Review of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

the eye of the world – reviewI first started reading The Eye of the World when I was in college. I don’t remember ever completing it, but I remember feeling this deep connection with the book, especially with the boy with yellow eyes and the red sun moving across the world that is being depicted in the story. Ever since then I had been desiring to read the book.

A year ago I googled the book and found out that there are actually 12 books and The Eye of the World is the first of the 12-part series. Totally hellbent upon reading all the 12 books I did some research and downloaded the e-book versions of all the 12 books and then converted them to the Kindle format using Calibre.

I’m not a big fantasy-fiction fan and when I started reading The Eye of the World, I realise that it is an out and out fantasy-fiction story and I don’t know why or how it didn’t register before, although I knew what sort of story it is. So I kept reading and abandoning it throughout the year.

Of late I have been reading a lot of non-fiction. Non-fiction is a different genre and although you get to know a lot about the topic you are reading, it can get a bit drab. For a change I wanted to read a story. I’m working on my own collection of short stories and for a few months I would like to immerse myself in either fiction or at the most, autobiographical-fiction.

First I started reading The Ambassadors by Henry James but I didn’t like his writing style. I got bored. Randomly I started reading The Eye of the World. I started reading it in the middle of the last week and by Saturday evening, I had finished the book. It was after a very long time that I read a book at such a stretch. Going by my normal pattern, I would have completed the book in a month.

As mentioned above The Eye of the World is fantasy-fiction. While reading it I never intended to write a review so I didn’t take notes, but this afternoon, I decided otherwise.

The story is about an imaginary world where there have been lots of battles between good and evil and the world has been “torn apart” a few times, literally, as in, the planet being turned into multiple pieces. There is a dark Lord repeatedly referred to as Ba’alzamon who is constantly trying to take over the world and rule over men and whatever other forms of species and lives that inhabit the earth. The story begins with one of the legendary kings who took on Ba’alzamon and died a horrible death along with his kith and kin. The world after that lived in a prolonged dark age until another group of good people chased the dark one away and restored normalcy.

Aside from constantly wanting to rule the world till eternity the dark one is also constantly gathering “servants”, people who would follow his every command and would help him take over the world. There have been legendary battles over a period of many thousand years and when they talk of the histories of cities, towns and villages, they talk in terms of 2000 years, 3000 years of 5000 years. The biggest battle lasted for 1000 years.

There is a Wheel that weaves the web of life and every human being or magical being or trolloc (mutations of beasts and humans, normally constituting a major part of the military of the dark one) is an individual thread. Maybe this can be equated with the Kaal-chakra that we have in India which is basically the same concept.

After the initial prologue of the valiant king dying a horrible death along with his wife, kids and brothers, the story begins in a village called Edmond’s Field where simple folks live simple lives. These are olden times. People use bullock carts to travel from one village to another or from one city to another. They are mostly farmers, sheepherders, innkeepers, blacksmiths and peddlers. Although the villagers have councils of men to decide daily affairs the primary control rests in the hands of women and every village has a woman called Wisdom who is basically the doctor. She uses semi-medical ointments and herbs to cure almost every illness the village folks may have. Many magical properties are attributed to their ways of working.

Spring seems to have abandoned the world. Flowers don’t blossom. There is no hay for animals. There are no geese in the wilderness. Cattle has stopped reproducing and there is almost a situation of famine everywhere. Still, conditions are not as bad as they are bound to get later on. So there is a festival going on in the village and people are coming from distant places to seek not just business opportunities but also to participate in joyous festivities.

During ongoing festivities, an Aes Sedai arrives at the village, to everybody’s annoyance. Although Aes Sedais are not considered outright villainous, people like to maintain a distance because they are known to be manipulative and they are known to use people and take advantage.  They are witches, but mostly good witches, not the sort of horrible-looking witches we normally see in children’s books and horror movies.

There are three boys, in their late teens, in the village: Rand al’Thor, Mat Cauthon and Perrin Aybara. As soon as the Aes Sedai arrives in the village, she wants them to be careful as their lives are in danger. Nobody takes the warning seriously simply because nobody likes to believe an Aes Sedai.

The village Wisdom is a young woman named Nynaeve al’Meara who is supposed to worry for everybody in the village. She resents the fact that someone from the outside comes and starts showing concern for the boys of the village while she cannot detect the danger. There is another girl around the age of the boys named Egwene al’Vere who is, in an unspoken manner, in love with Rand, and is being apprenticed by Nynaeve to be the next village Wisdom. A Wisdom cannot marry so she is in constant conflict with the abilities of being a Wisdom and the desire to be a normal woman who can fall in love and get married.

While the festivities are going on, a gang of trollocs attacks the village and specifically targets the three boys mentioned above. The Aes Sedai, along with her battle-hardened warden, has specifically come to the village to help the boys because she knows that Ba’alzamon is looking for them. All these three boys are important threads of the Wheel and in fact, Rand is at the centre of the battle of good and evil that is about to take place and that is going to decide whether the world is going to survive or get destroyed and get enveloped by the dark force for ever.

By the way the attacks happen, the boys can make out that they are the primary targets so when the Aes Sedai suggests that they are not safe in the village and they must flee to a place called Tar Valon at that very moment they see no point in thinking otherwise. Although the Aes Sedai can repel the attack with magical powers and with the help of the very strong warden called Lan, she says that the village is going to be attacked again and hence, they shouldn’t wait another minute.

While they are running the village Wisdom joins them saying that she cannot let the boys of the village be taken by an Aes Sedai without adult supervision. Egwene too joins them because one, she doesn’t want to let Rand leave the village on his own and two, she is being prepared to be the next Wisdom and the Aes Sedai feels that she too is a part of the unfolding pattern.

From then onwards, the story is all about reaching Tar Valon, a place which is the hub of the Aes Sedais and safe from the trolloc army as well as the power of the dark one. They go through innumerable adventures while trying to reach Tar Valon. Most of them get separated and have to find their own way to the place, discovering a lot about themselves and about each other in the process. They reach, or almost reach Tar Valon but then they discover that it is just a small part of the story, and their main battle awaits them somewhere else.

The story is full of magical fights, demonic creatures, nightmares replete with the visitations from the dark one, pursuits by the dark friends, existential and philosophical conflicts, evil places beyond human imagination, curses that don’t kill you but make you crave death, talking wolves, murderous ravens and all sorts of beings that constantly give you a feeling that you are not reading about the regular, good old earth, but a distant planet that is almost like earth, and is being constantly destroyed and rebuilt over its long history of many thousand years.

Robert Jordan is often compared to JRR Tolkien and the epic work of 12 books is considered as good as The Lord of the Rings, though not as famous.

The long harangues of the dark one may put you off sometimes but otherwise, it is an engaging story. It is written very simply and it flows with ease. You don’t get any literary experience, to be frank, but if you want to spend a couple of days reading a good story that is quite engrossing and full of magical happenings, I recommend it.

Will I be reading the remaining 11 books? I haven’t decided yet. I’m short of time. I don’t want to spend lots of time reading the same sort of story for the next 11 books. I would rather read 11 different stories. But if you don’t mind spending a year reading a single story, then you’re going to enjoy this series, assuming the next 11 books are also of the same quality.

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