2.02.2011

Currently Reading: The Eye of the World (in two parts: From the Two Rivers and Through the Blight)

From the Two Rivers: The Eye of the World, Part 1 (Wheel of time, #1-1)"I suppose I had better give you a sample. So you can tell the others. Eh? Just a taste of what you'll see tomorrow at your festival."

He took a step back, and suddenly leapt into the air, twisting and somersaulting to land facing them atop the old stone foundation. Even Rand forgot his irritation. He flashed Egwene a grin and got a delighted one in return, then both turned to stare unabashedly at the gleeman.

"You want stories?" Thom Merrilin declaimed. "I have stories, and I will give them to you. I will make them come alive before your eyes."

Author: Robert Jordan

Synopsis: Teenage Rand al'Thor and his friends Perrin and Mat have been seeing strange apparitions. Then an Aes Sedai—a woman who can wield the One Power—and her Warder come to town. Not long after the strangers' arrival, the town is attacked by Trollocs, and the three young friends' houses are the primary targets.

Aided by the Aes Sedai, Rand and his friends flee their homes, accompanied by Rand's presumed future wife. The most evil power in all of history is seeking Rand and his friends, though, and as it turns out, each of the young refugees from Rand's town has an unexpected destiny.

Notes: It was a lot of fun watching Robert Jordan break nearly every known rule of writing and still succeed.

I suspect that Mr. Jordan is responsible for aspiring fantasy writers who think it permissible to create 250,000-word manuscripts with a cast large enough to fill a small town. He may also be to blame for strange naming conventions including apostrophes (his name choices seemed to be drawn from an odd mixture of Gaelic and Semitic languages.) Also, given the time, I could have edited a lot out of this book; numerous scenes seemed reasonably unimportant. Finally, the long-lasting point of view jumps were maddening.

All of that said, I liked the book. I liked it a heck of a lot more than I expected to.

First, I thoroughly enjoy it when a story gives me echoes of other stories, especially religious ones. This first book of the Wheel of Time series is full of such things. It's sort of like reading Star Wars, where nearly every religion in existence is mishmashed into the mythology, but it was interesting. Most of the time, the effect was quite subtle, just enough to make me curious.

My favorite thing, though, was the characters. I especially adored the reluctant hero, Rand, the sturdy and stable Perrin, curious, intelligent Egwene, and to some extent, the lovely Moiraine. And despite her tempestuous nature, I even liked Nynaeve. (The pronunciation guide in the back helped me get a handle on the troublesome names: e-GWAIN, mwah-RAIN, NIGH-neev.) Give me a character I can love, and I'll brave just about anything to get through a book. Robert Jordan gave me several.

The question for me now is: Do I dare invest the necessary time to read all twelve or thirteen or however many other novels are in the series, all of them ranging from 500-1000 pages? Yeah, I read fast. Quite fast, honestly. But that's still a major investment of time, regardless of whether said time is linear or set upon a wheel.

I've checked out book two from the library, so we'll see how things go.

Recommendation: Stretch out in a chair with the drink of your choice, and settle down for a very long, very enjoyable read.

6 comments:

  1. I've already given you my warnings on the series.

    But you do have one advantage over me when I first started reading them back in the mid-'90's: There is an ending in sight.

    I gave up on the series around book 10, when it took years for them to come out & when it appeared Jordan would never be able to wrap up the series, for multiple reasons, his health being one of them. I mean, people want to talk about the long wait between some of the Potter books, waiting for a new Wheel of Time book was astronomical in comparison.

    But now the series is finished, albeit by someone using Jordan's notes & not yet totally released. I'm sure, though, Brandon Sanderson wouldn't have started his own massive multiple volume work unless he'd been done completely with Wheel of Time.

    Anyway, I'm still not prepared to go back to the series. And I'm quite sure it's not going to have a really happy ending.

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  2. *nods* Like sir George, I stopped reading when we hit book 11 and for 700 pages there wasn't much progression of the plot. Now that we know there is a definite conclusion, and that it's coming, I may restart those books.

    Book 1, which you just read, is fairly amateurish compared to his later works--it's more obviously derivative. The series peaks (in my arrogant opinion) between books 4 and 6, with some incredible developments and more memorable characters than you can shake a stick at. But by book eight, there are so many minor players and so many POV shifts that you can go an entire book without once seeing one of the three main protags (Rand, Perrin or Mat) simply because there wasn't enough room.

    It's quite a time investment, as you say. And Jordan's writing quirks only get worse as the series goes on--you need a concordance (see below) to keep track of all the characters. But there's some great storytelling in there, some great characters, and a fair attempt at some difficult-to-pull-off techniques. I would give it at least until the end of Book 4 before you call it either way.

    (Spoiler Alert: there *IS* a WoT concordance. http://www.tsosmud.org/wotcon.aspx I know this because I once was a guildmaster on a Wheel of Time online RPG. Sirk Meredora, I was: Lord of House Meredora, Lieutenant-Captain of the Shienaran Borderguard, and in one roleplaying session I even got to meet an infant Lan.)

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  3. True, there is certainly some great writing & characterization in the Wheel of Time. It kept me hooked for the longest time. But it got to be so that every time a new book came out, I had to go back & reread all the others to remember who was who & what was going on. Wish I had known about that concordance back then. :)

    Ah, online RPG's. Never did get involved with those. I always preferred the personal touch. But being out in the barren wastelands of gaming availability, I might have to look into some.

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  4. George, yipes--a not-so-happy ending is not a good prospect. Listen up, writers everywhere: If you're going to put me through a story with a higher page count than War and Peace, the ending had just better be glorious.

    Argh.

    Chris, I am looking forward to reading book 2 anyway, and would love to see the best of the series, so maybe I'll go through 4 and see how I feel. But the thought of an entire Wheel of Time book without the protagonists is a bit appalling. And kind of humorous. I don't know if I'd get through an entire installment that didn't have Rand in it.

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  5. Jenna, yay! I'm so happy you read and enjoyed Book 1. That was always one of my favorites in the series. And you're right that the characters, their personalities and their dynamics and relationships with one another, are the series' strongest point. Nynaeve is possibly my favorite character of them all... events and circumstances really work on her (I'd call it grace), teach her humility, while never putting out the spark inside her completely, but instead nursing it into something far stronger and more powerful than it would have been otherwise. I love her transformation so much--read on if only to see it for yourself!

    I agree with Chris that the first five books or so are some of the strongest story arcs in the series. My vote is to keep reading, while also reading other things (if you can do that sort of thing, which based on how many books you review on here, I know you must be able to ;)) so you aren't trapped in the WoT vortex to the exclusion of all other stories.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the later installments!

    (PS: my blog has been on a bit of a hiatus since before the holidays... a new boyfriend will do that :) especially when my discipline for blogging was not fully formed to begin with. I am still a happy reader/sometimes commenter here at your blog though!)

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  6. Donna, thanks! It's good to hear your thoughts. I liked the first book enough that I really can't just stop now, so I'm excited to get into the next one. I'll keep an eye on Nynaeve.

    Congratulations on your new boyfriend! :)

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