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Excellent Handover and Excellent Book,
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This review is from: The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, Book 12) (Hardcover)
This book is a genuinely great contribution; if you like any other book in the Wheel of Time series, you'll like this one. It's the 12th book in the ongoing saga; Jordan unfortunately and sadly died in 2007, before completing the last chunk of the series, and Brandon Sanderson (author of several excellent but less-well-known fantasy novels) was hired to finish it up based on Jordan's notes, outlines, and completed sections.
Those kinds of handovers seldom go well, and to add to that uncertainty, the quality of the series has been somewhat of a sine wave, with definite peaks and definite valleys. So, despite a marked increase in quality in the book immediately prior to this one (Knife of Dreams, which came out in 2005), Jordan's death and the series' checkered history gave real reason to fear that the handover of this series would not go well.
So far as this volume goes, at least, the handover has succeeded. There's a real spark and fire here; if you're a fan of the earlier books, and you haven't gotten completely jaded to the entire Wheel of Time series by now, you *will* love this one as well. Promise.
Because of the nature of the coauthorship (Jordan wrote some sections of this book before he died, and the rest was completed from outlines and notes), it's hard to know precisely how much we're seeing here of Brandon Sanderson's work and how much of Jordan's, and there were one or two moments where I as a reader wondered whose voice I was reading, and one or two points where I felt Sanderson had stumbled slightly in his presentation of a character or handling of internal monologue. (After several re-reads, the issue seems to be that a few of Sanderon's turns of phrase seem more stylistically "modern" than what Jordan had used to date). But I could count those problem points on the fingers of one hand, and this is an 800-page book. The riveting action and powerfully compelling characters that made the series great are all still here, and overall Sanderson's work is excellent, especially considering how badly some similar series handovers have failed in the past.
Perhaps most impressive (and necessarily similarly controversial), Sanderson manages to show these characters continuing to develop and change as individuals -- something absolutely necessary if continuing the series was going to be at all worthwhile, but also inevitably controversial, as it's impossible to do anything more than guess at how closely Sanderson's character changes parallel or follow what Jordan's would have been. Still, apart from one or two hiccups, I think most readers will feel they're reading about the same characters as before (and different readers may well pick different hiccups; some readers may prefer Sanderson's hiccups to Jordan's -- even where the differences are noticeable, Sanderson hasn't made *bad* choices, just *different* ones). Sanderson states in a brief introduction that he'd like for readers to think of these novels as film scenes shot by a secondary director, but part of the same film and with the same cast of characters, and I think most readers will find he achieves that.
I'll avoid detailed plot summaries for fear of spoilers, apart from noting that the book focuses primarily on Rand and Egwene's storylines (though we do get appearances from most of the other major characters). I will say that it's probably the most grim of any book in the series to date, both in terms of characterization and of plot; the pacing throughout is torrential. Many major plot lines and open questions are finally resolved, and Jordan's prior tendency to spring fifteen new puzzles for every one answered is turned on its head here, with about fifteen new answers for every new puzzle: this is a book of answers and solutions (some of them very dramatic and even poignant). If you've ever wondered "Why doesn't [character] just do [x]", there's a good chance this is the book where they finally go there and do that, or where you find out why they haven't.
Anyway, if you like any prior books in the Wheel of Time series, you'll like this one, and if you've read any prior books in the Wheel of Time series, this one will answer a lot of your questions. Apart from a few relatively minor hiccups, it has all the strengths of the best prior books in the series. Very much worth reading.
Edit: now that the book's been out for a bit, I can tell things are back on track because I find myself buying copies of "Eye of the World" to give to friends again. That's something I hadn't done in a long while.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 20, 2009 7:46:23 PM PST
Christopher A. White says:
I am reluctant to admit this, but after reading all of Jordan's and Sanderson's work separately and not really comparing them, I dare say this is the best book of the series by a long shot. Too early to say why, but it most likely has to do with the new authorship, sure he made different choices but IMO they are all for the better. Only time will tell if I keep this opinion, but this book is definitely a great start to what I hope will be an amazing ending to a great series.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 6, 2010 3:00:20 PM PDT
J.C. Vermij says:
I recognise your last statement ;) After nine years of marriage my wife finally picked up the Eye of the World after I finished the Gathering Storm, and she loves it :)
Posted on Oct 12, 2010 7:30:43 PM PDT
SALERNO JOSEPH says:
What you say about puzzles is right. I remember some starting like 10 years ago, more hinted in a corner of a sentence than really presented (Verin and Sheriam by example). I was sure everybody did forget about that, the author included, but I was wrong.
But now I believe it was made on purpose. Sometime you remember somebody after just a glimpse out of the corner of your eye. This is like it on a writing level.
And you nailed it about the general feeling of the book, this is a huge improvement in a series that was becoming, in my opinion, clumsy and boring.
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