This is a review of the second book of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series; if you haven't read the first one, I suggest that you go do that.
We pick up where we left off; the Dark one was bound in Shayol Ghul from the first moment of creation, and our hero Rand may or may not be the umpteenth incarnation of the Dragon, who opposes the Dark one. Or maybe he doesn't, I don't know.
This book was frustrating, because it was close to perfect. Robert Jordan was a hair's breadth away from creating something that could very well stand the test of time and become a classic, and he didn't, which makes his few mistakes the more irritating. I will only mention the good parts in passing, because if I described them fully I would break our sacred 60,000 word limit. Jordan's world continues to be realistic and original, and the plot develops the characters and is engaging while still avoiding dei ex machinae. All in all, The Great Hunt is a very natural continuation of the threads begun in The Eye of the World.*
Now for the Sins. Firstly, there's something that has bothered me since the first book. For the most part, we don't get any explanation of how the evil characters think, what their motivations are, or any indication whatsoever that they're anything more than cardboard cut-outs. Why is the Dark One evil? Why does he even exist? Why do the Trollocs and Fades serve him, and from whence did they spring? Why does he want to ruin the world? It is very possible that all these questions will be answered in later books, but there should at least have been some hints by now. I hate to be a one-string harpist, but Tolkien, who created the granddaddy of all black-and-white good-versus-evil books, gave the evil characters complex and real back-stories and motivations.
Secondly, I know I rave about the worldbuilding, but there is a discordant note in this symphony. Actually, there are several bits and pieces that don't quite seem to fit. The world seems to exist in a technological stasis that has been maintained for more than two thousand years, which strikes me as unrealistic. Also, the Seanchan from over the western sea have apparetly, as a society, been able to maintain a single purpose for thousands of years: to reclaim the lands of Artur Paendrag. Really? An entire nation devoted to a single goal for century after century? We Americans can't keep going in a single direction, politically, for more than a decade or so.
But enough of my complaining. The few flaws that there are do nothing to change the fact that that the fundamentals are sound.
Demerits: Two-dimensional evil characters. A few isolated things didn't make sense.
Merits: Everything else. Robert Jordan can join the very thin ranks of true high fantasy authors.
Verdict: A case of Poblano sauce with no milk.
*Keeping your reviews spoiler-free is hard, man.