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 The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)

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Calwyn
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PostSubject: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Nov 25, 2009 4:45 pm

Wow. I had forgotten how epicly enthralling the Wheel of Time series could be. In many ways, this book went back to the same level that the peak of the series was at around the 6th book.

I'm hesitant to lay the credit solely at the feet of Brandon Sanderson and say that he is a better writer than Jordan is, since Jordan was of course the one to take it to that peak level through the first half of the series in the first place. Yet at the very least, I can honestly say that Jordan and his wife chose the right man to finish his work for him. It was superbly done.

The ONLY difference, or improvement if you will, that I clearly noticed between Sanderson's writing in TGS (the gathering storm) and Jordan's writing through the first 11 books was how each wrote of the characters. My biggest beef of Jordan's writing was always that he was not particularly good at writing characters. He was just fine at making up characters and assigning their personalities and backgrounds, but when it came to writing them in the present he had several quite annoying habits and mannerisms. It was clear to me that Sanderson is much better in that regard, and it only made the book that much better.

This book was action packed. There were so many intense moments where you're on the edge of your seat, straining your eyes and your mind to read faster so you can find out what happens. Yet at the same time, between the spells between the action sequences were just as gripping.

Which brings me to the other major improvement that this book had over the preceding three, especially Crossroads of Twilight and Winters Heart (not so much Knife of Dreams, which I really liked yet it had the same faults). The problem that Jordan ran into, and I've said this many times, is his tendency to create and follow too many story lines at once. At any given time, in the preceding three novels, he would be writing about anywhere between three to five MAJOR plot lines at once, with several minor sub-plot lines within each one and several POV's as well. While each would be interesting, what happened was that the books slowed down immensely in their pace. It took the whole of the last three books to complete the plot lines that he began in the first one (of the three) that normally would take ONE book.

The Gathering Storm, while throwing in a few mentions to some of the smaller story lines that were going on (Perrin, Mat, Tuon, Gawyn) and outright ignoring others (Elayne, Lan) for the time being, for the most part followed two main story lines: Rand and Egwene.

And it did so marvelously, I might add. It was balanced excellently. You got enough of Matt, Perrin, or Tuon to have a place to start for the next book (I imagine) while those of Elayne and Lan were not needed, as they were already ready to begin new plot lines of their own - Elayne having secured her kingdom, Lan still on his way to the Blight with his army. The lesser plot lines of Mat and Perrin were needed simply to get them to where they needed to be for the next book, while Tuon half falls into that category while also adding something crucial to Egwene and the White Tower story line AS WELL as Rand's story line.

What was pressing, leading into the Last Battle, was Rand's state of mind and the state of the White Tower. Those two things HAD to be dealt with before anything else, as they were storylines that had NOT been wrapped up in Knife of Dreams.

Rand's further descent into darkness was brilliantly done, IMO. You already knew, from previous books, the direction he was going and how close he was to teetering over the edge. You knew that if something drastic were to happen, he could begin to fall deeper into the darkness. And that happened, as a result of Semihrage (sp?). THAT was an intense moment, even if it was over fairly quickly. His narrow escape from that situation and how close he came to doing something that he feared doing in his darkest nightmares had the obvious effect on him - turning him into a monster. What I liked about the way the plot line developed from there was twofold: one, the effect it had on everyone/everything else; two, how the nature of his dark mindset changed, not necessarily for the worse but neither for the better.

The "halo of darkness" around him that everyone saw, how the effects of his being a ta'varen ceased to balance out the good and the bad and tipped entirely to the bad, everything in that manner was used excellently as a tool to show us just how wrong things were. The moment where Tuon met Rand was particularly well done, and very unexpected. From implications that were made in past books I had expected a much different outcome, but my timing was off. What has to happen between those two cannot have happened yet, it is still to come. Tuon's decision in that meeting was quite compelling, only adding to Rand's mindset. Yet I like the message she had when explaining her choice: Her, the leader of the big and bad Seanchan, saying of the possible alliance between them and the Dragon Reborn: "We cannot have an alliance with such a monster".

