Publisher Webpage: Robert Jordan [Author]
This was 1 of 4 books I gave 5+ stars in 2019. This is the 1st of 14 books in the Wheel of Time series. No, I'm not joking. Yes, I plan to read them all. No, I haven't started the 2nd book. Don't judge me on my own blog.
Hints of: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, The Return of the King [You get the picture?]
Warning: If you like the way our current patriarchal system of government is set up, if are a super LOTR fanboy extraordinaire, or if you're British & continue to deny that your navy royally messed up at the Battle of Yorktown, this may not be the book series for you.
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. Let the dragon ride again on the winds of time.
Lord of the Rings - BUT MAKE IT WOMEN! This is gonna be a hefty review - so pop some popcorn & settle into a nice comfy chair.
While it takes a hot minute to pick up, once it gets going you don't put the book down. Robert Jordan sets the scene similar to how GRRM does, which I appreciate long-term. On the immediate it can be frustrating.
Also I'm seriously weird about keeping my books nice & proper - this book is V well read & frayed.
Getting into it - there is a major map at the beginning. Use the map. Embrace the map. That's partially why my book is so frayed. It's like a beacon for this book. As the group of travelers (we'll get to that) move forward on their journey, the map zooms in to different lands. It's very helpful.
My review will focus more on the overall setting and key points of the book than the journey of the travelers. It's Book 1 of 14 and it can be confusing. We need to understand the basis for this world.
The book opens "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." style. It starts with a prologue in Dragonmount in the First Age. If you're looking at the map, Dragonmount is right next to Tar Valon on the northeastern side of the map - a major city in our book. Remember that.
There are two characters - a good king named Lews Therin I.E. "Kinslayer" I.E. the messiah of sorts - and a black-clad man named Elan Morin Tedronai I.E. "Betrayer of Hope." He serves "The Dragon" or "The Dark One" I.E. the embodiment of pure evil. Think of them as "Gods" to the characters we meet in the rest of the book. These two are important - they are considered "legends" in the modern-day setting of the remainder of the book. But as any good sci-fi book goes, they eventually play a larger role.
In the Prologue they both draw on power from the Wheel of Time I.E. "The True Source". In this particular setting, Lew Therin was too overwhelmed by the power and destroyed a great deal of land, people and himself in the process. Elan Morin Tedronai survives. This showcases to the reader that in this universe men who draw on the power seem to become thirsty for controlling it all, prideful that he can match the Creator in greatness, eventually tainting it. *insert metaphor of patriarchal societies here*
Thus creates a gender division: the male half of the power - a aes saidin - a male who has these capabilities to draw on power; and, a aes sedai - a female who has the same capabilities.
In Book 1, the modern age of this world, the Third Age, sedai are the accepted vessels for power. For now, associate them with the five wizards of Middle-Earth. But remember, they're all women. It seems the majority of small town folks do not like any type of magic or mischief disrupting their lives. In the larger cities sedai are more commonly accepted. In Caemlyn, the city of the Queen, a sedai is the right-hand advisor.
Back to the "journey" part of this book. The journey starts with a focus on a small town called Emond's Field of the Two Rivers (central west on the map - very similar to the The Shire). It begins with a boy named Rand al'Thor, who will be a major character throughout the entire book. We find the town has a Women's Council, and a Wisdom, a woman named Nynaeve, who make the decisions for the welfare of the town. It is like this in just about every town and small city in this book.
In walks *SHOCK* a sedai and her male companion Lan - who is not a saidin - he is called a Warder. They are the talk of the town - no one has ever seen an aes sedai before - they're evil - they're bad - they're going to ruin Edmond's Field. *Later That Night* Rand and his father Tam are back on their farm and are attacked by a band of Trollocs - evil creatures from The Blight which have not been since in this Age. And yes, I do relate The Blight to Mordor and Trollocs to Uruks or Orcs.
