Here it is, I’m riding the winds of time! Wheeeeeeeeeee!
Another massive fantasy series to finish, a new epic adventure to undertake. Like many modern fantasy readers, the last three books finished by Brandon Sanderson played a huge motivational drive in my attempt to start and finish The Wheel of Time. I honestly find this series to be even more intimidating than Malazan Book of the Fallen due to the sheer number of word counts in it. To give a bit of information on how intimidating this series is, the last two massive series I began and finished last year was The Realm of Elderlings (4.1 million words) by Robin Hobb and Malazan Book of the Fallen (3.3 million words) by Steven Erikson; the entirety of The Wheel of Time consists of 4.4 million words. That’s how gigantic this series is. If it weren’t because Sanderson is one of my top favorite authors of all time and the fact that I’ve completely run out of his adult fantasy books to read, I probably wouldn’t have started this series at all. That being said, no matter what the initial reason is, I’m really glad that I’ve taken the important first step towards conquering The Wheel of Time.
The Eye of the World is the first book in Robert Jordan’s highly acclaimed series, The Wheel of Time. The story begins with our main character, Rand al’Thor and his friends escaping their home after a group of Trollocs attacked their home. I can’t recall whether I’ve mentioned this before, but I actually don’t mind The Chosen One trope. Let’s get this straight immediately, this is a very tropey start to a massive series; it’s a foundational book that seems to borrow a lot of elements from Tolkien and our real-world religions and mythologies. Although I do understand the reasons why a lot of readers dislike and even hate an epic fantasy that starts with a farm boy growing up to become the hero that eventually fight the dark lord to save the world, I tend to find this kind of premise—as long that they’re well executed—to be comfortable and enjoyable to read. A tale of good versus evil is something I never get tired of, and The Eye of the World sets out to lay a lot of groundwork for an epic tale of light versus darkness.
“As the Wheel of Time turns, places wear many names. Men wear many names, many faces. Different faces, but always the same man. Yet no one knows the Great Pattern the Wheel weaves, or even the Pattern of an Age. We can only watch, and study, and hope.”
It is an odd feeling reading this series for the first time in 2019. I enjoyed reading this book but if I were to read this, let’s say, a decade ago I probably would’ve loved it even more. Robert Jordan’s writing is well-known for being extremely detailed in his world-building; each locale, houses, and places were described intricately. Not a lot of modern epic fantasy goes to the length that Jordan did when it comes to being descriptive—and sometimes repetitive—about his world-building; it can be quite an overkill. Because of all this, the pacing did suffer, especially in the middle section of the book where the story progression follows a repetitive story progression and characters making stupid remarks and actions. I’m usually very receptive to characters continuously making stupid decisions and characters’ thoughts, but I found the characters’ behavior here to be understandable. Excluding Moiraine and Lan, the main characters from The Two Rivers are young and secluded people who live in their village all the time; like Frodo and Sam who never left the shire. The things that happened to Rand and his friends were sudden and dangerous, I feel like their actions were warranted and definitely better than I would’ve reacted.
This is a foundational book, almost everything about it felt, understandably, like an introductory guide to the world of this series. World-building takes priority; I truly loved every moment of reading the lore and history regarding this world. Just from the first book alone, we can already judge that Jordan knows his world inside out. By adapting some of our real-world religions, language, histories, and deities, Jordan was able to create a world full of extraordinary lore. The reincarnation concept surrounding The Dragon Reborn and Shai’tan, The Breaking of the World and how it affects the current society and stigma, and many more; I simply enjoyed reading them all.
“The fact that the price must be paid is proof it is worth paying.”
And that’s exactly it, time, money, and investment will be the biggest price we’ll have to pay in order to finish this series. Although the prologue starts immensely strong and I enjoyed—despite the pacing issue—most of the journey, I became fully engrossed only after I reached the 70% section. Revelations start being unraveled, the setup for the super detailed world-building starts paying off immensely, and most importantly, I’m finally acquainted with the characters and understand their personality more upon reaching this section. You can’t rush through this series, I’m a binge reader and just from my experience of reading this first installment, I already know that I have to pace myself going through it; I can’t binge this series the way I did The Realm of the Elderlings and Malazan Book of the Fallen. Take your time and be prepared for a long, and hopefully, satisfying journey. The Eye of the World may not be the most original start to an epic fantasy series, but it signaled a beginning for an incredibly grand adventure; one that I’m glad to partake and hopefully finish. Will I be able to do that? How rewarding will it all be?
