The first book in this classic fantasy epic didn’t grab me. Let’s see if book number two can sink its hooks into me.
The Great Hunt, book two of the Wheel of Time series, begins a few months after the events of The Eye of the World. Now more trained in the sword and aware of his ability to Channel the One Power, Rand intends to take leave of his friends in order to avoid hurting them when he goes insane. He becomes even more determined when the leader of the Aes Sedai declares him the Dragon Reborn, he who will break the world and defeat the Dark One. But when the legendary Horn of Valere is stolen, along with the tainted dagger bonded to Rand’s friend Mat, Rand is set on another journey that will inevitably bring him closer to his destiny.
I had two major issues with the first book. The first was that it felt very much like a dollar-store version of a Tolkien novel. The second was that the ending came out of nowhere and it wasn’t very satisfying.
This book avoids both of those issues.
Not to say that it’s without issue. The beginning of this book is very slow. Tediously slow. It’ll put your patience to the test. But if you pass that test, you’ll be pretty well rewarded.
The characters can be pretty frustrating, too. A lot of them get into really petty arguments that cause a divide between them. One that lasts for several chapters longer than it should. Rand says one mean thing to Mat and Perin and the two are at his throat about it for half the god damn book. It gets annoying real quickly.
And the romance is… well, it’s a mixed bag. Some of them kind of make sense. But others just pop up out of nowhere for no reason. Rand gets his own god damn harem by the end and the dude didn’t even do anything! I get why Egwene and Elayne might feel that why. But why the fuck does Min? She only ever met him once and shared a five minute conversation with him, yet she’s competing with the other two for his affection like it’s the most important thing in her world! Does being the Dragon Reborn mean you just secrete an ungodly amount of pheromones’?
Okay, that just about covers my complaints. Now let’s talk about why I actually liked this book.
For one, the ending is actually really satisfying and exciting. Unlike the first book, which threw away everything it had built up to for a quick last-minute detour, this one stays the course. It spends all its time carefully placing all the necessary pieces, setting the board for a dramatic battle. And said battle is short, yes, but it’s still really engaging and interesting!
There’s also a sequence in here that made me feel genuinely uncomfortable. In a good way, mind you; that’s what it wanted to do. One of the characters is put in a truly horrible situation. Her plight was so terrible and effectively executed that it turned her into one of my favorite characters. I went from not caring what happened to her at all to wanting her to bust out and get some payback.
And when she did? Boy howdy, was it nice. I shouted “Yeah, get their asses!” out loud when I read it. Which was quite awkward, considering I was at work at the time.
I also quite enjoyed the fight scenes. They were very light on details, sure, which could be disappointing for someone who prefers a detailed, beat-by-beat fight scene. That’s what I normally prefer, but I actually quite enjoyed these. They gave names to the various sword-forms and let the reader’s imagination do the rest. Which would be a problem, if those forms weren’t named like they were. Such as:
- Apple Blossoms in the Wind
- Arc of the Moon
- Cat Crosses the Courtyard
- The Heron Spreads Its Wings
- Parting the Silk
So on and so forth. These names help escalate fight scenes from disappointing to awesome. How do you think someone would swing a sword while using a form called Parting the Silk? Or Arc of the Moon? You get to fill the gaps in the words with your own imagination and it gives fight scenes a fun little flare.
This is also the book where the series really started to feel like its own thing rather than just another not-Tolkien. The plot takes a more interesting turn, focusing more on new antagonists rather than just the generic Dark Lord bad guy. We get to see more of the world and how it functions. We even get some Game of Thrones shit with the Great Game in Cairhien!
I enjoyed The Great Hunt far more than I did The Eye of the World. It was slow and not without its problems, but it was ultimately worth it. I’m genuinely excited to leap into book three, The Dragon Reborn!
Question is: will I be satisfied with that? Or will I have the drive to read the rest of this insanely long fantasy epic?