won't please everyone - but then, Jordan himself didn't please everyone all the time.
The new blood, while brought in for reasons that we'd all probably wish hadn't existed, is welcome to me.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fastest pace of the series,
If you're seriously looking at this book, chances are you've already read the previous 11 books. You know Robert Jordan passed away and some other dude is finishing the series. You're not here to decide if you are or are not going to buy the book. You've invested so much into the series, of COURSE you're going to buy the book. You're here to pump yourself up about it. To find out if this random dude did the series justice. And my answer to that question is, yes he did.
At this point in the series, we are approaching the end. Tarmon Gaidon is coming. You've been reading the series and know exactly how many plot lines there are, how many unanswered questions there are. You've read the fan theories. You have your own theories. And in this book, we start merging plot lines and getting answers. Not partial answers, not answers in the form of new questions, but real, bonified Answers. "My dress is green." And most of the answers will surprise you, even if you're an avid theorist up to date on all the latest. And the ones that won't surprise you aren't given all that much weight - almost as if Brandon is saying "we all know what's going on here, so I'm just going to come out and say it and close off this thread so we can all move on to more interesting puzzles." I don't think Robert Jordan would have closed certain threads as abruptly (almost bluntly) as Brandon Sanderson did, but at this stage in the series, I'm not sure that that's a bad thing.
Relatively speaking, the pace of the book is fast. Almost every chapter is exciting and clearly brings us closer and closer to The Last Battle. From a story telling point of view, there is A LOT that has to happen yet before Tarmon Gaidon, so there isn't really time to beat around the bush anymore. From here on out, every chapter has to be meat, and Brandon Sanderson delivers.
All in all, I have to say that this is probably my favorite book of the series, so stop reading reviews and start reading the book!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's Good!,
I kind of can't believe I'm writing this, but The Gathering Storm is pretty good.
I have a long history with the Wheel of Time. I started reading them when I was 15 (13 years ago) and they kind of....well they kind of changed my life. I mean, I devoured the first 7 books. I think I read a few of them in 2 days or less, which is saying something because they're each roughly 15 million pages long. Between the Wheel of Time, the Chronicles of Prydain, and of course Tolkien, I developed a fantasy habit that I still can't seem to get rid of. I don't want to get rid of it, but you know, if I wanted to, I probably couldn't.
So I kind of loved books 1-7. Then book 8 was a huge letdown. So was 9. And 10. And 11. I had kind of given up hope for the series. I was gonna finish it regardless because at this point, I've invested an insane amount of time in it, but I didn't expect it to ever be good again.
But this book was good. And you know why? Stuff happens. Lots of stuff. If there's a big criticism to be made of books 8-11 it's that almost nothing happens. The first 7 books are chock full of action, romance, and big huge kick-butt events, and 8-11 average out to approximately .45 important things happening in each.
But stuff happens in this one. And Rand is in it. Remember when Rand used to be in these books all of the time? Remember Rand? The main character of the series. Yeah he's back, and he's all over this book, and he does all kinds of crazy stuff, and it's awesome.
Well, now I'm actually excited for the next book again. Thanks Mr. Sanderson. I haven't been this excited to go back to Rand Land for a loooooong time.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did not make for a good second read,
I recently reread this book in preparation for reading Towers of Midnight. On my first time through this book I found the first 150 pages to be painfully boring to read, but on a second read I was really have to force myself to read up until page 338 when Rand faced his crisis with Semirhage.
The positives of this book are that the story did move along very well, finally. After several books of go nowhere, teeth gnashing, inactivity in the White Tower story line, there is major forward movement. Rand and Lews Therin finally resolve, although the ending of the book was somewhat anti-climatic. Nynaeve finally contributes to the effort, for the first time since capturing Moghedian way back when. There is a good, self contained story arc in this book. Sanderson makes a fairly seamless transition from Jordan.
The negatives are that this is still a somewhat slow and boring story. Many pages are wasted in pointless Aiel honor (Aviendha). Egwene is so insufferably smarmy, as always. The Seanchan are unresolved...still. Mat does nothing except gamble in a tavern and fight a bubble of evil. There are many, many pages spent in the first part of the book rehashing story that has gone before, instead of moving the plot along.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bringing the WoT Series Back On-Track,
THE GATHERING STORM. You know what this book is, and you likely had some sort of strong feeling when you found out that Brandon Sanderson would be completing the late Robert Jordan's epic series. Some of you felt as though demon's had taken over Tor and killed Santa, and some of you felt a profound sense of relief just knowing the series would be finished.
Truthfully, I'm not in either camp. Oh I'm glad my buddy Brandon Sanderson is finishing the series--I tend to consider him a great writer--but I wondered if anyone stood a chance at making this series enjoyable again.
Before you get your panties all twisted up, let me explain. This IS going to be a rather long review, so go to the bathroom before continuing.
