by Robert Jordan
Once again it’s been a while since I’ve been able to post, for which I’m sorry. I am happy to say that this time it was not because the book was difficult, boring, ungrammatical, or otherwise ‘bad’. Actually, I very much liked The Eye of the World.
If you don’t know, and I don’t know why you would, this is the first book in a series of (soon-to-be) fourteen fantasy novels from Robert Jordan. I picked up a box set of the first three after a few of my friends, some of whom I wasn’t sure were able to read, recommended them to me. Now I know what you’re thinking: “What kind of loser reads fantasy?” “Who has the time to read a series of fourteen books?” “You have friends?” The answer is “Screw you, too.”
But you’re right, fantasy isn’t necessarily my thing either, and fourteen books is quite a commitment. I haven’t read a series that long since I read Ian Fleming’s James Bond books in middle school, and the last real fantasy I read was possibly The Lord of the Rings around the same time. Though I did enjoy that series, I’ve never really needed to come back to the genre, and I usually start to tune out whenever people (dweebs) start talking about fantasy, whether it’s Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones. But variety is the spice of life.
The Eye of the World indeed takes more than a page (literarily, not literally) from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. Obviously, if Jordan meant to begin an epic fantasy series it’s not a bad idea for him to hearken back to the most epic fantasy series of them all. The novel begins with Rand al’Thor, a native of the Two Rivers, minding his own business, when he and two of his friends are targeted and attacked by Trollocs. For reasons they don’t really understand, they set off with a woman named Moiraine to her city, Tar Valon, where she promises them safety.
I know that fantasy names are annoying, and that’s definitely one of the things that turns me off of the whole genre. I mean, the first hundred pages or so are all about Aes Sedai and Bel Tine and Wisdoms, and it’s confusing as hell. Luckily for the reader, there is a glossary at the back of the book to explain all of these terms. Unluckily for me, I did not find this glossary until I pretty much had it down. Oh well.
If you can get past the stupid fantasy convention of giving everything a stupid fantasy name, the book is actually pretty sweet. Jordan knows how to write an exciting narrative, and I was into it pretty much from the first page. By the time Rand left the Two Rivers it was hard to stop reading. Whether the characters are seeing a new city for the first time, or hearing a legend of old, or fighting for their lives, it’s always exciting and lively. With a book this long and nuanced, you might think it would get bogged down in excruciatingly detailed lore, but it’s really just very entertaining all the way through. For 800 pages. In small print.
Actually, my only real complaint about The Eye of the World is that it was so long, but when I think about where Jordan could have slimmed it down I draw a blank. It’s actually hard to imagine that any lesser degree of detail could even be considered acceptable in literature; every page seems to count. Now, it did take me two weeks to read, which is a long time, especially when you remember that the series is fourteen books long. From what I understand, this is also one of the shorter entries, meaning that it will take me (2 weeks x 14 books… carry the 3…) a really long time to read the whole saga. As one of my friends put it, “What if you want to do something else, like, ever?” Well, if The Wheel of Time keeps up the pace, then it’s worth the time commitment.
Solid book, even if you don’t like fantasy. Swallow your pride and give yourself time to accept Jordan’s universe, and don’t be put off by the length. Even Rome took, like, at least two weeks to build.