The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Book 12 of The Wheel of Time, which has another awful cover. I should be used to them by now.
I've been going back and forth with myself the last few days, not sure whether I should write this or not. I worry that I cannot be objective, because I am a fan of the authors and the series. In the end, my desire to write about the book won out. You'll have to take anything I say with a pound of salt (although it's not all favorable), and make up your own mind about the review.
Please, please, PLEASE, if you are going to read this book and you do not care to find out what happens, do not continue reading this post. I don't know how I can make it any clearer.
SPOILERS AHEAD! Not extreme spoilers, but there's enough. Alright? Alright. Let us proceed.
“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”
Those words effectively began the series years ago. Now, almost twenty years later, the end is in sight. Robert Jordan passed away in 2007, and Brandon Sanderson was hired to finish the sprawling epic. That required a lot of work, but Sanderson was up to the task and now the rest of us can see what he has made of another man’s work.
The most immediate answer is that he has done well. If fact, he exceeded my already high expectations. TGS provides excitement and laughter, shock and sadness, and it gives the sense that the conclusion is very near. This is a good thing, because it is book twelve, and both Sanderson and TOR Books have promised the series has only two books left, both to be published within the next two years or sooner. The title alludes to the storm that will break on or before the Last Battle, and that storm is coming fast. The biggest complaint most people had against the last few books was that they moved at a glacial pace. That started to change with the last book, Knife of Dreams, but things really get going in TGS. You know when there's a moment of suspense in a film, and the violins are drawing out a really high note, building tension until something pops out of the dark and you jump in your seat? That's what most of TGS is like, but with payoff after payoff. This should appease any fans still harboring ill will from Book 10, Crossroads of Twilight (aka The One Where Nothing Happens).
As of the previous book, the Light Brigade was in no shape to march off and battle the Dark. Our hero, Rand al’Thor, has a lot of work to do. It’s tough to unite the world when everyone thinks you will destroy the world anyway. Those people have a point.
One of Sanderson’s biggest success in this book is Rand. Everyone worries about Rand going crazy, but this is the book where it finally happens. Twice. It’s understandable given the mountain of things he’s had to overcome, but it’s very sad to see him finally succumb to madness. It is also terrifying. Rand is no longer an innocent farmboy, and he’s causing as much chaos and destruction as the Dark One. He breaks rules he once held sacred, and he commits acts that could probably damn his soul. There are so many lows to choose from, but the most disappointing has to be the confrontation with his father, a meeting people have been waiting for since Rand and Tam parted ways in the first book. It’s to Sanderson’s credit that he can make all of the chaos work so well.
Sanderson’s other success is Egwene al’Vere. I don’t think she ever held the dubious title of Most Annoying WOT Character for me, but she used to be close. Instead, she continues the steady rise to maturity that she began in the last couple of books, and here she completes her transformation as the most awesome character at this point. Mat is still my favourite, and Rand is still the one carrying the fate of the world, but Egwene is the one who is in control of her forces—at least until the next book.
If there is one other major highlight, it belongs to Verin, the sneakiest of sneaky Aes Sedai. I’ll say no more, but I highly doubt anyone saw her twist coming. Whether the credit for that revelation goes to Sanderson or Jordan, bravo to him.
The irrelevance of Mat and Perrin: I understand they will feature more in Book 13, just like Rand and Egwene shared top billing in this book. Here’s hoping, because their sections were small and almost pointless in this one.
Tuon: Yes, she’s Seanchan, with a way of looking at things that seems natural to the Seanchan, but it irks me no end that Mat ended up with someone who makes me *headdesk* so much. Wasn’t it enough that Perrin had to settle for Faile? (Note: I think Faile improved in this book. Just a smidgen, but there it is.) When I turned a page to see a chapter called “The Death of Tuon” I figured it was too much to hope for.
Mat’s language: Was it just me, or did he seem a lot more flippant and off-the-cuff than he used to be? He seemed like more of a caricature of Mat at first. By the end of his brief appearance he seemed more like the old Mat, but I hope for better in the next book.
Some of the language in general: I thought Brandon did a fantastic job, but there were a few word choices that seemed to stick out. I suppose the only reason I’m bringing them up is because the rest of the job was so seamless, so it made those few instances stand out even more. Of course, those might have been Jordan’s words I’m quibbling about. What do I know?
The editing: 750 pages or so is a lot to edit. No book is perfect when it comes to line or copy editing. I didn’t really notice anything until almost halfway through the book. Then in the space of about a chapter I found more than a half-dozen mistakes. I’m talking about missed words and typos. Yikes! After that I found a few more so that by the end of the book I had around 15 or so similar errors. I'm sure that’s forgivable, but the first half was clean. What happened to the second half?
Bottom line: It’s my favorite book in a long, long time. Sanderson's done a masterful work. The ending is hopeful for a change, and the goodies are enough to keep me sated until next year’s release of whatever the next book will be called. Two books to go until the end. The Last Battle is right around the corner, and I'm feeling like Rand has a shot for the first time. Yay!