This post contains spoilers about The Eye of The World and the entire eight episodes of the Amazon miniseries.
I’ve been meaning to reread The Wheel of Time for several years now but the thing that clinched the deal for me was the trailer for the miniseries — which I enjoyed eventually with mixed feelings.
The last time I read The Eye of The World (EoTW) was the very first time I read it, sometime in 1993. Surprisingly, I never reread any of the books, mostly because life got in the way. It has aged remarkably well, as far as I am concerned. There’s a freshness to the text and the narrative, a kind of pastoral lyricism to the first few chapters that I enjoy. Nynaeve’s temper is as legendary as ever but the braid-pulling was not as pronounced yet. I enjoyed the slow build-up of Mat’s psychological undoing and the influence of the dagger, and Rand’s slowly growing into himself.
This time around, I did find things like the Trollocs, the Myrrdraal (sp?) and the Forsaken rather cartoonish. They frightened me a bit when I read them in the `90s but now I find it all a bit underwhelming. The parallels with The Lord of the Rings are also quite obvious but I don’t mind that. I after all designed a course on Adaptation studies, and I enjoyed finding analogues in these things.
One of the things I appreciate about the miniseries is how it really highlighted the relationships between people like Egwene and Nynaeve, fleshing out how close the bond is, in ways that didn’t really come out in the text. But at the same time, the miniseries did flatten out other nuances. I felt a lot of Mat’s character was under-represented in the miniseries. And while I appreciated the diversity and representation in the miniseries, I do question the decision to have two of the most reprehensible characters be of the darkest hues they could find, re-inforcing stereotypes and binary oppositions in a very problematic way.
In the case of Padan Fain it really seem to want to literalised the “blackness” of his soul as depicted in the Fal Dara chapter, and I could never get behind that. It’s a pity because the actor for Padan Fain was really good and I enjoyed the swagger and gravitas he brought to the role. In fact, before we find out he’s Padan Fain in the series, I was kind of hoping he was Thom Merrilin. Alas! But, as Fain’s character does have some development in the books, I hope we’ll see some fine acting in this role in the next season. I do hope that the weaknesses can be addressed so we get the full set of seasons!
Other things I mourn for lack of inclusion in the miniseries is that entire journey into the Eye of The World which had the whole company present. Mostly because there was so much cinematic potential in the text, plus the delightful episode with The Green Man who is a clear analogue for Tom Bombadil (with some splicings of the Ents, but the Ogier also seem very Ent-like), and the flowers! That’s such a powerful symbolism that was entirely elided in that rushed final episode. Though, I did like Rand’s confrontation with Ishamael primarily because the whole issue of consent (re Egwene) was dealt with.
These are just some preliminary thoughts. As I am going to spend 2022 reading all of these books in whatever free time I have, I’ll likely return to EoTW at some point, and cross-cut with other books (spoiler warnings at the headings of every post) as the year progresses. I think that will be — for me at least — more enjoyable/rewarding than doing one book per post, which comes with its own pressures.
As an addition — I add a gripe about the seanchan appearing too soon in the miniseries. I think the soonest we hear about them in the books is in The Great Hunt (TgH). Also, I do hope Caemlyn appears in the second season. Elayne should have been introduced sooner!