Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

For the past several weeks I have been reading The Gathering Storm, the 12th book in the Wheel of Time series. The series itself started over 20 years ago--I picked it up about 13 years ago. There aren't many fantasy or SF series that consistently made the NY Times bestseller list, but this one has. There may not be a lot I can add to what's been said about it already, other than my particular opinion.

But in that opinion, Brandon Sanderson is improving it. This series got so out of hand that Jordan was stretched past his limit trying to finish it. Though Sanderson says he had quite a lot of it written when he died. There are two volumes to go, and I believe I will go ahead and finish. The next one is due out in November, it will make a good New Year read.

Rand Al'Thor moves back to center stage in this one, and the conflict inside him comes to a head. He has always been in a fight to reconcile The Dragon Reborn inside him. And - spoiler alert - he does so here, in a way familiar to the best books in the rest of the series. What marked a difference for me in this series was that the protagonist, however difficult things get, is pulled on by more than sheer hope. He makes tangible progress.

Some absences are notable here. Rand and his immediate retinue are the only Asha'man to get any attention--Mazrim Taim and Logain are completely absent. Mat and Perrin get just a chapter or two. All these must be woven back in somehow, though there does seem to be hope for that. And the denouement of the book is a tremendous draw of the One Power into Rand, which other channelers don't seem to notice other than to note its side effects.

It will be satisfying to see this series finally conclude. It lived to be eclipsed by Harry Potter, but it will still go down as one of the great fantasy series, perhaps more comparable to Ghormengast than the Lord of the Rings, but still up there.

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