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Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson – The Gathering Storm

November 30, 2009

140. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (2009)
The Wheel of Time, Book 12

Length: 784 pages
Genre: Epic Fantasy

Started: 12 November 2009
Finished: 22 November 2009

Where did it come from? From the publishers for review.
Why do I have it? I don’t talk about it a lot, since I read them all long before I started reviewing/blogging, but The Wheel of Time is the series that got me permanently hooked on fantasy as an adult. After 11 books and a prequel, these characters are like family, so how could I not want to find out what happens to them, especially now that there’s an end in sight?
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 28 October 2009.
Verdict? TOTALLY FRAKKING AWESOME. (So: keeper.)

It’s taken twelve books
to get here; I can’t sum up
in seventeen words.

***No spoilers for this book, but there may be incidental spoilers for earlier books.***

Summary: The Last Battle is coming, and coming quickly; the Dark One’s touch has never been more evident in the world. Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, is mankind’s only chance of defeating the Dark One in the Last Battle… but how can anyone prepare for a responsibility like that? Rand has conquered almost half of the known world, but his hold of the various countries is fracturing, and he knows mankind must present a united front if they are to have any hope of survival. To that end, he tries to make peace with the Seanchan invaders, but even that may be for naught if Rand cannot learn to control the darkness and hardness that he has tried for so long to cultivate in his soul.

Meanwhile, Egwene, the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai, is a captive within the White Tower. She is subject to severe punishments at the command of Elaida, the irrational and power-mad Amyrlin, but worse than the pain of any beating is watching the White Tower crumble from within. She knows the Aes Sedai need to be strong, and the Tower must be whole in order to aid Rand at Tarmon Gaidon, but how can a prisoner possibly manage such a daunting task?

Review: If you would have asked me, before reading this book, if either Robert Jordan or Brandon Sanderson had a distinctive writing style, I would have said no. Not that they’re not both good writers, but just that neither has a way with words that would enable me to point to a passage and say ‘There, that sounds like Sanderson’ the way I could with Guy Gavriel Kay or Michael Chabon. However, as I discovered within the first few pages of the prologue, just because neither has a distinctive style, also does not mean that they have the same style. Sanderson addresses this in his author’s note, saying that he did not try to emulate Jordan’s style, choosing to stay true to the characters and the story, but to tell it in his own words. And that’s fine; Sanderson is an accomplished writer whose books I enjoy. On the other hand, I will admit it was initially a little bit jarring to come across paragraphs or sentences that were decidedly un-Jordan-like.

I adapted quickly, though, and truth be told, Sanderson does an excellent job of maintaining continuity not only with the storyline, but more importantly, with the feel of the characters. Egwene’s POV chapters still feel like Egwene, Perrin still sounds like Perrin, Rand still feels like a complete dolt who you just want to kick in the shins until he finally loosens up a little. I was somewhat worried about Mat; he’s got a pretty distinctive voice – one that is easy to imitate, but hard to get right – plus Mat’s first chapter doesn’t come until almost midway through the book. To my delight, though, that chapter starts with Mat delivering a (*very* Mat-ish) monologue about women… followed by Talmanes making fun of the way Mat talks in a way that is not only hilarious, but also pokes gentle fun at Mat (and by extension, Jordan), and just generally lets us know that Sanderson gets it.

“I’m not giving up gambling,” Mat muttered. “Or drinking.”
“So I believe you’ve told me,” Talmanes said. “Three or four times so far. I half believe that if I were to peek into your tent at night, I’d find you mumbling it in your sleep. ‘I’m going to keep bloody gambling! Bloody, bloody gambling and drinking! Where’s my bloody drink? Anyone want to gamble for it?'” (p. 317)

And that’s the reason why I think having Sanderson take over after Jordan’s death has worked where so many multi-author continuations have failed: Sanderson gets it. He wants the series to turn out well as much as any of the rest of us do. He’s a fan too. But, unlike the average fanboy or fangirl, he’s also an accomplished writer in his own stead, with the chops to pull it off. And that combination of talent and passion are what makes The Gathering Storm a worthy continuation instead of merely an acceptable one.

Okay, enough about the writing, let’s talk about what actually happens. In short? TOTALLY AWESOME. It is not hyperbole to say that I laughed, I cried, I spent large chunks of the book with a pit of dread in my stomach because so many things were going so terribly wrong for the characters, and I quite literally stood up and cheered out loud at at least two points. (There may even have been fist-pumping.) There are prophecies fulfilled, storylines wrapped up, mysteries solved, and a wealth of wonderful and memorable and just perfect character moments.

I know there are also those out there who are apprehensive over the fact that Brandon Sanderson’s contribution was initially going to be one book… and then two… and now finally three. I was certainly a little worried myself that the split would result in something patchy and without a satisfying end point (I’m looking at you, A Feast for Crows.) But that worry was completely baseless; The Gathering Storm has some of the most complete narrative arcs of any book in the series, not to mention one of the most satisfying endings. Just excellent. 5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Don’t start here if you haven’t read any of the previous 11 books, obviously. However, The Gathering Storm strongly reminded me why I love this series so much, why it was worth sticking it out through some of the slower books. It made me want to go start the series over from the beginning, and (although I wouldn’t have thought it possible), it made me even more eager to get my hands on the next installment.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links:Brandon Sanderson’s webpage
Encyclopaedia WOT, if you need to brush up on previous books

Other Reviews: Adventures in Reading, Age 30+…A Lifetime of Books, Books ‘n’ Border Collies, Neth Space, Only The Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, The Wertzone
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Renald Fanwar sat on his porch, warming the sturdy blackoak chair crafted for him by his grandson two years before.

Cover Thoughts: Probably my least favorite part about the book. It is a pretty direct representation of a scene… and yes, Rand’s actually shaking his fist at the sky. (Optional: yelling “Nooooooo!!!”) Also, I don’t think Aviendha would be caught dead in that much eye make-up… or that boob-tacular of a blouse.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 25: “Well, he would have to replace the snath with a longer straight shaft of ashwood.” – the shaft or handle of a scythe.
7 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2009 1:20 am

    I just saw the post pop up. The series looks really good it will now be added into my big TBR pile. You said it got you hooked on fantasy as a adult? I must read it then…someday soon. But, then all the books I want to read I have to get my hands on in the first place. What age group is this series for?Is there anything innapropriate, and if so how detailed is it?

    • December 1, 2009 2:03 pm

      fyrebyrd – There’s a fair bit of violence, as would be expected in epic fantasy, and there’s occasional off-screen sex, but in general it’s set in a pretty prudish society, so there’s not even a ton of that.

  2. November 30, 2009 8:00 am

    Yeah! I’m glad to see such an enthusiastic review because I just started reading this yesterday. My boyfriend got first dibs on our copy since I was in the middle of some books that needed to go back to the library. Like you, he said that some significant events take place, the ending was really good, and that he’s now even more excited for the next. I was pretty confidant when I heard about the 3 book split that Sanderson would do it well. One of the things I really liked about his Mistborn Trilogy was how each book had its own satisfying ending.

    • December 1, 2009 2:04 pm

      Laura – Excellent! I hope you’re having as good a time reading it as I did! When you get to the cheering-out-loud part (you’ll know it), come on back and we’ll talk. :)

  3. November 30, 2009 9:36 am

    I’ve never read any of this series, but people sure do seem to love it.

    • December 1, 2009 2:05 pm

      bermudaonion – I don’t think this series is really up your alley – it’s unapologetically epic high fantasy – but oh, it’s so very, very addicting.

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