Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Gathering Storm - Book Review

Book 12 in the Wheel of Time series
by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

I started reading this series around 1996. Book 7 (A Crown of Swords) had just come out and by the time I made it through the series, it would be over. Heh heh.

So around October, when I saw that Book 12 was about to hit, and that Sanderson had promised Book 13 would hit November 2010 and Book 14, the final installment, would hit November 2011, I figured I could reread the whole series and be okay with the wait.

The frustrations I had with Books 7-10 went away doing the rereads. The frustrations were mainly with waiting over two years and then reading a 700-page book where not a lot happens. A lot does happen, but it's more strategy and intrigue, and there are so many characters by now that may of them get short-changed. Book 11, Knife of Dreams, had more action, and we've been set up nicely for the promise of Book 12 since 2005.

Book 12 was everything I hoped it would be.

Spoilers ahead.

Certain storylines reach their conclusions. I was glad to see Faile kill Masema right off the bat. The madman's been creating havoc for too long. I really enjoyed the showdown with Elaida and Egwene. I enjoyed the Semirhage breaking, rescue, and balefiring, and it was cool to see Moridin's plan of betraying his Chosen all to make Rand harder and therefore crazier. I liked seeing the ruthless way Rand outsmarted Graendal, even if we didn't get one last scene from her POV. I liked Rand standing up to Cadsuane for failing him and seeing her reeling for once. I loved reintroducing Tam into the main plot, and Tam calling out Cadsuane.

Cadsuane was a character I hated the first time she was introduced. In many ways she epitomized what I dislike about the entire Aes Sedai structure and mindset. Pride, pride, pride, and treating everyone around them like fools who should bend to their will. Rereading this time, I just pictured her as really old, with Mary Wickes' voice, and she was easier to read. I still get satisfaction every time she's knocked down a peg and she's one I hope dies or gets her come-uppance somehow. Rand's exiling her was satisfying, but she still bullies everyone around her.

Nynaeve is a character that bothered me early on, but she's really grown on me. She's never mastered the Aes Sedai art of keeping her emotions in check, and the deeper into the series, the more I appreciate it. She's had her humbling events, from apologizing to Mat, to Moghedien going after her, to realizing she's the Aes Sedai Rand trusts most, to letting her husband go off to what will likely be his death, to being stuck with Cadsuane.

After all the court politics in Book 11, I did not miss Elayne, although I do miss her Warder Birgitte and Mat getting drunk together. With everything going in Book 12, I'm okay with putting her story on hold so we can delve into these others.

I was glad to see Tuon back among her people. It's solidifying my theory that Mat is going to wipe out the Seanchan race. It's prophesied he will lose half the light of the world to save it. We know from one of Min's viewings he's going to lose an eye, but I think his impact is going to be about as big as Rand's once it's done. Looking forward to Mat and Thom rescuing Moiraine. And I'm looking forward to Moiraine confronting Cadsuane. I kinda liked the poetic justice of Elaida being captured as a damane, but it's such an evil part of Seanchan culture that I'm still hoping they get wiped out.

I loved the revelation of what Verin's been up to all this time. Can't wait to see what her letter to Mat said. Loved the exposure of the Black Ajah and the execution of Sheriam, although I felt sorry for her in the end.

I'm glad they brought Hurin back, who was such a big part of Book 2, even if it was just for a page or two to illustrate just how dark Rand had become.

I liked Min having the awkward conversation of trying to get to know Aviendha. It's probably between Min and Faile who my favorite female character is, and it's probably not a coincidence that neither of them can channel.

We only have two books to go, and I'm hoping among other things we get to see:

-- Logain have some kick-butt scenes where he achieves the glory Min keeps seeing.
-- A satisfying end for Padan Fain. I keep wondering if his insanity is going to backfire on the Dark One, the way Trashcan Man ultimately screwed Flagg's plans in The Stand.
-- Egwene as Amyrlin realizing and teaching that the Aes Sedai can't keep pushing everyone around. She made some progress among the eyebrow-archers in Book 12.
-- Just desserts for Demandred, Mesaana, Moghedien, Moridin, Cyndane, and Aran'gar, the only living Forsaken left.
-- Mat and Thom rescue Moiraine in Book 13, so she has plenty of time to do what she needs to in Book 14.
-- Min get some enjoyable Rand time, now that he's learned to laugh again. And Aviendha, now that she's a Wise One.
-- Some good Galad scenes. I liked it when he killed Valda. Bring on more Galad! And have him hook up with Leane.
-- The Empress formerly known as Tuon realizing just how bad the repercussions are going to be for sanctioning an attack on the White Tower. And one scene where she realizes she loves Mat.
-- Most of the couples living happily ever after. I get the feeling Lan's going to die and then Nynaeve's going to martyr herself, but Perrin & Faile, Egwene & Gawyn, Suian & Bryne, Thom & Moiraine, and Rand & the three women. Hm, Mat may be toast as well... or he could hook up with Birgitte.
-- A little better explanation why the Creator is absent but the Dark One's allowed to wreak havoc.

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