I read this book back in college when I was 18/19. I had forgotten nearly all of it in between then and now, roughly 1.5 decades. In order for me to review this honestly, I have to get the Tolkien aspect out in the open. I do remember feeling a bit cheated the first time around at how much Jordan took from Tolkien. Tolkien himself borrowed heavily from European myths and hence, much of the fantasy genre has borrowed from him in a typical trickle down effect. Still, the similarities between The Eye of the World and The Lord of the Rings are some of the closest I have found in the fantasy genre. With that acknowledgement, I still found myself getting attached to the main characters and wrapped up in their quest. And yes, grimacing a little every time some character mimicked an Ent line, or an altercation resembled hobbits vs. nazghul, or there was smoking of the leaf.
So all that aside, Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene are all very real, young, and in way over their heads. Moiraine and Lan are mysteries that only unravel a little by the end of the book. Nynaeve, the Wisdom of Two Rivers, was one of my favorite characters – she tracks, rides, heals, and grumbles. I am capable of one of these skills, and I will let you guess which one. The world building was detailed and happened bit by bit, growing as the Two Rivers folks ventured further and further from their home. There were moments of humor or reflection mixed in with the action, making the pacing quite good for a lengthy first book to a lengthy series. Most of the tale is told through Rand’s eyes, which was adequate, but I often found myself wishing for more points of view, especially wanting to hear the inner thoughts of Moiraine.