I am no stranger to the epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time. Back when I was in university, I was pretty engrossed by it and read up to book seven or eight before the untimely death of the author in 2007. As the series was unfinished and it seemed pretty up in the air what would happen to it, it didn't seem worth continuing to read the books and I abandoned them. Now, six years later, the series has been finished by Brandon Sanderson, which means I can read them and finally finish it! I'm starting again at the beginning as it's a truly epic series and no way can I remember everything from my first read!
Book one in the series, The Eye of the World, focuses on three main characters, Rand, Mat and Perrin, all of whom live in a small village in the Two Rivers. One day two mysterious visitors arrive just before the village is attacked by Trollocs, creatures in the service of the Dark Lord. Moiraine, one of the visitors, turns out to be an Aes Sedai, a woman who can essentially use magic, which makes her the target of suspicion and hostility. It turns out that only three homes were attacked, those belonging to Rand, Mat and Perrin, which convinces them to join Moiraine and travel to her city of Tar Valon, to find out why they were targeted. On the way, the journey becomes perilous as the Dark One seems determined to either kill the boys or bring them under his thrall, and they face many challenges.
The plot of The Eye of the World sounds kind of cheesy when I type it out like that, and certainly it's a traditional fantasy type book, in which a simple village boy is destined to fight evil. But it's much more than that too. Jordan's world building is truly amazing and reading the book is like being transported entirely to his world, which has a complete mythology of its own. I like the idea of good and bad being caught in an eternal battle, in which there is never a victor (because isn't that like real life?) and I liked that Jordan was able to immerse the reader in his world, rather than constantly explaining things. There's a good ratio of showing to telling.
I also appreciated the ambiguity in the characters. Moiraine is an Aes Sedai, which means she can touch saidar, the female half of a power that can be channelled and used. Although Aes Sedai have done many good deeds in the world, they are completely mistrusted and throughout this novel, you're never really sure of her motivations. The lines between good and evil are more blurred than you might expect from this type of fantasy novel, seen again with something that happens to Perrin in the later stages of the book.
The Eye of the World is a long book at 782 pages, and it's only the first volume in a series that contains fourteen books. Therefore, choosing to read this series is a big under-taking. Although a lot happens in The Eye of the World, Jordan does include too much description of the places the characters visit and this does slow the pace at times. I very much enjoyed it and am excited to pick up the next volume, but if you are new to fantasy, I would recommend George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series before you try this one. It's pacier and darker and has more political intrigue and less magic/mythological creatures. But if you like fantasy, I don't think you can go wrong with The Wheel of Time series. I can't wait to read the next one.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1990
My Edition: Orbit, 2013
Score: 4 out of 5