Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Epic Fantasy Review: The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time #2) by Robert Jordan

The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time, #2)The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic second installment in Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time.

For this series, I reread all the books each time a new one is released (and sometimes for no reason at all), so I can say I've read this quite a few times over the last decade. Guess what, it's still an awesome read, even more so because I now recognize the scope of Robert Jordan's planning and forshadowing. You won't find any plot holes in this story. Even the most inane tidbit of lore or history seems to have a place in the greater scheme of things. Min's readings are much more meaningful than they seemed in the first couple of readings. All the random seeming symbols, including the ones she doesn't understand, are quite revealing to one who's read most of the other books. I can already see that I'll have to read these through again even after finishing the last book.

One of the most interesting tools of forshadowing and character development in The Great Hunt are the trips through the portal stones. During the final trip, in particular, insight is gained into all the possible outcomes Rand's life could have taken, and even the most ideal end in tragedy. With all these other possibilities. It makes you wonder just how bad his current path will be, the one where he is fulfilling his destiny. It's one of my favorite parts of the book.

Another contribution to character development is Egwene's interaction with the Seanchan. Much of the book is devoted to their attempts to break her. What she gains from the experience is the confidence and determination to be her own person, to never again allow anyone else to determine her path. It doesn't completely change her, but it sets the stage for some very interesting turns in her personality and outlook in future books.

Besides all of this, the threads of complexity become ever more dense as the book progresses, though it may not be so obvious on a first read. I'm seeing things introduced in this one that won't be put into play until book ten or later. It's quite fun to pick them out now, but the first time through they were woven into the story seemlessly. Interesting, but not distracting.

Another favorite thing about this book is the introduction of Daes Daemar, or the game of houses. When Rand and his companions find themselves in Cairhien, he discovers the locals have an unhealthy love of intrigue. To them, every spoken word, deed or nuance must mean something else, and they are quite interested in this mysterious Andoran Lord who has arrived in their city. Rand's frustration as progressively more powerful noble houses send him invitations is humorous. Refusing them makes no difference. Burning them unread doesn't either. It is a valuable lesson in managing the irrational and manipulating the powerful, though his first attempts at doing so are mostly successful by accident.

As far as the read goes, it's an easy one, but due to the size of this book and the greater series it's a part of, it takes a significant investment in time to get through the whole thing. Of course, as someone who normally devours a book in days, I like that this one can keep me entertained for weeks.

Overall, I loved this story as much as or possibly even more than the first time I read it. The story is rich and complex, the people and places fleshed out and believable. I highly recommend this book to fans of epic length fantasy, magic and strong female characters.

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