Titel: The Great Hunt
Author: Robert Jordan
Concerning spoilers: This review is of the second book in the Wheel of Time Series. For the purpose of this review, I will assume you’ve read the previous book. However, there will be no significant spoilers.
For more information about The Wheel of Time Series, previous reviews in this series, audiobook narrators, editions, etc. you can find my introductory post HERE.
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.
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.
If you read my review of the first book in this series, The Eye of the World (you can find it HERE) you might remember that I felt torn and frustrated after finishing it. I thought it had great potential, but I had some issues with it.
Let me start off this review by saying, for me, The Great Hunt was a smoother read and at times very engaging, even suspenseful.
My biggest issue with the previous book was the Tolkien similarities. They’re still present, but not at all to the extent as they were in the first book. Jordan’s voice is in control, and the more apparent similarities with Tolkien’s world that are still there were, for the most part, already an established part of the mythology.
Another issue I had was the pacing of the story. I think it’s much better in this book, but I’m still on the fence about it. On the one hand, the plot is “tighter,” and you don’t have those long periods of the story being at a standstill that irritated me in, The Eye of the World. On the other hand, as with the first book, I still feel that Jordan stretches the plot too much. For example, a big part of the story is the search for the Horn of Valere much of the plot revolves around chasing it, finding it, losing it and then finding it again only to lose it, again, and so the chase continues.
I know a lot of people might disagree with my opinion. They’ll point out that much of this comes down to The Wheel of Time and The Pattern making sure things happen as they’re supposed to. Therefore you could say that much of the dragging out of the plot is to show that The Pattern has a plan and no matter what choices the characters make or how hard they try not to, they still end up in the place they’re destined to be. I don’t disagree, and I think it’s a fair point. But, there are so many plotlines and other circumstances in the story that prove this particular point. Losing the horn, again, serves no purpose other than adding another hundred pages.
To be fair, it’s also a matter of taste. Personally, I like twists and turns in a story, just not the same twist happening over and over. Another person might find it exhilarating and suspenseful.
As for the characters, Jordan continues to focus on several people, which is something I really enjoy. There’s no doubt Rand al’Thor is the main protagonist of the story, but he still shares much of the “screen time” with several other characters. I’m not going to spend much time on the character development of particular characters in this review. It’s a subject I want to discuss more in-depth in my review of the following book, The Dragon Reborn.
What I’ll say is that some of them become more interesting, although personally, I feel that’s more down to the circumstances they are in than the actual characters evolving. I feel like the overarching plot is the main character of the story and the people in it come along for the ride, but they’re not in control and Jordan doesn’t spend a great deal of time developing them into characters with depth. I don’t believe it’s something that could be explained by the concept of The Pattern; it’s the style, the way the story is told.
For instance, the political intrigue that’s hinted in the first book now become an integral part of the story. I like that part of the plot, I think it’s fascinating, and it puts some characters in circumstances and situations they have to react to. However, those reactions, with few exceptions, are pretty predictable. Despite everything these characters have now been through, they till act and react much the same as they did at the beginning of the first book.
Also, as with the plot, I think some things are taken too far. With two hundred and eighty-eight pages of the book read, I wrote this status update on Goodreads:
“Ugh, yes, you’re men. Yes, she is beautiful. But damn, you can’t be this stupid!“
Over a hundred pages later, one hundred, I wrote this update:
“My god, how stupid are you?!“
The particular plotline I reacted to continued throughout the story and was not fully resolved by the end of the book. It was a decent part of the story, it deepened some aspects of the world, history, and mythology, but it dragged on too long making the protagonists appear dumb.
When it comes to plot twists, if I as a reader can figure it out by the first ten-twenty pages, I have a hard time accepting that the author wants me to spend another four hundred believing the protagonists can’t.
For those who have read the book and are now screaming out their frustrated objections, I know, I know, you could argue that the reason they don’t figure it out is that there are sinister powers at work but, come on. I guess I just like my characters smart and I’m sick to death of the overused trope of men being dumb because a woman is pretty.
While on the subject of gender characterization. Something I find frustrating is that most of the more powerful female characters are depicted as either constantly angry, condescending, rude, manipulative, or just plain unpleasant. You could argue that it’s due to the political and cultural realities of the world and again, it’s a fair point.
It’s a hierarchical society, power corrupts or at least will make characters (male or female) act entitled. I realize that what’s described is an intricate and deadly political game of power and that the individuals participating has to adapt to the circumstances. But, while there is a wide range of personalities among the men in influential positions, the personalities of the women in power are pretty similar, so much that at times it’s hard to tell them apart.
On a positive note, the main antagonist in this book, Padan Fain is very well done. I know the Dark One is technically the main antagonist, but to me, most of the book is Padan Fain’s show. He’s this perfect mix of, ambition, intelligence, pathetic self-pitying and absolute insanity that’s so compelling and bone-chilling in an antagonist. (If you’ve seen the show, Hell on Wheels he reminds me of The Swede.)
As for world-building, this book opens up the world. You get a good look at a few of the cultures, the history and to some extent what drives the antagonist(s). The mythology becomes more complex, and you get a deeper understanding of The Wheel of Time and The Pattern along with a first real glimpse of the concept of parallel worlds. Without spoiling things, there some genuinely suspenseful points in the book and even though I feel somethings are dragged out, the way it all finally comes together is really good.
The Great Hunt has some really strong parts. The last hundred pages or so are a nail-biter, and I had a great time with this story. It might sound strange considering we’re now fifteen hundred or so pages into the series, but I feel like the end of this book is what really kicks off the story; everything up to that point has been setting the scene for what’s to come. With that in mind, I stand by my opinion that the way there, although enjoyable, could have been shorter and the characters as individuals could be more developed, more in control of the narrative.
But, despite that The Great Hunt is an intricate and engaging story. If you agree with my critique or not will depend solely on personal taste. Just as there are plotlines or plot twists I feel is dragged out too long, there are others that are surprising or that I didn’t see coming. And while I think some characters are dumbed-down to stretch the plot, other characters are put in situations that force them to grow or their personalities to changes.
All in all, The Great Hunt is a much better book than The Eye of the World and has convinced me to read the next book.
My Rating: 7/10
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