Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan

Against my better judgement, I've decided to try listening to the Wheel of Time series originally by Robert Jordan. This series actually had a bit of a reputation at my high school because the school library had copies and it was considered a challenge for people to read because there were so darn many book in the series. Seriously, there are fourteen main books in the series, not all of them written by Robert Jordan because he died partway through writing the series. This series also has a reputation for being super trope-tastic, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave the reader feeling like they're just in somebody's own attempt to create Lord of the Rings. Having finished the first book I can safely say it is very definitely chock full of tropes and at least follows the same general pattern of Lord of the Rings if not running in the exact same grooves. However, with thirteen other books to go, hopefully there's an opportunity for the series to develop beyond the first book.

I was actually kind of disappointed with the first book, Eye of the World, and I think it's because it spends so much time establishing the universe of the book while vaguely dancing around the main plot. You do get the impression that Jordan has developed a deep and complex world for his characters, possibly with lengthy genealogies as well, but I feel like Jordan spends way too much time on the development and just not quite enough time on moving the plot forward. Let me see if I can draw a comparison.

Remember how there's that first part of Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin are leaving the Shire but haven't gotten to Rivendell yet? Their main quest at that point is escaping from the pursuing Ringwraiths and reach Rivendell safely, but we don't get to the real quest involving the One Ring until the Council of Elrond. This first book feels a lot like that. The characters are trying to leave their home of Emond's Field in the Two Rivers and reach the city of Tar Valon, where everything will be explained to them there. More importantly the servants of the Big Bad are chasing the protagonists so it's important that they reach safety. Now I don't know about the rest of you guys, but for me that part between the Shire and Rivendell was the least exciting in the entire series. (Looking at you, Tom Bombadil.) So if the first book of this series is entirely like that, it's not as much fun for me either.

The finale for this book is also really rushed. Our main characters finally link up and go off to fight the Big Bad (Known as the Dark One, incidentally) utilizing an artifact from a previous age known as the Eye of the World. And then the main characters...win. The Dark One is defeated, presumably dead, and the day has been saved. This is all within the last few chapters as well, mind you, so it's kind of weird how it abruptly ends. Obviously the Dark One is not truly defeated because there are a baker's dozen more books to go and it's implied he's not really dead, just temporarily defeated. But for the amount of time we spent not knowing where we were going or what had to be done, the ending felt like a bit of an anticlimax.

Hopefully as the series goes on we'll get some more development and the characters will get fleshed out a little bit more for me to know them better. (In typical fantasy fashion they have overly elaborate names so I have to go do research to find out how to spell the darn things.) But as a start it leaves a lot of room for improvement.

- Kalpar

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