My rereading project of the Wheel of Times series passed a milestone when I finished the first volume “The Eye of the World”.
Reading a chapter every other day as a buddy read with my daughter didn’t do this book any good because it amplified its weaknesses which I would have just smoothly rolled over when reading faster.
When I read it the first time a long time ago, I found a superlong exposition and a Lord of the Rings copycat. Checking back, I gave it three stars and I won’t change that. This novel in summary shows many potentials, especially in the grandiose world building, and lots of weaknesses.
One of them I already mentioned – just recently, I learned that a first draft of the book was really tough, an early Dark Fantasy. But Jordan and his editor decided againts that path, they wanted to reach a younger audience and reach out to Tolkien fans. Which shows not only in the plot and points of interests, but mostly in the characters: Aragorn-Lan, Gandalf-Moiraine, Frodo-Rand, Pippin-Mat, Meriadoc-Perrin, Bill-Bela, Tom Bombadil-Lojal, Gollum-Padan, and Treebeard-Green Man. Bad guys are of course the Orc-Trollocs, the Ring Wraiths-Myrddraal, and Sauron-Baalzamon. The Misty Mountains are near the Shire-Two Rivers. Bucklebury Ferry crosses the Taren in Randland. Bree-Baerlon has the correct distance to the Two Rivers. There is Moria-Shadar Logoth with the Balrog-Mashadar. Did I catch everyone? I don’t know but you get the gist of it.
Add two unique gems of feminism: Karen1-Nynaeve and Karen2-Egwene. Now, would you please start counting their braid tucking? They are bullying and asking to speak the manager all the way until the very end.
Don’t forget that ugly pacing, featuring a tension arc which couldn’t be much worse. Countless passings of villages, taverns, each a chapter long. The McGuffin Wheel of Time which isn’t a real target until the last ten percent, and isn’t really explained functional wise. It’s just the place of a showdown which wasn’t really expected given the pacing and breadcrumbs of the novel. This McGuffin contained three other McGuffins, one of them leading straight to the next volume, the Great Hunt.
Does that sound like I’m panning the book or the series? Why did I read through it and even re-read it now?
First of all, the Eye of the World hasn’t been written in our time, according to our tastes. It is old, and it shows. Even back then, some easy corrections by an editor could have easily smoothed out some of the bad parts.
But then again, this thing sold and is still beloved by many fans of the genre. I’m one of them. I can still point out flaws while at the same time forgiving them and looking fondly at the world, knowing that it will get far better with the second book.
It has its great, epic moments: the hunt through Lovecraftian Shadar Logoth, the showdown dream sequences, Egwene dancing with the Tuathan boy as a last quiet moment. Tropes that one simply wants to have checked off like Perrin bonding to the wolves, or people cheering at Lan in the borderlands.
Insofar, the whole series is more than the sum of its parts and better than the average of books in it.