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The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
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I was skeptical about this book, as many of us were after recent installments, but this has to be the best since, oh, #5 or so. A vast improvement.

Much has been made over the split into three books, but this didn't feel like 1/3 of a book at all--in fact, it felt more complete perhaps than any other book in the series after the first. Plot-wise, things are happening again! Some of the old tension and excitement is back (I don't think this book quite captures the wonder of the early installments, but then it may be that the changed nature of the story makes such comparisons frivolous), and for the last 150 pages or so it's hard to put down. Really, this is good stuff. Progress is being made throughout, secrets are revealed, events of major import finally occur (not all of them expected).... this is what we've been waiting for.

This is possible because the focus has finally, finally returned to the main characters. Most of the book is devoted to Rand's and Egwene's storylines, although Mat, Nynaeve, Siuan, Gawyn and Aviendha get screen time as well, and Perrin and Tuon a chapter or so each. (As for Galina and her ilk... gone! No time for lengthy tertiary-character rantings now things are moving again.) Which brings me to.... the characters! They've improved. Everybody seems much more human now--they don't obsess over status to the exclusion of all else, they've stopped keeping everything secret for the sake of keeping secrets and arguing for the sake of arguing. The women are showing more individuality and, frankly, realism than they have in a long time, maybe ever. Better yet, the human interactions and relationships portrayed suddenly resemble real human interactions and relationships. So if the character development.... the characters, period.... have disappointed you in the later books of this series, this is quite encouraging. I think I'll actually care about the Last Battle when it comes. Heck, if this author can make me sympathize with Cadsuane (of all people!) when he uses her point-of-view, he can do just about anything, right?

Which brings me to my comments on Sanderson's handling of Jordan's work. I was pleasantly surprised. I read the first two Mistborn books, and while they were entertaining, I think anyone reading The Gathering Storm will be struck by how much Sanderson's writing style has matured since that point. It's not quite Jordan--which, in a lot of places, is good; the conversations are snappier, the characters' thoughts more coherent--but the descriptions aren't as vivid or evocative as they were when Jordan did the writing. On a purely technical level, I'd say Jordan was a better writer, but this book isn't poorly written at all. If I weren't so exacting with ratings, and if some of the early chapters hadn't been rather tedious (Aviendha's POVs are especially dull this time), this book might have gotten 5 stars. (Well, there are a couple other minor issues, such as time moving at a radically different pace in each storyline, such that weeks might pass in Egwene's world only for us to return to Perrin a day after the Shaido battle. And nothing that I tried to look up was in the glossary.) As is, I wholeheartedly recommend it not only to anyone who's stuck with the series so far (you'll read it no matter what anyone says), but to anyone who's read the first few before getting discouraged by the pace and quitting. Skip over the middle books and start back here.

Oh, and the best part? No Elayne, and no skirt-smoothing at all!
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Niklas hi. thanks for the review. very good. in sweden they stopped translating many years ago, due to the 'never ending story, i believe'.. me, i struggled on until around book 7-8, dont remember.. but now when the series is completed, and with aid of reviews like yours, im pretty convinced that my idea will work, which is read online summariez of book 7-11 and then order this one. thanks again /niklas


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