Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: Egwene's Dreams

By Linda

The article in the Reference Library on Egwene's Dreams has now been updated with information from The Gathering Storm. Quite a bit of new material was added.

I have posted two of the updated dreams below.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

She had dreamed of the Seanchan, too, of women in dresses with lightning bolts woven on their breasts, collaring a long line of women who wore Great Serpent rings, forcing them to call lightning against the White Tower.

- The Dragon Reborn, Questions

The great serpent ring is worn by both Aes Sedai and Accepted. In The Gathering Storm the Seanchan raided the White Tower and captured nearly forty initiates of which more than two dozen were Aes Sedai (The Gathering Storm, Bathed in Light). That’s a good start on their “long line of women”.

The dream is interesting for another reason. Aes Sedai are bound by the Three Oaths not to use the One Power as a weapon unless against Shadowspawn or unless their lives, their Warder's life or that of another sister is in great danger. Thanks to Joline, in Knife of Dreams, the Seanchan learned that if the Aes Sedai damane fears for her life of that of another sister, she can use the One Power as a weapon (see theory).

She [Egwene] was climbing another path along a cliff shrouded in clouds, but this was a broad ledge of smoothly paved white stone, and there were no rocks underfoot. The cliff itself was chalky white and as smooth as if polished. Despite the clouds, the pale stone almost gleamed. She climbed quickly and soon realised that the ledge was spiralling around. The cliff was actually a spire. No sooner did that thought occur than she was standing on the top of it, a flat polished disc walled by mist. Not quite flat though. A small white plinth stood centred in that circle, supporting an oil-lamp made of clear glass. The flame on that lamp burned bright and steady, without flickering. It was white too.

Suddenly a pair of birds flashed out of the mist, two ravens as black as night. Streaking across the spire-top, they struck the lamp and flew on without so much as a pause. The lamp spun and wobbled, dancing around atop the plinth, flinging off droplets of oil. Some of those drops caught fire in midair and vanished. Others fell around the short column, each supporting a tiny flickering white flame. And the lamp continued to wobble on the edge of falling.

Egwene woke in darkness with a jolt. She knew. For the first time, she knew exactly what a dream meant…the Seanchan attacking the White Tower. An attack that would shake the Aes Sedai to their core and threaten the Tower itself. Of course, it was only a possibility. But the events seen in true dreams were more likely than other possibilities.

- Crossroads of Twilight, In The Night

This dream is more detailed, as though the Seanchan attack has become more likely. Certainly, the Seanchan war leaders were studying maps of the Tar Valon area as early as The Path of Daggers.

Egwene does a fair job of interpreting this dream herself. The white cliff with shining walls represents the White Tower and the lamp with the white flame fuelled by oil is the flame of Tar Valon fuelled by the Aes Sedai. The two ravens represent the Seanchan (more ravens would perhaps refer to the Shadow) and they did attack the Tower in The Gathering Storm. A number of Aes Sedai were killed, with perhaps more to come, since four Bloodknives are at large, and nearly forty initiates were collared; these are the drops of oil that catch fire and go out and are lost to the Tower.

Interestingly, the dream also indicates that when Egwene understands what the dream refers to while she is dreaming it the dream skips to the next scene and thus perhaps shows more of the future. This particular dream is one of Egwene’s most detailed and this may be a direct result of her comprehension of its metaphors while she was dreaming them.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: two more articles updated.

By Linda

Two articles were updated with information from The Gathering Storm today:

Forsaken and their Deeds and Plans

More deeds of the Forsaken were added, both historic and recent, and their locations and current plans updated.

Elaida's Embassy To Rand

Three more Aes Sedai were added, one of them Black, and two Warders.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: Min's Viewings

By Linda

The article in the Reference Library on Min's Viewings has now been updated with information from The Gathering Storm. Quite a bit of new material was added.

I have posted two of the additions below; the first is of an old viewing now fulfilled and the second is of a new viewing not yet fulfilled.

Click here to expand the rest of this post


Sheriam’s tilted green eyes fixed immediately on Min’s face. Rays of silver and blue flashed about her fiery hair, and a soft golden light; Min could not say what it meant.

-The Fires of Heaven, Sallie Daera

Fulfilled at Sheriam’s execution:

They'd placed her head on the block and taken it off, just like the others. That scene would always be vivid in Egwene's mind—her former Keeper, lying with her head pressed against the stump, blue dress and fiery red hair suddenly bathed in warm golden light as a thinner section of clouds moved in front of the sun. Then the silvery axe, falling to claim her head.

- The Gathering Storm, The Tower stands

All three colours are there: Sheriam in blue and the silver axe, bathed in golden light. They are positive colours because her death was a positive event, removing a leader of the Black Ajah.


For instance, the black knife that spun around Beldeine's head recently could mean anything.

- The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary

It looks like an assassin’s knife. The knife might be that of a Bloodknife trying to kill her as a marath’damane. Beldeine left Cadsuane’s presence precipitately at the end of The Gathering Storm, due to being rebuked. Perhaps she returns to the Tower, where the Bloodknives are loose and one tries to kill her.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reference Library Updates : Who is a Darkfriend? - link added

By Linda

The article in the Reference Library on
Who is a Darkfriend
has now been updated with information from The Gathering Storm.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

The newly identified Darkfriends are almost all Aes Sedai, apart from Verin’s Warder.

Below is an analysis of Darkfriend deaths:

An End to Darkfriends

Being a Darkfriend is a capital offence, and many have died after being exposed. Few Darkfriends renounce the Dark, even those tempted to usually fear the Shadow’s retribution too much to do so. They could also still expect stiff punishments from those who walk in the Light for their crimes, possibly even execution.

There have been 116 Darkfriend deaths so far in the series:

Killed by accident – Comar, Gode, Madic, Rochaid
Killed in a duel – Cowin Gemallen, Ishamael, Rahvin, Ryne Venamar, Semirhage (though it could be described as self-defence), Toram Riatin
Killed by another Darkfriend – Amico, Carridin, Barthanes, Kadere, Isendre, Ispan, Jarna, Joiya, Osan’gar
Killed by Fain/Mordeth - Changu, Gedwyn, Kisman, Nidao, Torval
Killed by another powerful ‘being’ – Balthamel, Lanfear, Sammael
Ambushed – Asmodean, Be’lal, Graendal?
Killed in a fight/battle – Adden, Asne, Coke, Spar, Vane, Zaired Elbar
Killed in self-defence – Melindhra, Merean
Killed in revenge - Careane
Executed – Elza Penfell, Jen/Torwyn Barshaw, Moria Karentanis, Paitr Conel, Sheriam Byanar, over 50 other Black sisters
Self-destructed by overuse of the Power - Aginor
Repented and sacrificed self – Ingtar, Tomas, Verin

Most of the Darkfriends’ deaths are banal, not “noble”, in keeping with Jordan’s uncompromising stance against evil and refusal to either glorify it or excuse it.

Other Darkfriends have been enslaved. Five known so far:

Galina, Liandrin
Cyndane, Moghedien

Plus an unknown number of Black sisters collared as damane by the Seanchan

Monday, November 23, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: Perrin's Wolfdreams

By Linda

The article in the Reference Library on Perrin's Wolfdreams has now been updated with information from The Gathering Storm. The main addition has been re-posted here under the spoiler tag.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

Mat vanished, and it was Rand. Perrin thought it was Rand. He wore rags and a rough cloak, and a bandage covered his eyes.

-The Shadow Rising, To the Tower of Ghenjei

This vision seems to have connections to Min's viewing in The Eye of the World of Rand with a beggar's staff. It should also be noted that the Fisher figure in Moridin's Sha'rah game is depicted with a blindfold and is an allusion to, or ‘dim memory’ of Rand according to Moridin (The Path of Daggers, Deceptive Appearances).

