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Book 12 Chapters 1-6




In this entry of The Gathering Storm, Rand and his forces prepare to stabilize chaotic Arad Doman, Egwene makes significant progress in her secret war, Aviendha is peculiarly punished, Gawyn starts to have doubts in his allegiances, and Rodel Ituralde has a pyrrhic victory against the Seanchan.


Chapter 1: Tears from Steel




Rand watches from a manor house in eastern Arad Doman, his eyes recovering. Bashere’s army is camped upon the green. Rand received an unusual sword recently unearthed. Aviendha is approaching with Rhuarc. He ponders the presence of Graendal, and intends to unite south and west, north and east, by stabilizing Arad Doman and making peace with the Seanchan. Rand refuses to allow Cadsuane to torture Semirhage during the interrogation. They have thus learned nothing. Rand shouts aloud at Lews Therin and he realizes he is losing control.




I’m still getting accustomed to Sanderson’s writing style. It isn’t all that noticeable, which is commendable, as sometimes I forget there’s a different writer behind the helm. But the prose is different. There is less detailed description of locations and clothing, but perhaps a little more introspect and summarization. One of the complaints I’ve heard leveled against Sanderson is that he lacks subtlety in writing characters, and I can somewhat understand that. In reacquainting the reader with Rand and his situation, there’s not only a lot of summary that Jordan wouldn’t have included, but Sanderson also spells things out in Rand’s thoughts and actions that Jordan would’ve showed rather than told. It’s not a tremendous problem, though. Outside of this difference and the fact that sometimes Sanderson uses some questionable words for the setting and some not entirely fitting dialogue, he, at least in the case of Rand, seems to understand the character and the setting, and can write it rather convincingly. I’ve definitely been enjoying the book so far.


As for what occurred in this chapter? Not all that much, I have a feeling Sanderson will spend some time reintroducing the characters and plotlines before really making progress. There’s certainly a lot for Rand to recover from, considering what happened in KoD. And there’s a lot he’s marching into! The situation in Arad Doman, a locale the series has largely ignored up until now, seems very complicated. For some reason, I assumed the major threat would be the Seanchan, but this chapter reminded me Rand was obviously sueing for peace and therefore wouldn’t be fighting alongside Rodel Ituralde to defeat the Seanchan. But certaintly Rand won’t allow them to invade Arad Doman? I presume everything will be clarified in the negotiation. The real threat for Rand is the chaos tearing apart Arad Doman, thanks to Graendal. And Rand doesn’t even know for certain that Graendal is in the kingdom! Judging from the prologue, I feel she’ll make her presence known soon, one way or another. Her method of sowing chaos in the nation in the last few books has proven quite effective, and I’m not sure how Rand hopes to stabilize and rescue an entire kingdom (one at war with the Seanchan, no less) with just an army of Aiel and Saldaeans.


On the state of Rand himself, Sanderson writes quite clearly but adeptly that his descent already established in KoD (when he forced himself to shrug off the loss of his hand as if it were nothing) is still very much under way in TGS. Rand’s grapple with madness and his overwhelming responsibility has been perhaps my favorite part of the series, evident in the last few books, and the situation is only worsening. It’s incredible how he (and the narrative) treat the loss of his hand. Rand’s certainly no Jaime Lannister, as I can see this injury changes absolutely nothing in him. But I suppose one with Rand’s incredible magical powers really wouldn’t need a hand that badly. Yet it was but another setback for him, another instance of being betrayed and deceived. Will he trust anybody now? And despite all of this, Rand still clings to a refusal to harm women no matter the circumstance. This was quite prominent earlier in the series, and I can see it’s returning to haunt Rand. While I appreciate, given his state of mind, that he’s established a moral event horizon of sorts, this will only lead to disaster. It’s Semirhage, perhaps the nastiest of the Forsaken, and Rand refuses to harm her. How is Cadsuane supposed to get anything out of the most notorious torturer to ever live with just talk?


And what’s with Rand’s new sword?


Chapter 2: The Nature of Pain




Egwene improves in embracing the pain of her punishments. She is escorted to attend Elaida, and Egwene attempts to convince them of how Elaida has harmed the Tower. Alviarin is late for her own penance. Egwene decides to confront Elaida with silence. Meidani is present when she arrives at Elaida’s quarters. As the meal proceeds, Elaida refuses to consider the Seanchan a threat and considers a fourth Oath requiring obedience to the Amyrlin. Egwene drops the soup bowl in irritation. As Meidani helps her clean the mess, Egwene orders her to send for her in the future. Upon leaving, Egwene decides to merely unite the conflicted Tower and allow Elaida to destroy herself. She finally embraces pain, understanding its insignificance.




And now we’re jumping into Egwene’s storyline! It’s interesting to see Sanderson adapt to this completely separate plotline. The Rand segments so far read very naturally, almost as if it were Jordan (for all I know, large parts of it could’ve been), while this chapter… It wasn’t different in a bad way, but I could definitely notice the differences between authors. I like what Sanderson is doing with this Tower storyline. Again, I’m not sure how much of the writing, structuring, and even plotting is Jordan. There’s just no way to tell. I’m just observing any noticeable differences as I go.


