Book Review: The Gathering Storm by Jordan and Sanderson (4 stars)

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

4 out of 5 stars

Read in November 2009

Re-Read in March 2013

While I’ve read, and liked, nearly everything published (non-YA) by Sanderson, I started reading The Gathering Storm with a chip on my shoulder. And the Prologue disappointed me a bit. It just didn’t feel right. The more I read, however, the better I felt. By the end of the novel, I honestly couldn’t tell you what parts were authored by Jordan and which were authored by Sanderson.

Since this is the twelfth book of the Wheel of Time series, I’m going to avoid any kind of plot synopsis and spoilers. I will say the story moved forward significantly in this volume. I am very pleased with the ending, not so much that it stands alone, but that it was a logical place to stop in the story arc(s).

I felt the lion’s share of the novel dealt with Egwene’s story arc. I enjoyed and savored all of those chapters, especially the one encapsulating the return of Verin. I am also very satisfied with the progress made on Elaida’s story arc.

Rand was the hardest character to read and relate to, as expected. Most of his character development is internal, brooding and dark. The weather forecasts his state of mind quite well.

Surprisingly, Mat’s story appealed to me. Usually, I have to force myself to read chapters relating to Mat, as he’s always been my least favorite character in the cast.

Perrin gets only a couple of chapters. Aviendha gets more and makes quite a leap during her last appearance in this novel. I really wanted to see more from her story arc, but I can wait, patiently or not.

Cadsuane blundered signficantly about midway through the novel, so that provided a bit of drama. Nynaeve learned, instinctively, weaves never before tried since the Age of Legends (assumedly) and essentially became Rand’s backup Aes Sedai adviser.

I recommend this to all Wheel of Time fans, even if you gave up back around volume seven or eight. Sanderson is the right choice to take us to and through the Last Battle.

March 2013 musings:  I re-read this as part of a months-long group read of the entire Wheel of Time series that began in April 2012.  I resolved to add the ebook edition to my library each month and I purchased the first nine volumes in the series.  I wanted to take better advantage of my commute time (over two hours every weekday) and my evening walk-the-dog time (between 30-60 minutes most days), so I switched to audiobooks on the tenth book.  At first, I thought the male reader narrated a bit fast, but by the time I reach The Gathering Storm, I couldn’t imagine anyone else reading the male and female points of view.  I love knowing how to properly pronounce the unique phrases and proper names.

Ides of Dragon-uary

I finished something on the Ides of January that I started nearly two dozen years ago, literally half a lifetime for me, or two turns of the Wheel of Time as respects the Year of the Dragon. I know, I know.  I’m mixing calendrical metaphors again with my Julian and Oriental dates. I’m inspired by both Ancient Roman history and enamored of my birth year in the Chinese Zodiac.  Only three weeks remain of my favorite of the twelve years, not to rise again until the day after my son’s thirty-eighth birthday.  By that time, I predict I’ll be a grandmother, introducing my grandchildren to the fantastic worlds found in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and The Hobbit.

When I picked up the first book in this series, The Eye of the World, my daughter was less than a year old; now she’s a mezzo soprano graduate student at the University of North Texas.  Last week, I read the final book, A Memory of Light, in the Wheel of Time series.  I resisted the urge to write a review immediately upon completing the series, knowing from past experience, that I needed to ‘grieve’ for the series and its characters.  Whenever I finish an epic and beloved book or series, knowing there will be no more adventures, insights, intrigues, anything from that world, I fall into a funk, almost a depression.  For two or three days, I felt morose.  In some respects, being incredibly stressed and busy at work kept me from indulging in those doldrums.

I finally gave a rating to the book at GoodReads sometime on Friday, remembering to move it from my currently reading shelf to my read shelf in a fit of digital housekeeping.  I almost gave it four stars, but reluctantly, and probably against my gut instincts, I relented and gave it a full five stars (with a 4.5 qualifier in my short written review).  I give an unreserved five stars specifically to scenes containing Bela, Tam, Egwene and Lan. And I also adore the relatively recent additions of Androl and Pevara.

To the question of ‘Was it worth the wait?’ I am still unsure.  Despite the bright shining stars mentioned above, much of the final book annoyed me.  Why bother to bring back Moiraine if she amounts to a footnote in the Last Battle?  And the same could be said for Nynaeve and Rand for that matter.  Mat and the Seanchan – I still wish either or both of them had never cluttered up this series.  And Elayne seems to be taking Empire-building lessons from Tuon’s ancestor.

The questions I wanted answered remain unanswered.  The resolutions I hoped for did not occur, save perhaps in some oblique off-hand hinted at way.

And thanks to my impatience, I will be re-reading A Memory of Light in May, as I continue leading the discussion of the entire Wheel of Time series (currently in the middle of the 10th book, The Crossroads of Twilight) at the Fantasy Book Club Series GoodReads group.  From this point forward, everything I re-read will be dimmed by my foreknowledge of the end.  I should, perchance, take to heart the final words of the author(s) and let go, for ‘… it was not the ending.  There are no endings, and never will be endings, to the turning of the Wheel of Time.  But it was an ending.’