Brandon Sanderson confirmed on The Gathering Storm book tour that this dream was fulfilled in the latter part of The Gathering Storm when Rand wandered alone in Altara after nearly killing Tam. He stayed with Tinkers outside Ebou Dar, from whom he acquired the ragged cloak and staff:

Last night, he had traded his fine black coat to a Tinker for a common brown cloak, ragged on the bottom and stitched in places. Not a Tinker cloak, just one that a Tinker had sewn up for a man who had never returned to claim it. It made him stand out less, even if it did require him to carry the access key looped to his belt, rather than his deep pocket. The Tinker also gave him a walking staff, which Rand used as he walked

- The Gathering Storm, Just Another Man

The staff shows Rand has begun a pilgrimage, and needs not only spiritual guidance, but support. Exchanging his black coat with the pocket to hold the ter’angreal for a humble cloak symbolises a need to step back from the destructive role of being the Asha’man and from his link to Moridin (death), both of which have tainted him. Rand has seen too much death and dealt too much death. As a result, his access key, the link to almost unlimited power, becomes a more obvious and inconvenient burden now that it can’t be carried close to his chest, hidden against his heart. RJ said that Lews Therin had ‘ultimate power’ in the Age of Legends. Yet while Lews Therin was able to save the world, it was at more than personal cost: the whole world is still paying. How telling that Rand received both the cloak and the staff from a benevolent and completely non-violent people whose ancestors served the Aes Sedai and were referred to as Children of the Dragon.

Trauma, death and his burdens have blinded Rand. Humbling himself was the first step to ‘meeting his toh’ and restoring his honour as an Aiel would, and the shame he felt in Ebou Dar when people innocently showed concern for him while he secretly considered committing genocide underlined this. Finally after an intense spiritual struggle at his birthplace Rand became conscious of his blindness and saw where he had gone astray:

And Rand opened his eyes for the first time in a very long while.

- The Gathering Storm, Veins of Gold

Hopefully he won’t be blind again.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: three more articles updated.

By Linda

Three articles were updated with information from The Gathering Storm today:

Ages of the Characters

Likely ages for eight characters were added, including Captain Chubain, Harine and Hurin.

Animal Symbolism

Most of the entries were for Siuan and Bryne, although there was one for Rand.

Number Symbolism

Three new numbers were added and some others were augmented.

All further information is under the spoiler alert.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

One of the new numbers is Twenty-two:

It was on the twenty-second level of the White Tower that Egwene fought the Seanchan and drove them away. Twenty two is twice eleven, a double helping of excess, sin, danger, conflict and rebellion (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Quite apt really, considering Egwene’s role in The Gathering Storm and the savagery of the Seanchan raid she repelled.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: Dice Games

By Linda

The Dice Games article has been updated with information from The Gathering Storm about two new dice games, both requiring two dice. They are rather fun additions. I have posted one of them here under the spoiler tag.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

Cat’s Paw, Third Gem (Ebou Dar), Feathers Aloft (Cairhien)

Two dice are used for this game, with one person throwing them and everyone else betting on his tosses. The stakes are usually equal, but Mat waived that requirement:

"I ... don't know if we can match that," said a man with a short black beard. "M'lord," he added belatedly.
"My gold against your silver," Mat said lightly.

- The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding

Dice are thrown until a winning or losing throw is made. The winner takes all the stakes and new stakes are made for the next round. A throw of a one and a two is an instant loss. A pair of fours is “an outright-winning throw” (The Gathering Storm, The Tipsy Gelding).

The game strongly resembles Barbudi, a popular gambling game for two (although obviously onlookers can make bets among themselves) using two dice. (In Mat’s game it was him versus the clients of the inn, seeing as their pooled resources couldn’t match his own.)

In Barbudi both players put equal stakes in the centre and then one player throws both dice. If the dice show 6-6, 5-6, 5-5 or 4-4, the player wins the stakes outright. If the dice show 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, or 3-3, the player loses and the other player takes the stakes. Any other combination rolled is indeterminate and the other player then throws the dice. The same criteria are used to determine if that throw wins, loses or is indeterminate. The two players continue rolling in this way until there is a winning or a losing throw. The winner then takes both players’ stakes. Stakes are ventured again for the next round.

The feature of the game is that:

both players have equal prospects to succeed, irrespective of which player takes the first throw.

- Reiner Knizia, Dice Games Properly Explained

In this case, seemingly equal chance to win. Mat chose a game that would normally be fair, and then exerted his luck to lose (his first toss was a 1-2, which lost, just as it would in Barbudi) until the stakes were very high, and then win (with a pair of fours, which is also a win in Barbudi). Any of the betters could have pulled out, but their greed kept them playing. Mat was relying on that and used them as ‘cat’s paws’ (hence the name of the game) to win what they wouldn’t sell: sufficient quantities of the goods he needed. Mat the ‘shady’ character pays the extra price of being attacked by a town of ‘shades,’ in this case not entirely disembodied ones. And Mat is King of the Dead (see Mat essay) as well as a shady character. Or was Mat the cat’s paw of the Pattern? Mat has complained about being a tool of the Pattern often enough.

The scene ends with Mat claiming that he won the food and drink fairly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: Herbs

By Linda

The herbs article in the Reference Library has now been updated with information from The Gathering Storm on: acem, feverbane, forkroot and healall. Two new herbs, asping rot and tarchrot leaf were added.

The entry for asping rot is also posted here under the spoiler tag.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

Asping Rot

Asping rot is a potent poison – a drop can kill according to Egwene – and it kills quickly and peacefully within an hour of ingestion in a (rather bitter-tasting) tea. Verin drank the tea in sips to kill herself slowly enough that she could pass on her research on the Shadow to Egwene and remain coherent while she did so. The poison appears to have strong narcotic or sedative properties, since she soon began to yawn and then gently lost consciousness and died (The Gathering Storm, A Visit from Verin Sedai).

While the word ‘rot’ implies a fungal poison – and many fungi certainly are poisonous – most fungi cause very painful deaths. The effect of asping rot is similar to that of an overdose of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), which incidentally is not absorbed quickly by the stomach, but it doesn’t have the lethal potency of asping rot and usually would require more than a drop to kill.

Asping alludes to asp, the venomous snake said to be used in Ancient Egypt for executing criminals who were thought to deserve a kinder death than that from regular executions. Cleopatra was said by Plutarch to have tested various poisons (on others, naturally – rank has its privileges!) and thought that the asp’s venom, which made the victim sleepy and weak, yet without pain, was the least terrible way to die. This is the death she chose herself when she suicided. Asping rot has a very similar physical effect although it is a plant, not snake venom.

The Calabar bean (Physostigma venenosum) or Ordeal bean also has interesting parallels with asping rot. It is very poisonous and the ground beans infused in water were used in West Africa as an ordeal to prove innocence or guilt:

If the prisoner vomits within half an hour he is accounted innocent, but if he succumbs he is found guilty.

- Maude Grieve, A Modern Herbal

It generally kills within an hour.

The explanation for the survival of the innocent is that they trustingly drank the poison straight down and their body reacted to the rapid dose with intense vomiting and diarrhoea, thus purging the poison from their system before it was absorbed. The guilt sipped their poison and this slower dose was absorbed through the gastro-intestinal tract without being violently ejected as a large dose would be and they died of cardiac arrest (Malcolm Stuart, Colour Dictionary of Herbs and Herbalism). (Mind you, it all seems a bit rough and ready!)

Verin’s actions in sipping her poison not only allowed her to hand on her report and explanations, but reflect that she that she accepted her guilt in swearing to the Dark One and for her actions (however reluctant) as part of the Black Ajah and was prepared to pay the price.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: three more articles updated.

By Linda

Three articles were updated with information from The Gathering Storm today:

Age of Legends

A new historic person was added.

The Nobles of Tear

The current situations and locations of various members of the Tairen nobility were updated.

Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders

All further information is under the spoiler alert.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

The main new information from The Gathering Storm added to the Mat, Fireworks and Bellfounders article was Aludra’s analysis of materials, labour and costs for the dragons’ manufacture.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm: Ter'angreal

By Linda

The ter’angreal articles in the Reference Library have been updated with new information from The Gathering Storm and the book tour. Those articles with the new information now include spoiler warnings and the information itself is in bold.

