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My "Final" Re-read [1] The Eye of the World

Posted by Crowl Rife, in The Wheel of Time, Retrospective 14 December 2011 · 381 views

This is Part 1 of my continuing series of blogs regarding what may possibly be my last re-read of The Wheel of Time, in anticipation of A Memory of Light. I have been reading this series since 1992. WARNING: EACH POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE ENTIRE SERIES. The best way to approach this retrospective is via your own re-read. If you have not read the entire series yet, you may want to wait on reading this.

These blogs are mirrored on my regular blog, Murgenblog, and I originally started them in May 2011.

Undoubtedly some of you will disagree with some things I say, as I am brutally honest about elements of the series I don't like. But remember that overall I love this series, despite any perceived flaws, and I just want to share my memories and thoughts on this work. My life has changed a lot in the last 20 years, but WoT has always been there for me; it's been the one constant. I'll be sad to see it go, but will be glad to finally have closure.

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Book 1: The Eye of the World (1990)
I distinctly remember buying this book in 1992, the paperback version. I got it at Star Realm, a comic / gaming store in Papillion, NE. The place wasn't too far from my high school and I would go there often. Why I bought it exactly, I don't remember. Most likely it was just due to the thickness of the book (I was into anything that looked epic enough) and the blurb from Piers Anthony on the back. It also helped that it was from Tor, which was publishing a lot of good stuff at the time. I do remember that the one thing that annoyed me at the time (and still does) was that there was no real "synopsis" on the back of the paperback... Tor does this with many of their paperback versions and I've never really liked that.

I recall also getting a CD on the same day, from a local CD shop near Star Realm (I can't remember the name of the shop). I do remember that it was the same one that I went to bright and early on the day of release for Metallica's self-titled "black album" in 1991 (still have the cardboard box, remember when CDs were packaged with those?). Anyway, the CD I got was Testament's The Ritual. Since that day whenever I listen to that album I think of The Eye of the World.

Thoughts Then
I don't remember all too much about the initial read of it, just bits and pieces, so this will be fairly short. It was so long ago, nearly 20 years (I really can't believe it's been that long). I know I liked it, because I went out and got the next two volumes when I had some money (didn't have a regular job yet). I remember understanding what was going on right away – there was none of that confusion you sometimes get when thrust into a new world, nor was it a book that needed a re-read to really understand it. It was a simple adventure, epic in scope, the kind I liked.

I also remember thinking the cover was somewhat lame, though in the end it is one of the better ones by Darrell K. Sweet. Many Wheel of Time (WoT) readers will tell you that the Sweet covers for the US editions blow. The cover for The Eye of the World was definitely not why I bought the book, as it's boring for a fantasy cover. Just a bunch of people on horses. The only really cool part was the Draghkar hovering near the moon, which unfortunately is obscured by the title on the paperback version.

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Thanks for covering up the Draghkar, Tor!

Thoughts Now
Re-reading it now, I love seeing all the references to later occurrences in the series, particularly around the visions Min has. When you first read the book those things are interesting, but you have no context with which to place them. But there are things that are foreshadowed in the first book that happen in Books 12 and 13. At the very least it shows that Jordan kept meticulous track of everything he put on paper and what was going on in the world. No detail was unimportant.

The thing that strikes me the most now about this first volume is how sparse everything seems. There are only a handful of characters to keep track of. Virtually every chapter focuses on our main 3 protagonists (Rand, Mat and Perrin), something that essentially stops about halfway through the series, and the story moves along at a brisk pace. Loial (one of my favorite characters) – the Ogier that is sadly ignored in the second half of the series – is here in abundance. The verbose description that Jordan is known for later in the series is still here, but it's not half as bad as Books 8-11.

In the early years of the series I re-read the first few books many times, and logically I've read this book the most of any. Yet for all that, I don't have much more to say on it in general. It's a decent book, but really only stands out because it's "the beginning." There are no moments in the book that I consider to be iconic in terms of the entire series, other than the prologue about the creation of Dragonmount. In regards to where it ranks with others it's in the middle of the pack for me. It gives you a taste of the world Jordan created and eases you into it, but really only scratches the surface.

Those That Were Forgotten
The things that bother me about The Eye of the World now, though, are that some elements almost seem out of place in the grand scheme of the entire series. The scene with the Green Man and the Eye of the World at the end feels awkward to me, mainly because it's hardly ever referenced again for the rest of the series, aside from The Shadow Rising, where most of that is sufficiently explained. But it still feels out of place in some respects. Same thing with the Blight – they never return to the Blight (except in dreams) until the very end of the 13th book, when they are prepping for the Last Battle. Thirteen books is too long to wait for something to be brought up again. Obviously Jordan didn't imagine the series would span so many books. But still.

Maybe there will be a final reference to the Green Man or the Eye in the last book. Perhaps they'll go by the spot where the Green Man died and took root, and visit the tree that he became. That would be a great homage to the first time Rand learned who he truly was and bring the series full circle. I truly hope Jordan left notes for that to be added in.

There was also all that hoopla about Mat and the ruby dagger, which was fixed in Book 3 and barely mentioned again after that. I like Mat, but his purpose in the story doesn't become apparent until the next book, whereas you can tell what Rand and Perrin will become in this one.

Another forgotten element is Padan Fain, who was a central Darkfriend in the first half of the series, but vanished in the second half, much like Loial. The series gets so expansive that many of the elements that drew me in initially are pushed to the wayside. I am sure Padan Fain will make a final appearance in the last book... like the Green Man, it would bring things full circle, as he was such an integral part of the first half of the series.

Friends
This book may be the most important WoT book to me out of any of them for the mere fact that it was because of this book that I made some really great friends in high school. My father was in the Air Force and we moved around a lot. When I was very young I didn't have much trouble making new friends every year or two, but when I became a teenager and entered high school I was a bit more shy (we all remember those awkward years, especially those who were "dorks" like me) and didn't make friends easily.

Cue The Eye of the World. During lunch at high school in Nebraska, I used to just read instead of eating in the cafeteria. I'd snack on something, but I much rather preferred just to spend the hour reading on my own. I was the dork that carried a novel with him from class to class, using any spare time to read a page here and there. I was consumed with reading during those years and read tons. Sometimes during lunch I would read in the library. Other times I would read in The Pits, large depressions in the main entry area of the high school, where students could sit and hang out.

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My high school, where it all began... The Pits are just inside those doors.

During one lunch, I sat in The Pits reading this book. A guy was sitting nearby and struck up a conversation about the book. His name was Brian Watson and he had read it as well, and liked it. We talked a bit about WoT and other series like Dune and Forgotten Realms (he was a big fan of the Dark Elf series by R.A. Salvatore, I believe I borrowed them from him once), and I realized he was in one of my classes. Brian eventually introduced me to a really good friend I had for many years in Nebraska, Matt Kucera, and through him I made many other great friendships. Brian and I never really became good friends – we saw each other occasionally after sophomore year, but didn't hang out much outside school – and it could have just as easily been some other fantasy or sci-fi book that would have prompted him to talk to me, but it was The Eye of the World, and that was the first time a book I was reading had started a friendship.

So thank you, Robert Jordan, for that, and for introducing me to your world.