Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Eye of the World

Original cover of The Eye of the World

The first main entry of the late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga opens with a prologue occurring a long time before the chief chapters, and likely before the prequel novel New Spring, where Lews Therin Telamon, titled the Lord of the Morning, once wore the Ring of Tamyrlin, sat in the High Seat, summoned the Nine Rods of Dominion, and is negatively termed Kinslayer, wanders a palace seeking his love Ilyena. A black-cloaked figure who used to be Elan Morin Tedronai, defeated at the Gates of Paaran Disen, and is termed the Betrayer of Hope, converses with Lews, who is immolated when he attempts to channel the tainted saidin, the male half of the True Source.

In a motif repeated at the beginning of the main chapters of all subsequent Wheel of Time books, the eponymous metaphorical clock turns, and wind flows, in the first entry’s case through the Mountains of Mist, blowing past protagonist Rand al’Thor, a sheepherder and the son of Tam al’Thor, who treks towards his hometown of Emond’s Field, with a strange rider keeping an eye on him and playing part in latter chapters. Several important characters receive their introductions, including Mayor Bran al’Vere’s daughter Egwene; Nynaeve al’Meara, the young village Wisdom; Matrim “Mat” Cauthon, who played a prank on a villager’s dogs; and blacksmith apprentice Perrin Aybara.

The Village Council of Emond’s Field is somewhat worried at the coming of the Aes Sedai sorceress Moiraine along with her Warder Lan. A gleeman named Thom Merrilin comes too for village celebrations, with the mentioned black-cloaked rider sought after, during which demons known as Trollocs attack Emond’s Field, with Rand’s father injured in the process. Rand ultimately makes it a point to leave his hometown with several of his friends, the Aes Sedai, and her Warder, with Egwene along the way proposed to be a sorceress too, the magical order’s headquarters at Tar Valon made the party’s primary destination.

Lan further trains Perrin and Rand in the art of swordsmanship, and break from their journey at the Stag and Lion inn within the city of Baerlon. Rand regularly has dreams of the demon Ba’alzamon, receiving the warning that the Amyrlin Seat, the leader of the Aes Sedai, will allegedly use him. Children of the Light, termed Whitecloaks, on regular witch-hunts for Darkfriends, supporters of the Dark One, also occasionally harass the characters, with their leader, Lord Bornhald, interrogating Rand and Mat. Despite these interruptions, the party continues to the abandoned sylvan city of Shadar Logoth, aiming to get across a river so that Trollocs will stop pursuing them.

Encounters with the Trollocs ultimately separate the companions, with a battle on a ship called the Spray occurring, and Rand and Mat becoming its newest passengers to the chagrin of Captain Bayle Domon. Nynaeve, in the meantime, is with Moiraine and Lan, with Perrin and Egwene traveling with vagrants known as the Tuatha’an, or the Tinkers, Perrin receiving bondage to the wolves that plays part in later entries in the epic fantasy franchise. Several events occur in the city of Whitebridge, with The Queen’s Blessing in the city of Caemlyn Rand and Mat’s new destination at Thom’s insistence, the gleeman separating from the party too.

The false Dragon Reborn Logain, a troublemaker of sorts, has also been apprehended and brought to Caemlyn, with Rand and Mat yearning to meet him. They also meet an Ogier named Loial, son of Arent, son of Halan, ninety years young in the city, with its citizens further divided into support or opposition towards the current monarch, Queen Morgase. Desperate to meet the false Dragon, Rand climbs the walls outside the royal palace, being discovered but still brought before the Queen, who has an advisor in the Aes Sedai Elaida. The companions soon reunite, with the book’s eponymous Eye of the World made their new destination, the Dark One allegedly wanting to “blind” it.

The first entry concludes with a journey via Waygate to the wastelands where the Eye exists, and a battle at the location that receives a tie-in to the series’ first sequel. Overall, the inaugural Wheel of Time book is an enjoyable read, with good characters and plenty of fantastical beauty in the author’s writing style. Jordan was obviously a fan of the Star Wars franchise, given the nods such as the One Power, which has light and dark sides, but despite this derivation, the initial entry of the epic fantasy series definitely warrants a read from fantasy aficionados.

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