We, mortal human beings, have inhibitions, and one of my personal inhibitions is not to read fantasy, but when you live in an ever-expanding world of books and an ever-shrinking actual world, some of our constraints should be overcome and new horizons are eventually open. As a result of this new adventure, two novels of the famous and iconic epic fantasy saga, ‘The Wheel Of Time’ were read back to back. What’s more, while book one took more than two months to read, the second novel in the series took only two weeks. Now it is time for a fantasy neophyte to review and compartmentalize the pile of diverse thoughts about this high fantasy opus. Mainly, this review is about the second book of the series, , but they are so intrinsically connected that readers of this review will find numerous references to the first novel.
The first novel ends with the indefinite finiteness – the main character claims that he has vanquished the shadowy character of the Dark One, but the only connoisseur readers are familiar with, Moiraine, is non-committal and neither denies nor confirms his statement. This sets a scene for the next book, and it starts with the bang. It is definitively a gruesome beginning with very gory scenes. It is as if Jordan is sending a clear message – you might have been mistaken about the target audience in the first novel because the level of violence was minimal and non-descriptive, but this book, though fantasy, is not a fairy-tale for children and sensitive souls. It is a world where violence might rule and death can be a very distinct and painful possibility. It is also a world where everything is shrouded in mystery, prophesies, hints, uncertainties. The precious Horn of Valere with the feature of calling back the past heroes to battles is stolen, and the game is afoot.
Jordan is using the move he has already used in his first novel – he splits his characters into groups, and the adventure begins. Then he splits them even into smaller groups; thus, the challenges become more personal and more daunting, and the atmosphere is nearly palpable. This time the division is gender specific. Mat, Perrin, Rand and the military ilk of Fal Dara are tracing and hunting while the novices are struggling with their new lives in Tar Valon. This separation is only short-lived. Eventually, the plot lines converge, and characters meet for s short while and then split again. I think Jordan is literally trying to show how the Wheel of Time weaves, uniting and separating people into intricate and quaint patterns called Life.
Some of the moves and characters in this novel are quite genre specific, but a good novel is a good novel regardless its genre, and this one is a solid book. I personally like how the perspective of the world changes in the second novel. If the first novel is a story of a personal discovery and basic survival, a certain maturity initiation rite, where characters are very self-centered and introverted, and it seems that the world is only in them and around them, the second novel offers a broader panorama with different kingdoms, traditions, games, secrets. The world is unfolding, and I am sure the subsequent novels in the series will offer even more amazing discoveries. The world is not about the Two River folks any more; it is expanding in front of our eyes. Its expansion is not geographical, it is surprisingly scientific as well. I believe Jordan’s degree in physics helped him to come up with the ideas of the Ways (wormholes) and parallel worlds with stones as portals where the fabric of time and space is distorted. As a hard-core sci-fi aficionado, I can only welcome it.
I also enjoyed a social commentary in the novel. Most of you will possibly consider this superficial and not worth mentioning, but the concepts of ‘damane’ and ‘sul’dam’ are the very symbols of slavery. On a personal level, it makes me happy that Jordan is very categorical about slavery – it is dehumanizing, destructive, disgusting, and repulsive. On the other hand, the two traditional binding concepts of high fantasy, loyalty and oath, are glamorized and glorified. All in all, I actually toyed with the idea of reading the third novel immediately, but decided that a short break will make this reading experience more delectable in future. The Wheel Of Time series, here I come!