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The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
4.75
Book Name: The Great Hunt
Author: Robert Jordan
Publisher(s): Tor Books (US) Orbit Books (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Release Date: November 15, 1990

Spoiler Warning: This review contains minor spoilers.

Please read with caution if you have yet to finish The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt.

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”

This is the first time I have read Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, beginning with The Eye of the World in September. I am still kicking myself on waiting so long before reading it, when I spent so much wasted time in my youth browsing the shelves of my local BAM, struggling to find a great fantasy series. Currently, Robert Jordan’s bestselling fantasy epic is being developed by Amazon into a TV series, but has been delayed due to the coronavirus epidemic, which is granting me some time to get up to speed on the series before its release.

First, I like to commend Jordan on delivering a stellar second installment. Jordan continues to embody what Tolkien did with Lord of the Rings, such as his grand worldbuilding, and a cast of “unlikely” heroes who are forced into a difficult quest to save the world. While the first novel began with a Shire-like atmosphere, Jordan quickly diverted from the Tolkien copycats of the 80s by immersing us in a whole new world and a whole new formula.

After The Eye of the World, we find Rand, Matt, Perrin and the rest of the gang at Fal Dara, a city located near the Blightborder. After the battle at The Eye, a Saidin pool untainted by the Dark One’s influence, all our characters are readying themselves in the new reality they have found themselves in. All three of our boys from Edmond Field are anxious about their current circumstances: Matt is continuing to struggle with the ruby-hilted dagger he took from Shadar Logoth, and Perrin has become more withdrawn due to his eyes changing.

Rand is growing uneasy within his role of being a male saidin user, and this unease is heighted further with the arrival of The Amyrlin Seat, Siuan Sanche. Fearing he will be “gentled” by the Aes Sedai, he is intent on fleeing Fal Dara, escaping from being a pawn in their schemes or losing his powers entirely. Aside from the young men in Jordan’s world, Nynaeve and Egwene are to journeying to Tar Valon to begin their training as Aes Sedai while Moiraine is intent on protecting Rand from those who will only see him as a False Dragon, and not the hero foretold.

Correspondingly, Padan Fain is locked away in a dungeon beneath Fal Dara. The Horn of Valere, the instrument used to summon the heroes of the Pattern, rest safely within Fal Dara. However, with such enemies as Padan Fain locked in a dungeon deep within, that might not be the case for very long, and dark forces are already intent on obtaining the fabled instrument. When The Horn of Valere is stolen, The Great Hunt ensues, causing hundreds to march forth to claim it for themselves, including enemies who wish to use the horn for evil deeds. All the while, Ba’alzamon, while not as present as he was in The Eye, does make a return as well, threatening the hunt and Rand directly. This is how The Great Hunt begins, and what a beginning it is.

There’s a lot of pressure in the arrival of the Seanchan, people with a harsh class system who enslave Aes Sedai, treating them like animals while using them as weapons. This class of people serve as a great binary against the forces of good at work in Jordan’s world, making it more dynamic and believable, rather than simply Trollocs and Darkfriends running around wrecking farmsteads.

Aside from the threat of the invading Seanchan, Nynaeve, Egwene, Min and the heir of Andor Elayne, are contending with the challenges of their Aes Sedai training, as well the off-putting presence of the Red Ajah (Sedai who “gentle” male saidin users), Liandrin.

For my part, I really enjoyed the training Nynaeve undergoes, a grueling trial to become an Accepted. It embodied more of a psychological test, rather than a strictly skill-based one. While it might make sense to make sure a potential Aes Sedai can use their powers, it is far more important to ensure they are mentally prepared to do so under extreme pressure, like a soldier going through Bootcamp. Seeing Nynaeve breakdown, again and again, was far more satisfying to read, and more concrete, than Egwene practicing summoning a ball of light in her dorm room.

TGH differs from The Eye of the World by keeping the tension of Rand’s anxiety of being “gentled” by the Aes Sedai (particular the Red Ajah, Liandrin) ever present throughout the narrative. This leads to faster pacing, where The Eye took a while to get up to speed due to the introduction of plot, characters and worldbuilding. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of “fireside chats,” characters partaking in lengthy discussions, but it all concretely contributes to the plot and building-up the characters. Jordan does a wonderful job of making the world he created feel tangible, and further expanding it by introducing us to new cities, cultures and peoples.

