Chapter 1: An Empty Road
Rand alíThor is the son of the farmer Tam in a place called Westwood, where few farmers are brave enough to put their fields. Itís the night before the holiday Bel Tine, and theyíre delivering booze to the town Emondís Field, apparently the main center in this area called Two Rivers, and Rand sees a figure on a black horse, in a black cloak which is completely undisturbed by the wind. And after getting a feeling of pure hatred from the person, he trips over a rock and thereís no one there when he looks back. But Iím sure itís not a Nazgul!
Upon arrival in Emondís Field, they briefly run into Wit Congar, one of the townís chief troublemakers who drops some ominous hints about getting rid of their current Wisdom, a woman who predicts the weather, maybe among other things. She said it would be a good spring, but after a month itís still like winter and many crops are dying. Sounds like good grounds for dismissal to me, but Witís a bit too sleazy about what exactly that will entail. Then his wife Daise shows up and he reverts into Henpecked Husband
mode so Rand and Tam make their escape.
Now Jordan pauses for a bit of world building for Two Rivers. Unfortunately, this largely comes off as the locals being a ripoff of Hobbits. They have an agrarian economy, love kicking back in the pub, and take any opportunity to sing and dance. Though thereís also a bit about a maypole ceremony thatís quite a bit more sexually explicit than Tolkien allowed himself to get. Also, Tamís wife died soon after Rand was born, and for all that time heís been one of the areaís most eligible bachelors, something theyíre both quite uncomfortable with. Itís a nice bit of lighter material thatís quite natural to the situation. And Rand has a crush on Egwene, the daughter of Emondís Fieldís mayor Bran alíVere.
And Branís also the town innkeeper, so we meet him next as Rand and Tam start unloading the cart. Rand meets his friend Mat Cauthon, who also saw the Black Rider (for lack of a better term, Iím sticking with it) three days ago and got the same evil feeling from him. But this doesnít exactly help Rand prove the manís existence, as Mat is an Adult Child
who keeps pulling pranks, and isnít exactly a trusted witness. We also meet Cenn Buie, an old man who fixes roofs, and who serves as The Eeyore
, saying maybe the bad weather will never let up, and everyone in town will be dead within a year. But then Tam lightens things a bit by entrapping Mat into helping unload.
We meet a few characters, and it was pretty easy to get the hang of whoís who with quick labels I could assign; presumably theyíll get greater depth as the story goes on. For now, itís all slow buildup, and all the descriptions of the weather and its effects on the land is very atmospheric, and makes me want to know what the deal is. Unfortunately, thereís the issue of the ďborrowingĒ from The Lord of the Rings
. I know, the story influenced the whole genre and any fantasy written afterward is going to show some inspiration from it, but this is going a bit further than Iím comfortable with. Not quite to The Inheritance Cycle
levels, but Iím definitely keeping an eye on this.