Staff Review: The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World

by Robert Jordan

Review by Josh

Well god diggity damn, I finished it! All 14+ books in the EPIC Wheel of Time (WoT) series. This review is gonna be a bit of an essay so STRAP IN. Book 14 in the series, A Memory of Light, (finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007) is a 5-star masterpiece, but here are my thoughts on the series as a whole for those considering whether to dive in. (You absolutely should.) It’s challenging to break down such a monolith of a series, especially when it’s taken me about a year and a half to read them all, so I’m going to paint with a rather broad brush. This series is a behemoth that will reward your patience tenfold. If you’re looking for a quick fantasy romp this is NOT the series for you, but here’s what makes this epic worth your while:- World building. It’s a term used a lot these days, especially as franchises try to intertwine every asset they own into one world, but WoT does it effortlessly and majestically. The world of WoT, like other widely acclaimed series (LOTR), feels like one that has been around long before you joined it and will be around long after. Rather than you uncovering the world, the world is already there, waiting for you to join. Every nation has a set of rules, ideals, complexities, clothing styles, accents etc that sets it apart from the others. It’s a fully immersive world to get lost and engrossed in, and over 14 books you really get to explore all the corners of it.- Characters: There are so many incredible characters in this series! My all-time favourite is Perrin. Perrin is a blacksmith apprentice from a small farming community when we first meet him in book 1. From there, we watch him grow and mature from a quiet, awkward, slow-to-act individual to a leader worthy of his followers. He runs with the wolves, loves his wife passionately and leads his people with respect and humility. The length of this series affords many of its amazing characters a satisfying and memorable development – Perrin is just one of many who will stay with me. – Themes: There are, as you can imagine, a lot of themes running through these novels. Love, friendship, courage in the face of great odds, leadership, humility, Buddhism, the list goes on. Each are treated with careful consideration, giving the series strong, central pillars to anchor it. The ideas around sacrifice are some of the most compelling and moving. Characters have to give things up for the greater good – ways of living, their old lives, aspirations – and each time they do the betterment of the world makes the sacrifice worthwhile. It’s a wonderful message of hope and provocative anti-individualism.- Magic system: It’s not without its flaws, but I can’t help but love what Jordan has done with the magical elements here. I think for a magic system to work it needs a few things. 1. A sense of exchange: magic must come at a cost, and here it’s exhaustion, so it has to be used wisely and strategically. 2: Clear and concise rules around how the magic works. WoT magic is based on the elements (fire, earth, water, air, spirit). It’s perhaps not the most unique magical system but it’s consistent and it’s well thought out. The descriptions of weaving elements together to perform actions are really cool, and tie in the cosmic language of the pattern of the world so nicely. 3. The magic needs to feel cool. Ok, this is entirely subjective, but should inspire awe and it should radically impact the way a world is structured. If magic is real, the world should reflect that. WoT does this so damn well. Weaving a ball of fire and hurling it across a battlefield is just inherently awesome – infinitely cooler than some other magic worlds I’ve read (looking at you, Harry Potter). It’s a beautifully crafted, sophisticated system.Now, despite being a die-hard fan, I will admit there are some imperfections. The forces of darkness can sometimes to be so uncomplicatedly evil that they’re unengaging. A bit more complexity would have made them much more interesting. There are also some books in the series that are really slow: particularly books 8 to 10. Characters do a lot of talking, there’s a lot of politics and not much else. The scheming is fun for a bit, but it drags in places so lots of people give up on the series there – but that’s such a shame given how great it becomes again after book 10! Stick with it, my friends. It’s also a very binary world, which reads as pretty dated at times: light vs dark, cohesion and separation, and gender representation is a minefield! The books unequivocally cast men and women as fundamentally different and unable to understand each other or work together. I’ve learnt recently that Jordan’s wife was his main editor, which is a bit shocking considering how awfully some women are portrayed. They’re over-the-top emotional, judgemental, are either fawning over men or outright despising their existence. But don’t worry, the men are equally bashed: often portrayed as dumb fools with no sense of self-preservation or emotional intelligence, very pervy and sex-obsessed. BUT! Despite its problems, I loved my time with this series, and would highly encourage anyone to try it out.