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Eye of the World Review (At last!)


Vinny
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To recap: I read The Eye of the World in 1990 and remember liking it, but I never read any of the further WOT volumes. Over the years, I became curious about the series, especially when my nephew started reading it through. I bought the last two volumes for him as Xmas presents and this opened up a lot of discussion about the series. I finally decided to give WOT a second chance last august and picked up EOTW. Due to various factors, it took me longer than expected to finish the novel, which I did last night. I remembered almost nothing of the story from 1990, it was like reading a new book. So here's my immediate response:

 

Criticisms:

 

1. I could lighten this text by about 10,000 words, easily. Jordan has an awful lot of literary "tics" such as his overuse of "though" which softens passages that otherwise might have more impact. At least once a chapter there is an awkward turn of phrase. He uses the pointless descriptive "wordlessly" - if a character is silent, no authorial comment is necessary. It is never necessary to describe dialogue as anything more than "he/she said."

 

2. Jordan's nomenclature is inconsistent in quality; I'd say half of his invented words and names have a believable ring to them, the other half are either a little tinny (Cenn Buie) or are outright poor, such as "Dhoom."

 

3. Jordan accrues a great deal of narrative debt, but very little is paid off by the end of the novel.

 

4. Some parts of the text drag on, others seem to rush by with little or no detail.

 

5. Towards the end, characters lapse into Hollywood movie declamations, especially "No!" and two instances of the dreaded "Nooooo!"

 

Compared to other fantasy novels (most of which I loathe with great passion) this is a very slight catalog of offenses. What I liked about the novel:

 

Despite the above mentioned faults, Jordan could write. The text here is head and shoulders above contemporaneous fantasy novels. I can think only of Tad Williams and his "Memory, Sorrow & Thorn" trilogy as being equal in quality of prose for an "epic fantasy" of that era. What Jordan captured that eluded Williams was a real sense of depth, not only of invented history and lore, but of text - Jordan's text seems truly to have developed slowly, painstakingly, over time, you can feel the weight of his thought process in every sentence, sometimes with every word chosen. Jordan brings with him a weight of philosophy, as well. I have no doubt that he must have been both a deeply learned but also a deeply thoughtful man. His fictive world is fully imagined. Not in the canned RPG-manual way of Brandon Sanderson's truly unreadable opus "The Way of Kings," but after the manner of Faulkner and Tolkien; it is difficult to explain, but no mere accumulation of detail can achieve this effect, it is the result of something deeply rooted in a text, something not easily achieved. EOTW has that quality. By the end of the novel I completely believed in Jordan's world, its peoples and history, its languages and creatures. I think he particularly captured the glimmering, misty aura of the medieval romance perfectly - the stuff of medieval tapestries and Pre-Raphaelite paintings, the worlds of Malory and Scott and Tennyson. The novel is a real treat if the reader is familiar with various religious doctrines and myths and has read the great heroic sagas and romantic epics; a fair knowledge of world history helps as well. Lastly, to keep this brief, I will add that his characters are vivid and memorable, even the most archetypal of them live and breathe on the page as few "epic fantasy" characters ever do.

 

My favorite characters:

 

Rand al'thor (Jordan takes his time developing our young protagonist, but by the end of the novel, EOTW is Rand's story.)

 

Moiraine (The female Gandalf! Wonderful!)

 

Lan

 

Thom

 

Min

 

Elyas

 

Loial

 

The Green Man (his appearance is all too brief!)

 

The Eye of the World definitely deserves a place beside The Lord of the Rings, the Oz books, The Chronicles of Prydain, Gormenghast, Narnia, The Dark Is Rising, The Neverending Story etc. as one of the very best fantasy novels ever written. I look forward to reading it again one day. For now, it is on to "The Great Hunt"!!

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1. I could lighten this text by about 10,000 words, easily. Jordan has an awful lot of literary "tics" such as his overuse of "though" which softens passages that otherwise might have more impact. At least once a chapter there is an awkward turn of phrase. He uses the pointless descriptive "wordlessly" - if a character is silent, no authorial comment is necessary. It is never necessary to describe dialogue as anything more than "he/she said."

 

3. Jordan accrues a great deal of narrative debt, but very little is paid off by the end of the novel.

 

4. Some parts of the text drag on, others seem to rush by with little or no detail.

 

These three can be wrapped up with the following:

 

A lot of tables are set in the earlier books which are cleared off in the later books. Yes, there are some portions that overly wordy. I found that I skim things over too easily without giving the actual text/meaning much thought. These boards have pointed out many things that I missed which greatly added to the story.

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I'm with Pinzarn on his response. Without spoilers...there are people you meet for just a few paragraphs in book one, that become major players in later books. (Sometimes that payoff isn't for 2-3 books though).

 

A *LOT* of the excess pays off later. I've read book one eight times and I still find new ways that it ties in with the later books.

 

Enjoy the ride sir, I think you will really like it based on your review of book one.

(Books two and three are also kinda "self contained" continuations. Book four opens up the whole world, and is considered one of the best books in the series)

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TGH is, I think, the second best in the series (behind Shadow Rising). It has such good plot twists, introduces one of the most vitroil enemies in the series (or any series), and really gives you a sense of what RJ can do to main characters without killing them. When I first read it, I had just finished EotW and didn't have access to message boards or anything, and I was taken for a ride!

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