Wheel of Time #1: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Read: 4 August, 2014

I’d heard of the Wheel of Time series and thought I might like it, so I started collecting the books as I found them in thrift shops. I had planned to start reading them once I had at least the first couple, but Eye of the World eluded me. I must have accidentally bought at least three copies of everything from Great Hunt to Knife of Dreams, but Eye of the World apparently stays, doggedly, on people’s shelves.

Then a friend who generally tends to have good taste was raving about it, so I gave in and took the audiobook out from the library.

The book is long, very long, and it’s written in a style that I think would have been hard to slog through if I hadn’t been listening to on audiobook instead. As it was, I found it extremely engaging – enough so that I was volunteering to do the dishes quite frequently so that I had an excuse to continue listening.

The borrowing from Tolkien was quite frequent and groan-worthy. The “little guy” from a somewhat idyllic country community is caught up in a big, world-shattering battle against the forces of evil (but at least his friends come along!). Their hometown’s principle crop is tabac (a product that is known and valued outside their community). There’s the local colourful family (in this case the Congars and the Coplins), and the odd folk in the village down the way (Taren Ferry). They are taken on their adventure by a powerful wizard (in this case an Aes Sedai), are attacked by the monstrous armies of the dark one (the trollocs) who are lead by shadow-y quasi-undead commanders (Myrddraal). Use of magic (or a magical object) will tell the enemies where they are. While on their adventure, they discover that they are being followed by a pathetic, half-mad creature who was once the same as them before being corrupted (Padan Fein).

I could go on, but I think I’ve touched on the biggies. Point being, the borrowing is obvious and frequent. It isn’t so bad that I would call the book a rip-off (or, rather, it has enough other content to save it), but it certainly is bad enough to make bigger Tolkien fans dismiss the series, if the GoodReads reviews are any indication.

Jordan’s saving grace, in my mind, lies in his female characters – a large percentage of whom are interesting and powerful in their own way (right down to the tavern cook who loudly and vehemently defends her beloved cat when a large quantity of rats turn up dead). Reading a Tolkien-ish novel (or Tolkien knock off, if we’re being less charitable) with women who have stories and goals that are independent of the main character and who have relationships with each other that exclude the main character, well, that’s just wonderful. In my admittedly limited experience, Tolkien knock-offerism tends to lend itself to writing women out entirely, despite Tolkien’s own inclusion of a shield maiden sort of character.

In that sense, part of me enjoyed New Spring better, as Moiraine’s relationship with Siuan was front and centre, and Moiraine is just delightful as a main character.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series, though I think that I will stick with the audiobooks. Otherwise, I think I’d just never get through it, interesting as it is.

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More books in the Wheel of Time series:

  1. Series: The Wheel of Time
  2. Prequel: New Spring (graphic novel version)
  3. The Eye of the World (graphic novel version)
  4. The Great Hunt
  5. The Dragon Reborn
  6. The Shadow Rising
  7. The Fires of Heaven
  8. Lord of Chaos
  9. Crown of Swords
  10. The Path of Daggers
  11. Winter’s Heart
  12. Crossroads of Twilight
  13. Knife of Dreams
  14. The Gathering Storm, with Brandon Sanderson
  15. Towers of Midnight, with Brandon Sanderson
  16. A Memory of Light, with Brandon Sanderson

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