Here we go, the actual first book of the Wheel of Time series (I wrote about the prequel a couple weeks ago). I originally read this in high school on the recommendation of a friend. With the release of the later volumes in the series I’ve read this at least four times now and every time I would guess that it takes me less than 3 days to read the entire thing. If fantasy is your thing, this is a great example of the genre. The story is actually a pretty straightforward peasant to hero plot with a cross-country journey involved. Even so, there are some differences that make this an interesting read every time I pick it up.
First off, the eventual hero isn’t the only focus of the story. A total of five villagers undertake this quest to find the Eye of the World, with each of them unsure of what will be their ultimate role in the finding. The three young men are all tormented equally by the main evil figure (who postures himself as the Devil) throughout this journey. No one, not the villagers, not the evil chasing them, not even their protectors are sure who will become the Dragon Reborn, prophesied to lead the forces of good against the Dark One in the ultimate battle of good and evil.
Being the Dragon Reborn comes with a price, of course, the one so named will be a man who can channel the One Power (essentially, a wizard). This is widely viewed as a death sentence, because every man who channels the Power eventually goes insane, destroying those around him with his magic. Jordan is able to communicate the absolute dread his characters feel about this and make real the separation that the chosen one will undoubtedly feel in a more concrete sense than the clichéd “you’ve changed, and forgotten your old friends” device.
It’s amazing how much of the later books is set up here. It is not done in a heavy-handed way at all, the first read will not be hindered by any obvious foreshadowing. But in my case, knowing what comes after the events of this book, I was constantly surprised at how early some key elements were introduced in this saga. Even with all that information packed in, I think this book stands alone very well. Even if you don’t feel like tackling the entire series (and I won’t blame you if you don’t), this is an enjoyable, fast-paced read.