I might love the The Wheel of Time but I don’t always like it….
I had intended to embark upon this project much much earlier but it has proved more difficult than I initially thought. I seriously doubt I can pound my way through 9 more novels in the next 2 months but I will definitely be pushing forward as hard and fast as I can. I will try to post my experiences in reading things as I move along. This is less about a full straightforward review than it is about my experiences in this endeavor.
It would be almost silly of me go ahead a review The Eye of the World. The book has been discussed frequently in various locales across the internet and print and has been seen through rosy glint of nostalgia hued vision as well as the harsh light open criticism. It virtues and its flaws have been covered just about everywhere. I touched upon The Eye of the World’s importance to me in my post on the anniversary of Robert Jordan’s death, it is the novel introduced me to fantasy as a teen, and I won’t cover that again here. I will say that the community that spawned around the series, particularly wotmania, is what would eventually lead me to this blog and I’m not even sure it would exist without my having lurked so long on the Other Fantasy boards.
As 2013 looms closer it is so bizarre to think of this series that has been with me for half my life is set to end. As the bittersweet knowledge of the this seemingly inevitable end begins to war the excitement of a long-time fan (perhaps dulled by the cynicism of years) I’ve been attempting to sprint my way through the entire Wheel of Time one last time. I’ve made it through the first three books and thanks to the loss of power last week put a hefty dent in the fourth. While I doubt I’ll make the January deadline for A Memory of Light I will start to post my thoughts on this as we get closer to the date. This can’t take the form of a formal review. I’ve invested way too much time and energy into the Wheel of Time to remain completely impartial but will be more a collection of my thoughts as I go through the series.
With The Eye of the World I definitely found myself struggling through the reread. There are moments in the story I know and remember so well and these bright points tend to overshadow the less admirable aspects of the novel (I suspect this trait extends beyond reading and into all relationships). Having been with these characters for so long, going back to the start has definitely been a strange experience. Reading about the three ta’veren in The Eye of the World is almost like reading about three strangers after having seen how events effect them. It is interesting to note that the core of Perrin and Mat seems to remain fundamentally the same while the most obvious changes are in Rand. The person we see in The Eye of the World and the man we see in The Gathering Storm (and briefly in The Towers of Midnight) are wildly different creatures it is nigh-on heartbreaking to read about the optimistic young Rand.
While in many of my earlier experiences with the novel I was a huge fan of the history Jordan talks about in the novel, particularly through Moiraine , I found those parts less enjoyable here. The Eye of the World is rife with Moiraine led info-dumps that actually manage to detract from the story being told rather than enhance it. Moiraine’s history of Manetheran and later her tale of how Shaddar Logoth came to be are a bit too on the nose. Jordan is actually at his best when he adheres to the “less is more approach” of world building. Rand’s sight of the Tower of Ghenji, the broken ruins near the Stedding where Egwene and Perrin camp, the bits of Old Tongue spouted by Mat, and the wonderful prologue all due a more effective part in conveying a rich and textured world than any of the lengthier info-dumps throughout the course of the novel.
Speaking of the Prologue, it is definitely my favorite in the entire series. While wildly different from the rest of the novels that opening scene is effective, exciting, and tantalizing in the mystery of the past that it so ably hints at. Indeed of all the scenes in the novel the Prologue remains one my favorites and just as entertaining and exciting as the first day I read it. Other moments stand out as well like Mat’s charge down the hill shouting battle cry of Manetheran, Rand’s “prank” on the Whitecloaks, the final scenes at the titular Eye, and Hopper. Re-reading The Eye of the World has been an interesting experience simultaneously recalling my wonder and excitement as a teen while frustrating me with its inconsistencies.