Wheel of Time Reread #12: The Gathering Storm

In anticipation of the Jan 8, 2013 release of A Memory of Light, the fourteenth and final book in the Wheel of Time series, I’m rereading the entire series. Each book gets its own spoiler-filled post.

GatheringREV_thumbThe Gathering Storm continues the newly established tradition of A Lot of Stuff Happening. Tarmon Gai’don is most definitely coming, and the people of Randland are getting ready.

Rand continues down the path of going totally nuts – he’s convinced that he has to a weapon and show no mercy, but fails to realise that he’s not really different from the Shadow if all he can do is destroy. His chapters make for very unpleasant reading, but it’s because it’s so believable, considering all the stuff that’s been happening to him. He goes absolutely as low as he can go – using the Choedan Kal to balefire an entire fortress controlled by Graendal, for example (and a lot more, but I don’t want to dwell on it). His final epiphany on Dragonmount was a little cliché, but also necessary, and also nicely fulfills the “he shall weep over his own grave” prophecy. But I guess your life would seem pointless if you had to lead the world every time you were reincarnated, and the thing you had to realise would be that you can learn, love and improve despite that.

Anyway, for me, Verin is the real star of the book. I love the idea of Verin poking her nose into the Black Ajah out of curiosity, ending up drafted and deciding to be a spy for the Light. I also love that she goes to Egwene with her suspicions, as well as sets off a bunch of different plots – I counted a letter for Mat, and a letter for Rand and a letter for Alanna show up in the next book. I can’t wait to see where they all go. I also loved her revelation that the Shadow looks for selfishness above all in its minions, that makes the Forsaken make more sense.

Oh, and the White Tower finally reunites and Elaida is conveniently kidnapped by the Seanchan, so Egwene gets raised to be the Amyrlin! I wasn’t really happy with how Elaida was disposed off, but I’m happy that the plotline is over. Not that I disliked it, but it’s been a long and arduous road and at least they’re reunited in time for Tarmon Gai’don. I’m not sure how I feel about Egwene – I thought she was a lot more awesome the first time around. She’s still pretty awesome, but I’m not sure if I buy her character arc as much. I guess her time with the Aiel really hardened her, she’s always been full of initiative and she’s a breath of fresh air for a complacent Tower. She just seemed to jump from childish to authoritative very quickly.

I wonder where the Seanchan storyline is headed – Rand scared Tuon into opposing him, and Seanchan have to deal with that now. They also now know that Trollocs and Myrddraal aren’t a myth, and that the Last Battle is close. I’m not sure why they attacked the White Tower – killing Aes Sedai is just less power for the Light, but I guess Tuon sees herself as opposing the Shadow AND the Dragon.

Other small but very good things – Faile takes it upon herself to kill Masema in secret. I can’t say I disagree. Siuan finally bonds Gareth Bryne and promises to marry him after the Last Battle! That’s one couple I’m really rooting for – I think they’re one of the only couples where both parties are equally confident and strong. Tam and Rand reunite (even if it goes terribly) – it was nice to see Tam be a father to Rand again. Nynaeve is grown up – I’m not sure when it happens, but she controls her anger now. Maybe it’s being married and also being terrified of Rand that made her realise what’s important.

Perrin – Perrin is emo all the time, and his timeline is a month or two behind Rand’s, but we get hints of what’s happening with him through other eyes – for instance, Tam has left Perrin’s camp, and Rand sees Perrin with Galad. Most of the actual Perrin POVs are just set up, though. The same goes for Mat, although Mat is considerably more entertaining. He’s not as smoothly written (his jokes are a bit off – he’s a bit too immature), but any Mat is better than no Mat.

Gawyn continues to make me want to thump him over the head. He’s like, the Lanfear of this age, mooning over Egwene instead of Rand. Yeah, yeah, I know he has a good heart but he’s so dense! Why isn’t he in Caemlyn doing his duty to Elayne? Egwene doesn’t even need him! He’s shirking his true responsibilities AND treating Egwene like someone who can’t take care of herself. Ugh.

Other random plot points – Aviendha finally passes her test to become a Wise One (boring in this book, but good set up for the Rhuidean revelations in Towers of Midnight), the Altaran King Beslan swearing fealty to Tuon and meaning it (makes sense, his people are mostly happy, and he’s more likely to get rid of slavery from within), the Moridin/Rand connection continues – is this because of the streams of balefire? Also, where the hell is Demandred and his army?!

This was the first book partly written by Brandon Sanderson, so I was paying a lot of attention to see if the style changed. It didn’t change enough to be distracting – the plot and characters still shone through fine (with a couple of minor missteps, like Mat). I had to pay special attention to it to notice. Sanderson tends to be more direct than Jordan – Jordan will make characters hint and dance around things, but Sanderson’s more likely to have them just explain. I’m not sure which one I prefer. Most people aren’t very self-aware in the moment, so Jordan is probably more realistic, but Sanderson’s writing makes me want to punch the characters less.

Only one more book to go!

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