Since Bill has extensively reviewed The Gathering Storm (above) I’ll just add a few of my impressions and address the audio version.
First of all, I’m happy to report that THE WHEEL OF TIME is slowly getting somewhere. Though The Gathering Storm is excessively and needlessly lengthy (why do I, after all this time, still need the clothing styles of each country detailed?), a few things actually happen. And a few important things! Some storylines are mercifully wrapped up and it finally appears that the “storm” is truly “gathering” and that perhaps we might actually see some rain or lightning in the next volume.
Also importantly, the transition from Robert Jordan to Brandon Sanderson has been seamless. I have no idea how much of The Gathering Storm was written by Mr. Jordan before his death, but it all felt like Mr. Jordan. A couple of times I thought I detected Brandon Sanderson in the background during the Mat chapters, but this is a good thing because I like Sanderson’s sense of humor. Good job, Mr. Sanderson!
The seamless transition is mainly a good thing, but it means that most of the issues I’ve had with THE WHEEL OF TIME are still there — the pace is excruciatingly slow (for all the pages in this big book and all the traveling going on, there’s not much overall plot movement), there are too many characters with similar names (I had to look up several of them at Encyclopedia WOT), and each of the cultures is unrealistically stereotyped (e.g., the Aiel still won’t look at horses, the Domani women are seductive, etc). There are fewer braid pulls this time, though spanking is still the preferred method of punishment.
As Bill said (above), The Gathering Storm is very much like Knife of Dreams. The plot is moving toward resolution, but there’s a lot of filler along the way. Bill reported that Sanderson had streamlined the prose, but honestly I couldn’t detect that; it sounded the same to me. However, this may be because I was listening to The Gathering Storm on audio with the familiar voices of husband-and-wife team Michael Kramer and Kate Reading.
And speaking of the audio, here’s a confession: Listening to a WHEEL OF TIME novel on audio is a massive undertaking: 33 hours of life in this case. Not only is the pace of the novel too slow, but Kramer and Reading read it too slowly, also. But I have a trick for this: I speed up the audio to 1.4 times normal speed and then it’s tolerable. In fact, it sounds like a normal reading rate at this speed. I recommend the audio version if you have the capability of speeding it up. If you don’t, make sure you’re up to 33 hours of leisurely listening or else get the print version.