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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan One of the most popular fantasy series of all time and I have never read it. Well, at least I can claim to have read the first volume now. This book was written before the advent of "grim dark" gritty fantasy by [a:George R.R. Martin|346732|George R.R. Martin|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1351944410p2/346732.jpg], [a:Joe Abercrombie|276660|Joe Abercrombie|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1207149426p2/276660.jpg] etc., so even the foulest villain never do any effing and blinding, they don't torture people with knives, cut off any limbs, or break wind. They do some torturing by magic but that does not quite have the same stomach churning effect. So The Eye of the World is old school epic fantasy, with painstaking world building, maps, swords, sorcery, mighty heroes, magical beasties and such. All the classic fantasy tropes are there and generally put to good use.

Characterization is quite important in fantasy sagas because the readers have to follow the central characters for multiple books. Robert Jordan was aware of this and he made the effort to create interesting and believable characters. However, I feel he was only partially successful here. Most of the book's narrative is told from the point of view of Rand, another unfortunate young farmboy to have greatness and chosen-one-ness thrust upon him. I suppose you could also say he is one of a Chosen Three, though he is clearly at the forefront. He strikes me as very Luke Skywalkerish, Frodoish and even Harry Potteresque (in all fairness this book predates Harry Potter by many years). I find Rand to be rather generic and bland to begin with, by the end of the book he is still rather generic though perhaps a little less bland.

I have read many criticisms of Robert Jordan's portrayal of female characters and some of it is understandable, though the girls tend to be more lively than the boys at the cost of often becoming shrill and irritating. The main problem with the characters in this book may be that each one seems to be defined by one quirk, they do not seem to do anything unpredictable or out of character. The cool characters like Moiraine and her Warder 'Lan are indeed pretty cool, but they never ever take a break from being cool and have a laugh like normal people.

There is also an issue of silly names, I am not keen on the "trollocs", I imagine in a parallel universe a troll fantasy author would write a version of this same book where the trolls are the good guys and the "humanocs" are low ranking evil minions. Worse still, there is an evil being called "Mordeth", surely not a name to inspire confidence, and he is even described as being a suspicious and ratty looking little mofo. This does not stop our young heroes from placing their complete trust in him. Would they have been more wary if his name was Killyoasstonedead? I guess a villain named Nicecuppatea can get away with just about anything.

The pacing of the book is mostly fine, but in the middle of the book where the main characters are split into three groups (or pairs), the primary pair of Rand and Mat go on a rather repetitious and interminable adventure. The other two groups fare much better though. The magic part of it is thoughtfully employed, so suspension of disbelieve is not too hard, though the magical showdown at the climax is a little pedestrian. The prose style is readable though I did not notice anything that I could quote at parties in an attempt to sound sage.

In spite of all my gripes the book is quite enjoyable, I think fans of old school epic fantasy will have a field day. I am not sure I will read any more from this series, it is not really my cup of tea.