2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Warning: Spoilers, 27 Dec. 2010
I should start by saying I'm fairly new to the WoT-verse, and only started reading the series earlier this year.
Unlike many, I did not consider stopping at books 9/10 - the pace indeed slowed, but I never disliked the books and enjoyed reading them.
The Gathering Storm is something entirely different, however. I read this in less than 48 hours over Christmas and Boxing Day (sleeping very little...) and was struck that this book isn't just good - it's damned good by WoT standards. And boy, are they high standards.
Enough has been said about the differences in styles between RJ and BS, so I won't go into detail. I will say that BS clearly tried his best to keep the book feeling like the WoT, and does a brilliant job. I don't find Mat incredibly dissimilar as some have, but I'll admit he's not my favourite character to begin with so perhaps it's a matter of caring less than others.
This book focusses mainly on Rand and Egwene. Rand's story is - at least to me - the real pull of this book. From about book 3, the real thing that has enthralled me about the WoT is the unique take on the hero of the story. There are few fantasy series out there that are so hard on their main characters but the WoT handles it incredibly. TGS is particularly good in this regard. Rand's accelerating decent into madness - saidin-induced or otherwise - is chilling, page-turning and at points tear-jerking (especially Rand's reunion with Tam). I said to a friend that in many ways, the WoT is as much a tragedy as it is fantasy, and TGS really epitomises this. Rand goes through - and subsequently puts others through - absolute hell before the satisfying conclusion on Dragonmount to the madness/voice in his head storyline that started far back in book 3.
Egwene's story is similarly fantastic and fast paced, and the Seanchan attack on the White Tower rivals Dumai's Wells for the best action sequence in the series. Egwene went from being a pretentious pretend Aes Sedai in my view to one of the most awesome characters in the series in the space of a few chapters. A few scenes - her confrontation with Elaida, and her conversation with Verin - are also extremely well done.
But in the end, it comes back to Rand. After the series focussing less on its main character for some time, the focus on the Dragon Reborn in this book was welcome, and the escalation and conclusion of his story a real highlight of the series. Along with TDR, TSR and LoC, this book is my favourite of the series so far - chilling, epic and heart warming all at once. Worth reading all 11 books just to get to it.