My rating: 5 of 5 stars
A highly immersive fantasy read that gives a hopeful strong start to the daunting (in terms of how much of my life will be spent reading it!) yet exciting series ahead.
This series was recommended to me by my boyfriend and on agreeing to give it a go, I was nervous for four reasons:
1) We enjoy very different books and rarely think too much about each other’s reading choices so our recommendations to each other are fairly few and far between but he loves the series so much I was convinced I had to give it a go.
2) Jack’s now on his second reading of the series within the space of a year so I already feel as though my head has been battered with the peripheral information I’ve picked up about the WoT universe and a lot of that information sounds bizarre out of context.
3) This series is huge! Weighing in at a mammoth 11,000 odd pages, it’s a daunting undertaking to say the least.
4) I’m not a great lover of fantasy fiction. Most of the time I find it too dry and overly full of complex lore and history that I just don’t want to understand. Hear me out here before you judge me! I’m a history student. Reading fantasy fiction feels too much like work and I get irritated that its work that I can’t actually do much with except grapple to understand it while thinking I should be spending that time learning actual history instead. So I’m not charmed by any fantasy other than LOTR and even that feels like a lyrical textbook I want to study rather than get absorbed in.
So I braced myself to hate the world of WoT and to have to read my golden rule of at least 56% of this first book (which would come to around 450 pages) before casting it as a DNF. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I fell in love with the world and pored over the new discoveries about its history, cultures and wonderfully thoughtful details. I was enchanted by the characters and the brilliant pacing of their developments and relationships with each other and their discovery of the world around them. The female characters are also like a breath of fresh air, I didn’t expect much given that the book was written in the early 90s and of my vaguely misogynistic impressions of the fantasy genre so it came as a huge relief when they weren’t just portrayed as damsel-in-distress love/sex objects but actually carried a huge punch of personality and independence.
The considerable downside was the plot; for me, it was meh. I didn’t care much for how it progressed and there were so many times where I wanted the pacing to be different. Sometimes the actions of the characters felt out of sync with their personalities just so it could move the plot and that bothered me. On top of that, it just felt like the plot was a vehicle to build the world rather than actually serving any other purpose. I didn’t care what happened, I cared about the characters and the world. Perhaps, for so early on in this huge series, that is enough for now.
Above all, I loved the readability of the writing and that is what makes me excited for the books ahead. Unlike a lot of fantasy fiction, all of the immense detail didn’t make the fantasy feel like work; it made it come alive. This could be because of how many ideas Jordan borrows from what I know of medieval and early modern Britain; the world feels familiar enough to make me believe in the fantastical. If this book is any indication of what the series as a whole will be like then I’m looking forward to seeing how the Wheel turns!