This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Eye of the World
Series: The Wheel of Time #1
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
From TarValon.net and authored by Toral Delvar (thanks ol’ chum!)
The book begins in the region of the Two Rivers, which has been virtually cut off from most of the rest of the world for over a thousand years. It is spring festival, Bel Tine. On the way from his father’s isolated farm, Rand notices a strange man watching him. The man, whose cloak doesn’t move in the wind, frightens him. He tells Tam, his father and a widower, but the man is gone when Tam looks.
They arrive in the village of Emond’s Field, where Rand meets his friends Mat, who is fond of foolish pranks, and Perrin, an apprentice blacksmith. They also reveal having seen the man. They learn of strangers in the village, Moiraine and Lan, something that is almost unheard of. There is also a gleeman, Thom and a peddler, Padan Fain. Moiraine gives each of the three a coin, a token; she claims it is for any work she might ask them to do for her. Fain tells of a false Dragon in Ghealdan, which sets the village worrying, as Ghealdan is not far from Emond’s Field, though it is all but unreachable. The Village Council orders patrols, mostly to calm the nerves of the villagers.
Rand and his father return to their house. When Trollocs attack Rand’s farm, his father Tam brings out a sword to fight them. Rand briefly speaks with Trolloc which wants Rand to wait for someone, before Rand kills it. His father takes a wound which quickly incapacitates him. In a delirious moment, Tam reveals he found Rand on a mountain, during the Aiel War. Rand takes him back to Emond’s Field where Moiraine, who has been revealed as an Aes Sedai, Heals him of the wound he took. When the people blame Moiraine for the attack, she tells them of the time in the Trolloc Wars when Manetheren was destroyed and that she is disappointed at what its blood has come to. This shames the villagers who leave her alone.
Moiraine convinces the boys that the Trollocs were after them personally as it was only their houses and farms that were directly attacked, and the man looking at them was a Myrddraal and they must leave the village. They are accompanied by Rand’s girlfriend, Egwene, who wishes to become Aes Sedai, and Thom.
Fleeing Emond’s Field, they pass through Taren Ferry, where Moiraine misdirects the following Myrddraal and sinks the boat they crossed the river on. They see a Draghkar above. They head for the town of Baerlon, which amazes them because of its perceived immense size. On the way, Rand channels for the first time, to help Egwene’s horse stay ahead of the Trollocs, though he is not aware of it at the time. In Baerlon, Rand meets Min, a young woman who claims to see strange auras around him and his companions.
Rand, Mat and Perrin start having dreams of a man clad in black, calling himself Ba’alzamon who tells them they will serve him. He breaks a rat’s back, and in the morning, all the rats in the inn are dead. The village Wisdom, Nynaeve catches up with them. Min tells Rand that this means the trouble they are in is worse. Though Nynaeve wishes to take them home she agrees to go on with them. Mat plays a trick on some Whitecloaks, including Dain Bornhald, getting Rand, who is suffering the ill effects of channeling for the first time, into trouble for laughing. They leave Baerlon at night, Moiraine using a trick of the One Power to scare the Whitecloaks who are intent on stopping them. Behind them, they see the inn they stayed in on fire. They set off on the road to Tar Valon. They are chased by Trollocs, prompting Mat to unknowingly chant the ancient battle cry of Manetheren in the Old Tongue.
To escape, they are forced to seek refuge in the abandoned and tainted city of Shadar Logoth. Despite being warned that even the Trollocs and Myrddraal fear to enter the city, the boys go exploring, where they meet a man called Mordeth, who casts no shadow. When they notice this, he swells up to many times his normal size and tries to get them. They only just escape him, but Mat manages to get a dagger with a large ruby from his treasure. They return, telling Moiraine that Mordeth did not give them anything. Trollocs and Myrddraal enter the city which worries Moiraine and Lan, as normally no Myrddraal would do so, unless under great duress, due to the disappearance of a Trolloc army there in the Trolloc Wars. In order to avoid the Trollocs and the mindless danger of Mashadar, they split up.
