Book Review : The Eye of the World

Book Review : The Eye of the WorldThe Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1) by Robert Jordan
Published by Tor Books on November 15th 1990
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 814
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four-stars

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Ever since I’ve gotten into reading fantasy novels, I’ve seen Robert Jordan’s  The Wheel of Time series plastered all over the shelves of Sci-Fi/Fantasy sections. I decided this year would be the year that I finally saw what all the fuss was about. I was immediately hooked by The Eye of the World, which follows three young men and their extraordinary female friends on their escape from their hometown with the forces of evil are hot on their trail. With the help of a powerful Aes Sedai, Moiraine, who can wield the True Power, things are anything but boring.

 

“‘Well, we’ll survive, the Light willing….And if the Light doesn’t will, we’ll still survive.’ That was the way of most Two Rivers people. People who had to watch the hail beat their crops or the wolves take their lambs, and start over, no matter how many years it happened, did not give up easily. Most of those who did were long since gone.”

 

While I very much enjoyed The Eye of the World, it was definitely hard for me to look past the similarities to The Lord of the Rings in the very beginning of the novel. Main characters, Rand al’thor and his friends Mat, Perrin, Egwaine, and Nynaeve, are from the Two Rivers and are known as stubborn folk who are capable of great things. That immediately reminded me of the Hobbits from the Shire, who, if memory serves correctly, were often referred to as hardy folk who were the key to Sauron, the Dark Lord’s, defeat. Things get even more familiar when Rand and company are pursued by a Fade, a creature swathed in a dark cloak that does not move in the wind, which instantly reminded me of a Ringwraith.

 

Under the command of Fades are Trollocs, a mixture between human and animal, which put me to mind of The Lord of the Rings’ Uruk-hai, which were bred from men and orcs. To top it off, Moiraine with her powers, wisdom, and ability to fend off the creatures of the dark, along with her membership to the Aes Sedai, is very reminiscent of Gandalf’s role. And her Warder/bodyguard, Lan, who is technically a King–albeit of a fallen city, reminded me completely and utterly of Aragorn. His refusal to enter into a romantic relationship with a character was also very reminiscent of Aragorn’s own romantic life with an elf, Arwen.

 

And when The Eye of the World isn’t referencing The Lord of the Rings, there are also countless, blatant references to King Arthur legends in the series. I was startled by names given to main characters, towns, and legends alike. For instance, love interest to Rand al’Thor is called Egwene al’Vere, aka Guinevere, and not too surprisingly, a doomed love affair is prophesied between the two. Moiraine’s name is strikingly similar to that of Morgan Le Fay’s. On the throne in Caemyln (Camelot) is Queen Morgase aka Morgause and her daughter is Elayne. The traveling gleeman with an astonishing amount of wisdom is Thom Merrilin aka Merlin. Another town is named Tar Valon, aka Avalon. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. There is also a mystical Green Man, which is ripped straight from the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. At this rate, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if there is sword in the stone later on in the series.

 

Even though The Eye of the World felt unoriginal at times, I still enjoyed it. And I recognize that it’s almost impossible for any fantasy writer to avoid any Tolkien or Arthurian references. In this day and age, these works are pervasive and a part of our very cultural identity–you’d be hard pressed to find any fantasy novel that did not contain some of the greater themes or ideas. I must admit I was shocked by just how many of these similarities were in the beginning of The Eye of the World, but as I progressed throughout the novel, I realized there was more than enough original content and details to keep me interested in the series and its characters. It helps that the novel starts and finishes with a bang.

 

“According to prophecy and legend the Dragon will be born again at mankind’s greatest hour of need to save the world. This is not something people look forward to, both because the prophecies say the Dragon Reborn will bring a new Breaking to the world, and because Lews Therin Kinslayer, the Dragon, is a name to make men shudder, even more than three thousand years after his death.”

 

The novel starts with Lews Therin Kinslayer, known as the Dragon, going mad with the use of the One Power in the fight against the Dark One, killing everyone he loves, and essentially breaking the entire world in the process. We then learn that a new Dragon will be reborn to save the world from the Dark One. I thought it was amazing how every couple of years a false dragon pops up and wreaks havoc on the world, causing wars and much strife in the process–it’s these kind of casual mentions to past events by the characters that make the world feel so rich and real. As the Fade and their Trollocs–both agents of the Dark One–start hunting Rand al’Thor, Mat, and Perrin of the Two Rivers, we start to wonder if one of them could perhaps have something to do with this prophecy to save the world from the Dark One’s Shadow.

