This second volume started with a prologue about an assembly of Dark Friends demonstrating that they penetrate every layer of society, and every country of the world. You'll find them even among the Aes Sedai in Tar Valon, and the Children of the Light.
The plot picks up exactly where the first one ended: Fal Dara, a stronghold at the front of Shienar, after having retrieved the treasure within the Eye. They stay there for full nine chapters. A lot is happening in that one place, because the Amyrlin Seat arrived with a large entourage of Aes Sedai and Wardens. What a perfect chance for Jordan to expose the Two Rivers folks and the reader to all the different Aes Sedai colours, their traditions and some of the major characters among them.
There is the first time in the series that a chapter isn’t from the POV of one of the Two Rivers: Siuane Sanche conversing confidentially with Moirane. Rand is only the very last person she talks to.
The title refers to the ancient tradition of searching for the Horn of Valere which has been called once again after 400 years down in Illian. Heroes of the legends are bound to the Horn, and they will come back to him whoever blows the Horn.
The Grave is No Bar to My Call
What a nice Fantasy trope! I'm thankful to Giulia remembering me of Narnia's horn, passed by Father Christmas to Susan which can summon aid and calling the Pevensies to Narnia in Prince Caspian. But this is only one of several usages of this trope, and there is a better list than I could ever provide at All The Tropes, and another one at tv tropes.
Now, don't quail, because this Checkhov's gun will be shot/blown near the end of the volume by no lesser man than our third ta'veren Mat who hasn't a proper job, yet.
At the beginning of the book, the Horn is safely stored in Fal Dara, and only at the end it will have been blown. So, what is the Great Hunt all about?
Padan Fain escaped with it, together with a Trolloc raid. Half of the party – Rand, Loial, Perrin, and Mat – are sent out to get it back under the command of Ingtar. The other half – Nynaeve and Egwene – follow the Aes Sedai back to the White Tower in order to start their education.
Camp after camp after camp later, the party gets mystically separated from Ingtar into a parallel world. That’s a concept which isn’t made much use of in later novels. For the moment, it is needed to rescue the damsel in distress “Selene”, a stunningly beautiful woman who is obviously in disguise. At least for the reader, not so much for Rand, a young adult virgin whose blood went into lower regions.
From there on, they have a lot of fun with intrigues in Cairhien, making stop at an Ogier stedding where Loial is goggled at by the young females, and ever follow Padan Fain towards Falme.
Falme is the city where the Japanese - no "Seanchan" - vanguard has landed. They have an ugly culture, enslaving female wizards, the "Damane". This is also the second plot line in the book: Nynaeve, Egwene, Elayne, and Min follow an Aes Sedai Liandrin from Tar Valon to Falme using the Ways. They are greeted by a Seanchan party who catch Egwene and Min, the others barely escape. Egwene is bound by magical gadget to the will and education of a caretaker. She learns a lot of battle magic in that custody.
Add to those two plots another one driven by the Children of the Light, and you get a battle of the four armies at Toman Head.
I enjoyed this novel far more than the first book. Jordan gave up the Lord of the Rings copy-cat and found his own voice. The tension arc is still quite uneven with long expositions. All of that is compensated for in the second half of the novel and especially towards the end with some real epic scenes of sword skills, multiple self-abandonments, and plot twists.
While Rand still doesn't have much agency, Nynaeve is the woman getting shit done. We have to remember this every time she's tugging her braid in the next volumes.
This is the book where I started to love the series. A solid epic fantasy, nearly worth four stars. And so we will continue buddy-reading the series at our low pace with the next one, Dragon Reborn, which is not so much about Rand but about the other heroes from the Two Rivers.