I’ve been waiting for an encounter between Elaida and Egwene since KoD, as these two rival Amyrlins haven’t been together since…TDR? Well, a really long time! I noticed Elaida starting to lose, well, her mind in KoD, and her megalomania is certainly present in this chapter. It’s incredible the sisters still follow her! And I agree with Egwene’s sentiment, that Elaida will likely self-destruct. Although Alviarin isn’t around to hasten the process, Elaida has done very well in losing control. Seriously, a fourth Oath? That’s not going to fly well with any of the sisters, or so I hope.


While I’m excited to see Elaida deteriorate further and for Egwene to conspire with this Meidani, this chapter most prominently displayed the recent development in Egwene’s character. Sanderson, again, spelled out quite a bit more than I imagine Jordan would’ve, with Egwene’s ruminations and changes in this chapter displayed quite clearly, but I appreciate the changes nonetheless. While I’m more emotionally invested in Rand’s storyline, I have a considerable respect for Egwene’s journey. I always have, really, overcoming manipulators at every turn, but it’s heightened considerably with Egwene’s newfound imprisonment. Facing such odds, such incredible circumstances to continue her brilliant manipulations and start garnering symbolic supporter in the Tower while spreading the truth about Elaida’s leadership to her captors… Egwene’s thoughts regarding pain were illuminating, but more so her perspective on Elaida. I really had no idea how she should’ve best handled such a precarious situation. When Egwene’s strength in this war pulls entirely from an exact display of symbolic defiance, it makes dealing with someone of such authority as Elaida very difficult! It seems Egwene made the right decision.


Chapter 3: The Ways of Honor




Aviendha and other Aiel scout for Domani refugees. Rhuarc and Dobraine successfully secured Bandar Eban. Rhuarc remains cautious with the refugees. Aviendha is not yet a Wise One, and the others refuse to teach her, instead punishing her without reason. They near Rand’s manor and meet with two hundred other Aiel. Amys questions Aviendha on her opinion of the Aiel’s task, and Rand. Amys agrees with her, and then severely punishes her with useless labor.




One of the minor things that managed to surprise me in KoD was that Aviendha was actually leaving Elayne’s side to aid Rand and his forces in Arad Doman. Aviendha just felt so ingrained to Elayne’s successional struggle, but I’m actually quite content with this change, as Aviendha was just doing nothing for the last few books. I really enjoyed her interactions with Rand in TFoH and LoC, and was disappointed when she did little in the following books. Aside from Rand’s visit to Caemlyn in WH, Aviendha hasn’t seen him since LoC! So I’m eagerly awaiting their reunion, and it’s interesting to see, from Aviendha’s perspective (as I’ve been accustomed to seeing her character from Elayne’s or, earlier, Rand’s), her interacting with the Aiel again, and training to become a Wise One. There’s a lot of potential in Aviendha’s presence in Arad Doman.


But I must confess, as it seems I’m missing something obvious here, I’m as clueless as Aviendha as to why she’s being arbitrarily punished by the Wise Ones. I know that Aviendha hasn’t been training much at all in the last few books, hanging with Elayne, and I’m not entirely versed with ji’e’toh, but I cannot fathom why Aviendha’s been punished with demeaning, pointless, and disproportionate punishments. She answered Amys’ questions impressively, and then was punished. What’s the correlation? Perhaps it has to do with something I noticed from Egwene’s segments, about the Aes Sedai who was only demoted from her position by Elaida because she accepted it? Maybe the Wise Ones are expecting Aviendha to assert herself more, in becoming a Wise One? What’s the deal? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.


Chapter 4: Nightfall




Gawyn and fifty other Younglings observe unusual clouds above Dragonmount, scouting Gareth Bryne’s soldiers in a small village. Elaida ordered the Younglings to harass Bryne’s men. Gawyn is reluctant to face his former mentor. He starts to have second thoughts following Elaida so devoutly. Gawyn suspects Elaida merely wishes to rid herself of the Younglings.




This was a very short chapter, so there isn’t too much to comment on beyond Gawyn’s character. I actually sort of like Sanderson’s blunter, less subtle writing style, even concerning characterization, as it allows me to more openly discuss characters. Jordan’s still obviously the superior writer and I prefer his method of characterization, but I’m certain a ton went over my head. I cannot wait for an eventual reread, to really study some of these characters more and pick up all the details Jordan subtly slipped by me.


