As the Crown of Stars series nears its end, this book loses its individual identity. There’s no real ‘spine’ overtly holding this book together as a unit. No new characters to speak of.

As a result, The Gathering Storm does feel ‘looser’ in the plot department.

On the other hand, the cataclysm that the series is centered around is drawing close. One of the more prominent subplots here are the Seven Sleepers’ quest to take control of the Crown so they can cast the spell to keep the exiled bit of Earth from returning. Unfortunately, this is undermined by much of it being in the hands of tertiary characters and away from all the viewpoint characters, so it’s hard to tell how well its going much of the time.

The fact that time is pressing is also undermined by the fact that it is always hard to grasp how much time is passing in this series. With multiple separate groups to switch between the series naturally hops back and forth a bit in time, so figuring out just when everything is in relation to each other is difficult, and is made even more so by the fact that traveling through standing stones takes a variable amount of time. I think being a bit more rigorous about keeping track of the progress of time in the book would have helped ratchet up the tension.

While the book in one sense feels like a ‘holding pattern’ while we chew up time to the cataclysm, there’s plenty to hold attention too. Alain and several other characters spend a lot of the book battered by outside forces without any real time being proactive. On the other hand, Liath and Sanglant finally get (briefly) reunited, get a chance to work out some of their troubles, and they provide much of the forward momentum for the book.

It’s not a place to start reading (hey, book 5!), but it seems to have set everyone up for the final act quite well. It’s hard to judge on it’s own merits because of this, and my opinion wavers between ‘took too long for what it did’, and ‘kept me engaged the whole way’.