Starting with this first installment, I’ll be posting a short review of each chapter in the Wheel of Time book series by Robert Jordan, followed by my thoughts and opinions. Today, we start with the Prologue and Chapter 1.
If you feel I’ve missed something important from the chapter (something that is not a spoiler for later on in the book), feel free to comment and discuss. I love this book series, love talking about it and would love to do so on the forums!
Lews Therin Telamon, a.k.a the Dragon, is driven mad by the taint to saidin, the male half of the True Source (magic). It was tainted by Shai’tan, the Great Lord of Darkness, in the last battle to reseal him in his prison.
Lews Therin has slain all his family and friends in his madness, but does not know it. Elan Morin Tedronai, the Betrayer of Hope, arrives and claims Lews Therin’s defeat, gloating at the taint on the male saiden, which causes all users to be driven mad, stating that the world is being torn apart by them. With his own powers he heals Lews Therin, so that he can see that he has killed his wife and children, as well as all else in the castle.
Driven by anger and grief, Lews Therin Travels using saidin, to a place where he is alone. He begs for forgiveness he knows he can’t have, then draws unstable amounts of saidin into himself. The result is the land is torn apart around him, a mountain rising from land in his final spot, his own body destroyed.
The opening prologue to the series is greatly done. It sets a scene of hopelessness and desperation, an early theme that is carried throughout. There are plenty of references and words you don’t know with just enough detail that you understand, but leaves you wanting more.
As far as I remember, the story takes some time to kick off into action, so by having magic and death in the prologue you are given enough to forgive the first few chapters of “who is this and where are we”.
A thing I really love about this prologue as well, is the fact that this is our only interaction as readers with Lews Therin. He is hated throughout the world as the man who broke it, something just as bad and evil as the servants of the Dark Lord, and yet we as readers are given the chance to remember that he was just a man. A good man, trying his best, who was beaten by the Dark Lord’s taint on the magic power of saidin. Gives us enough time in the four pages to emphasize with him and see his struggle, without giving details of the battle itself.
Now on to chapter one!
Chapter One – An Empty Road TLDR:
We meet Rand al’Thor and his father, Tam, as they travel from their farm to the village of Emond’s Field. Winter hasn’t lifted, though it should of weeks ago, and had been particularly harsh. Livestock and people are often hunted by starving wolves in the bleak conditions.
On the way to town Rand sees a rider cloaked in all black on the road behind him. As he stares at him, he feels as if the rider hates him, and becomes gripped with an ill feeling. He stumbles and by time he looks back to the rider, he’s gone. Tam reassures him that he is probably only jumping at shadows.
The two reach the village and proceed to the Inn, which is the home of the mayor. As Tam and the other men talk, Rand is met by his friend Mat Cauthon. Mat tells him that he too has seen the rider, who vanished when he looked away for a moment. The two agree to keep it secret.
The mayor announces that there is also a Gleeman in town, which the boys are delighted to hear, though the exact purpose of the Gleeman is left to the deduction of the reader – a mystery that will no doubt be revealed along with the character. The rest of the men are worried that the peddler might not arrive at all this year.
There’s a lot of introduction and scene setting in this chapter, which is expected. Robert Jordan paints us an image of the Two Rivers vividly. The land around them is harsh in the best of times, but the people of Two Rivers are stubborn and make it work. He builds upon this characteristic regularly and we quickly get a feel for the area.
It’s also shown how different Tam is, through his unusual mantra and teachings. I really like the character of Tam, he is someone who was memorable to me from this series, though I shall try to avoid spoiling too much.
Mat is also another loved character, though this one for more obvious reasons. His troublemaking personality sees him in interesting situations, I always remember wanting more chapters on him. Again, let’s not try to spoil the future chapters too much!
We also get to see the hints about Egwene and Rand’s attraction to each other. It is mentioned that everyone thinks they will marry, and Mat also teases Rand that he “stares at her like a poleaxed ox”. It’s clear that he likes her enough, but do they actually love each other? Or perhaps it is more of an arranged marriage type of deal?
As for the rider in black, we arn’t offered any new information about him from Mat, simply that he has seen him and he thinks that he is evil. Nobody else knows about it, the main concern for the village being the winter. The fact that the two boys decided not to tell anyone of the rider, even though they had both seen him, kind of irritates me. Mat is a troublemaker, that is true, but for the most part it seems that Rand is a good young man and that he and Tam have a high level of trust. Tam was also there when Rand seen him on the road, before he could even talk to Mat about it, so why would they both be making it up? I see the reasoning that RJ used here, but personally I thought Rand was smarter than that. Silly boy!