Meanwhile, to the second point, in the first few chapters of his storyline following the dramatic near capture by Semihrage, Rand appears as an emotionless, ruthless, almost inhuman shell. As Min said, when he raged during certain moments he was exasperating, when he was calm he was frightening - he could not be controlled or predictable. When Nynaeve confronts him on it, saying the way he was going he would destroy himself, Rand's response that he knew full well it would be so but he had resigned himself to it, Nynaeve almost wanting to accept it as the best thing for him to do (or rather to be)... all were well done.

Yet that icy calm exterior slowly cracked, but gave way not to what he was before but something just as bad. His rage was back, but still uncontrollable. The frustrations he felt piled upon him more and more, adding more weight to his mind until it almost shattered him - and the whole of existence. His feeling of being "imprisoned in a box" at every turn, by everyone and everything be it friend, foe, or The Pattern itself, was something that lent him some sympathy. He was just one man, one human man, with so many pressures and demands, and people at every turn wanting to use or manipulate him. As Min noted with anger, even his friends and allies looked at him as someone to be led, guided, or fixed. No one wanted to just HELP him, and that more than anything else was what drove him increasingly mad.

Cadsuane's final, desperate attempt to save him in the end worked, but it also almost led Rand to destroying everything. Her trying to use Tam to bring back some humanity to him was probably my favorite scene in the book. It did what she wanted, in that it stipped away the icy shell he put around himself, but she didn't realize that the shell was the only thing that was keeping him sane. With it gone, his fury and madness led him to almost killing Tam of his own free will, to slaughtering an entire city/kingdom including its innocent inhabitants, and then to almost destroying all life - his own included, and The Pattern itself. His mental raging at his situation and his fate, all the questions that plagued him, made him doubt, made him angry and frustrated, all of them he screamed at the top of Dragonmount as he teetered on the edge of oblivion. "Why should we have to do it again and again?" he asked. "Why do I have to relive the same mistakes, the same pains, the same failures over and over?" he asked.

Then the realization came for him. People were reborn, rewoven into The Pattern, for a second chance. They were reborn so they could love again. That was the balance to the other side, with all the pain and despair of life. With his realization, he destroyed the terrible power of the Choden Kal, and brought a lone ray of sunlight through the terrible clouds that covered the sky for weeks. The only thing I didn't like about that scene was how the realization came. It just came out of nowhere, and seemed kind of weak. I had been hoping that something or someone would help him see it, just as Semihrage made him see nothing but darkness I was hoping that Aviendha or something would appear beside him out of no where and do something to make him see the light. Ah well, you can't have everything I guess

Onto Egwene's story line, it was also well done. "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" worked here with Elaida. Her further descent into irrational and absolute tyranny, and Egwene's noble resistance against it were superbly done. I especially liked how she came to realize the errors that she herself was making, if only in the way she was thinking. Seeing what Elaida was and had become, what the effects were on all of the Aes Sedai, and what happened to them when the Seanchan raid almost destroyed them, all helped to make Egwene realize what she could and could not be or do herself. It helped her to always do the right thing, even when it almost cost her her life.

The best part about her situation is actually something that I loved about Richard in the Sword of Truth series, specifically how his actions and choices would impact those around him in the Stone of Tears and Faith of the Fallen. There, his morals and values were infectious. They inspired others to be ashamed of what they were allowing themselves to be and do, and to change for the better. So too with Egwene. By her actions as much as her speech, she inspired the Aes Sedai in the White Tower and in the Rebel camp to be ashamed of what they had all allowed to happen and even included herself in the blame. And she did not just mean with the rebellion and the almost unravelling of comradery among them, she also meant negative/damaging customs and mannerisms that developed over tens and hundreds of years that should have been addressed and gotten rid of. She looked at the bigger picture, seeing ALL that was wrong, and working to fix ALL of it. Her exhortations were strong, they were true, but they were more than anythig else fair. She left it at exhortation, telling them to never forge their mistakes or their shame, but to use it to learn and make themselves better, stronger. She was doing, and being, everything that Rand SHOULD do and be himself.

And now, hopefully, Rand will be.

