There is always a danger in reviewing a book that is part of a
beloved epic series. That danger seems tenfold when you openly
admit that you have not read any of the previous 11 books in the
series. It’s quite possible that readers will ignore your
comments simply because you have not walked the long road with them
to this point.
And so it is in this instance, finding myself in just such a
position, that I appeal instead to another point of view in an
effort to keep the long-time reader interested enough to find out
what I think of this latest chapter of the saga. Instead of seeing
this review as the commentary of the failed and uninitiated,
instead look upon that failure as a positive. I come to this review
free of bias and baggage, having not endured the long slog and the
ups and downs associated with immersing oneself into another world
of great depth. I can take up this novel and base my opinion of it
plainly and simply on the merits of its own existence.
Does THE GATHERING STORM, of its own design, carry weight? Does
it tell a good story --- a compelling, engaging one? Do the
characters find points of connection with me? Does it, in the end,
The answer to these questions is a resounding and emphatic
Author Brandon Sanderson had the unenviable task of taking up
the work of another, hand-selected by Robert Jordan’s wife,
Harriet McDougal, to finish the story per Robert’s wish.
Sanderson took a collection of notes and tapes, and what was
intended to be one final volume has instead blossomed into
This is actually a good thing. While I may not have the benefit
of the events that went before to fall back on and no understanding
of the chaos and challenges faced by the characters in the earlier
installments, it is very clear from the outset that THE GATHERING
STORM would have suffered greatly had it been forced into smaller
confines. Three books will give this finale the proper room it
needs to breathe.
With THE GATHERING STORM, Jordan and Sanderson bring the weight
of the story of Rand al’Thor to the fore. Rand, the Dragon
Reborn, is engaged in a desperate struggle to piece together the
splinters of the world torn apart by war, seeking for the means by
which he can unite the kingdoms in preparation to oppose the Shadow
in the Last Battle. The Seanchan invaders make his task more
difficult, but even they are not the most worrisome quarrel he must
undertake. His real enemy seems to be himself: as war unfolds
around him, his inner struggle is taking its toll, and his sanity
is beginning to retreat.
In the meantime, Egwene al’Vere is imprisoned in the White
Tower, forced into service to an insurgent ruler. Despite losing
her place as the Amyrlin Seat of the powerful Aes Sedai, Egwene
still has the wherewithal to undermine her captor from within. She
knows that the Seanchan will strike, and she needs to secure a
force within the White Tower who will remain true to her and the
forces of Light. The fragmented colors of the Aes Sedai need to be
reunified or perhaps more than just the Tower will fall.
There are so many characters in THE GATHERING STORM that one can
get lost, but that is not to say that any of them are throwaway
souls. They serve a purpose, and while there are characters like
Matrim and Perrin who have vital roles, it is Egwene and Rand who
are the DNA of this book. Rand al’Thor completely captures
your empathy as Sanderson directs him on the page; he is mindful of
the task at hand, but his depression and his slipping sanity are so
total and so vivid that a reader cannot help but be drawn to him.
You want to help Rand. And despite the fact that the book
is teeming with conversation and inner monologues, there is no
sense that the story is stagnant. The action is brisk, and the
introspective moments move with a sense of necessity that keeps the
When one author takes up the work of another, often there is a
resounding thud as the flight gives way to plummeting failure. Such
could easily have been the case here. But Sanderson is an exception
to the rule as he does not try to be Jordan; Sanderson is merely
Sanderson, and it is that honesty and purity of product that makes
it work. Sanderson has an epic mind and, in turn, writes with an
epic flair that is his own. The only difference here is that he
displays them while wearing Jordan’s tunic.
Epic fantasy is a great passion of mine, from Tolkien and
Donaldson to Williams, Goodkind and Martin. It has been my home
away from home, and I have enjoyed traveling many lands crafted by
fabulous minds. So it will not be hollow praise from me to say that
THE GATHERING STORM is easily the premier fantasy epic of the year.
There has been much hype and anticipation surrounding the release
of this book --- and I could dare say that it may not have had
enough. I look forward to reading it again just as soon as I make
my amends and start the journey properly: at the beginning.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 22, 2011