At the End of Time,
when many become one,
the last storm shall gather its angry winds
to destroy a dying land…
Sounds somewhat prophetic doesn’t it? By any means, the latest novel by Robert Jordan (since deceased), and Wheel of Time newcomer author Brandon Sanderson, fits the claim. (Warning: the following review does contain some spoilers, especially if you have NOT read the previous titles) Whereas previous Wheel of Time novels have been long, drawn out affairs where absolutely nothing happens (See Evidence: Book Ten – Crossroads of Twilight), Sanderson has managed to continue the best of Robert Jordan’s writing in The Gathering Storm.
Granted, Sanderson had a lot of help, from the copious notes, timelines, pre-written components and discussions with the late Jordan and his wife/editor Harriet McDougal. As you read it (if you are a Jordan fanatic) small things definitely pop out at you as you continue reading the massive 765 page novel. My personal favorite? Gone are the endless descriptions of people’s clothing. Seriously! It’s the best thing to go! No more reading through page after page of how pretty the color on the dress of the fourth lady in waiting was… Thank you Sanderson, Thank YOU.
To continue, The Gathering Storm picks up immediately after the previous book, Knife of Dreams stopped. Rand and party have survived the ambush, but Rand is left with serious mental and physical problems. The story continues at a moderate pace, tracing multiple story arcs as they finally begin to lean back together. Perrin, having rescued his wife, returns to the Wolf Dream and begins to feel the pull of the power that is Rand the Ta’varen.
Mat, having left the company of his wife, Tuon, Daughter of the Nine Moons and now Empress of the (dissolved, fractured, collapsing) Seanchan Empire, works to bring his band of the Red Hand (IE His own personal army) back into civilization and out of a war zone. Mat’s story always interests me the most, as it is by far the most amusing and contains the most interesting situations. An expedition to the Tower of Genji to possibly rescue past heroine Morraine, a visit to a town where everyone goes berserk after nightfall, and an encounter with an old friend keeps the arc going even without the dry humor of Tuon.
The Gathering Storm also sees an end to the Aes Sedai civil war (finally, 5 books or so later). Egwene, Rebel Aes Sedai Leader Extraordinaire, final sees progress inside the tower as she begins gathering a core group of supports won over from the loyalists. The grand reveal of a completely unexpected member of the Black Ajah was an unexpected twist for most readers. This one had me going “WHAT!?” and then quickly wishing to read back through the rest of the books to try to find previous evidence. The story arc comes to a fantastic conclusion, bringing in previous fortellings by Egwene and leading to vicious, all out battle in the halls of the White Tower. An extremely satisfying series of chapters follows, along with an ending for a favorite bad guy that I believe all will appreciate.
Finally, back to Rand. This was quite possibly the hardest of characters to deal with as a new author for Sanderson. I must say, he did a marvelous job. Rand’s descent into madness continues, with him pushing away or alienating some of his closest allies. The actions of a forsaken trying to hunt down Rand really loose the insanity, as Rand is forced to do unspeakable things to someone he loves. In retrospect (by the end of the book) this is probably the best thing! Rand essentially sets up a battle between his conscience and ego/brain. The battle for the Soul of Rand (one side working for love, the other to be hard as steel, as ice, to survive) culminates in the final chapter. The result is some of the most powerful writing I’ve read. The Gathering Storm is not just an overlying feature of the entire book’s setting, but also an important part of Rand’s battle against his own inner demons.
For those of you lacking the knowledge of the Robert Jordan Fantasy Series, The Wheel of Time, I heartily suggest reading the story from start to finish. That being said, do not start without a serious amount of time that you are willing to put in. Books 1-4 start slow and only gradually pick up speed, focusing on character development and exploring the large world of Jordan’s.
Overall, a rating of 9/10 stars. A great read, but not as a stand alone book, as one really must read the background story to get a clue as to the intricate relationships between characters, situations, powers, and history. Etc. etc. etc. And thus, I leave you with a quote.
Why Rand, Why do you go into battle? What is the point?
Why? Rand thought with wonder. Because each time we live, we get to love again. If I live again, then she might as well. I fight because last time, I failed. I fight because I want to fix what I did wrong. I want to do it right this time.
Happy Reading – Double Alias