For the first time in a long time, I am excited to continue Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series. For eleven books, Rand Al'Thor and his companions have been preparing to battle the forces of evil at the Last battle. The series began with great promise but dragged over the past few novels as Jordan failed to advance the story or resolve plot lines at an acceptable pace. 

This changed with the death of Robert Jordan.

Novelist Brandon Sanderson picked up the mantle and vowed to conclude the series. Jordan made extensive notes and expected his successor could resolve all subplots in a single book. But Sanderson and his publisher recognized the complexity woven by Jordan would take more than one book to resolve, so they split the conclusion into three volumes. "The Gathering Storm" is the first of those three - Number 12 in the series.

In this book, Rand prepares his armies for the last battle. We see his battle to retain his sanity as his power increases. We see his rejection of sentiment and emotion as he becomes focused on the fight with the Dark One to decide the world's fate. Close friends become pawns in his chess game, and bystanders are often expendable if Rand achieves his primary objectives. 

Other subplots brought to a conclusion: 

- The Aes Sedai have imprisoned Egwene for the crime of laying claim to the group's leadership. Egwene attempts to unite the White Tower and the Aes Sedai sisters despite her captivity.

- Rand attempts to make a truce with the Seanchan. Their invasion complicates Rand's war, so he approaches Tuon with a deal.

Sanderson tells the story much better than Jordan did. One chapter describes a town whose citizens are cursed to go on a murderous rampage each evening at sunset only to forget their crimes at daybreak. Sanderson builds tension where Jordan would have dragged out the narrative to the point of tedium. When  Egwene al'Vere visits Tel'aran'rhiod, Sanderson focuses on the essential details, giving the reader a sense of the shifting nature of the dream world. Jordan would have described in detail every article of clothing and background scenery without regard to its impact on the scene or story.

This will sound mean. Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series benefited from the death of Robert Jordan. "The Gathering Storm" combines the imagination of Robert Jordan and the world he created with the storytelling of Brandon Sanderson. It is a winning combination.