Titel: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
Book or Audiobook: Both
How long did it take to read: Six months. I read 160 pages during two days in July 2017 then put it down. I decided to give it another chance and listened to the audiobook between the 4th and the 20th of January 2018.
For more information about The Wheel of Time Series, audiobook narrators, editions, etc. you can find my introductory post HERE.
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs―a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts― five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.
This was, without a doubt, one of the most frustrating reads of my entire life! I can say, with absolute certainty, that had it not been for the audiobook I would never have finished it; I would have thrown it into the nearest wall and never picked it back up again.
Not because it’s bad, it’s not, but out of sheer frustration! This story, with so much potential to be a fantastic beginning to this series, is swallowed by pacing problems and unnecessary Tolkien mimicking
I’ve said in earlier posts and tweets that I will never review a book I don’t like, never read something I don’t enjoy for the sole purpose of ripping it to shreds in a review, that hasn’t changed. I genuinely believe there is an excellent book in-between all these pages, I just wish about three hundred of those pages had been scrapped.
Let’s start with the Tolkien problem. If you’ve never read J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, you can skip this part. If you have, then the parts Jordan was “inspired” by will stand out, like for example, a huge, tree-loving creature who doesn’t want to be too hasty.
There was so many time I literally had to put the book down or pause the recording to stop myself from yelling: “Oh, come on!” At other times, sheer exhaustion made sure all I had the strength for was to roll my eyes.
I’m not a Tolkien fanatic, but I have read The Lord of the Rings trilogy several times, and I feel there is a real problem with Jordan copying Tolkien in this book. I know this subject have been discussed over and over with some saying there isn’t, and other’s that there is. All I can do is give you my opinion and try to convey what type of reactions the story brought out in me. It’s definitely not plagiarism, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But it’s not merely the case of Jordan using familiar genre tropes either; the similarities are too many and too obvious.
I’ve read many explanations to why that is, I’m not going to speculate, others have done so in excess before me. I know from other reviews that the similarities made some people feel comfortable in Jordan’s world, and maybe that was the author’s ultimate intent. To me, the similarities threw me out of his creation and made his voice seem distorted. That made the experience feel unfocused because it took me a while to get back into Jordan’s voice. By the time I did a new Nazgul, sorry, Myrddraal, threw me out of Jordan’s world again and into Tolkien’s.
But again, if you’ve not read The Lord of the Rings, you won’t have an issue with it. If you have, I really don’t know what to tell you; I guess it comes down to how sensitive to it you are. Maybe you, as others have, will find it helpful, like someone’s given you a decoder or a head start into understanding this vast new world; but if you’re more like me, you’ll find it frustrating and distracting.
The worst thing about it is that it’s not necessary. Jordan didn’t need Tolkien’s help to create his world, he did an excellent job all on his own. The “inspiration” did a lot more harm than good to his story. It hurt Jordan’s voice and his own unique brand of storytelling, which is interesting all on its own. The world Jordan created is so compelling, the political intrigue, the history of the world, the concepts of The Wheel of Time and The Pattern, it all lays the foundation for something that could, potentially, be spectacular.
As for the characters, I had a hard time liking any of them with a few exceptions such as Lan, Moraine, and Perrin. However, after reaching the end I don’t think the characters in themselves are the problem, they’re not bad or uninteresting characters, it’s more a question of understanding the pacing.
If you go into this series, you have to be prepared that the story is slow-paced, almost unmoving at times and therefore the character development is very slow. That character that you feel is childish and annoying at the beginning, won’t have changed all that much when you reach the end. You have to keep in mind that even though you’ve just read 811 pages, there are 11.200 pages to go in this series and the characters will not come into their own in the first book.
Which leads me to the second issue I have with this story; It’s too long. I love long books if that’s what the story needs; the longer I can spend in a world the better. This story could easily have been cut by two-three hundred pages and not suffered for it. It’s agonizingly slow for no reason. Somewhere in the middle, we spent what felt like two hundred pages moving from inn to inn with nothing much else happening. After the first hour or so, all I could think was, “Ok, I get it, it’s a long, difficult road to Caemlyn.” I’m all for extensive world-building, but it has to be relevant, it has to add something to the story. When you can zone out of listening for an hour and then when you start paying attention again, the story hasn’t moved at all, there is a problem. At least to me.
Worldbuilding is great, but when you have an epic tale like this one, with a multitude of POV’s, names, places, political fractions, history, languages, and mythology to keep track of, telling me the name, appearance, and style of clothes of every single innkeeper we meet doesn’t help me as a reader, it only confuses me. And there are so many innkeepers, so many.
So, should you read this book? I honestly don’t know what to tell you. Despite the issues I have with the story I did like it. The very reason I was so frustrated by it, was that when Jordan’s own voice was in control, and he got the pacing right, the story was so, so good. But this is not a book for the inexperienced reader. As I said in my introductory post, I really think you should have some experience with the fantasy genre before you try to tackle this series. That way it will be easier to understand where the story is headed and why it’s taking so long to get there.
If you are an experienced fantasy reader well, it depends on how you feel about Tolkien “references.” Are you patient? Do you like slow-paced, elaborate and intricately detailed worlds? Do you have the stamina to get through long periods of the story being stagnant?
I guess it all boils down to one question: Can you read 811 pages knowing that when you reach the end; the characters are pretty much exactly the same as when you started and the story has barely begun?
When I finished The Eye of the World, I immediately felt that I couldn’t judge Jordan or this series based purely on this book. I could see the potential, so I had to give the second one, The Great Hunt a chance; I devoured that book in two days. The Eye of the World is the author’s first book. It could be smoother, shorter and better paced. It could have used one more round of editing, and there are a lot of redundant minor characters. But it is a good story, and I do believe, as the series continues, some creases will smooth themselves out along with Jordan’s evolution as a writer.
My Rating: 3/5
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