Drew’s Wheel of Time Reread – The Eye of the World Part 1

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Welcome to Drew’s Wheel of Time Re-read! Today I’ll be covering Part One of The Eye of the World, from the prologue to Shadar Logoth. There will be spoilers for the entire series in these posts, so proceed with caution if you haven’t read through A Memory of Light. For those wondering, I will be covering the prequel, New Spring, after Book Seven, A Crown of Swords. I will be using a lot of acronyms in this reread series, especially with book titles. For reference, check out the handy list in my introductory post here. And now, onward. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time!

  • And we begin with Egwene, of course. The “Ravens” prologue, added in the YA version of TEotW, deals with little nine-year-old Egwene, and it does a couple things. For one, it gives us some important background on the Age of Legends, the War of Power, and Lews Therin Telamon—the Dragon. This is some fun stuff, and works very well at clearing up some things that might be confusing in the true prologue, “Dragonmount”. Also, we get inside Egwene’s head as a child, and I’m not particularly a fan. She is pretty cruel to her sister and does not think charitable thoughts about…well, about anyone. Sadly, this isn’t going to go away much as she gets older.
  • “Dragonmount”. I still think this is one of the best prologues of any series, and certainly one of the best in WoT. The ominous atmosphere of insanity and horrifying revelation of what Lews Therin has done hits home really nicely, culminating with his death and the creation of Dragonmount.
  • From there we jump to the Third Age, and to Rand and Tam and the Two Rivers. There’s a real LotR sense with these early chapters, emulating the feel of the Shire and the Nazgul with the Myrddraal following Rand, Mat, and Perrin. I always thought it moved a little too slowly through these first few chapters, meeting all the newcomers, but in retrospect I don’t have much of a problem with it. Each of these newcomers is very important to the series in his or her own way, from Moiraine to Padan Fain to Thom. I am also a big fan of the clever little references to our own history that RJ slipped in, referring to America and England battling and John Glenn landing on the moon. It’s fun, finding all of these little Easter eggs as the series goes on.
  • Chapter 8, “Winternight”, is where I remember being hooked, the first time I read WoT. It’s such a surreal scene: Rand going about his chores, sitting down to such a calm, domestic dinner with his father—and then Trollocs in the door, the heron-mark blade, the sudden dark tone. I still find the bit about the Trollocs killing their sheep to be one of the most chilling images in the series.
  • I do love the tone from Winternight onward, up to Baerlon. The urgency grips me, even after so many rereads. While there is of course a certain amount of the fantasy cliché of pursuit from the small village paving the road to a larger destiny going on, I find it fun to view the whole sequence from both that lens and the retrospective knowledge from the end of the series. The total fixation on Tar Valon is almost humorous, because Jordan so neatly subverts the typical solutions—and because of how long it actually takes Rand to get there.
  • In Baerlon itself, there is a brief respite. I really enjoy the bit where Rand finds himself dancing with Nynaeve, and then with Moiraine. His charming innocence and awkwardness stands as a great counterpoint to what he will become. And of course Min, with her prophetic visions and teasing of him, knowing already what the future will hold for them. I admit I am not the biggest fan of Min, and her constant teasing is a part of that. I know it’s supposed to be a humorous scene, intermingled with quite a lot of foreshadowing, but I can’t help but feel as though she came off too abrasive. I never totally got over that first impression of her.
  • One particular point after Baerlon, as they ride for Shadar Logoth, struck me as wonderful foreshadowing, and remains one of the best in the book: “Rand trotted toward him, but Mat tossed a noose away from him with a shudder, gathered his bow, and scrambled into his saddle unaided, rubbing his throat.”
  • This nod to Mat’s future encounter in Rhuidean actually made me laugh out loud, the first time I picked up on it, and it is such a perfect example of Mat’s personality. He complains a lot, and vocally, about the small things…but when he is dealing with serious matters, he lets his actions and silence speak for themselves.
  • And we have Shadar Logoth. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read TEotW, and I had forgotten some of the nice little details that make this place so creepy. Even the description of Mordeth, with his drooping eyes and overfed sleaziness, adds another layer to the ambience. Whenever I think of Shadar Logoth, I think of shadows and ruins and Mashadar; Mordeth is easy to overlook because he is only there for just this little bit. But it is important to keep in mind his role in everything, and noting how his presence affects other cities and people later on. Just imagine if he had stayed in Tar Valon, influencing Elaida more than he did. As it was, the streets were heaped with trash and filth by the end of that debacle.
  • I did find the event that separates the group—the thread of Mashadar across the road—to be somewhat contrived. There’s no real reason why Rand and the others fall back from Moiraine and Lan: they’re all scared, they should all be moving quickly, and even if Rand is daydreaming about something, his horse is the one moving. It bugs me a little bit.
  • But overall, the first half or so of TEotW is a lot of fun. RJ established both a good sense of urgency and an plot expectation that is set up to be subverted in the second half. Check back in next week for the rest of The Eye of the World, and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below!
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