For me, part of the difficulty in reviewing THE GATHERING STORM was treating it as a separate novel, and not letting my feelings for the prior eleven novels (and a novella) get in the way. I don't care for The Wheel of Time--specifically, anything past LORD OF CHAOS. Yeah, that's half the series ago. I started the WoT back in 1993, and consider it the series that really got me into fantasy. But with book seven began a long list of problems--most of which consist of "Nothing Happens." So when I read THE GATHERING STORM (TGS), I had to wonder if my feelings were real and geared towards TGS, or if they were nothing more than a reaction to the series itself.
In some ways, we can't--and won't--keep them separate. So, we are going to endeavor to give you our honest PoV. We liked some of the novel. We disliked some of it. You want details? Of course you do...especially if you are a "Jordan Fan."
TGS mainly follows Rand and Egwene, and honestly, their portions feel pretty spot-on. I don't know which parts of the story Brandon wrote as opposed to the sections Jordan wrote/dictated. Frankly I don't care.
What I will say is that Egwene was easily one of my least favorite characters from the very VERY beginning of the series. However, her sections in TGS were the highlight of the novel, and I found myself coming to the realization that Egwene was no longer a carbon-copy of all the other female characters. She grew into someone stronger. In the scope of this one novel, Egwene goes from being one of the worst characters in the series (In my opinion, mind you. All you Egwene lovers keep your pitchforks stowed away.) to one of the best.
As for Rand? He actually manages to interest me. We see him falling further into madness, and for the most part it is well done. Not to mention, Rand actually LEARNS stuff in this book. No more "Yay! I solved it on accident!" Thank-freaking-goodness. The main issue I had with Rand deals with a certain part of the novel (no spoilers) where you think Jordan and Sanderson are going to change the "danger" aspect of the series...and then they don't. In what should have been a heart-wrenching scene with Rand and Min that turned our stomach, instead I ended up feeling cheated. If you've read the book, you know the scene. If not, you'll know it when you get there.
Let's talk about Mat. It's pretty safe to say that he is most people's favorite character--I include myself in this group. I'm going to be blunt here. Mat's sections are poor. It's not that they are just "off," it's that they feel like filler. Remember when you used to skim other sections just to get back to Mat? Why did I find myself skimming the Mat sections to get to other PoVs--namely Egwene's. In fact, the one section of Mat's--where he is coming up with fake back-stories--feels a lot like he was getting ready for an RPG session. It just feels pointless. It really is disappointing. Seriously, just leave him out of the book. It would have been better than the meaningless sections included in TGS. Perrin managed to stay off screen just fine, why not Mat? Don't include him if there is no cause to. It just ends up serving as needless filler and taints my view on the character.
Other characters? Well, this is really a mixed bag. For many of them, the tone is off. We'll include Elaida here--who went from being slightly unstable to almost laughably bonkers (laughably in a bad way). Cadsuane seems like a waste of a character, and we wish Rand would have executed her. Sheriam? It's no secret that she is losing it due to the strain of being Black Ajah. And yet she goes completely out of character at the end of the novel--it felt rushed. Siuan's sections are painful to read at the beginning due to the insistence that she throw in random sailing/fishing references EVERY SENTENCE. At the end, it isn't as strong, and her character begins to "feel" right. Gawyn is terrible. His dialogue is so forced and contrived, and we really don't get to see the full potential of his conflicted loyalties as we should. Really every other character felt solid (from Nynaeve, to Min, to Perrin, to Silviana), and the problems with the other characters can mostly be overlooked since their sections are relatively short. There was only one character (besides Mat) that was beyond infuriating.
Seriously? WTF (What The...err Frak)? Her character is turned into a "magic bullet" so we could get the plot moving? How convenient. Gee, it's a good thing she came along to make reveal herself (Not THAT way. Get your heads out of the gutter). Now, the WoT has made a career of using coincidence and convenience to solve issues and further the plot. Generally, you could over-look it and say, "It's the Pattern!" The section with Verin is beyond that. There may as well have been an annotation saying, "This section was included for the sole purpose of redirecting a meandering plot and forcing the story towards the end without having to get into much detail." If this was the intention of the character all along, then it should have been a big deal early on in the series.
All in all, the main differences here from prior novels are the characters being extremely introspective. In addition, the conversations they have are extremely blunt and to the point. Was this an addition of Brandon's? The introspection suggests him, but I hesitate to point a finger. And you know what, maybe it was a good thing. It certainly freshened up the series for me.
The Story Itself:
It's pretty good, especially the last 150 pages. The beginning it typically slow with a ton of set-up. In this case, it isn't a problem. Remember, this is essentially the first third of a huge novel. We need a little set-up that doesn't go all CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT on us. TGS does the set-up well, while introducing plot elements (or furthering previously introduced elements) that will be crucial to The End, but won't take too long to wrap up.
I can't really say a lot here--the whole non-spoiler thing--but I will say that epiphanies come like crazy throughout the story. Most of them are good. The final "battle" scene came up a bit short...but maybe that just has to do with me expecting Steven Erikson-like battles at the end of a book. Brandon had to end this novel somewhere, and TGS ending was aptly picked. There should be some serious and immediate consequences--something that has lacked in prior novels of the series.
