Review: The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time Book 1)
Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Eye of the World is book 1 in Robert Jordans epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, and EPIC is definitely the right word for it. This book, while having a distinct beginning, middle, and end, is not what I would call self-contained. It was very clearly written as the beginning of a much larger story, and the end is just a stepping stone to the next book. So long as you are aware of that fact going in, I don't think fans of classic fantasy will be disappointed. This story hinges on the familiar premise of the eternal war between light and dark, good and evil, and the stakes are nothing less than the entire world and the souls of everyone who ever lived.

Jordan did a terrific job of creating a lush, rich world filled with places, cultures, and history, though I occasionally had to laugh at his method of naming things. Shai'tan instead of Satan. Ogier instead of Ogre. Trolloc instead of Troll. Draghkar instead of dragon. The Mountains of Dhoom. Each was very clearly a callback to a more familiar term with just the slightest variance, similar to oliphants and elephants by Tolkien. That said, the world he created was detailed enough to live in, certainly enough for a reader to get lost in. It was also large enough that I really did need the maps to have any sense of direction as the adventure progressed.

The magic system in Jordan's world centers around a single Source of power that is split into two halves that can only be accesses by a single gender, so men use the male half of the power and women use the female half. If you have strong feelings about gender segregation you may find the overarching themes of male vs. female roles in this story a bit off-putting.

Jordan's world is populated with a great many characters, some of which only played small roles but that I hope will reappear in later books. The main group consisted of Rand, Mat, and Perrin, the three boys marked and hunted by the dark one; Moiraine and Lan, an Aes Sedai and her Warder; Egwene and Nynaeve, two Source-sensitive young women with the power to become Aes Sedai themselves; Thom, a Gleeman; and Loial, an Ogier. While all of the characters were distinct, I found many of them to be a bit flat. This may be a side effect of this being the first book in such a long series that was never designed to stand on its own. I think, as the series continues, the characters will become more three dimensional.

Rand appears to be the main character of this book. He is the narrative voice for the first half and most of the other chapters as well. Unfortunately he was also the least developed of the characters in my opinion. Perhaps this was intentional, setting up for a lot of growth later, but the effect on *this* book was that Rand felt almost like a non-character to me, just a window through which I could see the story unfold. Not once through the whole book did he ever seem to make an actual decision, but skated by on instinct, luck, and the actions of others. It was difficult for me to care too much about what happened to him. The other two boys were a bit more interesting to me, though still not thoroughly developed. Mat was a bit of an ass, the kind of class clown personality who finds joy in making others uncomfortable. The characterization was well-written, but I've never cared for that type of person. Perrin was one of my favorite characters in the first half of the book. He got quite withdrawn and seemed to fade a bit into the background in the second half, losing his voice despite becoming more interesting as a character.

Lan and Moiraine were both well written. Despite being stereotypes of the noble lady and the strong, silent protector, they were also among the most interesting characters in the book. We got a bit of a look at some of Lan's backstory, which served to reinforce his stoicism, but also got a tiny glimpse of a possible gentler side. Moiraine was the most level headed female in the story, and her lack of detail actually helped to enhance the aura of secrecy and aloofness around her. The other two women were fairly indistinct from one another. Both were childish and short-tempered, though I liked Nynaeve considerably more than Egwene. I confess, I got the impression that Jordan had a rather low opinion of women in general and wrote most of them to be manipulative, argumentative, and shallow. The two remaining companions, Thom and Loial, were more interesting than the main cast. Thom had a deep and mysterious past that I really hope is developed in future books. Loial is unique in that he is the only non-human character among the protagonists, so he brings an entirely different culture and sentiment to each situation.

Overall, I'm looking forward to continuing the series and have high hopes for the development of the characters.

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