Customer Review

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,, October 27, 2009
This review is from: The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, Book 12) (Hardcover)
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 you reading this?), knows that pacing has been a big problem in Jordan's work, especially after the first few books. I wonder, in fact, if part of the reason for the title was a special publisher's plea to wavering fans: "the end is coming! No, really! It's almost here!" Though in that case, perhaps announcing that the final book was going to be split into three wasn't such a smart idea.

Well, I can say whether intentional or not, The Gathering Storm does mostly deliver on its seeming promise of a quickening end. Sanderson, in place of Jordan, has offered up a book that moves more quickly than its 800 pages would seem to indicate. It doesn't match the compelling, joyful pace of the first few books, but it does mostly zip along, resolving plot events from earlier books, opening up new paths, clearing away some of the narrative and character underbrush. I'd say it's a somewhat stronger version of Knife of Dreams in that regard (though I consider KoD a pale version of the first 3 or 4). While The Gathering Storm does still have some side-plots that dilute the potential impact of major storylines, new narrative lines seem a bit more focused on getting us where we need to get to. And some of the more repetitive aspects of previous plots have been dropped, though a big one--Rand's hardening of himself--has been wearing a bit thin and continues to do so here. Not that it isn't a good arc; it's just been too stretched out.

That said, while lots of separate things happen here, and while I'd say most of them need to happen in order for us to reach the end, it feels like the narrative moves along more speedily on the micro rather than the macro level. What I mean by that is you feel the whoosh of singular events, but I can't say by the end you feel any closer to the final confrontation, despite the crossed Ts and dotted I's of prophecy and the unshackling of certain characters.

Beyond pacing, the plot is mostly serviceable, another similarity to KoD. I can't say there are any particularly stirring scenes, nor any particularly emotional ones save one nicely quiet one. There are a few pleasant surprises which I obviously won't mention that feel well set-up and fully necessary to the plot as opposed to a twist for a twist's sake. We don't spend much time with Perrin, for which I'm quite thankful, as I've found his subplots to be by far the weakest. Matt's storyline is semi-interesting but feels quite detached, more as if he's simply being kept busy to remind us he's around rather than being an integral part of the story. Egwene's story was for me the least plausible, though I won't go into specifics to avoid spoilers. I'll just say I had a hard time accepting the premise of her situation, the length of it, and its resolution. Actually, I take that back--the single most implausible scene involved a Forsaken: painfully, laughably implausible and an example of one of the infuriating ways these books can be so inconsistent and so bad at points (a later scene involving that same Forsaken was better, though it could have been mined a bit more for impact I think). The ending--no spoilers, don't worry--is a big jump forward in many ways and makes sense in terms of plot and character, but I found it far too abrupt and a bit too easy. I'm assuming/hoping it turns out not as easy as it appears here.
There is mostly slight movement in characters (one welcome change but a major spoiler): some are humbled, some strengthened, some finally choose a side or change sides, most of them grow a little wiser which is good to see. Development, as mentioned, is slight and self-awareness only burgeoning in some, but believably so. And there is a lot less inconsistency in characterization, much less leaping from adamantine to simpering in a single bound.

Power has always been a major thematic element in the series and that continues here. What is power, where does it lie, who should wield it, what is the impact on those who do so, what lines (if any) are drawn, when do the ends justify the means, what are the responsibilities of those who wield it or give it up, etc. are explored through character and sometimes through interior monologue. This has always been I think one of Jordan's strongest and most subtle (usually) aspects and it remains a strength here as characters and readers alike wrestle with these and other such questions.

The prose, like the plot, is adequate. There aren't any truly memorable or beautiful lines, but overall I'd say the prose is an improvement on Jordan. Unfortunately, we still get some of those same ticks and I'm guessing these are from Jordan's own passages. Thus we get the "hands folded beneath her breasts", some braid-pulling, "flimsy" and "diaphanous" gowns, various busts and bosoms. Spanking still rears its ugly head. It feels like there's less of all this, but it still stands out. I think in general Sanderson has kept the flavor of Jordan's prose, for all its good and bad points, while streamlining it and thus improving it.

Overall, The Gathering Storm is better than many books in the series, though nowhere near as good as the best ones. It lacks the major flaws of earlier books and has reduced the minor niggling ones to only a few occasions. And it leaves us ready, it appears, to move (let's hope) more quickly toward the end. There's no reason for a recommendation as let's face it, if you're reading this review you're going to be reading The Gathering Storm (if not, you really need to find a better way of entertaining yourself), but I do think TGS will leave most readers of the series feeling that it's in good hands and has pulled itself out a bit from the hole it dug itself.
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Comments

Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 6, 2009 11:46:51 AM PST
Dszquphsbnt says:
This is most encouraging. I think we all knew RJ's flaws couldn't be completely wiped away for the last three books, but it sounds as if Brandon has reintroduced pacing and focus, which was really the main thing I was hoping for.

