The wheel weaves as the wheel wills.
Few are the number of geeks who have not heard of the Wheel of Time series, but far fewer are the number who have finished it. Even completionists are often mired in the middle books, stuck forever on some page or another, never returning to it. That is hardly surprising, given the massive page count of this series, and the incredible scale of it. The world is alive like very few others are (The only world that feels more like a living, breathing thing to me would have to be L.E. Modesitt’s Saga of Recluse), and each character is deeply flawed and deeply human.
But this isn’t a review of a book, not really — it is a review of a journey, a journey of a thousand pages, a journey of a thousand years. I have taken a few runs at this series, the first time not even so much as clearing the first book, but that was many years ago. Five years ago, I tried again, but my body was still not prepared; I made it to the middle of Book five, and could go no further. Part of my New Year’s resolution, then, has been to finish the 14 book series in 2015, and I think that gives me something of content fodder, no? But due to the scope, I am starting over, doing it all in one run, not trying to remember what I read so many years ago.
Possibly it was that my mind wasn’t prepared before, that I hadn’t matured into the series. Certainly, I am enjoying this attempt more than I have enjoyed any other. So let’s talk about the first book.
The first book is intimidating. Every book that follows is easier. I have to warn you of that, because the first book is crafting a world. The characters move in that world, but you don’t know the history yet. You don’t know the terms. The lore, the locations, there is so much of it. Think about the last time you read the Lord of the Rings, and how much exposition there was in those books, how the page count of the descriptions is actually higher than the page count of the plot. The Eye of the World is like that, but this single book is as weighty as that entire trilogy, and there are fourteen. Don’t worry too much about that, as far as the first book is concerned; if you are ready to dive into a world, this world is going to absorb you, and you need never worry about hitting your head on rocks at the bottom of shallow water.
There are times during this book that you will question the characters, their decisions, their stubbornness (“No one can be that stubborn,” I can hear my theoretical reader say), but it works because each character is human. There are no paragons, and even many members of the “evil” side have motives that wouldn’t make sense in a world of black and white polar opposites. I love the way it works out, the way you may be able to predict the way the characters will react to a given situation, without feeling like the characters are two dimensional.
The characters fill a huge number of tropes, and that is not to be avoided. The first in the series was written in the late 80’s, and it was around that time that there was a certain way things were done. For better or for worse, the series grew into itself, but that is for a later day.
This book may hook you, it has hooked thousands before, but it was not this book that got me interested in the series. Although, that is not something that should stop you from reading it, you may find something in it that I did not. That being said, this book prepares you for a journey; settings and history are on display. You may feel that Shadar Logoth is hastily introduced (a setting early on in Eye of the World, comparatively), but this is a setting (and a character) that will shape the events for many books to come.
Each race, each religion is crafted as a parallel to real world races and religions, though ever so slightly altered. The world could be an alternate Earth, and many fans have made that theory, where magic and fantasy are commonplace.
If you have patience, and you have time, this series will not disappoint.
As I said, I will be going through the 14 books in this series, hopefully finishing in 2015. Will you walk this journey with me?
The Eye of the World
Book Score - Many Words/10
This is a labor of love, and you can feel Robert Jordan’s passion on every page. The descriptions are long, and readers looking for a simple world with a simple plot that has simple motives won’t find it here. The world is so deep that theories have been written about the series longer than the series itself. This is just a taste of the world, a thousand pages of prologue, but if you want a world that will accept you with arms wide open and embraces you with a hug that will never let go, this book is ready to fill that role.