God dammit, now I have to wait for the next book

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Nov 25, 2009 6:31 pm

Calwyn wrote:

The "halo of darkness" around him that everyone saw, how the effects of his being a ta'varen ceased to balance out the good and the bad and tipped entirely to the bad, everything in that manner was used excellently as a tool to show us just how wrong things were.
I hadn't of thought of it that way Brian. I had thought that maybe the Dark had just gained enough influence that the balance had swung and the good parts of his ta'varen had stopped. But this makes complete sense. Thanks for posting it.
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God dammit, now I have to wait for the next book

This is exactly what i said. Not enough Matt in this book. Since he's my favorite character.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Nov 25, 2009 7:54 pm

It is more than possible that it was indeed the Dark One's work, but I believe it was Cadsuane who wondered if it could also be Rand's change in temperment. At the very least, I believe Sanderson/Jordan purposefully timed it the way they did so that just as Rand becomes MUCH more dark, the ta'varen events surrounding him had a similar turn.

Mat is possible my favorite character too (I have a soft spot for Perrin, and now that Egwene has really come around the last two books she's up there as well). I didn't really like how his only role in the book was for comic relief, even if it could be funny as hell I do understand that, like I said, his only purpose in this book was to get to Caemlyn in preparation for Moiraine's rescue/the Last Battle.

There's a few things I predicted almost off the bat too. The Wise One's testing Aviendha's willingess to take punishments. The first time one of them came to question her, she answered wisely and they applied a punishment I had a darn good feeling they wanted her to stand up for herself against an unjust punishment. The other was Elaida, though her death/disappearance from the White Tower was a given as soon as Egwene was made Amyrlin by the rebel Aes Sedai. As soon as Egwene was captured and had her dream of the Seanchan attack, that pretty much just told us specifically HOW Elaida would die/be removed.

But man I'm really anxious to read the major story lines for the next book:

1) Mat, Thom and Noal have to save Moiraine. THAT will certainly have some interesting applications. When we learned she was alive last book I had expected her reappearance to be what helped Rand get his soul back from where it was heading. Ah well, it certainly will help what has already happened.

2) Tuon (I REALLY don't like her new name... Fortuona? Really? Thats the best they could come up with? Razz) has to find out that their version of the prophecy is wrong, and she has to kneel to Rand (thats part of the prophecy, I believe... or someone's vision/dream).

3) I imagine this will be a minor story line like Perrin and Mat were in this book, but Rand has to return to everyone after his revelation... a reborn man, a whole man, he and Lews Therin now one. It'll be interesting to see how that develops, how he will now view/treat people like Cadsuane and the Aes Sedai since he has already been "taught" something important by her. (Or is that really it? What she did almost destroyed him, and he came to the realization on his own. At best she had an indirect influence on it IMO)

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:21 pm

There is alot that has yet to be reveled. Thankfully 2 books should just about cover it.

Padin Fain, dealing with the problems Taim has made at the Black Tower, who the hell Demandred is posing as, Perrin finally taking the Saledea throne, etc.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:01 pm

I know Graendal firmly believed he was among the Borderland armies, but I wonder at that. He said his place had been made firm and he was gathering an army, so the Borderlanders would certainly seem a good spot especially as pulling them all from the Blight where they should be would serve the Shadow's purpose well.

Yeah, nevermind, that probably is where he is Razz

But I had forgotten about the Black Tower... that is true. It will probably be something of a minor plot development though, and I doubt it will be resolved until the last book.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Tue Jul 06, 2010 8:29 am

Having now read 3/4 of this book, I can say that I am very impressed with Sanderson. He has done a great job of bringing me back into this world. I am enjoying the book immensely!

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:05 am

I have now finished the Book! Amazing Book. I love how it eneded. Can't wait for the next one now!

I Detest waiting!

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Jul 07, 2010 12:35 pm

Don't worry Pete, I think it comes out this fall! Very Happy

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:12 pm

That's not Pete. It's Steve.

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:15 pm

Bah, you all look the same to me Razz

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Jul 07, 2010 7:24 pm

I am me! You are You! He is he!

How can you mix that up?

lol!

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Wed Jul 07, 2010 10:52 pm

What can I say, I have an equal amount of respect for you two and I must have been confused. Wink

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PostSubject: Re: The Gathering Storm - 6 stars out of 5 (some minor spoilers)   Thu Jul 08, 2010 7:36 am

That is alright! At least we can all agree that it was a great book, so it doesn't really matter who says it!

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