Kate Elliott – The Gathering Storm

Kate Elliott continues to produce massive volumes of her epic fantasy Crown Of Stars with the fifth novel The Gathering Storm (2003). The last two were over 1000 pages and this one as well. I’ve been reading the books pretty much in a row which makes it easy to compare them, but harder to write very distinct reviews. All the reviews together will form a complete picture.

What I already mentioned in my review of Child Of Flame, the fourth book, I can repeat here again. The quality of plotting, style and characterization varies in each novel. This lack of a steady level on these important component is what ultimately weakens the overall series, although there are sufficient positive and strong points to push it out of the mainstream fantasy mold and provide a good and entertaining read.

That said I have to declare The Gathering Storm to be the weakest of the books I’ve read until now. In an effort to keep the plot in line with her plans, this trying to change typical fantasy clich├ęs by moving events to a different moment than expected, the plot became more important than the characters. While the second book, Prince Of Dogs, suffered because time had to be filled because of the lack of plot, The Gathering Storm suffers because there is not enough filling. To meet the timescale she had set for the story Elliott invents certain conveniences to move the story ahead more quickly. I lost the feeling that the characters were moving the story and that instead they were dragged along across the path set before them. It just didn’t feel natural anymore.

In the early books I found it hard to feel a connection with the characters, in the last two books Elliott corrected that and so I had the idea it would sticky, but early on in The Gathering Storm I started to feel I didn’t get the same connection anymore, even while there had hardly been a break between reading this and the previous book. I struggled on for a while without any improvement. It was only near the end when the pushing of the plot wasn’t needed anymore that it returned again. I had thought it possible that I just had read a bit too much and that Elliott’s unstable quality level gave me the impression I had lost the connection, but as such as this has never happened to me before I can only stick to my conclusion. It was a weird experience and certainly not a good one.

So in my opinion Elliott’s attempt to change the typical plot-structure of epic fantasy novels failed here. Although she made up somewhat with a decent ending that was more on par with the previous novels the majority of the novel is simply too weak and forced. Luckily there is still plenty happening story-wise so the reader will be entertained sufficiently to reach the end without struggling. I can’t give this fifth installment a full recommendation although one usually will want to read a series as a whole and thus continue anyways. It is decent enough to prevent considering to drop the series. Personally I don’t do such a thing that easily, but for someone looking to make a decision on starting to read the whole series it may be of importance. After completing the last novel I will give a total conclusion of the series.

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