The Gathering Storm

I just finished The Gathering Storm, book 12 of the Wheel of Time. I badly need some sleep.

Gathering Storm Cover

I have this book! On my shelf! Right now!

It is, of course, completely ridiculous to attempt a review of the book. I couldn’t even begin to make any headway into the plot if you haven’t read the other eleven books, and I’m sure anyone who is looking forward to reading the books will not appreciate spoilers, anyway. Hints or teasers, maybe. So I will simply say, frightening things happen. Rand’s mental stability teeters dangerously. He does things that I honestly cannot see him recovering from. Things that are usually “final battles” in other books are accomplished without all that much fanfare. Cadsuane is infuriating, as always, and infuriatingly ineffective, but she does some good, after all. Egwene’s little Mahatma Gandhi act works surprisingly well. Mat doesn’t feature as much as I’d hoped he would. Tuon is again infuriatingly blinded by prejudice.

But of course, so is everyone else. One of the central themes of the entire Wheel of Time series is how intelligent, emotional people can be so prejudiced so strongly and about so many things. These prejudices-often codified as customs and laws and enforced quite brutally, like in case of the Seanchan, orΒ  just present as a mistrustful whisper in the back of their heads- are the cause of so many of their problems, that the vast majority of these books are headdesk moments. Of course, it doesn’t make it any better knowing that we would all probably behave in the same way, in these situations, if we had the same knowledge/indoctrination. Well, almost. The lack of trust among nearly all the major characters, even those who are nominally on the same side, is another infuriating but central part of the series.

Egwene, thankfully, is a prominent counterexample.So is Siuan/Bryne. That whole thread is pure sweetness.

Is it a testament to MY mental instability that I could relate so much to Rand’s anguish, and understand his responses to the things that were going on, even if I didn’t wholeheartedly approve? I could literally feel his anger, feel myself shaking as I read so many parts of this book. Considering that I haven’t been tortured or imprisoned in a box or manipulated by absolutely everyone ever, I mean. It is, of course, testimony to Jordan/Sanderson’s literary skill and the superbly detailed world and fleshed out characters that Jordan created, but it’s strange that it worked so well. (There is a reason I like epics so much. Simpler narratives just don’t seem to have the emotional weight, don’t seem to evoke the same attachment, don’t make me feel a book so strongly.)

I don’t actually have much more to say. I think I’m going to re-read/skim through the book again, sometime this weekend, and maybe I’ll add to this post then.

For a much more detailed and professional review of the book, go here.

SPOILER: I have to say, I felt Jordan/Sanderson-this is a fairly pivotal point, and the end of the book, so I have a feeling Jordan had at least indicated that this should happen- used some rather tired philosophy to deal with Rand’s existential angst/nihilism/whatever. One feels they could really have come up with something a little more original than “love makes the world go round”. I mean, it wasn’t completely unexpected, of course. And it is a fantasy epic, not a philosophical discourse. But for a series that involves so much nuance for each moral decision, this one was just too… simple.

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12 thoughts on “The Gathering Storm

    • It IS going to be a major investment in terms of time and all. But yes, I’d say so πŸ™‚ . But be warned that there’s a lot that you might not like about these books, if only because there are so many characters who make “tough decisions” and come from sheltered backgrounds. But then, you watched Battlestar Galactica, didn’t you?

      • I watched one episode of Battlestar Galactica (or maybe two) and I almost fell asleep. I don’t think it’s my kind of show. But tough decisions and so on are usually something I value in a book.

        I guess I can at least start with the series and see how far I get. πŸ™‚

  1. You actually finished the whole series?! I read just upto The Dragon Reborn about an year ago, but didn’t have the heart to follow it on. Is it worth it? I remember it as a hotch-potch of many different sets of ppl knowing different events of the plot, and forming schemes based on the limited knowledge they had… Does it finally finish off?

    • It’s not, in fact, over. It was supposed to be, but the book just kept getting bigger and bigger so they split it into 3, so there’s 2 more to be released over the next 2 years.

      And your description is actually fairly accurate, although they do get connected together quite coherently by the end. πŸ™‚

  2. Tough decisions that aren’t always right, I meant to say. Sometimes, it’s quite painfully obvious that they’re wrong, from the reader’s more informed and less emotional (well, for most people) point of view. Also, there’s this very strong misplaced chivalry thing-women must be protected from any danger, and one must never hurt a woman, even when they’re just really, really bad(i.e. evil, not “bad”)- that a lot of the main characters share, which is also infuriating. Aside from that, you’ll probably like it.

    And I watched 3 episodes of BSG, but I already knew about the series finale when I started watching, and it really didn’t seem like I should bother.

