A review of Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World
By Michael McLendon
“Let the arm of the Lord of the Dawn shelter us from the Dark, and the great sword of justice defend us. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.”
I’m sure at this point The Eye of the World has been reviewed and discussed countless times since its publication nearly thirty years ago. I may not have read the whole series(yet) to give this first volume the full context, but having read it twice now, I feel somewhat qualified to add my voice to the rheems of criticism on the beginning to a landmark achievement in epic fantasy.
I really loved this book. It’s epic and immersive in all the right ways for my tastes. It might have its share of fantasy tropes but it owns them with an elegance I find appealing. There are great set pieces of magic and action that serve to underpin a revelatory journey that exposes both Jordan’s world and his characters.
If you’d rather watch and listen then check my video discussion here
The Lord of The Ring.. err umm Wheel of Time
And… well I actually like that in this way it’s Fantasy comfort food. It’s familiar. I don’t see this as a negative when it is executed with the elegance Robert Jordan wielded so deftly. Furthermore this facade of familiarity allows Jordan to do some pretty heavy lifting in the world building department without overwhelming the reader. Trollocs and fades may be easily accepted as Jordan’s orcs and wraiths. However the One Power, Aes Sedai, Warders, Ogier, and chiefly the concept of ta’veren and the Wheel of Time(not the book series but rather the actual Wheel of Time that is referred to by characters in the book) are all slightly more deviated from their possible inspiration if not wholly original.
Brick by brick
He also subtly lays the foundation for future conflicts, characters, cultures, and quests in the later books(I know this experientially since I have read through book 5). These things didn’t weigh down on me when I read it the first time three years ago. Knowing what I know now of secrets later revealed, I am somewhat in awe of the plans and worldbuilding he must have already laid out for himself- or at minimum his ability to craft something coherent from his narrative blueprints that give that illusion of history and scope that all great fantasy does.
So I’ve established that it scratches that very important ‘fantasy world building’ itch. It feels familiar but also ancient and different and interesting. But it also feels weighty and important. The prologue depicting Lews Telamon’s struggle with the ancient evil is epically tragic. The story proper is a slow build of the same clash in the present for our characters, and that journey to the high stakes conflict is the heart of the book. It’s a hard thing to pull off, this epic fantasy idea of the battle between Light and Dark, but I feel that mostly Jordan awed, mystified, and terrified me nearly every time he intended to do so.
Earth, Wind, and Fire
No not the legendary band. I’m of course referring to the elemental magic system of the One Power and it’s use in TEotW. It’s used fairly rarely and it’s workings are still mysterious at this point in the series, but man is it cool! I really think that it’s a success of the book that the moments in which the One Power is wielded are some the most memorable scenes contained therein.
“You’re Rand al’Thor, that’s who you are, with the ugliest face and the thickest head in the Two Rivers.”
The other thing I really love about The Eye of the World and look forward to most in future volumes is character. There are just so many great characters. Rand is stubborn and loyal, yet bold. Perrin is deliberate and protective, yet cunning. Mat is mischievous and brash, yet brave. Egwene is kind and inquisitive, yet ambitious. Nynaeve is solitary and shrewd, yet fiercely supportive and loving. The only weakness TEotW suffers from in this department is that it is anchored so heavily from Rand’s perspective. This gives a slightly slanted perspective on a couple of romance plots that could have benefited from more than just Rand’s chivalrous/coming of age perspective. That said I really grew to love all of these characters, though some of them I acknowledge I love more because of the context offered by later volumes.
All in all, I truly relished immersing myself in this very lengthy volume of epic fantasy and look forward to continuing my journey in the series.