Part two of the Wheel of Time’s three book prologue.
It is only on my third reading of this book that I truly understood what another fan of the Wheel of Time told me when he said that the first three books of the series are basically a 2400 page prologue. Throughout the book, as in the first, settings, plots, races, places, history, lore–these are all thrown at you quickly and almost haphazardly. As with the first, this book centers around the journey of Rand, Matt, Perrin, Egwene, and Nynaeve as they slowly discover the destiny that they cannot escape.
One thing that is very interesting and seldom mentioned is that there is an undercurrent of science in the Wheel of Time series. Not exactly science as we would know it in the real world, but a kind of fantasy science. I have found the whole series far more interesting since I noticed it, as it lends the world a permanence that I had never really felt a part of in the past. The thing about this science is that it is never told to you outright, you are left to discover it at your leisure; there is a scene in this book that speaks casually and simply about the many universes theory of quantum mechanics. Whether the theory holds in our world, it governs the world of the Wheel of Time (called Randland by fans, as it is never explicitly named in the series to my knowledge), and there are scenes that hinge on this idea.
When I told you in my review of The Eye of the World that you wouldn’t have to worry about exposition overload, I lied to you unintentionally. For the first three books (and as I read, definitely a part of the fourth), you are still being quickly moved along, introduced to new set pieces, new countries and races and religions that you admittedly have to learn about in order for the heavily oiled machine that is Randland to serve its purpose. (Entertainment? Probably?) The way the many worlds theory is presented, and the Portal Stones (a related set piece, and sometimes-plot-device) is very casual and completely out of nowhere.
Rand’s unwillingness to accept that he is The Dragon Reborn (that isn’t a spoiler, we all know it is true by now) is painful at times, but it does serve a few purposes. The first is showing that Rand is still holding on to his Two Rivers style stubbornness. The second is that this is what the Wheel of Time series would be if Rand just accepted his destiny before he was ready:
Rand was told he was the Dragon Reborn, so he tried to fight a Myrddraal. He died. The Dark One wins. The End.
Matt, unfortunately, continues to be Matt — that is a very subjective statement though, as most fans of the series seem to like Matt. I cannot stand him as a character, but you may like him. He is a bit of a black hole; each of the Two Rivers three seems to have something of a superpower, and Matt’s is luck. This is good in some ways, bad in others. The good is that it allows for a lot of plot threads that would be impossible in a well written world, the bad is that it gives Matt a completely false impression that anything he does is the right thing to do and I just want to punch him in his stupid face!
Sorry, I went off a little there. Perrin’s plot thread is more engaging to me — like Rand and Matt, I find his stubbornness to be off putting, but that aside, his seems the most difficult personal decision of the group. As the series is 14 books long, you understand that Rand obviously accepts his destiny at some point (the only spoiler would be when that happens), and Matt just continues to be Matt, but worse (hopefully that gets better), but Perrin has always wanted a simple life. To see him struggle with his responsibilities, to struggle with desiring peace while being a soldier in a timeless war, to see him holding an ax while pining for a hammer — to me, his is the most emotionally engaging story at this point in the series.
If I didn’t know better, the ending would have me very excited for what is to come — but having read ahead, I am tempered. I know there are great things to come, but they don’t come at the speed you might think. I suppose in a 14 book series, that is to be expected… But there is a lot here to like. And hey, look on the bright side! If you are walking this journey with me, we are both two thirds through the prologue now! It is almost time for action! YEAH!
The Great Hunt
Rand's Storyline - 7.0/10
Matt's Storyline - 3.0/10
Perrin's Storyline - 9.0/10
History - 8.5/10
Plot - 6.0/10
Other Characters - 8.0/10
The book has a lot to say, and ironically not enough pages to say it effectively. The world is more vast and deeper than you could have even been led to believe after The Eye of the World, and for many that is a good thing. The characters develop and grow (except Matt), and it is amazing how well Jordan crafted their humanity so that it appears to flow in the marble stone that is this book. Races and settings are introduced hastily and then disappear, only to resurface later — exactly how Jordan wanted. All we can do is follow the weave of the pattern as Jordan left it, and many will enjoy it and many will not.