The End … Finally

I came home to a pleasant surprise Monday evening (January 7, 2012), delivered by my friendly postal employee.  I received my signed first edition hardcover copy of A Memory of Light one day early, the day before the official release:

First Edition Hardcover Received 1/7/2013
First Edition Hardcover Received 1/7/2013
First Edition Hardcover signed by Brandon received 1/7/2013
First Edition Hardcover signed by Brandon received 1/7/2013

As you can see in the photo above, Brandon aptly personalized my copy with the phrase ‘The End.’  I started reading this series twenty-three years ago and I nearly gave up hope, when Robert Jordan passed away, of ever reading the long prophesied Last Battle.  Soon, all my questions will be answered (or so I hope).

I stayed up two hours past my normal bed time to read the prologue and the first six chapters.  I’ve read another six chapters since then and will read a couple more before falling asleep tonight.  I predict that by Sunday, I’ll be posting a review here of my thoughts on the longest, sprawliest epic fantasy series I’ve ever read and whether A Memory of Light was worth the wait (and the hype).

Not Your Average Library Book Checkout

I started October a week behind in my re-reading schedule of the Wheel of Time series.  I started the seventh novel, A Crown of Swords on the 8th, but managed to finish it early on the 22nd, leaving me almost ten days to get some non-WoT reading squeezed in before I set out on the Path of Daggers in November.

Just in case you missed it, after I reported the Prologue for A Memory of Light released early in late September, Tor also released the first chapter , “Eastward the Wind Blew” a few days later.  Last week, in late October, Tor released an audio version of chapter two, which I have yet to finish listening to.  I’ve completed the first section of ‘The Choice of Ajah” prior to writing this blog and will listen to the rest later today.

I reviewed all my neglected book clubs and found several great books in the line up for next month, including the Demolished Man by Alfred Bester for the Beyond Reality group at GoodReads.  These days, I prefer to read ebooks as much as possible, since I can tote around my entire library wherever I go on my Nook Color.  However, this classic science fiction novel, written by Alfred Bester in 1953, just isn’t available in electronic format yet (and may not be any time soon).  In fact, it was last published by Gollanz in 1999 in paperback format and is not currently in print, so only used copies are available to buy.

So, I went searching for a copy at my favorite library, the Kansas City Public Library.  The reason this is my favorite library, aside from the fact that a branch is located in my office building, is they have a large, extensive catalog that rarely disappoints.  The Demolished Man failed to make the cut, though, and no amount of tweaking my search criteria could get this book to magically appear in the search results.

The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester in the leather-bound collector’s edition published by the Easton Press in 1986

I sighed.  My fallback library resides in my almost hometown of Leavenworth.  I hopped on their website and searched their catalog and found a copy available on the shelf.  I placed a hold, requesting pickup at the Leavenworth Public Library.  A day or so later, I received an e-mail telling me my reservation was ready for pickup.  Saturday afternoon, I stopped by and checked out the book you see in the photo to the right.  I couldn’t believe what I was holding in my hands.  A near pristine leather-bound collector’s edition of the classic.  It even sported a gold satin bookmark!  As far as I could tell, no one had read it since it was published in the early 80s.  While I enjoy the ease and convenience of ebooks, limited editions or collector’s editions of hardcover novels are just plain cool.

I flipped through the book once I got it home and found illustrations placed sporadically throughout the book.  Here are three examples:




And a shot of the title page and bookmark:


I’m looking forward to reading this novel, and not just because I lucked into checking out a collector’s edition from my local library. Here are some blurbs and the synopsis from GoodReads:

“One of the all-time classics of science fiction.” – Isaac Asimov

“A masterful compounding of science and detective fiction.”  – The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

“A magnificent novel… as fascinating a study of character as I have ever read.” – Groff Conklin in Galaxy Science fiction

In a world policed by telepaths, Ben Reich plans to commit a crime that hasn’t been heard of in 70 years: murder. That’s the only option left for Reich, whose company is losing a 10-year death struggle with rival D’Courtney Enterprises. Terrorized in his dreams by The Man With No Face & driven to the edge after D’Courtney refuses a merger offer, Reich murders his rival & bribes a high-ranking telepath to help him cover his tracks. But while police prefect Lincoln Powell knows Reich is guilty, his telepath’s knowledge is a far cry from admissible evidence

Final Prologue Released Early

Tor announced today the early release of the final Prologue in the Wheel of Time series.

Click on the cover at left for more details on where to obtain your copy of By Grace and Banners Fallen.  Spoiler warning, though, as they comments on that Tor article are full to brimming with them.

I bought my copy over lunch and will read it this evening on my Nook Color.

If you’re looking for a friendly place to join a re-read (or inaugural perusal) of the Wheel of Time series, pop on over to the Fantasy Book Club Series group at GoodReads where we are currently in the middle of Lord of Chaos.