How convenient Morraine & Lan are in town. Thus begins the journey of Rand, his two male friends, Morraine, Lan and eventually the town wisdom Nynaeve. This group is the focus teh remainder of the novel. Their journey takes them from the Two Rivers, to Baerlon, to Whitebridge, to Caemlyn home of Queen Morgase and her sedai Elaida, and eventually to The Blight.
The group finds the untouchable land of "The Green Man" which houses the Eye of the World. I was shocked as well - that it was an actual place. I thought it was more metaphorical. It's not. Honestly in my head, based on the description, it's like a coastal underground natural spa. That's the image I got. Take it as you will.
The Green Man dies sacrificing himself when basically the deputy henchmen of Ba'alzamon attack the group INSIDE the untouchable place. Clearly we need better security systems. Remember back to my #2 - the Realm is weakening. Rand runs into the Eye of the World.
Rand and Ba'alzamon have one last joint vision. Ba'alzamon states "A long search, but ended now. You are here, and I know you." So Rand is not just Rand - he's the reincarnate of Lew Therin I.E. the Messiah. He just doesn't remember. After a back and forth more mental and emotional than physical battle, Rand strikes Ba'alzamon down. Although I have a feeling that we'll see him again.
Following his defeat, we discover that in the last age, in the battle that was won, most of the aes sedai died to put the The Dark One and his forsaken in a prison of sorts in Shayol Ghul - a city of The Blight. They are bound by the Creator, but the prison has weakened, which is why tribes of Trollocs and other creatures got out. Their purpose was to find the one who was the reincarnate and bring him to Shayol Ghul.
The final pages of the book bring the group back to the forgotten lands of Malkier. It pans onto Morraine, She is twisting a stone around in her hand. Her final words, the final words of the book "The Prophecies will be fulfilled. The Dragon is Reborn."
Ya'll when I say my jaw dropped for days. FOR. DAYS. So that whole Rand is "The Kinslayer" reborn? Sure. But maybe he's The Dragon reborn? That's why Ba'alzamon is so obsessed with him. That's why creatures are after him. That's why he has all this power that he's afraid of. But this ALSO means... Morraine isn't good. Which is disappointing, but also means she plays the ultimate long game and I'm ready for it.
1. The shrinking "Realm of the Queen", the story of Malkier, "The Green Man" land being breached. These are all signs pointing to the growth of "The Dark One" (hint back to the Prologue).
2. Rand has consistent visions in which he interacts with Ba'alzamon. We eventually discover these visions are real, and Rand has the capabilities to control the power of the Wheel of Time. This power is what drew Morraine to Edmond's Field & these dark creatures to follow the group across the lands.
3. Lan seems to a be a Team B character until we discover he is an exiled king, "Lord of the Seven Towers", the crownless King of the Malkieri. When he was young his parents - a King and Queen of Malkier - fought a lost battle against the oncoming forces in the Blight. Lan was taken to Tar Valon to be kept safe. The border kingdoms of Sheinar, Arafel and Kandor exist because Malkier, no longer visible on the map, sacrificed itself to keep the other lands safe. I loved this story of the borderlands, and I hope there is more.
4. Morraine is by far the strongest character in the book. She saves the Edmond's Field, she saves Rand his companions time & time again, but we ultimately realize she's not a traditional aes sedai. She is tapping into much greater powers than we knew.
When Morraine realized who Rand was, she changes course for The Blight where "The Green Man" lives. This land can only be reached by need, a pure need, and she is able to find it. Eventually we realize she's a bloody good liar, able to trick "The Green Man" and find the Eye of the World. I believe this path was her intention all along.
So in conclusion, while I focused on the "destination" rather than the journey for this book. The characters need to be understood. Their power to the True Source, the concept of the Wheel of Time and the background of the lands. We're in it for the long haul folks, buckle up.
Also By Robert Jordan: Books 2 - 14, Book #0 in The Wheel of Time Series
Drink Pairing: A Foghorn (Gin + Lime Juice + Ginger Beer)