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

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When Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 from a rare blood disease, fantasy fans everywhere hung their heads and cried. The genre had lost a modern legend, a man who brought the Tolkien-esque world of The Wheel of Time to life and reinvigorated the epic fantasy genre. Not only was Jordan gone, but his beloved series remained unfinished.

But there was a ray of hope. Jordan kept extensive notes detailing the final volume of his series, A Memory of Light, in hopes that someone would complete the series for his fans. After Jordan’s death, his wife Harriet and publishing company TOR selected Brandon Sanderson to complete the series. Since A Memory of Light quickly became incredibly massive, the volume was broken up into three books: The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and A Memory of Light.

Nearly 20 years after the series’ first novel, The Eye of the World was released, The Gathering Storm hit shelves – four years after the previous instalment, Knife of Dreams. While fans were hungry for new adventures, many (myself included) were skeptical of Sanderson’s involvement. He was handpicked for the job, so surely he was worthy of it – but something in the back of my head warned me that it simply wouldn’t be the same without Jordan.

It wasn’t  – but yet, it still was…

The Gathering Storm, in my opinion, is actually better than the previous three or four Wheel of Time novels. Instead of agonizing filler and focusing on tedious side-plots, The Gathering Storm finally advances the overarching plot in a meaningful way (even though the characters comment far too many times that the Last Battle is coming  – it’s only been coming for the last five books or so…).

The twelfth instalment of Jordan’s popular epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time focuses mostly on rebel Amyrlin Seat Egwene, her captivity in the White Tower, and the plot line involving the battle between two factions of Aes Sedai. While other characters, such as Rand, Matt, and Perrin, make appearances and have some advancement, other plot lines and characters are pretty much left out completely (Elayne, the White Cloaks). I would assume that these plot lines will come into play more in the final two books, but I would have liked to see what was going on with everyone since it’s been four years since I last checked in.

While Jordan didn’t pen every single word in The Gathering Storm, his spirit is still present in every sentence. As Sanderson explains in his foreword, Jordan left detailed notes about the end of his series and even wrote certain scenes. While Sanderson does an exquisite job of integrating Jordan’s already-written scenes and vision with his own scenes and writing style, a long-time, very observant Jordan reader can tell that the style is just a little off from previous books. But if you haven’t touch any Wheel of Time books since Knife of Dreams came out in 2005, then it isn’t very noticeable.

While some purists will always have trouble with The Gathering Storm and subsequent novels due to Sanderson, he does a wonderful job stepping into Jordan’s shoes and helps pump new life into the series.

With the end in sight, I can’t wait to pick up Towers of Midnight (2010) and A Memory of Light (2011) and see how everything finally comes together –heck, I’ve been reading this series for over 10 years. The Wheel of Time is still one of the most epic fantasy series ever written and still keeps me flipping pages.

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