Oh boy here we go. For two years I have been saying I was going to start reading The Wheel of Time, see the series that it seems everyone else in the entire world has read. I knew it would be difficult, after all I am no doubt jaded by reading so much other fantasy before it; I will be seeing clichés throughout. I also in no way, shape, or form can say that I am going into this reading with as a blank slate; for a series I had read not one word of I know an amazing amount about The Wheel of Time. I would have had to hide under a rock to not pick up huge chunks of information about this amazingly popular series; instead I use my phone to browse fantasy message boards all day (fantasy fiction message boards, get that thought out of your mind you sick @#%#!).
So I grabbed my new (used) paperback copy and prepared myself. Warnings are there, I know to expect braid tugging, arms crossed under breasts (anyone else try this at home?), weapons being fingered, and random attacks of orcs (sorry, trollocs), all following around the one true hero of the world, Rand whats’his’name. I already KNEW that the first book is way too similar to Lord of the Rings for some people, and I already knew that Terry Goodkind stands accused of borrowing a little too literally from Jordan. So with all this in mind, and book in hand, I wisely kept a pen and notepad (ripped piece of paper with an old grocery list on the back), because I know every little mistake I make will be jumped on immediately. I am dealing with sacred ground here.
As I know that it would absolutely pointless to review a book that everyone I know has already read, I won’t even try (although the amount of hits I get for Gardens of the Moon would show there are NEVER really enough reviews of popular books around). So what follows is instead a steady stream of random musings spelled out as I attempted to decipher my notes, which I notice I stopped taking about two thirds of the way through. Guess I got a bit caught up in the book.
LETS DO THIS!
OOO, a dark rider, what a start. Already at the edge of my seat. Wow, I could have skipped the beginning of the book and reread Fellowship of the Ring. This plot line isn’t just borrowed, it’s exactly the same. Mat and Perrin/ Merry and Pippen, dark riders, mentions of how no one in town ever goes on adventures except Rand’s father. They a run from the riders and their orcs, led by a “warder,” who turns out to be an amazing warrior but also maybe a king (oh , did I mention spoilers are possible throughout? Ya, spoilers are possible throughout…For a book you have probably already read). They are joined by Gandolf, but this time he is in the form of a breathtaking beauty. They split up; they all find their own special way to help this journey. Hell, Mat even picks up an item of special power that corrupts him completely and makes him an annoying little asshole the whole book. I dreaded seeing him on page just as much as Frodo (confession, I enjoyed the non-hobbit sections of LotR way more than the journey of the damn ring). And toward the end we found a Ent in the form of a Trolloc (sorry, an Ogier). Ancient keepers of nature that have long lives and year long discussions. All in a fight against an ancient power who controls men and has died once but can’t be kept down. Pure Lord of the Rings.
Similarities aside, this is still a damn easy and fairly fun read so far. If one thing stood out to me more than anything else it was the way Jordan writes nervous chatter. It was actually entertaining and felt very real. I know that some horrible forced romances are to come later in the series, but for now they actually feel flirtatious and fun. Likewise the banter isn’t forced, some of it witty and some of it a bit clumsy, just like real life banter would be. I enjoyed most of Jordan’s writing style, not as flowery as Tolkien of course but easy to follow and rarely clumsy unless it is supposed to be. Early on a few phrases were jarring; my favorite is “he looked not best pleased to find her there.” And there are some quirks that area already driving me up the wall. One book in and I am pretty sure I have all the info I need to write “The Complete History of Music” for this world, every song title was listed, as well as what song from a different town it used the same tune from. Also, much as I loved the theory behind the pattern and what not, can we stop saying Ta’veren every two pages? The concept wasn’t even introduced until around page 500, then it became the central idea of everything.
Jaded reader time! Where I talked completely out my @$$ and make comparisons that don’t necessarily need to be made. Often times a book is accused to being a D&D narration (Dungeons and Dragons, don’t even pretend you didn’t know what I meant). Perhaps this is because Jordan followed Tolkien so closely, and of course D&D is shameless in wanting to be LotR, but Eye of the World was D&D to the bone. Each adventurer was his/her own class, Warder/mage/swordsman/axeman, there was even a bard. In true video game fashion the world felt tiny, because despite the length of their journey every time there was trouble someone knew exactly where they were and how to get to a convenient place of power, such as an abandoned and forgotten city(that may be the largest in the world). And finally, despite the fact that Rand journeyed in a completely strait line, village after village, there was never a bigger ambush waiting, the dumb enemy was always behind.
Enough with the prerequisite bitchin, because this was a whole lot of fun. Rand was boring but the supporting cast looks awesome. Loved the bard. Moiraine (spelling triple checked) and Nanaeve’s battle of will was great. I know Min comes back from preexisting knowledge, and maybe that slanted me, but dang I enjoyed her in the short amount of screen time she had. Mat was annoying, even more so as the cursed dagger was the biggest non-secret in the history of the world, but Perrin’s path is actually pretty cool. I may join the Tinkers in their search for a perfect song; it was how I spend most of high school anyway.
Oh ya, a few questions that may get answered in later books or perhaps if I ever reread the series (which at current rate would happen in about twenty five years or so). I know what the white cloaks ARE, but who the hell do they work for? Does the Queen have so little power in her own land that they thrive on anarchy and act as a force of their own? Same with Aes Sedai. Do they work within existing political structures or are they a force of their own? Did Moiraine have any authority on her journey, or just the respect of the right people?
Lastly a rating, because while not a proper review I rate everything these days. Haters gotta hate and all that, half this large block of text was negative, but I know what a influence this has been on so much more that I have read. My rating may not make perfect sense, but I can easily see how this series took a hold of so many of my contemporaries; how it became the go to series for so many of my friends.
5 Stars. Without a moment of hesitation.