The Gathering Storm
I approached this book with some small amount of trepidation. On the one hand, The Wheel of Time series is nearing its conclusion and this book had the possibility of answering a lot of questions which have been plaguing me and other readers for the past few novels. On the other hand, this is the first book in the series to be written since the death of the original author Robert Jordan. Jordan died in 2007 after a painful battle with a rare type of cancer. After a search for an author to finish off the series, Jordan's wife selected author Brandon Sanderson to complete her husband's work. At such a crucial point in the story I was worried that with the loss of Jordan the story would suffer.
My fears were quickly dispelled. The prose was nearly identical to the previous eleven novels in the series and the characters were all just as fun and interesting as ever. We rejoin Rand just after he lost his hand in his battle with the forsaken Semirhage. Rand continues to cut himself off from those around him, believing that the only way he can gain victory at Tarmon Gaidon is by making himself completely emotionless and driven. He has accepted death, and like the voice of Lews Therin Telamon in his head he longs for it all to be over. Before that can happen though he still must confront the Seanchan and forge the nations into a unified fighting force. In the midst of all this Rand discovers an enormous source of power which awakens in him a dark force that slowly begins to alter him. Perrin is stuck herding to safety all the refugees that he helped to rescue from the Shaido. To compound his problems his relationship with his wife Faile has become oddly strained. Following the initial elation which accompanied their first meeting, they have drifted apart, both knowing that events had happened during their separation which could potentially damage their marriage should they come to light. Matt Cauthon, newly married, contemplates the consequences of his unusual nuptials with Tuon. Knowing how a husband is supposed to act, Matt is determined to go on gambling and drinking as if nothing has changed. This determination leads him to make a bet with an isolated community with frightening results. Matt also must figure out how he is to help Thom Merrilin rescue Moiraine Damodred from the mysterious creatures that live in the land behind the red stone doorway—ter'angreal. Meanwhile, Egwene, still a prisoner of the White Tower, continues her battle for control with Elaida. Their battle of wills is interrupted by a long foreseen yet still surprising assault on the Aes Sedai by a strange and dangerous enemy. During the attack Egwene must choose whether she will escape or help those who have imprisoned her. The book also visits other characters including Aviendha, Gawyn and Verin.
Despite the ommission of some fairly important characters this novel is as exciting a tale as any of the previous books in the series. The change of authors does not cause any major errors in continuity and no insight into the characters is lost. I would rank this book as one of the top five of the series. Brandon Sanderson has done right by Robert Jordan and continued the series in a manner much in keeping with Jordan's tradition. Even the most die-hard Jordan fan will find little to complain about in this latest instillation in The Wheel of Time series.