The Great Hunt

Yes, it’s another post on the Wheel of Time. I’m now on the second book of the series, The Great Hunt, and I have a few more observations about how good it is to re-read things, especially when it’s been such a long time since I started.

Knowing which characters eventually turn out to be evil – nobody is explicitly marked out as bad in these books, and most of the time the ones you least think could be enemies turn out to be. Reading the series for a second time allows that wonderful moment of knowing more than the characters, and trying to look for any early indications of their real purpose.

Recognising physical descriptions of characters – most appearance based descriptions are only mentioned when a character is first introduced, and after 14 books, some of these characters have been around for a very long time. I had completely forgotten who is meant to look like what, meaning some secondary characters have a very different image in my mind.

Getting more out of the deeper themes in the book – I read the Great Hunt when I was about 14, long before I had studied philosophy. This meant I completely missed the implications of many parts of the books. For instance, the Great Hunt includes characters travelling through possible worlds, which are weaker or stronger depending on how close they are to the original world. Knowing now that this is actually a useful theory that some believe not only in principle, but in practice, is very interesting. I am also noticing much more of the characteristics assigned to different people and how this is inspired by cultures in the real world.

One last example of why the detail in WoT surpasses anything else I’ve ever read: in the books, people have common tunes and songs across different countries and territories. But the lyrics are usually different, often reflecting themes and values of the people of that particular place. This is so realistic. Humans share certain universals, but the details can often vary significantly, even to the point of incomprehensibility. Just think about common phrases or idioms that are changed from place to place.

Back at the beginning

I re-read Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time series, while I was away and had a couple of revelations…

First of all, I first read this book when I was about 13. The Eye of the World was published the year after I was born and I have been reading this series for an entire decade.

Also, it was really interesting to read it again now that I know (most of) what happens in the end. For example, certain characters which become major later but begin as relatively minor, are introduced very early on. Earlier than I realised. You can see the sparks flying between characters who will later get together as well – one couple declare their love for each other quite shortly after first meeting, and having hardly spent anytime talking together.

It’s still difficult to keep all the characters straight in your head. We are introduced to a lot, and you have to try and guess who will become important and who is secondary, or wear yourself out concentrating on every new person.

The main characters do seem significantly younger in this first book – although several of the heroes do not change much in the way of personality, they are very naive about the world and their place in it. I think Jordan does a very good job of writing from the viewpoint of people struggling to expand their viewpoints to match a much larger reality.

It’s strange which parts have stuck in my head, which have moved around in the order I thought they were set out, and those I have completely forgotten. Some are the cliches which Jordan can be mocked for – the constant habit of all the three boys at the center of the story to believe their friends are more confident and adept with girls, for example. Certain characteristics are also hammered home time and again; Perrin’s slow manner, and Nynaeve’s tugging of her braid (at some points in the series this quirk is present every time she is present).

Reading Eye of the World again was like revisiting old friends, the way you used to know them. Despite everything I know that has happened since, it was lovely to see the people they were, before being swept up in a grand adventure.

A Memory of Light

So it’s all over. Finished. Complete. All in all, I loved it. Even though it was pretty tense, being mostly one long battle. Still not entirely sure what happened in some parts, and wish there was more about other bits…will definitely be rereading the entire thing as soon as I can dig out Eye of the World. In the meantime…

* SPOILERS *

With the Forsaken being brought back to life all the time in new bodies, with new names, it got more and more difficult to keep all the characters straight in my head. Sort of like any spy novel, I guess, whenever people might switch to the other side at any point it gets complicated very quickly. Rereading will probably help with this though.

Things I liked:

That the Shara finally got into the story!
There was a really good tie-in reason for Nyneave’s long running respect for non-power healing techniques.
That the Dark One speaks in capitals. Actually sounded like he was booming in my head.
Pretty much every scene with Telmanes in it.
The Ogier in war-mode.
The fact that it made me cry – I kinda hoped it would.
Tam swordfighting with Rand.
The main ending.
Androl – never noticed him before, but really nice character.
The huge philosophical, free will and meaning of suffering debates.
The overriding ‘it is not me, but us which are important’ theme.
Perrin ‘doing what Rand cannot’ – very poetic.
Perrin’s power-wrought hammer – reminds me of Northern Lights!
Egwene bonding Leilwin. Brilliant.
Lan and his death threats: “Who are you?” “The man who is going to kill you” – if they ever do films (please DON’T do films) I’m voting for Liam Neeson to play him.
Loads and loads of the Old Tongue. Everything sounds cooler in a made-up language.

Things I didn’t:

Not quite enough Seanchan. Still too curious!
The very very end. Not satisfied really.
Padan Fain dying far too easily – extremely interesting sub-baddie, killed off in an instant.
Everyone continually sending last messages of love through their bonds, just to survive and do it all again five minutes later.
That Matt was no longer bound to the Horn but no-one noticed, or cared when this was revealed.

Things I still don’t understand:

Who was Moridin originally?
Are Luc and Slayer separate people? If so, who?
What was the Bowl of Winds for – just to keep evil storms at bay?
Was Matt coming on to Min briefly?
What happened to Alvairin? (It might be I’ve just completely forgotten this already – it seems highly unlikely she would have been left to run around on her own)
That Moriane went through everything at the Tower of Ghenjii (in full knowledge that it would happen), and Lanfear wasn’t even killed? Or even imprisoned very well.

There are plenty more, but that’s just a taster.

Towers of Midnight

I finished rereading the second-to-last book of Wheel of Time much faster than I expected, mostly due to how amazing it is, which made me think that a) I shouldn’t have put it off for so long and b) I could have started back a bit further, on book 11 or 12.

But number 14 is finally here, and the series in which I have invested about ten years of my life is coming to an end. I’m so excited to read the final instalment, although I will also be very sad when it’s over. I might have to start again right from the beginning – there are still a number of areas where I can’t keep track of who is who, or who is evil, and could certainly do with a refresher.

I read number 13 as a break from the Game of Thrones series, and it just made me appreciate both Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s writing so much more. The world that Jordan created simply dwarfs that of   any other fantasy writer I can think of. It is so indepth, such a complete and detailed universe that it feels almost more realistic than other books in this genre.

Of course there are still characters which are boring, and plots which are confusing (to say the least), but the breadth of description that readers are shown – plus all the rest behind the scenes information – creates a beautifully immersive experience.

A few highlights I love about WoT: really strong, stubborn characters (always so much more fun to read about), multiple vices and motivations for their actions (so you can never quite keep up with what will happen next) and enough different cultures to keep the wannabe-anthropologist inside me happy (particularly the Seanchan – still want to know more about them.)