Book Review: The Eye of the World
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Dragon Reborn help me, I tried with the Wheel of Time books. I know that as a certified, beard growing, D&D playing, fantasy nerd I am meant to love them and lap them up and adore them but they are just so godawfully slow. If you took all of the descriptions of fashion, architecture, Minaeve tugging at her braid and detailed studies of how each different race treats women then you would probably have a trilogy of pretty good epic fantasy books with some really heavy religious overtones.
I understand the desire to write something like the Lord of the Rings, everyone wants to disappear into that idyllic sort of fantasy world sometimes. Rolling hills, evil goblins, heroes that impossibly overcome the odds. I have to be honest, I love it. It takes me away from all of the misery of the real world. It is pure escapism. It may not be the best place to loudly and constantly espouse your belief that men and women are fundamentally different on a spiritual level. It definitely isn't the right place to ramble on about your love for Ayn Rand and all of her workings but I will save complaints about Terry Goodkind's trainwreck of a series for another time. My problem with the Wheel of Time and more specifically with the first book, The Eye of the World, is that it takes the worst parts of the Lord of the Rings, pads them out with ceaseless descriptions and then stretches them to the length of a book. There is a lot of walking. A lot. Even compared to the Lord of the Rings there seems to be a disproportionate amount of walking in a straight line from the idyllic village disconnected from the dangers and evils of the outside world, through a few side encounters to finally arrive at their destined location before turning around and walking the other way.
The introduction of fate as an active participating force into a story is always risky. The fact that all three of the main male characters are touched by fate and marked as “Ta'veren,” guaranteed by the forces of the universe to live long and interesting lives is just the starting point for the dilution of tension, when you introduce literally dozens of prophecies relating to the main characters and a secondary character who has visions of the future that are always certain to come true it is difficult to get too concerned about the swarms of nameless and faceless enemies arrayed against them.
I didn't hate this book, I certainly didn't hate the series, given that I made it to the third in the series before I ground to a halt. The characters are likeable if a little predictable. The backstory and the cyclical history of the titular Wheel of Time make for a fascinating setting and for all that I complain about the density of prophecies and the ceaseless reptition at least there is consistently throughout the series. Once all of the elements and characters are established they continue to function in the same way throughout the story. Unfortunately one of those elements is that the central hero, the Dragon Reborn, will always have some new power or skill to pull out of his hat to suit any threat that he runs up against. Whether it is a master swordsman, an evil monster or a complex political situation. I am not adverse to a slow burning story where the elements slowly coalese into a towering climax but Jordan seemed intent on having a climax in each book and they almost always fell flat given the immense scale of the events going on around it.
At some point in the future I will probably finish reading the Wheel of Time, but frankly, I do not have enough time in my life right now to devote to a story that takes sixteen hefty books to get to the damned point.