Series: The Wheel of Time, Book 2
Pages: 705 (Mass Market Paperback)
Publisher: Tor Fantasy
Date: October 15, 1991
Reading the second book of a fourteen book (fifteen, if you count the prequel) series feels somewhat like still being in the beginning, despite having now read well over a thousand pages set in Jordan’s world. In this, my third review in my reread of Robert Jordan’s epic The Wheel of Time series, I find myself thoroughly enjoying the way so far, and ready to go ever onward. Click through to read my take on The Great Hunt.
My reviews of other books in The Wheel of Time series:
<<Spoiler Alert: While it feels a bit odd giving a spoiler alert for a book that is over twenty years old, there are always new readers discovering Jordan and his epic series. This review contains plot and character details from this book, as well as from previous books in the series. If you wish to remain spoiler-free, do not click through.>>
The Great Hunt picks up within a few weeks of the end of The Eye of the World. Rand and his friends are still in Shienar, in the capital city of Fal Moran. Soon, they are surprised by a visit from the head of the Aes Sedai, the Amyrlin Seat herself, and Rand wants nothing more than to get out of the city. Before he’s able to leave, the city is attacked, aided by traitors within, and an old friend turned enemy, Padan Fain, disappears along with the Horn of Valere and Mat’s dagger from Shadar Logoth. The Horn must be retrieved at all costs – as must the dagger if Mat is to be saved – and the quest is on.
The story follows two primary storylines – the three Emond’s Field boys cum men accompanying the Shienaran troops south in their pursuit of Padan Fain, and Nynaeve and Egwene beginning their efforts to become Aes Sedai. There are several other minor asides – we see, for example, Domon, the ship’s master that helped save Rand and Thom back in The Eye of the World when they were being pursued by trollocs outside Shadar Logoth – but for the most part, the story is focused on the two stories. There is, however, a secondary storyline that follows a foray by the Children of the Light, the Whitecloaks, into the Almoth Plain in an attempt to gain control of the area. A new group is introduced as well: the Seanchan are invaders from over the Aryth Sea, hinted at in the previous book, but seen here as a major player on the continent.
With Rand, Perrin, and Mat travels Ingtar, a bannerman of the Shienaran king, and Hurin, a “sniffer.” He has the ability to smell foul and evil acts after they’ve occurred, allowing him to follow Fain’s trail easily – never has he smelled anything quite so wrong. They are joined by a troop of soldiers, as well as Loial, the Ogier that has decided he wants to follow the three ta’varen (meaning game-changers, people outside of the weaving/fate) around, so that he can write a book one day about the events surrounding them.
During their travels, Rand, Hurin, and Loial get separated from the rest, finding themselves stuck with a beautiful woman named Selene in an alternate dimension full of giant carnivorous frogs called grolms. This introduces a new mode of travel to accompany the Waygates introduced in the first book: Portal Stones. Later, when attempting to use a Portal Stone consciously, Rand nearly drives his entire group mad as they experience dozens upon dozens of possible paths their lives could have taken, travelling quickly between alternate worlds. In each of them? Rand finds himself defeated by Ba’alzamon, time and time again.
Egwene and Nynaeve, along with Min and Elayne, accompany the Aes Sedai Liandra via Waygate heading to Toman Head, purportedly because Rand, Perrin, and Mat are in trouble. Why Nynaeve believes her without question rings a little false, as she’s never shown a willingness to listen to authority up to this point; the compliance of Egwene, Elayne, and Min is a little more understandable. Needless to say, all is not as it seems, and Egwene finds herself leashed to a sul’dame, a woman who can control Egwene’s use of the One Power and inflict terrible pain to force compliance. Min is also taken, but Nynaeve and Elayne manage to escape.
The two groups end up coming together in Toman Head at the city of Falme, where great events unfold, and the three young men are forced to some stark realizations as to who they are, and what their roles in the world are destined to be. The women learn a harsh lesson or three, and all of them – those that survive – are clearly changed and hardened by their experiences. This is a good thing, as things are about to get tougher for all of them.
As in The Eye of the World, the climax of The Great Hunt sees great powers clashing, with a resolution that isn’t really a resolution at all. Jordan is in his stride here, continuing to world build, adding new and interesting factions like the Seanchen and the Illuminator’s Guild, new powers like Hurin’s sniffing and the a’dam collars of the sul’dame and their enslaved damane, and new wonders such as the Portal Stones. We see sights only hinted at in the first book, such as Cairhien, Falme, and even an Ogier Stedding, and we meet a member of the warlike Aiel – a person that could easily be Rand’s brother.
In a series that runs for fourteen books (plus the prequel), this volume really can’t be more than set-up for things to come, and it does that job quite well while continuing to build on the characters we’ve already met. The world is getting bigger, the magic stranger, and the characters more varied, but to this point, Jordan still has a masterful hand in control of his creation.
Steve’s Grade: A-
A solid second volume in The Wheel of Time series, showing us deeper motivations of each of the main characters while at the same time broadening the reader’s knowledge of the world, and the underlying magic that makes it tick.
Dragonmount, Robert Jordan’s official website (now run by fans and family)
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