Title: The Eye of the World
Author: Robert Jordan
Written & Published: 1990
The Eye of the World is the first book of the Wheel of Time. It begins the epic story of three young men from an isolated village, all of whom are potentially destined for greatness. In the tradition of epic fantasy, the story begins with terrifying monsters and heroic guides who have come seeking just these boys. There is a dramatic escape and subsequent journey through exotic places as they try to find a place of safety where they can understand their destinies.
A lot of time-honoured fantasy traditions are upheld in the story, carefully adapted to this particular world. Dwarves and elves are absent, replaced with fearsome Trollocs and wise Ogier. The one young hero has been replaced with three, and their companions are plucky young women instead of plucky young men. A wise old crone figure is central to guiding the heroes, but while she might be old she could hardly be described as a crone.
Against a simplified backdrop of good vs. evil, the character relations are complex. Many of the motivations begin clearly enough, but emotional reactions shift the dynamics of the group. While some stories will include characters whose disagreements are born from differing opinions on what should be done, this book is filled with characters who take an active interest in hating each other. Animosity leads to an occasionally childish level of spite, and there is little hesitation in pointing out to others how stupid they are.
Women have an important place in this fantasy world, and the backstory leads to some interesting gender dynamics. Men are still blamed for a disaster that occurred millennia earlier, and women still work hard to ensure it can never happen again. This sense of moral superiority forms a sharp contrast with the might is right attitude of the economic and political landscape and, as a result, values beyond mere brawn play a role in power relations.
The plot of this story is tight, but enough attention is given to detail to make the world seem fully imagined and realised. In some instances this can go too far, particularly where incidental characters are concerned, but it is otherwise an easy read. I give this book 4 out of 5 pages.