Book Review: The Great Hunt (The Second in The Wheel of Time)
I first heard about the Wheel of Time series through listening to the podcast Writing Excuses. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise since Brandon Sanderson is the writer charged with finishing the series. I hope to read those someday, but right now, I'm only just starting this fourteen book series, having just finished the second book yesterday.
But first, The Eye of the World!
For those who have read my Hub about the fantasy genre, I'll try not to repeat myself regarding the first book, The Eye of the World. I found myself bored with the book at the beginning. I remember sitting on the couch and telling my fiancée that the book was decent but nothing had happened yet. That was chapter four. As soon as I read the fifth chapter, I realized this book had truly begun. That chapter, where Rand and his father are attacked by trollocs, was dark and creepy, and set the mood for the rest of the book. As soon as Rand and his party were on their way, I was in love. The scene with them being chases by a Myrddraal in the dark of the night was frightening, as was the attack in the inn. The journey and escape from Shadar Logoth was moody and intense, and I loved the chase through the city as Mashadar tried to stop them.
However, the book slows after those scenes and not in a good way. While I can understand needing a breather, trying to follow all three groups as they try to meet up gets tedious. Mat and Rand's tale is slow and repetitive, constantly stopping at inns and having to escape. Perrin and Egwene's story fares better. Though it's just as slow at times, Perrin's connection to the wolves and their meeting with Elyas is interesting. It really picks up when the Children of the Light arrive and Perrin gets some great moments to shine. It wasn't until our heroes got to Fal Dara that I was hooked once more. The rest of the book hit full speed and the final was a satisfying one.
Many people, me included, would compare this to The Lord of the Rings. Just the character types alone would be proof of this. But I don't see it as a straight copy. I think Robert Jordan simply loved Tolkien's book and wanted to tell his own story in the same vein. To simply write of Jordan as a Tolkien knock-off wouldn't be fair at all. Jordan is a much darker writer. He is able to set the mood and atmosphere that I don't remember from The Lord of the Rings. Where Tolkien wrote defined, static characters, Jordan's heroes all have arcs and doubts. Jordan is a better writer in my opinion. He may be standing on the shoulders of a giant, but he knows how to write in a way that's fun to read, even when it gets long winded. I could gush more about the first book, but this is supposed to be a review of the second!
The Great Hunt
I was thoroughly surprised when I finished the first book that I immediately wanted to read the second. I had stayed away from huge series because I didn't want to commit to a story that took more than three books to get through. But The Eye of the World was good enough that I wanted more. In fact, I became temporally obsessed and even downloaded the theme song by Robert Berry (see the bottom of this Hub).
The second book, while not feeling as "classic" as the first, is a better one. All of the first books plodding second act is gone. The Great Hunt reads more like the action sequel of a thoughtful original. The scenes at Fal Dara are just as moody as some of the first books best chapters and the moment of Fain escaping from his cell is a creepy one. What follows is an intense hunt for Fain, the Horn of Valere, and Matt's dagger from Shadar Logoth. Rand continues to fight against his destiny and tries to deny the position of the Dragon.
I read through this one much faster than the original. Maybe it's because I have more time on my hands with college being over. But one of my tactics was reading this book in long, hundred page sittings. It seemed to be the only way to finish this in a reasonable time but it was never a burden. Every sitting was an engrossing one, with plenty of twist and turns. Rand's life and adventure are getting more and more complicated. The last hundred pages or so, they were amazing. The scene where the Horn of Valere is blown caused my jaw to drop and the events that followed were exciting. The true climax of the book was great, just as, if not more, satisfying as the first. The final pages with Rand realizing the implications of his actions had an epic feel to it all and that's what I love about Jordan's writing so far. He is writing epic fantasy in a way that feels epic and isn't just long. Events happen and you can feel the world changing and the wheel turning.
The new characters are just as likable as the original, but what really did it for me was how much I ended up liking returning characters even more than before. Nynaeve has become one of my favorites. She's as strong as the come and has a temper even I'm afraid to see flare. He story in this book is wonderful and she comes into her own much better than the first book. While Matt seems less interesting, Perrin is great friend and I want to see more of his story unfold. Rand, however, stays the center of it all and I'm glad he's such a likable character. While I wish he would simply accept the truth about his father (it gets a bit tedious to hear him repeat "Tam is my father" over and over), his struggle with his fate is a hard one. Not only is there the fear of being a man who can channel, of being a man who might break the world, but he has to watch to make sure he's not going mad. Rand is now watching every thought and action, and that fact alone could drive someone insane. Like the first, this book leaves me wanting more and I can't wait to pick up the third.