Perrin and Egwene end up across a river which runs near the city. Trying to head for Tar Valon, they encounter a strange man, Elyas Machera, who was once a Warder and who is accompanied by wolves. He is able to speak to wolves and claims Perrin can do so as well. The three of them meet up with some Tuatha’an, with whom they spend a few days before heading off. One of them, Aram, takes an instant dislike to Perrin. Aram’s grandmother claims that this is because he has a hard time trying to follow the Way of the Leaf. They are told of an encounter with the Aiel some years previously, in which one claimed that the Dark One wished to turn the Eye of the World to his own purpose.
After leaving the Tuatha’an, the three are chased by a pack of ravens. Before they are caught, they enter a stedding, where creatures of the Dark One are reluctant to enter. Here, they encounter a group of Whitecloaks. Fearing for their lives, Perrin kills two of them before he and Egwene are captured. The Whitecloaks are convinced they are Darkfriends, as Perrin runs with wolves and their leader believes wolves are creatures of the Dark One. Egwene is told that unless she repents, she will be killed. Perrin is told by Geofram Bornhald that as he killed Whitecloaks, he will definitely be killed. Another Whitecloak, Jaret Byar, appears to develop a personal hatred of Perrin. He offers to let them escape, but Perrin realizes he will kill them both if they do.
Nynaeve, Lan and Moiraine also end up together. Moiraine makes Nynaeve accept that she can channel by pointing out that she can sense her presence, and also that Nynaeve can sense the presence of someone who she has Healed with the One Power. She also tells her of apprentice Wisdoms who have died, a common thing amongst those who try to learn to channel on their own. Nynaeve agrees to go to Tar Valon to become Aes Sedai, so that she can get revenge on Moiraine. She and Lan also begin to fall in love. The three of them then catch up with and rescue Perrin and Egwene, who Moiraine can trace because of the coin she gave Perrin.
Mat, Thom and Rand escape from Shadar Logoth onto a boat owned by a man called Bayle Domon. Domon is aware of the Trollocs, but believes they are after him, as he has been followed since Saldaea. He shows them ancient objects, including one of the seals on the Dark One’s prison, and an object that some men perceive as warm, possibly a male angreal. Domon takes them to Whitebridge where they leave for Caemlyn. They are caught by a Myrddraal, but Mat and Rand escape when Thom stays behind to fight. On the way to Caemlyn, Mat grows steadily more distrustful of everyone except Rand. Darkfriends assail them on the way, encouraging them to swear to the Dark One. One, a woman in silks, tries to kill them, but they escape. Rand has to talk Mat out of killing her. Rand is forced to unknowingly channel again, to escape from a Darkfriend at an inn they are trapped in. They encounter a third Darkfriend later. In Caemlyn, they head for Basel Gill’s inn as it was recommended by Thom. Gill refuses to believe Thom would have been killed. Here Rand meets and befriends Loial, an Ogier, who at first takes Rand for an Aiel, and tells him he must be ta’veren. Whilst trying to get a good view of the false Dragon Logain, who laughs as he sees Rand, Rand falls into the Palace Garden after being distracted by Elayne. She tends his injuries, while Gawyn watches and Galad fetches the palace guard, led by Tallanvor. Elayne believes Rand to be a loyal Queen’s man, as he has a ribbon on his sword that indicates this, but in reality, it is only meant to cover the Heron Mark, and was the cheaper colour. He is taken before Morgase, Bryne and Elaida, who has a Foretelling and announces that Rand stands at the center of all the suffering and destruction to come. Bryne states that the sword belongs with him. Morgase releases him though, as she has heard the accent of the region before, and though Rand does not look like those from the area, he must have grown up there. On the way out, Gawyn reveals that Rand looks like an Aiel.