Major additions include information on the access key, a'dams, crystal throne, dream ter’angreal, Far Madding’s ter’angreal, oath rod, Seals, miscellaneous ter’angreal and security measures for ter'angreal.

Two notable new ter’angreal were introduced in The Gathering Storm:

All further information is under the spoiler alert.

Click here to expand the rest of this post

Verin's Bookmark ter’angreal, which performs an important role, and the Bloodknife's Ring ter’angreal, an intriguing gizmo with such interesting potential ramifications that I have posted its entry here as well.

Bloodknife’s Ring

The Seanchan assassins, the Bloodknives, wear a black stone ter’angreal ring which grants them:

strength and speed, and would shroud them in darkness, allowing them to blend into shadows.
The incredible abilities came at a cost, however, for the rings leeched life from their hosts, killing them in a matter of days. Removing the ring would slow that process slightly, but once activated—done by touching a drop of one's own blood to the stone ring while wearing it—the process was irreversible.

- The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon

The ter’angreal certainly makes the Bloodknife hard to see: even the enhanced senses of a Warder barely detected one (The Gathering Storm, A Fount of Power).

The Bloodknives receive a benediction from the Empress (one of whose parallels is Queen of the Dead, see Tuon essay) as though they had died:

"May your death bring victory," she said softly, speaking the ritual words. "May your knife draw blood. May your children sing your praises until the final dawn."

- The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon

They are effectively dead men walking, who give their lives in exchange for enhanced assassin abilities, just as Grey Men and Women do in service to the Dark One and are thus one of the parallels the Seanchan society has with the Shadow. The Bloodknives’ ability to blend into shadows is reminiscent of another creature of the Shadow: Myrddraal. Many mainlanders liken the strange creatures the Seanchan use in battle to Shadowspawn, and of course ravens are important symbols for both the Seanchan and the Shadow, which is not surprising since Ishamael having encouraged Luthair’s invasion of Seanchan.

The assassins are also like ninjas, and thus one of many examples of the Seanchan society’s strong resemblance to Japan. The roles of ninjas were sabotage and espionage as much as assassination and their abilities were the subject of legends. Tuon (who also has parallels with a Japanese Emperor) described the role of Bloodknives as to cause as much damage as possible to the enemy, in this case to be achieved by assassinating Aes Sedai.

The wording used to described the ter'angreal's functions (leech, shroud) suggests an influence from games such as Magic the Gathering. There are Magic the Gathering cards with leeching spells similar to that of the Bloodknives’ ter’angreal, notably certain black-coloured spell cards (and Brandon Sanderson said on Twitter on November 10th that he favours Magic decks composed of black- and blue-coloured cards). For example, with the Magic card called Hatred you pay x life and your creature gets x stronger, just as the Bloodknives receive strength and speed in exchange for losing life. Hatred is an appropriate description of this mission aimed at weakening the Dragon Reborn by assassinating as many of the hated and feared Aes Sedai as possible. The Bloodknife killed by Gareth Bryne died with the words ‘marath’damane’ (his target) on his lips. Another black card called Unholy Strength strengthens the creature’s power far more than its toughness, just as the Bloodknife has enhanced powers but is ultimately weakened by the ter’angreal. There are other Magic cards that could also be considered apt descriptions. Some Magic cards grant the ability called ‘shroud’ which makes creatures untouchable by their opponent’s attacks. The Bloodknives are “shrouded in darkness” by their ter’angreal.

We do not know if the ter’angreal of the sole known dead Bloodknife was even found let alone recovered from his body. The other four Bloodknives are assumed to be alive and at large, since the Tower sub-thread ended less than 48 hours after the Seanchan raid.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

StormLeader report Barnes and Noble, NY Booksigning

Old Salt, one of our authors, was very happy to be chosen as a Stormleader for the New York Booksigning. This is his report.

I’m a lucky man. Not only did I get chosen to be a StormLeader, but I also got to be chosen to be one for the NYC signing. New York City, location of the Tor HQ. Not only would Harriet be at the signing, but I’d also get to meet Maria Simmons, RJ’s assistant and fact checker, what she doesn’t know about WoT doesn’t exist…literally. Not only did I get to meet Harriet and Maria, but the StormLeaders were invited to a pre-signing party put on by Tor. I got to meet many of the people behind WoT. I even got to meet and talk to Tom Doherty, the head of Tor. Like I said, I’m a lucky guy.
Maria Simmons is quiet and self effacing. But she starts to get quite animated when the subject swings around to Wot. Her face lights up and she speaks more quickly and with great authority. I wish I had had a couple of hours to speak with her, but alas, time was tight and the events were strictly scripted.

Maria, (pointing finger) Tom Doherty and Harriet (also pointing finger) having fun at a Tor staffers expense. Brandon in the black leather jacket with his back to the camera

Maria models her Brown Ajah Shawl

I also said I got the chance to talk with Tom Doherty. What a treat that was! I get the feeling that parts of Tam al’Thor and Gareth Bryne are modeled after him. A lot of life, very good sense of humor, and it doesn’t seem that anything much bothers him. We got talking about the ‘earlier days’ of Fantasy/SciFi. He’s of an age with me and we reminisced about the likes of the double back to back novels, authors like L. Sprague DeCamp and H. Beam Piper.

Maria, Tom Doherty, Harriet and Tor staff, Brandon peeking in from the upper right

I wish I could say that I got to spend some time with Harriet also but alas as the photographer, I had work to do and time was tight. I can say that the other StormLeaders who did get a chance to talk with her were impressed with her friendliness, dedication and general joy of life.

Harriet with a few StormLeaders

The party was lots of fun. There was even a Dragon cake.

After the party there was a small catered dinner for us StormLeaders and team Jordan. This is what I was really waiting for, a chance to pepper Brandon, Harriet and Maria with questions about Wot in general and TGS in particular. I only and a few questions…two pages in #10 font single spaced! Of course everyone else had questions too so as we ate we asked him questions. It was a Wot geek’s dream come true. Since most of you are waiting for this part I’ll get to it without further ado.
Brandon is a very funny guy. First of all he said he would reveal Asmo’s killer
then there was a perfectly timed pause…

“Asmo’s killer is Robert Jordan!”
It got a good laugh. Brandon’s sense of comedic timing is very good.

Note that some of the following questions and answers entail plot points from The Gathering Storm if you haven’t read it and don’t want to know what happens stop here.

