“Ravens and crows. Rats, mists and clouds. Insects and corruption. Strange events and odd occurrences. The ordinary twisted and strange. Wonders!
The dead are beginning to walk and some see them. Others do not, but more and more, we all fear the night.
These have been our days. They rain upon us beneath a dead sky, crushing us with their fury, until as one we beg: “Let it begin!”
-Journal of the Unknown Scholar, entry for The Feast of Freia, 1000 NE”– Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the Gathering Storm
The most popular question that fans are concerned about regarding the Gathering Storm is this: Did Brandon Sanderson do a good job of finishing the Wheel of Time?
Yes. He storming did. (I mean, he kind of has to, what with our main boy Al’Thor being present in his name and all.) There are slight differences in writing style, of course, but honestly, if you didn’t know about the author switch, you’d be hard pressed to notice the change.
Warning! From here on will be SPOILERS for the Wheel of Time up to and including book 12.
The Gathering Storm was Egwene and Rand’s book, without a doubt. It’s hard to say which was more gripping. Probably Egwene’s, seeing as we haven’t had tons of her throughout the series (at least compared to Rand), so this book almost felt dedicated to her. Saying that, both were extremely satisfying.
“…”“The end is near,” Moridin said. “The Wheel has groaned its final rotation, the clock has lost its spring, the serpent heaves its final gasps.”…”-Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the Gathering Storm
If Knife of Dreams was a step up in pacing, the Gathering Storm was giant bound up. The book is aptly named. It has now really begun to feel as if Tarmon Gai’don is looming just around the bend. You don’t know exactly what it is, or when it will break, but you can feel the pressure rising throughout. Previously rare occurrences such as the dead walking are common facts of life now and bubbles of evil created by the Dark Ones awakening are popping up all over the place. Add that to what is Rand’s absolute lowest point in the series, and you are left with what was probably the darkest book of the series so far.
After reading Knife of Dreams’ chapter, Honey in the Tea, I had high hopes for Egwene’s arc going into the Gathering Storm. I was not disappointed. If that was a sweet chapter, Egwene’s arc in the Gathering Storm was like a rich, gooey chocolate cake, complemented by strawberries and creamy vanilla ice cream; a glass of shloer by the side.
Sorry, I’m feeling hungry.
Now then. Where to start with Egwene? Her confrontations with Elaida? Her imprisonment? Her motivating resilience to her *multi* daily beatings? Her political GENIUS? The Seanchan r-No, too soon.
The first half of Egwene’s arc in the Gathering Storm is her gradual work to undermine Elaida’s rule through her words and actions while the second half comprises her imprisonment, her chat with Verin (more on that soon), the Seanchan raid, and her finally being raised to the Amyrlin Seat.
Her philosophy is simple; ‘The Tower is broken, I will stop at nothing to fix it’. I loved the mutual respect between Egwene and Silviana, the Mistress of Novices, and Egwene finally understanding how the Aiel laugh at pain. Her calm composure in the face of humiliation and suffering was captivating to read. The way she kept her dignity during her trials while those around her began to slowly acknowledge her authority and listen to her words and her clever little chats with Aes Sedai and members of the White Tower were inspiring and fascinating to read. Oh, and her interactions with Elaida.
Elaida, Elaida, Elaida. Probably the all time favourite love-to-hate characters in the Wheel of Time. Her stupidity, her pride, her sheer *aaarrrggghhh*ingness. Simply put, she’s the Umbridge of the Wheel of Time.
Egwene’s two(?) interactions with Elaida in the Gathering Storm were just what I’d hoped for, the second especially. Egwene calmly calling her a coward in front of the Sitters, calmly listing her faults with impeccable logic, then standing up (after being knocked down, cut, and harshly beaten by Elaida), and calmly announcing her incompetence, culminated in one of the greatest scenes within the series.
I know, I know, I’m using ‘calmy’ too much. I need to calm down.
Then we get Verin’s reveal. What a scene that was! I’ve a confession to make. I’d actually been spoiled that Verin was Black Ajah a little while ago. That sucked. However, what I hadn’t realised was that she was UNDERCOVER. Man, now I fancy rereading the whole series just to spot all the easter eggs I missed. Or, well . . . maybe I don’t at that.
Anyway, it seems she’s been busy. She regretted her decision she and Tomas made long ago, and when she couldn’t be free of her oath, decided to dedicate her life to working against him, but from the inside. But finding pretty much all the names of Black Ajah members, their leaders, and their factions? Not bad, Verin. Not bad at all. I’ll also admit I got a little choked up when the reality sunk in that she was only able to go against the Dark One’s oath in her final hour. Egwene’s final words to her were moving,
“Your soul is of a pure white, Verin,” Egwene said softly. “Like the Light itself.”
