The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan is the first novel in the massive Wheel of Time books. I began reading these back in 2005 or 2006 but realized I was reading them faster than the author was publishing them and, since I loathe waiting for The Next Book, I stopped reading, planning to read the entire series once all thirteen books were published. And now that all fourteen books are not only in publication but have been so for a while, I am finally getting around to reading them all.
In this first novel, we are introduced to Rand al’Thor, his best friends Matrim (Mat) and Perrin, plus the village girl on whom he has a crush, Egwene al’Vere, and Nynaeve, the village Wisdom who is training Egwene to follow in her footsteps. Other important characters include Moiraine and Lan, whom some readers may have met in New Spring. Following in the tradition of James Campbell’s hero cycle, Thor and the others are forced to flee their homes. Along the way, they make more friends (Thom Merrilin—a Gleeman, Loial—an Ogier) and enemies. At first, the young travelers see everything as a fun adventure but the danger to them all increases and the urgency of their quest forces them to take greater risks.
Each of the characters is motivated by something different. Rand, forced from his home, at first only wishes to return but soon realizes that the danger that he faces is following him so returning to his village would only endanger everyone and everything he holds dear. Mat and Perrin initially go for the adventure but both are, like Rand, changed. Egwene wishes to follow Moiraine to the White Tower to become an Aes Sedai. Nynaeve, determined to bring them all home, initially follows them to protect her neighbors but finds other reasons to continue in the journey.
In the end, each character, having been changed, is forced to make a difficult decision. Although they are all still together, it is clear that they must go their separate ways if they are to not only fulfill their destiny but do what they each believe they must. The reader is left gratified but also curious to know what will happen next.
Unlike George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones, this series is not especially dark, following more along the lines of the High Fantasy tradition of J R R Tolkien, without sounding quite as mythic. And Robert Jordan creates a complex world, with layers of details that don’t always seem significant but come into play later, sometimes not until a later book. This is why so many people choose to read and reread these books. I’m glad I’m finally getting around to finishing the series because I have wanted to know for a long time what happens with Rand and the others. I have my suspicions but I believe Jordan, and eventually Brandon Sanderson (who was hired to finish writing the series when Jordan was diagnosed with an incurable disease), are sure to surprise me. If not, I’ll know in thirteen more books.