Q: “Was Mat’s blank dice bit taken from Guys and Dolls?
A: “I’ve never seen Guys and Dolls”
Q: The next question was about the criteria that the Ajah Heads used to determine which sitters they sent to the rebels in Salidar.
A: Basically the Ajah heads had a small selection pool to start with. Their primary criteria were: a) loyalty to the Ajah Heads, would they do as they were told? b) would they be acceptable to the Aes Sedai in Salidar? c) finally did the Ajah Heads think they could be persuasive?
A comment was made about age, Brandon’s answer was to reiterate the limited nature of the Ajah Heads selection pool, the fact that most of the AS Sitters that were sent were young was coincidental. He did go on to mention that the “too young Sitters” was a completely different matter.
He then went on to say which Sitters remain in power after reunification will be dealt with quietly. The most likely default will be who was Sitter/Head before the split.
Q: “The Sea Folk, and the Aiel both have prophecies regarding the Dragon Reborn. Do the Tinkers have one also?”
Ans: “If the Tinkers had a prophecy we most likely (and the emphasis was definitely there) would have heard about it by now.”
There was a question about the Dragon Gates on the Rigney house. They had the gates made after several of the books had been published.
Q: Harine appears once just after she arrives from the Sea Folk. What happened to her?
A: Harine has not been forgotten. There hasn’t been a lot for her to do, and Rand is not keeping his side of the Bargain of keeping her close.
Q: What first hooked you on the series?
A: As a young teen it was the Hero’s Journey. He also mentioned that the Eye of the World prologue was special, much different than the usual for that time which were “talky” overly drawn out. What kept him reading in later years was the depth of world building and all the embedded secrets.
Q: What gave you the confidence to write? What kept you sticking with it after being turned down all those times?
A: “I fell in love with the process of writing. I would write even if I couldn’t sell any of it. Of course it makes it easier that it does sell” (Laughter) He then went on to describe that Elantris was the first thing he had ever sold, the 13th piece that he had submitted and the 6th novel. He went on to say that he doesn’t read any bad reviews of his work. “If it has a low star count I pass it by” He said that there could be thousands of rave reviews and only one negative one but he would focus on the negative and ignore all the raves, so he has learned to only read the “good” reviews. He also said that when he needs encouragement he will find a book he really likes and thinks is absolutely stellar and he will then read a one star review of it. “You can always find a one star review, no matter what it is. Even Hamlet has gotten one star reviews” (laughter)
He went on to talk about how the fans comment on that “you are not RJ” He agrees with them. “I’m not RJ and they have every right to be angry that I’m not.” He then said that they need to finish their grieving process and get over with it. He agrees that the book isn’t as good as what RJ would have done but he is happy with it.
Q: How much leeway were you given when writing the book?
A: He was given complete freedom to write, but that he was in constant contact with Maria and Allan about details. He compared it to a broken vase, much of it could be glued together but there were places where there were holes that needed to be filled in.
Maria interjected with the fact that there are well over 1200 files that are at least several sentences long and many many more that are shorter than that.
There was some back and forth with Harriet and Brandon about the writing/editing process. Harriet said a good editor never tells an author how to write. Brandon said that he actually writes the book for Harriet and it’s Harriet’s job to perfect it.
Q: “How much of tGS is yours and how much is RJ’s”
A: “I’m not going to break it down at this time. Maybe after all three books are finished I’ll go into that. For now I can say that 100% of the book is RJ’s and 100% of the book is mine.” (he later repeated this at the signing with the added comment that if that didn’t add up correctly he didn’t care because he was an English major…to much laughter)
It came up at this time that Maria is writing a WoT encyclopedia, to be published shortly after aMoL. Harriet interjected that it will be a “real encyclopedia” not like the “World of the Wheel of Time” her exact words were “Think Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition”.
Q: Will there be either prequels or outrigger novels?
A: Brandon said that he didn’t know but he hoped that the answer would be no. His reasoning was that WoT was RJ’s universe and that after aMoL and the encyclopedia it should be “allowed to go to rest” however he did say that the final decision was Harriet’s. Harriet said there was a Kenny Rogers song that fit perfectly here. “Know when to hold them and know when to fold them”. She said that she hadn’t made up her mind yet and would not until after aMoL and the Encyclopedia were published.
Q: “Do Rand and Egwene’s timelines end up at the same time at the end of tGS? Secondly, can you give us some idea as to when that is?
A: Yes they end up at the same time. I’ll have to give you a MAFO for an exact date for the second, but basically it is sometime in late June early July. In addition Tuon’s scene with Rand was about 3 or 4 weeks before her last scene in the book.
A relatively long discussion of timelines followed. Basically RJ would have the timeline within a story arc follow chronologically but “Jim was crafty” when it came to the overall timeline. Maria has a huge spreadsheet of a timeline but it is not publishable because it is very rough and unintelligible unless you’ve been working with it for a long time.
Q: Is there a Perrin wolf dream/vision that is fulfilled in the time from when Rand almost kills Tam to his epiphany at the top of Dragonmount?
A: If you mean Perrin’s dream with the bandage over his eyes, and dressed like a beggar than yes, that dream was fulfilled by Rand’s actions from Tear to Ebou Dar to Dragonmount.
Q: You mentioned a clue that occurred in books 4-6. What can you tell us about that?”
A: Brandon mentioned that he isn’t on the web constantly so he can’t state for certain whether or not it has been discussed. However he doubts very strongly that it has ever been discussed at length. That being said he did say that he was ‘very surprised’ that it hasn’t been discussed. Basically he thought it more important than ‘who killed Asmodean”.
Q: What did you think would happen at the end before you read the ‘real ending’?
A: Brandon talked a long time about how the first place he ever went on the web was rec.arts.rj. He talked about how RJ stood on the shoulders of giants, mentioning JRR Tolkien by name and he also said that he was surprised that RJ’s genius hadn’t crushed the giants beneath him. When he finally read the ending that RJ wrote he felt the ending was right, perfect and satisfied the promise of the books. He went on to say that aspects of the ending surprised him but that they made perfect sense.
The final question of the night was asked to Harriet:
Q: “Was Jim surprised by the massive fan base the series has generated?”
A: Oh yes. He even refused to do readings because “that would be showing off and egotistical”. However he enjoyed the anonymity of a pen name.
After that question it was time to get our stuff together and walk down the Barnes and Noble on 17th St. for the signing. Well, most of us walked Harriet and Brandon took a cab appropriately enough.
As you can see our questions ranged all over the place but Harriet and Brandon and Maria were very gracious in answering all of them.

End of Spoiler Alert

At the Signing

Brandon took about 10 minutes to make a few opening remarks. He had us in stitches! On his initial conversation with Harriet:
“Harriet left a voice mail on my phone. It is burned into my brain, I can remember the exact words she used and the tone she spoke them in”
He then went on to explain what “writer hours” meant to much laughter. Then
‘So I called Harriet back. No answer. So I immediately called my agent. No answer. I then called my editor. No answer. So I called Harriet again. No answer. So I called my agent again. No answer” He now has us all laughing with him in his obviously frantic attempt to get in touch with someone, anyone about this.
Finally he and Harriet hook up. Harriet asks him “I want to know if you would be interested on finishing The Wheel of Time.
Brandon’s answer?
“Haba abba but but but bab it What?”
He went on to say that he wrote her the next day to explain that he actually was NOT an idiot. That it was possible for him to string several words together into coherent sentences. That actually some even considered him eloquent. I wish you had been there because it was much funnier in person than my poor words can convey.

Harriet then read from Masema’s death passage in The Gathering Storm.
After the reading they answered questions from the crowd for about 15 to 20 minutes. Unfortunately I was doing my job of photographing the event and I was unable to take notes. Or even listen closely to what was being said.

They then explained how the signing was to happen. Everyone was given a sticky with what ever personalization they wished on it. Brandon would sign The Gathering Storm and any of his books the fans bought. He would personalize any three. He would not sign any earlier books in the WoT series, but Harriet and Maria did.

After that it was our job as StormLeaders to expedite the signing, make sure that the fans had their stickys personalized and accessible to Brandon, that the books were stuffed with the bumper stickers and other give-aways.

The signing went off very well I thought. People were well behaved, mostly cheerful and friendly. I didn’t see anyone in costume. Also during the signing one large and several small posters were raffled off from names drawn from Maria Simmons RAFO hat

Maria picks a name and the lucky winner.

And his jealous friends!

Some of us StormLeaders were blogging the event.

Finally at around 10 pm the signing was over, except for the books we StormLeaders had brought. Those were signed, a few last inside photos shot and then we all packed up.

After packing up we all went outside for a few final photos. Having gotten up at my usual 4AM, I then said good night to everyone, thanked Brandon Harriet and Maria one final time and then dragged myself off to the closest subway station for a long train ride home.

For anyone who is interested, full resolution of the photos posted here, and many others from the signing, can be found here:

My photos


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reference Library Updates after The Gathering Storm

By Linda

In a few days, the first of the Reference Library articles updated with information gleaned from The Gathering Storm and from the as yet unfinished book tour will be posted. Many articles - 30 at least! - will have to be updated since there was such a lot of new data.

In the article indexes, I’ll mark which articles will be updated and also which ones have been updated. And that means that updated articles will of course have spoilers, so I’ll also put a spoiler warning icon at the beginning of an updated article. Within an article the new information will be in bold so you should be able to find it easily.

