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The Gathering Storm audio book by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

01/12/2009. Contributed by Rod MacDonald

Buy The Gathering Storm (The Wheel Of Time book 12) audio book in the USA - or Buy The Gathering Storm (The Wheel Of Time book 12) audio book in the UK

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pub: Macmillan Audio. 26 CDS 34.5 hours. Price: $69.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59397-767-2). Read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading.

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'The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come to pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.'

Prophetic words indeed from a colossus of fantasy fiction! This is the beginning of the end for 'The Wheel Of Time, the fantasy series by Robert Jordan which has already amassed 11 volumes and millions of words. Sadly, the author died before he completed the final book but with notes and guidance from Robert Jordan's widow and editor, Brandon Sanderson took up the torch to finish the race. Nonetheless, this isn't exactly the end but it is perhaps the beginning of the end.

The final volume entitled, 'A Memory Of Light', turned out to be 750,000 words in length which was just physically too much for any single book. Can you imagine a paperback novel of this length or an audio book containing 80 discs? The decision was made to split it into three and here we have the first part of the trilogy, The Gathering Storm. Indeed, even this is huge: 26 discs and over 34 hours is a lot of listening time! It's entertainment which will keep you out of trouble for a couple of weeks or more!

Now, having listened to a previous Macmillan audio book by Robert Jordan in the series, it must be said that the writing style of Brandon Sanderson is slightly different but it was never his intention to write a clone novel. What he has done is keep to the script and order of 'The Wheel Of Time', at the same time maintaining the uniqueness and character of the series. Brandon Sanderson seems to be an eloquent and versatile young man and judging by his literary output, he is certainly more than capable of making a great job out of this.

Devoted readers of 'The Wheel Of Time' will feel great loyalty to Robert Jordan, justly so, and will feel cheated by his early demise. Of course, nobody could take his place but it would have been a great crime to leave the series unfinished. I'm sure the author would have wished for events to take place exactly as they have. Brandon Sanderson is as good a person as you could find to achieve this task.

I expect one of the difficulties of writing this novel would be the huge amount of homework required. I believe in the entire series there are 15,000 characters! This also applies if you are a new listener or reader. Having only read one of the novels before, I found the task of listening to this audio book rather daunting. Nevertheless, I found it was possible to follow matters with a bit of diligence. While it is slightly difficult to retrace steps in an audio book (re-read names and events) the quality of the narration was such the listener is easily carried through.

This is what makes the difference! If you have good narrators it's much easier to get a better understanding of what is happening in the story. Michael Kramer and Kate Reading are expert narrators and you can't fault anything in the delivery of this book.

This is basically a story of two characters, Rand al'Thor and Egwene, despite the multitude of other characters and plots, and also the galloping rush towards a final conclusion which, of course, doesn't materialise in this book. You'll have to wait for the next two volumes.

Rand has a difficult task in uniting disparate factions to the purpose of fighting the final battle with the invading Seanchan. This is not without cost because his own character becomes affected by the attempt. Somehow, he is darker and more menacing. Does he become like the people he is trying to defeat?

Meanwhile, Egwene al'Vere is a captive and cannot do much about her situation in the White Tower. However, by one method or another, she has to take control of the Aes Sedai in order to have any chance of combating the Seanchan. Maybe I'm totally wrong but it's my opinion that the Seanchan, this mysterious and terrible race that is wrecking havoc on the world, is allegorical for the human race itself . Maybe this is the Shadow that will overcome our own world, namely ourselves and our barbaric ways.

This is indeed an entertaining audio book. One of the problems of purchasing this is that you may get hooked. Becoming a 'Wheel Of Time' addict will make you want to purchase all the rest in the series, costing an absolute fortune in time and money. In saying that and listening to this volume, it should be possible to stick to the last three in the series without having knowledge of all the rest that has gone before. Whatever one chooses, in terms of fantasy novels this probably represents good value for money.

Rod MacDonald
November 2009

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