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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As one we beg: Let it begin!, 14 Nov 2009
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This review is from: The Gathering Storm (Hardcover)
`The Gathering Storm' is without doubt the best book in the Wheel of Time series since `The Dragon Reborn'. It is the first instalment in a long time which could be called a real `page-turner', moving with the pace of a great suspense thriller. The story pulsates with life, and is driven forward by a powerful and compelling narrative, which draws the reader into the mind of this novel's two central protagonists.

I, like many fans of this incredible series, was saddened by the tragic death of Robert Jordan, a brilliant literary mind with an imagination and a passion for storytelling which rivalled that of the father of high fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien. Now, Brandon Sanderson has stepped up to carry Jordan's fallen banner, for the ride to Tarmon Gai'don and the final assault upon the Dark One.

The editorial decision to break up `A Memory of Light' into a trilogy of finale novels was a brave but wise decision. The split has allowed Sanderson to leave some minor plot threads aside for now, and channel Jordan's narrative into two largely independent stories, which capture the essence of the male-female dichotomy that has been so central to the series.

On one side we find Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, spiralling deeper into anger, insanity, and darkness as he purges himself of all love and emotion. Sanderson draws the reader closer to Rand than perhaps ever before, revealing the deep pains in his soul as he struggles desperately to hold the world together. Egwene al'Vere is the unwavering yin to Rand's raging yang, showing maturity and determination beyond her years as she tries to prevent White Tower fragmenting beyond repair, and making her stand against the despotic usurper Amyrlin Elaida.

Mat's mini-adventure in the middle of the book is something of a tangent from his main quest, providing some relief from the forward drive of Rand-Egwene narrative. Sanderson shows some personal flair with this self-contained horror story, though he slips into Mat's mannerisms and thinking less easily than with Rand.

Sadly, Siuan and Gawyn fail to shine in this instalment, and their narratives plod along somewhat predictably. Min and Avhienda certainly hold a presence, but they feel flat compared to Egwene, and Elayne is noticeably absent. By contrast Nynaeve's characterisation is wonderful, trapped between her fear of losing Lan and witnessing Rand descend into darkness.

Cadsuane Sedai is one of the real stars of this saga, and I cannot imagine Rand's narrative without her. The relationship between these two powerful personalities reaches breaking point in this instalment, with massively pivotal consequences.

A word on Sanderson's writing style. He is certainly not Robert Jordan! I have numerous gripes about his style. His constant usage of the word "gotten" makes me want to tug my metaphorical braid, and his use of contractions "he'd" "she'd" "didn't" "hadn't" etc within the narrative (as opposed to dialogue) is very irritating indeed. One can spot Jordan-written paragraphs by the absence of the word "gotten" or contractions in the narrative! The sections of Jordan's writing are like pure gold in a sea of good but unspectacular silver, and I hope one day Sanderson will disclose exactly what was Jordan and what was his own writing. Sanderson's feel for plot and narrative direction are truly remarkable, but his prose is far less accomplished than Jordan's, and it is very apparent.

Nonetheless, Sanderson has done a fabulous job in this book, and it feels more like a self-contained story than any Wheel of Time novel for a long time. The ending of the book is absolutely wonderful, and will not leave anyone disappointed about the two year wait until book fourteen.

This is a wonderful novel, and I eagerly anticipate the next instalment.
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