I intend to post the larger pieces of really new and exciting data on the front page of the blog as well as in its proper place within the relevant essay.

Considering how many articles require changes or additions, plus the fact that I have…ahem…other things I have to do, the whole updating process will take at least a month.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Wheel of Time ebooks' Cover Art on

We're late with this "news", but has started a while ago an interesting series of articles by Tor Books' art director Irene Gallo describing the development of each new painting created for the ebook releases of the Wheel of Time volumes. A new article comes out as each ebook is about to be released (one per month).

These paintings and the new look chosen for the Wheel of Time is a major improvement over the "classic look" that has been with the series since The Eye of the World.

I personally support the decision to finish the series in print with this look (despite hating the Sansweet paintings and the layout used for TWOT) as you just don't go and revamp this look now, a look that for being dated and in my opinion quite ugly is associated to the series so much and instantly recognizable as the "WOT look" by all readers, especially not for the last book(s), especially not at the same time a new name appears on those covers. But I sure hope Tor and Harriet will consider this new look when a new printed edition (mentioned as a distinct possibility by Harriet and Tom Doherty during JordanCon) of the whole series comes out after AMOL's release. (Your new covers would look lovely on oversized/upscale paperbacks one day, Mrs. Gallo - the sort you've used for the Book of the New Sun omnibus. :))

My personal comments on the new design and art so far :

They both capture extremely well the spirit of the series, increasing the pseudo-historical feel of it that is an integral aspect of Jordan's work (the Sansweet covers are too "fairy tale" for me). There is something of the same feeling of "old fashioned" Fantasy/adventures (from the 20th century and back to predecessors in many genres, from Dumas, L'Amour to Twain and co.) that Sansweet's covers also capture, but this time it's devoid of the voluntary "epic cheesiness" and is far more faithful to the feeling Jordan's books evoke for me, completed by care that the paintings represent Jordan's world faithfully, something that was quite secondary in the concept of the present edition with the Sansweet covers. The two first paintings are not only great art in themselves, but the nice subdued layout completes them perfectly (even with the ebook specifics, like accounting for the thumbnails shown by ebook sellers), giving the whole a feeling not unlike, for example, one of the upscale paperback editions of Patrick O'Brien's historical series (the Harper/Collins UK one). A great success so far, IMHO - and it will be interesting to see the rest of the approaches chosen for the other books by Mrs. Gallo over the next months.

The choice of scene for the Eye of the World painting (representing Rand atop the mast of Domon's ship) is inspired, going for an important character development moment instead of something more spectacular, resulting in something emblematic and symbolic of his long journey that barely begins, and the vast world that opens to him. The Great Hunt's painting is a twist on the original cover's concept, illustrating the same scene but going in a wholly different direction artistically - another great idea, almost an inside joke with the fans as The Great Hunt's cover misrepresentations (who can forget Leprechaun Loial, brrr!) have been the source of gags among fans for years. The new version captures well the ambiguity of The Great Hunt, giving Rand the spotlight, but placing the Trollocs (excellently rendered) at the forefront: who is hunting who?

Here are links to Irene Gallo's articles on

- On David Grove's painting for The Eye of the World.
- On Kekai Otaki's painting for The Great Hunt

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wheel of Time Embroidery Collection #1 - Tairen Mazes

By Linda

This post is the first of a series on the Costume of The Wheel of Time world.

Names such as Belcelona and Sanche, and the prevalence of coolie hats and brocaded silk coats with puffy striped sleeves indicate that the two major real world influences on Tear are 16th century Moorish Spain and East Asia (and Spain had a colony in East Asia - the Philippines). Some of the Tairen people are dark-skinned, again suggesting a Moorish influence.

One of the many things the Moors brought to Spain was the usage of geometric pattern for decoration. A popular Tairen motif in textiles is the Tairen maze, a geometric design used as a border on rugs and clothing and as panels on sleeves and bodices. These would be comparable to the geometric bands of North African (Moorish) design such as those on the borders of the rug right (picture from

I thought I'd try my hand at some WOT-inspired embroidery and have embroidered three samples of Tairen mazes in materials and colours consistent with what would have been available in that nation in RJ’s world (which the clothes and inventions show is roughly equivalent to the 16th to 18th century of our world.)

The first Tairen maze I embroidered (shown right, click to enlarge) is part of a simple maze border cross-stitched in indigo-coloured thread on raw silk of slightly uneven weave (as would come off a handloom) and a deep red colour similar to the madder dye that would be historically authentic for the period. Likewise indigo was the usual blue dye-stuff of the time. Red and blue Tairen mazes are mentioned a few times in the books:

There were even silk carpets on the floor, dark red on dark blue, woven in the Tairen maze.

- The Dragon Reborn, Into the Stone

She was thrown down on layered carpets, the edge of a red-and-blue Tairen maze...

- A Crown of Swords, Spears

The second sampler is a sleeve panel of a nobleman’s coat – Mat’s coat to be precise. In Winter’s Heart he was described as wearing a coat:

blue enough for a Tinker, worked in red and gold Tairen mazes across the chest and down the sleeves for good measure.
He did not like recalling what he had been forced to go through to convince Tylin to leave off the pearls and sapphires and the Light alone knew what else she had wanted.

- Winter’s Heart, In Need of a Bellfounder

The maze is embroidered in chain stitch in red silk and gold thread (not real gold, but the thread does have silver in it) on the brightest blue silk satin I could find. It’s supposed to be over-the-top but it could have been worse! Bear in mind that Tylin wanted to scatter gems over the fabric as well. Apparently it pays to advertise that you have a toy boy. Again, click the photo to enlarge.

The last sampler was the most difficult and required considerable familiarity with the maze motif. In Lord of Chaos, Siuan Sanche had a Tairen maze of tiny blue flowers embroidered on her grey riding dress:

Studying her divided gray skirts, not looking at anyone, [Siuan] seemed to be thinking aloud.

- A Crown of Swords, The Figurehead

Incongruously, Egwene noticed that [Siuan’s] dress had tiny blue flowers embroidered in a wide Tairen maze around the bottom, a band that made the divided skirts seem one when she was still. Another band curved becomingly across the bodice. Concern for her clothes, that they be pretty instead of just suitable, was certainly a small change, looking at it one way— she never took it to extremes—yet in another, it was as drastic as her face.

- A Crown of Swords, A Pair of Silverpike

My version has daisies (in single chain stitch and French knots) intertwined with a flowering vine (in French knots, split back stitch and single chain) in silk thread on fairly hard-wearing grey ribbed moired (the swirly effect) silk. At around 13 cm (5 inches) wide, the maze border is in proportion to edge the hem of a dress. I tried to be consistent with Siuan’s style as well as following the maze design. She is known to prefer an informal, wildflower look:

Siuan enjoyed flowers, but she preferred a bouquet of colors, like a field of wildflowers in miniature.

- The Fires of Heaven, What Can Be Learned in Dreams

So while the flowers all had to be blue, I made each flower slightly different and imperfect and the vines irregularly sinuous with the odd flower dropping off. Siuan also owns a yellow linen dress with a blue Tairen maze around the neckline.

I'll be looking into the embroidery styles of the other nations too. I intend to sew many more items to compile a ‘sampler book’ of different Wheel of Time embroideries.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Our Reviews of The Gathering Storm

Hello again! After a hiatus well spent reading, we're back today with our first post-release content.

We're already at work updating articles, preparing new ones, and researching and studying the book for our full The Gathering Storm Read-through to begin later this fall. As I write this, the book is now on several best-sellers' lists, having even dethroned Dan Brown's number one position (yeah!) on the New York Times's list. We take this opportunity to congratulate Brandon Sanderson, Harriet and the rest of Team Jordan and Tor Books for this accomplishement! It's a well deserved success.

