So, I’m in a book club with some of my good friends, and we each began reading Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series separately–me last year, the others a bit later. I finished the second installment, The Great Hunt in August or September of last year, while they’ve just finished it. However, now that we’re all on the same page, we want to advance through this lengthy (*ahem* understatement, anyone?) series. So, I figured I should post a review of this because I spent awhile on our comments. It’s rather chaotic, but here goes.
In Short: This was an exciting follow up to The Eye of the World. Rather than our heroes being chased across the world, they pursue two precious artifacts. One will help them in their battle against the Dark One and the other is tied to one of their lives. This was satisfying in its continuation of the story, but also in the development of the main characters–particularly Rand, Egweyne, and Nynaeve. Soon onto the next!
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. [Via Goodreads]
The story features young heroes Rand al’Thor, Mat Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara, who join Shienaren soldiers in a quest to retrieve the Horn of Valere. At the same time, Egwene al’Vere, Nynaeve al’Meara, and Elayne Trakand go to the White Tower in Tar Valon to learn Aes Sedai ways. Finally, an exotic army invades the western coast. [Via Wikipedia]
The Prologue is clearly similar to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire prologues, which are always distinct and intriguing ways to begin the stories. I like this one a lot because we see something else going on that’s outside of the group, and we get a peek into their dark enemies, including a description of the group from an outsider, which is always a welcome perspective.
On to Rand: I’m not Rand’s biggest fan–yet. I’m hoping this changes. I think he’s a whiny whiner. Now, maybe I’m not giving him enough credit, because I haven’t been cursed with the potential to destroy the world whilst trying to do the right thing, but seriously Rand, I need you to take a chill pill and pull back on the crazy just a bit. But we have a good dozen books to go, and I assume that the crazy has only just begun.
Speaking of whiny whiners: there’s Mat. Again, I don’t know if I’m being unfair to the guy with a cursed dagger permanently strapped to his hip, but I want him to buck up and stop being so grouchy about everything. I mean, it’s not like he has real problems like Nynaeve or Egwene who get lost and stuff and have to then begin their training.
I really have liked Egwene overall, and I think that at times Egwene falls a bit too much into the not-as-well-developed Hermione niche. She’s smart and spunky, but she then is shunted off to be just that character and little more, until more toward the end, when things get crazy. I’m hoping that over the next 20 years of writing, Jordan and Sanderson bring the subtlety of her character out a bit more consistently. She’s got some great moments throughout this book, particularly toward the end, but I want some more consistency with her.
Thom’s reappearance was a cathartic, utterly welcome occurrence–and entirely expected. He’s one of my favorite characters by a long shot, and despite being a clear Gandalf stand-in, adds singing, pipe-playing, and excellent martial arts to the mix. He’s also a pleasure to read. I love it.
The blowing of the horn. I totally love this. I think it’s brilliant, inspirational, and moving. Yes, it’s totally not even a hidden allusion to King Arthur. I’m OK with that, because it just fits so well as this crazy, gigantic deus ex machina and a great payoff.
I think that Jordan has finally distanced himself from his Tolkiensian roots (to a point…) in this novel. He expands his world immensely, bringing in these alternate realities and paths of travel. I really like this overall. The Eye of the World does a bit of what The Hobbit did: it gives us a glimpse of a larger world that we all want to see. There’s hints and inklings of greater political machinations in book one, but we see even more of it here, and I love it. There are even lines which clearly lay the groundwork for Martin’s “Game of Thrones” motif in his series. There’s also much more of a fatalistic payoff here. The Wheel of Time isn’t personal, but it coldly weaves its tapestry, leading its major pieces toward an end that only it knows–and could quite easily be tragic.
I’m trying to remember my feelings about the final conflict with Ba’alzamon, because as I read it I don’t think that I had any problem with it, because I was so caught up in the story, but now thinking back on it I feel as though it was a bit repetitive. We’ve only had 2 novels and we’re already repeating the final boss? I know that it’s the trope of “you can’t really defeat evil so easily” but there’s just one majorly major agent of evil? Is it just going to be Rand fighting him for the rest of the series? They fought a fiery battle in the sky that the world could see. That’s pretty epic. Where do you go from there? It’s quite similar to Sauron and Voldemort. With Sauron, I think it works because we have the buildup of him having been defeated and then he slowly gains power, and we don’t have multiple confrontations with him personally. With He-who-must-not-be-named, it works because they start just with a shadow of him sharing a body with someone else, then a shadow of him possessing a book, and then he goes away for awhile before retaking his form, and then it’s just small victories until the end, rather than an apparent death over and over. I hope that the scope of the evil is explored here, so that the ultimate payoff is cathartic and awesome, rather than “finally, just get it over with already!” You know?
Actually, come to think of it, with Rand going totally cray-cray soon, I’m guessing that Rand will be facing his ultimate challenge: himself.
This tiny review doesn’t do this epic work justice, but I’ll try to be more coherent with the next.