    • Oh, I got the “not always right” part. It’s still something I appreciate as a reader. Not necessarily as a fan of a certain character or something, but as a reader.

      The sexism thing is the more troubling perspective…

  3. Addressing the spoiler part first, I agree. The love explanation was just a tad too simple. Not to mention horribly cliched. In fact, the parts of the book that are glaringly obvious to have been written by Sanderson remind me of Harry Potter. This one especially reeks of Dumbledore and his lovingness. Considering that, Verin being Black was pure genius. Reminded me of Snape, except much more well thought out and written. I’m pretty sure that was Jordan’s idea.

    Egwene/Siuan/Bryne was another masterpiece. Truly epic. Again, I guess this was already decided by Jordan. Much as I hate to admit that Sanderson’s job is not easy, he doesn’t appear to be that much of a genius either.

    Rand’s pov is certainly new. But the tortured soul thingy can only be milked so long. I guess I’m glad the ending was that way. Yes, I have had days when it seems everything and everyone just goes against me and yes, I can identify with how that must seem day in and day out. But it just wasn’t that appealing coming from Sanderson (I think it was him). Personally, I thought that Rand’s self-inflicted torture during the days before he publicly declared himself Dragon was way better. Especially that part with Mat and Moiraine and the hill. Not exactly sure when that happens, though.

    Overall, my only cribs are that secondary characters are accorded far less time. Thom, Juilin, Domon, Tuon were all virtually ignored. And Aviendha’s reason for punishment was SO ob. It was milked a bit too long. I guess that’s an example of Sanderson’s (comparitive) incompetence.

    That said, can’t wait to read the other 2. If only to know Jordan’s ending.

    • Oh yes, I can’t believe I missed out Verin, but then that would be just heaping on spoilers, anyway πŸ™‚ .

      This Rand is far too dark for most people’s liking, true. I think it was just one of those things that just had to be done to make it work, in terms of hitting bottom and then bouncing back up.

      Sanderson really seems to have done a decent jobs on most counts though, right? In an ideal world, etc, but I think it worked out reasonably well.

      And I really missed all the secondary characters. I wished he’d done more with the screen time that he DID give them.

      • I wrote the prev comment when I was feeling particulary vindictive, just after reading the book and with a headache. Looking back now, I guess it really was reasonably well done. Jordan set too high a standard and it must have been difficult for Sanderson to adhere to it.

        That said, the series itself is all about the slow, detailed narrative and lots and lots of descriptions. This one didn’t have the feel of that. If you notice, its written almost like any modern thriller novel most of the time, with the chapters breaking off when something is about to happen. Also, almost all the chapters have something of moment actually happening in them. This is way different from, say, the 9th and 10th books where the narrative covers days instead of months. As I read on some discussion board, there was lot of *clothes porn* in the earlier books πŸ™‚ The descriptions in this are just cursory.

        The secondary characters are a big drawback, though. You can’t get around that. And I particularly disliked the language. There are places where Mat says bloody and flaming so many times – I don’t know exactly how to put this across – but it felt sort of fake. Like Sanderson had tried to replace modern swearwords with older ones or something. I absolutely adore books from the 80s and 90s and one of the reasons I stuck with this series was because of Jordan’s language and this one was a big disappointment.

      • As for Rand, what exactly are they trying to say here? At the end he says that he and Lews Therin are, and always were, the same. Does that mean that the Rand as we see him – the sheepherder – is now destroyed? Or that Rand was unknowingly Lews Therin reincarnated all along, and he heard Therin’s voice until he chose to accept it?

      • Given how long I’ve been waiting, I don’t think I can fairly complain about the novel actually having more action than the last few. If anything, most people were complaining about how they’re deliberately dragging it on just to sell more books and whatnot, so I’m glad that doesn’t seem to be the case.

        I wouldn’t really say descriptions are cursory, just less than before. But the same point as earlier: there’s just too much to finish off! And didn’t Mat always say bloody and flaming a lot? There’s that sequence where Elayne and Nynevae try to get him to control it a few books back, if I remember right.

        “As for Rand, what exactly are they trying to say here? At the end he says that he and Lews Therin are, and always were, the same. Does that mean that the Rand as we see him – the sheepherder – is now destroyed? Or that Rand was unknowingly Lews Therin reincarnated all along, and he heard Therin’s voice until he chose to accept it?”

        I think the latter, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s just these two possiblities. I’m sure it’s not the former, anyway, because I think the whole point of “getting him to laugh again” was to avoid that happening. Rand remains Rand, and Lews Therin is now silenced. “For they were not two men, and had never been” implies only the latter, right?

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