09 December 2012

Review: The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm
The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew there was a good story in here somewhere. While I assumed Brandon Sanderson would be able to squeeze something good out of the framework that Robert Jordan put together, I honestly did not expect it to be the riveting, exciting read that The Gathering Storm ended up being.

This book is the first of three books to polish off the Wheel of Time series. Jordan outlined the basic story, wrote some of it, and Sanderson was brought on to finish the rest. What was supposed to be one book became three, and here we are.

The good news? Everything. Sanderson has effectively cut through the weight of Jordan's hyper-descriptive prose style and diversionary tactics and found the coherent, interesting, engrossing story within. The Gathering Storm spends the lion's share of the time with the Aes Sedai, with more time among Rand and his group than we've seen since the early books.

The Aes Sedai situation with Egwene is among the most interesting reading I've had during this series, which is really excellent in part because the Aes Sedai has been the best parts of the Jordan-penned tomes up to this point. Plus, we get a loose end tied up. This is something I cannot recall happening at any time in this series so far. The entire story would be a great read on its own, and I was extremely happy to read this whole section.

Rand, for the first time, is a truly interesting character. The lack of layers and the seemingly incoherent treatment of him disappears completely by the time we get some good time with him. The complexity of Rand and his situation is portrayed less crazy and more manic than it has been, and to excellent results. Plus, Min actually seems useful as opposed to being an otherwise expendable character in the book. The resolution of so much, and the setup for the next book, is a breath of fresh air.

I have my issues with the Thom and Mat storyline to a point, as it almost feels as if it was thrown in simply to throw it in, but it was so good - especially in the town with the dice game - that I find it hard to care too much about the relatively short thrift it was given. We'll see where the next book goes with it.

Either way, in a series I've at times liked but never loved and mostly hated? This was great, and it really firms up Brandon Sanderson as really a master of what he does. It's stunning that he took this jumbled mess and turned it into something that I'm actually excited to read the next volume of - something that hasn't happened in a significant way so far, if ever.

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