 

“The Wheel of Time weaves the Pattern of the Ages, and the threads it uses are lives. It is not fixed, the Pattern, not always. If a man tries to change the direction of his life and the Pattern has room for it, the Wheel just weaves on and takes it in. There is always room for small changes, but sometimes the Pattern simply won’t accept a big change, no matter how hard you try….And sometimes the Wheel bends a life-thread, or several threads, in such a way that all the surrounding threads are forced to swirl around it, and those force other threads, and those still others, and on and on. That first bending to make the Web, that is ta’veren, and there is nothing you can do to change it, not until the Pattern itself changes.”

 

 

I loved everything about the Dragon prophecy and about the Wheel of Time itself. Though the chosen one trope is a bit tired, I think Jordan managed to make it new and interesting in this novel, with many layers added to it. I loved the mystery surrounding the role of the three boys–as ta’veren–concerning this prophecy. Though to be honest despite being very interested in their part to play in the Wheel of Time and the prophecy, I had trouble liking the main protagonist, Rand. Even with his mysterious origin and role in the prophecy, he was just so bland and boring. Mat, on the other hand, is a complex character who we can all love to hate and Perrin’s got a whole other interesting, magical nature going on that makes him easily my favorite of the boys. The skill of the author shone with his ability to effortlessly develop Rand, Perrin, and Mat from the simple sheepherder, blacksmith, and trickster that left Two Rivers into people who could change the very fabric of the Wheel of Time’s Pattern.

 

But what I loved even more than the author’s ability to craft such believably human characters in such a fantastical setting, was the characterization of the women that accompanied them on their escape to Tar Valon. And ultimately, if you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings books, not the movies, you know that strong female characters were few and far apart. The Eye of the World gives us three strong heroines in the very first novel, something the entire The Lord of the Rings never accomplishes throughout the entire trilogy. Moiraine, Nynaeve the Wisdom, and Egwaine are all complex and powerful characters. I do not think the boys from Two Rivers would have any success surviving without them.

 

“You are part of the Pattern, too, both of you, in some fashion. Perhaps not ta’veren – perhaps – but strong even so…”

 

Moiraine herself is a confident and unapologetic person from a hated and feared organization–which is largely seen as disastrous to trust and to blame for the breaking of the World–who wields the One Power, calling down fire, casting wards, healing and keeping all of the young company out of trouble. Nynaeve is an extremely talented tracker, even managing to track a Warder with Trollocs on her tail, a skilled herbalist and healer, and with the potential to harness the One Power if she chooses to accept its call. Passionate, stubborn, and intelligent, she is often at odds with other members of the party. Egwaine, her protege, also has extreme potential to channel the One Power and fearlessly seeks to train as Aes Sedai herself, despite the concern of her love interest, Rand al’Thor. And with a name based on Guinevere, I am very interested to see where the series will take both her and her romance, which appears to be doomed from the start.

 

What’s more, is that despite the number of threads in the author’s huge Pattern, I never felt bogged down by the amount of detail in The Eye of the World. Some fantasy writers tend to drown their readers in constant floods of description and detail, but Jordan manages to present his amazing world-building through his own characters and their dialogue in a way that feels utterly organic and natural and not like an onslaught to the reader.

 

Ultimately, even though I was dismayed at times by the similarities in The Eye of the World to other great works, there was more than enough interesting world-building, complex characterization, foreshadowing, and amazing writing to enjoy on its own merits. To write off this kind of achievements as a merely a Tolkien rip-off, something that is easy to do when Tolkien, is, in fact, the very father of all modern fantasy, would be an egregious mistake indeed. I’m very excited to see where the Pattern unfolds in the future installments in the series and I could definitely see The Wheel of Time series becoming one of my all time favorites.

four-stars
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Book Review : The Eye of the World - Blogging with Dragons

Posted April 26, 2019 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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