The Eye of the World was the beginning of one of the longest, and still going, epic fantasy series. Now up to twelve books, the Wheel of Time all started with this book back in 1990. We have to remember that at first Robert Jordan was only setting out to write six books but at some point he got so caught up in the world that it expanded even more. This is obviously not a bad thing if you’re a fan of the series since it means more time spent with all of the lovable characters Jordan created: Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Elayne, Nyneave,etc. Just like with my Classic Fantasy review of Assassin’s Apprentice I will not only discuss the Eye of the World but the Wheel of Time, as I’ve already begun doing…
But anyways lets continue with the blurb: Life in Emond's Field has been pretty boring for Rand Al'Thor and his friends until a strange young woman arrives in their village. Moraine is an Aes Sedai, a magician with the ability to wield the One Power, and she brings warnings of a terrible evil awakening in the world. That very night, the village is attacked by bloodthirsty Trollocs - a fearsome tribe of beast-men thought to be no more than myth. As Emond's Field burns, Moraine and her warrior-guardian help Rand and his companions to escape. But it is only the beginning of their troubles. For Moraine believes Rand Al'Thor is the Dragon Reborn, and that he is fated to unite the world against the rising darkness and lead the fight against a being so powerful and evil it is known simply as the Dark One.
I’ve often heard it said that the Wheel of Time, and by extent the Eye of the World, builds upon a foundation set by Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings. It is true that there are many comparisons to be made between his and Jordan’s work, yet I have to argue that Jordan created something of his own from almost the base up. I believe that if there are so many similarities it is because both are starting from the same point and neither is building on top of the other (obviously LOTR couldn’t build on WOT). I’m establishing this because from this original argument many go on to say that Jordan was in fact a Tolkien imitator, when I believe he was not.
With that out of the way I should probably be getting to the review. The Eye of the World is probably one of the longest first books for a series that I’ve read. The edition I have stands at some 780 pages plus a glossary of no less than 20 pages. That should give you an idea of what Jordan was doing. The book starts off remarkably fast - probably a good thing when you consider its length - and you are immediately thrown into a typical epic quest. In this first book Jordan is quite subtle as to what exactly his hero, Rand, is, in terms of what he will become; king, military hero, etc. and why it is that our big baddy, the Dark Lord, is sending armies of monsters after him.
The journey in the Eye of the World is perfect. It is long enough for us to get a feel for the Wheel of Time (yes it’s also the name of the world) and get a peek at all the different countries and races that are out there and could at some point or another become integral to the story, while not dragging on needlessly (something that some readers accuse him of doing in the later books). Jordan’s clearly done a lot of world building and makes us ache to know more about its history. Something he created extremely well is the magic system of the Wheel of Time. The One Power is both wondrous and terribly flawed and the fact that two people able to tap it can have such different levels of usages opens up great possibilities. I have to admit also that I really love faded splendor so when as a reader I learned that the sorceresses, the Aes Sedai, were not as powerful as they once were I was even more excited by the story and the world that Jordan had built.
The characters are poignant and Jordan quickly begins using the multiple view points to tell a larger story (because the story does get really huge). And I don’t mean different viewpoints of the same story I mean different smaller stories that make up the whole; in the later books these stories can be simultaneously happening across the world from each other. Rand is classical tragic hero, never wanting the responsibilities and power he is entrusted with. After all his ascension is the clichéd formula we all think about for epic fantasy: the simple farm boy from the middle of nowhere that rises up to be extremely powerful, all of this predicted by a neat prophecy of course. But in the Eye of the World it is not annoying or really cliché at all, just unbelievably interesting.
So get reading on the Eye of the World and its sequels. The first few books are some of the best in the genre and the later books, though a bit less up to scratch than the firsts, are still amazing. All fantasy readers should have or should read this, if only to know what everyone is talking about when it is mentioned.
Main Fan site for the Wheel of Time: http://www.dragonmount.com/
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