Great review. Thanks for saying all that so well, and for doing it without spoilers.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 17, 2009 2:48:15 PM PST
That's the bottom line, the book isn't perfect but it did fix a LOT of Robert Jordan's mistakes from the last several books and promises at least a decent ending. I really enjoy the book, and if I wouldn't call it my favorite I'd at least say its in the top 5 based on a few of the scenes I loved.

Posted on Nov 24, 2009 6:42:13 PM PST
Chris Seitz says:
Thanks for the encouraging review. I loved so many of those books, but I've been slogging along sporadically on Crossroads at Twilight for about three years now, and it'll speed me up knowing that there's some light ahead.

Posted on Dec 24, 2009 10:00:34 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2009 10:00:51 AM PST
KTexas says:
I enjoyed your review, and I think yours was one of the most accurate I read after finishing the book only a few hours ago. While reading I would of disagreed with some of yours points, but looking back at it over all, I agree..especially with the implausibility of the forsaken moment and the ending part.

Posted on Jan 7, 2010 8:15:10 AM PST
I loved your commentary. My eyebrows waggled a little wryly at the end of it when you sardonically stated that you wouldn't reccomend it, since, at this point, those of us who have taken the time to read allll the books and this long review were obviously going to read it anyway. However--you are right. I am going to go read it. I am very sorry to hear that Matt isn't as mainstreamed as he was in the past. I loved the essense of his character. I always had tears leaking out of my eyes shaking in laughter whenever I got to his bits. Could you elaborate on wheter or not this is the case?

Also, I don't really love most of Jordan's catch phrases myself, but I can't see Nynaeve without a firm tug on the braid. I am THRILLED to hear that Perrin is being dropped a bit. I was very very bored reading his part of the plot. I just thought he was a cheesy character. I didn't like the girlfriend either.

I personally hope to hear what on earth has happened to Morgaine--if anything. Anyway, thank you for your eye-rolling review; it was realistic, and that was what I wanted to hear--not some trolloped version from a star-studded, Jordan-can-do-no-wrong fan.

Ash

Posted on Jan 29, 2010 11:42:46 PM PST
What a thorough, well-written, terrific review! Thank you so much for your views and insights on TGS. I have decided, after much deliberation, to wait until the final two books have been released and read the entire series from beginning to end. I've done it twice already (mistakenly believing that the books would be coming out quickly), and now, being older (by quite a few years since I've been on board with WoT from the very beginning) and wiser, I've decided to use the skill which I've cultivated so well while awaiting each installment of these books - patience.

Posted on Feb 14, 2010 12:36:09 PM PST
You are way to picky. If you have so many problems with the series; why are you still reading the sucker? I read for the pure pleasure of it; and that's why I'm (to paraphrase
Paul Simon) "Still here after all these years." It's not Tolstoy for G_d's sake. Relax, enjoy, or move on. I loved the thing.

Posted on May 17, 2010 8:45:03 AM PDT
Lazlo P says:
(warning, mild spoilers) I agree with the OP - there are a few glaring and annoying inconsistencies when comparing this book to some of RJ's older books...for example, the Forsaken segment and the "true power". It seems the "true power" used in this instance is none other than that nasty balefire. Now, unless I'm mistaken, in earlier books (book five notably comes to mind), Rand had already discovered and used this forbidden "true power" against his enemies. He made this discovery from an earlier memory, aka Lews Therin's. Is the "true power" being wielded by Rand, or as Lews Therin reincarnated? Fascinating stuff.

Mr. Sanderson gets a bit repetitive at times i.e. he uses the adverb "softly" a bit too often for my taste...but overall the book was an enjoyable read. Looking forward to the next one.

Posted on Jul 28, 2010 8:48:14 AM PDT
Andrei Baicu says:
I am only at book 8 but I can't wait to get to TGS especially after reading this review and all the afferent comments on it. My opinion is that every change is somewhat useful and hopefully following the blueprints left by Mr. Jordan, God rest his soul, Brandon Sanderson will provide us a spectacular ending for a great series of books

Posted on Feb 19, 2011 8:46:33 AM PST
Yvonne Smith says:
Has the reviewer heard of paragraphs? I feel like he or she might have something to say about the book, but the review was so difficult to read that I gave up after the first several sentences.
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