The wheel weaves as the wheel wills…
Celeste’s rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
“There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”
Very few fantasy series have been on my radar longer than The Wheel of Time. I found a complete set of the paperbacks for a steal on eBay when I was in college, and have been meaning to read them ever since. But the size of the series seemed like too massive a commitment to undertake. Thankfully I, like Rand al’Thor, was able to embark on the journey with a group of friends, and going into something of this magnitude seemed less overwhelming since I wasn’t alone. And reading with friends makes everything more fun, even chapters upon chapters of travelogue.
“As the Wheel of Time turns…places wear many names. Men wear many names, many faces. Different faces, but always the same man. Yet no one knows the Great Pattern the Wheel weaves, or even the Pattern of an Age. We can only watch, and study, and hope.”
There were some elements of this novel that I loved. First of all, Jordan did a wonderful job with the world building. I was hooked from the first chapter, when Emond’s Field was introduced. There was such a cozy feel to a village preparing for a holiday celebrations. Jordan’s descriptions of the village and their preparations were lovely, and easy to visualize. I could have lived inside those first few chapters, happily losing myself in the quaint charm. But of course, that isn’t where the majority of the story takes place. Our potential heroes are plucked from the lives they have always known and set on a path fraught with danger and the unknown. Despite their hopes, their lives will never be the same. The world is changing, and so are they.
“Anything can be a weapon, if the man or woman who holds it has the nerve and the will to make it so.”
The lore Jordan has built is pretty incredible. There are a lot of elements pulled from real world religions and mythology, but that actually enhanced my enjoyment as I love the study of comparative religions and seeing how they appear in culture and literature. The use of prophecy and foreshadowing in this book is also a treat, one which I enjoyed immensely as I flipped back and forth, seeing how different important plot events were prophesied hundreds of pages prior. The stakes in this book couldn’t be higher; good wars with evil, both worldwide and within each person in the land.
“We’ll fight the Shadow as long as we have breath, and if it overruns us, we’ll go under biting and clawing.”
Jordan also seems like the father of certain tropes. I’m sure these tropes existed before him, but I don’t know that the “reluctant farm boy turned savior” trope has been more famously used in any other work. However, I love a good trope, so I didn’t find that a deterrent, either. Tropes exist for a reason, and I think they’re highly enjoyable when handled well. Jordan also has a lovely prose style, which feels cozy and warm and inviting. I can see why so many fantasy fans eagerly awaited each new installment to this series, and why people love it enough to reread it time and again despite its overwhelming word count.
“But I have all stories, mind you now, of Ages that we’re and will be. Ages when men ruled the heavens and the stars, and Ages when man roamed as brother to the animals. Ages of wonder, and Ages of horror. Ages ended by fire raining dow from the skies, and Ages doomed by snow and ice covering land and sea. I have all stories, and I will tell all stories.”
That being said, there were aspects of this book that just didn’t work for me. Firstly, there is an insane amount of traveling. This level of traveling is the main reason I’ve yet to make it all the way through The Lord of the Rings. I always bog down towards the beginning of The Two Towers, and I can see the same issue being a concern with The Wheel of Time if I tried to binge read it. Secondly, I rolled my eyes alarmingly often. Certain thought patterns among the boys and certain personality traits of the women just drove me insane. So many of the problems in this book could have been solved by Jordan actually allowing his characters to communicate. There are some strong female characters in this book, but their violent tempers and propensity for jumping to conclusions were incredibly annoying. I understand why some modern fantasy readers find Jordan’s female characters problematic.
“Take life as it comes. Run when you have to, fight when you must, rest when you can.”
Thankfully, these issues don’t outweigh the elements of the story I found enjoyable, so I will definitely be continuing the series after a short breather. I also have very little exposure to the fantasy classics, so I’m enjoying filling in some of my missing background in my favorite genre. I’m very excited to see how the Wheel weaves, and what the Pattern has in store for this cast of characters.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)