Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

The J’s have been good to me, admittedly there were only 3 of them, but they were still a good letter. I’d read two and liked them both after multiple rereads, and although I hadn’t read Howl’s Moving Castle, I had seen the film and enjoyed it, so the book stood a fair chance of getting a thumbs up, which it did.

I first picked up Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World (the opening volume to his immense The Wheel of Time saga) not long after it was originally published. I didn’t love it, but it did grab me enough to hook me into the series for about 8 or 9 books until I lost interest, but determined to read it all once the final volume had come out. The book coming up where it did in the list is fairly good timing, as the Wheel of Time’s finale is due out later this year, so by the time I read through the whole saga at the rate of a book a month the last one will be well and truly out.

I’ve read The Eye of the World about 7 or 8 times (I used to read it every time a new book in The Wheel of Time was published), and it’s always entertained. I hadn’t read it in many years, so I was interested to see how it would hold up this time. Surprisingly well is the verdict.

The first book is at times rather Tolkienesque, with some elements very obviously influenced by Professor Tolkien’s masterpiece. The world has echoes of that, too, but the idea that it is built on the remnants of a technologically advanced society that was wiped out by some cataclysmic event had echoes of Terry Brooks The Sword of Shannara.

The story is very typical of epic fantasy. Young farmboy finds out that he has a mysterious destiny, gathers a band of like minded individuals with various skills or personality types around him and leaves his home to have an adventure and fulfil said destiny. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. The band will be split, have adventures on their own and discover things about themselves, they’ll be reunited and ultimately fight the good fight against the bad guy, in this case he goes by multiple names and guises, but is most commonly known as the Dark One. They’re reluctant to give him his true name, which made me think of Harry Potter and Voldemort, but Jordan predates Rowling, and I doubt she ever read any of his work.

It’s a long book, and it’s going to clock in at a staggering 14 books when it’s done, all of a similar length to The Eye of the World, it may actually be a little on the short side compared to some of the others. It takes a bit of work to read, and it had been so long for me that I had the order of things and what happens in which book rather jumbled up in my head. I did enjoy returning to Randland and reacquainting myself with him and his friends. I know Mat was always my favourite character, but now I kind of like Nynaeve more.

It’s become one of the classics and is considered a bit of a must read for anyone wanting to get into epic fantasy. It’s got me all keyed up for The Great Hunt next month.

Similar works to explore are of course the sequels, the last 3 being written by Brandon Sanderson, after Jordan tragically passed away after a battle with a particularly virulent blood disease. The Lord of the Rings, which clearly inspired some of The Eye of the World. Tad Williams’ Tolkien homage: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is often mentioned along with The Wheel of Time, but I don’t see many similarities, other than scope and the fact that fans worry George Martin may also not be able to see his project finish. There’s also Steven Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen, but despite length and size there aren’t a lot of similarities. If you wanted something lighter and not as well written you could also look at Terry Brooks The Sword of Shannara.             

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