The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
So here we are. Finally, after my long drawn-out re-read of the Wheel of Time series, I was able to read the new book. I have to admit, I was more than a little apprehensive going into the read. I mean, I know Brandon, and I trust his writing and skill, but no one's perfect. Everyone has a dud now and then--even when they're writing their own material. Finishing someone else's material? I could see many ways where that would go wrong. What if I didn't like it? Should I still review it and be brutally honest, even if it would be going against a friend? I certainly wouldn't have lied in a review--that's just wrong. But I probably would have just "forgotten" to do the review.
Thankfully, I didn't need to.
This is a fantastic book. Easily up there with the best in the series. It contains everything it should--memorable battle scenes, great character development, answers upon answers to long-held questions--you name it. Did it feel like a Robert Jordan book? Well, not exactly. It felt like a Wheel of Time book, done by a different author. That's to be expected, though--because that's what it is. I'm very glad Brandon didn't try to make it a Robert Jordan book. That was a disaster waiting to happen.
I'm wholly against giving spoilers in a review, so I don't plan on discussing any of the particulars in detail, but I think I'm safe is giving a broad overview--saying that the book centers on Rand and Egwene shouldn't give too much away. I'll say that one of those two plot lines satisfied me 100%. The main action scene in that thread has some of the most striking images of the series--right up there with Dumai's Wells. Maybe even above it. The other plot made complete sense--I understood why it was happening they way it was, but that didn't make me frustrated with the character in question, sort of like how you can have great friends but be really irritated with what they do. There were times in one plot line that I just wanted to reach into the book and shake the characters some--get them to stop being so stupid. But even that plot came to a good conclusion at the end, and I feel like after reading the final chapter, the series is ready to return to its roots and build to a nice huge climax.
Count me excited.
Some have noted that Mat's scenes in the book feel off, and I have to say that I agree with them. But I think this is more a symptom of Brandon writing as Brandon, not as Robert Jordan. Humor is really tricky to pull off. Mat's a humorous character. Trying to ape Jordan's style of Mat-humor would have been very unlikely to come off as humorous. Make sense? Instead, Brandon keeps Mat humorous, but the humor is a tad different. It's more Brandon-style. Which I was completely fine with--I really enjoyed Mat's behavior and chapters. But at the same time, it felt like a bit of a different Mat, just as the various James Bonds all feel different, as well. There's Connery-Bond and Brosnan-Bond and Craig-Bond and Moore-Bond. This was more a Connery vs. Craig difference than a Connery vs. Moore difference. For those of you who aren't Bond afficiandos, that means it was a good vs good as opposed to good vs bad.
I'll say this--reading the book was a surreal experience for me. Revisiting this world, knowing that it was a good friend who was now writing it . . . bizarre. Case in point: I was about halfway through the book Saturday, and I'd just come to a scene that I had some questions about. I was picturing Brandon writing it, and in a way, it almost felt like I was back in his writing group. In those days, I would have circled the passage, written a question, and talked to him about it later that week. By coincidence, however, Brandon happened to call me up right after I finished the passage, and I got to ask him about it over the telephone. (Brandon--great answer, by the way. Makes total sense now--even more sense the more I think about it.) I never would have had a phone chat with Robert Jordan period, let alone a quick chat about something like that. It was all I could do to not completely start geeking out on the phone.
Anyway. To sum things up, go out and buy the book today. It's completely worth your while, and a superb read. I can't wait for the next one.
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