The Eye of the World: p. 104--147
Chapter Eight: A Place of Safety
When I was in high school (I have now been out of school for as long as I was in school, which is very weird) I knew a guy who summed up his abandonment of the Wheel of Time by saying "Let me guess what happens in the next book: they're going to talk some more". The quantity of unnecessary dialogue in this book really is spectacular. It's like stream-of-consciousness writing, the type that is supposed to get edited later. I'm sure to some readers it creates a sense of realism and makes it feel like the village really is full of lots of different people, but they're all so interchangeable they kind of blend together for me into a single six-armed eleven-eyed aberration, Rufus al'Plainspoken, the Son of the Soil, the Earth-Salted One. So I hope you'll continue to forgive me for skimming swathes of dialogue that don't actually serve any long-term purpose.
I also hope it's supposed to be kind of funny that Rand continues to be so intense about being adopted:
While he was still coming through the door Rand's eyes went to his father--his father no matter what anyone said.No one has said anything because no one knows except you and your dad, Rand, you can probably take a breath. Sorry. If I had feelings instead of this damned mechanical ticking contraption in my chest I'd probably think his anxiety was adorable and sad. There is much shuffling and muttering as people get told where to go and then Moiraine settles down by Tam's bedside to work her mojo.
In the stories Aes Sedai wonders were always accompanied by flashes and thunderclaps, or other signs to indicate mighty works and great powers. The Power. The One Power, drawn from the True Source that drove the Wheel of Time. [....] For all he could tell, though, Moiraine might just as well have gone to sleep.I am left wondering if there's going to be any explanation for any of the Capitalised Terms of this mythos, and if they will actually matter. Why is it the One Power? (Especially if it comes in male and female flavours and they apparently don't touch enough for the curse on the male part to infect the female part?) Are there False Sources?
Lan notices Rand's sword, and explains that the herons are a mark of a master swordsman, and remarks like eight times on how strange it is for it to be in the hands of a sheepherder. (Isn't shepherd a word here?) Rand diverts to talk about the Black Rider, which Moiraine says doesn't matter much now and wouldn't have helped even if they'd known in advance. She slanders carrion-eaters more as minions for the Dark One, and then Rand notes that his dad is looking better. Moiraine explains
Moiraine and Lan exposit further that the trollocs were in town searching for a boy of very specific age, in the range of Rand, Mat, and Perrin, who were all born within weeks of each other, and therefore the three of them must leave the village to protect it. Why me, I'm not special, the Dark One couldn't possibly be interested in me, et cetera. The threat of further battles torching the whole countryside before the Aes Sedai could kill all the trollocs and myrddraal reinforcements convinces Rand to go, and Moiraine advises him to leave his dad a note, since they'll have to take off that night. (Rand hasn't slept yet after a day of hauling and farming followed by a night of running and murdinating; does she think he will just keep walking?) I'm not sure if this is considered reasonable or if we're supposed to think Moiraine is heartless for being all "Time to go to the city of witches for an indeterminate length of time, leave your not-quite-dead Mystery Dad Swordsman a note on the fridge". Rand still hopes to get to talk to his father before they leave, and et cetera domesticity and soup, he falls asleep in a chair by the fire.
Chapter Nine: Tellings of the Wheel
Is this going to be a prophetic dream? Let me flip ahead. Yes. It is five pages of prophetic dream. The landscapes are nicely described, first jagged stone ridges and mist-rivers leading to a huge black mountain where Rand feels Shai'tan demanding his service (hot), then the broken mountain from the prologue, which is now the site of
The food Rand didn't eat has been replaced by Mrs al'Vere, who is apparently an aggressive feeder (gender roooooles), and to my mild surprise Dad al'Thor actually wakes up and talks to Rand, there is much recapping. Dad admits that Rand really should go to Witch City (Tar Valon) but he insists that Rand pay very close attention to the Aes Sedai's words, because she might not lie but she will happily and constantly mislead. Women, amirite?
More exposition about how Warders are bonded (shockingly, not Bonded) to their Aes Sedai and get some generic Captain America powers out of it, fast healing and such, and Rand speculates that the Aes Sedai must get something out of it too or they'd never make a deal. Superhuman bodyguards aren't good enough, Rand? We've got dainty perfect lady wizards running around pair-bonded with super-ripped gruff brawlers, do we not think that most of them are doing each other like crossword puzzles? Because I'd expect a lot of that, with or without associated romantic entanglements.
Rand never does ask his dad about Heroic Adoption, and then Lan drags him outside where there's a mob come to chase the witch out of town. The mayor and smith intervene, pointing out how she healed everyone last night, but Moiraine steps in herself with white fire sparking off her staff and rants for about a page about how awesome this part of the world used to be, back when the river was called, I kid you not, Manetherendrelle.
