I picked up the first book in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, excited and anxious at the same time. Excited for the breathe of story, and epic adventures I knew were still to come; anxious for how long it might take for a fourteen book series to really delve into the meat and potatoes of the ever larger plot. I ended up really enjoying the first book, The Eye of the World, finding it a very good introduction to both this new fantasy setting, and new characters who (one would imagine) would need to be interesting and yet initially shallow enough to really grow and develop as the series progressed. When I finished the first book, and, taking no break, moved right on to book two, I again started to feel that excited/anxious feeling. Excited to continue the stories introduced in book one. Anxious that the build up and action would now continue its momentum into this next part.
I was very happy to have been wrong on that last point.
The Great Hunt, book two in The Wheel of Time series, continues on the same path, narratively and plot wise, as its predecessor, creating an easy and appropriate lead into a continued story regarding our main characters; Rand, Perrin, Mat, Egween, Elyane, Nynaeve, Moraine, and Lan. The flow and connection between the two is nearly flawless, continuing the deliberate pacing of book one, without losing the flow and momentum of the action. Many familiar themes, much like I mentioned of my review of book one, remain, yet have really taken on a life of their own. Still remaining are familiar archetypes and settings, though with characters who are alive, and evolving, and very different then perhaps pre-conceived notions of how these archetypes should act. Our rouge still acts like a rouge (living and gambling always with his own skin in mind), yet has the heart of gold, and is loyal to a fault. Our warrior/bruiser is a soft spoken, reluctant fighter. Slow to action yet quick to contemplative thought. Our characters aren’t only the clichés they may represent on the surface, making it continuously exciting and rewarding to read and see the skins of the onion slowly peeling off each of them.
One other aspect, specifically about The Great Hunt, that was appealing to me was the way the action is handled both in the narrative, and how in how it is written. Jordan offers no real advance hints or foreshadowed predictions to action that may very well happen at any moment; the writing remains the same, all the way through the point that our characters are being attacked by enemies. It makes the action seem spontaneous and gives the reader the same “danger behind every corner” mindset that the our protagonists are feeling. There isn’t any frivolous writing either; descriptions merely for the sake of describing. The action is quick, and meaningful, and goes on long enough where, as a reader, we too feel the quickness and urgency of the situation.
If I were to list my favorite things about this book, and the reasons I feel someone else may also enjoy it, that list might look something like this:
- The pacing has increased from the deliberate pacing of the first (introductory) novel, yet doesn’t speed along leaving the reader feel as if he/she’s missed anything.
- We’re continuously learning more and more about our main protagonist, as they grow from young adolescence, to young teens, to teens, and beyond. I’ve yet to feel that any one of them has grown stale, or that I would rather follow one in the story, then the other. Each member, and taking one step further, each separate plot arc is interesting, and fits well with the other plot arcs framing the overall story.
- Jordan’s writing style. While not the linguistic aficionado that Tolkein was, very rarely is there something written that seems placed there for no reason. There is a clear sense of purpose in his prose; the way he phrases his scenes and his utmost consistency regarding how he writes and differentiates between his characters.
Conversely, if I had to write a list of aspects I didn’t like about book two, the list would look like this, albeit much shorter:
- On a totally superficial level, it’s a bit overwhelming to know that I’ve only but tipped a toe into the ocean of story, plot, and intrigue that I imagine awaits me as I progress through the series.
- And that’s about it!
Throughout reading the story, I continually felt enthralled, and eager to read the next page for either some sort of internal resolution, or for one of Jordan’s surprise action sequences, which again, can seemingly come out of no where. Unlike the first book, where as a reader one can excuse some slow moments, since I felt they worked to make the faster moments that much more urgent and interesting, book two doesn’t have many of these slow moments; because the plot moves along at a good pace, giving the reader what we all want – a sense of progression and resolution. While I may not know what will happen to Rand (if he makes it that far) in book fourteen, at least I can feel comfortable knowing that his exploits in book three will, at least, be resolved.
One more thing to mention is that unlike that other long fantasy series, Martins’ “Song of Ice and Fire”, there doesn’t seem to be a tidal wave of new and somewhat arbitrary characters filling pages and random story arcs with simple ‘filler-characters’. With fourteen books total, I hope this is a trend Jordan continues.
This series continues to cause me anxiety. But the good, I-can’t-wait-to-see-what’s-around-the-corner type anxiety. A coworker of mine is on book eight, FIVE whole books ahead of me (to think what may happen in those five books gives me a great headache), yet I know she is only about HALF WAY done with the entire series. Daunting. But also, so invigorating to know this world I’ve entered will continue on, and continue to grow. And if book three (of which I am half way through at this point) is any consideration, Jordan’s momentum and skill at story telling, and suspense, continues strongly and efficiently. And while I’ve read two other books between finishing book two, The Great Hunt, and starting book three, The Dragon Reborn, my mind is still wrapped about the exploits of our young heroes. And that’s not bad thing, not in the least.