Here are the Thirteenth Depository's two "official reviews" of the new book, Linda's and Dominic's. Beware of spoilers if you haven't finished the book.

Linda's review of The Gathering Storm

Few fantasy series have inspired such devotion from fans as The Wheel of Time. Few have encompassed such a complexity of plot and symbolism, a depth of allusion and world-building either. Of course its detractors have pointed to those very things as getting in the way of the story. The fans counter that they make the story. For a series about balance, The Wheel of Time has certainly polarised readers.

Since RJ’s tragic untimely death from amyloidosis, Brandon Sanderson has been able to pick up the various strands of RJ’s work and produce this book in less than two years. That’s quite an achievement. So much of the story remains to be told that it could not fit into even two books. The subthreads of what would have been the second last book were carefully separated into The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight. In The Gathering Storm Rand and Egwene shine. In the next book they will be less prominent and it will be the turn of Mat, Perrin and other sub-threads to come to the fore. Some have suggested that Perrin’s and Mat’s few chapters in The Gathering Storm are superfluous, but we needed to see Mat’s meeting with Verin, to finish with Masema and Malden and to keep Tam al’Thor in our minds. Moreover Perrin’s issues with love and duty also mirror Rand’s and rightly occurred in the same book.

The Gathering Storm is darker and more menacing than the previous books. Chickens come home to roost: the characters can’t escape the consequences of past actions or inactions. The darkness comes not just from past sins or from the Dark One’s now considerable tainting of the Pattern, but also from the dilemma of how to fight the Shadow effectively without becoming either incapacitated with trauma or corrupted. Perrin accepts that he strayed from his duty and makes resolutions about this. Rand literally duels with demons both within and without, while Egwene emerges triumphant. However it is Verin who steals the show.

The characterisation in The Gathering Storm is mostly excellent, although that of Mat and his entourage is arguably the weakest, and minor characters could be given more attention. The pace of the book starts at the same tempo of Knife of Dreams and accelerates. Thankfully all the themes of the series are continued and expanded and the symbolism is as extensive and well done as in the earlier books. However, there are some inconsistencies in details (for instance, the fifteen house hamlet of Dorlan increases in size and moves across the river, Sulin is now with Rand and not Perrin, and Harine forgot she attended the cleansing of saidin) and also ‘anachronisms’ in dialogue when characters stray from their culture (Aviendha referring to Aiel warriors as ‘soldiers’, the Tower Aes Sedai being considered ‘loyalists’), or from RJ’s 17th century mode of speech into later eras (‘medical aid’). A little more editing time would have tidied these distractions.

I am convinced that my decision not to read any of Brandon Sanderson’s books before The Gathering Storm’s publication was the right one for me: I didn’t have any preconceived ideas, nor was I diverted from reading into comparing the writing style of The Gathering Storm with that of Sanderson’s own books, but was able to take the prose on its own merits. On the whole Sanderson (and his editors) meshed his writing very well with RJ’s. The main differences are his lesser use of secondary characters and that his description and dialogue is a little less economic and evocative.

Plot threads are satisfyingly resolved in The Gathering Storm yet new mysteries beckon. What does Mat get up to in Caemlyn? What has happened at the Black Tower to delay the Reds and the Rebel group? Where did Mesaana and her coterie of Black Ajah go to, if they went with her? Did they even stay as a group, or just flee individually like panicked hens? Which of the Wise Ones are Darkfriends? Did Aran’gar meet up with Graendal? What did Graendal do between her meeting with Moridin and Rand’s strike at her palace?

All things considered, The Gathering Storm is a fairly complete and enthralling episode in this complex series. I look forward to the approach of the Towers of Midnight. Hmmm...this sounds like a fitting warping of reality!

The Day of Return:
Dominic's review of The Gathering Storm

Writing a review of The Gathering Storm proved far more difficult (and longer) than I expected. I've rarely had to face the task of criticizing a novel or movie from a series for which I have developed such a tangle of emotional and intellectual ties, made even more complex by the untimely death of Jim Rigney.

The Thirteenth Depository is all about passion for The Wheel of Time and the legacy of Jim Rigney, from me and Linda, and for those who read us. I realised after a few false starts how pointless it would be for me to even attempt to criticize this book within the larger perspective of its genre or of literature, or to pretend at any sort of objectivity, the way someone who isn't an hardcore fan of this work might be able to. This review could only be from the heart and mind of The Wheel of Time fan that I am.

From the day he took on the challenge of finishing The Wheel of Time, Brandon Sanderson has shown respect and love for the work and for its fans, an humility in front of its creator but also in front of the task itself – his willingness to store his ego as a writer away to put his craft fully at the service of Robert Jordan's work that rapidly gained my personal support and respect for this man and in turn set high hopes for the success of this venture, compounded by my faith in Jim Rigney's widow and editor Harriet. However, despite how likeable Brandon have turned out to be, despite how purely enjoyable Harriet, Team Jordan, Brandon and Tor Books have made this long journey to the book's release, in the end the day has come when their efforts have to be judged on the final result.

The Gathering Storm has left me with very mixed feelings the first time around. Despite how much I wanted to relax and simply enjoy it as the new and long anticipated chapter in The Wheel of Time, the mix of excitement at seeing the plot unfold some more at last, at watching as theories discussed for (too) many years fell apart or were coming true, of anxiety over Brandon's success or failure with characters and plot - increase by a little glitch here - dampened pages later by a purely magnificent moment, and the lingering sadness that Jim Rigney himself couldn't complete the book have all stayed with me from the first to the last page, with a final note of almost… relief as I finished the book. Considering my emotional involvement with the series, perhaps there was no escape from that rollercoaster ride the first time around, for the first installment of the final "trilogy" anyway.

I'm happy to say that my second reading of the book brought back all the fun and the great reading experience I was hoping for all along.

Working from an outline, disjointed completed or drafted parts, tons of notes, dictated dialogue and scenes, Brandon Sanderson has woven together this opening act of the finale of the series.

My expectations of what would be Brandon's strength and weaknesses in this venture after reading his books have been quite challenged and turned around reading the final result.

Brandon has made massive improvements as a writer over the years – each of his new book being more achieved and enjoyable than the previous one (and his new series sounds most promising), but I still had lingering worries about the compatibility in style, about the great differences in the way Brandon develops his story arcs and structures his scenes – and the way he likes to use dialogue and secondary cast, for instance. Most of this turned out to be unfounded worries. There are some notable differences in the pacing and structure of The Gathering Storm when compared with the earlier novels of the series, but in the end this had very little impact on the success of the novel. While Brandon did not always manage to accomplish within a single chapter or scene all Jim Rigney would have – he was quite a master at this - by and large Brandon has succeeded at preserving the integrity of a Wheel of Time novel, down to scene and chapter structure. Brandon can be forgiven a few extra chapters (Jordan would have managed to use at least one if not two less for Gawyn's story line, in my opinion) for getting all the story elements in. At this point, what's an extra chapter or two in the series anyway?

Brandon has also done a wonderful job respecting the great lines and and much of the essence of Robert Jordan's style, adapting his approach to fiction to Jim Rigney's own. The prose of Robert Jordan was always a matter of controversy among his readers, ranging from people who admired it to others who love the series despite it. Brandon himself is a great fan of it, as I am – and of course regrets over this loss couldn't help but be there with me while reading the novel, but Brandon (who wisely made the choice not to attempt mimicry that could turn easily into parody, and wisely forewarned the fans about this) has succeeded at making his own writing hand as unobtrusive as possible, grafting to his style his own version of Jordan's evocative descriptions and attention to details, in most places with success. It is not Robert Jordan's prose or style, but it works, and it feels right. It would have been even closer to a feeling of seamlessness if an even greater attention had been given to respecting Jim Rigney's vocabulary, though I imagine time constraints have forced the writer and his editors to focus most of their efforts on getting the story right and sorting out the minutia. This was perhaps irritating mostly in the dialogue - from curious variations on established swearing to abuse of them in places (Siuan is not Uno!) or discrepancies in the way honorifics are used (too many Lords lost their 'My' - giving a Seanchan twist to everyone). Jordan's national flavours resided on very subtle things, and this has been lost a bit in The Gathering Storm (Aludra's Taraboner accent fluctuates, for instance).