"Their King was Aemon al Caar al Thorin, Aemon son of Caar son of Thorin [if I made a drinking game out of this there would be no survivors], and Eldrene ay Ellan ay Carlan was his Queen. Aemon, a man so fearless that the greatest compliment for courage any could give, even among his enemies, was to say a man had Aemon's heart. Eldrene, so beautiful that it was said the flowers bloomed to make her smile."So, as we guessed, al'Thor is 'son of Thor', and apparently the 'daughter of' thing was just tossed out entirely somewhere along the line. I would have guessed that this was because the fall of the noble past led to more patriarchy, but then we find out that in the golden age the king was fearless (allowing him to take the right action in any situation, presumably) and the queen was hot (making it unnecessary for her to take any action in order to justify her existence, presumably). This is billed as less sexist than Tolkien. Absolutely, there are more female characters in this book, but their treatment is consistently lacklustre and they all have to be dainty and pretty (and implicitly white and straight).
Moiraine goes on talking about how the people from here were devastating warriors around the world, and how they rushed home when they heard the trollocs were attacking their homeland, how terrifying their enemies were. All of them men, of course. Only men. It's a big deal when after ten days they think they're doomed and the men and women (with their husband, no single women allowed ever) finally came to their aid.
Ah, but no, Eldrene the Hot Queen is obviously a strong female character, because when she's busy evacuating civilians she can feel her husband die in battle, and on the spot she wills the whole evil army to burst into flames, at the cost of her own life as well, and the stones of her now-empty city. (Call me ruthless, but the body count of her people at this point is, like, a billion, there's been slaughtering across the border for weeks; could she not have taken them all down with her on day one and let the army mop up with vastly fewer casualties?) Moiraine finishes by explaining how the kingdom never recovered and now the villagers are the only descendants, so shame on them for being scared because a witch showed up in town and then orcs burned half of it down. Bit by bit they apologise and shuffle away, and Lan tells the boys to get a move on already.
This was the real beginning, leaving the inn and following the Warder into the night...YOU'RE NOT WRONG BUT WE'RE ON PAGE 135 COME ON. I mean, I know Fellowship of the Ring has the slowest start in the world, book one is basically a six-month pub crawl, but of all the aspects to copy, who thinks that's the best possible one? If Jordan is serious, I am curious if things will happen at any sort of meaningful pace now.
Chapter Ten: Leavetaking
Welp, they are going signature-weapon style: as Lan preps the horses, they tease Rand about his heron sword, while Mat's got a bow and Perrin's got a honking great axe. They confer and recap with each other more about what's already happened (Mat and Perrin only left notes for their families, as ordered), and then Egwene arrives to declare they're not leaving without her, because she wants to see the world. (Lan didn't hear her coming. Lan was just chastising the others for not paying attention to their surroundings two pages ago. Lan is bad at things.) Twice in four pages Moiraine is all 'It's part of the Pattern now, nothing we can do about it' and agrees to bring her along. What does that mean? If someone starts to do something, they can't be stopped, because it's part of the pattern? Why wasn't the destruction of the village part of the pattern? Is this just going to be the Aes Sedai's go-to phrase for 'shut up I've made my decision'? It turns out the gleeman Thom is also hanging out in the loft (Lan you're so bad at this) and he wants to perform in Tar Valon, and lampshades Moiraine's 'part of the pattern now' thing, so Rand fetches his family horse Bela for Egwene.
"I still think you shouldn't come," he said. "I wasn't making it up about the trollocs. But I promise I will take care of you."
"Perhaps I'll take care of you," she replied lightly.Strong Female Character is a go. The seven of them finally head out (two more to go for a full fellowship?) and pass a patrol of ill-equipped villagers. Lan judges that two trollocs would slaughter them all, but figures they're better than nothing. I hate that. Rand killed one trolloc by accident and Dad al'Thor took two out in two swings when ambushed. If I'm supposed to be afraid of the Big Bad's lackeys, they need to actually be played as dangerous, not just described as more than a match for the NPCs. (This was something that I thought Mistborn did very well--the Inquisitors are meant to be scary, and they are, to the point where it's a huge deal when they finally take one down, at terrible cost to the heroes. More of that, less of this, please.)
Rand spots a thing that he hopes was just a bat against the moon, but he judges the distance and realises it's too massive, and they collectively identify it as a Draghkar, even worse than trollocs and myrddraal (though still under the myrddraal's command), and that means they'll be spotted soon, so they rush for the ferry. ...The ferry. They're fleeing the bad guys by ferry in the middle of the night. All I can hear is Dominic Monaghan saying that the only other crossing is 'toenty muyales' away in an accent never before used by the human tongue.
We're now 148 pages in. We're keeping pretty good pace with Fellowship, actually; on page 148 of my copy they've just arrived at the inn of the Prancing Pony, just past the movie's scene with the ferry crossing. But those 148 pages include Tom gorram Bombadil on top of the birthday party and pub crawl and Black Riders. I will not hear a word against Tom Bombadil, but let's not pretend he was a vital plot force, and even with him Fellowship is moving faster.
Next week: Egwene's gonna be a totally sweet wizard.