Feb 15 2012 2:00pm

Wheel of Time Musings: The Great Hunt

The Great Hunt, Book 2 of the Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan

To this day, I feel that The Great Hunt is the best self-contained story in The Wheel of Time. Now, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite (that distinction belongs to book four) but it is remarkable in that of all Wheel of Time books, it feels the most focused and direct.

It’s always hard to pick a favorite section of a book like this, as my moods and interests have changed so many times while reading the series. However, most recently, I think I like the scene of Rand learning the Game of Houses the most. This scene is responsible for the first time in my life that I can remember being directly influenced by a book I was reading to create a magic system.

It happened when I was still a teen. Now, I’d been unconsciously influenced by writing before, but never had I read something and specifically had that (now familiar) experience of saying “Hey, this would make a great magic system.” Here, I imagined a land where everyone had a little mystical number that floated by their head, representing their influence in society. You could give influence to others as payment, or earn it through certain acts. You could spend it to hide things about your number, or to accomplish magical feats both large and small.

I never ended up using that system. Perhaps I will someday, though now, it feels too influenced by things I’ve read. Also, I’ve seen some authors do a great job of concepts like this. (Scott Westerfeld did something similar later in his Uglies series.) Still, that one little magic system itches at me to find a home, if only as an homage to The Great Hunt and its compelling narrative.


Keep track of Brandon’s musings on the Wheel of Time in the Memory of Light index. His thoughts on The Eye of the World can be found here.

Brandon Sanderson is the author of Elantris, The Mistborn Trilogy, and, with Robert Jordan, the New York Times bestselling The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight, and the forthcoming A Memory of Light, the final volumes to the epic Wheel of Time.

1. Odin
I think the Great Hunt and the Eye of the World are really the only two books that could, with a few minor tweaks, stand alone. The others are all too set as being part of an overall story. So, I agree that the Great Hunt does feel "focused and direct."

For me, The Eye of the World and the Towers of Midnight are my favourites. The middle stories suffer, in parts, from an understandable lack of pace. The first book and the most recent don't., I think
2. CheriseMK has implemented this influence system in real life! Well, at least as real life involves the social networks. If you join Klout, you get a number that represents how much you influence others. This number changes every day. You also get +K points for influencing others. You can spend these points to get various perqs or give them to your friends in recognition of their influence over you.
Ian B
3. Greyfalconway
That system you describe sort of reminds me of the system you created in Warbreaker
Chris Long
4. radynski
I think each of the first three books does a very good job of being a self-contained story. The first is the Journey, the second is the Hunt, and the third is Acceptance. They declare their objectives, work toward, and complete them all within the single book.

After that it gets fuzzy, but the first three are all very well-contained.
William Frank
5. scifantasy
The system I'm reminded of is Whuffie, from Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Which, though it's science fictional and not fantastical, has sufficient elements (the "Cure for Death," nanotech a step beyond everpresent, &c.) to really drive home Clarke's Third Law.

"Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn't starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented — your personal capital with your friends and neighbors — you more accurately gauged your success."
6. Paulie
Greyfalconway @ 3 had the same thought I did. Sounds like "breath".
7. Achos
Maybe like the Darknet levels from Suarez's Daemon series?
8. Taryntula
This is actually where I am in my re-read...great timing! One of the scenes that really stands out to me in this one is when Lan is preparing Rand to meet the of the most comical, yet sobering scenes.
9. Batman
I second the Warbreaker system reference.
Tyler Durden
10. Balance
Thank you for posting this. I agree. I also agree that the first three are the most self contained.
11. The Gumslinger
Actually, the magic system you mentioned is how Slashdot runs. It's two-tier, admittedly - Anonymous Coward has a lot less karma than any ordinary member. And you don't gift karma - you use yours to raise or lower someone else's karma, depending on your assessment of their contributions
12. Tenesmus
Thom putting a knife point to an intruder's eyeball is still vivid in my mind.
13. evinfuilt
LOL @3,6,9

The moment I read it, I pictured Warbreaker. The way you have the nobles controlling breath, and the more breath they have the more powerful their magic (to the point of innate knowledge.) Surprised Brandon didn't notice he did write his story, and it was excellent.

More importantly, he gave his political magic a downside for all the drabs. Maybe when Brandon gets around to the sequel he can deal more with the drabs, as we saw a lot of the story from the side of people with a ton of breath.


And in regards to The Great Hunt. This is the story that hooked me into the series, I actually found it a much better introduction to the series than EotW, for one thing, there wasn't a giant Deus Ex Machina driving the final act. Everyone flows to Toman Head for a strong purpose, not a vague feeling. The battle in the sky serves a much stronger purpose, and Rand has control of himself through it, and is able to win on his own, not via some Avatar of the Creator random power.

The imagery of the Horns heroes is so much more powerful and vivid than the "firehose" of power that is The Eye. I could go on, but to me, really The Great Hunt really sets this series in motion, it also really sets the rules the rest of the series follows. I think Jordans confidence and world-building in his story were finally set in place here, and it really shines because of that.
14. Geckomayhem
It's been far too many years since I read the starting books. Everything is just so hazy. I really must re-read the series to solidify it in my mind once more, in preparation for release of A Memory of Light next year.

One thing I think of, however, when I'm reminded of the title of this book, is Birgitte and how she becomes such a solid character as the series progresses. Too many interesting characters in the overall epic tale, but she is tied into the "Great Hunt", so it's just one minor thing that I simply remembered. Guess I haven't completely forgotten everything!

Though I honestly don't remember what happened to Loial...
15. graftonio
Strangely I have read The Great Hunt the fewest number of times out of the entire series. I have read it twice in the 20 years or so that it has been out. I have read Crossroads of Twilight more times sadly. Not sure why but this book never caught my fancy. Guess I will have to read it again to see if I missed something.
Anthony Goold
I feel like the best book in the wheel of time is winters heart. because of the taint being realeased from saidin
17. Angelique Sedai
I too feel the first 2 books are much more to the point, but for me my favourite books are tSR, tGH and ToM.
18. MNP
The influence system actually sounds a lot like what was done in Warbreak.

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