You know, I wanted to like this book, I really did. I had heard a lot of awful things
about this series and author before I started, but a lot of good things also. From comments on other reviews of the Wheel of Time
series, it's something that stirs up a lot of strong emotions - negative, or positive. For my part, 'it was okay' kind of sums up my response.
I could go on about the similarities to Tolkien, as others have done so, but I feel that the similarities lessen the further you get into the story. (Certainly after the race to the ferry and the river crossing, something which very
strongly reminded me of Tolkien.) After a certain point, however, The Eye of the World
decided to go its own way after all.
The beginning of The Eye of the World
is a familiar, well-trodden path. Farm boy with a Secret Heritage is forced to leave his home due to an attack by Dark Forces because said Forces are After Him. Blech. I bet you can hear me rolling my eyes.
Not that that particular plot can't be done well, of course (an attack by Dark Forces can be just the kick in the ass some heroes need), but I couldn't get on with Jordan's way of doing things. Mainly because of the Trollocs. Actually, especially
because of the Trollocs.
Trollocs. Monstrous half-human, half-animal... things
. Perhaps it's just me, but I don't find myself cowering in terror when 'beasts' like this appear in the Dark Forces' line up. They're always stupid, always used as 'cannon fodder', and are seriously NOT SCARY. Tolkien's orcs gave me the same problem. If Jordan had stuck with just the Fades, then perhaps it could have worked. Even though black-cloaked figures of darkness aren't all that original, either, I can at least take them seriously.
The dream sequences were another thing I did not particularly enjoy. It's a device I associate with my thirteen-year-old self, and find it a lazy plot device. Not to say it can't
work, but I don't think it does here. Sure the Dark One can invade the main characters' dreams, but it never felt dangerous
. It never felt as thought something bad could happen, because said Dark One just spent his time talking foreshadowing and admitting he wasn't sure which on of the three men he was really after. I suppose, at least, these weren't prophetic dreams. That would be even worse.
If the plot devices weren't driving me mad, the characters were.
The trouble is, if I don't care about the characters, I don't care what happens to them. Not enough to invest myself in a fourteen book series, anyway. I, personally, did not find the characters engaging. They felt as though they were character archetypes, or cardboard cutouts.
I didn't care
Rand, as a character, was dull, uninteresting, and made it through 99% of the book on sheer luck and having powerful friends who knew what they were doing. (Moiraine and Lan, in particular.) Then, suddenly, at the climax of the book, he can wield terrifying power and blast all of his foes, so much so that he believes he has killed the Dark One. (Which I don't believe is the case, since this is book one of a fourteen book series). I never felt afraid for him, and I never felt emotionally attached to him either.
Moiraine is much the character archetype of the old, wise mentor, including the infuriating character trait of NOT EXPLAINING ANYTHING. This is just aggravating, and it doesn't make for suspenseful storytelling. Rand and the others went along with her much too easily. QUESTION THE WOMAN, PROTAGONISTS!
Who else? Perrin and Mat. Well, actually, both these characters were more interesting than Rand. Mat was quite awesome (in a stereotypical mischievous boy kind of way) for the first few chapters of the novel, but he grew into a bit of an idiot. If the powerful magical woman tells you not to do something, DON'T DO IT. Perrin, on the other hand, grew on me. I really enjoyed the chapters from his point of view (if you ignore Egwene, which I do) and, to me, they were the highlight of the novel. It was a shame that after the characters were reunited, we were stuck in Rand's head and Perrin was just a bit of a mystery Rand thought about occasionally.
Egwene and Nynaeve. What to say about them? Was there any point to Egwene being there? She spent most of the novel being protected by one of the boys, or snapping at them. She insisted on coming along just because. Rand likes her. She likes Rand. Rand occasionally TALKS to other women. Oh, the angst. (But it's all right for her to dance with other men, of course.) Nynaeve, on the other hand, can at least stand up for herself, but she is so stereotypically sharp-tongued that it's annoying. She hates Moiraine because she's ordering around HER boys, HER Emond Fielders. That's basically the character development I got from her.
Oh, and a sudden infatuation with Lan that he obviously returned but couldn't possibly allow to happen. What. Where did that even come from?
And then there's Lan. Stoic and cold, and a bit mysterious. He's a Warder, which is kind of cool. But no, he's BETTER than the other Warders. And of course he's got a Secret Past. He could have been a much more awesome character than he was, and I am sad for his wasted potential. (Not to mention, I wished sometimes he would just tell Moiraine to shut up, instead of meekly (albeit disapprovingly) going along with what she said all the time.)
(That's not a strong woman, Jordan - that's annoying.)
Moving on, before I analyse all the characters in the book... the environmental themes (the Green Man versus the Blight, for example) are another legacy of Tolkien, and which have permeated a lot of modern fantasy. I can't really blame Jordan for that, but the character of the Green Man was a little bit of overkill, if you ask me.
The climax of the novel was disappointing, and lacklustre at best. Despite the role Rand played in it, it all felt very passive. I felt as though I was watching it from afar. My eyes even glazed over at some point. That is NOT the reaction you want readers to have to your climax. You want it to be exciting, heart-pounding and visceral. Not... bland. Bland Rand. Hey, that rhymes.
To be honest, Jordan's writing style wasn't all that great either. Take this line: 'a red-streaked yellow jelly of pure heat'. What even is that? I don't want to be imagining wibbly wobbly jelly during an awesome climax!
You know, it kind of seems from this review that I hated the book. I didn't hate it. It was kind of bland, like porridge without any honey.
But, you know, there were things I DID like.
I enjoyed the description of the Blight. I liked how dangerous the place seemed, with lashing trees and disease and rotting foliage. The giant worms, not so much. But the actual physical Blight itself...? Pretty cool.
I also like the concept of magic having a male and female side, a kind of yin yang thing. The male side has been stained by the Dark One, which means that if men use it they can be driven mad by the taint. Pretty awesome. A lot of scope for a great story in that. Shame that this isn't brought to the foreground earlier in the novel, really.
Perrin. I mentioned him earlier. His internal conflict was interesting to read about (though I wish there had been more of it).
So, in summary, I could have liked this book. I wanted
to like it. I wanted all of the things I'd heard about it to be proved wrong. But I just didn't care about the story or the characters enough to give it more than an 'it was okay'. Sorry to all the fans out there, but this is just my opinion.
I'm kind of curious as to how the series will pan out, but I don't really feel like reading through another thirteen books to find out. I might find an online plot summary somewhere, or, sometime in the future, I might give The Great Hunt
a shot. We'll see.