Robert Jordan’s The Eye of The World 30th Anniversary Edition brings an impressive new copy of a classic volume of fantasy to readers. Like many anniversary editions, this volume includes not only the classic book but also a number of little details that make it a good get. As with any book new or old, the question of quality overall remains.
Included is a new introduction by Brandon Sanderson. In light of his status as both an excellent author of epic fantasy in his own right, and as a posthumous collaborator with Robert Jordan, Sanderson is an excellent choice. He begins his introduction by describing how he originally came by a paperback copy of the book, which still sits on his shelf. It is a reminder of the history of the volume, which segues nicely into the ways in which The Eye of the World proved innovative. The use of a fallible woman, as opposed to a godlike man, is cited, and a comparison to Gandalf is made specifically. While Gandalf had his unsure moments, and Moiraine will not show most of her flaws in this book, overall the notes are excellent.
The redux of the cover art is clever. While preserving the wonderful painted figures, much of the background and blue sky have been replaced by the metallic silvery sheen that so often accompanies special editions of books. It is far more effective than many cover replacements, and serves to make this edition distinctive while also honoring the early cover. Well chosen overall.
The endpapers reproduce maps of the setting, which are also present near the opening of the book, a nice sewn in bookmark is placed inside, and suitable design work at the beginnings of chapters as well. It is an attractive combination.
The big question related to The Eye Of The World is how the edition itself holds up. As part of a series, this might rate further questions, such as the necessity of reading more than a dozen books and tens of thousands of pages. The Eye of The World has the advantage in that, while the ending leaves it clear that there is much yet to be addressed, the overall narrative can stand on its own. The folks from a small town have taken steps into a much larger world with higher stakes, and the powerful mentor figure has stepped back enough that the reader can see just how far is yet to be travelled.
The explanations of setting and story take much from people discussing history, or noting local cultural customs as they live through them. In light of the myriad ways information can be passed to the reader this serves well, and was very different from the paragraphs of exposition often used in fantasies from the 1960s and 1970s.
The choice of a setting where magic is only safely the domain of women was something unusual at the time. However, it has gone on to be a model for many other works, featuring exceptional abilities exclusive to various groups that in our world could be seem as marginalized.
Overall The Eye of The World remains an excellent volume from the departed Robert Jordan. This edition, further, is the best yet produced for it, featuring new material and the same book together. Since new information from the original author is unlikely, getting Sanderson for an introduction was the best choice. While one may not want to risk jumping into an epic fantasy series with more than a dozen books, The Eye of the World (30th Anniversary Edition) is well worth a readers time.
(Tor Books, 2020)