The Last Battle looms as seen in the shape of a “gathering storm.” The twelfth installment of Robert Jordan’s epic The Wheel of Time series marked not only the beginning of Act Three, but of Brandon Sanderson’s involvement to help finish the series after Jordan’s untimely death in 2007. The Gathering Storm is an appropriate title not only for the foreshadowing to the series’ upcoming climatic battle nor the seemingly permanent overcast sky mentioned repeated throughout, but it describes the story arcs of the two main protagonists of the book: Rand al’Thor and Egwene al’Vere. Rand and Egwene both face a massive conflict unique to each of them, for Rand it is an internal struggle of being the Dragon Reborn while for Egwene the problem is more external and political as she attempts to reunite the Aes Sedai.
Both Rand and Egwene’s story arcs began in previous installments, but in The Gathering Storm their problems come to ahead as the world races towards the prophesied Last Battle. In-between chapter focusing on Rand and Egwene from their own POV, are other important characters who add to primary story arcs: Nynaeve, Min, and Cadsuane for Rand; Gawyn and Siuan for Egwene. Both Mat and Perrin do appear, but of the two only Mat’s is given good detail while the reader is left wanting about what is happening with Perrin based on the visions of him from Rand’s POV.
The only complaint about The Gathering Storm is my last point above, in which events for Mat and Perrin are frustratingly hinted at but left the reader wanting to know what’s going on with them. But considering that is the only complaint I have after a nearly 1100 page book, it speaks volumes about how well this book was written. This of course brings up if there seems to be any difficulty with writing style of Brandon Sanderson compared to the earlier books in the series. To this I have to say, “NO, at least I didn’t see any.” I found The Gathering Storm a really easy read and enjoyable, building upon my experience with Knife of Dreams (the last complete book Jordan wrote). Of the complaints I’ve seen about Sanderson word usage or how Mat seems different, I did not see it in this book.
Overall, The Gathering Storm is an excellent addition to The Wheel of Time series and an amazing way for Sanderson to start off his completing of this epic series. I’m giving this book 5 stars only because I can’t give 4 1/2 as I believe the tad frustrating visions of Mat and Perrin take a little away from this book. Either way, The Gathering Storm reminds one of the quality of earlier in the series and is a must read for WoT fans.