Brandon's handling of the characters is also satisfying for the most part. As far as I'm concerned he has "killed" nobody, to reprise the expression of other reviewers. His success with the main cast is even impressive, and is a testimony to Harriet's intuition to have chosen a long time Wheel of Time fan for this project, over a writer from Jordan's generation or closer to his background, but having nowhere the familiarity of Sanderson with the story.

Robert Jordan revelled in ambiguity and the multiplicity of perceptions - incorporating a great deal of subtleties that rivalled his Aes Sedai's word plays - the author himself and his opinions, and the factual truths, almost always disappearing behind his characters' POV and worldviews – a style Jordan has come to master as the series progressed and that I believe to be a main factor in its success, and the main reason why The Wheel of Time has become such an enduring smash hit on the internet discussion boards, where taking sides and arguing about the vision of each characters, the different perceptions of ongoing events and plot points have become a central element of the community. Brandon in The Gathering Storm comes close to full success at this style, but he gives more the feeling there's a hand on the helm, a director in the chair, not always achieving Jordan's level of neutrality and his subtlety and games with the relativity of truths and perceptions, especially in the first third of the book. He's getting there by the second part of the book, however.

His work with Mat has sparked many debates since October 27, though I disagree with those who see it as a complete disaster. A lot of it felt right to me, the problems with him being related to a departure from the way Jordan used humour for this character. Mat rarely tries to be funny, he doesn't know he's hilarious. He simply is, quite despite him, from his prejudices and cutting comments, from all his blind spots – much like Nynaeve. Humour has always been one of the most difficult and personal forms of writing, and Robert Jordan's humour has always been very much his own. Brandon finds himself in the invidious position of a new script-writer trying to write for an established and beloved stand-up comedian who lost the long time writer who made him a success. Sanderson's Mat is funny, but not the way we're used to Mat being funny. I have high hopes that the more he advances in this story line, the more successful Brandon will get at writing Mat.

His handling of the series' massive secondary cast is somewhat spottier than his success with the main players, which was to be expected. It was a massive challenge, to begin with, and handling a large secondary cast is an art at which Brandon is vastly improving in his own novels but that he hasn't fully mastered – his characterization of his Mistborn players like Elend, Vin or Kelsier and Sazed is great and engaging, the minor players in Mistborn are often less interesting, and tend to simply fade out when he doesn't have something specific for them to do in the main plot. Jim Rigney himself was a master at making even the bit players feel real and distinctive and important in two sentences here and two more five novels later, a master at keeping the minor players around or have them return after a whole lot of untold adventures have happened to them, while making us believe their lives did go on and they have not been put in a stasis box until needed again. He was a master at moving things in the background constantly through all sort of writing devices (spy reports and allusions and so on), at creating the illusion that all the other players went on with their issues and self-interests in the background, without resorting to full scenes with them. Some of that Brandon achieved, and in other places he failed. The Gathering Storm made a great deal of secondary players fade away a little too much, only to appear in their moments of interaction with the main cast, or when concerned with episodes from the main plot. And some simply faded away. Two concrete examples of this are the return of Harine, never to be mentioned again after her arrival scene, or the way Brandon didn't find ways to use the sitters with the rebels who have plotted with their Tower Ajah Heads, to build up a bit more to the revelation of the conspiracy at the end. Much of the Aes Sedai political currents faded to leave place only to Lelaine and Romanda. The background of Arad Doman also became too much just that, a background on which Rand's story line was set, lacking the usual intricacies of Robert Jordan, focussed on very few players and issues. Rodel Ituralde's story line felt a bit flat after the build up in previous books. Brandon also made almost no use of the whole web of conflicting allegiances among Ituralde's Domani allies – carefully set up by Jordan in previous books, while Graendal's almost complete lack of involvement in the story line, after a promising prologue scene, was a disappointment (however fitting her end is). I have some hopes there's a a few more "behind the scenes" moments with secondary characters coming when Towers of Midnight returns to complete the events during this timeline, however. Those scenes could set everything right.

The focus on Egwene and Rand as motors to drive the book forward was both a good and a bad thing for me. Bad, because it felt in places the series had lost a bit of its scope and the background players their usual relevance to the full tapestry, and good because in the very short time Brandon was given to write this novel, it feels like a very wise choice to have focussed mainly his efforts on the main characters, with whom he became very successful after a few hits and misses very early in the novel. A plot centered a lot on the main players is writing style that is also natural to him. What we lost with the secondary players, we gained with the often stellar characterization of Rand and Egwene, who both shone in this book and this contributes massively to the book's success.

Whereas the use of the likes of Talmanes or Lelaine disappointed me, there were lot of moments of pure bliss with the secondary characters, however – like the return of Tam al'Thor and the resolution of the "Verin mystery" that was both very well executed and emotionally gripping, and turned out to be the most satisfying "mystery" Robert Jordan has set up so far (dare I call it a "long con"?), after a few disappointing ones like the resolution of Adeleas's murder in the last book, notably. Sheriam was also well used, and if the resolution was a bit disappointing, that is Jordan's choice and the execution of these scenes was still well done.

"Team Jordan's mastery of The Wheel of Time minutia proved also impressive overall, despite a few glitches. The novel has many minor errors, but most of those can easily disappear in later editions (as Robert Jordan had the habit of doing with his own occasional errors) and more importantly, virtually none of these errors had any serious repercussion on the plot or my enjoyment of seeing it unfold. Little continuity errors here and there (Perrin mean to leave Malden on the hour at the end of KOD and his decision to take a day to set out isn't explained, Harine was at the Cleansing and didn't learn of it from Logain's visit; Graendal dislikes nature and avoided rooms with windows, Davram Bashere isn't cousin but uncle of Tenobia, little errors with the geography, Sulin having switched story line and so on). But spotting these minor mistakes, inescapable as it is for fans deeply immersed in Jordan's universe, mustn't overshadow how much Team Jordan has gotten right about continuity, back story material and minutia - an impressive feat.

Where Brandon has impressed me the most, however, is with the "greater picture". Through the novel he displays at every turn his great sensibility to Jordan's themes, a much greater and much deeper mastery of them I ever hoped he could achieve (and reading the advanced material had made my hopes rose quite high). Thematic depth and cohesion is one of his strengths as a writer, one of the most interesting aspects of his own fiction, but I'm terribly impressed with how he was able to just sink into another writer's themes and carry them through the book so efficiently, with such flair and respect for Jordan's intentions.

This is where I had the greatest doubts about Harriet's choice of a writer so young and from such a different background, despite knowing of Brandon's skills with themes. We were heading for a part of the story that obviously owes so much to Jim Rigney's personal experiences, as a war veteran notably – experiences quite foreign to Brandon Sanderson, of his own admission. This is where I had my biggest worries that no one but Robert Jordan himself could get it right, where I thought we might lose the most from his untimely demise. But Brandon has done an amazing job there. He is less subtle at it than Robert Jordan used to be, from the way he explains his metaphors too much, or turned elements that used to be symbolic in the background into open metaphors, to his more transparent use of allegory. But through and through, everything feels right, every piece of the thematic puzzle fell into place and flows with the plot's progression, adding surprising depth in many places. I had hoped Robert Jordan had integrated enough of them simply by outlining the story and by Brandon integrating these elements with or without noticing them, but the final result goes way beyond just that. There, Brandon really showed not only his craftsmanship but just how far he intimately possessed and understood Jordan's writing and the prevalent themes of The Wheel of Time. Brandon was even more successful at it because of his choice of combining Rand's and Egwene's story lines in this first installment to what has become a trilogy. A very wise choice. The resulting novel is thematically very cohesive, with a surprising success at mirroring and parallels given the short time Brandon had to re structure the novel(that was originally to have the five main story lines running in parallel until a reunion at the 2/3 mark, when Tarmon Gai'don begins) after the decision to split it not in two but three volumes. Brandon's success here is only mitigated a little by what I felt was a too great use of POV switches. It added much dynamism to the plot progression, at a level we hadn't seen in a long time in the series, but diluted a bit the thematic progression. This was too much a return to books two and three, too abrupt a departure from the mood set by Winter's Heart, Crossroads of Twilight and Knife of Dreams, undermining a little with the depth of what was going on in each of the two main story lines. A better balance, like going back to The Shadow Rising or Lord of Chaos, would in my opinion have better served this book, the two main story lines that in many ways were about spiritual and personal progression more than fast paced suspense and action. The full depth of this book emerges well on re reads, however.

