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The Eye of the World Review: A Giant of the Epic Fantasy Genre

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The Eye of the World hardcover, January 1990 edition from Tor Books. The cover has Moiraine, Lan, and Rand on horseback.

What can you expect from the first book in Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series, The Wheel of Time? If you’re considering investing your time in this lengthy book series, my 3-pronged The Eye of the World review should answer that question.

Maybe you’ve been watching The Wheel of Time TV series and thinking about tackling the novels. Perhaps you’re considering buying it for a family member or yourself. Or are you a veteran reader of The Wheel of Time looking for a fresh take?

Whatever your motivation, I’ve got you covered with a quick review of the novel, a complete book review for finer detail, and a star rating review for those who like a scoring system.

One of the beauties of this book is that it captures the imagination in unique ways. You’ll have your own experience, and I look forward to hearing about it. It’s a 14-book series, with a prequel novel on top, and my firm conclusion is that The Eye of the World is well worth reading!

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Quick Review

If you are in a rush, this is my quick review of The Eye of the World. I summarize the key features you’ll love and those that may put you off. Please also read my complete review and star rating review before purchasing.

What You’ll Love

  • The book feels like an epic fantasy from start to finish. The world grows with the story, broadening in an immersive way. If you enjoy the genre, The Eye of the World belongs on your reading list. You’ll have a great time!
  • The characters are unique and personable, even the minor ones – you’re sure to find one or two that strike a chord and become your favorites. Given the length of this series, you’ll want to treasure its characters, and I think you will. They’re like family to me.
  • The history, lore, and stories told are all compelling. This leads to gluttony for more discoveries, and Robert Jordan serves up a feast for his readers.

What You Might Not Like

  • The prologue and ending can be confusing on a first read. A criticism that somewhat negates the next.
  • Serious or older fantasy fans might find this book childish. It’s an ideal read for ages 12+, and the series progresses to serve an adult audience well. However, The Eye of The World is seen as an entry-level fantasy and follows many of its tropes. Mind you, a soft introduction to this series is a good thing. It welcomes you in and gets you acclimatized.
  • Enthusiastic The Lord of the Rings fans can be derogatory about similarities in The Eye of the World. However, I dispute that this diminishes the quality of Robert Jordan’s writing. It’s more of a homage than anything else.

Complete The Eye of the World Review

Copy of The Eye of the World paperback half open.

I’ll start by addressing the oliphaunt in the room…

The main criticism leveled at The Eye of the World is that Robert Jordan rips off The Lord of the Rings, and I can tell you here and now that he does. At least, The Eye of the World sets out to make fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work feel at home. It’s a deliberate ploy that Robert Jordan readily admitted.

The Lord of the Rings was Robert Jordan’s inspiration and blueprint for The Wheel of Time’s opening book. He wanted fantasy fans to acclimate quickly to his fantasy world and achieved that through subtle homage.

You’ll find misty mountains, riders in black, and a peaceful rural landscape reminiscent of The Shire. Okay, maybe not so subtle, but The Eye of the World swiftly becomes its own entity. The two series are comparable in ‘epic’ or ‘high’ fantasy conversations, but they are not direct mirrors of each other.

Plot Summary

When the village of Emond’s Field is attacked by Shadowspawn (creatures of the Dark One), the lives of Rand al’Thor and his friends are changed forever. They are taken under the wing of a powerful woman who can wield magic, an Aes Sedai called Moiraine. She plans to take them to a place of safety but keeps her reasons guarded.

The party’s journey spans the breadth of a nation and beyond into the Blight itself. They must outwit servants of the Dark One who pursue them all the while, determined to bring the man they are searching for to the Shadow. The boys and girls from Emond’s Field find themselves on a deadly adventure, discovering abilities they didn’t know they had, whether they want them or not.

World-building

The Eye of the World is a traveling adventure set in an ever-expanding world. That’s my summation, as a review demands, but it’s a skeletal sentence that cannot house my deep feelings for the book and Robert Jordan’s legacy. Interestingly, it’s a world that the author never named. Nowadays, most fans call it “Randland,” and I’ll probably do the same. I do prefer the enigma, though.

