First of all, I want to give people an idea of the state of my copy of The Eye of the World. It was lightly used when I first got it, but I’ve just about destroyed it as I’ve been reading it. And keep in mind I’m only a little over halfway into the book. So, I give you an interior shot (of broken binding) as well as an exterior shot of broken binding.
This is the inside of the book at this point. This is one of a few page breaks where I’ve had to make some internal repairs with tape.
This is the outside of the book which I also attempted to repair with tape. In this case, it was just to tighten everything together in a foolish attempt to prevent more breakage from occurring.
So, it’s pretty safe to say I’ve not really been going easy on this book as I read it. That’s for a variety of reasons, chief of which is the transportation this book has suffered. I’ve been reading it for awhile, and I tend to toss books when I take them with me places (toss them into the carseat, toss them onto a desk, toss them into a drawer). But I’ve also been trying to sneak paragraphs and pages, if I can manage it, in a number of locales. While I’m at work, while I’m in bed, while I’m waiting in line at Taco Bell, while I’m sitting at the table in Taco Bell, while I’m in the drive-thru at Taco Bell. I’m realizing I’ve been to Taco Bell too many times this week. (Insert shameless plug for the quesarito which is delicious)
I’ve attempted to read this book multiple times over the years, and I admit this level of infatuation with the experience is new for me. In previous attempts, I usually read about 50 pages, get bored, and stop. There’s something about the first few chapters which doesn’t quite meet the promise of the Prologue for me. Each time I start this book, I finish the Prologue with this immense desire to discover what’s going on in this new world. Each time I start this book, I get four or five pages into the description of Emond’s Field and the Winternight festivities and realize the interesting stuff is a long way off.
Something about this attempt stuck. I’m currently 455 pages into the book. So, just over halfway.
So, what happened?
Spoilers abound below.
I pushed through the beginning of the book and got to the good bits is probably the short answer to that question. In the beginning, I struggled with all the Tolkienesque names and shenanigans. A group of misfits was fleeing their humble country beginnings across rivers to escape various monsters working for a “Dark One.” Hobbits fleeing Nazgul on the Buckleberry Ferry much? But the more I read, the more I became invested. And then I got to the first dream shared by Mat, Perrin, and Rand in which they meet the Dark One (known here as Ba’alzamon as opposed to Sauron) which is filled with prophecies, unknown magic, and general spooky badguyness. Rats are killed in dreams which turn up dead upon waking as well. In other words, shenanigans started going down.
Being so far into the book, it would be difficult for me refer to specific passages or moments as sticking out to me with this volume (something I’m hoping to be able to do with the later books). But I will discuss a few of my favorite moments thus far (and keep in mind I’m not even finished with the first book yet, so I may not have encountered events yet which may change what’s happening thus far).
First half of book one:
I adore Thom Merrilin as a character. Just love him. At this point in the first book, it’s implied he’s been killed protecting Mat and Rand from trollocs and Myrddraal. And that’s truly depressing to me. I love Thom’s confidence, swagger, and stage presence throughout the first half of the book. He seems wiser than he lets on, and it’s hinted there’s more going on with him than the surface level gleeman life. Being a fantasy novel, it’s very possible Thom may turn up again still alive in the very next chapter I read. Even if he doesn’t, I really want to know more about this character. I’m also really enjoying Perrin’s POV chapters thus far. I’m also really interested in this character; the wolf connection is a very exciting element. Perrin has yet to accept this gift, but I’m assuming it will become a key element in the series as things move forward. Unfortunately, Jordan’s weaknesses as a writer are apparent in this volume because of the way he’s been handling his female characters. I’d love to see his women (Egwene, Moiraine, Nynaeve) better written, so I’m hoping that improves moving forward.
Some of the set pieces have been fun. The chapter(s) about the gang’s stay in Aridhol/ Shadar Logoth is a fast-paced and interesting development; it further enriches the mythology by introducing some additional supernatural threats to our heroes. The picture I have of Whitebridge in my head is very impressive as well. Jordan spends a lot of time on description. Sometimes this works in his favor (as in the Shadar Logoth and Whitebridge sections), other times it seems to slow the pace of the story to a crawl. I get the sense this will remain a problem for Jordan as the series moves forward.
I need to take a moment to complain about the cover art for these books. I know Darrell K. Sweet is considered a behemoth in the genre. He painted the covers for many a fantasy novel in his time, and I know a lot of people are fond of his work. But I just can’t stand the weirdly proportioned figures on his covers for The Wheel of Time. The cover for the first book isn’t a particularly compelling or evocative image. It’s just a mid-ground portrait of some minor characters. There’s not really anything about the image which suggests fantasy to a reader either. I am hopeful another artist will be able to design more exciting covers for a new edition in the future; I wouldn’t mind having a handsome hardcover of The Eye of the World to add to my collection eventually.
To bring this unfocused ramble to an end, I’m enjoying this first book so far, and I’m looking forward to continue reading the books. I’ll continue to blog my thoughts about the series. With increased regularity, I’m hoping to spend time focusing on just a few chapters at the time, so I can get a little more specific about my complaints and compliments.