But what of Robert Jordan's story in all of this? The story was mostly wonderful and satisfying as promised, full of those long awaited moments coming true balanced out by a series of rather unexpected twists and turns. Last August at a signing I attended, Brandon spoke of A Memory of Light (ie: as the whole trilogy) as holding more deep satisfaction with the resolutions offered than big surprises for fans involved in messages boards and immersed in theories for years. Actually, so far it holds both. Perhaps Brandon has missed how deeply divided the fan base is over what's going to happen – that one's expectations is another's big surprises.

As promised by the latest installments, this was a fairly dark book, with the victories long in coming and only through dark paths full of pitfalls, with both main characters in a downward spiral before they sprang back, and both of them doing it magnificently, at the very end. Both Rand and Egwene finally reach emotional and spiritual adulthood in a deeply satisfying way, worth all the build up since their departure from the Two Rivers. How far these two have come!

I wouldn't say it was a darker book than I expected, but it was so in surprising ways sometimes, and sooner and more abruptly than I expected in Rand's case, his mental state deteriorating at a sudden pace after Semirhage's revelation, as the world spirals fast toward Tarmon Gai'don. I was surprised, and deeply happy, by own personal and even spiritual the challenges faced by the characters turned out to be. It was a book about pitfalls and enlightenment, and a very satisfying one at that. Jim Rigney was at the same time a sharp observer of human nature and accepting, often forgiving, of foibles and weaknesses as an inherent part of it, someone with few illusions about self-interest, but who also believed they could sometimes be transcended. Whatever Robert Jordan left him to work from, Brandon has done masterfully at continuing and preserving this aspect of the book, especially with Rand. It was a very daring move to bring a hero so far into darkness, walking the fine line between making the reader disgusted with Rand or being too apologetic for his errors and actions. For many books now, many readers have been blind to the growing darkness in Rand, too ready to envision things the way he did, too certain Rand had it right. This book made that impossible, brought Rand to places where the readers could still sympathize for him or empathize with his suffering, but where it was no longer possible anymore to deny the insanity, the wrongness of the path Rand was following and that might bring him and the whole world to the final doom. What a magnificent chapter is Veins of Gold, one of the best in the whole series. This story line was masterfully set up by Robert Jordan, and masterfully executed by Jordan/Sanderson in this book, from the downfall to the epiphany, it was emotionally wrenching, disturbing and finally elating. What a ride, what a story line fulfilling all its promises, and not shying from the heart of darkness.

The rest of the novel is also rollercoaster of action and emotional moments, achieving a good balance between the major action sequences and as interesting intimate and social scenes. Great character development for Nynaeve and Aviendha, notably - more unexpected but equally interesting for Cadsuane. The political developments lacked the intricacies Robert Jordan used us to, but despite the need for suspension of disbelief in some episodes, Egwene's story line had such an abundance of deeply satisfying personal and spiritual progresses on her part, and they were so well executed by Sanderson/Jordan that it didn't suffer much from the missing details.

The inclusion of Mat and Perrin in this novel was hit and miss for me. Mat's story line was actually quite fun, with its mix of classic American witchcraft/supernatural folklore (from Salem to Lovecraft) and horror B-movies – the one perfectly right for the character. It was also a very intriguing teaser for the rest of this story line. I had my doubts that Mat would go immediately to Ghenjei after Knife of Dreams, but it happened in a rather unexpected way. With this and the mysterious letter left to Mat by Verin and the use of the colours swirls moments, Brandon has managed to turn the fact the first part of A Memory of Light is now divided into two novels which timelines will overlap to his advantage. It's going to be terribly exciting now to discover why Mat remains in Caemlyn and what happens there. It is not a form of foreshadowing Jordan has used us much to, but in the context of the two first books, it sounds very promising and an excellent device to make the split work. I, for one, hope Brandon has also kept a few aces up his sleeve about events that happened with secondary characters and the villains in Rand's and Egwene's story lines.- what Alviarin had been up to during Egwene's rise, and Mesaana, how the Black Ajah managed to escape, what came out of Aran'gar's plans for Graendal and to use her network of followers?

This is far less satisfying with Perrin, however. While Mat's chapters felt right for this book and Brandon even managed to make a mini-arc out of them, Perrin's - though it's a good start - seemed to have simply landed by mistake in the wrong book and to cater above all to those readers who would have protested at his complete absence. Again, the fact he's still stuck on the Jehannah road weeks (if not more) after Malden is very intriguing, and it was very clever of Brandon to have given us the most obvious and expected development (Morgase and Galad) while keeping us totally in the dark about what else was going on. This could have been done just as effectively without the few Perrin's chapters, and revealing that Masema was killed early, a surprise to most readers, now feels a bit like handing a sucker to a wailing baby than something that could be best used in this book instead of opening Perrin's Towers of Midnight story line with a bang.

In conclusion, The Gathering Storm is not a perfect book, but it is very far from a disappointment either, and it's a book with plenty of depths to explore in further re reads. The plot developments alone make it one of the better The Wheel of Time books, and the execution, occasionally a bit choppy because of the constant POV switches, a bit relying too much on the central protagonists to drive the action at the cost of sending the (often beloved) minor players too much to the background, depriving very secondary arcs of the proper build up to their resolution, is still overall masterful enough, respectful enough of the spirit of Jim Rigney's storytelling to call this book a resounding success. I cannot go as far as saying this books in all its aspects stands above Jordan's masterpieces in this series (those including The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos for me, in case you wonder. I am also biased in favour of the later series over the opening trilogy), as for me this would be doing Jordan an injustice. However, the novel in Sanderson's hands is the next best thing to that. The skills of the people involved, their love of Jim Rigney's work, the heart and soul they very obviously put wholly into meeting this challenge of completing Jordan's story and the deep respect they've shown at every turn to his legacy have largely paid off. The result is not perfect, and even on second read I've wondered if it Team Jordan has given itself really all the time they required to work on the book, what could giving Brandon a few more months to research and analyze the series before he started writing, what postponing the release by a few months to leave writer and editor more time to step back and polish the new structure and the plot details when the decision was made to split the book in three would have lead to, given that their efforts are already very impressive, and their skills are more than up to the task. Now that the fans have had their "WOT fix", it might be worth considering taking a little longer for Towers of Midnight and A Memory of Light if necessary (a personal opinion I think most fans won't share with me, however!).

With the success of The Gathering Storm, there is no more doubt in my mind that The Wheel of Time will be brought to a conclusion that makes it justice, that honours Mr. Rigney's memory and has secured the series' legacy and success with new generations of readers for many years to come. And for this, I'm deeply grateful to all those involved and how much they have invested in this book.

Thanks to the skills of Brandon Sanderson, Harriet McDougal and "Team Jordan", October 27 marked for me the Day of Return for Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time, a day of return completely unlike the one the Dark One would bring. The challenge has been met, the worries put to rest. This is the real deal and the ending we've been waiting for. The Wheel turns, the Pattern goes on. Not only this first installment satisfies, but its quality holds all the promises that the wait for book thirteen and fourteen won't be in vain. Brandon and Harriet already had my support; with what they've delivered with The Gathering Storm they also have my full trust for the rest of this project.

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