Tuesday, January 8, 2013

(Belated) Amanda Monday: The Eye of the World

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

Today is a fairly ordinary day for most people, but for one particular niche, this is the day they have been waiting for over 20 years to come.  Back in 1990, Robert Jordan first published The Eye of the World, the first book in The Wheel of Time series.  It was a huge success, and quickly became one of the defining series of the fantasy genres.  And now, about 22 years later, the 14th and final book in the series, A Memory of Light, was released today. 

Rachel, being the boss (and much more up on new releases), will undoubtedly review A Memory of Light later this week or early the next, but my task today is to introduce those of you who have never heard of The Wheel of Time to this remarkable (and yes, long-winded) fantasy series.  

Where to start . . . well, I suppose I should address the elephant in the room.  This series is LLLOOONNNGGGGG.  The first book is super fat with little tiny writing, and yes, there are FOURTEEN of them.  What could an author possibly be writing about that would take up so much darn space and time?  Well, Robert Jordan didn't just write a story, he did what Tolkien and several other of the "greats" did.  He created an entire world, with complex characters, cultures, and backstory.  So each of these books is filled with detail as if the places he was writing about really existed.  The result?  A very rich, complex story filled with many (and when I say many, I do mean MANY) characters whose story weaves together to form on epic fantasy series.

The story begins with a humble shepherd boy named Rand al'Thor.  The beginning of the book is rather familiar.  Untried boy with humble beginnings meets with a mysterious stranger, who whisks him away from the danger that descends upon his sleepy little village and thus begins the adventure.  Rand is not entirely sure where Moiraine (the mysterious stranger) is taking him, or her interest in him to begin with, but clues unfold along the journey.

Like I said, the beginning of the story is one we have all heard before, but the way author Robert Jordan writes it will make it stand out in your mind.  He has a talent for building suspense and for developing characters.  None of his characters are what you would call stock characters.  Each has their own unique strengths, weaknesses, etc., and Robert Jordan is not afraid to make some of the would-be heroes and heroines rather annoying.  This fills the book with color and humor, and gives all of plenty of leeway to let these characters grow on us.  Let's face it, it's a good thing he did give us serious flawed main characters, because he has FOURTEEN books in which to develop them.

Just a few other things to make note of:  Rand is the perfect mixture of sweet and unsure verses brave and resourceful.  Nynaeve (who is perhaps my favorite literary character of all time) is the most obnoxious, stubborn woman with equal parts grit and grimace, and who will, I promise, steal your heart before the end.  Moiraine is everything a good mysterious stranger should be, unruffled and calm in the face of danger, and the rest of the characters are equally endearing.  And don't even get me started on the bad guys: Let's just say that I have never yet found a evil character to rival a Myrdraal. . . 

Pick up the book and start it.  It may take you years to finish the series, but you can't not be impressed with Robert Jordan's craft.  He will earn your respect and probably your literary worship, if you're brave enough to crack this first novel in his epic series.

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