One thing I did notice: TGS gave me the first REAL feeling that the series was coming to an end, and if felt GOOD. In any other series, this could have been the final book. It really feels like Jordan and Sanderson are seriously wrapping up plot threads. Once again, this is a good thing. A really good thing. We have the movement that we have been lacking for five novels, and a goal in sight. This is what made the novel for me.
There is one thing that bothers me, and it has been a problem for the entire series. At one point in TGS, an Aes Sedai says, "What does it matter, we are going to win anyway right?" This is the same impression that I have had for a while. There is no danger. I don't worry about any of the main characters. I know the good guys are going to win, and at this point I figure it will be all neatly tied with a pink (maybe yellow) bow. I'm praying that this doesn't happen. Please, let it end messily.
This was the big concern most people had. Could Brandon fill in the spaces Jordan left open and tell a WoT story? Not only that, but could he tell wrap up the story WELL?
When this whole scenario was first announced after Jordan passed away, I had a nice, long chat with Brandon Sanderson (he's a good friend of mine). Brandon was understandably nervous. He worried that he wouldn't be able to do the series justice. I told him, "Look, it's not like you can do any worse than what happened with the new Dune novels. I'd say you are in good shape." Yeah. That was my idea of a motivational speech. There were no "Huzzahs!" to be found. But really, the principle was sound. I know Brandon, and I knew how serious he was taking this opportunity. He is a great writer, and I knew that if anyone could take a series that was--excuse the WoT reference--floundering like a silverpike on land, and use Jordan's outline to get it back on track, it was Brandon. He is a professional.
And really, all the drama and doubts amounted to nothing in the end. Brandon did fine. In some cases there were word usages that were distinctly un-Jordan. The WoT swearing was off for the entire novel. Oh well. There are worse things that could have happened (once again, see the new Dune novels for a reference on how to destroy a series). I've been reading some other reviews around the internets, and some claim that TGS reads like fan fiction, and that Brandon's writing is terrible. They are idiots. The writing is just fine (not that they really know for sure which parts Brandon wrote and which parts were Jordan's). In fact, some of the subtle (and not so subtle) changes that I did notice were welcome. It pulls WoT a little into the modern style of fantasy.
One last thing: I liked how the annoying "all men are idiots" mentality was all but removed. It was old, repetitive, and added nothing to the plot. In addition, I liked the toned-down description of meaningless objects. There was a lot of repetition in description and dialogue, but nothing too major.
The small writing problems we did see can easily be fixed. I have faith in Brandon, and so should you. These small problems will resolve themselves over the last two books.
I thought the book was pretty decent. Not great, but not bad. I'd put it on par with book 5 (coincidentally my 5th favorite--book 2 is my #1), and a far cry better than books 7 through 11.
I didn't just feel book was decent because "stuff happens," because really not a ton does happen(or what does happen is wrapped up in a few pages). Dumai's Wells, the ending wasn't. The book was decent because we have movement. Because actual plot-lines were somewhat wrapped up.
I had two thoughts after finishing the book:
1) Yeah, this makes me look forward to the next novel--especially since it is only a year away.
2) It was a quick read, and now I'm ready to move right on to something else. This wasn't the book that makes me want to read it again as soon as I've finished it.
In short, it seriously felt like the series has taken (or was given) a major course correction. Some of the plot-lines were delicately guided back on course and back into focus, while others were yanked and forced. The end goal is the same in all cases--getting the meandering story back on track, and ready for the final two novels of the series. If this was indeed the preparatory goal of the novel, then it succeeded.
I do want to mention how thoroughly pissed off I am at the UK edition of the novel.
While the UK edition may have the superior cover, it is counter-acted by extremely poor binding - thinly glued instead of stitched. Orbit UK dropped the ball here. By the end of my reading (a very GENTLE reading), I could already see where pages were looser. My friend's, US version didn't have this problem in the least (it was stitched)--it just had the worst cover in the history of fantasy novels (who knew that Rand's lower body looked like Freddie Mercury's, and that he had watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn?).
This feels like Orbit UK trying to squeeze every penny out of TGS rather than making something of quality.
The solution for you serious fans? Import the UK edition, buy the US version, then put the UK dust-jacket on the US novel.
The last thing I want to reiterate is that I feel Brandon did an excellent job. He didn't try to be Jordan, which would have been a disaster. Consider what he accomplished. Not only did Brandon finish up this WoT novel, but he also wrote his own HUGE novel, THE WAY OF KINGS in the same year (comes out late next year). Having read THE WAY OF KINGS already (yes, it is awesome), I feel like Brandon grew up a lot while writing TGS. This has really become a win-win situation for readers. WoT readers get to see their fav. series finished up in a competent--if different--way, and Brandon's own writing ability has grown tremendously.
--Elitist Book Reviews--
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The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan (Audio CD - October 27, 2009)