Wheel of Time Marathon – Book 12: The Gathering Storm

Started: 11/10/2015
Finished: 2/11/2016

The Gathering Storm is the final book of The Wheel of Time series that was begun before the passing of original series author Robert Jordan on September 19, 2007 from cardiac amyloidosis. Brandon Sanderson took over the book and the remainder of the series, based on notes Jordan had produced before his death.

As the novel begins, Rand is in Arad Doman, searching for the Forsaken Graendal and Rand’s Aes Sedai allies are busy interrogating Semirhage, who was captured after attacking Rand in the previous novel.

Just as Cadsuane seems to be making progress in breaking Semirhage, Shaidar Haran frees Semirhage from her captivity and provides her with the domination band, a sort of male a’dam, which she uses, with the aid of a Black sister named Elza, to capture and control Rand. Semirhage uses the domination band to force Rand to attack and nearly kill Min, but Rand, in desperation and unable to embrace Saidin while under Semirhage’s control, uses the True Power, through his link to Moridin, to free himself from the domination band and then to destroy Semirhage and Elza with balefire. Disturbed by both his nearly being forced to kill his lover Min and flashbacks to his imprisonment in the box by Elaida’s followers, Rand resolves to become hard and emotionless. Blaming Cadsuane for both Sermirhage’s escape and for not keeping the domination band safely locked away, Rand banished Cadsuane from his sight, under pain of death.

Still hoping to forge an alliance and avoid having to battle the Seanchan and the Dark One at the same time, Rand arranges a meeting with Tuon at Falm. However, Rand’s new cold demeanor and the aura of darkness that surrounds him since his use of the True Power concerns Tuon and she refuses to ally with him, unless he agrees to submit to the will of the Crystal Throne first. Rand refuses and departs and Tuon decides to proceed with a raid on the White Tower, hoping to strengthen her own forces, while weakening the Dragon Reborn by capturing as many Aes Sedai as possible and leashing them as damane.

Rand determines that he can not save Arad Doman from the Seanchan, but before he leaves, he seeks out and destroys Graendal, by completely obliterating her palace and all of the people in it, with balefire and the aid of the Choedan Kal. His actions greatly disturb Nynaeve and Min, who seek Cadsuane’s assistance in bringing Rand back from the brink of madness, before it is too late. After destroying Graendal, Rand returns to Tear.

Egwene is still a captive in the White Tower, subject to increasingly harsh punishments at the behest of Elaida, in an attempt to break Egwene and squash the rebel Aes Sedai camped outside the Tower.

Egwene, who had forbidden the rebel faction from attempting to rescue her, is attempting to undermine Eladia’s power from within the Tower, while also attempting to heal the damage Eladia’s reign has caused, so that an undivided Tower may stand to face The Last Battle.

Elaida initially allows Egwene to roam the Tower, under guard, shielded and dosed with a tea that leaves her barely able to channel. Egwene makes great progress in winning over the hearts and minds of many of the Aes Sedai and novices before a confrontation with Elaida leads to Elaida having Egwene imprisoned and tortured. When Egwene refuses to be broken, Elaida eventually releases her, choosing to scapegoat the mistress of novices Silviana, in an attempt to save face.

Shortly after Egwene is freed, she encounters Verin in the Tower. Verin reveals to Egwene that she has been working as a double agent within the ranks of the Black Ajah for many years. In order to circumvent her oaths to the Dark One, which prevents her from betraying the Black Ajah, until the hour of her death, Verin has poisoned herself. Verin reveals to Egwene the names of every Black Sister she has been able to uncover, including Alviarin, and that there is a Forsaken hiding in the White Tower, disguised as an Aes Sedai.

Not long after Verin’s death, Egwene’s vision of a Seanchan attack comes to pass. Egwene, weakened by the forkroot tea, is barely able to channel on her own, but she is able to gather a group of novices and organize a circle, aided by a powerful sa’angreal she retrieves by traveling into the Tower storeroom, and mount an effective defense against the Seanchan and eventually drive them away. Egwene is able to greatly reduce the losses the Aes Sedai would have suffered, but many sisters are captured by the Seanchan, including Elaida.

Meanwhile, fearing for Egwene’s safety, Siuan, Gawyn and Gareth Bryne, mount a rescue, against Egwene’s express wishes and remove an exhausted Egwene from the White Tower and take her to the rebel camp. Back at the camp, Egwene uses the Oath Rod, which she took from the Tower by traveling, to prove the identity of the Black Sisters within the rebel camp that Verin had revealed to her, including Egwene’s Keeper, Sheriam. Egwene orders the 70 sisters within the camp to be rounded up and executed, but 20 manage to escape.

After the execution of the Black Sisters, Egwene orders her army to advance on the White Tower, hoping to mount an attack while the Tower Aes Sedai are still reeling from the Seanchan attack, however when she arrives at the Tower bridge, she discovers that Elaida was captured by the Seanchan and that the sisters in power in the Tower have decided to raise Egwene as their new Amyrlin and an attack will be unnecessary. Once Egwene is in power, she works to mend the divisions between the Ajahs and the Tower Loyalists and the Rebels, by appointing Silviana, a Red, as her new Keeper and requiring that the Rebels make a formal apology, before being taken back into the Tower. Egwene also attempts to root out the Black Sisters within the Tower, but finds that most of them managed to escape, including Alviarin and in spite of forcing the Tower Aes Sedai to reswear on the Oath Rod, she is unable to determine which sister is the Forsaken Mesaana.

In an attempt to save Rand from himself, Cadsuane orders Nynaeve to locate Perrin and bring back Tam Al’Thor from Perrin’s camp. Cadsuane instructs Tam in what to say to Rand, in the hopes that Tam is the one person that can break through Rand’s emotional barriers. Tam seems to make some progress, but once Rand learns Cadsuane put Tam up to confronting Rand, Rand is furious and loses control, nearly killing Tam in the process.

After his confrontation with Tam, Rand makes a gateway to Ebou Dar, intending to use the Choedan Kal to wipe the Seanchan out. However, when Rand realizes how peaceful the Seanchan rule is and sees their concern for him when he collapses after seizing Saidin, he has second thoughts and leaves via gateway to the summit of Dragonmount.

Teetering on the brink of madness, Rand contemplates the futility of being born over and over again, only to repeat the same mistakes. He convinces himself that the world would be a better place if he just ended it all and draws a massive amount of power into himself via the Choedan Kal. As Rand is on the brink of destroying the world, Lews Therin speaks to Rand, convincing him that being reborn through the turning of the Wheel provides them with a second chance to make up for past mistakes and that the opportunity to live and love again is worth the pain of living. Rand turns the power of the Choedan Kal on itself and destroys the Sa’angreal. His actions create the first break in the unnatural storm clouds that have covered the world in weeks, which provides a literal ray of hope to the people, including Egwene, who witness it.

Rand’s revelation frees him from his darkness and allows him to laugh and feel joy again. It also fuses Rand and Lews Therin as the one man, who they have been all along, fulfilling an earlier vision of Min’s.