the daily column

The Gathering Storm, Part 3

There’s nothing more fun than reading an 800-page novel on the way down from level 21 in the lift – when the lift comes to a stop on an interim floor, the look on the face of the person entering gives away so much, primary amongst which has been something akin to “Wait, if he’s reading that book in the elevator, how long could the lift have possibly taken that it’s like a commute to this guy?!” Of course, they don’t know that I could read while walking through bushland by the light of the pale moon, but that aside…!

Anyway, the looks on people’s faces when they see me reading is priceless.

Also one particular advantage of having such a large book is that others who are also interested can spot it a mile away. Already I’ve found someone at work interest, someone at a random food court, etc – and it’s always fun to discuss the series and see everyone’s take on things.

Enough blathering! Onwards!

Part the Third: Chapters 13 – 18

Well well well. I really did speak too soon on the topic of plot threads not moving at a sufficiently hurried pace, because suddenly things have kicked up a notch.

I hesitate to add “relatively,” because I know one of the hallmarks of the Wheel of Time has, since probably the third or maybe fourth book, extensive and detailed descriptions of characters and situations, to the point where you could easily construct some of the outfits the characters wear down to their very embroidery.

I guess the high-water mark for the pace was in book 1, when the characters and threads were simple and tightly bound together – indeed, it was about a third of the way into the book before we got a perspective on things other than Rand himself, when the party was separated.

In some ways the complaints of a lack of speed boils down to that comparison – the complex story doesn’t move as fast as the simple story the series started with. A comment in here indicates that at least one major plotline has only moved two or three months since The Path of Daggers, which was released four books and, oh, ELEVEN YEARS AGO.

In amongst these chapters though, roughly a third of the way (chapter-wise) into the book too, it’s clear now that the story is getting a head of steam. I suppose the timeline isn’t as important as the events that take place, so it’s starting to get to a faster schedule. So let’s see what’s happened:

  • Gawyn finally learns that he’s fighting against his own one-true-love in supporting the Tower Aes Sedai (TAS), though he still assumes Egwene is being sock-puppetted and it’s up to him to do some rescuin’.
  • We also learn here that the TAS have the Travelling trick, and they’re using it actively. Which spells a relatively quick end to be coming to the siege.
  • Cadsuane knows how to hide stuff! Put it in a box with a One Power burglar alarm! Hmm, this is going to go well.
  • Confirmed: Rand is linked to Moridin.
  • Avi’s unexplained punishments are getting annoying to me too, not just the character. This whole ji’e’toh thing is beyond what is necessary now… can someone explain it?!
  • Egwene finally has her show-down with Elaida, though perhaps not in the way expected.
    • Fuck yes.
    • Egwene can see a bigger picture, and she’s making an effort to try to show that to others. Elaida on the other hand appears to be getting pettier and pettier. This alone makes Egwene a better Amyrlin, which starts to become evident when…
    • The showdown finally comes when Elaida attempts to humiliate and show her dominance of Egwene in front of 5 Sitters. Egwene naturally doesn’t even give a glimpse of giving in, drawing Elaida’s ire and finally the confrontation we all knew was coming plays out in a dramatic and conclusive way.
    • This is one of the most brilliant scenes so far, at least in the book if not the series. The tension ratchets up and up, and you can vividly imagine the setting in your head as it takes place.
    • I wondered for a moment whether this was RJ or Sanderson writing, but there’s something distinct about it and if Sanderson touched it, it wasn’t so it was obvious or distinct from RJ’s style.
    • At the end of this chapter, things are looking pretty damn bleak for the girls outside….
  • Cadsuane finds the key to getting Semi to talk is humiliation and treating her without reverence: giving her a good spanking.
    • Not much is said about how much/what exactly, if anything, she reveals, however.
  • Word is out to the rebel (Salidar) Aes Sedai (SAS) that the TAS have travelling. This is going to cause… issues.

The story is starting to move; I still think at times it’s got an ability to wander off on dead-ends, but you get the feeling alongside the characters that the end times are coming, and soon.

The other thing I like about this book particularly is that the perspectives are kept relevant: there’s no page or two of different perspectives on the same event, or of minor characters wandering in the background to establish that the world has complex plots: we know this by now. Tight focus is Good.

Ed note: If I’m perfectly honest, I’ve actually finished the book already and this is going back over it to see how much I can remember. Bits may be a little blurry, and I may resort to a re-read to sort it out.

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