The Seanchan raid on the White Tower is another absolutely iconic moment. However much I profess to hate Aes Sedai pomposity (is that a word?), the Seanchan I hate more. Like, to the point of getting physically angry every time it’s mentioned on page. The sul’dam/damane/a’dam stuff especially.
Egwene rallying the novices and leading the attack with her sa’angreal was epic. Give me a sword or a knife and I’ll happily join. Heck, give me one of those fluted wands and I would pay to join. Except for the small problem of not being able to channel.
Well, you can’t have everything in life.
However, I was really annoyed when her ’rescuers’ came along just as she’d have been, in all likelihood, raised to the Amyrlin Seat. I know Siuan was involved in the coup, but I’m laying the blame on Gawyn. Always Gawyn. It all worked out alright in the end though, with Egwene uprooting the Black Ajah and (finally) being raised as true Amyrlin.
“Two hands. One to destroy, the other to save. Which had he lost?”-Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the Gathering Storm
Although Egwene’s chapters were (perhaps) more compelling, Rand’s descent from hardness to full blown madness was just as hard-hitting. There was never a dull moment. Every single chapter was an emotional rollercoaster.
We’ve known for a long time that Rand was heading the wrong way emotionally. At the start of the Gathering Storm, as we’d seen him prior, he was still getting worse and worse, close to the line but still with enough strength to not cross it. His mental health was . . . strained to say the least. I believe the turning point was when Semirhage was freed, collaring Rand and forcing him to torture and almost kill Min before grasping the True Source and balefiring her out of existence. That was where he reached full blown depression and insanity started to lay it’s hold on him for real.
After that he was like a fragile bomb. One . . . tiny mistake and you knew he would break, causing the whole world to follow. I was on tenterhooks the entire time. From his time spent in Arad Doman, to his meeting with Tuon, you could physically feel his rage, that raw anger at the world.
Then came Natrin’s Barrow. Aptly named. Rand seemed almost evil in this chapter, especially his treatment of Ramshalan (was that his name?) and the coldhearted way in which he flippin BALEFIRED hundreds of innocents just to kill Graendal.
The other moment where I felt positively scared of what Rand might do was when he met Tam, his father. I was just holding my breath throughout, waiting for the explosion. But Rand threatening to kill Tam? Nahhh mate. Not cool. Although I laughed out loud when Tam came barging into the Aes Sedai quarters and told Cadsuane to grow up.
An impressive accusation wouldn’t you say, considering her what, 295 years of age? What a legend.
“‘How do you fight someone smarter than yourself?’ Rand whispered. ‘The answer is simple. You make her think that you are sitting down across the table from her, ready to play her game. Then you punch her in the face as hard as you can.’”-Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the Gathering Storm
Speaking of Cadsuane, I think we can all agree she’s a mixed bunch. I like her at times (usually when she’s not around Rand), and hate her at others (usually when she’s around Rand). I think we’re all in agreement, though, that her spanking of Semirhage was class. Semirhage, perhaps the most feared villain in the world of the Wheel of Time, thousands of years old, the destroyer of cities, Healer turned sadistic torturer, the Lady of Pain herself, turned over the knee of a dispassionate old woman?
Anyway, the culminating chapters of Rand’s arc (and the whole book, I suppose), were sooo satisfying. Rand’s epiphany on Dragonmount. One of the most emotional moments in the series, without a doubt. His broken shouts, how close he came to breaking the world, to have it all over with, followed by Lews Therin’s quiet words, and Rand’s profound realisation and fresh understanding, was just ecstasy to read.
“And finally, he let out a deepthroated laugh, loud and pure. It had been far too long.”
There ain’t much better a feeling than that, is there?
Forget Elayne. Min is definitely my favourite of Rand’s lovers (it still feels weird to say that), although Aviendha is great too. Their relationship in the Gathering Storm is so tender. She’s the one who was with Rand to support him during his darkest of moments, the one who’s gone through the most with him, maybe the only person he truly trusts and relies on.
True wife material if I’ve ever
seen read it.
Quick special mention. That scene with Rodel Ituralde (what a legend), where Ituralde sees the Dragon Reborn for the first time, reminded me of what I used to love about the Wheel of Time; the reactions of everyone who would meet Rand for the first time, and couldn’t help but be drawn in by his ta’veren nature. Or maybe that was just his flute skills. Or his looks. Yeah, who knows . . .
If A Crown of Swords was where Nyneave went from bad to good, and Knife of Dreams good to better, the Gathering Storm was what changed her from better to best, thus cementing her as one of my all time favourite characters in the Wheel of Time. Her exploits within Arad Doman; saving a random child’s life, then spending her whole night finding evidence of Compulsion and saving Milisair Chadmar’s life, all in an effort to help Rand, were very touching to read.