The others arrive at the inn, and Moiraine temporarily Heals Mat, who had been behaving strangely because the dagger he was carrying had infected him with some of the taint from Shadar Logoth. She says if she hadn’t done so, the taint would have spread throughout the world. Moiraine learns of the plot by the Dark One to use the Eye of the World in the Blight, and they head there via the ways, which Loial knows how to navigate. They only just avoid Machin Shin. They are followed through by Padan Fain, but he stays out of view.
Once out of the ways, they stop in the town of Fal Dara in Shienar, where Padan Fain is captured and revealed to be a Darkfriend, responsible for bringing the Trollocs at Bel Tine. He had been hunting the Dragon Reborn for years. Moiraine reveals that Machin Shin caught up with him but for some reason did not consume him.
They then head off into the Blight. They are attacked by creatures which they fight off, before being pursued by a type of Shadowspawn referred to as Worms, but escape these when they meet the Green Man at the Eye of the World, which is a pool of pure saidin. Whilst there, two of the Forsaken, Aginor and Balthamel, appear. They are very much decayed, as they were close to the top when sealed. They quickly deal with everyone, except the Green Man, who kills Balthamel, though he is killed himself. Rand flees and is pursued by Aginor, who is killed.
Rand finds himself in a strange room with Ba’alzamon, who tells him that he has his mother. Discovering he can channel, Rand cuts a black cord coming out of Ba’alzamon’s back, before returning to the real world. There, he discovers the Eye of the World to be empty of saidin. Several objects are found in it. These are the Horn of Valere, a banner with a Dragon on it and one of the Seals on the Dark One’s prison, broken. Loial sings at the place the Green Man fell, growing a strong tree, which he hopes will not fall to the Blight. They then return to Fal Dara, through an unusually quiet Blight.
First things first. I plan on using the Tar Valon Library synopses for each of these Wheel of Time books as they fully describe the plot (hence the multiple pages of them!) and I like them better than the wikipedia version. Tar Valon Library is a fansite as far as I can tell and it shows. So expect a super long synopsis every time I review a Wheel of Time book!
Second, even My Thoughts here are going to be chalk full of spoilers. It is simply unavoidable. This series is too big to talk about it in any form besides “I liked it” and not have spoilers. Of course, considering this book is almost 30 years old (it was first published in 1990), chances are you aren’t going to read it if you haven’t already! 😀
- What struck me this time around was just how PETTY a lot of the characters were. Some of the characters (Matt for example) really annoyed me by their actions and “how they were” but I realized that Jordan wrote him that way for a reason. But the pettiness, I don’t understand. Nynaeve was the worst example. Almost everything she did was in reaction to the Aes Sedai Moraine. They barely escape with their lives from trollocs and fades and all Nynaeve can think of is how she’s glad that Moraine is rumpled looking. Petty! While I singled out Nynaeve here, that kind of thing is across the board. I had not noticed it, or remembered it, from my previous reads but it stood out strongly this time.
- I wanted to kill Matt Cauthon so many times! His “pranks” are dangerous and put everyone in danger time and time again. It seemed to me that if his dad had spanked him more as a kid that he wouldn’t have been so irresponsible now. Of course, that would mean he wouldn’t have taken some of the actions he did which in turn does X, Y and Z. So I just have to put up with it. But my goodness, what a jerk.
- Nobody explains ANYTHING to anyone else. People spend days riding horses together or walking together and yet they can’t find time to talk? Moraine tells everybody to not take anything from the cursed city and Matt (obviously) does anyway. But she never explains WHY or what could happen. If the group had known the consequences or the symptoms, what happened to Matt might have been averted or taken care off much sooner. Another example is Perrin and his wolf-brother ability. He finds out from Elyas that he can communicate with wolves and that it probably comes with other abilities. But during the days or weeks (?) that they are travelling together does either one try to figure anything out? Of course not! Perrin pretends it isn’t happening and Elyas is just as happy to let Perrin reinvent the wheel all over again. It really frustrated me.
