on 14 June 2017
The Wheel of Time turns and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes once again . . . so begins one of the most famous book series of all time, not just in the fantasy genre. It is a truly epic story written by one of the masters. Inspiring many modern day fantasy writers including Patrick Rothfuss and the man who would finish off Robert Jordan’s masterpiece due to the King’s untimely demise, Brandon Sanderson, it is a remarkable tale that built upon the fantasy elements that already existed within the genre, created mainly by the likes of Tolkien and his friend C S Lewis, a long with the old Viking and mythological myths that had existed for many centuries before Robert Jordan took up his pen to write his magnum opus, his masterpiece.
The first book in the series, The Eye of the World, is a splendid tale that draws the reader in right from the get go. Starting out with a history of about 3000 years, once the prologue has wet the readers appetite with the creation of Dragonmount, the fall of the last Dragon, the last male Aes Sedai, Lews Therin Telamon, at the hands of the Dark One, we fast forward to the beginning of our story which takes place in a small village called Two Rivers, where our heroes our slowly introduced: the main protagonist Rand Al Thor, his friends, the cheeky Mat Cauthon, the tall, brooding Perrin, the girl he is supposed to marry, Egwene and the Wisdom, a young woman sort of representing a medicine woman, Nynaeve. What I love so much about this series right away is how fantastic and real the characters are. When I have read fantasy in the past (barring the Lord of the Rings), I have always felt that you had the main character and the rest were just filler; Robert Jordan doesn’t treat any of the characters as if they are just there to fill in the pieces – each character is as important as the next and as we get on with the novel, you feel like you get to know them a little bit more and they then become like your friends. This is a hard task to pull off but Robert Jordan does it with such panache that you feel like you are in the hands of not just a master storyteller but also a master writer.
When the novel begins, you get from the very get go that there is a sense of something being very wrong. A mysterious figure follows the three boys, a dark figure who’s cloak does not blow in the wind. This adds a real sense of mystery to the plot, the reader not only wondering who the dark figure is, but as the figure appears to the three boys, the reader is left wondering who the main protagonist is going to be. Not only does a dark figure appear but also a Peddlar named Padan Fain, a funny little creature who goes on to be someone to watch out for, a Gleeman (a teller of stories named Thom who is one of my favourite characters) and an Aes Sedai (Moraine) and her warder (Lan). As the village prepares for Winternight, one of the most exciting nights of the year, they are attacked by hellish creatures known as Trollics, and their horrific masters the Myrdrall. This is what sets off the main story, our main characters having to leave the village and head off towards Tar Valon, the Aes Sedai’s Kingdom so they might escape the Dark One and stop him from breaking from his prison where has been trapped for centuries. Many adventures take place and things happen that not only surprise our characters, but the reader. It is a magnificent story that sets up the rest of the series very nicely.
One of the things I really loved about this book was the reality of it. Yes, it is set in a fantasy world, but I felt as if everything in this novel could be really happening. It is like a story that took place a very long time ago, a lost world that we are only just discovering now. Another thing I really liked was the vastness of the world and how different each character and culture was. There is a story going round that says Robert Jordan had a room full of notes, detailing every single character that appears in the Wheel of Time, knowing their entire backstory and feelings, their world and who they really were, even if that character only appears in one line. After having read just the first novel in the series, I can very well believe that. I feel like I am in the hands of a writer who knows this world like the back of his hand, that if I were to ask him any question, he would be able to answer in great detail. Another thing I really like is that the characters have so many flaws, like real human beings. I have read a few fantasy novels and I hate it when characters are all perfect and they do everything right. That is so boring. The reason these characters are so real and you fall in love with them is that Robert Jordan has made them real people. They do things half the time where you start to think, why are you doing this? What is wrong with you? When you take the time to sit there and think about it, you start to realise that if you were in that situation, you’d probably do the same thing as well.
Another reason Robert Jordan is a genius is because rather than taking an entire novel to write from the point of view of just one character, there are different chapters that are told from the point of view of so many characters. For example, one chapter would be told from Rand’s perspective, and the next one from Perrin’s. This book was written about six years before George RR Martin did the same thing with his A Song of Ice and Fire novels. I’m glad that he just didn’t stick with one character’s perspective because if you do that, you never see the vastness and detail of the world. As Brandon Sanderson once said, “one character will look at a river that is different from how another character would look at a river which would be different from how a third character would look at a river.” This only makes the novel seem more real and enjoyable to read.
A lot of emphasis has been written on the comparisons with Tolkien. I am a major fan of the Lord of the Rings but I feel like I am reading a completely different book. Robert Jordan once said that he created Two Rivers to be like the Shire. Okay, they are both small villages where innocent, out-of-the-way people live that don’t know of the real danger that lurks out in the big world, but as far as I am concerned that’s where that comparison ends. Yes, it does include a large set of characters going on a long journey, but the characters and journey are so different that Tolkien doesn’t even come to my mind as I am reading it. There is a great quote that says “With the Wheel of Time, Jordan has come to dominate the world Tolkien began to unveil”. I take that as meaning that the themes and greatness that Tolkien began in the fantasy genre has been taken even further and modernised with Jordan’s “Wheel of Time series”
After hearing what this series was about, I was very interested in sitting down to read it, but the length of the series did, I admit, put me off just a bit. It needn’t of done. Robert Jordan doesn’t spend about two hundred pages before getting to the story – you are gripped right from the get go. You want to find out what happens next, you want to keep following your new friends and family on their travels and experience everything with them. I usually take awhile reading fantasy novels, but I flew through this one. I could not put it down and every time a chapter ended, I just thought “oh maybe one more”. What better praise can be given to a book of this scope?
I finished the “Eye of the World” last night and it blew me away. I cannot wait to start reading the next entry in the series, “The Great Hunt”. I would highly recommend this series to fantasy fans and those who want to start reading fantasy. It is an enjoyable tale that never stops and keeps you guessing at every turn. It has got the most wonderful set of characters I have ever read and it has now become one of my favourite series of all time. It will take me a while to finish the series, but it’ll be worth it and if they are just as good as this novel then I am in for a fantastic ride. The Wheel of Time will continue to turn and so will the pages of my books as I endure Robert Jordan’s great genius.