I seem to be having a bit of a Fantasy Summer. I’m currently alternating between the Wheel of Time books and the Belgariad series by David Eddings. Honestly, I’m having a great time of it, and reading the two (completely different) series means that I’m not getting bored either.
I read the first book in this series, The Eye of the World, last week and really liked it. I called it ‘proper’ fantasy and lauded the world-building and the characters, although I admitted it was sort of slow. Enter The Great Hunt, which is very much more energetic, and I loved it.
Plot summary: The Forsaken are loose,
the Horn of Valere has been found and the Dead are rising from their
dreamless sleep. The Prophecies are being fulfilled – but Rand al’Thor,
the shepherd the Aes Sedai have proclaimed as the Dragon Reborn,
desperately seeks to escape his destiny.
Rand cannot run for
ever. With every passing day the Dark One grows in strength and strives
to shatter his ancient prison, to break the Wheel, to bring an end to
Time and sunder the weave of the Pattern.
And the Pattern demands the Dragon.
Whilst there is still quite a lot of walking, it’s an 800+ page high fantasy novel, so what did we expect, really? And it’s walking with a purpose, so we’ll survive. The difference between the books is that I can actually point to Things That Happened in The Great Hunt, which isn’t strictly true with the first novel
So much is going on in this book and it’s all just brilliant. Some of the events and subplots really grasped me, to the point where I genuinely gasped and did a little excited dance. It was very attractive, I assure you. I’m going to be vague, but I loved what happened to Egwene, and Nynaeve’s trials were perfectly executed. There were some really dramatic passages about
Garion Rand (oops, wrong series) being forced to accept his destiny. Which we knew he would because, hey, it would be a remarkably short series otherwise, but it was just wonderfully written.
It’s strange, but it’s simultaneously more action-packed but also more political than the first book. Part of the novel revolves around the different factions of the Aes Sedai and the significance of the different-coloured cloaks, and I found that really interesting. I liked seeing a bigger cross-section of their order than just Moraine and I imagine it’s going to become very important in the later books.
What I particularly appreciate about these books, and what makes me grudgingly condone the sheer length of them, is that there’s hardly ever an information dump. New places, characters and backgrounds are introduced gradually and I rarely find myself having to flick back to remember what’s going on. It’s rare in a book of this nature that I don’t find myself confused at least once, but I never felt particularly overwhelmed here.
My one quibble with this series is the characters. Some of them are great – I love Perrin in particular. In my head, I see him as the guy who plays this person in Game of Thrones (I don’t know the character’s name because I don’t watch it, but I’ve seen him everywhere) and he’s the most pleasant and interesting of all of them. He doesn’t really like using his axe but accepts that it is occasionally necessary, he’s so patient with both Rand and Mat (which is more than I could manage) and his subplot is fascinating.
I like Nynaeve too. She went through a particularly harrowing ordeal in this book and she came out the better for it. My mother says that she wants to choke her with her own plait, but I think she provides the common sense desperately needed by the rest of the group.
The rest of the characters are more or less completely unlikeable. Mat is bitter and whiny (I’ve been told there’s a reason for that by multiple people, but I think my irritation is too firmly ingrained now), and I really, really want to hit him a lot of the time. Even the minor characters, like Ingtar, aren’t great. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fully fleshed out with backstories and motivations, but it doesn’t make me feel any sympathy towards them.
And Rand. RAND.
Watching Verin’s smile, small and mysterious, Perrin felt a chill. He did not think Rand knew half what he thought he did. Not half.
Look, I get it. He wants a quiet life back in Two Rivers, and lots of different people and forces are telling him that it just isn’t an option anymore. I’d be pissed off too. But does he have to be so naive and stupid!? ‘Nope, you’ve told me to do this because it’ll save my life, but I’m going to do the opposite – that’ll show you!’ And repeat. It was really quite annoying. Like, really.
Luckily, there are enough interesting characters to offset the annoying ones, and the plotlines are so brilliant that I’d read this even if Mr Blobby were a character. It’s a lengthy book, but unlike The Eye of the World, I’d argue that this one probably does need to be this long. So much happened that the pages just flew by. Whilst I really liked the first book, I really do think that The Great Hunt is so much better.
And yes, of course I’ve bought the next book, and yes, I am obviously already reading it.