“The Wheel of Time series is a lifestyle choice.” – A friend of mine.
I have wanted to dive into the Wheel of Time for a long time, it is one of those iconic series that a lot of my friends have read and loved. It is a 14 novel length series that looks me dead in the eye with come hither seduction, because let’s face it, that’s a challenge. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ve probably already gathered that I don’t really stick to a specific genre, but instead see all of literature as this giant buffet that I cant keep my hands off of. But for me Fantasy is a genre a lot like hummus. I love hummus. But too much too often and starts to bore me.
So enough of seduction and food. The Eye of the World is one of those epic fantasy novels, it is easily likened to Tolkien’s, Fellowship of the Ring. Narrative structure is similar, they share similar quest themes, except Eye isn’t about destroying the one ring. A few names echo one another, there is a firey enemy who keeps plaguing dreams, theres magic, theres a guy who is awesome with a sword with a mysterious past, a woman who does the magic like a boss, an unsuspecting set of heroes from a sleepy village and there is the overarching theme of the natural world being spoilt by corruption.
… the Eye of the World what I really wanted from Tolkien. There. I said it. I so desperately wanted to like the Lord of the Rings (because I love the films) when I read it, but I just hated the entire trilogy from beginning to end. I can see the influence Tolkien has had on Jordan, but no more than Tolkien has had an influence on any epic fantasy writer. Fantasy is like hummus. The ‘hero’s journey’ narrative structure will always be punctuated by wizened sages revealing significant story material at the fire side. They will always have the unwitting hero swinging an axe into the big bad’s minion’s face by accident and surviving when they shouldn’t.
And let’s just not talk about the significant lack of significant central female characters in the Lord of the Rings. Or the dense writing that will put you to sleep. Or the HUNDRED PAGES AFTER THE RING IS DEST- okay. This is going to be a rant. Let’s move on. The point is I desperately wanted to love the Lord of the Rings, and I didn’t.
The Eye of the World takes on similar ideas and runs with them in a much easier writing style. The pace is slow. But it’s gripping. The novel unfolds and unspools information to you at just the right time. It builds a world that hums with life and vibrates between the covers. In 800 pages you travel an immense distance, you are thrown in to a world with fractions under conflict, headfirst into learning about the One Power, the Pattern, the Web, the Wheel of Time, a little of the history of the ages and generally you are knocked over by a tsunami of information, but it doesn’t bog you down. It doesn’t overwhelm you as a reader or tire you out. (Unlike some fantasy series that will remained unnamed to avoid starting that rant again.) If anything it just carries you off further into the novel and down the preverbal rabbit hole.
The story follows a group of young people from an unremarkable village called Emond Field. So quiet and small is life there that they have forgotten that they are part of the Queen’s realm. After a Myrddraal (an eyeless dark creature) and a host of Trollocs (orc-like creatures) attack the village it seems as if three boys were the likely targets. To protect them and the village, a mysterious Aes Sedai named Moiraine and her Warder Lan agree to spirit Rand, Mat and Perrin away, in secret from Emond Field. Egwene sees through their plan and she gatecrashes just before they leave, and also Thom a passing Gleeman joins them for the ride.
Of course they are hotly pursued by the village Wisdom, Nynaeve, who is convinced that these strangers have kidnapped the boys, and Egwene. All four refuse to turn back and Nynaeve refuses to leave them so joins them on their journey. Dark foes come after them at every turn, they get split up,they struggle to eat and stay out of harms way. As its not just Myrddraal they have to worry about but also the Children of the Light who’s righteous quest for the Light and to uncover Darkfriends makes them dangerous in city streets.
I was not expecting a novel that has such a rich conflict between fractions. There is a lot going on in this novel. It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly enjoyable high fantasy. The only thing that niggles with me a little is character development is a little lacking, but I suppose this can be forgiven as there is a massive cast in this novel. The lore and history of this world is also pretty incredible. It’s a pretty great read and because of this I would absolutely read it again and recommend it.