Saturday, February 19, 2022

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time, #12)The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Robert Jordan had partially written the final book in his Wheel of Time saga, A Memory of Light, before he died in 2007, with his editor and wife Harriet McDougal personally choosing fellow fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson to complete the epic series, and Sanderson electing to divide the final entry into three novels, given that the last was too big for a single readable book, which opens with a note from Sanderson about the process leading to his selection to finish the literary series. Sanderson dedicates the twelfth entry to Maria Simons and Alan Romanczuk, who he claims helped make his continuation of the saga possible.

Following the fictitious blurb from an unknown scholar is the prologue opening with a minor character, Renald Fanwar, observing an approaching storm in the Borderlands, with one of his neighbors, Thulin, telling of how he buried his anvil and other tools due to his with to flee the storm with many others. The main chapters open with the same windy motif that opens the main sections of the book’s precursors, the wind in this case blowing around the White Tower in Tar Valon, where an Aes Sedai rebellion is underway, and whose leadership wants the captured Forsaken Semirhage.

Within the Tower itself, Egwene endures torture from the Mistress of Novices, Silviana, and does menial chores such as mopping. Meanwhile, the Wise Ones discuss refugees from recent battles, with Aviendha and Min Farshaw having feelings for the Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor. Gawyn prepares to lead an army against the Aes Sedai, whilst Cadsuane wants to “break” the captive Semirhage, although Rand forbids torture of prisoners of war, and wants the Aiel he commands to seize cities ruled by the Council of Merchants, further ordering Rodel Ituralde, stuck between a rock and a hard place, to Saldaea.

Egwene continues to battle Elaida for the Amyrlin Seat, the highest leadership position of the Aes Sedai, and is told renouncing her claim to the post would stabilize the White Tower, Elaida allegedly yearning for reconciliation with the rebels of the magical order. Semirhage receives repeated interrogation to little avail, with Perrin Aybara visiting wolf dreams as he had in prior series installments, as well. Meanwhile, the Seanchan Empire sees civil war due to the demise of its Empress, with Rand wishing to meet Tuon, who yearns for the Empire’s Crystal Throne.

Gawyn ultimately makes it a goal to rescue Egwene from captivity in the White Tower, with his sister Elayne safe on Andor’s Lion Throne. Rumors about that Elaida will receive a trial for breaking the law of the Tower, the Dark One tainting the structure, Egwene further considering giving in to her fellow contender for the Amyrlin Seat. Matrim Cauthon, along with the gleeman Thom, seeks the Tower of Ghenjei, visiting a town where they run into citizens seeking to lynch them after gambling. Cadsuane, in the meantime, fears execution by Rand due to her botched handling on the Dragon Reborn, the Dragon himself still seeking to meet members of the merchant council.

Nynaeve further hears reports of insect infestations, with a few by roaches actually occurring, and she interrogates supposed chandler’s apprentices about hostages, with an apprentice named Kerb inquired as well, and even brought before Rand, who believes his life will be forfeit due to the forthcoming Last Battle. Tuon, meanwhile, readies an attack on Tar Valon and the Dragon Reborn, who fails to find peace with the Seanchan. Within the Tower, Egwene believes her incarceration damages Elaida’s rule, with the pretender Amyrlin giving her rival tea to suppress her channeling ability.

The Seanchan ultimately launch their promises attack on the White Tower thanks to damane and sul’dam riding the backs of to’raken, Egwene teaching her Aes Sedai sisters techniques to fend off the invaders, further gathering angreal to help them channel; Gawyn launches his own attack via waterway. Rand, meanwhile, continues his occasional conversations with the long-deceased Lews Therin, hearing about an abundance of food in Arad Doman drawing refugees to the nation, only for the Dark One’s taint to spoil it, and the Dragon consequentially planning a march to Shayol Ghul.

Egwene continues her plans to reunite the Aes Sedai, with the novel concluding by having Rand sit atop Dragonmount, the alleged highest place in the known world, in contemplation, and an epilogue which furthers the ultimate resolution to the Aes Sedai civil war. Overall, Brandon Sanderson definitely did a superb job replicating the late Robert Jordan’s occasionally-verbose style, although the level of detail definitely paints a pretty picture for readers. Sanderson’s continuation of the series, like its precursors, shows its clear Star Wars influences, although he definitely did justice for Jordan’s fantasy saga.

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