We’re probably going to catch a lot of flak for this, owing to the immense popularity of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, perhaps the most sprawling epic ever written, rivaling even A Song of Ice and Fire in verbosity. But from what we (Heather and I) were able to assess from the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, Jordan’s opus borrows a bit too heavily from Tolkien. While Jordan is a capable storyteller and a skillful wordsmith, his work is the epitome of everything I find wrong with the fantasy genre today. Basically, it’s the problem of world-building getting in the way of storytelling. Call me old-fashioned, but what matters most to me is plot and character, particularly characters you can relate to on an emotional level. In The Eye of the World, we are introduced to a very large cast of players, none of whom seem particularly engaging. What’s more, the conflict driving the plot is muddled, so you really never get a sense of urgency, a sense of knowing what it is the protagonists want or how they are meant to go about achieving it. To sum it all up, a village is attacked by orcish-like creatures, called trollocs, and a boy named Rand and his friends are convinced by a wizard named Moraine to follow her to a city, where some vaguely hinted at mystery is to be solved. In The Lord of the Rings, the destruction of the One Ring acts as an immediate focal point, with all of the emotional payoff and world-building centered around it. But in Jordan’s, dare I say, “version,” I am at a loss as to what the point is. To be fair, I only managed to get through the first 300 pages, so I can’t leave an entirely honest review, but I don’t think a reader should be tasked with digging through so many words just to get to the main idea.
Agree? Disagree? Check out what Heather and I have to say in our latest podcast! We review The Wheel of Time and the new show it’s based on, and sneak in a bit of nonfiction talk for a little-known title, Madhusree Mukerjee’s The Land of Naked People.