the daily column

The Gathering Storm, Part 1

A Prelude, or What on Earth is The Gathering Storm?

When I heard Robert Jordan had died, I gave up on the idea of ever getting a satisfying conclusion to the Wheel of Time series. Here was an author who had stretched and stretched a story over 11 meaty volumes, one which apparently at the start had only been destined for 3 books, but due to burgeoning sales managed to get extended. Every book introduced new characters, new plot threads, and somewhere around book 7, I found myself thinking I should only ever pick up new series when they’ve already been finished or the author is dead and I know there’s no more coming.

Jordan promised the readers a conclusion in one book, A Memory of Light, and he said he was damned if he wouldn’t deliver. Well, fate caught up with him first and so his series was doomed to be left with an unfinished story, the remainder of his notes locked away for all we knew. So now we find ourselves with an author who has passed away, and yet the series continues… because there’s a demand out there for this damn story to be finished.

Naturally, with sales to be had, the publishers hired on another author, and so Brian Sanderson was picked to fill the shoes of the indomitable Jordan. Sanderson got to writing… and writing… and writing. It turns out he’s either even worse than Jordan at concocting a quick conclusion, his editor is just as bad at chopping unnecessary bits (not surprising given it’s Jordan’s editor, his wife), or they’re all out for a quick buck.

Maybe all of the above, because what we have now is not one final volume, which would end the series on an appropriate 12 book note, but rather 3 final “volumes” of A Memory of Light, the first of which is The Gathering Storm. I don’t want to complain at the prospect of having more reading material, but lordy, this thing is heavy enough already. Coming 4 years after Knife of Dreams, tGS isn’t so much a book as an old-fashioned tome. I can only imagine what this will be like when bound in smaller paperback format. And what has me worried is that this is only volume 1 of 3 of the final book – and by gods, will it be hefty when finished.

So, it is with this trepidation… that I rushed down to the book store and picked it up, and have been reluctant to put down since yesterday. And it is with some assumed knowledge that I assume you are coming into this, because I know for sure it’ll make little enough sense to anyone else. And if you really do care, there’s a jump to click through:

Part the First: Prologue, Chapters 1 – 6

A quick refresher: when we left Randland at the end of Knife of Dreams, Rand had just managed to lose a hand in one of the most anti-climactic scenes of the series yet, and captured Semirhage as almost a fiat accompli. Egwene, captured at the end of Crossroads of Twilight, was getting regular spankings in the Tower but was beginning to turn into something of a S&M addict from all appearances. Perrin had just managed to save his wife, captured somewhere in the mists of book 7 or 8 or something like that, and Mat, having raised merry hell with the Seanchan in the south, was apparently on his way to rescue Moiraine (finally!) from the Finn. For more details, check the Wikipedia page for KoD.

So where do we find ourselves at page 120? Well, in no particular order…

  • Some random people we didn’t know or care about decide to leave their farms and go north to fight.
  • Some random people we don’t care about are fighting the Seanchan in Arad Doman.
    • Like they have been since book 2.
  • Rand is fucking about in Arad Doman somewhere with 8,000 Saladeans and an unknown number of Aiel.
    • He refuses to torture the master torturer of the Forsaken because she’s a woman.
    • Australia says No, Rand, but for the love of plot, will you just get this over and done with?
    • No-one believes Rand cleaned the taint, and he’s getting a little bitter about that now, ok? (and so am I: that was book 9. These people need to build a bridge.)
  • Egwene is still inside the Tower, still getting spanked.
    • The corridors are moving in mysterious ways.
    • Like they have been for the last three books.
    • Oh and Elaida is a little power mad.
    • Like we’ve known… forever.
  • Aviendha still loves Rand.
    • But baby did a bad bad thing, and is being punished. But she doesn’t know what, and can’t ask because that would be shameful.
  • Gawyn is confused.
  • Elayne is apparently secure in Caemlyn and expanding her territory – why now?!
  • “The Prophet” Masema is dead.
    • And his rabid followers.
    • Dead dead dead.
    • DEAD.
    • FINALLY.
    • For real.
    • And he didn’t talk about duty being heavier than geography, or mothers welcoming him home.
    • It was in fact one of the shortest, sharpest scenes in the series.
    • Faile killed him. Now time for her to kick some more ass and take names.
    • He’s dead! Yay!
  • The Forsaken, the wunderkind taken to pieces by the Wonderkids of Emond’s Field, are down to but a few who are plotting and conniving amongst themselves while apparently also attempting to capture (but not kill!) Rand.
    • Seriously, has a small country town ever in any plot universe produced so many Uberheroes? Whoever these kids’ midwives where clearly knew what they were doing. It’s a wonder the village didn’t have a little band of marauding toddlers who took over the local area at least. Did they have an orgy with Superman for all these damn kids born around the same time to be kicking so much backside all over the world?
    • Pardon the detour.
    • Graendal apparently likes her pretties.
    • Like we’ve known for the last, oh, 6 books.
    • And while she doesn’t appear to have gotten off her fat ass at all, apparently she’s done something to get the nod of the DO.
    • Moridin is sinister.
    • Like we’ve… ok ok you get the point.

So… other than seeing Masema (finally! finally!) killed off, we’ve gotten just about nowhere.

Yes, that bodes… well. I’m hoping this is because Jordan wrote these chapters, and no editor wanted to touch that legacy or something. I’m hoping to get to the point where Sanderson’s vision starts to show through, because it’s certainly not moving at anything faster than glacial. That or Sanderson has adopted Jordan’s vision for the plot quite literally, and is being just as wordy (oh dear god) in an attempt to stay true to the spirit of the plot. Why he couldn’t stay true to the spirit of the first book is beyond me.

What I want to say to Sanderson right now is to start winding in the plot threads and non-core characters being shoved off the scene. No more new Forsaken, no more new nobility introduced, no more new redshirts. Kill off the redshirts you’ve got around already and get the fuck on with it. Yes, we have 750,000 words to go and two more books to sell, but the only reason you’re getting a chance right now is because it’s the first of the new co-written novels. For all that you’ve told us repeatedly that the “The ending is brilliant!”, we want to read it sooner rather than later.

And will someone hire a goddamn editor!?

2 replies on “The Gathering Storm, Part 1”

Somewhere ends up seriously gotten. I was surprised at *how* much gets accomplished and wrapped up in the book.

The quick and effective dispatching of Masema was surely deliberate fan service– and a real service it was.

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