This sort of toes the line between a book review and an opinion, but I make enough textual references that it can barely qualify as a book review. Also, this is really long.
If I begin a book series, I generally try to stick with it till the end. It takes a lot for me to drop a book. I’ve stuck with Dickens throughout the slow beginnings, and have made it through Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky. So when I threw down Eye of the World after only 100 pages, I was surprised at myself. I’ve made it through much denser prose than Jordan’s. So I took another look at the story to find out why.
The prologue of the story was solid. It was chilling, but I liked it. The image of Lews Therin- whoever he is- wandering mindlessly through the carnage of his palace and calling for his wife only to be come out of his trance and discover that he’s slaughtered everyone there really disturbed me and I was intrigued.
Then we jumped to a boy named Rand al’ Thor and his father Tam, who are traveling from their farm to the village of Two Rivers for their Bel Tine, which is some kind of festival. A normal enough way to begin the story; it can shed light on what Rand’s life is like before he gets swept up into whatever happens in the story. Which is great; I was definitely curious about what would happen.
Then we received the first Tolkien imitation (one of the many I noticed in the beginning; the rest are listed at the bottom for your amusement): a black rider with a Malicious Presence™. And then my enthusiasm began to cool a little. I know it’s hard for any fantasy writer these days to avoid being influenced by Tolkien, but I would have hoped a series as well-regarded as Wheel of Time could have avoided such an obvious derivative.
Anyway, Rand’s father doesn’t see this horseman and they proceed to the village. We received a bit of world info-dumping through the conversation of the villagers and got a little bit of insight into their world: Woman’s Circle, the Wisdom, and so on. All’s okay so far. We meet Rand’s friend Mat, who in one anecdote about a practical joke becomes more interesting to me than Rand himself. We find out that Rand’s not the only one to have seen a strange horseman. We find out some strangers have arrived in the village, and that a gleeman- a traveling player of sorts- is coming for their Bel Tine. Rand and his friends eventually meet the strangers- a lady named Moiraine and her companion Lan. There’s some talk about strange things going on in the outside world (a slight resemblance to “The Shadow of the Past” in Fellowship, might I add). Eventually Rand finds out that his father does, in fact, believe him about the horseman, and that since other people in the village have seen this stranger, they’re going to go back to their rather isolated home to make sure the stranger can’t vandalize it. Given that their home is so remote, this is asking for trouble, but I’ll let it slide. Since they live off their farm, this makes sense.
That night, they’re attacked by a kind of monster called a Trolloc, deformed horned monsters who are dangerous fighters. Both Rand and Tam escape, but Tam is badly injured and Rand is barely able to get him back to Two Rivers, hoping against hope that the Wisdom Nynaeve can heal Tam. During the trip, Tam is growing increasingly delirious and lets slip a rather unsettling bit of info- Rand was adopted, he’s not actually Tam’s biological child.
This is where my enthusiasm really began to die down. I felt like Jordan was setting up a “Luke, I am your father!” moment at some point in the future. I was still going to read, but I was feeling a lot less engaged than I had been. The adopted child who doesn’t know it has been done a thousand times, and it was introduced with a sledgehammer here. I prefer subtlety with this trope in stories, especially since it’s easy for the child in question to start whinging about his newfound status.
But I never found out if Jordan was setting this up. Only a few pages later, I’d set the book down.
When Rand makes it to Two Rivers, he discovers that most of the place has been torched by Trollocs. He’s then told that Moiraine and Lan were instrumental in driving away the Trolloc attack, and that Moiraine is an Aes Sedai (some kind of wizard/witch/I-don’t-know-what. Either way, she’s powerful). Rand eventually overcomes his mistrust of her to ask her if she’ll heal his father, who’s on the verge of death. She does so. And then she tells Rand that he and his friends Mat and Perrin have to leave Two Rivers because the Trollocs were looking specifically for them, only torching the rest of the village when they realized that they weren’t going to succeed in finding them. After some hesitation Rand & Co. (& Co. = Mat and Perrin) agree to leave.
This was where I dropped the book like it was poisonous.
Why did I have such a problem with this? Throughout the first 100 pages, it has been established that the people of Two Rivers despise and mistrust the Aes Sedai and regard them as very dangerous if not flat-out evil. And after the village has been torched, these three boys (and a girl. Oh my, Egwene. More on her later) are just willing to go off into the wilderness with her. Even after Rand has been shown several times to mistrust and hate the Aes Sedai. Even after Rand himself has expressed surprise that anyone would want to leave Two Rivers.