WoT a Difference a Week Makes

Tor surprised me (and many other Wheel of Time fans) yesterday by releasing Michael Whelan’s cover art for A Memory of Light, just one week after revealing Darrell K. Sweet’s color sketch for the same final volume of that epic fantasy series.

When I first laid eyes of Michael’s painting, I knew this is what I’d been waiting to envision for more than two decades.

First, let me share the front cover as you’ll see it next January:

Next, the entire panel, sans lettering, synopses or endorsements, and a bit of a spoiler, if you can guess (or know) who the other two figures are (besides Rand who is front and center above):

Michael cleverly hid Rand’s missing left hand, yet I love the stance he’s chosen and the determination and tension emanating from Rand.   I’m curious about the eclipsed sun though, and hope the author(s) didn’t fall for that overused cliche’ for this pivotal moment in the Last Battle.

I am one step closer to knowing the answer (on January 8, 2013) to the question posed over two decades ago (on January 15, 1990) in Eye of the WorldI plan to while away the remaining months re-reading the entire Wheel of Time series.  The real challenge will come next January, when I should be re-reading Crossroads of Twilight, but may not be able to resist the undeniable pull of A Memory of Light.

WoT’s Up, Tor?

My favorite fantasy publishing imprint, Tor, caused a stir earlier this week by announcing the demise of DRM in early July 2012 in their entire list of ebooks (printed under Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen imprints).    I’m only slightly disappointed that I have to wait until July.  I’m torn, though.  I had planned to purchase, next week in fact, the second book in the Wheel of Time series, The Great Hunt, from Barnes & Noble for my Nook Color, to facilitate my role as a discussion leader at the GoodReads Fantasy Book Club Series group.   We are wrapping up our discussion of the first book, The Eye of the World, these last few days of April.   I have until Monday to make up my mind.  Do I re-purchase the DRM’ed ebook through B&N for my Nook (for convenience sake)? Or do I crack open the hardcover languishing on my shelf (and deal with the weight and lighting issues)?

Prior to the ebook emancipation proclamation, Tor released the color sketch created by Darrell K. Sweet, who passed away before completing the cover art for the final Wheel of Time novel, A Memory of Light, due out early in 2013.

Click on this color sketch to see a tribute to Wheel of Time cover artist Darrell K. Sweet at Tor's website.

But the real icing on the WoT cake came today, when Tor made an excerpt of the Prologue from A Memory of Light available:  Click here to read it.

The Time Is Right For A Re-Read of WoT

What’s a WoT? (or so you might be asking yourself). A WoT is an acronym for The Wheel of Time series.

I love being born in the Year of the Dragon (Chinese calendar).   It’s just cool.  And this year, I can also enjoy an entire year of another type of dragon, the Dragon Reborn in Rand Al’Thor by re-reading the entire Wheel of Time series, in anticipation of the final volume’s publication next January.

But I won’t be doing this alone.  Oh, no!  And as if re-reading these massive epic fantasy tomes wasn’t enough, I volunteered to lead the discussion at the GoodReads Fantasy Book Club Series group, who will commence reading WoT beginning in April 2012.  Looks like I need to get cracking before the end of March to stay ahead of the Wheel!

And I feel like shouting “Tor-Rah! Tor-Rah! Tor-Rah!” with all the great news coming from the publisher of the Wheel of Time series in just the past few days:

So if you’ve been looking for an excuse to revisit Rand, Perrin, Mat, Nyneave and Egwene or, if you want to meet them for the first time, join me and a thousand of my GoodReads friends as we start the Wheel of Time turning with The Eye of the World, continuing inexorably on to the Last Battle in A Memory of Light. 

Cover Art forthcoming from Michael Whelan

Book Review: Towers of Midnight

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, #13; Memory of Light, #2)Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The tangled knot of plot threads weave a tapestry of convergence. The Last Hunt begins, prelude to the Last Battle.

Of the main characters, Perrin’s growth and acceptance sealed him as the rising, shining star among the brilliant cluster of Two Rivers misfits out to save or damn the world. Mat’s character surprised me most this novel. Normally, I skim through chapters devoted to Mat’s point of view. Not so this time around. I wonder if I’m seeing Brandon’s influence on Mat or if Jordan’s plan included more maturity for Matriam at this point in the epic. The Aes Sedai (Nynaeve, Egwene, Cadsuane and even Elaida, briefly) had their moments, but the support staff (i.e. Warders) shined. Lan, Gawyn, Galad (by osmosis mostly as Gawyn’s step brother), Brigitte – all received long overdue attention. I wanted more from Aviendha’s thread. Rand and Min sporadically pounced in and out of various hot spots, spectacularly so in Maradon.

With the end so close, I fear I’ll break with the strain of waiting another year (or more) for the epic conclusion to a saga I started over two decades ago.

It’s darkest before the dawn … or the end of all things. Tarmon Gai’don breaks.

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Join our online discussion at the GoodReads Fantasy Book club where Brandon Sanderson will be answering questions about The Towers of Midnight and his own new epic fantasy series The Stormlight Archives novel The Way of Kings.

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