This review does contain spoilers to The Eye of the World, and while we will also mention a fair amount of foreshadowing for future installments, we will not explain their meanings, so first-time readers will be able to enjoy this review as well without spoilers for the rest of the series.
An epic journey
In The Eye of the World, readers are introduced to the main protagonists of The Wheel of Time: Rand al’Thor, Mat Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara, three average boys living in a backwater village called Emond’s Field. When their village is attacked by a group of Trollocs – Shadowspawn monsters that are half human and half animal – it is soon apparent that the Dark One, the evil God of their world, wants something from these boys.
Taken away by Moiraine – an Aes Sedai or female magician – and her Warder, the boys embark on an epic journey to the Aes Sedai city of Tar Valon with their friends Nynaeve and Egwene, and a travelling gleeman, where they hope to find answers.
The first thing many fans of the genre may notice when reading this story are the similarities to another series about an epic journey: Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. There’s the backwater village famous for its tobacco, a battle against a Dark Lord who lives in a dark land surrounded by the Mountains of Dhoom with his armies of beast-men called Trollocs serving him, the scary black riders in the service of the Dark Lord known as Fades, and the Green Man who bears striking resemblances to an Ent.
However, despite these significant parallels, readers will soon find out the similarities are no more than a strategic way to lure them in. When the story takes a sudden turn, our protagonists no longer move towards Tar Valon, but to another place entirely. This is no longer the start of a Tolkien-esque series, but an entirely different series that deserves to be read for the amazing pacing and suspense, the characters to connect with and love, and the vast history and world building that easily surpass that of Tolkien.
Characters and setting
These elements form something akin to a force of nature, pulling any reader into this story and refusing to let go. The characters are significantly fleshed out individuals, and throughout the story, you will become acquainted with and come to love them, even those whom you may initially dislike. Though the history comes in significant info-dumps, these are well-disguised and interesting enough to keep you immersed in Jordan’s world. Jordan creates both a realistic world and a well-thought out history, but he doesn’t tie these too tightly together and keeps many loose ends alive, thus creating a story to enthrall any reader.
When the story takes its surprising turn to the unexpected, Jordan proves that his true talent lies, beyond any doubt, in foreshadowing. When first reading The Eye of the World, this twist surprised me and won my heart forever. It was only as a second-time reader and expecting this twist, however, that I discovered how perfectly everything fits together. Suddenly I saw that all the events along the way pointed to that one unexpected turn. Someone once told me that the best books have unexpected yet inevitable plot twists. This is one of them.
The foreshadowing isn’t limited to this one volume, though. Jordan is famous for the way he envisioned this series, plotting out every single twist and turn of The Wheel of Time before he started writing The Eye of the World. Even at this point there is talk of future Amyrlins, three women in Rand’s life and People of the Dragon. Mat even speaks in the Old Tongue and Ba’alzamon tells about how – long ago – he whispered in Arthur Hawkwing’s ear to send his armies over the ocean to seal a doom yet to come.
Why should you read this book?
Wait, what? You haven’t read it yet? The Eye of the World is the first volume of one of the most genre-shattering series ever. Not only is this a breath-taking page-turner that will blow your mind, the true driving forces of the series are the characters, whom you will come to love. I promise you, after finishing The Eye of the World, you will run to your store or library to get your hands on its sequel, The Great Hunt.