Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

As I said in my review of The Eye of the World I've read a number of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books a few times. The Great Hunt; the second book of the Wheel of Time, has always been one of my favourites in the series. I think it's probably the one I like the most.

I did find it hard to get into The Eye of the World. There's the Tolkien similarities for a start, but I could get past those fairly easily (I'm one of the few people who doesn't really have issues with Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara on those grounds), there was a lot of world building in The Eye of the World, also plenty of scene setting, plus readers were getting to know the characters, and Jordan's love of intricate description. These all made The Eye of the World a challenging read. It wasn't the best thing I'd ever read, I didn't get that whole shot of nitro glycerine to the brain thing that I got with A Game of Thrones and The Lies of Locke Lamora, but I was intrigued and I picked up The Great Hunt as soon as I saw it.

To a certain extent it's a very different book. It has the same characters and it continues the story begun in The Eye of the World. The setting is slightly different. The Shienarans have a distinct Asian flavour to them, and are very different from Tolkien, and with some exceptions, from most epic fantasy of the time.

Robert Jordan decided to split his central group up as well in The Great Hunt, this had also happened in The Eye of the World, but I felt the split was more emphasised, and certainly more deliberate than the previous book. Rand, Mat, Perrin and Loial go off to look for the Horn of Valere and the dagger from Shadar Logoth, while Nynaeve and Egwene head off to Tar Valon to become Aes Sedai.

Rand, Loial and a 'sniffer' called Hurin break away from the rest of the group and get stuck in the wilds of Cairhien with a bewitching and beautiful young lady called Selene. Rand, Hurin and even Loial become besotted with her, despite her being central casting's perfect femme fatale. Admittedly she's not totally evil, but she will cause problems later on. One thing that was present in The Eye of the World, and was also here was Rand and Perrin's belief that the other knows how to talk to girls. It's funny once or twice, but two books in it's rather tiresome, besides the only one of the trio that is any good with girls is Mat.

Rand's story does eventually see him reunited with Mat and Perrin, as well as the gleeman Thom Merrilin, believed by Rand to have perished in an encounter with a Fade in The Eye of the World. Rand's story contained two sequences I thought were very strong. One was him being taken through all the possible lives he could have lived, and dying in each one with the Dark One whispering in his ear 'I win again Lews Therin' at the moment of death. This was done well and it was very powerful, it also confirms that Rand is the true Dragon reborn. The other was his sword fight with the Seanchan blademaster. The descriptions of the sword movements are a bit silly and over done, ie: The Basset's Ears Flap In The Breeze, etc..., but they're fairly effective in giving you the idea of the fight, without using intricate descriptions of each and every movement in the encounter, this is unusual for Jordan who has never been accused of being ecomomical with his use of words. On the other side of the ledger Rand's story does also contain some of that pointless wandering around that appears in so many fantasy epics, and really only serves to eat up pages and frustrate readers.

I've always said Mat was my favourite, and I hold to that, but it hasn't happened yet. He's not in this all that much, and he's fairly unpleasant when he is, however my other favourite Nynaeve shines. The Aes Sedai as an organisation really interest me, and the way they do what they do. So to see Egwene and Nynaeve in the centre of that, along with Elayne Trakand, the Daughter Heir of Andor was quite a treat for me. I hadn't really experienced anyone go into an organisation like the Aes Sedai and study them in the way Jordan did in The Great Hunt.

I know I've gotten the order in which things happen in the books all messed about in my head, because the Seanchan appear in this, and they're really a villain. I didn't think that happened until a few books on.

There's some fairly extraneous stuff through the middle of the book, which I think a more ruthless editor could have trimmed, and would have possibly made it stronger, but it comes home strong and the last 200 pages are gripping. It still remains one of the best books in the series, as far as I got anyway, and it's still my favourite. Next month: The Dragon Reborn.

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