So, the second book in the Wheel of Time Series, The Great Hunt, reveals a lot of information withheld in the first book but adds more questions to the overall mystery of Rand al’Thor and the pattern.
I’m going to keep this summary as brief as possible. The second book picks up pretty much where the first book ends, with Rand and his friends in Fal Dara with Lord Agelmar. It’s been a month since Rand had made up his mind to leave his friends to find himself. Everyone’s favorite taciturn Warder, Lan, is wondering why he’s still around but teaches him a few useful sword moves anyway. Of course, Rand being who he is, he decides to leave Fal Dara the minute he sights the Amyrlin Seat and her Aes Sedai (and their Warders) posse enter the keep. A bunch of things happen, someone escapes the dungeon, some people get killed, some stuff gets stolen, and the Amyrlin Seat pretends she’s not there for Rand at all then finally decides to return to Tar Valon even before Lord Agelmar has a chance to throw her a welcome party.
This book is all about journeys to some place or other. Egwene and Nyneave, being new Aes Sedai recruits, accompany the Amyrlin Seat’s party with the rest of the Aes Sedai (including Moraine and Lan) to Tar Valon to start their training, while Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Loial join Lord Ingtar’s party to track down Padan Fain (the escaped prisoner) and the Horn of Valere and ruby-handled dagger from Shadar Logoth (the stolen stuff).
In the group going to Tar Valon, Egwene and Nyneave learn much about themselves and their abilities, while Moraine and Lan suddenly disappear somewhere along the way to go who knows where and to do god knows what. When they reach Tar Valon, the two Emond Fielders begin their training as an Accepted and Novice. Egwene meets fellow Novice Elayne and Min, who is in the White Tower at the time, because it’s convenient to have all the women in Rand’s life in one setting to talk about him randomly.
Meanwhile, Lord Rand and his group head south, hot on the trail of Padan Fain and the stolen loot. However, things don’t go according to plan when Rand, Loial, and Hurrin (Lord Ingtar’s official bloodhound) suddenly find themselves in a sort of alternate universe, where time and distance don’t follow the laws of physics. And because three beautiful women fighting over him are not enough for the Dragon Reborn (oops, spoiler, obviously), Rand meets a mysterious noblewoman (the fairest of them all and one he actually has the hots for) in this mysterious place. Rand’s group was able to return to the present world, and despite the segue, actually overtakes Lord Ingtar’s original search party. To make a long story short, Rand finds Padan Fain, retrieves the stolen loot, then heads to the city of Cairhien owing to Selene’s suggestion to await Lord Ingtar’s group. Unfortunately, shortly after arriving at Cairhien, Rand gets caught in the Game of
Thrones Houses, where he makes a lot of enemies and zero friends among the city’s noble houses. The good news is, a character who everyone thought was dead was actually alive and singing and dancing and telling stories in Cairhien (gee, I wonder who it could be??). The bad news is, he doesn’t want anything to do with Rand and his new adventure. Rand, Loial, and Hurrin try their best to keep the Horn and dagger safe from Darkfriends, but because all of this is just about three fourths of the entire book, the dagger and Horn get stolen by fiends the minute Lord Ingtar and the rest of the Shienerans enter the walls of the city.
Things go from bad to worse for most of the characters at this point, as the Wheel forces them to travel again and converge at Falme on the coast on the other side of the world.
While the aforementioned was happening to the main characters, some weird things were happening in Toman Head and that part of the world. A group of people called the Seanchan, who were Artur Hawkwing’s followers/descendants from beyond the Aryth Ocean, returned to this side of the world to reclaim what once was theirs. Basically, they returned with strange beasts and Aes Sedai on leashes (Damane) to take over the world. It’s not clear (at least to me) what any of this has to do with Rand and the current plot, and for some reason known only to him, Padan Fain brings the Horn of Valere to Seanchan High Lord Turak, who is a collector of rare knickknacks.
Padan Fain leads Rand and his party to Falme for a confrontation that never happens, because despite using magical channels, they arrive four months later. Meanwhile, an evil Aes Sedai from the White Tower tricks gullible Nyneave and Egwene into going with her to Falme to allegedly save Rand (Elayne and Min go with them, because no way are they gonna be left out of the story). However, when they get there, evil Aes Sedai turns them over to the Seanchans to become leashed Damanes (except only Egwene is leashed and Min captured, because Nyneave and Elayne literally run away and leave them behind). Nyneave and Elayne later come up with a plan to save Egwene and Min, and in the last few chapters of the book, all of the characters are at Lord Taruk’s compound doing their own thing (with Rand’s group getting the Horn and dagger and Nyneave’s girls rescuing Egwene). All hell breaks loose as troops go after Rand and the Horn, Aes Sedai unleash thunder and lightning, and The Children of the Light appears out of nowhere to join the fray. But as Rand and his friends find themselves trapped between the Seanchans and Children, Mat blows the Horn of Valere, calling forth dead heroes to fight with them. During this supernatural battle royale, Rand fights Ba’alzamon (again) in an epic battle that was broadcast live from the sky for everyone to see (epic material for the upcoming TV series).
After things settle down, the Aes Sedai in training return to Tar Valon with Mat and the dagger to complete his exorcism, while Rand wakes from his confrontation with Ba’alzamon in the company of Perrin, Loial, the surviving Shienarans, Min, and Moraine, who claims to have been in Falme the whole time helping out (sure, Moraine). By this time, everyone in Falme and the surrounding villages pretty much know that Rand is the Dragon Reborn or at least someone important, and word is spreading fast. The book ends with Rand finally accepting his fate (maybe), leaving readers wondering what else can happen in the next 12 books.
Well, so much for my brief summary. But really, how briefly can you really summarize a book with over 600 pages? While the first book introduces the important characters of the series, this second one pretty much makes it clear that Rand is The Chosen One, wanted by literally everyone – the Aes Sedai, the Dark One, the four women, and even the Aiel. Most important, this book shows how the major characters are changing – Egwene and Nyneave into the powerful Aes Sedai they could be, Rand into the Dragon Reborn, Perrin into a wild wolfman, and Mat into a…I’m not actually sure what his role in the bigger picture is. In any case, the events in this book serve basically as an elaborate introduction of Rand al’Thor to the world, setting up the story of the next books. This book also reveals some interesting facts about Moraine and Lan’s relationship and what readers can expect from that bond.
The ending promises more good things to come, especially if Rand actually decides to embrace his fate, though it’s not clear what his next move will be or what Moraine has in store for him.
Up next, book three, The Dragon Reborn!
The Great Hunt – The Wheel of Time Book #2 (1990) – Robert Jordan
Tor; 658 pages (tpb)
Personal rating: 3.5/5