Jackie from Death by Tsundoku and I had both read The Eye of the World, the first book in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but it had been many years since either of us had cracked it open. It was interesting to reread it now that we’re older and see just how much our perspectives have changed, and see what hasn’t changed from one reading to the next.
Reading The Eye of the World
Jackie: It’s been almost 20 years since I’ve read The Eye of the World. So many memories are coming back to me while I’m reading this! This is only my second time reading The Eye of the Worl and I am impressed with Jordan’s foreshadowing! There are so many subtle hints to the future. I keep making connections from what I had originally thought were throwaway lines to the long game story Jordan is crafting. This man deeply knew his story and his characters when writing this novel.
Kim: This is my second reading of the book, too. I read the first nine books during my sophomore year of college. I read the first three books in record time, the next three took a little longer, and by the time I got to books seven, eight, and nine, it was taking me weeks to finish each one. I ended up being so fed up with Winter’s Heart (which was the last book out at the time) that I stopped reading the series altogether. I never finished it. It’s been so long since I read any of these books that I mostly remember the major things and the phrases Jordan constantly uses (like Nynaeve pulling her braid, or Egwene folding her arms under her breasts) that drove me nuts.
Jackie: I understand your concerns about the repetition of Jordan’s writing. (I haven’t really noticed Nynaeve pulling her braid much yet, though.) Despite the phrases Jordan constantly uses, I had forgotten how much I love his writing. I have aphantasia; I cannot see images in my head. And yet Jordan’s words are filling with such vivid imagery I often feel physically present. For example, when they crossed the Taren River and found shelter for the night I could feel Rand crawling through the densely fallen trees and the warmth of the fire. Jordan’s writing isn’t overwrought or filled with purple prose, as it could be.
It’s clear to me that Jordan knows exactly what will happen in this novel. He knows where each character is going and (mostly) how they will get there. Every word feels intentional.
Kim: Definitely. The story flies along at this stage. Whenever I look up from reading, I’m always startled to see how far along I’ve gotten. There is a lot of detail, too, so it’s not like Jordan is just sketching out concepts. The story is richly drawn and full of imagery. I like how there are ruins from earlier times, and the current people only have faint stories about their origins.
From what I remember, a lot of the repetition happens later on in the books, once character/place/plot are established. Nynaeve tugs her braid so often it starts to feel like a tic after a while, or when Rand and Perrin think “I wish Rand/Perrin were here. He knows how to talk to women”. At first, it’s a bit of a joke, but the hundredth time you come across it, I think, “Yeah, I get it. Can we move on now?”.
Jackie: I’m not at a point where I find the repetitious writing irritating, but I bet I will by the time Rand becomes the Dragon again. There are only so many times I can listen to someone think about how bad they are at talking to women.
Do you find that you’re connecting with the story or characters differently now than the first time you read this book? How I remember these characters is, in many ways, quite different than they are presented in The Eye of the World.
Kim: I don’t think my opinions of the characters have changed very much from the first reading ‘til now. Here in the first book of the series, they are still very naive young people who are completely unfamiliar with the world outside Two Rivers. I can relate to a degree, having come from a small farming town, myself. I suppose they feel younger to me now, which is only natural. I was their age when I first read books 1-9 of The Wheel of Time, and now I’m older, so I suppose my perspective shift has made them seem even younger and more naive. Perrin’s ability to speak to wolves is still pretty flippin’ cool, though. I think he was my favorite of the group early on, and then Mat stopped being a jerk and became interesting later on.
My opinions of Moiraine and Lan have stayed pretty much the same, I think. Lan- strong, silent, and dour. Got it. Moiraine- magic-user with plenty of secrets. Got it.
I am wondering something else about this world now: Why does everyone have a billowing cloak? Cloaks are meant to keep you warm, not make you look dramatic. The way I was taught to wrap up in a cloak kept most of the fabric close to my body (to, you know, keep me warm), and very little of it to billow in the breeze. My cloak is fairly lightweight, meant for late spring or early fall. My friend has a winter cloak, and that thing is heavy-duty enough that it would take a hurricane to make it billow. Simply draping a cloak over your shoulders and letting it hang looks cool, but it’s almost the equivalent of draping a coat over your arm and walking out into a cold winter’s day. Sure, you have a coat with you, but it’s not on you in a way that will keep you warm.
