Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Eye of the World

I recently started rereading The Wheel of Time, a series of books that I've been reading for going on twenty years now. The first book, The Eye of the World came out in 1990. I started reading it a couple of years later after getting the second book as a gift from a friend. Even though I ended up reading it first because I didn't know it was the second book, I fell in love. I have read and reread the series numerous times since even though it's not done, yet.

Robert Jordan, the author, passed away from a rare blood disease after the 11th book came out. He had planned one more book to bring the story to a conclusion. His wife and editor, Harriet, hired Brandon Sanderson to finish the final novel. He decided that the book would be too big and it would need to be split into three books to do it justice. The never-ending series was getting longer.

It is true that Jordan started to get lost in the wilderness as the story went along. Some think it happened as early as books three or four. I'm more forgiving and tend to peg it more at book eight. Despite the epic story getting adrift somewhere along the way, I have not lost my passion for it and have been looking forward to this reread for awhile especially since I have not read either of the Sanderson penned books that have come out so far.

Part of Jordan's genius is taking well-worn tropes and giving them a fresh coat so they don't seem so (over)used. Tell me if this sounds familiar.

A wise, older wizard finds some young kids in a tiny backward village and tells them that one of them is the Chosen One who must battle Ulimate Evil to prevent the End of the World.

Gee, that's like every epic story ever told. However Jordan blends the monomyth with Arthurian legends, Norse myth, Asian myth, Christian symbolism, and more so well that it doesn't come across as just another rehash. Jordan creates a rich, vibrant world that feels real.

The Eye of the World sets the stage very well. Magic feels real and dangerous. The bad guys are suitably creepy and monstrous. The naive youths seem genuine as they bumble around after being thrown into the deep end of the pool. Hints of the world's rich history are easily dropped giving the world real depth.

The book does end rather too abruptly and, especially with hindsight, it's easy to see how the story was already growing bigger then Jordan anticipated. He said a number of times that he had long known exactly how the series would end; he just didn't know how it would get there. The enormous popularity of the books ensured that he would be given as much space as he needed to finish them. Unfortunately, between that and the fact that his wife was his editor, it seems Jordan's leash was probably a bit too long. A stronger editor (not that his wife isn't a good editor, but she is a touch, you know, biased) could possibly have reined him in and tightened everything up.

Still, though, I think the whole thing is worth your time. I'll be posting more thoughts as I finish each book and I'll try to avoid spoilers.


Tsar Clef Hue John said...

I carry several of these here at the store. Growing up I've had a few friends read them and really like them. I've always been curious to read them, so I'll be interested in your reviews.

Have you read the Dragonlance Chronicles by Weis and Hickman? Fantastic fantasy series.

Captain Noble said...

Heck yes I have! Love 'em. I have fond memories of those books and the sequel trilogy, too.

Tsar Clef Hue John said...

I was tempted to read the sequel trilogy, but the firsts were so perfect, I didn't see any need.

Captain Noble said...

Oh, you should. Trust me.