The Wheel of Time Re-read: Monthly Summary (July)
Author: Toral Delvar
Published: July 31 2021 - Tar Valon Times Blog Link
Please note: This article contains major spoilers for the Wheel of Time.
In many ways, the Great Hunt is still in the mold of many traditional fantasy epics, at least in that it largely follows the quest narrative. It flips the format from the Eye of the World, as instead of our heroes fleeing something, they are chasing after something. We also get the heroes split again, and in this case, the Egwene/Nynaeve ploy doesn’t fit into the quest narrative format. As with book one, book two starts with a prologue separate from the main plot, this time at a Darkfriend Social. We see several Darkfriends described, some of whom we can probably identify, others will remain a mystery – how does a Tuatha’an become a Darkfriend anyway? In general, the book keeps up the fast pace of the previous one, with only a few chapters feeling like a rest from the frenetic action.
The world continues to expand. Characters we had previously met briefly, come back to play larger roles, notably Elayne, Min and Domon. Though for Elayne and Min at least, this is just one scene. We also meet Thom again, not dead, merely wounded. He apparently is confident of his ability to sneak into a palace and assassinate the king.
For character development, Mat is still Mat, but both Perrin and Rand grow. Rand more so, though much of this is from other people noting it – Perrin, Thom and others all think on how if they didn’t know better, they’d believe him a Lord. We also see him obsess about Selene, during which time he tends to forget Egwene exists. We don’t really get any development for Egwene or Elayne, but do get a look into Nynaeve’s psyche in her Accepted test
The world building expands further. We learn more of the Aiel and their ways, even if this is not much. And we meet the Seanchan, learning that they dislike women who can channel, control them in some way, and that they consider themselves the armies of Artur Hawkwing, back to reclaim their rights. We learn more of Cairhienin culture, and Daes Daemar, which might give us some understanding of why Laman cut down Avendoraldera and started the Aiel war – they all seem obsessed with plotting against each other to gain some sort of advantage.
We get more prophecy – some of the prophecies of the Dragon, that the Dragon Reborn will twice be marked by Herons. Rand decides to ignore this, as living in denial is apparently preferable to accepting he might actually be the Dragon Reborn. We also get a couple of Min’s visions -one for Elayne and one for Egwene. The Elayne one teases someone close to her will lose a hand, the Egwene one is more generic – a white flame. Egwene also has her first prophetic dream (or vision of what is happening) and sees Rand transferred to another world, with the implication that a woman (ie Lanfear) was responsible.
In terms of mysteries, Selene and Verin are probably the big two. Verin is clearly behaving oddly, for example, why would she have a satisfied smile just because she told them Moiraine sent her? Selene however, is even odder. She got to the parallel world through a Portal Stone, knew what one was and the name, knew about Grolm, uses the phrase “Friends of the Dark” in addition to the more usual “Darkfriends,” is very insistent she isn’t Aes Sedai and has an unhealthy obsession with Rand. We probably don’t know enough to really be sure of her identity at this point, but we can be sure she isn’t just some random Cairhienin noblewoman who happened to find her way into the world by accident. Finally, we see very strange behavior from Machin Shin – waiting at a Waygate and apparently trying to escape. Is this ta’veren working its magic, or did Fain somehow persuade it? Verin is adamant that Machin Shin can’t be controlled, but as we have seen often, people are frequently totally convinced of something without good reason.
We also see strange behavior from Liandrin, using the Power on people to control them and having an unusual interest in Rand and the boys. I don’t know if that alone is enough to mark her as obviously Black Ajah, but we should certainly view her as untrustworthy. Later we see a Draghkar warded so that it can’t be detected by an Aes Sedai. Moiraine and the others there assume the Black Ajah did it, but we don’t find out how they got a Draghkar, or who sent it to the Aes Sedai.
Relating to Aes Sedai, we see trouble at the Tower and that unusual alliances are forming among the Ajah; and that Siuan is on shaky ground. We learn that she was almost barred from coming and that the Hall came close to declaring her a Blue. Based on who she said voted or abstained, it seems that the people who voted for this probably had some overlap with those who later vote to depose her, but that there were people who wouldn’t oppose her here, but later became convinced she had to go, and people who were not supporting her at this time, but were not involved in the coup against her. The Tower politics here don’t make much sense to me.
The book ends with the characters in a similar position to how it started – Egwene and Nynaeve (and now Elayne) learning to channel, and the boys chasing the Horn and Dagger, with an Aes Sedai hanging around, even if Moiraine from book one has been swapped for Verin. Although they have been chasing the Horn, because they weren’t on the run, there has also been more of a chance to learn about the world; and we have begun to get an idea of just how big the scope of the story could be.