Then, when Rand forces her to remove the Compulsion off the boy’s mind, resulting in his death, and she still doesn’t lash out at him? That followed by being a first party witness of the atrocity at Natrin’s Barrow and having her husband ride to Tarwin’s Gap alone, all the while Rand refuses to send help, yet choosing to stick with Rand as she can see the pain he’s going through?
Dang. Who was I saying was wife material again?
“Honour didn’t come from being punished, but accepting a punishment and bearing it restored honour. That was the soul of toh-the willing lowering of oneself in order to recover that which had been lost.”-Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the Gathering Storm
Speaking of little seen characters, we finally got to see Aviendha again! She’s a perfect example of a character we didn’t get to see enough of, especially in later books. I love Aviendha’s character and the expansion of Aiel culture we get from her.
Her arc in the Gathering Storm is a personal one, of her struggling to understand the punishments given to her by the Wise Ones, which keep getting worse and worse, until eventually she has had enough and tells them what she thinks of it. Strangely, that action led to her becoming a Wise One and taking the trip to Rhuidean again. Also, she meets with Min, although they seem to have a long way to go before becoming first-sisters.
Fingers crossed we see more of her in Towers of Midnight. It’s been far too long since we’ve seen the Waste.
One main character we didn’t see a whole lot of in the Gathering Storm was Perrin. What we do get is him struggling with his emotions in the aftermath of Malden. He feels worried about losing control in battle and a strange awkwardness between him and Faile.
I’m still stinging a little from Rolan’s death, so Faile and her comrades paying their respects to their captors-turned-protectors was touching.
It was really lovely to see the relationship development between Siuan Sanche and Gareth Bryne, resulting in her bonding him as her Warder. Siuan can’t hide anything from him now. Wink wink. Also, Siuan and Egwene’s budding friendship is has been a joy to watch unfold.
While on the topic of the rebel Aes Sedai, ever since Brandon took the reins, we’ve begun to see a lot more Gawyn. Hmmm. While I’m not a massive fan of Gawyn, his chapters were decent (the guy knows how to swing a sword), although rather irritating at times. Especially when he thinks of Rand and Egwene needing his protection. Especially when he thinks of Rand.
Breathe. In. Out. In. Out.
“Pessimism, she is a fond friend of yours, yes?” –
That’s uncalled for. I barely know her. Mere acquaintances, at best.”-Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the Gathering Storm
Many people complain that Sanderson did a dud job of Mat. I don’t understand some people. In my opinion, I feel like he only got funnier. His relationship dynamic with Talmanes is hilarious. The two are complete foils of the other, yet they get along so well and some of their verbal exchanges in the Gathering Storm resulted in me actually laughing out loud (a semi-rare occurrence in the Wheel of Time).
Although Matrim’s chapter’s are always amusing, there were several in the Gathering Storm that genuinely contained some of the creepiest scenes in the series so far.
Mat and the Band’s run in with the small mountain village of Hinderstap was haunting. A bubble of evil that causes an entire town’s populace to turn into zombies at sunset, have one full-town brawl, and then wake up as good as new in the morning, aware of what happened but unable to escape or die?
Yikes. You wouldn’t find me playing man hunt in Hinderstap. As Mat so eloquently puts it; “I don’t know. They could put up a warning sign or something. Hello. Welcome to Hinderstap. We will murder you in the night and eat your […} face if you stay past sunset. Try the pies. Martna Maily makes them fresh daily.”
I’m a massive fan of Mat’s caring nature for his soldiers and friends. When Delarn got pulled off his horse into the raging throng of mad villagers and Talmanes was shouting they have to carry on, I was thinking, “No way will Mat leave him behind”. And then when he jumped off his horse to run into the mass of bodies to save the Redarm, I was shouting, “Let’s go, Mat. Let’s GO!!!”
Internally, of course.
“I doubt you can understand the magnitude of the stupidity in your statement”-Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, the Gathering Storm
That’s what I say to all the Sanderson-and-the-Wheel-of-Time haters out there. Honestly, I’m probably still feeling the hype strongly, but The Gathering Storm is arguably my favourite in the series so far, next to the Shadow Rising. While there were several chapters that didn’t weigh quite as much as others, there was never a dull moment; everything was included to push the story forward. Brandon did a great job of not letting his writing sound too different from Jordan while tightening up the story and masterfully pulling loose plot threads back together.
Bravo, Brando Sando.
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Here’s is one of The Fantasy Nobility’s Opinions…
“I’m two books away from the end. It feels kinda surreal.”Mike