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