Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Eye of the World

I was looking for an easy read, something I knew I liked. I first read this book about 12 or 13 years ago. I was out of work and a friend recommended the series. It was a good thing I was out of work because I read the first four books (600+ pages) in three days. I read all night because I wanted to find out what happened. The characters became real. I had dreams about them and thought about the books all the time. It was scary how much they took over my brain. As the series continued it lost its hold a bit. When the author died without finishing the books I was more upset because I would never find out what happened in the end than I was about a person dieing. This is how I learned about Brandon Sanderson, he was chosen by Robert Jordan's widow to finish up the series. Having read all Sanderson's other books, I think she made an excellent choice. Now it looks like the end of the series will be three more books, with the first coming out in the fall.
All that is background to my reading this book, this time. I haven't read them for a while, not wanting to get irritated about no ending again. I was amazed at this book's ability to make me stay up too late even after multiple readings (at least 4) and years of knowing what happens to the characters later. This is an excellent book. I love the characters, the detail, the plot, the prophecy, it is all so well done.
The best part of rereading this book was seeing how much is put into the book to set up things that come later. There are bits of prophecy, there are characters that only have a chapter now but whole plot threads later. There are weird little incidents, not more than a paragraph, that prepare you for the huge plot twists that come later in the series. The amount of work it took to keep all of this straight is awe-inspiring. I can just imagine the office; with notes, diagrams, bulging file cabinets, all full of the details of the world Robert Jordan created.
His characters are incredible too. They are all people, even the serving maid and the innkeepers are people. So often the minor roles could just as well be faceless robots, with no personality, no interest beyond keeping the main characters fed. Though it takes up a lot of space, the incidental characters here feel like they continue living after the story has left them.
There are so many other parts of the novel I could rave about. The prophesies are the most I have ever seen in a book outside the Old Testament. The style of storytelling is not just a single line. As a character who is ill retells the last week, the narrative skips, following the jumbled memory of someone who has been ill and missed a bit of events. If the rest of the books had kept to this level of skill Robert Jordan would be proclaimed the best fantasy author of all time, perhaps even beating out Tolkien. Alas, they didn't. There was a marked drop-off about book 5, but by then you are so thoroughly hooked you keep reading anyway.
I will probably continue my read through of the series, getting ready for the next one in Nov. For a summary, and imagining of what the characters look like, check out this site

The Eye of the World. Robert Jordan. Tor. 1990

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