We return to one of my biggest literary challenges – 15 novels, one series, hundreds of characters and oh my, am I besotted? Is this the high fantasy love I have been searching for in all the wrong places? I was really impressed by the Eye of the World because – in case you have forgotten my previous post or it has just simply become lost in the ether of my blog – it really satisfied a space that I had wanted Tolkien to fill. But I had been warned that Jordan takes a while to find his characters in the Great Hunt. I have to say I agree, the Great Hunt is a little slower. But it finally picks up it’s pace at the right point and the ending is brilliant!
You always want a good satisfying ending in a novel like this. You want to feel as if something is hopeful and complete while being open ended for the rest of the series. But before I get to that, there is a lot going on in this novel. Jordan takes it a step up from the Eye of the World, this is no longer a rehash of familiar ideas in fantasy, this is where things start to glimmer with originality and the backstory begins to become clearer.
Rand al’Thor is really coming to grips with his ability to channel magic and being a ta’veren. As a male who can channel, by all accounts he is destined to go mad and be dealt with in the appropriate fashion by the Red Ajah branch of the Aes Sedai. While coming to a decision over whether or not he should leave, the Amyrlin Seat (leader of the Aes Sadai) drops on the doorstep of Fal Dara for a visit. The Amyrlin Seat and Moraine (the Aes Sadai who found Rand all that time ago in the Eye of the World) alone suspect that Rand is the Dragon Reborn and pledge to protect him.
Then, when we are all just starting to wonder WHAT could POSSIBLY go wrong now, the Horn of Valere is stolen by a Darkfriend (who was locked up in the dungeon and somehow escaped killing all of the guards). The Horn of Valere is a legendary object that is said to summon long dead warrior heroes into battle to help in the final battle against the Dark One and it’s a pretty big deal by all accounts. As of course, a search party lead by a Horn obsessed man (tehe… phrasing) is sent out and Rand joins it with a few familiar faces. Meanwhile Egwene and Nyvaene are on their way to the Tar Valon to begin their training and education to become Aes Sadai and they meet some Aes Sadai along the way and start learning to channel.
The first part drags. It is slow, the prose is a labour and it is a weighty novel to first start wading through. But thankfully this doesn’t last. The pace regains some of that vibrance of the Eye of the World, but the Great Hunt shifts a lot more between characters. This novel also springboards some beautifully original ideas away from Tolkien’s influence and the originality of those ideas are compelling. We see a little more of the Aes Sadai’s way of life and training and discover there is more to Nyvaene than meets the eye during her Acceptance ceremony and later on when she is determined to rescue her friends.
This novel is much more about the struggle between fate and freewill than the Eye of the World. But I feel as if this struggle puts Rand at quite a disadvantage as a character. He is supposed to be the everyman, and I sympathised a lot with him in the first novel, however he has become almost mythical in the Great Hunt. We are told a lot about Rand but he is never really given much rope to be that in his actions, instead he seems to border on petulance. He seems almost to be doomed in this struggle of fate and freewill without much real protest, beyond stamping his feet, and I find myself not caring that much.
Jordan has the great luck of being able to throw all of his characters in the same city by coincidence for the ending because the Wheel Weaves as it Wants and all that meet the ta’veren are touched by the Pattern. It was a brilliant ending! It felt so much more satisfying than the Eye of the World because it didn’t focus on just one character and Nyvaene. Nyvaene is my hero! I am on team Nyvaene right now! If you want to find out why, you will just have to read it.
This novel is a little more diverse than its predecessor. More cultures are revealed, more politics, more prophecies, and certainly more clues as to where this big old story is going to go. I would say this one is on par with the first, it has it’s faults but different faults than the first novel. Still, I’m stuck on this adventure now and I am well and truly invested.