Wow, what can I say. First of all, I listened to this on audio. The reader has a lot more patience with the text than I do and was able to make Jordan’s gegaw prose at least sound like it had some flow. In the past few years, I’ve been trying to make myself appreciate these late-90s fantasy epics. So far, the Wheel of Time (or WOT as the internet likes to call it) is the best. Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth is ridiculous fun at first and then just turns ridiculous. George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire is just boring nonsense. (Here are the points I’ve given up on the respective series: Sword of Truth, beginning of book 4. Song of I’ve seen Fire and I’ve seen Rain: Chapter 2 of the book, disc 12 of the audiobook, episode 4 of the TV series. (Holy cow, did I give Martin a lot of chances.) Wheel of Time: TBD.)
The Great Hunt is better and tighter than The Eye of the World. It’s almost as if Jordan had an idea of where he was going with the book and took some time to foreshadow events and develop some themes. Rand al’Thor’s archetypal devotion to duty and conflicting responsibilities is well illustrated. Egwene’s actions after being freed are believable and satisfying. The introduction of the sci-fi tropes of multiple dimensions and realities is intriguing. However, there are a lot of strange narrative cul de sac’s. Our heroes spend a lot of time trying to convince the Ogiers to allow them to use their Way Gate, but then, nevermind, it’s blocked by the same black wind that was blocking the last way gate. They risk life and sanity by using a Portal Stone, but then arrive at their destination at the same time as if they had just ridden horses. Nynaeve convinces Domon to allow them passage on his ship, but they never actually need his ship at all. It’s frustrating to have all this space devoted to solving these problems when it turns out that nothing was either gained or lost by these actions.
And the prose. Oh, the prose. There were many moments where I had to rewind the audiobook thinking I had missed something. One in particular I rewound so many times, and then went and found the same passage in the book and finally realized it’s not me, Jordan just got lazy. (This most perplexing moment was when Egwene first meets Elayne. First, they’s suspicious of each other and then all of a sudden, literally all of a sudden, they’re best friends. What happened?) And when Jordan tries, he’s even worse. When a character is frightened he speaks “with sweat in his voice.” When someone bleeds, it looks like “crimson fireflies.”
From just the first two books, I can see how the series lasts so long. It’s a gathering snowball of characters. There are no minor characters in Jordan’s world. If a ship captain is mentioned in the first book, then he gets significant attention in the next. (Even though Bayle Doman has absolutely no bearing on anything. He’s just there so that we can hear a lot of exposition about the Seanchan.) I can only guess that any character mentioned by name here, no matter how minor, gets major screen time in later installments. And any characters that character meets in later installments will get their own chapters in later books, and so on and so on.
But I say all this just to also say I didn’t hate this. I’m eagerly awaiting the Dragon Reborn to arrive on hold at my library. It is what it is, flaws and all. I drive a lot for work.