And so it begins… an epic adventure through 14 books! Once again, my boyfriend recommended this series to me, and I have dutifully devoured the first book with a passion I haven’t felt for fantasy for a while. I’ve been trying really hard to read more ‘indie’ authors, especially with my kindle I can get self-publishing fantasy novels quite cheap. And they’re alright. But they’re not epic; not like this! I have decided to read one Wheel of Time book, then take a break with something else, then read the next… because else I’ll become fixated, something that is going to be very easy to do with this series! So… onto the book.
The Eye of the World is complicated! After the breaking of the world several thousand years ago, the wheel of time has turned through many ages, all of them ending with the destruction of the good and the overwhelming of evil, though the evil one has been trapped and so unable to relish his victory. The wheel of time continues to turn, only this time there are three young men central to its turning, and only they seem to be able to turn the tide. Rand, Mat and Perrin and simple country boys until Moraine, an Aes Sedai (one who can touch the One Power) arrives in their village, immediately followed by an attack of the Trollocs. The three boys, along with Egwene, a young woman seeking adventure, and later Nayvene, a wisdom who seeks to bring the boys home, Lan, Moraine’s warder who is bonded with her but also has a bit of a thing for Nayvene, and Thom, a travelling story teller, embark on a journey of epic proportions. From humans who can talk to wolves, to a people seeking ‘the song’, to princes and princesses and false dragons, the story weaves its way into your mind and heart with skill and thoroughness.
The Characters (caution! contains spoilers!)
It would seem complicated, having to get to know all these characters at once, but Jordan does an excellent job of making you feel like you know them. The initial focus is on Rand and his father Tam, and whilst Mat and Perrin are introduced, the focus stays on Rand quite a while, and so you get to know the other characters from his perspective before they develop their own individuality. Rand is a simple boy, who loves his father and his village and leaves only to protect them. He doesn’t seem to grow much throughout the novel; he constantly wants to return home and although he stands up to Ba’alzamon in his dreams, he doesn’t do so with a heroic feel but rather desperation. In a way, this suits his stolid and firm character, but he simply seems uninteresting to be honest. Even when he defeats Ba’alzamon, he is led by the light to do so and doesn’t really seem that aware of what is happening other than the fact that he has to win to protect his friends. He does, in the last few pages of the novel, appear to grow a bit more, deciding to learn how to fight, choosing not to go home so that he doesn’t taint anyone with his ability to connect to the one power, and putting his feelings for Egwene aside to protect her. I’m interested to see whether he gains more depth in the following novels, but I’m not too sure yet.
Mat is a lot of fun, until an evil dagger makes him so sick he nearly dies, and despite being saved he is still attached to it. He is the standard, cardboard cut out of a joker, well known in the village for his practical jokes and always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. His descent into madness, however, was really well developed and portrayed, and you really felt his struggle against the powers that were afflicting him. It was probably at that point, shown through Rand’s perspective, that I bonded most with Mat, because I could feel his struggle and pain, and the overwhelming paranoia and delusions. It is a powerful metaphor for depression, in many ways, this darkness eating you up from the inside out, changing everything about you until it leaves you no choice but to die. His healing was too sudden, almost, but as it is still developing and he still carried the dagger, I imagine this will be picked up on in subsequent novels.
Perrin is reluctant to depart the village and is a quiet and sensible member of the group. His discovery of his ability to talk with wolves, to be connected to them to the extent of feeling their desire to hunt and run and be free, is an interesting and difficult development for both Perrin and the reader. He is so reluctant to acquiesce to such a magical talent, that he hides it from his friends, who notice his increasing quietness and yellow eyes, but don’t seem to push him for much more. They’re all so busy keeping their own secrets that they don’t seem able to engage with each other in a caring manner. Perrin intends to return home, but I truly believe he could develop into one of the most powerful and unusual characters in this series, and I’m excited to see his progression. He, of all three of the boys, has the most depth – being considered slow when really his great size has made him careful – and we have a little more insight into his mind in the way he communicates with the wolves. A fascinating and muli-levelled character, Perrin is ceratinly the more interesting of the three protagonists.
Moraine Aes Sedai… what a conundrum! I’ll say little about her here other than I don’t 100% trust her motives. I’m not sure how she knew so much, or what she’s doing with the boys and what her ultimate goal is. In so many ways, she seems to know so much, but at the same time, she knows very little. She is a mystical character who needs a lot more exploration in further novels.
Just when you think Lan is simple and uncomplicated, you discover that he’s actually the heir to a kingdom destroyed by the blight, and that many people look to him to ride again against the evil enveloping the land. He is a solid support throughout, but his loyalty to Moraine once again makes him a concerning figure. However, his developing feelings for Nayvene may counter this, and I’m interested to see how it develops.
I won’t go further into anyone else for now, because I feel like they’ll come to the fore in the next 13 novels!
Whilst I have some problems with the characters, overall Jordan produces a storyline which exceeds expectations and leads to strong feelings for all involved, even the seemingly ‘evil’ characters. The intrigue and mystery continue through the conclusion, and the strangeness of the ages is yet to be answered. I look forwards to the next novel and learning more about the wheel of time, the one power, and where the characters are going to go next.