But on the subject of Gawyn, he, as a character, hasn’t done much of anything since LoC. We visited him briefly in ACoS and CoT, to establish he was perplexingly loyal to Elaida, but since he hasn’t contributed anything to the narrative in six books, I haven’t thought much of him. But with the White Tower conflict gradually coming to a close, it makes sense there needs to be some closure on Gawyn’s character, just as there needed some progress in Galad’s in KoD after being completely absent since TFoH. Back in LoC, I was determined Gawyn was going to literally attempt to harm Rand because of his unreasonable vendetta, but it’s seemed ever since that Egwene made an impression, and I ultimately believe it’ll be Egwene that brings Gawyn finally away from supporting Elaida. Isn’t it obvious, at this point, to him that Elaida does not have his best interests at heart? I can sympathize with Gawyn’s struggle to an extent, but his stubbornness borders on stupidity at times. I like that this chapter establishes he’s starting to have doubts. I mean, Gawyn is fighting against his friends and family for a woman who gained power through an unjust coup and has since attempted to get him killed! And now it’s finally dawning on him, in fighting Bryne, that he’s possibly on the wrong side. Well, I look forward to seeing this struggle resolved later in the book, I like that Sanderson (well, Jordan, considering he planned everything) is bringing ignored characters and elements of the plot back into focus at last.


Chapter 5: A Tale of Blood




Rand crosses the green before his manor, and receives an Asha’man who messages that Darlin’s army in Tear is prepared. Harine and some Sea Folk follow, and Rand complains with the pace of the supply ships, although Harine replies that the Seanchan cause delays. He promises to answer a question if Harine explains how channeling men are treated amongst the Sea Folk, and Harine reveals they are killed in one manner or another. Rand orders her to prevent this behavior as saidin is cleansed. He no longer conflicts with Lews Therin, as he believes LTT will be crucial in resealing the Bore. Rand orders Bashere to summon a meeting between Bael and Rhuarc to secure Arad Doman.


Cadsuane, Merise, and Narishma question Semirhage, to no avail. They ask of Graendal’s plans. Semirhage merely responds with boasts of her creative methods of torture. Cadsuane thinks of how to break Semirhage, and understands physical torture would be useless regardless.




I’ve noticed the very arrangement of chapters in this book is quite different than the way Jordan always did it. Chapters weren’t always arranged strictly into blocks by character (the last few book were 4 or 5 Mat, then 4 or 5 Elayne, etc.), but chapters were nonetheless generally grouped together by perspective. Sanderson is clearly opting for the GRRM method, in which every new chapter has a different perspective and often entire subplot than the last. I’ve been used to seeing essentially no Rand chapters for a good part of a book before having an entire string of them. But it seems Rand’s chapters, and those related to him, will be interspersed throughout the novel. I have no real preference for the structure, either way. It was just an observation.


There isn’t too much to say about this chapter, though. The Sea Folk are annoying, as usual, but despite that, I admit Rand wasn’t being entirely fair to Harine. His descent into detrimental steeliness, so to speak, remains evident and I think Sanderson has done an excellent job characterizing Rand thus far. However, I certainly don’t disagree with Rand’s decision on the Sea Folk treatment of male channelers! I know mistreatment of male channelers has been worldwide for quite some time, but still. It’s interesting, how Jordan (and now Sanderson) has treated the cleansing of saidin since WH. I never expected there to be confusion over the taint being removed, but now it makes sense that, after thousands of years of being convinced that all male channelers were irrevocably tainted into madness, the world isn’t quite willing to accept with certainty that the taint has suddenly been removed. So it’s an interesting dilemma.


As for Semirhage’s interrogation, Cadsuane’s reasoning is definitely sound. Although Rand’s prohibition on physical torture remains irritating, I understand that it would probably be useless on Semirhage in any matter. But what to do, then? I don’t think Semirhage can be easily manipulated or broken mentally either. Hmm.


Chapter 6: When Iron Melts




Ituralde walks through the battlefield outside of Darluna, the battle successful, although with high casualties. He finds General Turan near death, who is impressed but notes that Ituralde’s strategies will not work again. Ituralde acknowledges he will eventually lose, but has no choice but to continue fighting. He gives Turan a quick death.


Egwene speaks with Leane in her cell. As she starts to leave, the cell starts to melt and Leane begins sinking. The two sisters guarding her eventually rescue Leane. Egwene encourages her to remain strong.


Egwene returns to the novice quarters but instead finds herself in the Brown Ajah’s quarters. She realizes the rooms somehow switched places, the Dark One’s touch worsening.




Another short chapter, a definite change in comparison to Jordan’s trend to write almost ridiculously large chapters in the last few books. Rodel Ituralde remains awesome, and I definitely liked Turan’s recognition of his impressive strategy (seriously, how’d he pull that kind of impressive feint off). But more depressing is the also rather accurate fact that Ituralde’s sort of outnumbered. The Seanchan are a pretty impressive military force (well, very impressive, considering how many kingdoms they’ve conquered in so short a time), and skillful at adapting to a military strategy, no matter its impressiveness. So I’m not sure how Ituralde will get out of this one…


The bubble of evil (or Dark One interference, or whatever) was definitely alarming, as they usually are. For the most part, I’ve certainly enjoyed this new element in the last few books. It was only really the ghosts in CoT that irritated me, the rest of these impossible occurrences are a very ominous reminder of Tarmon Gai’don.



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I'll give you a small tip on Rand's new sword. It won't ever be explained directly, but it is possible to puzzle out.

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