Where I Got It: Own it.
Who I Recommend This To: Epic fantasy aficionados (with reservations, see chit chat below).
Publisher: MacMillan Audio (2004)
Length: 29 hours 32 minutes
Series: The Wheel of Time Book 1
If you haven’t heard of this series, then you might be living in a small hole in the ground. Not a nasty hole, but a comfy, hobbitish hole. Yes, I have already started with the jokes. But let me set that aside til a little later. Rand al’Thor and his friends Mat and Perrin live in Two Rivers, a small community of farmers and merchants. They are young and inexperienced in the greater ways of the world. But then Moiraine and her friend/guard Lan turn up asking questions about the history of the place. What follows are creatures out of tales and a chunk of Two Rivers is left burnt to the ground. Moiraine convinces the three young men they must away with her and Lan for not only their safety, but for the safety of the folks of Two Rivers. Soon they are joined by others on a quest to save the kingdom, if not the world, from the Dark One. The Eye of the World launches the 14 book series that Robert Jordan started and Brandon Sanderson finished this past January (2013).
I read this book back in college when I was 18/19. I had forgotten nearly all of it in between then and now, roughly 1.5 decades. In order for me to review this honestly, I have to get the Tolkien aspect out in the open. I do remember feeling a bit cheated the first time around at how much Jordan took from Tolkien. Tolkien himself borrowed heavily from European myths and hence, much of the fantasy genre has borrowed from him in a typical trickle down effect. Still, the similarities between The Eye of the World and The Lord of the Rings are some of the closest I have found in the fantasy genre. With that acknowledgement, I still found myself getting attached to the main characters and wrapped up in their quest. And yes, grimacing a little every time some character mimicked an Ent line, or an altercation resembled hobbits vs. nazghul, or there was smoking of the leaf.
So all that aside, Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene are all very real, young, and in way over their heads. Moiraine and Lan are mysteries that only unravel a little by the end of the book. Nynaeve, the Wisdom of Two Rivers, was one of my favorite characters – she tracks, rides, heals, and grumbles. I am capable of one of these skills, and I will let you guess which one. The world building was detailed and happened bit by bit, growing as the Two Rivers folks ventured further and further from their home. There were moments of humor or reflection mixed in with the action, making the pacing quite good for a lengthy first book to a lengthy series. Most of the tale is told through Rand’s eyes, which was adequate, but I often found myself wishing for more points of view, especially wanting to hear the inner thoughts of Moiraine.
Michael Kramer narrated like 90+% of the book, as we only had a few short blips of POV from the female characters (narrated by Kate Reading). Both did an excellent job, providing a variety of voices for the multitude of characters in this novel. I look forward to hearing their voices in the next book. This case, I think I found the audioversion more enjoyable than the print simply because I didn’t get hung up on the Tolkien-isms as we were moving right along to the next scene and I couldn’t physically linger over the similarities.
What I Liked: The world building provides depth to the entire world and in turn, each character; even the side characters had histories, etc; the ladies are equally as developed, flawed, and dangerous as the men; Bela the horse gets a spotlight throughout the tale.
What I Disliked: Lots of Tolkien similarities; the dream sequences were a little nebulous for me.
If you’d like a more detailed discussion, check out the Read Along posts. Also, we will be continuing along with Book 2, The Great Hunt (schedule HERE) if you would like to join us.