Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Review: "The Gathering Storm" by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan

For the few folks who are still following my infrequent book reviews, my frustration with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series is certainly no secret. After being pulled in by the excellent first book of the series, “The Eye of the World,” in 1990, and proclaiming Jordan as the next Tolkien to all of my friends who would listen with the following few books, he began to lose the thread of the story. I gave up on the series a few books back after slogging through several 1,000-page plus doorstops in which Jordan’s storyline barely moved forward at all.

Then, of course, Jordan passed away in 2007, before he was able to complete the unwieldy series. Brandon Sanderson was tapped by Jordan’s family to write the final book of the Wheel of Time based on Jordan’s notes and conversations with his wife in his final days in which he laid out how the story should end. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the “final” book would now be three books, which immediately made me assume that it would be business as usual with this series, keeping the frustrating story going even farther beyond its life cycle.

My plan was always to return for the final book, if it ever arrived, so that I could see how things turned out with these characters I’ve known for more than 20 years now. My curiosity about how Sanderson would continue the story finally got the best of me, though, and a month or so ago, I picked up the paperback version of “The Gathering Storm” ($9.99, Tor). I’m pleasantly surprised.

The first challenge for Sanderson in completing the series is that his style is a bit different from Jordan’s. For one, Sanderson’s storytelling is much less ornate. Where Jordan might spend a page and a half describing a leaf falling from a tree, Sanderson is much more succinct in his imagery. While those that enjoyed that aspect of Jordan’s work, the difference may be stark, but I didn’t find the style switch very jarring. Then again, I haven’t read a book in the series in nearly 10 years, so for those with more recent knowledge, it may be.

What I’m happiest about is that things finally do begin to move forward. In fact, compared to the last few volumes in the series that I read, the story moves forward at a practically break-neck pace. Finally, all of the pieces are beginning to fall into place for the ultimate showdown between the Dragon Reborn Rand al’Thor and the Dark One. Some of the series’ numerous subplots begin to be resolved, rifts begin to close and the original players in the series begin to migrate back toward each other on their way to Tarmon Gai’don. That alone is reason to celebrate for fans of the series.

I went into “The Gathering Storm” with a bit of trepidation, but by the final pages of the book, I was beginning to fall back into the story, and I felt a little of the same spark I felt with those early books. There were several nights that I had to force myself to put it down and go to bed. I’m pleased with Sanderson’s version of the story, and looking forward to the final two installments (please don’t expand it again.)

For the first time in a long time, I believe that I might actually get a satisfying conclusion to this story that’s been with me for more than half my life.

This book was purchased by the reviewer.

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