If you love books, then you're probably familiar with that curious feeling of depression one gets when he gets to the end of a beloved story. Halfway through the book you realize that there are more pages behind than there are ahead and that sinking feeling starts to creep up. You get to the second to the last chapter and you realize you only have about 100 pages more with these characters you love so much. You slow down, savoring each page, every scene. You don't want to leave this facinating world you've been visiting.
About a month back when I heard that Tor was finally going to release Brian Sanderson's first Wheel of Time installment, I wrote a blog post about Robert Jordan. For nearly 20 years, I've grown up on the story of the Dragon Reborn and have followed Robert Jordan's opus since the first book came out in 1990. Yesterday night, I realized that the series is ending.
Sure, I've known this since the third book (I thought it was a trilogy), but it was only sinking in as I read the last chapter of The Gathering Storm. I wanted to cry.
According to the announcements on the web, the book was to hit the shelves November 3rd, but apparently, we get some books earlier than our friends in the US (yay for the Philippines!). I picked up my copy at Power Books about two weeks ago. They got only 8 copies and the other 7 were reserved. I found this one on the shelf all by itself. Dark One's own luck, that. I guess it'll probably be flooding other stores soon, but frankly I couldn't wait to read what Jordan and Sanderson had cooked up.
Before I start, there is one thing that I want to get off my chest. I cannot stand Darrell K. Sweet's cover art. It is absolutely awful. The scene it depicts is not one I feel was really a standout and even if it was I feel Mr. Sweet should be ashamed of the job he did on it. Not only is the composition completely boring, the way he poses his characters and hides Rands stump is awful. It is without a doubt his worst Wheel of Time cover to date and I can't belive that he went from that beautiful Eye of the World cover to this piece of shit. But then, we were always told not to judge a book by it's cover, and Jordan's volumes have always surpassed Sweet's artwork.
I don't want to spoil anything for anyone so I'll keep this review as vague as possible, and focus on my opinions and views of the book. I will tell you that the majority of the plot is dedicated to the split in the White Tower. Fans of Rand will still have quite a few chapters to call their own, and Matt and Perrin have a couple to push their plots ahead, but for the most part it's about Egwene.
I'd have to agree with Jason Denzel's advance review on Dragonmount; Sanderson has succeeded in filling in the gaps that Jordan left in his manuscript with words that fit. That doesn't mean you won't notice a few pages where the tone or tone might feel a little different from what you remember, but the whole seems to fit in quite nicely with the series. As Sanderson says in his introduction, he is a new director taking over a franchise. The cast and story is the same, but some of the style may differ. I believe the intensive research he did before taking up the project (he reread the entire series while taking notes on the characters) really helped him to give each of them a voice that was true to Jordan's.
Unlike the last few books, The Gathering Storm doesn't feel like a filler novel, as Crossroads of Twilight and Knife of Dreams did. Both of those books are padded full of exposition that Jordan needed to get out of the way before he brought everything to the precipice. This book has several chapters that are filled with what Hollywood would term "trailer shots". All that rising action has finally come to a head and the payoff is just around the corner. When you finally put it down, you get the feeling that after this book everything is coming to a head, Perrin will come to terms with the wolves, Matt will play his game of Snakes & Foxes with the Aelfinn and Eelfinn, Moiraine will be found, Rand will bow to the Daughter of Nine Moons, and the Last Battle will be fought on Shayol Ghul.
That is not to say that it was not a satisfying read. It is. I don't remember the last book that had such a wonderfully quiet ending as this one, especially considering how fast paced the rest of it was. I'm sure with the last two books in the series all about a much darker battle, the tone will be changing, but I like that the Sanderson judged this an appropriate place to break the 3 volumes.
After all's said and done, I feel Sanderson aquitted himself well on this first chapter. Though I'll always wonder which parts Jordan himself wrote and how different this might have unfolded had he survived to finish it, I am eager to get to A Memory of Light and see how it all ends.
Until then, I think I'll read them all again.