"The Gathering Storm" by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, Tor, $29.99
For fans of the ongoing fantasy epic series "The Wheel of Time," started by Robert Jordan back in 1990, the release of the 12th book of the series was a momentous occasion. So momentous, in fact, that "The Gathering Storm" debuted atop The New York Times best-sellers list.
This volume, however, encountered another twist in 2007 when Jordan died. With the author unable to write the piece, the duty fell to Lincoln native Brandon Sanderson ("Mistborn Trilogy"), at the request of Jordan's widow and editor, Harriet McDougal.
The series takes place in a world on the precipice of conflict - the previous books had paved the way toward the "Last Battle" - and all signs point toward the battle happening soon.
"The Gathering Storm" continues the story Jordan carefully laid out and successfully bridges gaps that pave the way toward a full, final and satisfying end.
The real question for readers, however, is whether Sanderson is successful in keeping with Jordan's style. It is nearly impossible for one author to write in the style of another, and this is obvious with "The Gathering Storm."
Throughout the story, Sanderson's voice comes through in certain ways that Jordan's would not have - yet obviously the book isn't completely his. Sanderson worked on the book using the many notes he received from Jordan's widow.
The notes included some scenes that were fully written out, some suggestions and some bulleted ideas that were to be expanded into multiple chapters. With all that in mind, the book is more than just successful, it is superb.
Sanderson, a fan of the series before he came onboard, was able to write the ultimate fan fiction. In this case, his contribution found print and furthered the storyline of a successful series.
This book flows at breakneck speed and is hard to put down once you get into it. With action scenes coming quickly and having lasting results, the book keeps the reader on the edge of his seat, waiting to see what will come next.
By the end of the story, I had a warm, satisfied feeling about what I had just read. After letting the book sink in, I began to speculate about what might come next and started to theorize about what certain scenes, images and allusions truly meant.
Obviously, someone who has not started the series cannot jump into this book and be able to keep up with the plot line - such is the way of the world of epic fantasy. Instead, I recommend new readers to the series start from the beginning - either the prequel "A New Spring" or with the series-beginning "Eye of the World" - and be prepared for a gripping, epic tale of love, conflict, redemption and humanity. For those who have read the series but need more information, which is understandable, there are resources online, such as www.theoryland.com and wot.wikia.com.
Overall, this book fully prepares readers for the final two volumes of the series and helps keep their vested interest in cheering these heroes toward that "Last Battle."
Reach Michael Mason-D'Croz at firstname.lastname@example.org.