While perhaps as smooth as it could have been, the transition from Robert Jordan to Brandon Sanderson that occurs in The Gathering Storm is nothing less than jarring. It feels like a new series. Sanderson reintroduces the characters and it feels almost like he doesn’t know them. On the plus side, Rand Al’Thor is already less irritating.
But purely as a piece of genre fiction… well, it’s better. It flows better. I cruised through it faster than some shorter books earlier in the series because it felt like less of a slog. Not were loose ends wrapped up, about one third of the way through, Sanderson began to show the reader he was going to start advancing things significantly. Much more propulsive of a read. And, dare I say it? Yes, I must. Sex is handled better. Women are handled better. He can’t undo some of the irritating lovestruckness of Jordan’s depictions (he wrote badly about love from each side’s point of view), but he can make the women a bit less focused on being all swoony-like and make the men less juvenile when they’re thinking about their love interests (always heterosexual love interests; don’t remember any gay relationships in the series). A somewhat long awaited pairing took place and when it finally happened, it struck me that almost no one in this series has premarital sex (except the main hero, Rand, who actually has a little harem of three lovers). This pairing was between two mature individuals: one a sort of sorceress (Aes Sedai they’re called) who’s possibly a couple of centuries old and the other a grizzled warrior probably in his late fifties or possibly early sixties. They decide to put off marriage until, you know, the apocalypse is resolved in favor of the good guys. And they don’t have sex. Okay, I’m catholic so I sort of respect that but, with the world on the edge of extinction, I think a little premarital hanky panky between two mature adults is not a major sin. Frankly, the additional capacity for sanity that generally accompanies getting laid once in a while can only help things if two people are critical players in the battle to defeat ultimate evil. While there is a touch of grit, this is more romantic, high fantasy than the modern style of Game of Thrones.
There is a sort of denouement at the end, as one would hope for the end of a book. But it’s anti-climatic. The real climax was only sort of decently described battle (if it had been better described, it would have been: a fight between witches, also involving flying dragons – they’re not called dragons, but that’s what they are). The ending however, was Rand laughing and learning to chill out a bit. And, like the cleansing of saidin, it was rushed and didn’t seem like enough had been built up to this moment to make it feel sufficiently cathartic.
Maybe, you think, hey, maybe now he won’t be such a raging a–hole all the time! But we’ve been down this road before, haven’t we? He cleansed the poison from male half of the One Power (magic) two books back (0r maybe three; I lose track, because, seriously, this is book twelve – Churchill’s history of the English speaking peoples didn’t require this many pages) and we all thought that maybe now he’d stop being such a little b—h. But now. He not only didn’t stop being a little b—h, he didn’t even stop vomiting when he used magic.
What I’m saying is, I’ll believe it when I see it. Maybe Sanderson realized how irritating Rand had become and is trying to get this fixed to so it will be more fun to read, but I’m withholding judgement.
I would also like to report that my aunt is now reading my posts about fantasy and sci fi. This is important because ninety percent of my readers are my aunt and my mother.