Review of The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time, #2) by Robert Jordan

Book 2 of the WoT focuses more on characters than plot, compared to the first, and still suffers from #1 New York Times Bestseller prose syndrome, plot conveniences, and a steep learning curve. Nonetheless, it is a closer look at Jordan’s insanely detailed universe, with in-depth character explorations, classic tropes and engaging scenes. A feast for fantasy lovers.

Prose: 2.5/5. Comparable to the better parts of Book 1. Well-dribbled info dumps throughout do not detract. Smooth narration, action and interactions with frequent irksome moments. The author’s major weakness lies in passive verb usage, adverbs, and dialogue tags. For instance, he feels the need to qualify most statements. After an observation by one of the characters I remember reading: “he thought dryly.” The word “dryly” is almost offensive to me in the sense used. How does one think dryly? The dictionary says it means “in an ironically humorous way” but it smacks of Tom Swifty in my mind. Instead of letting the dialogue speak for itself, Jordan felt the need to explain how every line was said. Was it exclaimed hurriedly, whispered slowly, uttered briskly, slathered fondlingly, sputtered inconsequentially, chittered ingratiatingly, groaned spasmodically, or hiccoughed egregiously? Most of the time I really don’t think it matters. However, I could put up with that nonsense in light of the other rewarding aspects of the book, but be warned…

Characters: 5/5. Nynaeve, Rand, and Mat return for an adventure surrounding the Aes Sedai and the Horn of Valere. Many new characters are introduced. I was surprised at the level of violence in this one. All of the characters have multiple sides, motivations, fears, and physical nuances lending depth to their personas. I was impressed and intrigued by Jordan’s juggling of quirky dialogue, surprising twists and his employing of subtle shades of character grayness. Ogier and steddings come more into play along with useful Waygates, and he keeps hinting at the Sea-folk, so I am really hoping to learn more about them soon. Superb, realistic, multi-layered characters.

Atmosphere/ World building: 5/5. Still an extremely elaborate, elegant and expansive world which only grew and deepened in this volume. Book 2 doesn’t cover quite as much territory as book 1 but it added to the history and lore in meaningful ways. Entering into a rich and vast saga is always exciting to me. I’m sensing that the further I delve, the more thrilling the discoveries will become. Thankfully, Jordan leaves behind many of the crutches he had lugged into the first book, like reliance on a Lord of the Rings plot. This is a less cinematic follow up, but more concerned with the feminine powers that interweave with the central conflict. Women play the biggest role in this volume and are given much room to develop our hero’s understanding of himself and his destiny.

Perhaps the best part of this book is the magic system. While it was present in the first installment, here it is more fully explained, qualified and expanded. The reason it works, is it challenges the characters’ morality as well as their physical and emotional capacities. The training montages reminded me of the ones Patrick Rothfuss appropriated for Wise Man’s Fear. Overall, I enjoy how the magic, the characters, the world, and the lore are all expertly intertwined.

Creativity: 5/5, Length: 5/5, Depth: 5/5, Approachability: 3/5, Couldn’t-put-down-ness: 4/5.

I have heard that Book 3 is where Jordan finds his voice. Others have said it is book 4 when The Wheel of Time starts holding its own against the competitors. I believe that Book 2 is enough to qualify it as a great fantasy epic, though it has not yet surpassed Lyonesse, Lord of the Rings, and several others. The potential is there, and I have no doubt that I will revise my ranking of epics in books to come.

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