The first book in Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series sets the scene for an exciting journey, while reminding us that even the simplest of farm boys can be the key to world-ending war, or peace. This is an audio book review of The Eye of The World from The Wheel of Time.
Robert Jordan’s first book in the Wheel of Time series, the Eye of The World, is, in my opinion, a successful start to the epic it grows to be.
I was inclined to pick up the audiobook after I watched the first season of the Wheel of Time show last year on Amazon Prime. Captured by the complex world, the unique magic systems, and the fascinating characters that lead the story, my interest in at least trying out the series was piqued. Once I learned that Rosamund Pike (who stars as Moiraine Damodred in the show), had narrated a special version of the audiobook, my interest solidified into will and I decided to listen to the audiobook.
Pike’s narration was definitely a major feel-good aspect in my personal “reading” experience. Having watched the show, hearing Pike narrate the book was a treat in itself, as it enhanced the immersive aspect of the book for me. My mind was captured by her steady intonations, which combined with Jordan’s descriptive writing to paint images that felt real.
If it was not a known fact that Pike has a wonderful voice that is perfect for narration, I would like to take the time here to applaud her work. Pike uses pitch, tones, and inflections masterfully to convey emotion and differentiate between characters – there wasn’t a single moment where I was confused about which character was speaking and when. As she has also recorded the second book in the series – The Great Hunt, I’m eagerly looking forward to diving into it soon.
The Story & The Setting(s)
The story begins as many an epic fantasy does, in a quiet setting. Rand, a young man, and his father are making their way through the woods to the village of Emond’s Field. Their quiet trudging is interrupted as Rand feels someone (or something) watching him – and spots a strange, dark-clad rider looking at him from afar. Beyond the general strangeness of the Rider’s presence, there is something else that makes Rand uneasy – in the wind that ruffles Rand and his father’s cloaks, the Rider’s black one stays unmoving.
This is the first spark of Jordan’s talent in weaving atmosphere and ambiance. He goes beyond simply introducing a potentially dangerous stranger, he expertly presents a supernatural and unnerving element to establish the stakes. Even though the introduction to Emond’s Field and its people makes you long for the idyllic lulls of a self-contained, countryside town, Jordan also introduces a chill in the air – quite literally, as characters bemoan a much-delayed spring that refuses to replace a long winter, making life difficult for the farming community.
There is a sense that the peace is precarious, that everything is not quite right. Driven by the harsh winter, wolves have been coming into the village for warmth and food, two other strangers – a woman and a man have been asking the villagers strange questions, and other young men have spotted the same dark stranger lurking and watching.
We are introduced to two of these young men – Mat and Perrin, a farmer with a penchant for mischief and the village smith’s apprentice. As we ease further into the motions of the village, we are also introduced to Egwene and Nyneave. One a young woman whom Rand seems to hold some liking for, and the other, the village Wisdom, a woman who takes on the role of the healer and “listens to the wind” to somewhat predict the village’s fortune.
The peace is soon disturbed, as a band of monstrous Trollocs (creatures of the Dark) descend onto the village. In the attack, the female stranger – Moiraine, is revealed to be an Aes Sedai, a female magic user with the ability to touch and channel the One Power. The male stranger – Lan, is her Warder, a bodyguard, and companion bound to her through this power. When it is clear that for some reason, the trollocs are after the boys, Morraine convinces them to join her and Lan on a journey to Tar Valon, the home of the Aes Sedai. Morraine believes that the only way to find out why the trollocs are after them while also ensuring their safety is to use the resources of the bigger city.
Thus, the three young men set off on their journey. Followed by dark forces, with only two mysterious strangers that they cannot really trust to protect them. They are joined also by Egwene, who is driven by the desire to see the bigger world and by a longing for adventure, and by Nyneave, who tracks them down from a sense of duty as the Wisdom, believing they are unsafe with the Aes Sedai.
All five will eventually become integral to the eternal struggle between the Light and the Dark.
The Eye of the World is essentially a coming-of-age quest. We follow Rand’s point of view for the most part, except for when the group is separated in the middle, and then we also briefly follow the story through Perrin and Nyneave’s eyes.
Our ensemble of main characters journeys across the kingdom of Andor, facing many life-threatening challenges. The adventures they longed for as peaceful shepherds and farmers, now a burden, they are forced to grow and accept their fate – the part they are destined to play in the “weave” woven by the Wheel of Time.
As a reader, you will smile as the characters exchange heart-warming moments, cringe and gasp during the brutal action sequences, but most of all, the storytelling will wrap you in a sense of wonder as the story progresses to include more characters, danger, and mysticism.
While it leans into the minutiae of political intrigue more than Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings – a clear inspiration with many similarities that go beyond what can be considered the staples of a standard hero’s journey – it also doesn’t quite fall into the grimdark tone of Game of Thrones.
There are several feel-good aspects in The Eye of the World. The prose flows smoothly, with some downright lovely and lyrical phrases, and the friendships of the main characters feel believable and endearing. Even in the darkest situations, there is always a sense of hope and adventure that drives both the characters and readers on.
Jordan paints a beautiful picture of a sprawling nation with cities and towns each distinct from the last. Each character that pops up has a delightful personality that often feels familiar, like people you may know in your own life.
There’s a lot of world-building going on, but even when we get to the longer parts with exposition, it was never overwhelming – a great narration that made me listen intently. It led me onto some delicious forages down wikis and Reddit pages for more details on some of the lore of the world woven into the story.
I also appreciate the ideas that Jordan introduces with the Wheel of Time. The ideas of rebirth and the cyclical nature of destiny set an interesting trajectory for our characters. Is the point for them to fulfil their destiny? Or to defy it, breaking the circle? We have 13 more books to find out!
A Few Negatives
The biggest negative I noted was the plotting and pace. The beginning had the best pacing, considering the setup that has to be done while establishing the rules and some of the central plot devices. The middle dragged along in some places, often with repetitive situations and needless descriptions that did not add to the plot or the ambiance. The ending was rushed to a degree that a lot of important plot points were introduced or wrapped up in a way that completely blindsided me. It left me confused in a way that I felt wasn’t entirely earned considering we had nearly 800 pages to establish at least a few possible explanations.
However, I feel reading this as an audiobook certainly helped in moving the plot along in a way that didn’t require me to pore over certain imperfections.
The Eye of the World is undoubtedly a classic, and late as I am to join the bandwagon, I can see why it has amassed the fandom it has. With a sprawling series like this, there is definitely something for everyone. The gorgeous world and complex magic systems are definitely the main draws for Jordan’s series at this stage. The character development was satisfactory enough, while also leaving room for more.
I’m looking forward to starting The Great Hunt, and hope we get to learn more of the lore and see the characters grow in a way that defines the rest of the story.
If you’re looking to start a fantasy series that can capture the whimsy of a magical world with its own machinations, without tipping into a hopeless grimness, this might be a good one to pick up.
Rachel Varghese is an aspiring writer, and storyteller with a love for all things fantastic, exciting, and cosy – books, movies, or TV Shows. She is continuously battling her TBR/TBW list while always looking for diverse new things to read and watch.
She is currently supporting women entrepreneurs in their growth journey through her work as a Marketing & Growth Associate.