This is the first novel in the multi-part Wheel of Time series. It’s set in a world where time is circular (a wheel) and all the people in the world are in a constant cycle of death and reincarnation, doomed to repeat the same things over and over infinitely.
I thought it was a nicely unique concept for a fantasy world, and one which is implemented well throughout. Though it largely focuses on on a single set of people during a single point within this wheel, it was a really interesting backdrop for the story, and one which came up regularly throughout it. I’m excited to see what more is done with the concept in later books.
As for the story of this one, to some extent, it’s your typical fantasy set-up – simple country boys are whisked away from their peaceful life in a quiet village and end up on a quest that will bring them across the world as they journey to battle an evil that threatens everything.
The structure of the story might not be too different from things we’ve all seen before, but using a tried and tested formula is by no means a bad thing. I really enjoyed the book because of all of the interesting locations they visited, excellent world-building, and most of all, a great cast of characters.
My two favourites were Moiraine, an Aes Sedai (which is a sort of witch in this world) and her warder, Lan. Moiraine plays the ‘mysterious old wizard’ part in this story, and I think she does so very well. She comes across as otherworldly, in a way, concerned with higher matters than those happening directly before her, and though she a morally grey character for sure, she was so enigmatic that I was won over.
Meanwhile, Lan, her warder, is a completely stoic man who is unquestionably loyal to Moraine. The bond between the two of them is supposed to exceed that bond between a married couple, without it being in the least bit romantic, which I really liked. You don’t often see things like that in fiction.
The other characters were great too. Rand is a little bit of a generic protagonist, but he’s also an awkward, angsty teen. Egwene is a girl that Rand has always been endeared to, and she’s always wanted to see more of the world and now she wants to learn more about the Aes Sedai from Moiraine, but is pulled in another direction by Nynaeve, the village wisdom, who is anti-Aes Sedai (which creates some good conflict). There’s another great character called Loial, but I won’t say too much about him as he comes into it quite late.
All in all, you really feel like the characters are on a long journey in this book, visiting far off locations all around their world – and it’s a world with such a fascinating backstory. If you enjoy fantasy, you’ll probably love this.