Jordan also makes his world come to life by creating characters with faults and emotions that we can relate to. Not that we all fear our newly discovered, magical abilities will result in us either going crazy or being forced to “give-up” our powers by excruciating means, no. But we all have fears and trepidations of not achieving our goals, or not having control over our own lives or destiny’s, or being judged by others for something we have no control over. Whether it’s a mental illness that one is dealing with, on top of the burden of the stigma we receive from society, or not living-up to our parent’s or family’s expectations. We all can find some kernel of relatability in Jordan’s flawed characters, that in turn we can reflect back on our own modern society. Again, making these characters relatable, making them human, and making for a pleasurable and immersive read.

Jordan dives further into his magic system, expounding on the power of the Aes Sedai, their training, the use of Waygates and the dangers of a man capable of using the One Power, saidin. And, while The One Power is typically used for good, Jordan ramps-up the tension meter by introducing Aes Sedai who are agents of the Dark One. In addition, he takes the pre-disposed notion of fearing the Aes Sedai from the previous novel, and heightens it by having Aes Sedai’s use magic as a weapon of evil. There’s a lot more “Sarumans” running around in Jordan’s world and the “Gandalfs” are not strictly agents of good either.

Furthermore, with the introduction of other Aes Sedai, such as Anaiya and Vandene, we are given further expansion of the Aes Sedai by being introduced to unique sects, such as the Browns, Yellows, Blues, Reds and more. No longer are we having a “female Gandalf that people are wary of” running around as the wise magic user. No, we have a vast group of magic users with different personalities and preferences, some being obsessed with collecting lore (Browns), while others are intent on saving the world (Blues), or eliminating male saidin users (Reds).

If you enjoyed the magic used in The Eye of the World, you are sure to like The Great Hunt for this very reason. Although, I feel Jordan continues to employ more soft magic, rather than hard magic, I have a feeling as the series continues to progress, the system of magic will continued to be revealed to us. There’s still a good dollop of action-scenes with magic being used, huge explosions and whatnot, but there is also subtle use of magic being employed, such as Egwene learning to use her powers in Tar Valon. And, if one enjoys Nynaeve as a character, you will be happy to learn there is an explosive confrontation involving magic.

Personally, I found one section of the novel to be a slog to read through, being Rand’s interactions with Selene, a beautiful woman who keeps goading him to sound the horn himself, and Rand can’t keep himself from fantasizing about marrying.

“She [Selene] was surely the most beautiful woman he [Rand] had ever seen, intelligent and learned, and she thought he was brave; what more could a man ask from a wife?”

Give me a second, I need a trashcan…

Aside from the eyerolling I did, there is this tangible sense of feeling not all is as it seems with Selene, which is kept subtle for the reader until the end of the novel. While I can see why Jordan wrote Rand to be this type of character, he is a young, teenage boy after all, with hormones, and all that mess, but it still made for an annoying read. Despite that, I still applaud Jordan on eliciting a perfectly plausible reactions from a young man growing into his own and dealing with emotions we can relate to. Love, or rather, infatuation, is something we all might have felt at one time or another, blinding us to the truth of what’s really going on. Again, I cannot stress enough how well Jordan wrote some of these characters, including Rand’s awkward, obsession with Selene, for it provoked the correct tone the story needed at the moment, and that takes real talent. That’s great writing.

One of the characters I enjoyed is Loial, the Ogier who is intent on seeing the world. This is because Loial continues to be this rebel against his culture, but is also this bashful and polite character you can’t help but love. He faces this norm his society harbors head-on in The Great Hunt, and doesn’t back down from his dreams, even when he is stirred to possibly abandoning his goals. As mentioned earlier in this review, Jordan does a wonderful job of creating these flawed, human characters who are believable, and Loial fits the bill really well. I also enjoyed reading Moiraine’s development as a character in TGH. Jordan really shows her flaws, her anxieties of potentially losing Lan, as well as her struggle to bring justice to the world, even against her own happiness. Again, I applaud you Jordan, you are the man.

Overall, Jordan’s second installment was an awesome read, with a darker setting, faster pacing, higher tension, further expansion on interesting characters, more worldbuilding and villains who differ from their predecessors. I unquestionably enjoyed it more than The Eye of the World.

The WoT is not a fantasy series of the 80s, with the trappings of the strict “good against evil” formula. If you are used to reading classical novels like Terry Brook’s Shannara, but are hesitant to read dark fantasy series like Brian Lee Durfee’s The Five Warrior Angel series, or Mark Lawrence’s The Broken Empire, but still want to read something resembling Tolkien, don’t hesitate to pick up Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Because so far, I have yet to be disappointed.

Stay safe everyone and happy reading!

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