In this entry, I officially begin Brandon Sanderson's first contribution to The Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm, in which a dangerous storm rises, news rides for Ebou Dar, war and destruction loom over Arad Doman, and Masema meets an unexpected demise.
In the Borderlands, Renald Fanwar, a farmer, watches a bizarre dark storm pass. The blacksmith, Thulin, passes in a loaded wagon with his wife and daughter, leaving everything to head north, as they presume an army will require a smith. Renald decides to follow with his wife. He begins working his two best scythes into polearms. The storm approaches.
Falendre, one of the surviving sul’dam, was Traveled to the road outside of Ebou Dar with the others following the ‘negotiation’. Rand orders her to deliver a message to the Daughter of the Nine Moons, stating he still desires a meeting. He will stabilize Arad Doman meanwhile.
Tylee rides with her army towards Ebou Dar. She is still impressed by Perrin’s successful plan. The soldiers have been sighting ghosts, and rations have turned to dust. Tylee secretly disagrees with the Seanchan’s current purpose. Mishima is suddenly killed by an arrow, and Trollocs attack.
Graendal is summoned from her palace to a meeting, presumably with Moridin. She Travels to a black fortress deep in the Blight. Demandred and Mesaana are also present. Moghedien and Cyndane have been occupied attempting to kill Mat and Perrin, while Moridin is gathering forces for the Last Battle. He enters the meeting room, and refuses to liberate Semirhage, as Demandred and Mesaana demand. Graendal wonders if Demandred is amongst the Borderlanders. Moridin believes there is still some use for Semirhage in her current position. Mesaana believes she will break the White Tower, and Demandred is confident in his own rule. Moridin dimisses them, and then praises Graendal, ordering her to prevent Rand from restoring Arad Doman by bringing him frustration and anguish.
Rodel Ituralde prepares to face a tremendous army of Seanchan outsie the city of Darluna. His soldiers are dressed as farmers to fool the Seanchan. The invading army falls into the trap, and Ituralde attacks.
Masema and his remaining followers, under 100, flee the region of Malden, convinced Perrin is Shadowspawn. Rand appeared to Masema in a vision, ordering him to kill Perrin. Aram failed in this regard. Masema plans to rebuild. However, Faile and her followers wait in a clearing and the bowmen fire. Masema is wounded, and then stabbed in the heart by Faile herself, who doesn’t intend Perrin to find out.
What an interesting experience, reading the same series written by a different author. I’m not going to really judge Sanderson’s skill at writing Robert Jordan’s world until the end of the novel, but I’ll comment on it as I read. So far, I’ve observed differences. Sometimes quite noticeable. Of course, it’s difficult to determine how much was written by Jordan, and how much Sanderson changed depending on how thorough Jordan’s notes were. Having never read Sanderson’s writing before, however, I find it rather impressive how much this prologue read like a WoT novel. It’s not perfect, of course, but I’m certain it could’ve been far more jarring. Most of the time, I almost forgot I was reading a different author. Some peculiar word choices here, some less subtle phrasing there reminded me Sanderson was hardly Jordan, but so far, I commend him while noticing the differences and understanding many were simply unavoidable. I like Sanderson’s writing, even if the prose isn’t nearly as impressive as Jordan’s, as it gets the job done and in many ways resembles Jordan’s style without parodying it, which is crucial. It’s quite obvious Sanderson was a fan of the series, and was attempting to do this world justice in writing it.
So, let’s talk about the prologue itself! It was considerably shorter than most prologues, which I suppose is a relief. While 50 pages don’t seem that short, KoD’s prologue was twice that, and had considerably smaller font. Really, the font in my edition is tremendous in comparison to most WoT books, which is why it’s around 1100 pages while being quite a bit shorter in word count to KoD. Anyway, a pretty exciting opener to what I hope will be an exhilarating book and an interesting experience, reading a different author.
The first segment was purely symbolic, establishing the titular storm overwhelming Randland, foreshadowing what I expect to be the chaotic events that comprise TGS. As this book is really part one of the finale, Sanderson definitely imparted well the sensation that Tarmon Gai’don is nigh.
The second segment was brief as well, picking up immediately after the disastrous negotiation. All I have to comment is that it’s again intriguing to view Rand from an exterior perspective. How different the whole scene reads from the perspective of the sul’dam!
I honestly didn’t expect to revisit Tylee, or at least this quickly. I suppose it would make sense that she would return, perhaps to Tuon’s storyline, as she’s returning to Ebou Dar, presumably to become Empress. However, I originally thought Tylee’s arc was concluded with KoD, so I’m glad to revisit her, as she’s an entertaining character. And I certainly didn’t expect a Trolloc attack! They’re returning to Randland at last after several novels absence, prior to KoD. I hope Tylee made it alright…
The bulk of this prologue was dedicated to one of my favorite parts of WoT, Forsaken plotting. And as the focus is shifting to Arad Doman, it makes sense we saw it from Graendal’s perspective. Semirhage’s ploy was disastrous, and that puts Demandred and Mesaana in a clearly negative position. It makes sense that Moridin wouldn’t want to rescue Semirhage, and instead reward Graendal where so many of the other Forsaken have blundered. Graendal indeed is in the perfect positon to reap chaos on Rand, as I’m not sure if he’s even aware of her position in Arad Doman. Graendal has always operated behind-the-scenes, even earlier in the series, refusing to put her life on the line in her allegiances with Lanfear, Rahvin, and later Sammael. Now Rand’s targeting her domain, and I imagine we’ll see Graendal in action at last! I still maintain that Mazrim Taim is the best manipulator the Shadow has, but Moridin and Shaidar Haran have done excellent jobs reining the Forsaken in, and Graendal is quite the manipulator herself. This will be interesting indeed. As for Demandred, I never thought of him being amongst the Borderlanders, as most other nations and establishments have had Forsaken meddling within. It might explain their recent behavior. Yet Graendal’s suspicions probably lead it to be a red herring. We’ll see, eventually.
Not too much to comment on Rodel Ituralde, except that I highly anticipate his meeting Rand! He’s no longer alone in defending Arad Doman! It’ll also mark yet another Great Captain of Randland joining forces with our heroes.
Finally, there’s Masema. I’m rather disappointed with his sudden demise, as it was rather random. I’ve always expected Masema to, well, do something, ever since his introduction as an antagonist. He’s had plenty of potential in the last few books, he’s been built up as quite the antagonist, as the ultimate zealot, and yet he’s ultimately just plotted behind Perrin’s back and caused very little else harm to the protagonists. Well, I wouldn’t say little harm, as his Dragonsworn wrought havoc back in the earlier novels, yet, as with antagonists like Sevanna and Suroth, I eagerly waited for them to strike against the heroes at large and accomplish something formidable, making use of the potential in their characters, but I feel they were defeated before they could accomplish much. Sevanna certainly proved a pain in Perrin’s side, but did she ever get close to her ultimate plans to control Rand? Did Suroth do much of anything in the last few novels? Did Masema?
If his entire arc culminated in sending Aram to kill Perrin… While I enjoyed the Aram turn, I don’t think it was enough to…justify Masema’s existence. I would’ve loved to see him meet Rand at last, if anything. However, the scene was written well, and while I would’ve preferred that Faile killed Sevanna (now that would have been poignant), I liked her taking action nonetheless. And this isn’t the first time a prologue has been used to dispose of a smaller villain before they could accomplish much. Eamon Valda’s arc was set up back in ACoS, and I eagerly anticipated trouble from him, but he completely vanished only to die in KoD, and I liked that scene well enough, despite everything.
And I suppose that’s the prologue! Time to jump into TGS itself…