|Submitted by Jason S. |
(Dec 21, 2009)
Eye of the World, written by James Oliver Rigney, Jr.—also known as Robert Jordan—is the first of roughly 14 books known collectively as the Wheel of Time series. Wheel of Time is a modern high fantasy saga; and it is quite possibly one of the most epic and extraordinary works of its kind in literary history. The quality of the Wheel of Time series as a whole is certainly comparable to (if it does not surpass) J.R.R. Tolkien’s more popular epic, The Lord of the Rings. It has attracted millions of fans and few real enemies. In fact, it is an extraordinary novel. I would give it an eight out of ten or so, and this is a stretch for a fan attempting to be subjective. The plot is extensive and intricate enough to attract anyone looking for an escape from reality. Having said that, the story itself is not without a few shortcomings. Some of the plot elements could be regarded as outright cliché, and The Lord of the Rings was clearly its predecessor in some respects.
What does make Eye of the World so unique is Jordan’s singular eye for detail. Jordan does not just stop at creating his own universe. He fleshes each landscape, scene, and element out with incredibly rich and colorful minutiae. Characters are well-placed into highly developed and sophisticated societies, and move through a complex, lifelike world. It has been speculated that Jordan knew exactly how the last chapter of the final book would end even as his pen first touched the opening pages of his foremost book, Eye of the World. It shows. The reader is taken in and fascinated when a miniscule event such as a dream comes back to change the course of the story; or a sentence of prophecy comes cataclysmically true.
Unfortunately, what serves to make Eye of the World great may also be its downfall. Jordan’s eye for detail can sometimes lead him off into tangents which, while interesting, do not necessarily further the plot. Eye of the World has also been accused—rightly, to some degree—of a bad case of predictability. For some, it is exciting to use Jordan’s formula of writing to sort of play along and guess at what happens next; while others object that many of the major plot points are telegraphed hundreds of pages (or in the case of the series, entire books) in advance. The plot in Eye of the World also fairly reeks of Tolkien. Rand, Mat, and Perrin (a.k.a. Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin) are chased cross country by Trollocs and Myrdraal (a.k.a. Orcs and Nazgul); Myrdraal and Nazgul both hate water; the party of heroes gets split up at Shadar Logoth (a.k.a. Amon Hen); the list goes on. Finally, Jordan seems to have an imbalance in his writing in that he has a habit of concentrating too much on the plot and the world which he has created with the result that character development is severely lacking. While the characters are believable, their emotions and interactions oftentimes feel forced.
To anyone wondering whether or not to read this book, I say go for it. Although Jordan may have borrowed elements from other fantasy epics, the end product is distinctly his own. Science fiction/fantasy readers will enjoy it most. To anyone else looking for a casual read, I have one warning: Eye of the World is far from casual. The intricate details involved will take the reader on a whopping 782-page journey of his own. In short, if you are willing to commit to finishing this novel, willing to plow through a sidetrack or two as well as some superfluous details to reach the end, you may find yourself with a story you can look back on and treasure. And as I have said before, Jordan’s world is certainly vast enough to appease anyone looking for a little escape from reality. If any of this sounds like you, it is essential that you give it a try.
For in the end, the beauty of anything really is in the eyes of its beholder. Books are no different. Some people love Eye of the World; others hate it. Many, like me, could not handle Jordan’s prose on the first time through but returned to discover its brilliance. Indeed, much of what makes the novel great in some eyes is its greatest downfall in the eyes of others. Whatever your disposition, the value of Eye of the World is probably best understood in the context of its place among the Wheel of Time series. If nothing else, though, its conclusion is fulfilling enough for one to consider it a stand-alone novel and be done with it. In conclusion, this is not by any means a light read; but if you’re looking to immerse yourself completely in another world, Eye of the World is the book for you.