Thursday, January 12, 2012

100 Books #3 - Robert Jordan's THE EYE OF THE WORLD

I've encountered a few slow burns in my day. And some of them have indeed fizzled out like the wet firecrackers I have feared them to be.

The Eye of the World already had strong signs of being one of these from the start. It's the first of twelve volumes (so far), bespeaking a very slow burn indeed, and being so obviously epic fantasy (my problem with which being well known; just have a look at my rant about it over at Suppertime Sonnets. It is one of my most popular posts) meant it gave off a suspiciously musty odor. Umm.

But a lot of my friends like it, and some of them like it quite a lot. And as last year wound down I felt I was running out of fresh authors to try...

So now I've read it. For a lot of its considerable length I felt like I had read it before (but even before I started blogging my every read, I kept pretty anal lists of books read, going back many years). Celtic and Norse mythology, Tolkein and Lewis and Moorcock and Alexander... But hey, if one is going to steal, he should steal from the best.

But - always a but - there was something interesting in there. Something possibly in direct opposition to what I dislike most about Epic Fantasy, that being its glorification and glamorization of feudalism. For a long while in this story (i.e. the first, say, half, when very little happens), it seems to concern itself with commoners. No aristocrats or knights or royalty in sight. Hundreds of pages before even a passing reference to a crowned head. How refreshing!

Or it should have been. But of course the commoners in question are very, very special. And very, very important. They are being hunted by Ming the Merci- oops Thulsa Doo - oops Saur-oops for unknown but nefarious reasons. First they run away from orcs, then from Nazgul, then from Saru-oops! But these are honest mistakes, truly.

The one thing that could have mitigated the annoyance of the pastichery would have been if the narrative question of which of the three boys is the very most specialest had been played up as a genuine narrative mystery instead of done up Columbo style with us waiting a good 500 pages for the characters to find out what we knew from almost the first paragraph.

Of course, I should be grateful for this accidental pleasure I derived from the experience: the original Robert E. Howard Conan shorts I've been reading by way of taking breaks from this slog have been even more fun by contrast.

Bear that in mind before you call me a fantasy hater.

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