The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan: Narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading

Robert Jordan’s The Great Hunt has always been one of the greatest follow-up novels to a series introduction. It could be argued that it’s the best installment of The Wheel of Time. As I indicated in my review of the audiobook for The Eye of the World, I haven’t read the whole series, so I can’t say for sure that this remains true throughout, but of what I’ve read, it is the best of the bunch.
At its core, The Great Hunt is a story of acceptance amidst transformation…recognition of the changes taking place and the role one must play in this changing world. We see Perrin finally coming to terms with what he is, embracing his status as a wolf brother when it becomes the only way to continue the search for the Horn of Valere. While in Tar Valon and after, we watch Nynaeve learning to embrace her role as Aes Sedai as well as her burgeoning feelings for Lan. Even Rand begins to accept who and what he is, though in action and deed more than in word. Though he spends the bulk of the novel insisting he is nothing more than a shepherd, he slips into the guise of a leader and a lord with increasingly greater ease.
I think that’s the aspect of this story that makes it my favorite of the portions I’ve read. There’s a vitality and realness just beneath the surface of the fantasy tale being woven, focusing on the nature of identity, diving into the differences between the versions of ourselves we know–or believe we know–and those others around us see and acknowledge.
Of course, there’s also a great deal of action and adventure to this story, and that certainly helps to make it one of the best fantasy tales I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading–or, in this case, listening to. We get to explore the potential of divergent realities, where events play out with lesser or greater similarities to the way we know they’re playing out. We have the introduction of the Seanchan and the horrific creatures they use as beasts of burden and war, along with their hideous practices of forcing dedication from people they encounter and enslaving women with the capacity to channel the One Power. We have the rising of legendary heroes from the mists of time as the horn is sounded. Of course, we also have that fantastic duel between Rand and Ba’alzamon that changes everything going forward, forcing him into an unhappy acknowledgment of his place as Dragon Reborn.
For books as old as these, and as popular, I don’t feel quite the aversion to providing spoilers, but I’ll try to keep it at what I’ve already given away.
As one could expect, knowing how this story plays out, Kate Reading has more of a part to play in the narration than she did in the previous volume. I’m pleased to see that she and Michael Kramer appear to have narrated every volume of the series. I had known they narrated the first five books since I already had them purchased…but I looked ahead at the remaining Wheel of Time audiobooks and felt a bit of relief at seeing those names again and again throughout.

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