The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. For centuries, gleemen have told of The Great Hunt of the Horn. Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.
And it is stolen.
Spoilers for The Eye of The World, book 1 of The Wheel of Time
In my review of The Eye of The World, I talked about the pros and cons of the book, and how it kind of left me on the fence. Well, with The Great Hunt that is no longer the case – I like it.
The writing and worldbuilding is as good as the previous book. We get to see long awaited places like Tar Valon, the Ogier’s stedding, Cairhien, and more besides. There are revelations, but like any good mid-series book, The Great Hunt raises more questions and mysteries than it answers. I was rather pleasantly surprised to see the first chapter begin with the exact same lines as book one – The Wheel of Time turns… etc etc. Good stuff.
The nagging similarity to The Lord of The Rings has fortunately taken a huge step back as well, as the plot finally starts to go in less clichéd directions. The book also didn’t feel as over-long and drawn out (in part because it actually is shorter).
There’s a lot of character growth here. I’m really impressed at how Jordan has managed to evolve these people from village folk to players in large scale conflicts, and yet have them retain the core of their selves, so that they feel changed, not different. And I was surprised to find that I was growing to like Nynaeve. Yes, she retains all that irritated me in the first place – her temper, her overblown mistrust and hate of Moiraine, but her concern and protectiveness for those she cares about is starting to win me over. On the minus side, Moiraine has rather few appearances in this book – I really liked her.
The real surprise though was Padan Fain, the captured Darkfriend from the first book. Fain reveals himself to be much more than a simple bad guy, and is suitably creepy and evil and disgusting for all of his (rather short) appearances.
One more reason the plot felt faster and streamlined is much more stuff happens. The Eye of The World was, at the end, a big long walk/ride from one end of the land to the other, and had to spend a lot of time laying the framework of the world. Now though, there are a lot more viewpoints as Jordan brings in small viewpoints from secondary characters – like Domon, captain of the Spray, Padan Fain, Bornhald of the Children of the Light etc. who give us a much broader view of the goings on. And there are a lot of those too – there’s a mysterious invasion, the eponymous hunt for the Horn of Valere, Aes Sedai training, probabilistic adventures and more. All in all, the book feels much better paced.
There are still some issues though. One is Rand and Perrin’s continued refusal of their true nature. Yes, it is understandable that they are not thrilled about it, but after hearing for the nth time how Perrin hates being able to talk to wolves, I was like “Damnit Perrin, deal with it!”. That’s a minor one. The big one is the ending.
It’s not bad, there’s some exciting moments, and some painful sacrifices, battle etc. Which was all fine, but I’ve come to expect more from climaxes – revelations. I kept waiting for some big reveal, some mind-blowing twist, and it never came. In more than one ways it was like the ending of Eye of The World – there’s a bunch of apparently climactic stuff that happens, but in the end nothing major has changed. It just feels like holding tactics. The Dark One is breaking free, and I wish the people would actually do something – actively, not reactively – to prevent that.
And the story itself, though no longer as predictable, is still a pretty standard fetch quest for more parts, and not a edge-of-your seat adventure.
Finally, a word about Jordan’s approach to sword fighting. It is far too abstract for me. Lightning of Three Prongs meets Leaf on the Breeze doesn’t do anything for me as a description. I get that the idea is to allow the reader freedom of imagination, but it just doesn’t work for me.
So, The Great Hunt improves upon The Eye of The World in some ways, and is certainly a more fun read. More importantly, I’m now invested in the world and characters. Perhaps more in the world than the characters. And I can’t wait to find out more. So we’re off to The Dragon Reborn, this time with no hesitation.
My Rating : 4/5
PS : I have blogged in greater depth about my experience of reading this book – less review, and more a blow by blow of my feelings as stuff happens. Check them out here.