As part of the reread challenge that my friend Dianne Gardner and I have set ourselves, I’m rereading and making observations about The Eye of the World, the first book in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Mixed in with this will be commentary about the TV show and likely the fantasy genre in general. Take it all with a grain of salt. Dianne and I are not blogging about the same things so be sure to take a look at her blog as well.
SPOILERS AHEAD. FOR EVERYTHING.
The first thing that surprised me upon this reread was the introduction of a new opening to the series. Because these books are monstrously long, I decided to pick up a paperback copy for ease of transport and to save my eyes some screen time. The set I ordered begins not with Lews, but with a pastoral interlude about Egwene at age nine walking through Emond’s Field doing chores and talking to the people of the village.
I hated it so much.
About the only thing it accomplished for me as a reader was that it established that Perrin had a mother and multiple sisters, all of whom could have been fridged for the show without the need to invent some random wife for him to kill. (If you can’t read it from tone, like everyone else on the planet, I didn’t like Perrin’s wife at all.)
It seems that this added prologue was developed back in that time period where the first book was separated into two, so that it could be sold to the YA market. I’m not sure who thought up the idea that YA readers would much prefer reading a book that opens with a girl gossiping about people they don’t yet know as opposed to a man who killed his wife and broke the world with magic, but… Yeah. When I was thirteen or even ten or eight, the original opening would have been much more appealing to me.
So. On to the actual book that I first read and am re-reading.
With the show’s current emphasis on Moiraine and the Aes Sedai, there is a lot of missed opportunity here. I decided on this reread to focus more on the female characters and the White Tower specifically as those were the parts that both intrigued and infuriated me on previous reads.
In the book, the Women’s Circle in Emond’s Field with its reliance on the Wisdom (Nynaeve) is an excellent microcosm for how the White Tower itself functions in the world with the relationship to the Amyrlin Seat (Siuan). Like the Tower, the Circle doesn’t overtly govern in the sense that town councils or monarchs do, but it pulls the strings and holds the real power in this particular society. Despite the fact that village men may grumble about Nynaeve as the Wisdom, ultimately they have to respect her authority because she was anointed by the women in the village.
When you consider Nynaeve’s position in Emond’s Field and the mentor/apprentice relationship that she and Egwene have in the beginning of the series, what happens later on when they become Aes Sedai is even more interesting. Given that the entire focus of the show thus far has been much more on the Tower and less on the original ta’veren characters (Rand, Mat, Perrin), the showrunners really did themselves a disservice by not leaning into these ideas a little more while they were in the Emond’s Field setting.
One thing that I’d forgotten about the books which was overshadowed by the show’s choice of “mystery” (ie: Who is the Dragon) is how much mystery is actually present around the question of Moiraine, Aes Sedai, and what they can do/who they are. We see the world through the lens of the people of the Two Rivers and because of that, the world gradually unfolds through wonder, even when events are at their most dangerous. I love show!Moiraine but I can’t help but imagine that another opportunity was missed here.
The book does begin slowly but there’s a lot of tension between characters and present in the worldbuilding. In its effort to become the next Game of Thrones, it seems to me that the show forgot that Game of Thrones didn’t rush at nearly quite such a breakneck pace between settings and spent more time on its character arcs. At chapter ten in the first book, I still haven’t quite covered everything that episode one got to. It’s truly a shame that this series was given so few episodes to work with.
As I’m still figuring out the format for these blog posts, I may mix it up a bit in coming weeks and focus on just one particular part of a section. Ten chapters is quite a bit to write about in one go, particularly when thinking about how the show has portrayed certain things.