There was an understandable amount of fanfare around the release of 'The Gathering Storm'. Jordan's death in 2007 left many fans wondering if they would ever see the end of the beloved series. The announcement that Brandon Sanderson would finish the series was a relief - though I had never heard of him - and anticipation began building. 'Knife of Dreams' had began the process of moving the many and varied story-lines back towards the single arc of the march towards the Last Battle. 'The Gathering Storm' reaps the benefit of that with two killer story arcs.
Rand has been trapped in his flesh case of emotion ever since his capture and beating at the hands of Elaida's Aes Sedai. He has been moving ever more towards hardness and retreats further from any hope of a life after confronting the Dark One. As he moves into Arad Doman to head off the Seanchan and attempt to repair the kingdom that has arguably suffered the most at the hands of the Forsaken, he is about to be pushed beyond the brink. Cadsuane, Nynaeve, and Min can do little but watch, and Aviendha is dealing with her own problems and avoids Rand, which probably doesn't help his situation. He has an interesting meeting with Tuon, now at the helm of the Seanchan Empire.
Egwene, however, is one hundred percent winning the game all the time. Her imprisonment in the White Tower continues to work to her advantage. Siuan, Gareth Bryne, and, shockingly, Gawyn along with some back-up singer Aes Sedai POVs lead up to a satisfying climax to the divided White Tower story-line. Just imagine me gushing for several paragraphs. I loved every minute of it.
Plain and simple - this is the best overall book since 'The Shadow Rising', a bit ironic seeing as how the breakout star of that book - Mat Cauthon - is the sole liability of 'The Gathering Storm'.
On my first read of the book when it came out I didn't really notice the discrepancy in Mat's character - he had never been a favorite, and there is too much awesome going on elsewhere in these pages - but on this reread with everything being experienced so close together the difference was glaring.
Sanderson does an excellent job of continuing the story that Jordan left behind, but he's not funny and his attempt to conjure Mat's 'wool-headed' conception of women came off as misogyny rather than charmingly naive. That opening diatribe at the opening appearance of his character was almost painful.
But, I never did mind about the little things.
Wrapping up, there is very little Perrin here - he examines some wagons - and Faile takes care of some business. Thom is with Mat and holding on that letter of his....
The Wheel of Time
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