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A Tremendous Start, But Beware
, November 8, 2002
This review is from: The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, Book 1) (Mass Market Paperback)
The Wheel of Time is probably the best-known and most widely read fantasy series other than The Lord of the Rings.
When this book was published in 1988 or 1989, it created a sensation -- a tremendous first volume that had the usual good-evil battle and tons of action but also was filled with magic, history, politics, sociology, cultural background and realistic characters. When I re-read the first five books, I was amazed at the details of history and politics that Jordan provided in his world. Jordan also has numerous protagonists, not just one or two primary ones like many other fantasy writers.
Moreover, Eye of the World features strong men and, through their magical abilities and powerful personalities, stronger women. Jordan has been rightly lauded for the prominent and powerful roles he created for the female characters.
The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising and The Fires of Heaven followed and created a tremendous series such that The New York Times noted that Jordan had come to dominate the genre that Tolkien made famous.
In Eye of the World, the writing is smooth, the various characters and their motivations work well, and there's action aplenty. The sense of innocence and mystery that correspond to the heroes' relative lack of knowledge of their surroundings and the world at large is palpable and realistic.
Unfortunately, starting with Lord of Chaos (book 6), Jordan's creation became unwieldy. Instead of concentrating on following the themes and story-threads of books 1-5 (which combined are more than 3500 pages, hardcover), he created new storylines, bogged down the narrative and halted the pace of the epic. Book 8 in particular is an unmitigated disaster -- 650 pages (hardcover) of wheel-spinning (pardon the pun) with almost no progress to the story. Book 9 began to jump-start the narrative once again.
The series is at 10 books (the tenth will be published in about two months from now) and growing (13 total possible -- it's a common numerical theme in the books), thus the last volume will be published in 2006, at the earliest.
The Eye of the World is great, as are the next four in the series. They are, however, addictive, so know what you're getting into.
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