THIS DOES NOT MAKE SENSE. I’m sorry, but psychologically this should not happen. Rand is a boy already isolated from an extremely backwater village who has spent his entire life regarding the Aes Sedai as evil and a threat. To quote a few examples:
“It was the Aes Sedai who actually broke the world.” Rand
Mat: “Not all the stories say they serve the Dark One, Rand.”
Rand: “Light, Mat. They caused the breaking. What more do you want?”
“Help from an Aes Sedai was sometimes worse than no help at all, so the stories said, like poison in a pie…”
“… it’s bad enough to have Fain here talking about false Dragons using the Power without this Dragon-Possessed fool of a boy bringing the Aes Sedai into it.”
“Aes Sedai do what they do for reasons of their own.”
“Light, is there a story with an Aes Sedai in it where she isn’t a villain?”
So what’s my point? It’s this: WHY do these three village boys suddenly decide to trust an Aes Sedai enough to travel with her away from their village just after a Trolloc attack? Later on some of the villagers are blaming her for the attack itself, saying she brought the monsters, and while that’s likely completely wrong, it’s a logical assumption for these people to make. Why would such a power-wielder show up in such a backwards place (this is actually commented on by characters the day before the attack) without an ulterior motive? It makes total sense for these people to assume she’s evil. Again, I’m not saying they’re right, but this assumption is logical.
It should take more from Moiraine than what Rand & Co. see for them to trust her enough to leave their families and homes where they’ve spent their ENTIRE LIVES and follow her into the wilderness because of a practically non-existent explanation she tosses at them.
Logic doesn’t cease to exist just because you’re writing fantasy, Jordan. You set the cultural rules. Now you have to stick with them.
And then this is where we have the Rebellious Village Girl™. Egwene has already expressed a desire to leave Two Rivers. So she wants to go with them. Leaving all the Aes Sedai cultural mistrust aside, this would make sense. What does not make sense is that Moiraine just decides to let her come.
Robert Jordan, what, what, WHAT are you doing?
This doesn’t make any sense for a couple reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I love that Egwene is trying to make a different life for herself, but given that Moiraine, Lan, and Rand & Co. are on the verge of leaving because of the dangers, it doesn’t make sense that they’d allow someone else to suddenly tag along, especially someone who doesn’t have much real world or battle experience. Or at least, they wouldn’t do it without a lot more hesitation (to his credit, Moiraine’s companion Lan does hesitate to the point of flat-out protest).
But Moiraine- Moiraine spouts something to the effect of “It is woven into the Pattern” just because Egwene has already prepared herself to go. And so she’s accompanying them.
This is a MAJOR problem. If this is the way Moiraine looks at life, she would have just let the Trollocs destroy Two Rivers. After all, they’d already begun attacking the place. Wasn’t its destruction ‘woven into the Pattern’ then? Why would she bother to heal Rand’s (adoptive) father? He was dying. Wasn’t that ‘woven into the Pattern?’
This is where I gave up. I don’t have the time to plow through a massively long series that even the author couldn’t complete (RIP Jordan, by the way) where within the first major conflict we see logic being ignored for plot and complete inconsistency in the way a major character acts. I have better things to spend my not-so-spare time on, and have other things I should be doing anyway. I may pick up the series in a few years when I have more of a handle on my time, but until then, sorry Jordan. Your fantasy is overhyped and I am disappointed.
As promised, The List of Tolkien Ripoffs Found in the First Few Pages:
“The Mountains of Dhoom”- I kid you not. There is literally a mountain range called this. At least in LOTR it was actually just called “Mount Doom” and even that’s the colloquial term for Orodruin, which is the proper name of that mountain.
The Black Rider- So obvious I practically slammed the book onto my head.
The cloak of Moiraine’s companion- Seems to change color according to its surroundings. Oh hello, cloaks of Lothlorien. Apparently Elvish export is more extensive than originally thought.
Mountains of Mist- “Far over the Misty Mountains old, to dungeons deep and caverns old…” –The Hobbit
Merry and Pippin Mat and Perrin
Trolloc –> Orc
The Mysterious Sword of Ancient Lineage™ given to Rand by Tam. No resemblance to Anduril (actually there’s not that many other than it having a history that’ll be revealed past the point I quit)
Lan- harsh on first appearance to the boys. Probably loosens up as the story goes on. Hm… is that a faint resemblance to Strider the Ranger/ Aragorn son of Arathorn?
Egwene- Parallels to Eowyn? Though there’s probably no resemblance other than the name and situation. I didn’t get anywhere near far enough to find out.