The OF Blog: I just finished reading The Gathering Storm and some vague impressions

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I just finished reading The Gathering Storm and some vague impressions

Going to be writing a formal review of this on the 27th that will be quite a bit more substantive than this, with quite a bit of discussion of thematic elements, characterization issues, plot development, how well Brandon Sanderson managed to integrate his writing style with the WoT story, and so forth.  I think it'll be an interesting review, but sadly, some will only want to know things that I won't reveal until after the 27th, since I did agree to not give out spoilers until after the release date.

However, I will note that my general impressions differ in several regards from those seen over here at Pat's blog, for example.  Pat, it seems (based on general impressions of having read several dozen of his reviews over the past four years) prefers more plot-based development.  I, on the other hand, prefer to focus on thematic development and prose.  Therefore, there have been several times that he and I have differed quite a bit in our interpretations of stories.  Figures that this would be the case here.

I will note that there is more of an emphasis on the development of the characters than there is on overt action, although several important plot "prophecies," are fulfilled, some in surprising ways.  There are those who will argue that certain ones of those were not developed fully and in a few cases, I could see that point of view, although I'd suspect it's more a matter of the reader having built up one's own imagination to the point of making most anything that was designed to occur to be a letdown.

It probably helps that I have not been all that huge of a "fan" of the WoT series since the 9th installment. I thought then (and still do, to an extent) that the writing was a bit laborious in places, the pacing was glacial, certain character arcs were not developed well, and so forth.  So when reading over the course of nearly 800 pages not just plots developing in a decent pace, but character traits being developed more concisely and with a greater emphasis (perhaps too great, some might argue) on thematic parallels between various characters.

The Gathering Storm is in many ways, a "dark" novel.  The main characters featured are tested; some prove to be brittle.  I am reminded of the late Robert Jordan's blog entry from several years ago, talking about his experiences in Vietnam and a choice made there.  There are certain parallels between that and what takes place in this novel.  What that situation/choice is will have to be a matter of conjecture until the next week.

Did I enjoy it?  Yes.  It was better, for the reasons I hinted at above, than several of the more recent entries in the novel.  It is not a perfect novel (reasons I'll explore on Tuesday), but it reminded me of the elements of the series that I did enjoy when I began reading it in 1997.  While not likely to be considered for the best 2009 novel that I've read, I do think it is one of the best epic fantasies novels that I've read this year.

But if you want to know anything more specific than this, then read and find out...on October 27.


RobB said...

Interesting thoughts Larry, I look forward to seeing the whole review. I'm two books behind myself, but I think it would be neat to see you do a book-by-book mini-review or some thoughts on the books in the series. Given your very broad reading interests from VanderMeer to Sanderson to Harrison to Bolano to Zafon, I'd be keen to see how you view WOT.

D said...

I'm looking forward to it.

I hope there is less Aes Sedai and much more Chosen and Asha'man than in the previous books.

But we will find out soon.

Larry Nolen said...


I doubt I'll be doing that anytime soon, as I don't have the time/desire to re-read 10 books (did read KoD for the first time a few days ago).


Sorry, but those largely don't happen :(

Paula said...

Your comments give me hope, Larry. Especially since it seems that some of your feelings(love?) from earlier in the series has been rekindled.

I tend to focus on the quality of the characters, so I'm eager to read your feelings on that aspect of the book.

RobB said...

It was worth a try. :)

D said...


:: goes back to reading Twilight fanfic ::

Okay, not really. :P

Larry Nolen said...


*thinks about sending you some of the real Twilight crap in the mail*

Only the best for you, Dunja? :P

dcole78 said...

I just sent people upset over pats ideas over here, as I said there it would be very interesting for you to do a tag review with pat on this or any novel. I expect you would be exact opposites, which makes things odd for me since I generally fall in the middle though I want to have tastes more like yours (that whole I want to be an elite thing...yes I know you don't see yourself that way but lets face it your tastes lean toward what people would classify as that)

bookrazy said...

Just finished the book this morning. It lived up to expectations quite well, and I found that the places where plot resolution was surprisingly quick, it was accompanied by a suitable change in the characters to make the whole thing seem worth it.

I loved the last chapter. And was amazed how optimistic the ending was for the overall dark tone of the book.


Larry Nolen said...

I'm going to be touching upon those character changes on Tuesday, but yes, for the most part my take on the book seems to be similar to yours. And I suspect there'll be at least a year's worth of debates about whether X left before Y happened, no? ;)

bookrazy said...

Oh yes. I'm sure the debate will go on till the next book resolves it, but it isn't a whodunnit, so it may not be so appealing.
Personally... I think X has been built up too much as a character for such a tame end. And the price for Y occurring will be cheapened if X did not leave. It may almost seem justified. Many readers will see it so, and I'm not sure that was what the authors wanted us to take away from the event.

The building of the parallels between Rand and Egwene was to my liking. It held the book together very well.

I wish, though, that the magnitude of the responsibility faced by both was more comparable. That would have strengthened the themes surrounding Egwene, IMO.


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