Jackie: Yes! The cloak thing has begun bothering me too. Everyone everywhere seems to have billowing cloaks. And it doesn’t make sense! Yes, it is supposedly spring. But a very late spring. People should be wearing thick woolen cloaks that are difficult to maneuver in, not these billowy things. Unless you’re a Nazgul, uh, Myrddraal.
I’m 100% on board with Mat being a pisser for most of the book. He’s interesting, if annoying, before Mordeth— but after that encounter, he is impossible to deal with. I find myself rolling my eyes most of the time he speaks. At this point, I cannot imagine Mat becoming a character I appreciate, even though I know I do appreciate him in later books.
Perrin has always been my favorite of the Two Rivers boys. He’s as I remember him. Rand, too, though Rand is so plain and boring and I remarkable I’m surprised. But, most protagonists are that way, so we can see ourselves in them. Regardless, naïve is the correct adjective for them all right now. But only now. I’m glad to know all of these characters from Two Rivers grow a lot in this series; at this point, we merely have hints at their immense futures.
Kim: Mat is definitely insufferable after he finds the dagger. I just had to remind myself that it was basically eating holes in his brain and that he gets cured down the road.
Ha. So the cloak bit reminds me of one of the WoT rereads available on Tor.com. (https://www.tor.com/series/wot-reread/) The writer, Leigh Butler, is from the city, and her commentary on Perrin’s glumness about being a Wolfbrother (is that the right term?) makes me roll my eyes. She wonders why Perrin is so down about it because wolves are cool! And yeah, wolves are cool, but they’re also big, smart, pack-based apex predators, and in the medieval era that WoT is based on, that wasn’t cool. It was terrifying. So I get why Perrin is upset about this wonky ability that hit him out of nowhere, and (at least in his mind) makes him something else. Suddenly, he is the Other, and that’s frightening. Especially in an era like he’s in, where you can’t just pack up and start over somewhere else without a second thought.
Jackie: I am completely with you on understanding Perrin. He has always been the least-noticed of the three Two Rivers boys. Not only is he the Other now, but he’s Other in a way that completely changes his life. He visibly looks Other and that draws attention he’d rather avoid. Plus, this is definitely a consent issue! He didn’t ask for this, and bam, his life is completely different. And people associate wolves with the Dark One — that doesn’t mean they are agents of the Dark One, like rats and ravens, but the people in this medieval society are paranoid and suspicious. Anything that could be Other is obviously associated with the Dark One. Particularly if it’s connected to wolves. … Poor Perrin.
Kim: Have you gotten to the ending yet, because…. That was weird. I didn’t remember the ending from the first time I read it (might be because I got my wisdom teeth taken out while I was reading it, and the dentist gave me some pretty snazzy painkillers).
Jackie: That ending! I had forgotten how surreal and dream-like it is. I finished it and re-read it again because I wanted to be certain I understood it. Here’s my take: This is Rand’s first time really channeling. Yes, he gave Bella extra power when they ran towards the Taren and he brought lightning down when he and Mat were trapped by Darkfriends in that tavern. With the pool of saidar at the Eye of the World to draw from and instinct kicking in, he had no idea what was truly happening.
I like the fact that we are along for the ride as much as Rand is. The exploration of Rand’s out-of-body experience helped me connect more to the chaos of what is going on as well as his confusion after the fact. Not that I fully connected all the dots when I read this, but I did find symbolism in most of it which overtly allude to Rand being the Dragon Reborn.
Overall, I’m exceptionally glad that I re-read this book. It’s not perfect, but I am super excited to re-read the rest of The Wheel of Time now. Now that I know how this whole series ends, I am certainly viewing the events of the text differently – and it’s definitely enhancing my reading experience.