The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Epic fantasy in a believable world.
Ok, let's start off with this. I am not trying to convince anyone that this is the best book ever. I've noticed several all or nothing reviews that say either this is absolutely the best or absolutely the worst book they've ever read. That being said, The Eye of the World is one of my favorite books. That it's just a jumping off point for the epic Wheel of Time series is just a bonus. Here's why I love it.
One, it's huge. Yes, that's right, I love it because it's huge. I read way too fast, and even a massive book like this doesn't take me much time to devour, but it does take enough time that I get to enjoy the story for a couple of weeks, and since I know there's 13 more books, I don't have that end of story remorse that the end of a good book sometimes generates.
Two, it's written in plain English, not flowery psuedo-fantasy speak. I like a good fanstasy book that tells the story without trying to prove the extent of the author's vocabulary. This is not to say Robert Jordan's vocabulary is lacking, I'm just saying that he doesn't purposefully pick large words to prove that he knows them. I believe this makes the story easier to enjoy, especially in the wee hours of the morning when you simply must find out what happens next, but are losing your grasp on the conscious world.
Three, the characters are diverse, believable and well-developed. I love the main character, Rand, and his two best friends, Perrin and Mat. They are each uniquely portrayed, though they are each haunted by dreams sent by the Dark One, their paths begin to diverge from early in the story. Rand faces a dark future as savior/destroyer of the world. An ancient affinity to wolves arises in Perrin, who wants nothing to do with it. And Mat is corrupted by an evil artifact and is subject to ever-growing suspicion and fear.
Meanwhile, the stories of the women in the group are given their fair share of the action. Moraine, the Aes Sedai who arrived in Emonds Field just in time to help Rand, Mat and Perrin escape, is on a quest that might cause her to lose everything, but she's willing to see it through because the alternative could mean the end of the world. Egwene and Nynaeve, young women from Rand's hometown, unlike the boys, intentionally decide to join the group as they travel to Tar Valon: Egwene because she's in love with Rand, and later because she learns she has the spark to weild the power; Nynaeve because she distrusts Moraine and wants to take the boys and Egwene back to Emonds Field where they belong, and, like Egwene, she discovers she can channel and, when her initial plans are foiled, decides to use that ability to take revenge on the Aes Sedai.
Three, I love the interplay between the men and women. The three boys each are under the illusion that one or both of the others are better at talking to or understanding girls. Rand and Egwene, who always assumed they'd marry, find themselves drawn farther and farther apart, but can't help but be jealous of the attentions of others. And Lan and Nynaeve, both strong willed and proud, find themselves drawn to each other, though such a relationship is unlikely to blossom in the face of Lan's history and his bond as a warder to Moraine.
Four, I love coming of age and coming into powers stories. It's always fun to discover new things about a character as he or she does, and there's plenty of that going around in The Eye of the World. Besides that, some of the changes aren't necessarily good, which is different from most stories. For example, Rand shows some inklings of power, but men who can channel all go mad and destroy everything and everyone around them. And I love how the young people are all kind of drawn into the drama and trouble of the times, so they are dealing with the normal parts of growing up (such as love and leaving home for the first time) as well as the crazy things going on in their world (such as the Dark One threatening to escape from his prison and darkfriends trying to kill or capture them at every turn).
Finally, this a story that can be read and re-read and enjoyed each time. I have read this book multiple times and will read it again. Each time I do, I am reminded why it drew me in the first time and I notice things I've missed or didn't recognize as important the first time around. This is a story that has graced my bookshelf for over a decade, as evidenced by the cover that is no longer attached and the sections of book that try to escape while I'm reading it (I really should get a new copy).
On the other hand, there are similarities between this book, The Lord of the Rings , Eragon, and The Sword of Truth, so those who tend to focus on such things in a negative light might find this a distraction. However, in my opinion, The Eye of the World and the Wheel of Time series are unique in the fantasy world, and I do not agree with the poorly chosen quote on the cover of the book that says this story completes the world that Tolkein created. This story is not set in Middle Earth. There are no orcs or Sauron. There are no elves. Then again, there is magic. There is strife and the hint of an epic showdown yet to come. There is the theme of leaving home as a young man to save the world, or perhaps destroy it. There is love. There is danger. But in my opinion the world and the characters in The Wheel of Time are unique and fully fleshed out in their own right.
Overall, I love this book and the series that follows. I've read it over a dozen times and will likely read it again. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy epic fantasy, complex/multiple plotlines and main characters, and multi-book stories.
If you start and decide to finish this series, you'll likely be occupied by it for several months or more. The good thing is, the series is now complete, so when you get to the end, you'll actually reach the end. I haven't read the last book, so I don't know how it goes. In fact, I'm rereading the whole thing now so that I can read the last one. I've done this each time a new one in the series comes out, so this is kind of bittersweet for me.
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