Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Wheel of Time. Oh boy. What have I gotten myself into?

Despite being a pretty big fantasy fan, I’ve somehow skipped this series until now. I can’t really explain it: maybe I just didn’t want to get sucked in to a massive time investment*? Maybe I didn’t want to ever feel the need to stand in line for a midnight release? I dunno. But I didn’t.

But now I have a Kindle, which really serves to lessen the Giant Fantasy Series Burden: in space and weight, if not reading time**. So, I decided to start the thing and see where it takes me.

So far, I mostly like it. Make no mistake: this is a Generic Fantasy Story. There are wizards and young heroes***. There are warriors and there are tree people. There are trolls and shades and all manner of beasties. There’s even a princess! Not to mention the chosen one… So there’s nothing truly Amazing in this book. If you’ve read a hundred fantasy books, you’ve essentially read this one too.

But, if you’ve read a hundred fantasy books, you probably like this sort of thing. In that case, this book will do quite nicely. It has all the comforts of home! Wizards, young heroes, warriors, tree people, trolls, shades, princesses, and a chosen one. It’s very familiar. Very comfortable. And, honestly? It’s not that bad****.

I liked it. I look forward to reading the next one. I hope that it inspires a sort of rabid fandom in me (and I hope the series is ended by the time I near the end so I don’t have to wait!).

So yeah. Do you like modern fantasy (or think you’ll like fantasy)? Then this is as good as any other random book on the shelf (and probably a bit better). Do you hate fantasy? Then this won’t change your mind.

It’s comfortable. I have complaints, of course: the heroes are incredibly stupid. They’re always rushing in to kick something or steal something or cause random mischief despite the fact that they’re being chased by minions of the Dark One. The religious zealots are zealous enough to be annoying; but I guess that’s also often true in real life. The ones in this book are probably no worse than actual Crusaders or Inquisitors, so it’s kind of hard to fault the book for that.

My biggest issue with this book is that the author keeps secret from the reader things that all the characters know. It’s taken as a given that everyone should mistrust Aes Sedai, but it’s never really explained why. The only one who’s really in the story seems perfectly nice enough and it doesn’t really make sense why the characters keep hiding things from her that she really should know. Maybe that starts to make sense in later books; but here, it just makes the characters seem even stupider. I want to scream at them: "Tell the wise mentor wizard the important things!". But they don’t.

As complaints go, that’s pretty mild. So would I recommend this? To a fan of the genre: absolutely. To anyone else: no way. Which, honestly, is how most genre fiction goes. Nothing to write home about. The Eye of the World meets expectations.

* Honestly, this is a big problem with the genre for me: Fantasy series are long and starting a new one means making a pretty long-term commitment.

**It helps with reading time as well: I usually have a book on my iPod with me.

***Is there a fantasy series where an old person is in the lead role? I’d like to read it.

****It’s Shakespeare compared to the rubbish Goodkind shovels out there.

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