Book Review – The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

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The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time, #12; A Memory of Light, #1)

TITLE:  The Gathering Storm

SERIES:  The Wheel of Time, book 12

AUTHOR:  Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

FORMAT:  Epub via Google Play Books

PAGES/LOCATIONS:  932 pages of story; 954 pages total

GOODREADS’ AVG. RATING:  4.32 out of 5 stars; 78,865 ratings

SYNOPSIS PROVIDED:

Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle, looms. And mankind is not ready.

The final volume of the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, was partially written by Robert Jordan before his untimely passing in 2007.  Brandon Sanderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Mistborn books, was chosen by Jordan’s editor—his wife, Harriet McDougal—to complete the final book.  The scope and size of the volume was such that it could not be contained in a single book, and so Tor proudly presents The Gathering Storm as the first of three novels that will make up A Memory of Light.  This short sequence will complete the struggle against the Shadow, bringing to a close a journey begun almost twenty years ago and marking the conclusion of the Wheel of Time, the preeminent fantasy epic of our era.

In this epic novel, Robert Jordan’s international bestselling series begins its dramatic conclusion.  Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, struggles to unite a fractured network of kingdoms and alliances in preparation for the Last Battle.  As he attempts to halt the Seanchan encroachment northward—wishing he could form at least a temporary truce with the invaders—his allies watch in terror the shadow that seems to be growing within the heart of the Dragon Reborn himself.

Egwene al’Vere, the Amyrlin Seat of the rebel Aes Sedai, is a captive of the White Tower and subject to the whims of their tyrannical leader.  As days tick toward the Seanchan attack she knows is imminent, Egwene works to hold together the disparate factions of Aes Sedai while providing leadership in the face of increasing uncertainty and despair.  Her fight will prove the mettle of the Aes Sedai, and her conflict will decide the future of the White Tower—and possibly the world itself.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

DATES READ:  July 16th – August 2nd, 2015

MY REVIEW:

He had accepted what he needed to be. Why was he so bothered by it, then? A voice deep down—one not in his head, but in his heart—had begun to disagree with what he did.~Rand al’Thor

Lo and behold, Rand al’Thor has finally woken up and realized that his hardness wasn’t the answer in how to fight against and defeat the shadow.  Rand has needed to snap out of this self imposed hardness, he has needed to allow himself to feel emotions because what is life if we are unable to feel?  Rand was left believing “Anything that made him think of living through the Last Battle, anything that made him hope, was dangerous. He had to be hard enough to accept what was coming to him. Hard enough to die when the time came.”  From my understanding, none of the prophecies regarding Rand outright say that he is going to die.  It is fair to say that there are allusions to the possibility of his death in the Last Battle, specifically, a passage of the prophecy referencing his blood on the rocks of Shayol Ghul.  All things considered, blood is abundant on the field of battle so the possibility of Rand’s blood spilling on the rocks of Shayol Ghul isn’t all that far fetched especially when one takes the time to consider the injuries to his side which can’t be healed.  Those two injuries constantly re-open themselves, especially when he fights, so his blood falling on the rocks of Shayol Ghul is not immediately indicative of his impending death.

Rand’s story arc is utilizing a very familiar trope in the form of an individual sacrificing their life for the greater good.  It is incredibly similar to the Christian mythos and story surrounding the death of Jesus Christ – the son of God upon the Earth who sacrificed himself, suffering on the cross and dying for the sins of all men.  The fear of the Last Battle is that should the Dark One rise victorious, he plans to destroy the very fabric of their reality by destroying the Pattern itself, destroying creation and ruling over nothing more than a world of corpses.  Rand somehow interpreted that his death would ultimately lead to the death of the Dark One and prevent the destruction of the Pattern and creation.  Based upon his interpretation of the prophecies, Rand hardened emotionally hoping that he could convince himself that he was willing to be a sacrifice for the greater good, for the survival of their world.  It is only after Rand meets again with his adoptive father Tam al’Thor that he is forced to re-evaluate his decision and forced to acknowledge, “The choice isn’t always about what you do, son, but why you do it.”  Rand was forced to evaluate his reasons why and sometimes being asked why is the most difficult question possible.

Tam’s questioning of Rand is similar to the discussion which occurred between Gareth Bryne and Gawyn Trakand about why they are both part of the fighting among Aes Sedai at Tar Valon.  Gareth goes so far as to say, “When I was young, I fought for honor. Eventually, I realized that there was little honor to be found in killing, and I found that I had changed. Then I fought because I served your mother. I trusted her. When she failed me, I began to wonder again. What of all those years of service? What of the men I’d killed in her name? What did any of that mean?  You wonder why I’m here, instead of in Andor?  It’s because I can’t let go.  It’s because the world is changing, and I need to be part of it. It’s because once everything in Andor was taken from me, I needed a new place for my loyalty. The Pattern brought me this opportunity.”  Gareth Bryne’s reasons for fighting are because he wants to have a say in how the world changes, he wants to impact the events in play and hope to make the world better than it was.  Over the course of his long life, he has come to be a man of great honor and is noble in his reasons why he is willing to fight and who he is willing to fight for.  Everyone will have different reasons for their actions, that is just human nature, but having a reason for why you are willing to fight is still important especially when facing the reality that you may die for this cause.  Ultimately, your death should mean something.  I am greatly looking forward to this renewed point of view from Rand and hope that with it will come great success.

The story arc of Egwene al’Vere, the young woman considered to be nothing more than a puppet rebel Amyrlin has come to fruition with Egwene being raised as Amyrlin in truth inside the Hall of the White Tower in Tar Valon thus unifying the White Tower once more.  I greatly appreciated the actions and efforts of some of the more minor characters around Egwene because I believe those seemingly small things are going to have a major impact on future events, especially the actions of Verin an Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah who became Black Ajah in a moment of self-preservation, yet remained entirely true to her Brown Ajah roots and kept a meticulous record of her time in the Black Ajah including who she came into contact with and how the Black Ajah was able to function within the White Tower.  Egwene demanded every Aes Sedai retake the three oaths upon the oath rod in order to confirm that they were not Black Ajah, therefore it is safe to say that every Aes Sedai currently within the White Tower under Egwene is true to their oaths and is not Black Ajah.  Yet, Egwene’s raising to Amyrlin can also be interpreted as an act of self preservation by the White Tower after the capture of Elaida during the Seanchan raid.  Elaida’s capture, however, should be considered much more carefully than a seeming mention of the obvious because Elaida knows the weaves for Traveling.  One of the greatest advantages select Westland forces had was their ability to Travel, now that the Seanchan have access to that knowledge the advantage is nullified and the fights will be left up to strength of forces and the intelligence of generals.  I am so excited to witness Egwene’s actions as Amyrlin in truth, with the full strength of the unified White Tower behind her – it is such an exciting prospect!

We still have the story lines of Mat and Perrin developing.  What visions will Aviendha experience during her second trip to Rhuidean?  With the Lion Throne of Andor secured, what impact will Elayne have on the Last Battle?  I can’t wait to read the two remaining novels of the series!

TL;DR REVIEW:  4.5 out of 5 stars.  This novel is a well written introduction to the final trilogy in the Wheel of Time Series and I am excited and looking forward to the epic conclusion.  This is a conclusion many years in the making and I am excited to see what is in store for these characters who I have been following for what feels like a long time.  I am so ready for Towers of Midnight!

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