Why did I choose to read this book?
I have tried to start (and finish!) this series for about 20 years. Similar to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, I can begin, but something gets so dragged down in the mud somewhere between books 1-3 that I always end up stopping. This time I am reading the book in anticipation of the Wheel of Time series premiering on Amazon Prime in November. I’m hoping that by reading the books ahead of time I’ll be able to enjoy the show more and offer more educated critiques of each episode, which I will be sharing here.
What is notable about the story?
One of the pull quotes for The Eye of the World is that Jordan expands on the universe that Tolkien only began to reveal. The similarities are not subtle. You have your hobbits (Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve), your wizard (Moiraine), your ranger/exiled king (Lan), and other assorted crew. Moiraine plucks them from their secluded town to take them to safety in Tar Valon, where they will learn which of them (or all three?) is important to fighting the Dark One who is assumed to still be imprisoned (Sauron/Sauron’s eye/tower).
While the LOTR parallels are fairly obvious, I would also argue that they are a welcome brace against which we can lean in order to use most of our strength to examine and understand the world that Jordan is building. This level of familiarity makes all the new things easier to absorb and understand. Reading through this first book now, with intention and purpose, has shown me that it’s actually quite a good book all on its own, with elements from both Fellowship and Two Towers blended into the journey.
Was anything not so great?
There is a pivotal point where the company gets separated into three groups: Lan/Moiraine/Nynaeve, Perrin/Egwene, and Rand/Mat. The stretch of time when they are separated is very boring, mostly because it feels like a waste of time when we know they all have to come back together at some point. There’s a possible romance between Nynaeve and Lan that is not handled well, and Mat (the troublemaker of the group, think Pippin) just gets worse and weirder the longer they are apart from the others, and he was pretty bad before they even left the Two Rivers/Emond’s Field.
I also feel like the ending was rushed. There was a lot about the Borderlands, the Blight, and the Eye of the World that we’re just supposed to take at face value when excuse me but I have some questions please. Jordan tries to avoid explaining these because those who created them have passed out of time and memory but I call bullshit because even in LOTR there were people old enough to at least have heard the stories. If a little bit of time had been cut out of the separate group journeys (especially Mat and his situation) I feel like I could have stood just a little bit more exposition around that ending scene so I could be more informed/invested.
What’s the verdict?
It’s difficult for me to recommend these kinds of books because choosing to read them is committing yourself not only to the first book but the many that come after in order to finish the full story of The Wheel of Time. Attempting these massive series is a big undertaking, but with the show coming out, if you are a fan of fantasy this series is a must read. Good luck! I’ll see you at the end of the next one.
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