This review was originally posted over at Realms & Galaxies: Celebrating SFF on the 14th of December 2009.
So, I finally managed to get a copy and read it. Practically a month and a half after it was published worldwide, but I did get it. And here are my thoughts:
I will admit that I was a bit worried about the book after I read the first chapter posted at Tor.com; I immediately picked up that this wasn’t Jordan, and my instinct was to be a bit put out and disappointed. Until, that is, I realized the most important thing – this was Robert Jordan’s book, but he did not write it. Some of you might be thinking, Huh? That’s obvious! But think about this a little. Is any negative response towards the book justified, when taking into consideration that Robert Jordan was unable to write this book? If you were looking for a book written by Robert Jordan, there are plenty to choose from, including some westerns, but The Gathering Storm is not one of those books. Robert Jordan did not write this book! I’m just trying to make you few who might hate this book understand that. It is his book, but he did not write it because he, very sadly, died. Brandon Sanderson worked off notes, worked with Harriet and Mr Jordan’s assistants, to write this book. So it is Robert Jordan’s book, and it most definitely is a worthy Wheel of Time book. 🙂
Okay, to my thoughts:
The prologue, in which a farmer we have never met before decides to pack up and move towards the building storm -to do his part in the battle that is coming- was an incredible piece! This section, more than any other, really brought home to me how close Tar’mon Gaidon is, and sets the tone for The Gathering Storm as well as The Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light. In my opinion, the best of all previous Wheel of Time prologues!
And then you read further… Rand takes center-stage, and this Rand is dark and brooding and, worryingly, terrifying. I really came to like Rand, to commiserate and sympathize with him, but this Rand… This Rand was not the Rand I knew. I’m not saying that Brandon didn’t capture him, that Brandon totally destroyed the character – I’m saying that, in a way, I didn’t want this to be the rand I knew and liked. Like Min and Cadsuane, I didn’t want to acknowledge the fact that pressure -and who has more immense pressure on him than the Dragon Reborn- changes a person; rand could not be the same person he was when we met him on the Quarry Road. He had to become harder and darker and ruthless. And when I understood this, I was able to read on – wincingly, and on the edge of my seat.
Falling deeper into the book is was a joy – not only did Brandon manage to capture the characters -even Aviendah- perfectly, but his understanding of the world and the story came through gloriously. You can tell that Brandon really has a deep and abiding love of the world and characters created by RJ, and a deep respect, too. I never once got the feeling that characters were reacting in ways that were at odds with how RJ wrote them, something that must have been incredibly difficult to do. I mean, not only was (and he still is, I believe)he under immense pressure from fans, the general Fantasy community, Tor, etc but he also had to handle characters and events that have been with us since 1992! A tall order, but something that Brandon accomplished in grand style, in my opinion. 🙂
Moving to the events of the book, there are plenty of major surprises! Rand, as I said before, is terrible – by terrible I mean he’s the kind of opponent I would cross oceans to escape! Now, more than any time before, he has embraced being the Dragon Reborn, and what he does in this book will knock your socks off! One event, in particular, will have the Forsaken s******g their pants, that’s for sure! Brandon (via RJ’s notes) sets the pace and keeps to it, charging the story through glimpses of the Forsaken, a very important and fateful day in the life of Tuon, Mat entering a creepy village, one of Egwene’s Dreams coming true, and more events involving Rand. I was left breathless on many occasions, my girlfriend glancing at me and frowning most of the time because of me cheering or gasping or shaking my head or swearing, and on occasion, even laughing! There are some truly hilarious moments in the book, and not just in chapters devoted to Mat. 🙂
In my opinion, Brandon succeeds at respecting and, in some ways, enhancing The Wheel of Time, as well as pushing events onwards towards the Final Battle. This book is definitely a worthy successor to the legacy and brilliance of Robert Jordan and I wouldn’t mind at all if Brandon was asked to do the two other prequels that RJ planned to do or the Outrigger novel.
All in all, while this may not be the book we were waiting for -because RJ wasn’t able to write it- this is definitely a must-read for all Wheel of Time fans and without a doubt one of the best books in the series. Not only did I enjoy it immensely, it also left me with the need to go back and read the rest of the books – not for re-reading purposes, not because I want to refresh myself on events and character arcs, but because I want to relive meeting the characters, watching the events unfold and learning about the world and its history. After The Gathering Storm, I love The Wheel of Time all the more!
My verdict: Very entertaining, exciting and a worthy addition to The Wheel of Time – 9 / 10!