First Wheel of Time Readthrough, Part 12

If you are just finding this readthrough, you can find the first post in this series here.

I actually went through Gathering Storm  pretty quickly compared to most of the other books in the series.  I had a serious problem putting it down whenever I picked it up.  My read was stalled a few days due to Final Fantasy XV‘s second half making me so angry that I was in grouchy mode and I worried that anything I read was going to be judged super critically.

Thankfully, Rogue One managed to de-grouch me and I was able to quickly finish the book with a positive attitude.

This is the first book in Sanderson’s … ‘conclusion trilogy’.  I was worried that the change in style might be a bit jarring, but thankfully the transition into Sanderson is like slipping into a comfortable pair of pajama pants, at once comfortable and familiar.  There are, of course, noticeable differences in styles.  Sanderson spends a lot less time on mannerisms than Jordan, so we don’t see a lot of swords being eased in sheaths, sniffing, and smoothing of skirts as we have come to expect, and if anyone folded their arms beneath their breasts once this book I completely missed it (though my brain may just be automatically skipping those at this point).  And at times I did find myself missing Jordan’s descriptiveness at times; he really shaped characters not just by how they acted but how they viewed the others around them.

The biggest difference is that Sanderson is a much more focused writer. That shows not only in his ridiculously quick book release schedule but in his writing itself.  Jordan’s ability to juggle hundreds of floating plot points and locations and POV’s was impressive, and I’m sure part of the lasting appeal of the series is that there is so much going on at all times that you can find something you missed.  As a first time reader, it can be a bit overwhelming at times.  Sanderson’s laser-like focus comes as a bit of a relief.

There are only two major plot threads in this book.  The first is the conclusion of the broken tower / Amyrlin Egwene plot.  The Seanchan attack the tower, Elaida gets her ironic punishment, Egwene becomes the true Amyrlin, and a million points inbetween.  This plot had been dragging on for much, much longer than I thought it should, but this book really made it all worthwhile.  That tension at that final moment, when Egwene on one side is preparing to assault the Tower, while on the other side the Tower is debating whether to accept her at Amyrlin, and you don’t know which is going to happen first.  Based on responses to my previous posts, it seems Egwene gets a lot of hate, but I quite liked her in this book, and I think down in my thoughts section below I will have to come up with a defense of her.

The other is Rand’s attempt to unite the last of the lands while struggling to hold on to what little remains of his sanity.  I once predicted that the death of someone important to him would be final breaking straw (I think I predicted Min, but I can’t seem to find which post I made the prediction in) but I certainly did not see the near-death strangling at his own hands by Semirhage.  That shit’s fucked up.  After our experience with captured Forsaken through Moghedien I knew Semirhage’s imprisonment was a bad idea, but I no idea how bad.  Cadsuane really screwed the pooch on that one.  And it certainly didn’t help that both attempts to bring the Seanchan and the Borderlanders to him for the Last Battle both ended in failure.  I guess in the end Cadsuane’s plan to bring Tam in worked out, cause after Rand’s freak out he forced to do some introspection, and he decided not to destroy the world.  Course if he made the other decision…well, what is life without a few risks?  I’m curious to see how Rand’s behavior changes now that he’s come to terms with himself, if we’ll see a Rand closer to how he was at the beginning of the series.

We also get a couple of smaller plots.  Aviendha spends a couple chapters being punished, till she finds out what she needs to do is stand up to the Wise Ones, which…for a group that demands such obedience from their disciples, is kind of a fucked up final test.  Guess next time we see her she will be a full Wise One.  And then there’s Mat and his visit to Creepyvillage (in no way associated with Creepytown) and their video-game-like respawning ways.  I don’t think the Pattern is feeling okay. Someone should bring it some chicken soup.

And of course, you can’t talk about this book without bringing up Graendal.  She was ordered to keep Rand from bringing peace to the Arad Doman, and while Rand certainly failed in that regard, I’m not sure if she actually did anything to help that along.  I suspect that she was responsible for Rand not being able to find enough members of the Council of Merchants to appoint a new king (she’s a sneaky one, so I can’t even be sure of that), but the killing blow was dealt by the Dark One himself when he spoiled literally all the food Rand was having brought in.  And then her and all of her pretties got Balefired.  She seemed like one of the more competent and dangerous Forsaken, so I was incredibly surprised by this scene, and tried to think of how she might have manipulated her way to surviving this situation, but Rand’s coldhearted Compulsion test seems to be pretty definitive.