- I’ve complained before, in Another Book Review, about how a large cast of characters is usually off-putting to me. But in this book, even with 7 MAIN characters and a plethora of main side characters, I had no problems. Nada. None. Zero. Zilch. It helped that even when Jordan split them up they were still clumped together in mini-groups but I think the biggest thing is that Jordan was skilled enough to write them in such a way as to not confuse his audience. He also didn’t included Named Characters “just because”. I never mixed anyone up.
- The world building was pretty explicit in that Jordan told us a lot about the world by introducing a lot of Groups of People. The Aes Sedai. The Warders. The Children of Light. Darkfriends. The Forsaken. Trollocs and Fades. Ogier. The Tuathan. And more. As each group is introduced, usually with a named character to keep me vested, Jordan reveals a little more about the current world and the past. It was just fantastically done and I never felt overwhelmed, confused or annoyed. It was like I was in a gondola and Jordan was the man using the one oar to gently guide me down the river of the story. I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. I never worried about going down a wrong channel or hitting the rocks, etc. As much as fans rag on Jordan (and rightly so) for doing stupid things like repeatedly talking about hair pulling or snorting or whatever, the man was skilled in the art of story telling.
- I believe this series was originally pitched as a trilogy. That is hearsay though, as I can’t find any substantive proof to back it up. However, I can believe it. A lot happens. Rand (the main MAIN character) goes from a farmboy to possibly being the Dragon Reborn (the savior or destroyer of the world, depending on what prophecies you read or how you interpret them) and along the way meets all the people he’ll eventually need. And not just to being the Dragon Reborn, but someone who battles several of the Forsaken (the generals of the Dark One), wins and then possibly kills the Dark One himself. So much happens!
- At the same time, there is also a lot of what Karlstar (from Librarything) called STTM, or, Slogging Through The Mud. The story is limited to the speed of horses. At least until right near the end of the book and Jordan happily keeps us at that pace.
- That leads into another possible issue, depending on how cynical and jaded you might be as a reader. Things Happening When Needed. Near the end of the book they suddenly find out about the Waygates, which allows them to travel great distances very quickly (not without danger mind you and something that they risk their lives doing every time). If you are cynical, you say that Jordan pulls them out of a hat. That was my first impression too. But upon reflection, things CAN’T happen until certain characters are either introduced or meet other characters. Moraine knows about the Waygates, as she is Aes Sedai, but not being an Ogier (the Waygates were a gift from the last of the male Aes Sedai to the Ogier) she wouldn’t have been able to navigate them. It isn’t until they meet Loial the Ogier that they can take advantage of the existence of the Waygates. This type of thing happens several times.
- This is a complex story that is made up of many strands being woven together. Considering that The Wheel of Time weaves the lives of men into the Pattern of Ages, it really isn’t a surprise that Jordan writes this way. He’s being very thematically true to the world.
I met Jordan at a book signing at my local bookstore back in 2005 when Knife of Dreams was released. He was a genial fellow and knew how to keep the patter going so no one got bored, almost a showman you might say. He stated then, in answer to a question, that he had envisioned the ending of the series right from the beginning. That was to reassure us that there was going to be an end, as we were all worried about it turning into something Never Ending. So imagine my surprise when I was reading this and B-A-M!!!, there is the end scene from the final book in one of the visions/dreams Rand has. It made me put my kindle down and laugh and clap my hands! So Jordan didn’t lie to us, he DID have the final scene, it just seems like he either didn’t know how to get there or he took a lot of detours to milk the cash cow. Of course, him dying the next year or so didn’t help fans feel any better at the time! Thank goodness Brandon Sanderson took over and finished it up.
I gave this 4 stars this time around instead of 5 like last time because Matt was a real jackass and Nynaeve was petty. Also the romance between Nynaeve and Lan really came out of no-where. I knew it was coming but even still, there was no indication besides a couple of glances or red cheeks. That really isn’t enough for 2 adults to have a midnight talk about marriage.
Overall, I enjoyed this but am not sure if I’m still the target audience any more.