My over-riding question is – why didn’t I read this sooner? I was aware of the Wheel of Time series, of course. It’s one of those absolute fantasy staples and so, logically, I should have been champing at the bit to pick it up. Not so. I think I must have read the blurb of one of the much later books, been ridiculously confused and backed away slowly, intimidated and bemused. The lesson: don’t judge a book by it’s tenth installment.
Let’s all bless Charlotte for rereading this series herself, and subsequently sending me a copy. It only took me four years to read it.
Plot summary: 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.
I admit that The Eye of the World took a bit of getting into. Whilst it didn’t help that I was trying to trudge through it after an exhausting 48 hour Scout Camp, it’s quite slow to start. It begins with an unknowing farmboy going about his routine, as these things usually do, but it lasts a while. It is relevant and does provide some backstory for later events, but it’s possibly not the best way to entice a new reader into the series.
It soon picks up though, and we’re off into the wider world. The Eye of the World, and presumably the whole series, is what I call ‘proper’ fantasy. There’s lots of dialogue, lots of sub-plots and lots of interesting characters. Not a whole lot of action, but the bits that are present are excellent and riveting.
The simultaneous best and worst thing about this book is the level of detail. I loved it most of the time, but occasionally I did get bogged down in the description of a solitary leaf. Nothing is missed out, which really helps from an immersion point of view, but there’s no avoiding that this 800+ page book could have been an awful lot shorter. Would it have suffered from some hefty trimming? I’m not sure. The pages flew by because I was so riveted in the story, but I remain unconvinced that every single adjective was absolutely required from a plot perspective.
Speaking of, I love this plot. Or I’m sure I would, if I knew what it was. The Dark One is threatening to break free, which would be less than ideal… and that’s it. The world-building is so thorough and the prose is so detailed, that there’s only the vaguest of overarching plots so far, which is fine. This is off-set by some wonderful side-stories. Each of the nine (I think?) characters travelling with the party is equipped with their own backstory, motivation and sub-plot and they’re all pretty great. I’m torn between Perrin and Mat as in whom I’m the most interested, although the Ogier is wonderful too.
There’s a strange sense of realism throughout this book that really impressed me. I mean, there’s magic and gods and whatnot so I’m not going for hyper-realism here, but a lot of things that usually annoy me about fantasy novels simply aren’t present. For example, the characters discuss simply not blindly following the prophecy – they actually consider shirking their responsibilities, just like real people. Characters who inherit magical powers aren’t an instant prodigy within a day – they’re actually pretty rubbish, as they should be. It’s possibly because the slow pace allowed time to expand on all these things, but I loved it. It’s so rare in these books.
There is some romance of a sort, but it’s very subtle and in no way overshadows the remainder of the book. If anything, I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, but considering that The Eye of the World is only the first part of an epic series and presumably exists pretty much solely as an introduction, I’ll let it slide. It was the only part of the whole book that went over my head. It was slightly abstract and I’m not 100% sure I understood every single aspect, but I’m sure it will be explained in the next book.
In essence, I’m not convinced that this book needs to be this long or that any series requires fifteen books to adequately tell a story, but I did really love The Eye of the World. I’m completely willing to be convinced that the lengthy, weighty books are worth it and I’ve already ordered the second book, The Great Hunt. If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, don’t leave it as long as I did to pick this up.