Named or not, world-building is Robert Jordan’s forte. Indeed, every place we visit feels lived in, and every road we take feels trodden. You’ll become familiar with the map as the series continues, making it one of fantasy literature’s most richly detailed worlds. The people, cultures, and landscapes feel authentic and visually appealing.

The Wheel of Time map in color.
“Wheel of Time Map” by DeArtistZwei

A good three-quarters or more of The Eye of the World is set in the Queendom of Andor, and we cover a fair stretch of it. From Emond’s Field village in the Two Rivers, we travel to Baerlon (a small city), Shadar Logoth (a dead city, large), multiple villages and towns, the Caralain Grass, and Whitebridge before arriving in the capital of Caemlyn (a huge city).

I know the nation inside-out, and Robert Jordan writes at length to make that so. We then set foot in Fal Dara, a fortress city, before venturing into the perils of the Blight, which is as the name depicts. Bringing life to these places while adding layers of history, lore, and characters seems overwhelming. However, Robert Jordan makes it plain sailing and navigates us through the book with a brisk wind at our backs.

Just fanning through the pages as I write this review, I’m struck by how easy the book is to read despite the granular detail that peppers the narrative. And looking back, after another re-read, I don’t want it any other way. I’m grateful for my time in all the locations and will happily visit again.

Pacing & Exposition

Some reviews I’ve read quibble at the novel’s pacing, but I can’t honestly fault it, as when the book stops for breath, there’s usually a good reason. I am also intrigued enough by the prose to be happy rummaging in the wordiness to find all the intel I can.

As with most modern fantasy, this story is complex. There’s the magic system to explain, regional and national identities to explore, history and lore to unravel, and so on. This calls for exposition, and Robert Jordan does some heavy lifting in The Eye of the World in that respect. But, by hoisting information on eager readers now, the author can tell the story more tightly over the following few books. And he does.

Robert Jordan also tries to follow a show-don’t-tell route with his exposition, and this works for the most part. Where it jars at times is in forced dialogue. Embellishments and awkward question/answer exchanges raise a critical eyebrow. Our characters like to talk at length, even the usually guarded Moiraine, if it serves the story.

I should add that one of Robert Jordan’s excellent choices is introducing the character of Loial. As a well-read Ogier who speaks at length, Loial ensures no detail is missed. A vital companion for Robert Jordan, who is not known for hasty or succinct writing.

Foreshadowing

Although the oblique ending hints that Robert Jordan wasn’t sure his work would be commissioned for more books, there’s plenty of foreshadowing in The Eye of the World. I’ll avoid spoilers, but the first novel in the series demands a re-read because of its deep underbelly.

The book hints at future events and character arcs throughout. A small moment might be a clue to something that becomes central later, or a throwaway line might subtly hint at a forthcoming twist in the plot. Finding these nuggets is the bread and butter of The Wheel of Time’s fans, along with conjuring up new theories from subliminal meanings in the text. Digging for such nuggets is a healthy pastime for fantasy nerds, and there’s plenty of literary fruit to pick in The Eye of the World.

Plot Devices

The Eye of the World introduces us to a complicated magic system, complete with checks and balances. The male half of the One Power is corrupted, driving men who can wield it insane. The female Aes Sedai are bound by oaths and their limitations since abilities and strengths vary. Channeling is exhausting, and there’s a risk of “burning out” if too much Power is drawn.

It’s not as hard going as it sounds, and the constraints are a beneficial device for the author to dramatize their plot. Robert Jordan makes full use of these advantages in the book.

I mentioned Loial being a handy tool for exposition earlier, and he explains the concept of ta’veren to Rand. Ta’veran are people the Wheel chooses to become focal points of the Pattern. Threads of the Pattern, other people, are forcibly pulled around ta’veran to ensure the Wheel’s will is woven. It’s a complicated case of destiny and a bit harder to grasp than the magic system.

Rand, Mat, and Perrin are all ta’veran, which helps Robert Jordan tremendously. The actions of other characters or events occurring around the boys can often be explained away by their ta’veran nature. Much like the Wheel, Robert Jordan is too clever to allow us to notice. Well, to some extent, at least.

