Book Review: The Great Hunt
Published by Orbit Fantasy
There is a world of light and shadow, where good and evil wage eternal war. It is the world of the Wheel of the Time, the greatest fantasy epic ever written.
The Forsaken are loose, the Horn of Valere has been found and the Dead are rising from their dreamless sleep. The Prophecies are being fulfilled – but Rand al’Thor, the shepherd the Aes Sedai have proclaimed as the Dragon Reborn, desperately seeks to escape his destiny.
But Rand cannot run forever. With every passing day the Dark One grows in strength and strives to shatter his ancient prison, to break the Wheel, to bring an end to Time and sunder the weave of the Pattern.
And the Pattern demands the Dragon.
I’m revisiting the Wheel of Time series, one of the biggest and most successful fantasy series ever. I love this series, and The Great Hunt is the second book, and arguably better than the first (The Eye of the World).
Rand and his band of heroes are back, and this time they are chasing the legendary Horn of Valere – a horn that, if blown, will call the Dead to fight for whoever blew it (good or bad). Egwene and Nynaeve are off to the White Tower to train to be Aes Sedai, whilst Rand is drawn towards the coastal town of Falme near Toman Head, despite his best efforts to avoid his destiny and the Aes Sedai. Because Rand is the Dragon Reborn; information which is dangerous even in the right hands.
But Falme is overrun by the Seachan, who have a very different way of treating their Aes Sedai, and a very different way of doing things completely. And so is the horn, taken there by the crazed and vile Padan Fain, the man who is egging Rand on. The Pattern is determined to have its way with Rand and his friends.
This is another rip-roaring tale through the world of the Wheel, and Jordan does it in style. There are significantly less Lord of the Rings-style references here, which makes for a much more comfortable read. The story itself is more compelling than the first book as well – we know the characters and they seem to have stepped in to their roles a lot more.
And – mild spoiler alert – I’m pleased to see the return of Thom, though in what capacity we’ve yet to discover. The introduction of Selene, I’m afraid, is rather heavy-handed though. It’s clear from the start who she is (or who she’s meant to be), and although this is only half confirmed at the end, it’s increasingly frustrating throughout to see through her and have the characters so easily blinded. It seems completely juxtaposed to the concept that our protagonists are intelligent to see them struck dumb.
Nynaeve gets more page-time, but somehow doesn’t shine in the same way as she did in the first book – she is one of my favourite characters, and yet she is tempered by the flatness of Elayne and Min. Elayne and Min are half-sketched characters and don’t really come in to their own in this book, which you feel perhaps they should.
The last few chapters, all in Falme, are tense and gripping and as exciting a battle as I’ve ever read. It’s done brilliantly, with clever turns that even the most seasoned fantasy reader won’t see coming. I was deeply impressed with Jordan’s ability to write fight sequences; it’s a hard thing to do and can risk becoming overcooked, but Jordan does it with simplicity and confidence, which makes the last hundred pages or so dash past.
I wish more time had been taken to explore the Seanchan, but Jordan expands his world bit by bit, and what you see in book two is a fraction of what comes in book three and so on, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about!
Ever so slightly shorter than book one, The Great Hunt feels like a stronger, more confident foray in to the world, and feels like it at last has a winning hand.