Book Review: Wheel of Time, Book 12: The Gathering Storm

Wheel 12

Wheel of Time, Book 12:

The Gathering Storm

This was an enjoyable read and a further uptick in the overall quality of the series. Following in the footsteps of Knife of Dreams, this book maintained a nice pace and provided a wealth of interesting plot progression. This book also had a good balance of exposition and action, and was perhaps the most satisfactory book in the series for me to this point. With that said, here are my main thoughts about the book:

My video and written analysis can be found below:

  • One thing I loved: Increased number of chapters
    • There were 50 chapters in this 800-page book*
    • That made for an average of 16 pages per chapter. Books 10 and 11 in the series averaged about 22 pages per chapter, and books 7, 8, and 9 averaged about 18.
    • While two less pages per chapter does not sound like a big deal, I think this made a world of difference in terms of pacing. The book jumped back and forth between characters just a bit quicker, and the slightly slower paced chapters ended a bit sooner to get to something else.
    • I think this simple factor added quite a bit to improving the overall pacing of the story.

 

  • One thing I disliked: Long story arcs with seemingly toss-off endings
    • The death of Masema

Masema has been in the story since the second book and had a story line that seemed to be building toward something of import. If the only thing it served was as a catalyst for who killed him and why, that is far too much ink for what I am calling a paltry return at the moment. I hope I am wrong about this.

 

  • Character Arcs
    • Rand

This book provides an important tipping point for Rand and his quest to become the hard, disconnected Dragon, and the complicated issues he has with trust are pushed to their limit.

The connection between Lews Therin comes to an interesting head as well, and much of Rand’s progression in this book could be best defined by failure, frustration, and cold, drastic – often violent – reactions to that.

    • Egwene

I felt that in many ways this was Egwene’s book. Her character has advanced by incredible leaps and bounds in the past two installments, and I feel like her overall arc comes closest to its completion at the end of this book.

That is not to say that interesting things will not continue to be in store for her, there no doubt will be, but she has moved the furthest in her ultimate progression in my opinion.

There are several chapters dedicated to mending the rift in the Aes Sedai, and the resolution to this was a blazing page turning section that could not be put down. Egwene’s role in this portion of the book was nothing short of amazing as well.

The scene that stood out for me the most in this book, though, was the interaction with one of the long standing Aes Sedai who comes to deliver an important message to Egwene. This scene was an amazing piece of long game writing and was very well done.

I must admit, however, that I feel for myself as a reader I have a hard time believing Egwene’s drastic progression. The character feels like a completely separate entity from who she was previously, and I was not totally sold on this being justified. Her portions in this book were amazing, but some aspects of it left me unable to completely suspend my belief and I couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit too much for who she represents to me as a character.

    • Perrin

Perrin’s main story has not altered much for me in far too many books. He has something to brood about, and he does it incessantly. He must struggle with what the wolf means and how to reconcile it with who he is. That seems to be the only real progress he makes, and it is scant at best.

This character, along with his wife, are two that I do not personally enjoy, and they did nothing to endear themselves in this book.

It should perhaps be noted that Faile does take a drastic step in the prologue, and one that perhaps needed to be taken, but I felt it was a poor ending that made the entire plot line seem vastly overplayed if that was the only purpose it was meant to serve.

    • Mat

Mat Cauthon is the perfect comic relief for this series, and he continues to shine as the most relatable human character amongst the Emond’s Field Five. He has some great scenes in this story, but his overall plot does not advance too much in the end.

However, he does have some important dialogue with the illuminator and with an old Aes Sedai that he hadn’t seen in quite a while. The latter sends him off toward moving his plot forward in what I can only assume are going to be some very interesting ways.

The highlights for me in Mat’s portions of this book were the dialogue with his band about the made-up histories he wrote for them, and his back and forth with Talmanes. Some of the quips between those two were pure comic gold. Whatever happens, we can count on him never giving up his drinking or gambling, that is for sure.

    • Nyaneve

As we can expect, she yanks her braid and learns to heal something new. She’s becomes the only Aes Sedai that Rand will listen to and she plays an important part in helping Rand retain some vital parts of his humanity.

    • Gawyn

I must attempt to not allow my dislike of this character to over-pepper my assessment, but I have labeled him Mr. Unbelievable.

      • His initial motivation following the break in the tower I could understand, and I was willing to follow, but that is where it ends…
      • I don’t believe his intentions toward Rand because they are cliched to the point of being uninteresting to me.
        • This does get a slap in the face in this book.
      • I do not believe in his romance story at all. I feel this is the worst written romance in the series.
      • I do not believe the reasoning for his sudden switch in motivation in this book (because of my not buying his romantic story line)
        • I also feel like this sudden switch completely undermines all his “passions” before
      • I do not believe the reaction he got from either side when he did switch.
      • I do not believe him as a sword master.

He spent far too long being a non-factor, and gets thrown back into this story to advance what is likely meant to be his future role with his romantic partner, but I found myself wanting to skip his entire story line because it felt forced and unbelievable.

    • Siuan and Gareth

In contrast to the previous character, this is perhaps the best developed romance in the entire series. Siuan, since her deposition, has developed into an amazing character and she continues to shine in this book. Furthermore, her interaction and relationship with Gareth Bryne is truly enjoyable to read. This is quite literally the polar opposite of Gawyn and his love entanglement.

    • Aviendha

She is moved closer toward becoming a full wise one and sent off on a quest that bodes for likely interesting dividends in the coming books, but her character has honestly suffered for the past several books for having been tied to Elayne. I was glad to see her away from Elayne and getting back to her own story line in this book.

    • Dark Friend Action

They had a standard “meeting” in a dark lair with weird decorative style based on which Forsaken got their first. To be honest, these things are starting to feel like Dr. Evil meetings from Austin Powers. They just goad each other and plot things that ultimately fail.

Big plot point is likely a large theft that is ordered in the middle of the book and carried out at the end.

    • Tuon

Finally meets with Rand and that meeting does not go to either’s satisfaction, resulting in her taking a drastic action that will likely have massive implications moving forward.

This is another character I have a very visceral reaction to. I don’t like her, and I really despise the whole Seanchan philosophy because it stinks too much of the US policy of “Freedom through military domination! aka: we’re going to liberate your people by murdering a whole crap-ton of them, subjugate you, and call it benevolence!”

Overall, this was an incredible addition to this series. The steadier pacing, marvelous character development in many areas, and the quickly advancing plot lines have made the last two installments some of my favorite fantasy books and I cannot wait to read the next one!

*The copy I read was the trade paperback published by Orbit in 2014.

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