Final Thoughts

The Wheel of Time travels many paths over fourteen books, but it begins on an empty road outside the village of Emond’s Field. Smelling honey cakes, ale, and pipes in the Winespring Inn, we distrust the Congars, the Coplins, and anyone from Taren Ferry. Our inner child titters at squabbles between the Village Council and the Women’s Circle, and we are as allured by a gleeman’s presence as our protagonist, Rand al’Thor.

Such is the richness of Robert Jordan’s storytelling that we become invested in the homeliness of Emond’s Field and, like children in their formative years, soak up the drips of culture the author feeds us. And this is just the beginning of our Wheel of Time journey.

Like classical works for a scholar, The Eye of the World is a must-read for anyone who browses the fantasy section of their local bookstore, and everyone else, for that matter! It begins one of the most highly acclaimed book series of its genre, and it’s a thoroughly good read!

The Eye of the World Star Rating Review

My method for ranking The Wheel of Time books is easy. Stars are attributed to Initial Reaction, Re-Readability, Characters, Plot, and Importance (to the overall series). A simple division declares my overall rating (you can expect the early and later books to score highly).

The Eye of the World is recommended for anyone aged 12 or older, though adult readers will also enjoy it.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

9.3 out of 10

Like classical works for a scholar, “The Eye of the World” is a must-read for anyone who browses the fantasy section of their local bookstore, and everyone else, for that matter! It begins one of the most highly acclaimed book series of its genre, and it’s a thoroughly good read!

Initial Reaction
10 out of 10
It doesn't take long to become immersed in Robert Jordan's detailed world or fascinated by his engaging characters. The awe and wonder leave a lasting impression that isn't easily forgotten.
Re-Readability
10 out of 10
With easter eggs and foreshadowing evident throughout the novel, a second read after completing the series is more eye-opening than the first!
Characters
9 out of 10
Those irritated by Mat Cauthon will probably be won over in later books, but he's the only questionable character in a novel chock-full of compelling, relatable personalities.
Plot
8 out of 10
You'll be invested in the journey from start to finish, but the ending leaves a sense of "what just happened?" that disrupts the immersion.
Importance
9.5 out of 10
"The Eye of the World" is a hugely significant novel that woos the reader and pulls them into a story that's far more immense than they expected. It paves the way for all that follows and holds the reader's hand throughout the journey.

The Light

The main character, Rand, wins you over at once.

The world-building is outstanding.

The places feel real and lived in (or deserted, in some cases).

Minor characters all have a charm of their own.

Feels like an epic fantasy adventure from start to finish.

The Shadow

The climax is confusing, especially on a first read.

The action comes and goes quickly, with lots of travel or rest in between.

At times, the dialogue feels forced (to serve exposition).

Mat is insufferable.

The Eye of the World Book Facts

  • The Eye of the World paperback is 771 story pages long (September 2021 edition, published by Orbit) and has 300,147 words (source: A Wheel of Time Wiki).
  • An extra prologue called Ravens first appeared in From the Two Rivers, an edition of the book that tells the story’s first half. Ravens is written from Egwene al’Vere’s point of view and adds another 10,044 words (source: A Wheel of Time Wiki).
  • The Eye of the World was first published in the United States in 1990 by Tom Doherty Associates Inc.
  • The Eye of the World was first published in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Macdonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd.
  • Michael Livingston’s companion book, Origins of The Wheel of Time, describes an alternate scene from The Eye of the World. It includes a character who appears on the cover but was cut from the published novel.

Buy The Eye of the World Today

The Eye of the World is a thoroughly enjoyable book with brilliant storytelling and great characters you’ll grow to love. It’s a giant in the fantasy genre, and rightly so. I highly recommend it to all fantasy fans, especially teenagers.

Another reason to start reading The Wheel of Time books is that the TV adaptation has boosted their popularity. Season 1 of the TV series covers The Eye of the World, though striking changes are made to the source material. Future seasons will spoil the later books, so get started now if you can.

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The Eye of the World is also available in Kindle editions, as an audiobook, or as a graphic novel series.

In the comments section, let me know your thoughts on my The Eye of the World reviews and the book itself. I love hearing your opinions and will answer any questions. I’m particularly keen to hear from first-time readers!

Until next time, may the Light shine on you, my friends!

Russell

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