Some Thoughts:

I said above that I feel like I kind of need to defend Egwene after this book. She’s never been among my favorite characters, with my biggest complaint being that some of her parts have been kind of boring.  She’s never frustrated me, though, in the way some other characters (*cough* Elayne *cough*) have.  I see a lot of hate for her on responses to my posts (the only WoT discussion I dare look at until after I have completed the series) with the particular argument that she is a Mary-Sue.  Which seems odd to me, in a series that so strongly tinges on destiny and fate as physical forces.  We accept that the ta’varen will find themselves with unexpected talents and with situations that play out for them exactly as it needs to becuase of their nature, but I don’t think its a stretch to say the series has also shown that the Pattern has plans for more than just the ta’varen, as with Elayne needing to the be queen of Andor.  The Tower needs an Amyrlin who will work with Rand, and Elaida was not it. With Elayne needed in Andor, and Nynaeve being too hotheaded, that leaves Egwene as the obvious choice.  Is it really so much of a stretch to think the Pattern gave her the specific experiences she needed to be successful at this role?  Hell, Rand’s ta’varen pull is so strong, maybe he’s been unknowingly been setting her up for this position this whole time cause of his need of the White Tower’s support.  As for her personally, her character can be a bit dull at times, but I thought her standing up to Elaida while getting beaten mercilessly was a pretty strong moment for her.  Her actions in the Tower each made logical sense to me at the time, and she was pretty badass fighting the Seanchan.  Sorry, I’m just not seeing the hate.

Verin’s death made me sad, cause I think she was the only (actual) Aes Sedai character I actually liked.  I have considered writing something to that effect several times before, but it never felt like the right time to explain why Verin was the only Aes Sedai I really cared for, but I guess I’m out of opportunities now.  I preferred her as Rand’s Aes Sedai guide to Moiraine in the Great Hunt, but she really won me over when she decided to stay and help Perrin defend the Two Rivers from the trolloc invasion. She’s been a consistently interesting character, and while she had that frustrating Aes Sedai mysteriousness to her sometimes, she actually tried to cover it up by acting distracted.  She was working on something behind the scenes, and now we finally realize what: she had infiltrated the Black Ajah, at great risk and cost.  To infiltrate the Black Ajah just to study how they work, now that requires a level of balls that very few characters in this series match.  Now she’s gone, but what she’s started with the books she gave Egwene is not over.  And then there’s that note she gave Mat, which I am sure he will have to read.  I am quite curious what she started there.

Oh, Tuon.  I was just starting to like your character.  But you’re so damn unreasonable.  And not in a quirky way, like some of the other characters. In a dangerous, you might be endangering the world kind of way.

Rand: World’s in danger.  Last Battle at any moment.  Can we stop killing each other for just a minute?
Tuon: LOL, nope.

I knew Masema was going to get his eventually, since he had made himself unredeemable by getting Aram killed, but it came much quicker and more unexpectedly than I expected.  And by Faile of all people.  Hardly seems fitting.

Gawyn abandoned the Younglings not long before the whole broken tower thing came to an end.  I’m not sure if his presence with the rebels made much of a difference in the end, besides a few more dead Seanchan in the assault, but he’s going to have some awkward explaining to do when the Younglings meet him again now that the whole Tower is one happy family.  At the moment, he can’t seem to think three steps away from Egwene, though.

“A bully is a bully, whether she uses the strength of her arm or other means.”  Damn, Tam!  Way to bring Cadsuane down a couple notches.

“I lost your sword.”  And by that, I mean I shoved it into a Forsaken so hard it melted.

Hey, Hurin!  We haven’t heard from you since like…the very beginning of Book 3?  How you been?  Sorry about you showing up just in time to meet Rand at his worst.  Stay strong, our friendly sniffer.

The number of the Forsaken are wearing thin.  I’m wondering if any of them are going to make it to the Last Battle at this point.  Then again, someone said that the Last Battle won’t be fought the way Rand expects it, so maybe they will no longer be necessary by that point.

I’m going to have plenty of time to read over the holiday, but probably not enough time to sit and collect my thought and actually write one of these, so this is likely my last post until after New Year’s.  So Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year’s, and so on, and so forth.

And Nygmus, if you’re reading this, I hope your recovery has gone well and you are back to your full self.

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