Rand al’Thor, a sheepherder from a country village, is dragged into an adventurous life when his home and village are attacked by evil trollocs. Moiraine, a powerful mage, and Lan, her sworn warder, take Rand and his friends on a perilous journey of discoveries, hardship, and challenges. Eventually, it will lead them to the Eye of the World, the location of one of the seals that keep the Dark One from rising again.
Will you look at that cover art - they don't make 'em this way no more. I wonder why.
Listened to the audiobook with Michael Kramer and Kate Reading – fine narrators.
I’m already gritting my teeth for the reactions I’m going to get, but to review is to be honest: I didn’t enjoy The Eye of the World. There. I said it.
On my Curator page, I wrote that I am a sucker for the classics. And I am. I had just never started The Wheel of Time because I always felt like the opportunity cost was too high – in other words, I could read 14 other books in the time it would take to read all of The Wheel of Time, and I’ve always believed that I would probably enjoy those 14 other books more.
I think it took five of my friends telling me to give it a go to convince me to bite the bullet. Aaaaand… I was disappointed.
The Eye of the World is not bad, exactly. It is a perfectly functional fantasy book. But that is about it. Amazingly, I found The Eye of the World to be… boring? I don’t think I’ve ever criticised any (fantasy) media for being boring before – usually, I am more about nit picks of story structure or character development. I still think there is a lot to dislike about the story’s main characters (basically, I felt only Nyneave – and I’ve had to google how to spell that because I listened to the book – is vaguely interesting as a character). But with The Eye of the World, my main struggle was just that… I didn’t really feel like listening on. I just wasn’t really interested, I just wasn’t really engaged.
I’ve tried to figure out why that is. Again, the book is not bad and the story works. My best bet is currently that there is no selling point. The Wheel of Time is so generic, cliché- and trope-ridden that it feels like an AI-generated basic fantasy tale with no life or passion to it. There is no particularly interesting setting or worldbuilding, there are no unique-feeling characters or places, no twists. The prose is fine but unremarkable. The story is a bit meandering but paced well enough not to break down.
It is just… Backward village boy from some pseudo-medieval pseudo-European land has their home invaded by evil forces, and is whisked off by a mage on a journey of discovery, only to find out he is the Chosen One? Unintentionally comically evil villains played straight? Where have I read that before?
Sometimes, you look at an older work in a particular genre and realise that the reason it feels too tropical is that it has become foundational for the genre. However, The Eye of the World feels a bit like a Tolkien ripoff in itself, so even there is no grace to be found.
In conclusion, The Eye of the World is comfortable, middle of the road fantasy that I believe should surprise or excite exactly no-one. I just cannot think of a reason to recommend The Eye of the World to anyone, other than that The Wheel of Time is one of those classics that many people think are ‘must reads’. I have started The Great Hunt, the second book, and will probably finish the first trilogy. But if you’re one of those people who say ‘but it gets good after the sixth book’, I have bad news for you.