I left the fantasy genre behind years ago. I popped my head in now and then and came across some great new (to me) voices like China Mieville and George R.R. Martin. But I never stuck around too long.
I'm not sure why. Just like any other genre, its authors have things to say and stories to tell. I guess I thought I grew up.
Turns out, I didn't. I still think monsters, swords, magic, and thinly veiled Christ allegories are just as awesome now as I did then.
Sure, The Eye of The World has its problems. Jordan's dialogue is sometimes stiff, and he has a penchant for description that gets a little tiresome. I don't remember Rand, Mat, and Perrin being quite so frustrating. But maybe that's just because I got a little bit older and teenagers annoy me.
Those are the bad parts.
The good parts are so good that they overwhelm the bad ones by sheer force of volume. The world Jordan created was fully realized at birth. It's complex, it has a history, and its different cultures make sense. There's no strangeness for the sake of strangeness here. He hinted at just enough of the master plot to make it seem like he knew exactly where the story was going. From what I hear, probably he did.
The one thing that struck me on this reread was, surprisingly, the role gender plays in the narrative. That's a particularly English Major-y thing to think about, but it's definitely something that's hard to ignore. Prior to the reread, I recalled that Jordan created exceptionally strong female characters. I remembered being frustrated by how powerless men sometimes were in his world. Now, I think I was wrong. Yes, his female characters are bold and drive much of the action. Yes, there is a whole order of women whose sole purpose in life is to find men who can channel and still them--essentially crippling them. Yes, the male character often bend to the will of the female ones.
But there's a wink, wink, nudge, nudge tone to his writing that now makes me think of a tired but unbroken husband who lets his wife get her way on the little things simply to keep her quiet. Only when something of import comes along does he fight his battles. I suspect that's what Jordan was going for here. And I suspect that I'll continue to see this play out across the rest of the series. I didn't pick up on that years ago, but I sure noticed it this time.
In a lot of ways, The Eye Of The World could be a standalone novel. It has the traditional quest format. It has a shepherd who finds out that he is destined to be much more than shepherd. It's got a vanquished villain. But Jordan had something much grander in mind, and I'm finding myself nearly as excited as I was when I was 14.